Alais is saying, "Sir, I wish to investigate this present matter among other spacefarers, and I think a tavern the best place to do this. But I am unaccustomed to the social conventions of these places. If you accompany me, I would be glad to purchase you a drink and some sustenance besides."
Emmett, still glancing around for Pham, nods absently. "I've never been one to turn down a free drink, Master Alais, but I do need to talk to Pham. Did you see which way he went?"
As the crowds ebb and flow around the building's steps, two of them are headed for the small gatheringHiro and a man in a wide-brimmed hat....
Pham smiles as he approaches the steps of the library again. "Emmett! Glad to see youI was just heading back to the ship to report to the captain. I'm afraid our researches here have hit an impasse. As I see Alais has been explaining to you. If you gentlemen would like to talk to some spacers, I know just the place. I've already made some friends there."
"Pham!" Emmett seems uncharacteristically unnerved by something. "There you are. There's something I have to tell you." The half-man is about to explain when he is interrupted by a familiar voice.
"Well that was easy," Val says to Hiro as they near library. He is obviously surprised to find Alais, Emmett and Pham all at once.
"Good day, gentlemen," he greets the others as they draw near. "Just the ones I'm looking for." Val smiles at them, nodding to each. He is fairly certain Victor's men had not seen any of them on board, as ibn Fadil said they'd already left before things got interesting, but he maintains his adopted persona and disguise nonetheless.
After the exchange of greetings and pleasantries, Val asks Brother Pham and Alais, "I was wondering if I might ask a favor of you. Would it be possible to send a message to someone on a 'Jammer in flight? It's very important..."
Pham looks askance at Val, but has had enough experiences in having to lay low in a town to know when not to ask. "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid that is beyond my abilities. I'm sure there's some way, but I do not have that talent. My utmost apologies."
"Thanks all the same," Val replies, waiting for Alais' response somewhat anxiously now...
Pham looks at Val sympathetically and says "Is there something else I can help with? You look like things have not gone your way recently."
"That's an understatement," Val snorts, but not too harshly. "Maybe we can talk about things somewhere less...public?"
"Gods above, it's like waiting for a cart: hours of nothing and then six show up at once." Emmett shakes his head. "OK, guys. I think we all have a lot to catch up on. Pham, if you have a bar you already know, let's go there. Everyone can spill whatever they're carrying and we'll mop up the mess later. Deal?"
As they walk, Alais continues, "You're going to have to be more specific, Master Ehrendrin. Where is the ship in question supposed to be? In wildspace or the phlogiston? What type of ship is? If it is in a sphere, what the specific properties of that sphere? And so on. What can you tell me?"
Val looks at Alais, nonplussed. He hadn't thought this would be so damned complicated. "It's somewhere in this sphere, a squid-ship. I know the name of the ship and the person I need to send the message to," he tells the mage after a moment. "I can try and find out more if it'll help. If you had this information, how soon would the person be able to receive the message and possibly reply?"
* * *
After his lunch with Yestin, ibn Fadil returns to the square to wait until it's time to meet Emmett. He spends some time wandering around, getting a better feel for the place and collecting more rumors. News of the raid has started to percolate through the city, no doubt thanks to some of his shipmates. After a while he locates the storyteller the giff had found so interesting (perhaps it was the juggling; there has never been a giff born with sufficient delicacy of grip to master the art).
The current tale is some sort of political allegory involving a wooden donkey, a peach, an egg, a scarf, and a small glass jar. The story ends, the objects are collected, the audience applauds and tosses a few coins. Seeing the storyteller prepared to take a break, ibn Fadil seizes the opportunity and quickly works out an arrangement. It would be to the good for an _accurate_ version of the story to be in the rounds, sans his own direct involvement and the perfidy of the giff.
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© 2001 Rebecca J. Stevenson