Excerpt from The Chancellor of Odisiris
Blend in? Well, he could blend in after a fashion.
Skelos had warmed to the London capital. He had adapted to the culture quicker than he had in Narrigh. In his short time on the new planet, he had learned some of the city’s history, politics, and currency. Fair enough, their technology was light years away by Odisirian standards. But he could see the potential.
Money was no object and he found the more money he had the more willing people were to get things done for him.
That said, it was a strange world. Earth was a challenge for beings such as himself. They required special devices to increase their senses: sight, earing, smell. Earthlings had limited speed. They couldn’t parade upside down on the ceiling.
He discovered that earthling races were categorised by physical characteristics: skin colour, eye shape, bone structure, height, etc. And yet they all shared one common trait: their blood was red.
Nonetheless, the word Citizen was not as alien as one would have thought. The population had the word listed in their dictionary. He had looked it up. It meant one of the people. And he was certainly that.
He had found an agreeable hotel in the West End of London. It was modern by his standards, white and minimalist with a stiff pillow to lay his head. He had servants to placate his every need. They brought him a variety of tasteful dishes. They cleaned his clothes. They ironed his shirts. They all but bathed him. These were the sort of Unmarked Ones that recognised they had someone important in their midst. He heard one refer to him as a fat cat. He looked it up in a bookshop. It meant that he was an important person with lots of money. It made sense. He certainly wasn’t a cat or fat – not since the Traceless had stripped every ounce of fatty tissue from his body. He imagined he wouldn’t be fat for much longer. He was filling out nicely with all the rich food he had been grazing on, at times, on the hour. Earth did not lack in variety when it came to food: greasy, bland, spicy, fruity, and salty. They had food to suit every palate.
He had developed a theory to make sense of his predicament and facilitate his acceptance of it: the majority of earthlings had also once been Citizens, who had also been stripped of their Status Marks. If it happened to him, then why not to them? For all he knew, everyone on Earth had once been a Citizen, before they were forced to give up their superhuman status.
The suits he purchased from the fine West End department stores gave him a better shape than his crimson and purple robes ever did. Who would have thought it? They were made from the finest wools and silks. He had taken the liberty of having one of his waiting staff purchase a variety of gold and diamond cufflinks and a signet ring set with sapphires and diamonds that didn’t look too vulgar when he placed it upon his index finger.
The man in the barber’s shop had washed his hair and trimmed his beard. Skelos constantly found himself in front of the mirror, admiring his features from all angles. Not bad. A vast improvement on his appearance since Narrigh. His wrinkles and lines had diminished. He had booked an appointment for a consultation at a specialist skin clinic. He would instruct them to smooth out every crease on his face. And his neck too. He gave it a pinch. It was still a little saggy.
It wasn’t just his outer appearance that had improved. The Traceless One had freed him of its debt. His brain no longer felt like a damp sponge and the ropey feeling had gone from his stomach. There was no doubt in Skelos’s mind that the Traceless One had gone. The Earth’s atmosphere may not have suited the Traceless One, but it suited Skelos just fine.
He chortled at his own reflection. ‘Good luck to you and your other worlds.’
He could easily have stayed in the hotel without ever leaving. He had all the luxuries and amenities he ever needed. However, even he knew he could only sustain a sedentary lifestyle for a short time. He was a scientist and a visionary. The planet Earth would benefit from his scientific research and knowledge and he had yet to track down the benefactor responsible for opening the gate he had come through. The benefactor would certainly know how he could restore his Citizen Status. Finding the benefactor was secondary to his plans when it should have been his primary focus.
He was more concerned with obtaining the obligatory certificates and acquiring a laboratory, and to do that he required contacts. Of course, he had no idea where to find them. He toyed with the idea of building his own laboratory. He grinned at his reflection, hardly able to suppress his excitement. If he was going to build a reputation here, it had to be a formidable one.
One of the servants knocked on the door. They had a lot of different names for servants in this world and Skelos found them most confusing. If he got the word wrong, the servants would get offended. The hotel staff didn’t say so in words because he was a fat cat and the servants still wanted their paper money in the form of tips. So, they didn’t say anything. But Skelos could tell by their skulking, twisted faces, he had used the wrong word. Nor did they like being summoned with a click of a finger. Skelos discovered this to his chagrin, when he attempted to order a plate of fried chipped potatoes in a fast food restaurant. The server had got their revenge by serving the person standing behind him first.
A boy servant entered, carrying a folded grey and white paper. His name was Henry. He was an olive-skinned youth with an exotic sounding accent. He wore a shirt and tie under his red and gold silk waistcoat. He had one of Skelos’s pristine suits draped over his arm. ‘Afternoon, sir,’ said the boy. He wore his name not on his ankle but on a badge pinned to the right pocket of his waistcoat. He hung the suit in the wardrobe and placed the newspaper on the table.
Was it afternoon already? Skelos had spent so long admiring himself in the mirror, he had lost track of time. He had spent all morning in his hotel room, when he ought to be searching for the benefactor. He had had his breakfast on the balcony that was as outside as he had got.
‘Is there anything more I can do for you today, sir?’
There was. He wanted to ask the servant a question and had no idea how to phrase it. He had to be careful with his words and was wary of the protocol here. He didn’t want to sound alien, foolish or give too much away to the boy, just in case there were other ears listening. Ears beyond reach.
‘Yes. I-I would like to meet some important people.’
Henry frowned, nodded and frowned again.
No, that wasn’t it. ‘I wondered if you might know somewhere I may go to meet some citizens of high standing.’
The boy sucked in one side of his cheek, and nodded and frowned some more.
‘I want to find associates with whom I might do business with.’
‘You mean investors, sir?’
He was making headway. ‘Yes, yes. Investors. Top city people.’
‘What sort of investors are you looking for?’
‘Wealthy ones, obviously. I would like to know where these investors congregate, so I might congregate with them.’
Henry smirked. ‘I don’t know where they normally congregate, but−’ He picked up a newspaper from the side table and opened it up. ‘You could try this place.’
Skelos peered over Henry’s shoulder at the newspaper. There was an event at a venue called, “The Tridan Entertainment Banquet Hall” that very evening. The newspaper had supplied an image of the venue: a building of glass and steel. He couldn’t be sure, but it looked like the building he had woken up next to when he had arrived on Earth.
Henry snapped the newspaper in half and placed it back on the table. ‘A lot of investors and business types go to these sorts of places, sir.’
‘Do they now?’ Investors could just as well be benefactors, he thought flittingly. Benefactors had to have wealth. How else would they accomplish what they did? But he didn’t want to risk using the term benefactor, in case the boy understood its true meaning.
‘I can arrange a taxi to take you there.’
‘Yes,’ said Skelos. ‘Set it up. What about my attire?’
‘It’s a black and white tie event.’
Skelos didn’t have a black and white tie. Though he did possess ties of every other conceivable colour. What does it matter what tie I wear as long as I am smart and appropriately dressed? ‘I don’t have a black and white tie.’
‘That won’t be a problem, sir. I can hire one for you.’
‘Won’t I need an invitation?’
‘I’ll look into it for you.’
‘Yes,’ said Skelos, grateful for the boy’s good sense. ‘Please do. Tell them I am a scientist from Devon, visiting London for the first time.’ He gave him a fifty-pound note.
Henry beamed from ear-to-ear.
There was something else he had been wanting to ask, and the boy seemed more than willing to help. ‘Do you have a library I might access to find out more about these investors?’
‘Like the internet?’
Skelos nodded. What was the boy on about now? They were many bookshops in London and he had purchased several books about the city. However, he had no desire to spend all his time reading. He knew the knowledge he required to maintain a lifestyle on Earth could not be found in books. And he found the prospect of poring over literary works overwhelming.
‘We have free Wi-Fi here.’
‘You mean wireless technology?’
‘Erm…yeah,’ said the boy frowning again.
Why didn’t he just say so? ‘Can you show me where it is?’
‘Sure,’ said the boy. He went to the monitor attached to the wall and selected a handheld device from a small rack attached to the wall beside the monitor. Skelos had used the monitor with his unconventional methods and found two news channels and a number of televised dramatic arts programmes, of which he had no interest, so he had turned it off. He wondered why he was unable to tap into the wireless technology with his Gift. Had his Technopath skills dwindled due to a change in stratosphere? Or was it because he was no longer a Citizen? Perhaps, his Gift didn’t work as well without the force of his Status Mark behind it.
The boy punched the remote’s control keys. Skelos saw the word Google come up on the screen along with an empty rectangular box. ‘Punch whatever you’re looking for in there and it will come up in the search results.’
‘Punch?’ said Skelos.
‘Yes,’ said the boy, handing him the device. ‘With the remote control.’
‘It’s not voice activated?’
They had the internet of sorts in Odisiris. They didn’t call it the internet. They called it Vega. He gave the boy another fifty pound note for his trouble.
When the boy had gone, Skelos held the remote for five seconds dropped it, and then used his Gift to access the information he required. This time he found it without any trouble. There were two investors and some renowned scientists in the field of which he was interested: a physicist by the name of Mathieus Hatleman and a neuro-scientist called Joan Wielan. Both had associations with the Scientific Institute in London.
Skelos added his own alias to the scientific institute: Dr Oliver Best. His ego dashed all rational thoughts from his mind. He wanted glory, he yearned to be respected, feared and envied. This was a chance for a new life, for him to start again. The benefactor can wait one more day, he thought, forgetting he had made that vow ever since his arrival.