Another Slubes Excerpt

I would just like to take a brief moment here first to mention the great editor I had to help me rewrite Slubes, Dawn Johnson, with her website Word Edge here. She was super great in both critiquing the novel to help me improve and editing it to help the novel improve, and she was always ready to clarify and help me work out where to go. She helped me determine how to format the Duth Olec and Wally Plotch side conversations, get the story and characters more direction and flesh, and improve everything forever and completely totally.

Now here’s a totally new scene (or at least mostly new scene) that wouldn’t have been added without her advice, I think. There’s at least a couple scenes like that? Maybe a few? Or more? I don’t believe the ones I’m thinking of were added beforehand. Sheesh, it’s been 2 1/2 years, I don’t remember. In the version on this website, pretty much this whole thing is skipped–the story goes directly from their learning of the power plant problem to after Zeth examined it.

 

The slubes arrived at the power station, a cluster of buildings surrounded by lots of shiny panels. Numer couldn’t put a name to what anything was for, but there was more metal there than anywhere else in the city.

There was also a bigger crowd than anywhere else in the city. A slube stood up on a box, shouting and waving and pointing at various cleeple. His badge identified him as the chief of police, as did the word “Chief” written on his faded green skesh.

“Everyone, quiet down!” Chief Marskle shouted through the endless chattering of the crowd. This failed to stop the noise in any way. “Don’t make my use my whistle!” He reached into his skesh pocket without looking away from the crowd. “I have forgotten my whistle! If I had my whistle, you would definitely start simmering down!”

“Looks like the police are here,” Numer said. Well, he only saw Marskle, but that pretty much added up to the same thing.

“I guess nobody had anything better to do with the power out,” Zeth said.

Cherry stood on the Transpide’s back seat to look at the power station over the crowd. “How are we going to get in there?”

Zeth shrugged. “We could wait for the police to handle it.”

Numer looked around. He’d heard stories about the Gelago City police; apparently they were understaffed and undertrained, more ceremonial, really, and an ignored ceremony at that. He guessed the city was so peaceful that no one cared to make the police useful. Marskle didn’t appear to be leaving his box anytime soon to clear the crowd or anything.

Past the crowd, a metal mesh gate blocked entry into the power station. A lone smarmel stood guard, wearing a hat and similar uniform to the police chief but with “Deputy” printed on it. “I think the gate is over there,” Numer said. “We could probably slip through the crowd and go inside.”

“Are we allowed to?” Zeth asked. “Is that legal?”

Numer hadn’t thought of that. He muttered a non-response.

“I’ll take your uncertain uttering as yes,” Zeth said. He and Cherry jumped out of the Transpide.

“Wait!” Numer followed them into the crowd. “I don’t actually think this is such a good idea. I mean, you’re right, it probably isn’t legal. I think this is government property or something. We could probably get in trouble going in there without permission. Look, let’s just go see Chuck again. I’m sure he could get us access to the power station.” They emerged from the crowd, and Cherry turned to Numer.

“Sorry, were you saying something?” she asked. “I couldn’t hear you over the crowd.”

Numer sighed. “Never mind.”

They wogged to the smarmel deputy, whose uniform split open in the back to make room for his hump.

“Excuse me,” Zeth said, “could we pass by, please?” The deputy stood still as a fencepost. “Hello? Can you hear me?” Zeth waved his hand in front of the smarmel’s shut eyes.

“Would that even indicate anything?” Numer asked. “I mean, wouldn’t he sense us nearby anyway? Is that how smarmel sight works?”

Cherry leaned in to the smarmel. She turned to Numer and Zeth, rested the side of her head against her hands, and closed her eyes. The deputy was asleep!

Zeth unlatched the gate and slowly pulled it open. They passed through and, as Zeth pushed it shut and dropped the latch, it creaked like a mumbling, half-awake guard. Or maybe the sound came from the smarmel deputy. They wogged down a straight path flanked by shiny panels laid end-to-end in the ground. Halfway to the main building Numer heard a shout behind them:

“Hey, you three! Come back here!”

Chief Marskle stood at the gate, waving his arms at them and looking as indignant as a trampled squash. They’d been discovered! Numer couldn’t believe what they were doing. They broke into government property trying to save the world. They would probably go to jail!

“Go!” Cherry yelled. The three slubes quick-tailed it for the building. Numer turned around only once; Marskle furiously shook the gate and rattled the latch as the slubes hopped into the building and slammed the door behind them.

“All right, we’re in,” Cherry said. They turned away from the door and found themselves in a small brick-walled room with a hard tile floor. Another slube and a crawber stood staring at them.

“Say, who are you three?” the slube asked. He leaned against the wooden crate that the crawber carried. He gave an impression of casual authority.

Numer’s mind raced. They were trespassing sure as they were slubes. What could they say to prevent these two from hoisting them out by their tails?

“Good day, fellows,” Zeth said as if arriving at a dinner party, “my name is Professor Zeth. I’m the fellow who will solve all your problems.”

Well, that was one thing they could say.

The slube frowned. “All our problems, you say?”

“Can you get rid of my itch?” the crawber asked. “It’s on my back in a really hard to reach place. I keep trying to scratch it, but my shell is in the way.”

Zeth opened his mouth but paused. “No, I mean regarding the power station being offline.”

“Oh, that,” the slube said. “You really think you could take a crack at it?”

“Of course!” Zeth said. “I know all about how power stations work. Coal is burned to heat water into steam, the pressure of which spins turbines that generate the electricity.”

“Right, except this is a solar energy station,” the slube engineer said.

“Oh. Then sunlight is burned to heat water.”

“Coal or sun, you’re right about the turbines, and that’s the problem.” The slube engineer looked at the crawber and then back at Zeth. “Shoot, go ahead, then. I’ll show you where the trouble is. We haven’t come up with a way to fix it.”

Numer scratched his head. That was easier than he’d expected.

Bam! The door behind him slammed open, and Chief Marskle burst in pistol-first. “Freeze, delinquents!”

Numer screamed and stumbled back. It was worse than he imagined. They were going to be killed!

A brief silence followed as Marskle held his stance, eyeing the trespassers and pointing the pistol at each in turn. He seemed uncertain of how to proceed. The smarmel deputy leaned into the doorway.

“Hey, chief,” he whispered, “is that the daughter of Merag Caleco from Nottle?”

The police chief looked Cherry over slowly. Marskle screamed and stumbled back through the door.

The deputy looked everyone over in an unhurried smarmel fashion. “So is everything okay in here?”

“Yup, everything’s fine,” the slube engineer said. “No need to worry.”

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