Vision in Silver Page 84

“The second tier are the earth natives that live in the buffer land and the edge of the wild country and are the same forms as the ones who live in the Courtyards. Maybe they can approximate a human shape enough to use our tools, and they like some of the things humans make. So they’ll harvest some trees in their territory in order to make paper for books, and they’ll allow some mining for coal and gold and silver and whatever else might be on their land. Some. And they don’t usually deal directly with humans; they deal with the first tier of terra indigene.”

“And the third tier?” Roger asked.

“The third tier isn’t touched by humans in any way, and lives on the land that is considered the true wild country—that is most of Thaisia. Those earth natives don’t want us here, have never wanted us here. As long as we don’t draw too much attention to ourselves, as long as we aren’t a threat to their own kind, we’ll be tolerated. But when they decide that they’ll no longer tolerate us . . .” Steve shuddered.

Roger looked at Steve. “That’s what you’re feeling? That it’s the third tier of earth natives who are out there watching us?”

“Yeah. I don’t think Simon Wolfgard likes or trusts most humans. If I were a Wolf, I guess I would feel the same way. And six months ago, he wouldn’t have cared if he woke up one morning and all the humans had disappeared. Now he has a vested interest in some humans surviving, and we need to help him believe that we should be among those humans.”

“Gods above and below,” Roger breathed. “Is that why those earth natives are here? To watch us?”

“No,” Steve replied slowly, guided by feelings. “They’re not interested in us. If you believe some of the old stories, earth natives have been around in one form or another since the beginning of the world. They were the top predators then and they’re the top predators now because they change as the world changes, absorbing qualities from new species of predators without losing the essence of what they are.” Certainty settled between his shoulder blades. “They’re not here because they’re curious about a species that isn’t part of their own. They’re curious about Simon Wolfgard and what he’s trying to do here and in the Lakeside Courtyard.”

“Because they’re wondering if he represents the next adaptation of terra indigene?” Roger asked. “A Wolf who can take the place of humans but still remain a Wolf?”

Steve looked around the community, the houses and the land beyond them. “There are more storms coming. Big storms. Bad storms. We need to make this place work. We need to prove to the terra indigene that we can share the work and the world peacefully. And that is a feeling.”

Roger said nothing. Then he nodded. “I’m in.” He pointed at the house. “I’d like to take a look inside that one.”

“Then let’s take a good look before we head back to Ferryman’s Landing and work up a proposal for what a self-sufficient community would need.”

CHAPTER 41

Thaisday, Maius 17

Simon opened the door to one of the rooms above the Liaison’s Office, then stepped aside to let Pete Denby enter first. The man wanted a little den of his own in which to work. After some thought and discussion among the members of the Business Association, it was decided that an office above an office made sense—as long as Denby’s clients were young enough and healthy enough to climb the stairs.

“Do I want to know what this room has been used for?” Pete asked as he looked around.

“It was used for sex.” Simon thought that was obvious since the main piece of furniture was a bed, but humans didn’t always see, or smell, the obvious.

“I’d heard there were rooms above the social center for that.”

“Yes, but these are . . .” Simon frowned, not sure how to explain the difference.

“The executive suites?” Pete didn’t sniff everything the way a Wolf would have, but he was checking out every part of the room.

Simon nodded. “More private. But they haven’t been used much, and we don’t need both rooms for sex anymore.” Actually, he couldn’t remember a time when both rooms had been needed on the same night.

Pete eyed him but said nothing. Instead, he checked out the bathroom, even flushed the toilet and ran water in the sink and shower, before going over to the windows that looked out over the delivery area and the Main Street entrance. “You don’t have any office space in the Market Square?”

“We have some, but here you could have human clients who weren’t connected to the Courtyard.”

“You’re optimistic.”

“Why?”

Pete shook his head and smiled in a way that made Simon think the man had tasted something bitter.

“I’d like to put a fresh coat of paint on the walls, and I’ll need to replace the furniture that’s here with office furniture,” Pete said as he turned in a slow circle. “I’d also like to put up a partition of some kind to create a reception area and a private office.”

“We can move these things and store them. The consulate might have a desk and other things you could use. You would need to buy filing cabinets for your papers, but we can find humans or Others who can help build a wall.”

“Appreciate it. I’d like Eve to take a look at this space. She and some of the girls are helping Mrs. Tremaine this morning.”

“Tremaine?”

“The woman who sold you the two-family house. She’s leaving behind some of the furniture, and one or two pieces might suit an office. And speaking of houses, I think the owner of the two apartment buildings will be accepting your offer in the next day or two. Eve said he and the real estate representative did have a couple of people looking yesterday, and they were talking it up as good income property.”

“Eve must have good hearing.”

Pete laughed. “Not as good as the Crows who were perched on the roof, but the windows in Mrs. Tremaine’s house were open and the apartment owner wasn’t keeping his voice down. Anyway, the prospective buyers were getting enthusiastic about the coffee shop and bookstore and fitness center right across the street, and the convenience of a park close by. Definitely a selling point to tenants with children. Which is when the Wolves started howling and the prospective buyers realized they were looking at the Courtyard.”

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