by Travis Perry -
Mayor Edard Jonzn looked over to the left and sighed. Toward the left, on the east side of Adagio bay, lay his office, the center of all things he controlled.
His cousin Burt had him out on the old upper fishing pier on the other side of the bay, about as far as you could possibly go within the confines of the city away from his office and his personal sphere of influence. He had friends among the fishermen, of course, but naturally he was the best of friends with the biggest commercial boat captains—none of whom docked at the old pier.
He turned his head back to meet his cousin’s eyes. “What in the whales do you have me out here for, Burt?” He chewed an unlit cigar, unlit, because he knew his cousin’s Holiness background and that he frowned on smoking. Not that he really cared what Burt thought, and it so happened he was really hankering for a smoke at the moment, but you never know when you might need someone’s help someday, especially a relative’s. A good politician couldn’t go about offending people without any purpose—if you’re going to offend someone, it should be for a very good reason…
His cousin must have had some kind of bug up his behind. He didn’t have any of his fishermen with him and he looked both ways before he lifted the corner of the tarp that covered something that looked like an enormous disk of some kind in the back of his fishing boat. Or maybe a portal cover for some Sheba-sized ship.
Under the tarp lay a disk alright, covered grime in between the lines that seemed to show some strange pictures—or maybe a kind of writing. A bit of whaleshine hit the edge of the disk as the fishing boat rocked with a gentle harbor wave. Grit covered parts of the disk, but the glint of light shone with an unmistakable golden hue.
Edard reached out and touched it. It had a heavy, smooth feel. Metal, but not too hard…obviously in the sea for some time, but not corroded to speak of. He knew what that meant. “Burt…I think that’s solid gold!”
“Well I think it idn’t,” replied Burt, his lips a bit puckered as if he were chewing lemons. “A solid gold disk would deform under its own weight—curve down in the middle when lyin’ flat. This disk doesn’ do that, so it has some stiffer metal its middle, so is only coated with gold. Granted, the coat is no electroplate job—it’s real thick, I figure about a centimeter on each side.”
“Well, well, cousin Burt, I’m impressed.” Edard felt a rush of relief that he hadn’t lit his cigar. “Cousin, you’ve come to the right man. I don’t know where you got that thing, but I’m sure we could get a pile of platinum for it…I’ll take only a modest commission, since you’re my cousin and all; you won’t regret this, Burt, you’ve come to the right man, your good ol’ cousin Edard will hook you right up!” He barely noticed how he’d started talking faster.
“I regret it already,” said Burt, looking more puckered than before. “You don’ understand. I want to find out what it says.”
Edard sighed. “Very well…the science types probably won’t pay as much as a private collector, but there are a few teams of science types working around here. I could connect you with them…granted, they might have to request some funds from up in Avenir to cover it purchasing it…which might mean you’d have to take payment in credits.” He found his own lips puckering like his cousin’s.
Burt sighed. “No, I don’t mean to sell it to the science jonnies either.”
“You want to keep it? Why? To sell it later? I doubt the price will go up over time, if that’s what you’re thinkin’. Demand won’t rise for somethin’ nobody’s seen before.”
His cousin pulled the tarp back down, covering the exposed portion of the disk. Eyes down at the tarp he said in a low voice, “You don’t understand. I intend to give this away—as long as I’m givin’ it someone who’ll try to figure out what it means.”
For several pounding beats of his heart, Edard had no answer to this. But then his natural poise poured back in a flood. “Burt, look, that’s just crazy talk. I can see you’ve found something special here and probably think that God or something wants you to make this bigger than just yourself—”
“That’s exactly what I think.”
“And it certainly can be even if you sell it—think of your men, Burt. The men who must have helped you haul this up. If you don’t feel right in taking money for yourself, consider that you should take the money for them—think of what it would matter to their families.”
“And maybe my cousin?” said Burt, scowling.
Edard removed the cigar from his mouth and gave Burt the sincerest glassy-eyed stare right into the eyes that he could muster. “Is it a crime to help a relative?”
Burt snorted and looked down again at the tarp. Voice quiet, he observed, “Yeah, the boys could prob’ly use some help…” His voice trailed off. Then he looked up again at Edard, square in the eye. “Get me someone who can really read this and we’ll talk about sales after that. All right?”
“Of course, of course,” blinked Edard innocently, grinning in triumph within.