Rain fell hard on the road, creating rainbow streaked puddles of oily water reflecting the lights of the distant port.
Crabs skittered across the asphalt, braving destruction by oncoming a-g fields, on their way to ancient instinctual appointments.
Light flared as a car topped the next hill, then disappeared. Light flared again, twin spotlights erasing the dark. The car stopped, then sank to the ground as the a-g field was cut. The door opened with a sigh and a hiss, tendrils of ammonia and methane steaming in the cold night air. A gloved hand reached out and plucked a crab from the road. The door closed, then opened a moment later. A crab soon followed, trailing epithets and loud laughter from the car. The a-g field whined to life and the car sped off into the night.
Sparks glinted, following the crab as it skittered back to its home in the tide pool.
Suddenly the night was banished in favor of day. Rodale looked up and muttered, “Never a moments peace with that port nearby.” He went back to shining the silvered sphere he had discovered in a tide pool while crabbing that morning. He hummed as he worked.
Gradually the sphere began to hum as he did. Not noticing it, he continued to rub the sphere, but soon the sound grew loud enough for him to hear. He stopped humming in surprise, and the sphere stopped. He started humming and the sphere started humming as well.
“A parrot,” he thought, and said “Hello.” The sphere replied “Hrmmo.” Rodale laughed and the sphere tinkled with parrot laughter, making Rodale laugh harder, in a spiral to a merry crescendo.
“Well,” Rodale thought, “the port does have some benefits. This orb is probably worth a chit or two.”
He resumed shining the sphere, as his thoughts turned to the happy prospect of boat repairs, new boots and gloves, supplies, and maybe a hot shower, shave, a soft bed and bedmate even. The sphere began to warm in his hands as he continued to shine it. It was a warm and intimate feeling, and the sphere echoed his emotion. He grew sleepy, as it was late, and he slept the quiet sleep of a satisfied soul.
The port market was crowded with every type of merchant, beggar, thief, tourist, and non-human remnant scatterings of a thousand worlds. The clatter, noise, and distractions did not affect Rodale in the slightest as he cradled the sphere under his cloak. It tingled in his hand, echoing his anticipation of the business soon to be conducted.
He finally reached his merchant friend Teeline’s shop in a quieter, more prosperous section of the market. Chimes announced his entry, and Teeline brightened at the sight of his old friend.
“How are the tide pools these days, Rodie?” Teeline grinned as he shook Rodale’s hand.
“Always the same, always different, Tee,” Rodale replied. “How’s the rag trade?”
“Always different, always the same, Rodie,” Teeline said, completing their ritual greeting.