Eli Anklebiter from The Forgotten City talks to Nathan M. Farrugia…

Describe yourself in one word.

Short… or single… Single and short – can I have two words?

Why did you join the United Regiment?

For the uniform. Definitely. Actually it wasn’t that at all. There’s a long and complicated story behind it, but I’ll try to boil it down as much as possible.  At the time I was working five different jobs, each one more terribly paid and ridiculously awful than the next – honestly. One of them was physically crawling into sewerage pipes to dislodge clogs of all kinds of horridiousness. Another was at the zoo squeezing infected pustules sprouting on the testicles of a gigantic Bakslam, which is an extremely irritable type of desert gorilla. Another was working as a test subject for all kinds of experiments – including one where I had to sniff from jars of collected flatus – and…you get the picture.

As well as that I was living – well actually squatting – in a condemned building in Moris-Isles where a porno holo-film company, specialising in gargantuan-breeds, was filming pretty much constantly, so it was a strange day if some enormous naked guy didn’t accidently smash through my wall mid-action…or a gigantic cockroach didn’t try to wrestle me for my dinner… And all this was an entire lifetime away from what I really wanted to do – which was invent and design.

Prior to that I had been selling my designs to both the military and the gangs basically all my life, or at least since I was eight or nine year-cycles old, after I met Copernicus. It was completely illegal, but he’d set everything up so it worked and we were covered, but after the whole gangland incident between Copernicus and Christy Shawe, I lost all sources of income, plus my best friend within the matter of a day. After he informed on the Galleys, Copernicus was taken into custody and was disallowed all outside contact… I didn’t even know if he was still alive…

So things weren’t brilliant to say the least. And because I was a crossbreed no one legitimate would hire me or even give me an interview – even though I was quite rehabilitated at that stage. As soon as anyone saw Glee/Greer written on the application form, it was an immediate door slam – and, for the same reason, getting any type of tech funding was also impossible. Then finally they released Copernicus and it turned out that he’d actually been recruited into the Regiment and he encouraged me to apply for a military technology scholarship. If I was accepted in, it meant I’d get an apartment at Regiment Headquarters, my own laboratory and military funding to live the dream – and even so I was reluctant – I didn’t think I could handle the violence of it – but in the end I applied because it meant I would get to see my best friend again – so essentially I joined because of friendship – and found out year-cycles after that they’d only accepted my application because Copernicus allegedly dangled the assessor out of a window and threatened to drop him… but that’s another story.

So Copernicus is a good friend of yours. How did you meet?

It was in the gangland over twenty year-cycles ago when we were both kids and he was running with Christy Shawe and the Galleys. I’d just finished designing and constructing my first remote-controlled miniature transflyer and I was completely caught up in the moment of its test-flight. Somehow I managed to cross several suburbs without realising and accidently entered into Greenway – and had the extreme misfortune of bumping, literally, into Christy Shawe. And you don’t enter gang territory – and you definitely don’t cross paths with the boss’s son unless you have a death wish – so I’d pretty much just written Shawe an invitation to pulverise my face. And that’s exactly what would have happened if Copernicus hadn’t stepped in for me and stopped him – and physically shoved him away. He was the only one at that stage, and all the way through, that wasn’t afraid to stand up to Shawe. Christy took it very poorly, and stomped my transflyer to pieces, but at least it wasn’t me! And that moment is still really clear in my mind, even though it was a long time ago, because it shocked me – you know – up until that point I’d never had someone stand up for me before – I had friends – but imp-breed friendship is a very different concept from the human-breed idea of it, so I’d never experienced someone putting themselves on the line for me – and I would never have expected a kid like him – older, popular and tough – to do that for a kid like me – at the time I was struggling so much with my condition I could barely put two intelligible words together, but he saw through that –  he always has – and he gave me the chance I desperately needed.

Favorite snack?

This is a tough one. Not so long ago I would have probably said a strawberry ice-cream milkshake with ketchup, but since all the food shortages because of the war, anything that isn’t tinned, mouldy, rotting or blood-spattered seems like party food. Nothing induces appreciation like going without. But generally if it’s food, it tastes better with ketchup or sauce… that’s my life motto…

Your otter, Nelly’s, favorite snack?

Frizzy Fins Fish Bits – Frizzy Fins is a brand here – she’ll also have a bite of whatever I’m having at the time… Yes, I’m one of those people.

Number one thing on your bucket list!

Fall in love and get married…. Hopefully… one day. How about you? Is there a potential Mrs Farrugia currently in your sights?

Oh, um, I hadn’t thought – what sort of breeds do you know? I mean, ahem, so what do you like to read?

Everything. Absolutely everything. While I was still at school I got a job working for a friend of my grandparents, stacking shelves in his antique bookstore, and he fired me after two days because all I did was stand around and read – I couldn’t help it – I was completely fascinated with all the old manuscripts. Currently I have a collection of rare written word, but mainly I do my reading via holo-screen, and I have literally millions of books.

Something my gran’pa taught me was to read outside my interest zone. He’d take me to the Feld, the big main library here which, I think in your language would be like a virtual space – or something like that – where the books were still on display but only in holo-form. It was set up so that the experience of ‘going somewhere’ to hire or buy books still existed for those people, mainly of the older generations, who were attached to the ritual of it. So we’d go there and he’d tell me to choose five books that interested me and then five books that seemed the least interesting and to get all ten and read them – and it really gave me a wide appreciation of all kinds of writing and subjects that I may not have formed on my own – he was a smart man. I miss him.

How was your upbringing different to your fellow team members?

Well for starters I think I was the only one of us that wasn’t subjected to some kind of abuse or neglect… I know I complain a lot about my childhood, but even though my parents didn’t want me, my grandparents did and my life was paradise compared to what happened to the others. Copernicus’ childhood was a nightmare beyond words; Diega’s sister was murdered and afterwards her parents pretty much abandoned her; Jude, as you know, grew up in the palace but then his uncle tried to have him killed when he was thirteen and Silho was out in the desert with a drug-addled ex-soldier, hunted constantly by violent scullion tribes and desert mutants… So all in all we’re a bit of a messed up bunch, but in truth, this job does attract a certain type of person and more importantly, can only be done by a certain type of person – and that’s someone who isn’t a stranger to horrible things, a person who is a survivor and, to a certain extent, fearless – obviously that doesn’t describe me but, up until recently, I was the least hands-on team member when it came to the actual crime scenes…

What do you think of the mysterious Ev’r? Do you think she can be trusted?

Most would say no, but after everything we went through together, I would definitely say yes – I’d trust her with my life…

How about the team’s newest member, Silho? Has she proven herself and do you think she’s a good fit for the Trackers?

I’d have to give a definite and resounding yes there – Silho is just… amazing… singular… none of us would be alive if it wasn’t for her, but as far as her fitting into the Trackers – well – to be honest the landscape of the team is changing. I can’t say too much at this stage, with everything still being classified, but yes…. In some ways it’s been a very difficult time.

Copernicus seems to have a soft spot for Silho. What’s going on between them?

Good question – I’m actually not sure how much I’m allowed to say about their personal lives, but something is definitely happening… I should probably leave it at that… let’s just say I’ve learnt to knock before barging into any closed rooms. I’ve discovered I have a particularly unfortunate knack for intruding into people’s private moments.

You’re a very observant fellow. Tell me your favourite thing about each member of the Trackers.

Another tough one. There’s so much good about each of them… but if I had to pick one thing each – for Copernicus it would be his strength of mind and determination – if I ever need advice he’s the first one I always go to. For Diega, it’s her sense of humour – she doesn’t let me get too serious about myself or anything else – she keeps me laughing. For Jude – his heart – his compassion, and Silho – she’s the least likely to judge anyone – I always feel like I can be completely myself around her… Do you know what I mean?

It’s great when you can truly be yourself around someone. Now, I read about the adventure you had last year with the demon invasion and the rival gangs. Was there a point during this ordeal where you thought you weren’t going to make it? And what got you through?

Yes pretty much every step of the way I was thinking we weren’t going to make it – but I guess what really got me through was the thought that the others were depending on me and also that Ev’r needed me, and having her beside me kept me strong. I don’t think I would have survived without her.

I look forward to reading about your new adventure with the Commander and his team. Without giving anything away, how did this compare to the previous adventure? Did you have to do anything really scary this time?

Scary is one way to describe it – terrifying and horrifying probably work as well… It’s been – yes… it’s been a year-cycle that I won’t ever forget – even with therapy – and it’s definitely not over…

Oriental small-clawed otter, Amblonyx Cinereus, 5 years old, standing in front of white background

 

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