The Voyages of the PS Nones
Chapter 24, Trade Goods for Home
When last we left our heroes, they'd managed to trap the unknown alien who stole Umbra from Dafnord and used it to murder an Aerna. When it came out of the stasis it had entered, it was stunned by the massed guns of two Naza, most of us, as well as one of a pair of Aerna. Kate was found at the same spot where she'd disappeared, unaware that any time had passed.
Once Kate has been freed from the cage erected over the place where she confronted the unknown alien, Officer Kwaf asks if we'd mind coming to the consulate for a debriefing. We accompany him to his office where he listens patiently to our stories, asks pertinent questions, and then lets us go.
It's been a long day, so we go back to the Nones and go to sleep.
We wake in the morning to find calls from Mr. Hiro Singh, Dame Abrahams and a Jeff D'Aubaine. For variety, we start with Mr. D'Aubaine. Robbie asks the Nones to put the call through, and is greeted by a well-groomed young man in TSTO-style outfit. After a few moments, we discover that we've called a reporter for Terran Space News. He says he's looking for human interest. Before the robot can answer, Morniesul replies, "There are very few of those here."
Mr. D'Aubaine realizes that he's been talking to a robot, and comes back with "Terran interest, then." Seeing Kate next to Morniesul, he asks, "Are you the young lady who actually attacked the, the, thing?"
She replies, "Yes. Do we know it's name yet?"
"No. It hasn't regained consciousness yet. But you actually stabbed it?"
Kate responds matter-of-factly, "Yes. In the left hip."
"Were you actually hunting for this creature?"
"Yes. We'd determine that it was masquerading as a yellow-tentacled Threenaleen."
"You're from Earth?"
Kate grins, and answers, "Yes." Earth of the 15th century, and probably not the one he's thinking of, but certainly AN Earth.
"Is the ships crew from Earth?"
"Actually we live on Helene now."
"And how long have you been operating in the zone?"
"About 36 hours." Which doesn't include the 19 hours that she was in stasis, but who's counting?
"Oh. So you haven't encountered this species before?"
"No all we had to go on was the public record."
"Are you professional law enforcers."
"No, it's a hobby."
Mr. D'Aubaine looks up from his notes in surprise. "A hobby?"
"Well, I got interesting in old films, and then I came across the Black North films, and then..." Kate burbles on happily about the motif of the vigilante in film, and the sub-genre of the hard-boiled detective with a heart of gold for quite a few minutes before the reporter can get a word in edge-wise.
"I gather from information given by the consulate that your crew got involved when the murderer used as it's last weapon a sword stolen from one of your crew members."
Morniesul responds, "A very poor move."
The reporter focuses on Morniesul, "Was it your sword, sir?"
Kate replies, "No, it's an artifact from the rim."
"My, it's traveled a long way. Did you trade for it?"
Morniesul is having fun baiting the reporter. "No, a colleague created it."
Once more we've managed to surprise poor Mr. D'Aubaine. "You've traveled all the way to the galactic rim?"
Kate replies, "We've gone to more than one place without traveling the distance between here and there." Carefully NOT answering his question.
"Your ship has some kind of experimental or alien drive?"
Robbie quickly responds, "We can't talk about that." He can't wait to see this story...
Morniesul helpfully adds, "Not so much the ship, as some of the people on it."
"Oh. Well, Um. Uh." He consults his notes. "What led you to dock in the alien enclave instead of the TSTO or Philippian enclave?"
Kate replies, "Ignorance." Never mind the alien who was navigating at the time.
"Did it appear that the killings were in any way politically motivated?"
"Not that we know of," says Kate
"And this was clearly not something the Blenari have started among themselves?"
Morniesul replies, "The Blenari appear to have been victimized."
"Might I get the names of the rest of you?" There's deathly silence. After 30 seconds or so, the reporter continues, "Well thank you very much. I'll be in touch. Thank you again." Click.
Robbie asks the Nones to monitor the TSN broadcast for the results of that little interview. The Nones informs him that a call from The Crown News, the Philippian news outlet, came in while we were talking to Mr. D'Aubaine. We tell the Nones to simply ignore any more calls from reporters.
Dafnord's still indisposed, so we ask the Nones to return the call from Mr. Singh. He greets us and says, "I've done an analysis on the crystals and ergoplasm. The ergoplasm is of very high quality. I'd be willing to trade cloaking devices for ergoplasm." He offers to exchange all of the cloaks for 1/10 of our ergoplasm.
Morniesul asks, "And will you be returning the crystals?"
"I'd be happy to keep the crystals for 1/2 of the ergoplasm." Not bad for a couple of our smallest fractal crystals. Morniesul agrees and sets up a time for the exchange at Bay 12 of the Terran Space enclave.
Speaking of things fractal, we haven't heard back from Pqdorn and the Thrass government, which was considering buying a good chunk of our fractal metals and probably as much of the fractal crystals as we'll give them. We ask the Nones to call Pqdorn at his tent. The call goes through, but we don't get an image. However, we think we recognize Pqdorn's voice as it answers the call, "Greetings Sentient. To whom am I speaking?"
"This is Morniesul, honorific Pqdorn."
"You call to inquire concerning...?"
"The status of our business."
"I have in fact concluded my communications with my home world and was going to contact you a few 8s of periods. The coordinators at home are entirely willing to finance this transaction and take the fractal elements at the price we had agreed upon."
"And the crystals?"
"We're willing to pay three times as much per kilo for the crystals."
Morniesul finalizes the deal with the Thrass and arranges for the delivery of the fractal metals and crystals later in the day.
Not bad for a morning's work. We've sold 1/20th of our ergoplasm, and the fractal crystals and metals. We've got a shipment of cloaks and transporters, and more cash than we have any idea what to do with.
Morniesul calls out, "Nones, yesterday, I asked you to research prospectors and other investments."
The ship replies, "Yes, you did sir. However, Mr. Gannar offered to handle that line of inquiry."
Gannar continues, "I went to Consul Foozhap. It said it'd have suggestions ready by today."
Morniesul asks the Nones to put through a call to Foozhap. After a few moments, its image appears on the screen, and says, "Greetings, sentient."
Morniesul replies, "Greetings, sentient. I understand that Mr. Gannar called you about our desire to find a number of prospectors with good prospects in need of financing or other investments."
"Yes. I have that information here someplace... Ah, here it is. Our first recommendation would be Sentient Kritstnik of 17 House. We felt Kritstnik was particularly suited to your needs. Here's its contacts number.
Over the net, Kate asks, <Is 17 House and address or a name?>
Salimar replies, <Sentient Kritstnik is from Tanindar. 17 is a name there. A very old and very honorable name.>
Morniesul continues the conversation, "And honorific Kritstnik is a highly reliable sentient?"
"We have a few 2^20 lucre points to invest." On the screen, Foozhap's mandibles go slack. "We want to find a few prospectors who are likely to be successful given sufficient backing. Of course, we'll need a commercial verifier to assist us when making this kind of investment."
Foozhap managed to pull itself together and recommend a commercial verifier named Erenthoth. Coincidentally, Sentient Erenthoth is one of the Threenaleen.
Morniesul thanks Foozhap for its efforts, and closes with "Have a virtual egg."
Foozhap pauses, as if it's not quite sure how to respond. "Why thank you, sentient." And it breaks the connection.
Morniesul asks the Nones to connect him to Sentient Erenthoth. After a moment, the screen lights with an image of a Threenaleen with blue tentacles. Morniesul waits a moment, but no sound comes from the telescreen. "Do I have the pleasure of talking to Sentient Erenthoth?"
Robbie checks with the Nones for Threenaleen social customs. The Nones replies that poetry is well received. There's nothing about them being particularly taciturn. He passes the information to Morniesul over the net.
Morniesul continues the conversation. "We're interested making some fairly large investments and were wondering if you were available as a commercial verifier. You were recommended to us by Consul Foozhap."
"Very kind of the Consul. When did you wish me to join you?"
"We're just starting to make arrangements, but wanted to make sure that you'd be available when we need you."
"My normal duties involve doing chemical assays in our enclave. I'm mostly here in the enclave and can be available at any time."
"It will be an honor to meet and do business with an actual Threenaleen."
"Are you then the Terrans of the ship Nones?" Erenthoth appears to be fairly quick on the uptake, not to mention current on the news.
"I see. I will be happy to give you a better impression of our species. Call me when you're ready." After a few more pleasantries, the call is ended.
Next we call sentient Kritstnik. It answers the call and proves to be a somewhat insectile humanoid covered in orange chitin and a flashy film noir costume reminiscent of Lamont Cranston. Morniesul explains, "I am looking to hire an assayist. My intention is to invest moderately in prospectors seeking ancient technology. I would like to invest in a small number of them, but those with the greatest chance of success, and those who would most benefit from the investment."
"To whom am I talking?"
"I am called Morniesul."
"Oh. You're one of the Terrans of the ship Nones."
"The consulate recommended you."
"I believe that I will be able to help you. I understand that you have problems disposing of excess funds. For regression."
"If I understand you correctly, that is an element of it. I am, as it might be, from very far away."
"That is not as surprising to me now as it would have been before the consulate talked to me. Would you like to meet face to face?"
"Yes. Would you mind a commercial verifier present?"
"No. In fact, I would recommend it. How would it be if I met you at your ship in 2 periods?"
"That would be splendid."
"Until then." And it rings off.
We call back Erenthoth, who answers with a test tube in his tentacle. "Greetings honorific Erenthoth."
"Is that you, sentient Morniesul?" All Terrans look alike, it seems.
"Yes. It turns out that our assayist is very eager to meet. It has asked to meet us in two periods, and we'd like you present. Would that be inconvenient?"
"Oh, good. I was afraid that you were dining."
Erenthoth looks at the test tube and makes a complicated twisting motion with its head. "No. I will be there at the appointed time."
Morniesul says, "Thank you," and breaks the connection.
Wanting to make a good impression on sentients who will advise him in business matters, Morniesul ponders where he can get food appropriate for a Threenaleen and a Drine. After a bit of discussion, we put in a call to Elias. When he answers the call, Morniesul says, "Ah, Master Elias."
"It looks like you don't need me anymore."
"Your dustup with the sword. It's over."
"Well, that's not our only iron in the fire. I need appetizers for a Threenaleen and a Drine." Elias looks doubtful, so Morniesul offers, "I'd be willing to pay ten times your normal rate."
"I can't promise anything, but I'll see what I can come up with."
Reflecting on Kritstnik's natty appearance, Morniesul changes into his best outfit. The rest of us dress appropriately, and reassemble on the Obscura. Minutes before the time of the meeting, there's a ringing of the chime. Morniesul opens the door to find a chimp with several boxes in its arms. "Ah. You are from honorific Elias."
The chimp replies, "'At's right. 'ere's your takeout." And hands over the boxes. Morniesul pays with a chit and a flips the chimp a gold Summerlands Crown as a tip. The chimp snags is out of the air, bows, and departs.
The food that Elias has provided is hot and fragrant. Especially the Threenaleen's. We unpack the various boxes into a servitor to keep until our guests arrive, which doesn't take long. Kritstnik arrives at the stroke of the period. As Morniesul is welcoming him, Erenthoth arrives also. Now we know why the Threenaleen food smells funny. So does it.
Morniesul ushers them into the Obscura's lounge. "Gentle beings. Welcome to my ship." As they enter, we take the food out of the servitor. "Can I offer you a small repast?"
Erenthoth says, "Why, thank you." As it pours the fizzy drink that Elias packed into a tumbler, it says, " I hope ozone won't hurt anything." Gannar has the Obscura increase the ventilation unobtrusively.
Once everyone is done eating, Kritstnik says, "Allow me to introduce myself more thoroughly. I am a KaiSenese Associate and have worked in Its Unity's temporal service. I was told by the consulate that you were traveling in the company of one of its temporal agents. I assume that you are trying to bring value back. And since you're engaging my services, you're on your way further back."
Morniesul inclines his head and replies, "Yes."
Kritstnik now turns to the Threenaleen and says, "Sentient Erenthoth?"
Erenthoth wobbles its head, and we're all on the net. Again. Erenthoth's net "feels" different. We're suddenly able to interpret the facial expressions of the Threenaleen and the Drine. However, the link is only to the empathy level.
Morniesul says, "I am called Morniesul. I was born in Ennorath and am now in the service of Lord Alvirin of Aondoar. These places and that gentleman are substantially more remote than the location where I encountered my colleagues."
"I see. You are from very far away in time and space."
Morniesul pauses, then replies, "Very far away."
"Oh. It may ease your mind to know that both Erenthoth and I can organize our memories."
"Being from very far away, it doesn't matter to me." Morniesul then continues, "We have an embarrassment of riches that we need to bring back. One possibility is raw materials, which might entail purchasing additional ships to transport them The other possibility is artifacts."
"You refer to artifacts for the Authority Zone."
"Yes. There must be individuals who would have very good prospects, but need substantial investment to succeed."
"How long are you willing to wait for your investment to give a return?"
"You're proposing to skip ahead?" Kritstnik asks.
"You're also proposing to take Authority Zone artifacts into the past, to sell?"
"Well, one needn't know where they're from."
"It could provide an amusing footnote to history," Kritstnik muses.
"I have done comparable things in other journeys."
"That is one possibility. Have you any preferences for species?"
"Not at all. Some of us don't even have species."
Kritstnik smiles. That is to say, it does something with the mandibles under its cheeks which Erenthoth's link allows us to interpret as a smile. Well, not exactly a smile, but... there isn't an equivalent word in English.
Morniesul continues, "Although, if you can recommend raw materials of decreasing value, we'd be willing to consider it."
"What have you bought?"
"A few cloaking devices, a few teleporters. All roughly contemporary with our target time."
"Have you considered luxury goods?
"Luxury goods would be quite nice. We started this by dealing in gems. A kinsman of mine was in desperate straits. I didn't want to take any risks, so I invested heavily. It turned out that we didn't need nearly as much as I brought."
"If you were to return to your point of origin now, do you have anything that you could sell?"
We list the current inventory, excluding the gifts we've gotten for Tom and other family members.
"I recommend that you invest some of your money in ergoplasm. There are many different grades and kinds and specialty formulations. It should not be difficult to find specialty ergoplasm that should be worth quite a lot in your home period. One could purchase microtechnics ergoplasm. It's extremely expensive, but has become less so with time, so it's a good investment for a time-traveler.
"Then there's high temperature ergoplasm, which is sold in ingots, It's solid until heated. It is used in metallurgy and in some cases nucleonics. There are two different classes of heavy industry ergoplasm. It might be rather large for your purposes, but it is rather expensive." Kritstnik pauses and considers for a moment, then says, "I think the high temperature and microtechnics ergoplasm would be best for you. Along with some luxury goods." He offers his services for this case for 2^9 lucre points.
We agree to hire the assayist, and thank both sentients for their services. After a bit more chit-chat, they leave.
While we were in conference, we received a number of calls. After excluding calls from news services, there are calls from Dame Abrahams and Officer Kwaf. Dame Abrahams' call offers to return our fee. Dafnord calls her back and tells her to keep it.
We return Officer Kwaf's call. After exchanging greetings, it tells us that they've been able to extract a lot of information from the unconscious alien. "The murderer had a psychic talent whereby it was able to steal temporal momentum from other living or minded things, thus casting them into a species of stasis. It could then use the harvested temporal momentum to accelerate or decelerate itself, or do other things, as we observed. The effect on the victim wore off in a few 8s of periods.
"Obviously, it also had skills in glamour and cloaking.
"The murderer was apparently imprisoned in what was supposed to be permanent stasis on Stev Pren. Blenari excavations released it. It then used its temporal talents to stow away aboard ships and make its way to Martshayla Port, whence it intended to make its way into the Ecumene generally, vanish, and make a new beginning for itself.
"It was always careful to murder in such a way that the victim would take a little time to die, so it could steal timeflow from the dying and cast it into stasis."
"It murdered only to silence witnesses to its existence. It recognized that we are at a lower tech-level than it. It reckoned on the confusion caused by the stasis to cover its tracks. It did NOT reckon on the ... instruments ... you brought with you." Kwaf refers to the Map of Here.
"It disguised itself as a Threenaleen because they were the only other tripeds in sight."
"We are now interrogating it for historical and technical information. Our time for this is limited, because it appears to be dying of wounds inflicted in its capture, faster than anyone can figure out medical procedures. It is, after all, a new species."
Officer Kwaf finishes the call by telling us that "Consul Foozhap invites you all to an extradition on Martshayla. Please come to the Consulate in 30 periods. If you choose to come, please present yourselves in as formal and official a manner as possible."
We thank the Naza for the information and tell it that we plan to be there.
Last Updated: 7-Oct-06
©2004 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved