They were in tatters, like many of mine were, but I now recalled many meetings between the jovial, toady Polo, and the stoic renegade Priest-entity Nada. Sharing information as I had been with Asrial, but freely. Exchanging plant and animal data with Polo for possible Multitools, and talking at length with the retired adventurer about my travels. Listening to Nada prattle on about the nature of the universe… and its basis in code. I couldn’t remember details, but the generality was enough to make me anxious. I prayed he was wrong. No one wants to wake up to the realization that they’re nothing more than a software bot or video game character. Maybe he had new information which indicated otherwise.
I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen them. It seemed ages ago. I had to go to them now, I missed them so badly. I wanted to fly over in my new ride on a maiden voyage. I’d barely laid eyes on Star Sword since buying it, and I was anxious to give it a test flight. Captain Grondo was determined to pick up where we left off, as the crew had been idle for two days while I slept off my drunk, so I gave in. After a fashion.
I used the code Asrial gave me to fix a location on the star charts, and it was quite a distance away. But I could easily buy tons more fuel, or even make it myself. So not telling Grondo what was up, I set the Infineon for a long jump to the Noradli system, a binary, almost six thousand light years away. He became suspicious when the ship didn’t emerge from hyperspace after almost half a minute, and looked to the jump coordinates with a start. “Where in Hirk’s blood are we going!”
“Ohh… a really nice system,” I told him, hoping it was true.
Giving a cursory look at the preliminary system report, he grumbled, “I do not think there is enough parafinium there to pay for this trip.”
“What?” I exclaimed, going to the console, pointing to it. “Come on, there are lots of minerals on those planets!”
“Just checking,” he smirked to me. “But if something scares you, buy your own drink this time! Heaving it up is a waste.”
I had been quite thoughtless in that incident, and patted his shoulder. “I promise, and I’ll give you a thousand units for that waste.” That made him happy.
The new Conflict Sensor informed me the system was fairly peaceful, a 3.2 system, which also meant a good economy. But the only thing that concerned me was knowing I might not have to fight off pirates first thing, and wouldn’t have to rush. I did anyway. I was anxious to see my friends again. But first, I had to satisfy the captain, who didn’t take well to the ship’s alert. “Spacial Anomaly detected.”
“What anomaly!” He looked at his console in fear. “Did you take us to a system with that god cursed—!”
“No no! This has nothing to do with ATLAS,” I tried to assure him. “Not directly, anyway. Just remember, not ATLAS.”
“It had better not be,” he growled, “or we will have words, and more.”
“We’ll have a drink. It’ll be fine. You’ll see.” He clearly didn’t take well to my little diversion, so I left it at that.
I hopped into Star Sword and powered her up, and in short order, perhaps a bit too quickly in my urgency to get going, I was racing over the planar surface of the massive Freighter. She handled nicely, and I loved the new Fighter. It was roughly based on the same fuselage design as Scimitar, but smaller and lighter. The long nose cut off the view a bit, and the Photon Cannons weren’t quite as potent, but the craft was more agile, with a good set of armor and a sturdy frame. And man, could she accelerate!
Which I put to good use as I set off for a marker some distance away, a purple octagon with a white cross over an indigo center. It had been too long since I’d seen that, and it was so good to hear my systems notify me of the Anomaly. Or at least I started to set off, as the ship kept cruising. A warning beep and HUD notification informed me that the Pulse Drive fuel was depleted. As I gaped at it in dismay, I realized that the crew was having some fun with me, no doubt suggested by the captain, and had drained the tank. It was a good thing I had enough resources in cargo, or I’d be giving them a talking to. Or… maybe not. I decided on second thought, this turnabout was fair play.
As I braked from Pulse thrust down to idle approach, I was as excited as I had been meeting Asrial for the first time. It seemed ages since I had laid eyes on that dull gray sphere, and its well armored gateway, which opened with a deep rumble I could feel in the frame of the ship. But this was a far different arrival than what I was used to. The brief channel leading to the small landing bay was… long. Really long! It was a spectacular passage through a seemingly endless series of gleaming rings and a cylinder of metal and glass. Finally, it ended, and I lost my breath for a moment. Previously, the landing bay was a tidy area just big enough to perhaps squeeze in two fighters if they were small.
Was this the same Anomaly? I couldn’t believe it! The same dull gray and bronze metals as the outside were gone, the cramped interior now a vast expanse that resembled what I remembered of modern cities, gleaming and fitted with lights. The landing system guided my ship to a landing pad beside several others… seven, eight? Twelve? No, it was more than that… sixteen? I barely had a chance to see as the system yanked the Fighter swiftly to the final space. Traditional landing areas were restricted to five ships because of Hauler weight issues. I got the impression that this ship dock could handle almost anything. Maybe even a Frigate, if it could land.
I got out and removed my helmet, throwing it into my seat, and gawked at the cavernous, well lit expanse. I spent several minutes just taking in the splendor of the station’s gleaming interior. I was dumbfounded at the sheer scale of it all.
I was startled, even more so because the distant voice was unfamiliar. And then came the real surprise when I saw them.
They were a Traveler, I was sure of it - and there was another beside him! They both gave me a friendly wave from a raised floor above the landing bay. I began walking slowly, hardly able to believe my eyes - it looked like they were there. As my walk became a sprint to get to them quickly across the expanse, I could see that they were. No translucent bodies this time… of all the crazy things!
I stood before them, panting more from emotion, and gasped out, “You’re real!”
They looked to each other and cackled. Such laughter had never sounded so good, or so welcoming. Fellow Travelers, able to meet, person to person. I was flabberghasted. A short toady one said to me, “We have been all our lives. I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Gemini. This is Hesperus.” He indicated a much taller feathery being at his side, who gave me a friendly wave. His suit was of the Korvax style, while Gemini’s was of the Gek.
“Wonderful! Awesome! Oh! Right! Nigel! Fox! I’m Nigel Fox!” I flustered out, still trying to calm down from my excitement. I wanted to cry, to laugh, to let my emotions unleash in a fit of sheer joy. I wasn’t alone!
The other, Hesperus, shared a laugh with his companion. “We are not royalty, lad. We are just Travelers. I see that you have never met one in person. But tell me, what are you? A wanderer? A Traveler?”
He wanted a confirmation before this went any further, and this was a rather exclusive club. “A Traveler, with all the thrills, baggage and problems that go with it.”
His moustache twitched at my reply. “Pardon the query, but we are quite protective of our friends here. We tread parallel paths, you and I. And yet, quite impossibly, we have met. It is a pleasure to meet you, Friend Nigel. Let us not make this our only encounter.” He resembled… the term “furby” came to mind from some ancient crevace of memory, with what seemed a full beard of feathers.
I wanted to grab him up in a bear hug, both of them, but I managed to be more dignified and shook his offered hand, trying to be mindful of my grip. “Yes! Yes, Friend Hesperus.” I shook hands with Gemini in turn, a big smile on my face. “I guess you can tell how excited I am.”
He turned to his companion, murmuring unguardedly, “Perhaps we should tell him we are royalty.”
Hesperus waved him off with a chuckle. “Be nice. This is one of the better ones.”
Gemini continued, “If it weren’t for Hesperus, I’d still be alone out there, drifting from world to world. Entire galaxies to discover, and no one to share it with. I’ve never found such company in another. Even the Geks, for all their talk of friendship, they all seem to want something. Hesperus is different. He has been a true companion to me.”
His comrade gave me a smirk. “Well, someone had to take him under wing. He was looking quite lonely. But truly, we have been inseparable since.”
Entire galaxies? How old were these two! My mind filled with questions I hoped to have a chance to ask them sometime. “Amazing… so, how did you find your way here?”
Gemini replied, “We are old Travelers now, too old to keep up the tradition, so we looked for a good place to settle. We followed a trail of rumors to see if they were true, and here we are. Nada and Polo were kind enough to provide us a nice home in which to retire.”
“I… like what they did with the place.” I took a moment to gape at the cavernous interior again in amazement, as it seemed almost as big as the Anomaly Station itself. “When I visited before, the insides were smaller than this landing deck!”
They looked to each other with a blink, Hesperus saying, “You have not been here for that long? You must have been a busy Traveler! You must tell us about your adventures.”
That stopped me short, because so much of my life lay behind a wall of amnesia. “I - I’d love to, but a lot of it was muddled up from the last Reset.”
They both scowled. Gemini grumbled, “Those blasted Resets. They ruin everything!”
Hesperus was a bit more philosophical. “They do keep happening, do they not? I suppose I am jaded. I barely noticed the last one.”
“Oh? You don’t remember walking around, holding your head and saying, ‘Who am I, who am I?’” Gemini mimed the scene, holding his head and wobbling.
Hesperus laughed him off. “Oh go on! I was not like that! Although… there were those first few moments…”
While their banter was charming, I was anxious to keep things serious so I could learn something from them. “Listen, guys, I have a ton of questions myself. How many of us are there in this universe… Instance… what do you even call this reality?”
Hesperus replied, “Oh, any of those work.”
“There are a multitude of us,” Gemini explained, “many thousand on any given day. But the Euclid galaxy is so large, we’re widely scattered and hardly ever see each other.”
“Any given day?” I asked in perplexion.
We’re shifting, bleeding in and out of worlds
“Why?” I wondered aloud. I caught it myself, and the pair looking to each other curiously, and decided to pursue it. “What’s going on… what’s the nature of… not just the universe, but us Travelers? Are we not fixed to this reality like any other being?”
“Perhaps I overstated a scouche,” Gemini replied, “but it is true that many of us seem to wander off into Folds. Why this happens, why Travelers in particular seem to manifest in other realities, is a great mystery. Even our Korvax friends have no answer as of yet.”
“At least that they will admit to,” Hesperus muttered.
Gemini nodded. “So we’re left to speculate on our own, bounce notions off of each other, though without travels to gain new information, we’re at a wall. And Nada is unable to connect to the Convergence, to draw on that vast well of information, because the Korvax consider him a renegade, and would… well, you know…”
I had witnessed a couple of Korvax suffering some sort of catastrophic failure, or perhaps it was their equivalent of old age, and they willingly gave up their essence to the Echoes. And disturbingly, acolytes failing in some test which displeased their masters. After a reboot, a new entity emerged in the shell of the old. What a bizarre nature. And Nada was under the equivalent of a death sentence, depending on their judgment of him. “Yeah… I, uh… am familiar with that.” I waved sourly, wanting to move along. “So anyway, are there just the four of you living in this huge station?”
They looked to each other with a chuckle, Hesperus saying, “Oh, Space no! There are a few of us here, resting our bones in these Last Days of our lives.”
I nearly choked, overcome with excitement again. “Where are they!”
They enjoyed a good laugh at my reaction, and Gemini began to walk around the wall of the little nook. “Well, for a start… oi! Ariadne!” He waved up at a balcony overlooking the area, and peering down at us was a walrus looking fellow, or perhaps I should say lady, if the gender association my vague memories were telling me held true.
I had to meet them right then. “Great! Hey! Listen! You aren’t going anywhere, are you?”
They enjoyed another laugh at my enthusiasm. Hesperus pointed to a canopy-slash-curtain against the wall. “Not at all, other than a meal. This is our little campsite during the daytime cycle, to greet newcomers. We will be right here.”
“Wonderful!” I clasped hands with them both, blurting out, “See you later!”
As I bolted off for the ramp leading up to the balcony, I overheard Hesperus chuckling, “He is young.”
“Clearly,” Gemini remarked.
I dashed up the little ramp to the platform overlooking the landing bay to meet the new Traveler, stopping in front of them with much the same excitement as with the first two. How many of us were there? “Hi!” I panted out. “Oh! Nigel Fox! It’s a pleasure to meet you!”
They gave me a gesture of welcome, a rather slender being compared to what my mind had imagined. “Greetings, Like-Traveler. It is likewise. Here, you are safe, and so very welcome.”
I was curious about their wording. “Like-Traveler?”
They nodded. “I meet so many Travelers here. So many faces, yet all of us alike, all lured by the invitation of the stars. We all pilot our ships, journey in our suits, along the path that fits each of us best. I assume the same for your self. Iteration 2394829084924924924G. A perfect fit. This space was designed to receive you.”
My mind buzzed with excitement. I was very glad my hangover was about done with me. I wasn’t sure what to make of all that, and intended to ask about it later. “What’s your story? I mean, how did you end up here?”
“You wish to know me? I am like you, and also not like you. I am a Traveler, and yet linger in this place between places, where none truly belong.”
It seemed that each Traveler had their own perspective on the Anomaly, and theirs was definitely unique. “How many Travelers have you met here?”
“Many,” they replied, though thankfully they elaborated. “Well more than thirty. All different, and yet much the same. I remember every like-face. You might say that I collect them. Even if you change your visage, I will remember you. All are driven to explore, to travel for the Center of the galaxy.”
“All of them?” This was baffling. Why were we all drawn to the center, like a magnet? “Why not travel everywhere? What’s at the Center?”
They gave me a shrug. “It is where the activity is.”
“Activity?” This inspired even more notions. “What kind of activity?”
“We do not know.”
“But… well, we must know something, unless it’s a subliminal urge,” I reasoned. “Has anyone made it yet?”
“Yes, many” they replied, “though the true number is not known. It is at least in the triple digits.”
This was too much like talking to a computer. Couldn’t they elaborate a little more? “What happened to them… where did they go?”
“For most, unknown,” they answered. “A portion returned, though their fate is likewise unknown.”
I was becoming exasperated with them. “Did anyone try to find out?”
“Some, a number in the tens,” they informed me. “There were complications, little understood, dangers, little understood. The hazards of the Center preclude free exploration. Information is contradictory and uncertain. Many are discouraged.” My excitement had just about faded. It was stuff like this that I feared. They could tell I wasn’t pleased with this exchange, and added, “Apologies, Like-Traveler. I do not mean to be vague. It is simply that I do not know you yet. Enjoy the Anomaly. Perhaps we can discuss this later. We have all the time in the universe to become familiar with each other.”
I hoped that was true, and asked, “How many others are on this station? The Anomaly?”
That was just the rejuvenation I needed, and shook their hand. “Thank you.” I began to head further down the passage, then hesitated. “This way?”
They nodded. “All paths are interconnected.”
“Thanks again,” I said with a wave, and continued on, passing through a pair of sliding doors.
I came upon a central junction of sorts, where cylinders of fuel were being charged in a small reactor. A robotic arm kept feeding them into slots one by one, and removing them when finished. I got the sense they were also used to power the station.
There were three open passages, and one looked like it led to a shop area. My curiosity drew me that way, and I found it to be true. There were a number of stations, four of them manned by fellow Travelers. Hyperion, a rather wild looking cyborg or android, handling starship upgrades and blueprints. Selene, apparently a female reptile with a flicking tongue busily tasting the air, dealing in Exosuit blueprints, and her greeting was quite poetic. “I heard whispers of your arrival, Traveler-new. I heard the singing of the drones, their clipped voices speaking in unison of a fresh anomaly. I will aid you.”
“Oh, would you?” I asked thoughtlessly, caught up in her amazing prose. I had to kick myself. Any time a female with the slightest appeal came along, my inner flirt emerged. “I mean… uh, let me meet the others first. I’ve never met other Travelers in person before. Then, you can help me all you want.” Again? Nigel, for God’s sake!
She gave me a coy little smile, murmuring, “You have a smooth tongue, Friend Nigel.”
I coughed out a laugh as I departed. “Yes, with a mind of its own, I’m afraid. It gets me in so much trouble.”
There was Eos, a sharky looking fellow, handling upgrades for Multitools. In fact, a station beside him had a pistol on display which I wanted. And completing the circle was a truly walrus-looking Traveler complete with tusks, Perses, whose specialty was Exocraft. They all wanted to talk shop, so I got the impression they were all retired base technicians. And in stations scattered through the chamber were incomplete terminals, likely to be expansions as Nada and Polo worked to further upgrade the station. There were also non-functional doorways, so they clearly weren’t done expanding the interior.
I continued on, finding my way back to Gemini and Hesperus. I knew I had a few more to meet, assuming that Nada and Polo were the last two of the eleven. They gave me a jovial wave of greeting, and confirmed it for me. “Go to the little alcoves fronting the landing bay and meet the others,” Hesperus told me. “And be sure to stop by Mercury and Tethys on the way to seeing Nada and Polo. A lot of people miss the ramp to the old Secsauri and Acrodon.”
I promised I would, though I wasn’t sure how to retrace my steps yet. The scale of the place still overwhelmed me. In any case, I headed down the ramp and could have kicked myself for missing them. They were off to the side but not hidden. My highly trained senses were too distracted by all the shiny lights to notice them. I knew a robot simply as Quicksilver, since he seemed to lack identification protocols, and dealt various wares in exchange for quicksilver, which I had no clue about. And surely the aroma of food should have drawn me to Cronus, evidently the station cook, and provided a number of other recipes for Travelers to use for various purposes. He seemed to have extremely sharp senses, sniffing me over, and cringed. “How did you let such fine work as those carbon nanotubes fall into such a state?”
That was completely unexpected, and I fumbled for a response. “Well… I assume you’ve heard of salvage?”
He shrugged me off. “Pardons if I seem overly critical. I promise to give you my assessment, but I do not promise it will please you. It is my nature to seek perfection.”
“Then I promise to only share perfect things with you,” I quipped. I wasn’t sure he found me amusing, so I moved right along.
Ares was a different looking being, eyes and mouth resting in a transparent head, and wanting all sorts of things in exchange for upgrades; be it stories, milestones, units, or raw materials. “Today, I seek Storm Crystals,” he told me, which unfortunately I was afraid I would need. And finally Helios, a striking fellow, his head looking like a banzai tree with plasma flickering all through the branches. I caught myself gazing at him for a while in amazement.
“Ah, young one. You who still roam the boundaries of this universe… how I envy you! My time out in that reality has long passed, but I do so miss it. Perhaps you might help out an old soul, and share the things you’ve seen? If only I could witness once again the creatures we share our lives with…”
“Well… of course!” I replied enthusiastically, and drew out my tablet. I supposed that he and Polo had long ago exhausted their respective pools of data. “Here you go.”
He was overjoyed. It must have been a while since his last visitor. “Thank you, little one! You have no idea what this means to me. Please, take these Nanites. They are nothing, but it is all I have to give you.”
He passed to me more than three thousand of it! I was astonished at his generosity, and clasped his gloved hand warmly. I could feel the woody joints underneath. “Thank you so much! That nothing is going to come in very handy!”
He seemed surprised. Evidently most Travelers were fairly rich in Nanites. “Oh. Well, bring back data on so much as a bird or worm, and I will reward you even more!”
I gave him a big smile, telling him, “It’s a promise.” He gave me a little happy dance as I left.
But Mercury… where was he hiding? It must have been off the central area because the other stalls in the area were vacant. Going back up the ramp to the junction, I spotted it, a nondescript passage up into the structure. The lure of the upgrade shops must have distracted me. It opened up into a large open area with a door and a massive Teleporter. And standing in the center beside an empty terminal pedestal was a grizzled old Traveler, looking much like a feloid sage, with rings dangling, gypsy-like, from his ears. His days of Mercury-like swiftness may be over, but he still looked spry. I approached him a bit slowly, as I felt awestruck. He practically emanated a lifetime of experience and wisdom. It may be possible that even with Nada and Polo running the station, Mercury could be the master veteran which led them all. He clasped his palms together, reinforcing the impression of a venerable monk, saying, “Welcome, Portal-adept.”
I glasped his hand and held it to my forehead, seeming to wear the years and light-years of events the old Traveler had lived through like a royal robe. “Greetings. It is… an honor to meet you.”
“Ohh, now! That is enough,” he chuckled, pulling his hand back, and waggled a finger at me. “I am nothing special. But I know of you, Friend Nathan…” He looked more closely, amending, “My apologies, Nigel.”
I grinned back. “Nigel, for now.” I guess I was getting used to it, a little.
“Indeed. You have made an impression on this universe, cutting quite a trail across the galactic arm.” He looked genuinely impressed, and this echoed what a couple of other Travelers had told me, which left me baffled. I couldn’t recall much to warrant such praise.
“I wish I knew what you were talking about,” I admitted humbly. “I can’t remember much of it.”
“Ohh, now,” he said in gentle reprimand, “I can see that you are too meek. Your actions precede you, Friend Traveler. It speaks well of your journeys to come.”
I chuckled as I recalled Captain Grondo’s put downs. “Yes, I blazed quite a trail as I ran from bugs and rain.”
We enjoyed a laugh as he patted my shoulder. “Well, enough of that. Are you here to see the Transporter?” He indicated the Teleporter on the wall across from us. “Have you had the opportunity to stand before a Portal? Feel it leech the life from your skin, felt your chest burning as its power began to melt your very being?”
His words vividly conjured up the sensations of one memory, as I forced myself to enter the swirling paradox boundary connecting two different regions of time and space with unimaginable power. It took every ounce of will to enter that dazzling, atom-shredding field. “Yeah… I had the pleasure. It was just as you describe.”
His eyes seemed to glow with this shared bit of experience. “I stood before the Portal at Soleth Prime, but did not have the courage to cross the threshold. I reached out. Only the tip of my finger grazed the gateway. The energy overwhelmed me. The next moment, I awoke aboard the Anomaly. I was transformed.”
I could hardly contain myself, and exclaimed, “That thing is a Portal?”
He waved me down with a chuckle. “Not quite. My transfer through the gateway must have been the most astronomical of errors. I am grateful to have survived it. This gateway does not have the power or capability of the ancient Monoliths, yet, as our Friend-Host’s work has yet to complete.”
I jogged over to give it a closer look. And to be sure, didn’t Teleporters and Portals look similar? I cast my gaze back to that unfinished pedestal, and recalled that Portals were activated by a pedestal. “So, it functions as… what, now?”
“Oh, a mere Teleporter,” he replied. “Linking with the ancient Portals is proving to be quite a challenge. But it will connect to the entire Teleporter Network.”
“That’s good to know. So I can…” I started to say, but I realized that my idea wasn’t likely. “I won’t be able to teleport here, will I?”
He shook his head resignedly. “So long as we remain renegades for Nada’s sake, we must remain mostly off the grid, and unreachable from the network. But now that you have found us, you may fly here at any time.”
That was definitely a worthwhile bit of knowledge. “Thanks for the confirmation.” I went back and clasped hands with him. “I hope you don’t mind if I still regard you as a mentor. I feel like a cadet next to you.”
“It must be the wrinkles,” he chuckled. “I have a feeling you have others to see, but we shall meet again. It is a tidy station. Have good travels, Friend Nigel.”
“With a send off like that, how can it fail?” I told him with a smile. “Thank you, Friend Mercury.”
There was a pathway off to the left leading to a little balcony, where I expected to find the last Traveler, and I wasn’t disappointed. I found a rather tall spikey headed reptile with chameleon-like eyes staring pensively through a window overlooking the landing bay, wearing a Gek suit. A strange but pleasant aroma surrounded them, also Gek-like, if a little stale. They looked startled at my approach. “Pardon my intrusion. I’m Traveler Nigel. It’s good to meet you.”
They looked slightly more at ease, and gave me a little wave. “Oh! Hello, new friend. We’ve not met. You know, it’s… traditional to introduce yourself with an exchange of units.” I had encountered an amazing range of people in this group, but a panhandler was the last thing I expected. Noting my expression, they added, “A mere ten will suffice. It’s just a formality.”
“Well,” I said dryly, drawing out my tablet, “we should certainly observe time honored traditions.”
As soon as it registered, they gave me a smile. “Thanks! Nice meeting you. Bye now.”
I gaped at him in shock. Were they just a panhandler? “Hey, hold on now, we just met! It’s also customary for fellow Travelers to share a little about themselves.”
They didn’t seem particularly inclined to observe that custom, but seemed to tolerate me, a bit. “Well… I suppose that’s true. Just be aware I don’t have anything to trade.”
“I don’t live by a balance sheet,” I told them a bit snarkily. In a bit of whimsy, and perhaps to push a button, I gave them a whiff.
As expected, they didn’t enjoy that, and waggled a finger reprimandingly as a vessel in their neck pulsed. “Alright… look, I’m not a Gek. I’m just another Traveler passing through. Or… maybe not. This is a safe enough haven.”
That didn’t imply anything shady. “Safe? From what? Are you an endangered species like I am?”
They gave me a curious look. “Endangered? And you’re a Traveler? I heard about you. You endanger yourself!” After shuffling a bit, they went on. “Have you ever crossed paths with the Sentinels which patrol most of the worlds out there?”
“Yeah, and turned quite a few of them into scrap,” I boasted.
Their eyes quivered. “Then you know what it’s like to be hunted by them. Suffice to say, the Sentinels and I had a conflict of interest. And now, it’s in my interest to lay low here.”
They sounded like me, though more caustic than amusing. “Sentinels usually give some warning before they begin shooting. Maybe if you didn’t go harvesting mountains of resources… pace yourself a bit.”
They gave me an indignant huff as I called them out. “And let wealth go to waste, just so they can scan it again for the millionth time?” I had a feeling they didn’t want to hear my moralizing, and they seemed to sense it was coming, even though I could sympathize with their grudge. “Look, I haven’t heard Polo shrieking yet, so I’m sure you have others you’d rather be talking to.”
“That’s very true.” They scowled at me as I said in parting, “Have a profitable day.”