"I, uh, I'm afraid I can't reveal that. I'm sure you understand, honorable masters."
A slow smile snaked its way across Rudof Dyll's painted face. "Of course we do, my dear fellow. After all, how healthy would anything be on the Rock without secrets?"
Simikus nodded agreement, smiling until Caravello held out a hand and asked, "Let me see a sample."
"Come now, Ograd. We're all friends, but not that friendly. Did you think I was going to pay for the product sight-unseen?"
A good point, thought Simikus. Why hadn't he thought to bring a vial? This, if nothing had so far, was going to make him appear the amateur that he was.
"I don't have a sample with me. The, uh, the Connies were everywhere so I left it behind."
If anyone in the room was surprised or disappointed by this, Simikus could not tell. "And there is one other thing."
Earrings jingled as Rudof Dyll sat straighter in his seat.
"What?" snapped Caravello, his plump hands braced on the floating desk.
"The 'stuff' isn't yet straz, it's still last stage ka'frindi. That means…"
"I think Banastre knows what that means, Ograd old chap." Dyll cast a quick glace at his Vamir bodyguard. Whatever meaning it held was beyond Simikus to read and he felt even more uneasy with his present company. Rudof Dyll only added to his anxiety by smiling sweetly at him and humming a little tune.
Then the Starview's manager said, "So you know the source of straz. Not many have ever learned that little secret. And fewer still are among the living. Isn't that what you've heard, Master Dyll?"
"Yes, indeed I have. Though, to be totally honest, honored sirs, I know very little about the matter."
I'll bet, thought Simikus. At a loss for words, he swallowed hard.
But then, Caravello seemed to shift gears. "One hundred and ninety-one grams, you say?"
"Ograd, Ograd, there's no need to call me Master…especially when it looks as if we're going to be business partners. I think it only appropriate that you address me as Banastre."
"Yes, thank you."
"Now then, about this sample."
"I…I can go get it if you'd like."
"Forget it. Wipe it from your mind, dear fellow. Instead, I want you to bring me all one hundred and ninety grams."
"All…yes, of course." Inside, Simikus was ecstatic. He was gong to sell it all at once! That meant that he was going to get rich all at once. He could barely contain his sudden exhilaration. "When?"
Caravello glanced at the chrono set in his desktop. "We'll meet here in, say, one hour?"
He didn't ask if that would work for Simikus, but the Nicovan didn't care. He was about to become absolutely, fantastically filthy rich.
Just then a soft trilling issued from the desk. The Human pressed a button. "Yes?"
"Sir?" came a voice. "Captain Eversyn is here to see Master Dyll."
Simikus's eyes went wide with sudden infusion of fresh panic.
The head of the Connies was here?
Where they on to him already?
Where was the nearest exit?
The manager cast a questioning look at Rudof Dyll; Dyll nodded.
"Inform the Captain that Master Dyll will be there momentarily." He clicked the intercom off. "The Connies are indeed everywhere, it seems." He grinned at Simikus. "Relax, Ograd. The Captain is an…associate of ours, if you take my meaning." He flashed Simikus a sly smile.
"Ah. Oh yes," Simikus chuckled.
Then Rudof Dyll stood up and stuck out his hand. Surprised by the unexpected gesture, since no one ever showed respect to Nicovan, Simikus stared at the extended hand for a confused moment and then took and shook it.
"My, that's quite a grip for a being so small."
Simikus grinned happily. "I'll be back in an hour."