Paa set up her shop on a dusty road an hour’s ride from the spaceport at Ibreseem. It was a little difficult to get to, and that was the point. Tourists thought it was authentic. The 61 Virginis tourism board had cultivated and maintained a rich mythology for centuries—a fabricated mythology to be sure, but one that kept the tourists coming to unburden their overflowing pockets.

Paa’s shop sold Kotokizeaque. It was an unnecessarily complicated word, a portmanteau of the word for water and a word that meant better luck next time. It was basically just a jar of blue mud. It was said to help pregnant women give longer telomeres to their developing babies if they consumed it in the first trimester. There was no science behind it, but the jumpships still landed four times a day so rich inworlders could buy expensive dirt water in the hopes of having long-lived children. It had become tradition.

An autorider pulled up—unusual that it was not a bus—and an ancient looking man stepped out. He was hunched and pale and his wrinkles looked like cracked dry mud. He shuffled to Paa’s stand.

“Do you have more for to make the mind…in the mind?” he asked.

“What?” asked Paa. “I-don’t-understand-what-you’re-saying.” He tripped all over his words with his thick accent. She recognized it; it was a very specific stumble. He wasn’t just an inworlder—he was from Earth.

“There is an expression is mind; I prefer not to leave,” he tried again.

Paa shrugged and held up a mud jar. “Kotokizeaque?”

The old man’s eyes welled with tears and he spoke very slowly, shaking his low-hanging head. “The mind? For to go the mind is from Ibreseem?” He was pleading, but she had no idea what he wanted.

She pointed back the way he’d come from. “Ibreseem.” She jabbed the air with her fingers. “Ibreseem is that way.”

He waved her off, shuffled back to the autorider, and disappeared down the road.

Goddamned inworlder didn’t even tip her. Those Earthers are all crazy—they’re the worst.

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