“Take good care of her, Joseph,” Lynder said, “she will become great things when she grows up.”
“I will always do, my good old friend,” Joseph said, “thank you for the book, I hope to see you soon.” Father and daughter waved good-bye to the old man and left the shop. “He works as a librarian in the Central Library restoring books. When he is not in his shop, he is over there. Every February, I always give him a sack of Dust for him to use. I offered to give him more but he said it was enough for him. I never asked what he needed the Dust for, but for whatever use, I know it must be a decent one.”
“I like him very much,” Aimee hugged her new book closer to her chest. She couldn’t wait to get home and start devouring it word by word.
Bustle announced their arrival to the Central Grounds. Aimee lifted her eyes to a spectacle of color and sound. Everywhere she turned her head; there was some colorful canopy or laughing merchant that caught her eyes’ attention. The sensation of grandeur was overpowering and made her felt small and slightly new to this world. She edged closer to Daniel as he made his way through the throng of customers and merchants, pulling the cart behind him.
“Our buyers station themselves in the center of the Central Ground,” he said, “it is easier to access the Dust there, after all, many of the people are here because of the Dust. We could sell it individually as merchants, however we do not have the license to do that. Therefore, we have to sell it to a third party and earn some profit that way.”
“That has always been the way with local Chasers,” Joseph added from behind. His voice was barely audible in these cacophonies of sounds.
They pushed their way through the crowd and into the center, where it was distinct it was the Dust Trading Center. For instance, the entire area was flanked by columns with golden engravings and golden dust powder which Aimee recognized as coming from the Aurora. Aimee’s eyes analyzed the merchants’ personalities; Dust merchants, in her opinion, had to be confident and aggressive. The competition was fierce in this ground and they wanted the best buyers they could get. The ones that bid higher would receive all the Dust and in exchange profit more.
Daniel’s attitude immediately changed, his expression was rougher and determined as he trudged along with the cart behind him. “If you show fear or hesitation, they’ll take advantage of you. You came here because you know what you’re about to do and not a matter of flipping a coin.”
Aimee only nodded, she glanced around and noticed few women. The women that were here behaved like uncivilized men, with an enormous bust that certainly matched their character and ego. One automaton was standing next to each column to insure there were no brawls, Aimee suppose human being policemen would not want to get their hands dirty because a couple of filthy traders were killing each other over a customer. The expressionless faces of the automatons scared her; they had no feelings and no sense of strength. She didn’t want to imagine how painful a blow of their metallic hand must be.
But, then, Aimee thought, nobody is as foolish as to come here unarmed or without some knowledge at fighting skills. She was certain Joseph carried his gun and one of the chief reasons he had allowed her, a girl, to come with them was because he was fairly confident of her defense skills. She felt reassured now and eager not to let anything happen to her for sake of her family.
“Hey, look who’s here. The Wilkers!” a gruff, but friendly voice called at them. They saw ahead a pair of thick and strong arms waving at them. They belonged to a tall man, thick with muscles, and impossibly hairy. His face was pouring down sweat and the sun was not even high in the sky yet. “Joseph, I see you brought your kids with you. Nice seeing you her again Daniel. My beautiful Aimee, I am glad sense finally fell on Joseph and introduced you to this society.”
“Hey Mr. Barden,” Daniel said, setting the cart down and shaking the big hand of one of their neighbors and local Chaser, Barden Paters. Joseph walked from behind the cart and shook hands with his old friend and comrade.
“What a nice surprise Mr. Barden,” Aimee stretched out her hand and Barden took it delicately and squeezed it.
“I wouldn’t say it coincidental,” he chortled, his wheezy laugh was raspy. “Last night was a good harvest don’t you think my boy?”
“Aimee was there too,” Daniel pointed out.
Barden eyebrows lifted, “you were? That is great, how did ya like it? I’ve been pressuring Molly into letting me take Brianna in for a treat of the skies. Both of them rejected the idea of course, my dearest Brianna is expecting her first.”
“Congratulations,” Joseph said warmly, “you’ll become a grandfather!”
“Yeah, but I won’t be able to retire yet. No heir to whom I could teach the air of sky sailing. My only son decided to study to become a doctor. Don’t get me wrong Joseph, I am proud of m’boy. He sends money from Europe every now and then, but I just don’t want to lose my legacy.”
Aimee learned that when aviators mentioned “legacy”, they were specifically talking about their airship. “You needn’t lose it Mr. Barden, have faith. Maybe your grandson will become the greatest aviator when he grows up.”
Barden roared with laughter, “I always liked you and your imagination a lot, little Aimee.”
“What’s the situation?” Daniel broke the mirth with his uncommon, down-to-business tone. “Have you sold all your Dust.”
“Since early in the morning,” Barden said, “these merchants are in a rush and desperation to buy all the Dust anybody can provide them. You see, they fear that the big corporations are setting sail to the Northern Territories.” His voice sounded surprisingly grim and worried. “If they do, we locals will lose our source of income when their big and modern airships take over the skies, leaving us with zilch. And in turn, the merchants and traders will be forced to buy the Dust at a much higher price from the corporations. The Trading Laws do not affect privately owned corporations as they affect us. Those private corporations are sneaky lots.”