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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 41: Kondor 55
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Previous chapter: Chapter 40: Hastings 57
Kondor had not expected to be stopped for a customs check; he'd carried his gear on and off the ship in Sardic several times, and been completely unaware that there were customs agents on the docks. But they did examine cargo as it came and went, and he realized that his crate would look like and indeed was like any other. He set it down.
"I'd rather not open it," he explained, "because I'm not certain I can close it again. But you can see it's stamped with seals from Emerald. I purchased some raw crystal there, and was hoping to find a lapidary who could cut and polish the stones for me."
"We'll make sure we close it securely, sir," the agent replied, and produced a small prybar with which he expertly removed the lid. "Do you have an import license, sir?"
"An import license? No, sir, I'm not importing these. I'm just looking to hire someone to cut them for me. They're the personal property of a wealthy man. I am, after all, a doctor."
"I understand, sir. Unfortunately, I can't allow you to bring a crate of gemstones into the city without an import license. You tell me that you're not importing them, but there's no way I can guarantee that you'll be taking them all out again with you."
"I see. How much is an import license?"
"Thirty thousand diktar."
"Thirty thousand? My entire stash of emeralds can't be worth that much, even cut and polished."
"I don't know about that, sir. The license is good for ten years, and you can run as many ships and shipments as you want under it."
"But I don't have ships, and I don't want to run shipments. I just want to have one crate of emeralds cut and polished."
"Sorry, sir; I don't make the rules."
"O.K., can I take it back on to the ship then?"
"Yes, sir, that you can do."
And Joseph Wade Kondor carried his precious crate back up the gangplank and back to his cabin.
He sat on the crate for several minutes trying to decide what to do. All his effort would be wasted, or nearly so, if he had to lug this box of rocks with him wherever he went; and as pretty as they were, they weren't really worth what they could be without that extra step. There had to be a way to do it.
Then he thought of one. After all, he didn't know where he was going with this, and it probably was better that he not carry a crate of emeralds around the city with him. Even with his pistol, he couldn't guarantee that a couple of muggers wouldn't take it. Better to take a few at a time. Opening the crate, he put some mid-sized chunks into the pockets of his jacket, and then closed it up again. Then he headed out into town.
Customs did not stop him as he walked from the dock.
He wandered the city for several hours looking for the jewelry district; then when he found that it still took a while to find a shop which could cut his stones and was willing to do it. He struck a bargain with them; they were eager to have a share of the stones, and would charge him much less for their work paid in emeralds than if he paid gold. They arranged terms which included that he would leave his rocks with them in exchange for a receipt which showed the weight, they would cut the rocks but save all the scraps, and when he returned the rocks would be weighed again. They would keep stones up to one twentieth of the weight of the uncut stones, including all the chips (slivers were useful in their business). Each day he would bring more rocks and pick up the ones from the previous day. In this way he managed to get all of his rocks cut within two weeks. He put the finished stones in the bottom of his pack, along with the gold diktar from his pay.
While in the city, he decided it was time to get acculturated. Museums and libraries were not so common here as they had been in that other Sardic, the Sardic space port he had visitedóbut there was the university, and he had only scratched its resources last time. Now he pored over their works in medicine, mathematics, physics, and chemistry. It was primitive stuff, mostly, but there were things he had not learned, and other things he had not remembered in many years. He wished he had time to pursue a degree here; but education was expensive, and he could easily spend his treasure chasing a sheet of parchment which would be meaningless in any other universe. To his mind education wasn't about degrees; it was about knowledge.
Eighteen days later, the Mary Piper was ready to ship out, and Joseph Wade Kondor was both a richer and a more educated man.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #89: Novel Confrontations. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: