by K. Ceres Wright
Kalinda ran her fingers down the frayed cover of the Wayfarer prayer book. The black leather was dry and cracked, curling tan at the edges. The book contained just eight pages, the rest having been lost long ago to the ravages of time, war, and relocation. She could only read a few paragraphs. The Wayfare language hadn’t thrived among the descendants of the One Million after settlement on distant planets, and she had forgotten most of what she had been taught as a child. She opened to the first page and read.
“Father of the heavens, stars, and galaxies, watch over our journey and deliver us to solid ground. Let our daily bread be sufficient, our fuel abundant, and water overflowing. Guide us by Thy hand among the beacons of the eternal night, until Your light leads us to our future.”
Her reading was interrupted by Mobé, her butler, whose voice sounded overhead, through the speakers.
“Oba Jakande, your cousin, Mr. Okeke, is on the line.”
“Thank you, Mobé. Please put him through.”
After a moment, Kalinda said, “Zuberi, to what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Cut the shit, Kal. I heard you’ve been making a deal with the Kur Dak behind my back. Is that true? I thought we signed a truce.”
“The terms of our agreement are, and I quote, ‘Neither party will engage in business transactions or mergers that infringe upon the core business of the other party.’ But this deal doesn’t have to do with investment banking, stocks, or commodities. It’s for a …different type of product,” Kalinda said.
“Oh, yeah? What is it? Weapons? Winter wheat? Woolly mammoths?”
“How’d you guess?” she said drily.
“I swear, if you’ve violated our agreement, I’ll file suit, and once your new client gets wind of that news, I wonder how long they’ll stick around.”
“Your desperation is showing, cousin. And I must say, it’s quite unbecoming,” Kalinda said.
“Damnit, Kal, is it true or not?”
She paused, considering what to tell him. “Remember, oh, about six months ago, you lent money to the Global Bank of The Tennance and wouldn’t tell me what it was for?”
An audible sigh sounded overhead. “Fine. It was for repairs to the Nyekundu Gate.”
“Ah…don’t tell me…the Perimeter Worlds want to keep it hush-hush that they’re being attacked by the Green Federation.”
“Bad for business,” Zuberi said. “They officially said the gate was down for maintenance. But there are rumors to the contrary, which I’m actively trying to suppress. So…what’s your story?”
“The Kur Dak want to dip their toe into Cassad investments, but are ignorant of the ways of humans. I’m just a teacher of human customs…and investment strategy.”
Zuberi let out a long, low whistle. “Mbutu said they were getting money from somewhere and were looking for somewhere to put it. I was wondering when they’d come sniffing around. I don’t know about you, Kal, but I’m starting to think these events are not unrelated. Kur Dak new-found money, gate sabotage by the Federation. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Brythons were behind it.”
“You always suspect the Brythons. Of everything. It’s getting tiresome.”
“There’ve been rumors, Kent and his father, Percival, are up to something more than usual Brython ambition. I think it has to do with what we’re talking about, especially the attacks on the gates.”
Kalinda paused. She didn’t pay much attention to gate shutdowns since she rarely traveled to other planets. Most of them were backwater wilderness on which families had carved out some small oasis of civilization. And the Clusters were noisy with the constant din of construction.
“For once in your life, you may have a valid opinion,” she said.
The story continues from last week, from the POV of the daughter of the Prime Minister of Glissau. It begins with an advertisement:
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In the kitchen, footsteps reverberated from the upstairs bedroom. They stopped at the staircase and a voice yelled, “Mani! I told you to cut the sales segments from the day’s songlist!”
“Yes, mi lapa,” Mani replied.
Lirina sat at the kitchen table with her sister, Kallo, and peeked over the manuscript she was reading to stare at Mani. He then muttered something under his breath that Lirina didn’t catch. She smiled. Her mother could be overwhelming.
“Why does mom keep him around? He obviously disobeys her,” Kallo said.
“Because he makes the best usheff between here and Olaro. Besides, they really like each other. It’s sort of a game between them,” Lirina said.
“Hm. When I grow up, all my men will obey my every command.”
“You have a lot to learn about life. And love,” Lirina said.
She arose and made her way out back to the cooking area, the men’s usual gathering place. After a day’s work, they would build a fire in the large grated pit and roast a large dinner and the smaller meals for the next day. Generous amounts of lugu fermented from the haca plant would be passed around, even a bit to the young children they cared for.
Because Mani was Eminent Coitioner, Eminent Cuisiner, and the father of Dotar’s two daughters—and her mother disdained childrearing—he was afforded much sway. He used to bring Lirina and Kallo out back with him and the other men, even long past the Age of Separation. Kallo would only stay long enough to eat, then went inside with their mother. But Lirina would stay low and quiet while she listened to the men tell stories by the dying fire. The light danced on each of their faces, playing up the hard lines and the trace of sadness behind their eyes. It was an image that had repeated itself in Lirina’s mind throughout her life.
Bo and Cheng are friends in the Guangzhou district of China. Bo is half American and a freelance IT consultant. Their neighborhood is subject to visa raids on occasion:
Footsteps sounded and the front door burst open, spilling in a handful of Guangzhou police who immediately leveled their guns at Bo. He froze, hands up. The head constable strode in and surveyed the party’s remains, then approached him. She held out her hand.
“Visa,” she said in English.
Bo’d seen the trio countless times before on raids, yet they always acted as if he had just washed up on shore in a rowboat from Madagascar. Bo held up his index finger. “One moment. Just woke up and it’s not something I keep on me while I’m sleeping.” He headed for the bedroom, followed by two of the police. Cheng was stretched out on the bed, dead to the world.
“Who’s that?” one of the constables said.
“Cheng. Doesn’t live here. Native, though,” Bo said.
The constable grunted. She knew who it was, Bo thought. He drew the visa from his nightstand and handed it over. The constable inspected it and gave it back, apparently satisfied. The two policemen withdrew. Bo tossed the visa back into the nightstand and followed them out.
Bo called after them. “Call ahead next time and I’ll have some sago tarts.”
The head constable threw him a stare that chilled his skin. Then left. Bo breathed relief, suddenly envying Cheng, who’d slept through the entire ordeal.