Vilt landed his ungraceful vessel with a veteran freighter’s careful hand, despite the relative worthlessness of his cargo. It was midnight on the planet Gich.
“Are we there yet?” squawked the cargo. It was a long-outmoded data entry robot, purchased on the interplanetary vintage robot exchange by a pair of Gichian luddite data enthusiasts. Its designation was ¶‡◊.
“At long last we have arrived upon the planet of Gich, your new home,” replied Vilt, patient freighter that he was, “but our final destination lies some furlongs beyond.”
“This is unacceptable,” ¶‡◊ grumbled. “You should land me on top of the customer’s house and deliver me directly.”
“This freighter is of too huge a bulk to alight upon a private residence in such a way,” Vilt patiently explained.
“Why am I being delivered in a giant space freighter?” asked ¶‡◊. “I’m small enough to fit in a Mark IV Quotidian Planet-Scratcher.”
“Well, I don’t fly a QPS4, more’s the pity,” Vilt patiently explained. “This Trapezoic Supermoon is the only vessel to my name—Vilt, that is.”
¶‡◊ sniffed pointedly.
“Let’s get this over with,” it sighed.
Vilt engaged his thrustic forklift and wheeled ¶‡◊ off of the Supermoon, into the cavernous spaceport of Wedkelf, Gich’s fourth-largest city. The weather in the hangar was humid as usual, and the molecules of Vilt’s ancient freighter slowly—imperceptibly slowly—succumbed to irreversible oxidation.
The servos of the thrustic forklift whined despondently as Vilt and ¶‡◊ exited the hangar, but soon they were drowned out by the midnight bustling of Wedkelf’s industrial sector. Vilt, a patient freighter, had no qualms with ceding the right of way to larger forklifts carrying more urgent deliveries. ¶‡◊ felt differently, and harrumphed at each wasted opportunity to cut a fellow freighter off.
“How much further?” it asked, straining to be heard above the midnight bustle.
“Presently we shall exit the industrial sector,” said Vilt (although the meaning of “presently” here depended on the manoeuvring ability of another thrustic forklift’s apparently inexperienced operator), “and thereafter only one or two furlongs separate us from your future owner or owners.”
“The longest furlongs of my life,” ¶‡◊ remarked, still synthesizing speech at full volume.
With uncharacteristic impatience, Vilt sped his forklift into a narrow opening between rapidly-taxiing vehicles. He sped out of the industrial sector at maximum taxi-velocity, and in silence ¶‡◊ appreciated the effectiveness of its own shameless needling.
Traffic in the domiciliatory sector was far calmer: Here was a midnight of creaking Gich-toads, of rustling leaves in dimly-lit streets, and of the servos of but a single thrustic forklift whining a plaintive harmony.
At last Vilt slowed his vehicle to a stop.
“Are we here?” ¶‡◊ asked.
“‘Here’ is where one always is,” Vilt recited. “But yes, your destination—your new home, or the home of your new owner—Here we are.”
Vilt descended from the operator’s cabin and disengaged the lifting-forks. ¶‡◊ for the first time felt Gichian soil beneath its treads.
“So long,” said Vilt, proffering a hand to his erstwhile cargo.
¶‡◊ extended a dataport in return, and the two exchanged restrained pleasantries. Alone in the street stood two beings with very much in common: Both were thinking, feeling creatures, both desirous of peace and quiet, both questing for fulfillment in their own ways, both happy to be rid of one another.
Midnight became dawn in Wedkelf’s domiciliatory sector, and the sun of Gich rose in pursuit of Piv, its yellow-green moon.
¶‡◊ had not slept, and so it did not wake. Instead, it awaited the wakening of the occupant of the habi-dome to which it had been delivered.