The spacious concourse reverberated with the good cheer of Betans and tourists on their way to lunch. Miles, his stomach's clock well ahead of local time, looked forward with enthusiasm to the meal with his brother, who strode along beside him. Mark the accounting student managed to project an oddly contradictory air by having chosen a rather grim shade of blue for his Betan sarong.
A public comconsole caught Miles's eye. "Hold on - I want to change this credit chit into Betan dollars," he said. He called up the firm his mother's family had always dealt with on Beta, but before the connection was complete, Mark reached past him and hit the reset.
"I can get you a better rate of exchange," he said.
Miles quelled a momentary annoyance. After all, this was Mark-Miles's very own baby brother, the one no-one else had wanted to give a chance. No-one except Miles. Well, and their mother....He handed over the credit chit and turned his palms out with a meekness his former commanding officers would have thought him incapable of.
Mark deposited the chit in the machine's scanner again, rubbing his hands together. Shortly after, there was a conversation with a sharp-eyed, obsequious Betan man who looked about sixty in Barrayaran terms but was probably twice that. Then a nicely lined-up column of figures appeared on the screen.
"Ah," said Mark, nodding sagely. "There you go. I've saved you one Barrayaran mark on every Betan dollar." Then he attacked the keyboard, entering a flurry of numbers.
"What are you doing?" said Miles, staring at the changing figures. "Hey! What's this account you're putting the saved marks into?"
"It's mine, of course," said his brother. "You know -'Mark saved'", he declared smugly, "Mark earned."
("The punster fled the concourse, rotten fruit bouncing off her personal force shield and splattering innocent bystanders.....")
© 1999 by Donna Farley (http://www.sfcanada.ca/members/farley.htm)
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Last updated: November 15th 2002