"Suppose you are telling the truth," Bob said. "How do I get back to Earth?"
"You still want to go back?" inquired Teetok.
"Yes, it's my home."
"I believe you will be able to teleport to the planet from the Earth station."
Leaning back on the bench, Bob rubbed his eyes.
"Do you know if there is a train back to Earth from here?"
"You can check, ask your mnibit."
In his mind, Bob called out, "Hey, Ally?"
"When is the next train to Earth?"
A train schedule appeared before his eyes.
"It looks like there isn't a direct line from here to Earth," Teetok remarked, viewing his own copy of the schedule. "Maybe the quickest way would be to go to Barteen and catch a train to Earth from there."
Teetok continued, "It looks like the train to Barteen leaves the day after tomorrow. You are welcome to stay at the hostel with me in the interim."
"What are you doing here, anyway?" Bob asked Teetok. "I thought you were riding the Great Circuit or something."
"Grand Circuit," the Gridet corrected. "I am. I just got side-tracked. Corooth is a fascinating planet. I decided on an extended stopover."
"How long do you plan to stay?"
"A few more days."
The two lapsed into silence, watching the occupants of the park stroll by their bench. Bob's eyes followed a pair of lanky aliens with sallow skin and extensive tattoos saunter across the park, cloaks billowing slightly in the breeze.
"Who are those two?" he queried.
Turning to look, Teetok almost spat the words, "Cholgathians. Zookeepers. Do you see the books they carry? They travel the dimensions, capturing living things and storing them in those books.
Bob looked closely, noting that each of the zookeepers did indeed carry a large book under his left arm.
"How does that work?" he wondered aloud.
"They have a secret technology. Some believe it operates in the same manner as a teleporter, but instead of moving the subject between two fixed points in a single dimension, the book moves it between dimensions, with each page in the book leading to a separate dimension." Teetok responded. "At least, that is what I have been told."
Bob continued to watch the Cholgathians until they disappeared from sight.
"I was on my way to the market," Teetok said. "Would you like to join me?
Bob shrugged, "Sure."
Leaving the park, the pair stopped at a small shelter to await a shuttle bus. It soon arrived and they boarded. Bob was quickly lost as the bus twisted through the city streets.
Pointing ahead, Teetok announced, "There's the market."
A large building loomed in the distance. As they approached, Bob began to appreciate just how large it was. It dwarfed any single edifice he had ever seen.
"The market is one of the fascinating things I have found on Corooth," the Gridet remarked. "On many worlds, you browse a catalog of items on your mnibit, make an order and the item is delivered to your door. You never actually interact with another daner. Here, all of the items and all of the danerj are brought together in one place. It's quite a spectacle."
Bob mentally queried his mnibit, "Ally, what are daner and danerj?"
"There is no English equivalent, Boss. They are Gridet terms that roughly correspond to person and people in your language, but encompass beings from all planets, not just Earth."
Arriving at the market, they left the shuttle bus and joined the mass of beings entering the building.
"How does anyone ever find anything here?" Bob wondered.
"I have a map, Boss," Ally replied. "Would you like see it?"
"Yes, please," Bob answered.
A complex image filled his eyes and after a brief perusal, Bob asked Ally to remove it. He found it very difficult to look at the map and try to follow Teetok at the same time. The Gridet, however, seemed to know exactly where he was going, leading Bob through a labyrinth of shops and danerj. Eventually, they reached a terrace that overlooked a large portion of the space. Stopping at a booth, Teetok ordered two drinks and then found a table.
Sitting down, the Gridet spoke, "I like to come here and watch the interactions among the different species. It is educational."
Bob contemplated the masses for awhile, but one of the shops soon caught his eye. Indicating to Teetok that he would return shortly, Bob walked over to the store and examined the display cases filled with small tools. After verifying that the proprietor accepted train credits, Bob purchased a small implement resembling a nutpick and another that would have served well as a tiny screwdriver on Earth. A small, very sharp knife completed the set.
Rejoining Teetok, Bob finished his drink. It was cold and spicy all at once. He rather enjoyed it. The two spent the rest of the day in the market and as evening fell, they found their way back to the Gridet's hostel. Bob rented a room for two nights. Alone in his room, Bob lay down on the bed. It was good to be free again.
Copyright (C) 2017 Winslow Williams. All rights reserved.