The Currents of Space (Page 36)
The contents of the pockets were not particularly unusual. A booklet of key slivers, a few coins, an identification card. (Holy Sark! Even the Squires carried them. But then, they didn’t have to produce them for every patroller that came along.)
His new name, apparently, was Aistare Deamone. He hoped he wouldn’t have to use it. There were only ten thousand men, women and children in Upper City. The chance of his meeting one among them who knew Deamone personally was not large, but it wasn’t insignificant either.
He was twenty-nine. Again he felt a rising nausea as he thought of what he had left in the cave, and fought it. A Squire was a Squire. How many twenty-nine-year-old Florinians had been done to death at their hands or by their directions? How many nine-year-old Florinians?
He had an address, too, but it meant nothing to him. His knowledge of Upper City geography was rudimentary.
A color portrait of a young boy, perhaps three, in pseudotrimension. The colors flashed as he drew it out of its container, faded progressively as he returned it. A young son? A nephew? There had been the girl in the Park so it couldn’t be a son, could it?
Or was he married? Was the meeting one of those they called
"clandestine?" Would such a meeting take place in daylight? Why not, under certain circumstances?
Terens hoped so. If the girl were meeting a married man she would not quickly report his absence. She would assume he had not been able to evade his wife. That would give him time.
No, it wouldn’t. Instant depression seized him. Children playing hide-and-seek would stumble on the remains and run screaming. It was bound to happen within twenty-four hours.
He turned to the pocket’s contents once more. A pocket-copy license as yacht pilot. He passed it by. All the richer Sarkites owned yachts and piloted them. It was this century’s fad. Finally, a few strips of Sarkite credit vouchers. Now those might be temporarily useful.
It occurred to him that he hadn’t eaten since the night before at the Baker’s place. How quickly one could grow conscious of hunger.
Suddenly he turned back to the yacht license. Wait, now, the yacht wasn’t in use now, not with the owner dead. And it was his yacht. Its hangar number was z6, at Port 9. Well.
Where was Port 9? He hadn’t the slightest notion.
He leaned his forehead against the coolness of the smooth railing around the fountain. What now? What now?
The voice startled him.
"Hello," it said. "Not sick?"
Terens looked up. It was an older Squire. He was smoking a long cigarette containing some aromatic leaf while a green stone of some sort hung suspended from a gold wristband. His expression was one of kindly interest that astonished Terens into a moment of speechlessness, until he remembered. He was one of the clan himself now. Among themselves, Squires might well be decent human beings.
The Townman said, "Just resting. Decided to take a walk and lost track of time. I’m afraid I’m late for an appointment now."
He waved his hand in a wry gesture. He could imitate the Sarkite accent fairly well from long association but he didn’t make the mistake of trying to exaggerate it. Exaggeration was easier to detect than insufficiency.
The other said, "Stuck without a skeeter, hey?" He was the older man, amused by the folly of youth.
"No skeeter," admitted Terens.
"Use mine," came the instant offer. "It’s parked right outside. You can set the controls and send it back here when you’re through. I won’t be needing it for the next hour or so."
To Terens, that was almost ideal. The skeeters were fast and skittery as chain lightning, could outspeed and outmaneuver any patroller ground-car. It fell short of ideal only in that Terens could no more drive the skeeter than he could fly without it.
"From here to Sark," he said. He knew that piece of Squire slang for "thanks," and threw it in. "I think I’ll walk. It isn’t far to Port 9."
"No, it isn’t far," agreed the other.
That left Terens no better off than before. He tried again. "Of course, I wish I were closer. The walk to Kyrt Highway is healthy enough by itself."
"Kyrt Highway? What’s that got to do with it?"
Was he looking queerly at Terens? It occurred to the Town-man, suddenly, that his clothing probably lacked the proper fitting. He said quickly, "Wait! I’m twisted at that. I’ve got myself crossed up walking. Let’s see now." He looked about vaguely.
"Look. You’re on Recket Road. All you have to do is go down to Triffis and turn left, then follow it into the port." He had pointed automatically.
Terens smiled. "You’re right. I’m going to have to stop dreaming and start thinking. From here to Sark, sir."
"You can still use my skeeter."
"Kind of you, but…"
Terens was walking away, a bit too quickly, waving his hand. The Squire stared after him.
Perhaps tomorrow, when they found the corpse in the rocks and began searching, the Squire might think of this interview again. He would probably say, "There was something queer about him, if you know what I mean. He had an odd turn of phrase and didn’t seem to know where he was. I’ll swear he’d never heard of Triffis Avenue."
But that would be tomorrow.
He walked in the direction that the Squire had pointed out. He came to the glittering sign "Triffis Avenue," almost drab against the iridescent orange structure that was its background. He turned left.
Port 9 was alive with youth in yachting costume, which seemed to feature high-peaked hats and hip-bellying breeches. Terens felt conspicuous but no one paid attention to him. The air was full of conversation spiced with terms he did not understand.
He found Booth 26 but waited for minutes before approaching it. He wanted no Squire remaining persistently in its vicinity, no Squire who happened to own a yacht in a nearby booth who would know the real Alstare Deamone by sight and would wonder what a stranger was doing about his ship.