“Don’t worry,” W.B. was explaining as Liishi drew alongside him, half-tempted to ram a handful of claws into his side and tickle his innards. “We aren’t carrying these the whole way.” He led her off the main thoroughfare, down a side street, around a grocers, to a PM station, the local equivalent of the taxi cab in larger metropolises.
Half a dozen porter/drivers stood clustered around their push-me/pull-mes, chattering about whatever porters do, occasionally piping up to passersby asking if they needed a lift someplace. Some of the carts were strapped to the large, multi-limbed indigenous lizards while others appeared to have shoulder harnesses for the porters. An elderly mare lugging a load of groceries clambered aboard one of the contraptions, and after a bit of dickering with the porter soon was whisked off down the street.
Liishi glared up at the sun making its ever-so-glacial dive toward the horizon and flicked one ear in irritation. Scowling at W.B. she hissed, “We had a perfectly good rental, easily capable of returning us to the port, where we would drop it off, collect or things, then go find the ship. But you want to commit larceny, then, with the cash you recovered from illegally selling off property that wasn’t ours, hire a porter to haul us and our equipment to the port. And I ask you again: why?”
“Local economy,” W.B. replied as though the answer was easily understood by a two-year-old. “Those big rental agencies support some corporation thousands of light years from here while this fellow here,” he indicated an iguana who waddled over at a wave, “will take his hard-earned funds and redistribute them back into the local flow of currency.”
“You’ve obviously been reading again,” Liishi muttered. “And stop reading that garbage written by glass-towered scholars who’ve never lived anywhere outside their corporate-sponsored schools. That fellow will likely take his hard-earned funds and spend them at a local shop that has its headquarters light years from here.”
W.B. only smiled and chuckled at her argument. “Well, it is better to see the local scenery this way.”
Negotiations concluded with the iguana quickly, they and their trunks were loaded aboard the PM, and they set off at a rapid clip, the conveying lizard moving faster than its bulk and awkward arrangement of limbs indicated. The driver kept up a staccato patter of inane pleasantries with W.B. while coaxing the scaled beast of burden through side streets back toward the main road out of Willoughsby.
Half an hour later, Liishi and W.B. crossed into the no longer open field between the edge of town and the starport. The jumble of buildings filling the two kilometer stretch blocked the skyline. The thoroughfare was wide and inviting . . . and clearly marked “No Pedestrians” every few meters. And the wood plank sidewalks so prominent throughout town abruptly ended.