- This story has been previously published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
- Mentioned in this episode: Bobby Lombardi fundraiser http://matt-wallace.com/?p=294
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- For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our sortable Wikipedia page
about the author…
Oliver Buckram, Ph.D., writes science fiction and fantasy. He lives in the Boston area where, under an assumed name, he teaches social science to undergraduates. His fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Interzone, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF), among other places. He urges you to keep watching the skies.
about the narrator…
Laura Hobbs works in infosec by day and is a random crafter by night. Twitter is her social media of choice, and she despises the word “cyber”. When asked nicely, she sometimes reads things for people on the internet. You can find her online at soapturtle.net
A Struggle Between Rivals Ends Surprisingly
by Oliver Buckram
While the harbormaster fidgeted at his desk, Treya checked her pipes. They were, of course, in perfect condition: the leather supple and the drones polished. She’d brought her double-chantered smallpipes today, in case the negotiations grew complex.
The harbormaster snapped shut his pocket watch. “That damned beetle is already ten minutes late.”
Treya walked to the window. On the street below, a fishmonger pushed his wheelbarrow through a group of green-skinned Cantharan peddlers while a Glanite hoverjar floated by. But there was no sign of the beetle. If he didn’t show up, Treya wouldn’t get paid.
She scrutinized the hoverjar as it wafted through an intersection. Inside its murky interior, there must be a Glanite. The squid-like creatures seldom visited Port Raskol. What was it doing here? Might it want to hire a translator?
At last Treya spotted the beetle’s top hat bobbing above the heads of other pedestrians. His fringed leather vest marked him as a servant of the beetle Baroness.
After a few moments, the beetle was ushered into the office. Treya and the harbormaster bowed and the beetle spread his stubby hindwings in greeting. After Treya piped a welcome, he responded with a cacophony of wails, whines, and groans from his spiracles.
She translated in a low voice. “He’s doing the Lamentation on Congestion…apologies for being late…greetings from the Baroness. He’s going off on a tangent. Could be an extended monologue. No…He’s back on track. We’re definitely doing the first scene of A Routine Mercantile Transaction. It’s a one-act, so this shouldn’t take long.”
When the beetle finished his lines, Treya glanced at the harbormaster.
“Ask him why the Baroness is behind on her docking fees,” he said. The Baroness owned a fleet of fishing vessels currently in the harbor.
Treya shook her head. “That will serve no purpose. At best, he’ll give us a discourse on unavoidable delays, and at worst, he’ll push us into a convoluted subplot. No, at this point in A Routine Mercantile Transaction, you need to state your demands.”
“I want those fees paid. Right now.”