Demons Of The Past 03 – Retribution – Chapter 08
There were no Mydrwyll in sight when the three of them debarked; from a human point of view it was eerily deserted, a shining and perfect spaceport devoid of life, a life-sized model. The strong scent of the ocean — different in detail, yet so very much the same on every world — along with the organic shapes around her momentarily made her feel as though they were shrunken, tiny things surrounded by gigantic shells on an alien beach.
Sooovickalassa, however, set off confidently, his clawed legs moving with easy speed and leading them towards a gently-domed iridescent building a hundred meters away. We will want to arrange some form of trade, then use that for any servicing your vessel requires, and then use the remainder for our search, yes? Have I the order correct?
“I think so. How long can I leave The EÃ¶nwyl there without having to pay?”
Reciprocity with the R’Thann should carry some value; I would be certain of a few days, at least.
“Ah!” Guvthor said. “I espy a few of our hosts at last. Indeed a unique species.”
The EÃ¶nwyl couldn’t see anything yet, but her nascent powers told her that there were some sort of presences in the building ahead. She followed Guvthor’s line of sight. “And you’ll be the only one seeing them until we get inside. Those windows aren’t on my eye-level.”
The familiar rumbling chuckle. “Indeed, while my size and mass pose certain problems, they have some undeniable advantages at times.”
And one of those times is if we end up in trouble. While she was used to relying on herself, she found the presence of the massive Thovian to be equally immensely comforting. That haunting sense of danger was not fading — nor, yet, growing stronger — but knowing both Guvthor and Vick would be there to help allowed her to mostly ignore it.
The door fell in before her, lying flat like a ramp or welcome mat. The oceanic smell intensified as they entered, and she could see that the hallways included central lanes filled with flowing water. Makes sense for a heavily amphibious species.
Here, finally, she had a chance to see Mydrwyll for herself. The descriptions had not emphasized the size of the creatures; the purplish central body of the average Mydrwyll probably outmassed her by three to one, and the tentacles had a reach over three meters. She could also see that the tentacles surrounding the creature alternated between sturdy and gracile; an incomplete but still clear differentiation of legs — motive appendages — and arms for manipulation.
As they entered and moved along the sweep of the hallway, she could see quick flashes of yellow or green as the creatures noted and then discounted their presence. Evaluated as nonthreatening, thus to be ignored. Other than by those momentary glances from the all-encircling eyes, the Mydrwyll utterly ignored them. The only exception was that any of the creatures on their side of the hallway had a tendency to move into the water channel when the newcomers to their world approached, presumably to avoid any possibility of unneeded contact.
Ahead is the Exchange Market. There we will find people interested in trade.
The large set of doors also dropped down as they approached. As she was now starting to expect, the “market” did not look much like those she had seen on other worlds. While there were more Mydrwyll (and a few R’Thann) visible in the very long, gracefully-curving gallery, they were mostly spaced out widely, and both the number of people and intensity and volume of activity was drastically smaller than that she had seen in ports a fraction of this size. “This is still a big city, Vick,” she murmured. “How can they support themselves without doing a lot of business at the port?”
Your eyes and assumptions blind you, he replied bluntly. Automated devices are used to perform much of the work you expect to be done by people. They much prefer mechanized, automated systems to any that require personal interaction and possible contact with others.
“So traders for them are something like . . . sanitation or cleanup people. Necessary but involved in work that’s really inherently distasteful.”
A flash of a razor-edged smile. Precisely. And such people may be considered somewhat . . . odd in any event.
“Great. I’m an alien freak dealing with the native freaks.” She smiled as she said it, though; at least she was starting to get a grasp as to how things worked here. “Which of these people would be interested in cargoes from other planets?”
“If I read aright,” said Guvthor, “Just at the curve ahead it appears to say ‘external imports — exotic’.”
“You can read their language?” she said in startlement.
“During my younger years I encountered two monographs, one might say, on astrophysical principles that had been written by Mydrwyll. They were sufficiently intriguing that I made myself learn some of the language just to verify what I had read. It seems that knowledge has not entirely abandoned me.”
Your memory is serving you well. The nuances of that phrase are somewhat different, but you are correct in the basic thrust. The merchants there will be the most likely interested.
There were five Mydrwyll floating in little cup-shaped tanks with high ridges in front — obviously the equivalent of stalls or kiosks. Without even consciously thinking about it, The EÃ¶nwyl found herself walking straight up to the second of these. This one, Vick. What name or title do I use?
The R’Thann glanced quickly at the looping glyphs visible on the wall-like stall. Trrrilllann, Negotiator-Second. This is a significant skill-ranking; there are vanishingly few Negotiator-Firsts and not tremendously many Negotiator-Seconds. Thirds, Fourths, and Fifths are the vast majority.
Good. She stopped a few meters from the stall. “A greetings and request for dialogue, Negotiator-Second Trrrilllann. I am The EÃ¶nwyl, captain of the vessel of the same name that has recently landed.”
The Mydrwyll rose up from its small pool and anchored itself to the stall with two tentacles. “Your vessel appears capable of carrying significant cargo. I have interest in alien cargoes and resources to dispose of them efficiently. I will speak with you, EÃ¶nwyl.”
She restrained herself from saying something like “thank you”. This species would not care for that type of contentless courtesy. “I have my manifest on a standard Imperial data crystal; can you read it?”
“I can.” One of the tentacles grasped the crystal and fitted it expertly into a reader. There was a pause as the Mydrwyll examined her list of cargo. “Verification: these woods you carry are from Thovia itself?”
“I will confirm this,” Guvthor said. “I was present at their loading, and was in fact involved in their selection.”
The Negotiator-Second studied Guvthor. “You are a Thovian. Identity significant?”
“If you understand our rankings, yes. I am Guvthor Hok Guvthor, member of the Thov Hok Shu.”
Another pause; the EÃ¶nwyl could just hear a faint chirruping sound coming from a device the Mydrwyll wore like a circlet around its head-body. “Identity confirmed. Your confirmation is accepted. Such woods are of interest. The figurines and trade items that claim to be of the human Homeworld? These also would be of interest, if the Master of the Dawning Light will authenticate.”
I will, Sooovickalassa’s thought came clearly. I traveled with the EÃ¶nwyl to that world and am aware of the items she transported with her.
“Accepted. We shall negotiate price.”
This part, the EÃ¶nwyl found, was not that different from her experiences on other worlds. Traders still wanted to buy as low as possible, and sell as dearly as they might, and they’d test a stranger to see if she didn’t understand local custom and costs. Once Negotiator-Second Trrrilllann realized she was no rube to be easily fleeced, their bargaining was swift and to the point.
A few minutes later they left, the EÃ¶nwyl pocketing a credit crystal for native Mydr currency, and with the balance added to her Imperial currency balance (at a pretty steep exchange rate, but that was no surprise under the circumstances).
Vick directed her to a Mydr terminal and assisted her in paying for docking and security fees for The EÃ¶nwyl for a month. She doubted they’d need nearly that long, and if it took longer than that, she suspected they’d never succeed.
Your vessel requires no servicing?
“I do most of that myself. We’re still well-supplied, and I’m not letting anyone do work on or around my ship unsupervised. So no. Let’s get to work. I’d like to get back off this planet as fast as I can.”
“Do the Mydrwyll make you uncomfortable, then?” Guvthor asked curiously.
“Not them as such, no. They’re certainly unique, and it would take a lot of getting used to living here.” She shrugged, feeling a phantom pressure from behind, as though she were being watched. “I just have a feeling we’re in danger. It’s not close — yet — but it’s not far off, either.”
Vick’s eyes narrowed and his crest chimed uneasily. And we have every reason to trust your senses in this area. Yes, let us move swiftly.
“It should not be terribly hard, I would think,” Guvthor said. “How many theoretical cultural sentiologists could there be on this world? It is far from a common profession.”
A hiss of amusement from Vick. Other sentient species are a source of fascination for the Mydrwyll, as all of these others have evolved along a path entirely different from their own. Cultural sentiology is one of the major fields of interest on Mydr, and indeed even the R’Thann turn to the Mydrwyll for information on this topic. Still, you are correct that with the additional details we have the search should not be onerous.
The problem was going to be performing the search. The spaceport operations terminals were designed and equipped to be used by many species, but terminals to access general information on Mydr — if a general connected data network existed at all — weren’t meant to be so accommodating. “Vick, we’re going to need help from the Mydrwyll side.”
“I am afraid she is correct,” Guvthor said. “You, my friend, lack the appropriate imaging organs to comprehend the display, let alone access their data swiftly.”
“A greetings and request for dialogue, EÃ¶nwyl,” said a burbling voice from behind them.
The EÃ¶nwyl spun, her hand dropping instinctively to the butt of her pistol; her two friends also had snapped about, instantly prepared.
A Mydrwyll squatted on its tentacles at the edge of the water-trench nearby. It held no weapons and in fact spread all its manipulator tendrils wide, as if to say see? I am unarmed. “Information: I offer you assistance.”
The EÃ¶nwyl glanced quickly at Vick; the R’Thann tilted his head, then gave a very, very small nod. “I am in need of assistance. To have dialogue is therefore eminently rational. Question: What sort of assistance do you offer?”
“I offer guidance around the city, to locations and activities of interest. I can also provide information about other areas of our world. I have access to many data-nets. Are any of these of interest to you?”
“All of them are. Question: how is it you appeared so conveniently?”
A bubbling sound she was sure was a chuckle. “Aliens on Mydr often require assistance if they venture beyond the port. I am one of a dozen guides-for-hire; it is my good fortune to be the one to spot you first this day, if you would hire me?”
“Hiring will depend on your discretion as well as your skill,” Guvthor said.
The eye blinked in a ripple all around the head as that bubbling sound repeated. “Discretion dependent on payment.”
Vick still seemed little concerned, so the EÃ¶nwyl shrugged. “What is your name?”
“Aliens call me Murr; my given name is Murrrinnessak.”
“Very well, Murr. We wish to locate a particular Mydrwyll; we have details which should help to locate him. Once located, we wish to have a private meeting with him. We do not know where on the planet he may be, but we are certain he is here. We want these inquiries kept as confidential as possible. So question: is this something you can do, and how much would you charge for this service with your highest discretion?”
“Search, arrange for meeting, high discretion,” summarized Murr. The creature thought a moment, then named a price.
It was a steep price . . . but easily within her ability to pay. She thought hard in Vick’s direction. Is this guy actually competent?
He believes this is precisely the sort of thing he is suited for. Images that floated to his mind when you spoke certainly seem to confirm experience in this area.
“Agreed, then,” she said to Murr. “And I will pay you that much again, plus any expenses incurred, if we are successful in our meeting and reach our vessel afterwards.”
Murr’s coloration flickered darker, and the encircling eye opened wide for a moment. “Double pay? You may rely on me!” He extended one tentacle; gripped in its manipulating tendrils was a crystal reader. “After first payment, of course.”
“Of course.” She drew out the native credit crystal and transferred the amount directly.
“Information: My new friends, you have hired yourselves the best guide in Alevalaa, and one who was once an Enforcer Captain.” The color and eye flickered in a way that conveyed a confident grin. “Now tell me of your target!”