Running on the Docks

Ulfie scurried on barefeet, her head down, weaving between the sea of legs, tails, ooze trails, and gaseous shapes which was the world before her. On some level, she logically knew that the labyrinth of limbs she was making her way through were attached to individual people bustling to and fro but it wasn’t something she was conscious of. What she was conscious of was the next set of legs or unidentified body part which created an obstacle for her to avoid and the pat-pat of her bare feet on the pavement. Mistress Dom had told her that running barefoot on hard pavement was bad for her feet but Ulfie like the feel of the warm flat surface under her. In any case, she ran faster without shoes and wasn’t too sure about the scientific basis for Mistress Dom’s claim. A sentient data cloud appeared out of nowhere in front of her and she had to sidestep to avoid stabbing its ones and zeros with the pointy baby blue spines which stuck out over her arms, back, and head. Due to her young age, her spines were only slightly venomous and just gave a mild headache but she wasn’t a fan of stinging people, clouds or otherwise, unless she had to. She tried to make she didn’t have to but sometimes situations happen and difficult choices had to be made. The fact that most of those situations were often her own fault for sticking her cute button of a nose where she shouldn’t wasn’t something she gave much thought to. Especially not now. Now she was on a run, and when you’re a runner for Mistress Dom, you don’t give much thought to anything else but the run you’re on. So, she continued to duck, dodge, and dash her way through the maze of people on the docks. While she knew the docks better than she knew the back of her own hand, the people were always different. Which is what made being a runner fun. Ships arrived and departed constantly, bringing new influxes of wide-eyed travellers, steel-eyed military, and hard-eyed space pirates into the hustling throng of dock workers and people getting where they need to be. An ever shifting and ever changing throng which she had to thread her way through, never losing speed and always on the run. It wouldn’t do to be late. Mistress Dom didn’t approve of tardiness. She was a lady of proper manners and expected the same of her runners. She gave them a place to stay when no one else would have them and looked after them, demanding only polite respect and the occasional run in return. Ulfie would have run anywhere for Mistress Dom if she asked. And today she asked her to run to confirm something. The scanners at the docks had detected something interesting. Or at least something which could potentially be of interest to certain parties if confirmed. So Ulfie ran to confirm. Fons didn’t work that well on the docks. Something to do with electromagnetic interference from the constant to and fro of the ships or something, Ulfie recalled vaguely. She didn’t mind, no fons meant more running, a run there to take a pic and a run back to show it, and Ulfie like to run. If she spared a thought to think about it, Ulfie would be well aware that she couldn’t be a runner for much longer. It was a young kid’s game and she was nearly a teenager. Not many runners in their teens. Which is why it wasn’t something she gave a thought to. Woah! she shouted to herself as she nearly collided into a dock worker she knew only by the permanent scowl which disfigured his grizzled face and the unmoisturized gills on his neck. He was carrying a crate of some sort which he had to shuffle due to its weight and gave Ulfie a look which stated in no uncertain terms his dislike for her. Ulfie had bumped into him during a run a sun-cycle or two ago when they had both rounded a corner without looking but he had never forgotten it. For her part, Ulfie found it a little exhilarating to have a nemesis, though she didn’t actually have animosity towards the disgruntled dock worker. Skipping around him, she gave a little wave and winked at him which she knew would only infuriate him more. Laughing to herself at the grumpiness of old people, she continued to run. She was nearly there. Speaking of corners, she rounded the one just in front of her and stopped.

 

Her first thought was that it was too large, yet proportionally so if that was at all possible. She was a small child and used to fitting in spaces that bigger people couldn’t, but standing in view of the ship was the first time in her life that she felt tiny. It was far larger than it had any right to be. She frowned since it looked like a speedster but it was bigger than a leisure ship. Why is there a pancake on top? she asked herself, not expecting an answer. For on top of the improbably large secondary hull was what looked like a pancake that Ulfie guessed must be the primary hull. It just looked too grand. This was a ship which was designed to be impressive and it achieved that lofty goal with ease. She was so in awe that for a moment she forgot why she had come here in the first place and just stared up at the ship. Shaking herself, some of her spines clicking against each other, she put her hand inside her pocket and pull out her fon. While it wouldn’t have any signal, she could still use it to take the photo. She opened the camera app and tried to get it at an angle that could get as much of the ship in the picture as possible. She had to back up a little and zoom out as much as it would go but she managed to get enough of the ship for identification purposes. Taking one last look she noticed three passengers exit the improbable ship, one of which looked to be a Lofan although she couldn’t quite see his wings. Taking one last photo of the disembarking crew, she shook her head slowly, turned round and started her run back. Mistress Dom would be pleased to hear that the Zeppulian was indeed docked in the Tholuspharium.