After a hard week of installing research equipment, updating star maps, stealing vegetables, taking down Ruins Rats, helping my special customers and running my usual "odd jobs," I lay down for a nap, only to be awakened abruptly by a message from the front desk.
I hit the button on the terminal and rolled over . . .
"What?" I mumbled. "My visa is still good and my rent is paid. Leave me alone."
"Sir, you have a visitor," says the stuffed-shirt at the front desk.
"Go away," I grumbled.
Soft pillow. Such a rare comfort.
"He says he has come a long way to see you, sir."
"I said go away!"
Any second now . . .
I pounded my fist on the button, and he didn't waste a single unit of time . . .
"He insists upon seeing you, sir."
"All right, all right," I rolled out of bed blearily. "I'm coming. This better be good or I'll shoot him right there in front of you."
"Very good, sir."
I came out with my rifle in condition one, ready to make good on that, and just whom do you expect I should meet?
My friend's son.
He stood there, swords hung from his belt, more swords slung across his back, in his people's traditional armor. There, behind him, stood his father, not dead, not eaten, not cut into pieces, not harmed in the least.
"Have you seen my father?" the son asked.
"I have indeed," I said with a smile.
"Did you receive my message?" he went on, looking somewhat angry.
"I did," I nodded, and his posture told me to stay out of his sword-swath.
"I had trusted you would inform me," he said gruffly as he stepped closer. prompting me to step back. "I wished to know why he came. His mention of you implied you would honor such a request."
"Turn around and ask him," I said, grinning ear to ear. The surprise on his face was priceless, as was the pride in his father's eyes. They bowed to each other and spoke in a strange language, turned to me with a nod and headed off to the lounge. I followed and briefly chatted with them both, but they were eager to speak alone, and I can't blame them.
I told them of the message I had received, and both thanked me for having kept it to myself until now.
I ordered a nice dinner for them, a sampler of all the local delicacies, and another helping for me, packaged to go. I never knew they did that.
On the way back through the lobby, I had an idea . . .
"Do they have a gym here?" I turned and asked the fancy-dressed man at the desk.
"No, sir, we have a park," he replied with a self-pleased grin.
"And a nature trail," he added with some degree of joy.
Smiling, he gently took my slate, pulled up a map and showed me pictures of this oddity. Trees, lots and lots of trees, with people climbing on them for fun. hanging on them, swinging from them, falling from them, dusting themselves off and heading right back up! Who could imagine that?
Off I went at a brisk pace, eager to try this place out. Fun indeed. My first time I can remember eating lunch in a park (even knowing what a park is), at a bench made of something they call wood, taken from trees, settled among many more trees, some with climbers and some without . . . and what in the galaxy is this nature trail? Oh, my.
I returned several hours later, tired, hungry, somewhat soiled from a few falls, and lumbered by the desk with enough of a smile that the young man looked quite content.
What followed was as good a nap as I could dream of.
My friends were safe, and it felt so good to know that.
49 - A fresh perspective