Gods of Sagittarius – Snippet 33
“We’ll live with the inconvenience,” said Tabor. “Now, we’re going to need lodgings tonight before setting out.”
“Certainly, sir. I know just the place.”
“And I would be very annoyed if I were to find out that you received a fee for recommending this particular lodging over all others.” He shot Pippi a humorless smile. “Do we understand each other?”
“Absolutely,” replied the Paskapan. “But I want you to know that I am not responsible for some of our trifling little rules and regulations.”
“We’ll take that into consideration,” said Tabor. “Now let’s get to our lodging.”
“Certainly, sir,” said Pippi. Then: “Do you sleep burrowed in the ground?”
“Hanging upside down?”
“Certainly not,” said Shenoy.
“Well, then, perhaps . . . ”
“Wouldn’t it save time if you just asked us?” said Tabor.
“A splendid suggestion, sir!” said Pippi. “What accommodation would you find most copasetic?”
“You know what a bed is?”
“I believe so, sir.”
“Describe it for me, so I’ll know we’re on the same page.”
“We’re on the street, sir,” replied Pippi.
“Just do it!” snapped Tabor.
The Paskapan described a bed.
“Very close,” said Tabor. “But they’re on a stand, not on the floor. Am I going to have to describe a bathroom to you?”
“A room for bathing?” suggested Pippi.
“Never mind,” interjected Shenoy. He turned to Tabor. “If they’ve got beds, they’ve got bathrooms or the equivalent, and I’d like to get there before morning.”
“Okay, Pippi,” said Tabor. “Lead the way.”
They proceeded down the street, that seemed to twist and curve for no discernable reason, and after they’d passed some two dozen buildings, including a few with no doors or windows, they stopped at what looked like a farmhouse out of ancient America’s Midwest.
“Here we are, sirs,” announced Pippi. “You will register at the desk in the front, and I shall be on call all night.”
“Let me guess,” said Tabor. “You never sleep.”
“Not so, sir,” said Pippi. “I sleep whenever I’m not employed.”
The three of them entered the house, and Pippi stood aside while the two men approached the desk.
“Welcome, welcome, welcome!” enthused the Paskapan behind the desk. “We shall do everything within our power to make your stay on Budaline enjoyable.”
Shenoy frowned. “Budaline?”
“Oh, dear, I’ve made a mistake.” The Paskapan innkeeper peered intently at him. “Shamoran? No, that’s not right.” He leaned forward until his face was just inches from Shenoy’s. “Ah!” he cried happily. “You’re humans! Welcome to Cornwell!”
“Thank you,” said Shenoy, who saw no sense in correcting him.
“And how long will you be staying with us?”
“With the hotel? Just tonight.”
“All right,” said the Paskapan. He touched a hidden button, which was followed by a whirring sound, and suddenly a printed piece of paper appeared on the desk, followed by eleven more.
“What is this?” asked Shenoy.
“Why, your guest registration form, of course.”
“I know it seems incomplete,” apologized the innkeeper, “but you’re only staying one night. If you were here for longer, we would of course be more thorough.”
“All right, all right,” muttered Shenoy. “Show us to our room and I’ll fill it out there.”
“I can’t do that, sir. You might be aliens. I need the form first.”
“We are aliens, goddammit!”
“I mean, undesirable aliens,” replied the Paskapan.
Tabor snarled. “You want undesirable aliens, just try to keep us down here for the length of time it takes to fill your fucking form out!”
“On the other hand,” said the Paskapan quickly, “we’re all friends here, are we not, so surely it can’t hurt to bend one little regulation.”
“You’ve no idea how much it might hurt not to bend it,” said Tabor.
“Down the hall, third room on the left,” said the innkeeper.
“And you’ll want a key.”
Tabor stuck out his hand. “Let’s have it.”
“Would you prefer a paper, glass, or cheap metal one, sir?” said the Paskapan.
“What’s the difference?”
“The paper one is half a credit, the glass one is half a credit, and the cheap metal one is ten credits.” He paused. “I would recommend the cheap metal one. The paper one tends to tear on first use, and I can’t recall the glass one ever not shattering when turned in the lock.”
“May I ask a question?” said Shenoy.
“Most certainly, sir.”
“Have you ever had a repeat customer?”
“Not to my knowledge,” admitted the innkeeper. “But I’ve only worked here for seventeen years.”
“Before we pay for a key, I want to make sure it works,” said Tabor. “Show us.”
“That’s a most unusual request,” said the Paskapan. “I don’t know . . . ”
“If you don’t demonstrate it, I’ll assume that the key doesn’t work and report you to the authorities.”
The Paskapan shrugged. “Very well, sir. We certainly don’t need to trouble the authorities.”
“They’re probably too busy counting their money,” muttered Tabor under his breath as the innkeeper came out from behind his counter and led them down the corridor. He paused before the third door on the left, inserted the key, a musical note chimed, and the door swung open.
“Okay, it works,” said Tabor.
“Will there be anything else, sir?”
“Yeah,” said Tabor. “Close the door.”
The innkeeper shot him a puzzled look. “Close it?”
The innkeeper shrugged, reached a hand out, and pulled the door shut.
“Now open it again.”
“Certainly,” said the innkeeper. “But you can do it yourself, sir. It’s not locked.” He reached out and opened the door.
“Very good,” said Tabor. “I’m quite impressed. This seems like an ideal place to spend the night.”
“Fine,” said the Paskapan. “Now, if I may trouble you for ten credits, I will turn the key over to you and return to my station.”
“Not necessary,” said Tabor.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Keep the key. You’ve got an honest face. I have boundless faith in this place and the integrity of the staff.”
“But this is unheard-of!” protested the innkeeper.
“Shall I say it louder?”
“No one has ever refused a key before!”
“Oh, I’m sure we’ll be safe even with the door unlocked,” said Tabor. “And if anyone dares to enter our room while we’re in it” — he waved his large fist in front of the innkeeper’s face — “you just tell us how Paskapans dispose of their dead and we’ll be happy to lend a hand.”
“Yes, sir. Very good, sir. As you wish, sir.”
“And tell Pippi to be waiting for us an hour after sunrise.”
“Uh . . . I am unfamiliar with that measurement. How long is that in local time, sir?”
Tabor smiled at him. “You and Pippi will have all night to figure it out.”
“Yes, sir. One something after sunrise.”
“Good,” said Tabor, opening the door. “We don’t wish to be disturbed before then.”
“Absolutely, sir!” said the innkeeper. Suddenly his complexion darkened several shades. “I mean, absolutely not, sir!” he shouted as he turned and ran back to his desk.
Shenoy followed Tabor into the room and shut the door behind them.
“What do you think?” asked the older man.
“I think the Old Ones and their artifacts had better be as valuable as you hope they are,” replied Tabor grimly. “This expedition has already cost the life of your assistant Basil and we can only hope that Andrea survived whatever stuck her down.”