A mountain of a man — if a mountain could look as if it was all bulk at the top but then tapering down like a carrot as you got closer to the ground — stood at the open door. He seemed to radiate anger — it just exuded from him in palpable waves.
He had a crop of unruly black hair slightly turning gray, and a round, rather unremarkable face with no distinguishing features. He was dressed well, indicating that he had money, or power. But in case he had both, because DaVic recognized NaPosy, son of the former chairman of the Guild, and the future chairman, if history was any indication.
“What’s this I hear about you causing trouble again?” asked NaPosy, glaring at KarJa and totally ignoring DaVic as if he was invisible. Perhaps he was invisible to NaPosy, to people of his ilk, most people were invisible — like children, there to be unseen and unheard.
KarJa smiled a radiant smile that would have melted a stone statue’s flinty heart. “Oh Daddy, you know how they exaggerate! It was nothing at all, really.”
DaVic could see NaPosy’s anger begin to fade away like mist in the presence of the morning sun. “Then why’d they call me and tell me that you were being difficult? Again?” asked NaPosy, visibly struggling to remain stern.
“You know how they’re here, Daddy … If I ask even a single question, they think I’m being difficult …” KarJa paused and then lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper and continued, “Actually, I’ve got something which will keep them from complaining to you at all for a while. Wouldn’t that be nice?”
Her father looked at KarJa with the mixture of hope, disbelief, and love that parents throughout the ages have bestowed upon their children when they say that they had a good idea and wanted to share it with their loving parents.
KarJa waited as if for her father’s approval. DaVic, silently watching the interplay between father and daughter was certain that KarJa didn’t need any approval. In fact, he was beginning to think that the city was going to be in real trouble if one day KarJa succeeded her father and came to rule the Guild. She didn’t seem to care at all about what anybody else thought — she had her own views on how things had to be done, and by all the deities in the religious district, that’s how things would be done!
NaPosy nodded to his daughter after a moment, signalling her to proceed.
She turned and pointed to DaVic, “Here’s the solution to your problems … and mine!”
DaVic, with NaPosy’s gaze suddenly turned on him, wished that he could remain invisible as he’d been all this time. Better still, he wished that he wasn’t in the room at all.
But that wasn’t to be. NaPosy looked at him as if he was an insect that he couldn’t quite clearly see.
“Who’s he?” he rumbled, turning back to KarJa as if DaVic just did not interest him.
“He’s a consultant,” replied KarJa brightly.
DaVic stared. What was she up to now? Didn’t NaPosy know that the Guild did not hire consultants? For after all, most consultants were grifters themselves. So why would the Thieves Guild hire consultants?
Apparently, NaPosy was not aware of these facts. “Or, he just doesn’t want to appear ignorant in front of his daughter?” suggested his inner voice.
Either way, NaPosy simply nodded and said, “What does he consult on?”
“He’s advising the Guild on how to streamline our processes. It’s just a pilot program at the moment. JaPok, who’s one of the brighter minds here at the offices, started the program,” KarJa rattled off as if she’d rehearsed it.
DaVic could see where this was going. She was spinning her web of lies and entangling both himself and JaPok in it. And neither of them could say anything now without getting in trouble. He had to hand it to her, she was a clever one!
DaVic was almost curious as to how she would weave herself into the tapestry of lies that she was creating. He didn’t have long to wait.
“Does he have experience doing that sort of thing?” asked NaPosy.
“Oh yes, apparently he knows every inch of the city. In fact, he’s apparently a private investigator …”
“The only one in the city,” DaVic felt compelled to interject.
“See? He’s got a unique perspective that nobody else has!” added KarJa smoothly.
“Yes, yes, but how are you involved in this?” asked NaPosy as if the rest of it didn’t matter. And for him it probably didn’t. “Who cares about how the city runs? After all, it has been running for so many years already and will continue to do so,” added his inner voice by way of commentary.
“Well, I heard about this pilot program and wanted to get involved. And that’s when we had that little umm … discussion with some of my teachers. You know how it is, right, Dad? Some of them are so old fashioned. They don’t want to try anything new …”
“Right, right,” replied NaPosy. Was he even paying attention, DaVic wondered.
“That’s why I thought it might be a good idea for me to be involved in this program,” proceeded KarJa so silkily that even glue would have slid off of her.
“Huh? Involved? How? You know you are still an apprentice, right?”
“Oh, Dad! You know how you and pappy are always telling me how the Guild is part of the family’s legacy? So this is me being more involved. I want to learn about the new stuff the Guild is doing to improve the city. You do want me to learn this stuff, right?”
“Hmm … I guess you are right. As long as it’s educational, it should be OK. You’ll be running this place soon … Well, not very soon .. Don’t get any ideas, OK? Heh. And so you should learn this stuff.”
“So you’ll tell my teachers it’s OK for me to shadow the consultant?”
“I suppose so. As long as it doesn’t interfere with your training.”
“It’s only for one day, Dad! Of course, it shouldn’t interfere with things!”
“Fine, fine, I’ll talk to them. I just wish they wouldn’t keep calling me over here all the time …”
“I’ll make sure that it won’t happen again, Dad. I promise you. I’ll be as good as solid gold!”
“Hmph … “ was all NaPosy said as he walked out of the room after giving his daughter a cursory hug.
DaVic could hear him talking to somebody outside in a loud voice about letting KarJa work with the consultant and confused noises from whoever he was talking to. DaVic was sure that they’d cover their ignorance as much as they could — ultimately, you really don’t want to look like an idiot in front of one of the bosses. So pretending to know what was going on would be their best option.
KarJa seemed to have anticipated all of this. She cheerfully turned to him and said, “So, that’s sorted then. When do we get started?”
DaVic gave up trying to control the situation. It looked as if it was just easier to go along with what she wanted. But he did want an answer to one question.
“Before your father came in, you were about to tell me what the other reason you had for thinking that aliens were doing something in the city…” he prompted.
“Oh, that! Well, since we monitor lots of stats about people, I cross-referenced the information for the same buildings. While their power usage was high, there was no water usage nor communicator usage near those buildings!” she said triumphantly as if that was all that needed to be said.
“Huh? What does that prove?”
“Well, if they were humans, they’d be using water and they’d probably use PODs to talk to others, right? The fact that they only use power indicates that these are aliens with some other communications technology. They probably don’t even use water — maybe they drink ammonia or something …”
DaVic had heard of such aliens. Apparently there were planets where they had vast oceans of ammonia. So it is possible that there were ammonia drinking aliens. But that didn’t seem a likely case here.
On the other hand, he didn’t want to antagonize KarJa. Given how easily she’d manipulated things to suit her needs, he wasn’t sure he’d fare well if he crossed her.
He decided to humour her and see where things went. He still had some time to kill till he had to go to BoBo’s and he might as well try to bore her enough of his company that she’d go home after a couple of hours.
“OK, let’s say that there are aliens at these buildings. But that’s not a crime.”
“Well, actually it is. City ordinances say that you have to declare alien occupancy and these building records do not mention anything about aliens.”
“Fine. Let’s say there are illegal aliens in there. But still that’s not a conspiracy, right?”
“Yes,” agreed KarJa grudgingly. “But don’t you want to know what they are doing?”
“Oh, you know what they are doing! They are in the funeral business, not funny business!” said his inner voice jeeringly.
DaVic decided to tackle things head on. “So what do you want to do about this?”
“Let’s go visit them! You can show me some of your investigating skills and we can see if there are aliens there or not. I bet you anything that we’ll find aliens there!”