|A Human Perspective - Episode 3|
|Series||A Human Perspective|
|Source||A Human Perspective - Episode 3|
|In the series|
Charl bounded into the conference room and to his old Banu associate, pulling up short with arms held wide above his head. “Wewl-whoa!” Lyshtuu approached and adopted the same posture; Charl had learned that greeting had ancient origins, something to do with showing one was unarmed.
“Hello Charl-Grissom,” the trader said. “Glad I am that your renewed acquaintance has occurred. Everything is to your liking?”
“Glad I am, as well!” the Human replied, not bothering to correct the Banu’s syntax. Oh, Lyshtuu, he thought, if you only knew how glad!
“With me please see Nartuul and Whusha.” He indicated his two Banu companions, who nodded. All three Banu were dressed alike in rugged-looking black jackets and tight gray leggings with wide-toed boots. Clothes, Charl noted, were one area where Humans and Banu were basically the same. One biped’s clothes looked pretty much like any other’s.
“Wewl-whoa!” he said, greeting the two other males in Banu, which they both respected by nodding more energetically. He loved doing that.
“Torreele Foodstuffs Humans to join us soon,” Lyshtuu added. His fellows, wearing the Torreele corporate logo on their sleeves, backed up to lean against the conference room’s blue- and gray-sparkled wall; Banu seldom sit while working, so there were no chairs, not even Banu ones. The room was part of an immaculate hotel that itself was part of the immaculate orbital spinning around Bacchus’ gravity well. Charl was completely impressed. He knew the Banu mainly from interaction on their frontiers, knew them to be a rugged, self-reliant race. Visiting them here in the lap of their home world’s luxury put them into an entirely new light.
“Please, Lyshtuu. Please tell me about the mission.”
“You must travel five systems less one,” Lyshtuu said, beckoning one of his companions — Nartuul or Whusha, Charl didn’t know which — who produced a MobiGlas and pulled up some star charts.
“That’s a quick trip,” Charl said, and Lyshtuu tapped the MobiGlas screen.
“Ag,” Charl offered the easier-to-pronounce abbreviation.
“Yes, ‘ag.’ World Shyewhea is an ag planet. One species,” he motioned for his companion to bring up another image, “one species is of interest to Torreele Foodstuffs.” Charl leaned in to get a better look. The thing was sort of a shaggy badger with fuzzy antennae. Big ears and big eyes. From the Banu annotations on the screen it appeared to be maybe 30 kilos, about the size of a large dog.
“Hwasheen,” one of the other Banu said.
“Hwasheen,” Charl tried the critter’s name for himself. “They want me to check out these Hwasheen, then?”
“Yes, check out. Maybe Hwasheen good to eat. Maybe good to … keep?” Lyshtuu seemed puzzled.
“Keep, yes, like a pet.”
“Yes, maybe Humans make pet Hwasheen.” Charl forgave his Banu friend his confusion. They had no concept of animals as pets. “Seems pretty straight forward.”
“Your ship, the Reesheer …” Lyshtuu began, changing the subject.
“Reacher,” Charl corrected subtly.
“Yes. Ship is docked well?”
“Yes, it is docked in a good place,” Charl said, not bothering to add it was probably the most upscale docking site his ship had ever occupied.
“Good, we will tend Reesheer while you are away.”
“Wait, I don’t understand. You mean I’m not taking the Reacher …”
“Hello, sorry we’re a little late.” A pair of Human businessmen barged in just then — all pressed suits, haircuts and briefcases, Charl noted. “We’ve got two more just behind us. Hello, I’m Jason Gladwell, Torreele Foodstuffs.”
Before Charl could do anything about it the young Human had him in a firm handshake.
“Charl Grissom,” he replied.
“Larry Kroegel.” Same handshake. “I’m Regional Sub Vice-President of Xeno Imports …”
“Not for long, I think,” Jason added, and the two shared a corporate ladder-climbing grin. Charl fought not to roll his eyes. What a tool.
“No, maybe not for long, but for now, at any rate. Lyshtuu, thanks for being here.” He held out his hand to the Banu, who took it strangely in his two-fingered hand.
“It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Grissom,” Jason continued, looking for somewhere to set his briefcase and settling for the floor. “Lyshtuu tells us you’re a regular adventurer.”
“Yeah, something like that,” he agreed cordially. Keep your eye on the prize, Charl.
“You know, my wife Missy and I went out on a Banu safari a couple of standards ago,” the suit began.
“Really.” Charl feigned interest, and the Banu, he knew, would remain politely silent while the Human blathered on about something not germane to the business at hand.
“Lyshtuu set that up for you, didn’t he?” Larry interjected, sorting files on his MobiGlas.
“Yes, and thank you. We had a great time. We saw a thelmaut and a pack of brightsaur cubs. Of course, our luggage got lost, so that was kind of a nightmare.”
“Bummer,” Larry agreed.
“Yes, bummer,” Charl added.
“You know, Charl … do you mind if I call you Charl?”
“Charl, I reviewed your previous work for Torreele. That was really splendid. We ticked up some revenue that quarter. What brings you back into Banu space?”
“I never left Banu space,” he replied proudly.
“You mean you live out here …” Jason started, but stopped short of saying among these xenos. “You know, there are plenty of commercial flights back into UEE space these days.”
“Well, I wouldn’t want my luggage to get lost.”
“Sorry we’re late,” a third and fourth Human arrived at the conference room, a man and a woman. “The traffic was beastly. Chuck Astley,” he introduced himself, reaching out with his hand to shake, “and this is my associate, Angela Bialik.”
“Pleased to meet you both,” Charl said. She was pretty, he noted, the first Human female he had seen in person in several years. She moved to stand quietly among the other Humans.
“I hope you already got started without us. We’re in something of a hurry.” The new suit glanced at the time on his personal comp. “You are Mr. …”
“Grissom,” Jason offered sycophantically.
“Mr. Grissom, yes. I assume Mr. Lyshtuu has provided you with the entire dossier.”
“We were just going over the details,” Charl said abruptly, a little more distracted by the woman’s soft features and form-fitting attire than he would have expected.
“Good,” Astley replied somewhat absently, obviously catching up on the meeting by skimming through notes on his pad. “I see someone in scouting brought this one to our attention … well, no matter. Mr. Lyshtuu says you’re the man for the job, Mr. Grissom.”
“Yes,” he said. “I’ve done this sort of work before.”
“Good, between you I’m sure we’ll get a reading on this in time for the fourth-quarter new business conference …” he left the sentence hanging.
“Yes,” Angela spoke for the first time. “We have ample time, sir.”
“Wait,” Charl tried to focus. “Wait, I work alone.”
“Not on this mission,” Astley insisted, looking at the Banu contingent. “Did we miss something here? Ms. Bialik is a highly qualified xenobiologist and represents the corporation on this trip.”
“But …” Charl began, turning to Angela, but she avoided his gaze demurely, apparently willing to let the others sort this out.
“Listen, if that’s a problem we can get someone else, Mr. Grissom,” he said impatiently, glancing again at the time.
“A moment, please,” Charl managed, and motioned for Lyshtuu to join him at the far end of the conference room, eliciting a profound sigh from Astley.
“Did you know about this?” he asked exasperatedly.
“Charl-Grissom, the additional acquaintance presents some difficulty,” the Banu stated uncertainly, and Charl found himself suddenly irritated by the alien’s haphazard sentence structures.
“Yes, it’s a problem,” he insisted in a harsh whisper. “You know I work alone.”
“How do you say … non-negotiable.”
He tossed his head back and closed his eyes tight. He had already spent the advance Credits. What choice did he have?
“Fine,” he said, biting his tongue. The meeting wrapped up fairly quickly after that, which suited Charl just fine. The Banu fawned over the businessmen and his unwanted female companion in their ‘eager to please’ fashion until all the ‘i’s were dotted and ‘t’s were crossed.
Damn, he thought after they parted. They made me forget to ask for any cigars!
To Be Continued …