Ah, the smell of engine fumes, fuel oil, and rotting foliage! Nothing like Farport in the spring!
Lieutenant Morris leaned against one of the supports to the control tower, watching the ships at the docks. People hustled about, swearing and shouting; forklifts and loaders transferred cargo from one hold to another, the thick water sloshed against the docks and the mushy shore as ships maneuvered in and around the channel. The air was full of the lilting music of grunting, shrieking machinery and foul language.
Normally, Morris avoided the docks unless duty sent him there. It was not his favorite place. In fact, Farport, itself, was not his favorite place. It was far, far down the list. But as an officer in service to the United Peoples, he went where he was assigned and he made the best of it. Morris was pretty good at making the best of a bad situation. It took him from rather humble beginnings to where he was today, and kept him in good humor in spite of having to sweat it out in the swamp amid the pirates, merchants, and assorted lost souls of this territorial outpost.
Then he spotted what he had been waiting for, what had drawn him out here to the noise and smell of the docks. It was a sleek, good-looking ship, small but sophisticated. The Chimera -- an odd name, no doubt something in the language of the creature who owned it. Morris waited patiently for that creature to emerge. He'd never seen a Byahail before, and this was probably the strangest specimen of Byahail one could ever hope to see. He was curious, and he wasn't the only one. The creature would attract a goodly crowd during its stopover.
There it was, coming out of the cabin. Several dock hands sauntered over to toss ropes onto the posts and make the ship fast. The creature inspected their work, nodding, moving gracefully and efficiently, giving the impression it knew what it was doing as well as any experienced captain. It seemed to be ignoring the stares it was getting, stepping down onto the dock, with of all things, a ginseng smoke dangling from its lips. It took a draw off the smoke and then tossed the butt casually into the water. Looking around, it spotted Morris's uniform and headed right for him.
Morris tried not to stare at...him? Her? It? From what he'd heard about the Byahail, the distinction was pointless. They were all of the above. This one was about six feet tall and looked pretty much like the pictures he seen. It had a great, leonine mane of something between fur and feathers which hung down over its shoulders. The face looked definitely non-human, with its large, round black eyes and cleft upper lip, the nose almost muzzle-like. But it walked upright, arms at the sides and ending in hands which, although somewhat bony and claw-like, were recognizable hands with four fingers and an opposing thumb. The long, stout, reptilian tail was distinctly non-human, curling and twitching restlessly behind it as it walked. The standard freighter captain's suit that it wore was modified to accommodate the non-standard shape. Morris thought, I'd like to meet your tailor. He straightened up, trying to look as official as possible.
"Can I help you?" he asked briskly.
"Am looking for Chief of Security," the Byahail said with a thick, odd accent. "Have questions about procedure."
Its mane looked like a city woman's fancy hairdo and the uniform swelled out in the chest with what appeared to be rather ample breasts. It spoke in a comparatively high register, reinforcing an overall vague impression of femininity, as unfeminine as it was otherwise. Unlike the average freighter captain, which she-- what the heck, it was as good a pronoun as any-- wouldn't have been anyway, there was no personal decoration on her suit. No patches, no ribbons, no colorful stencils or rude devices. Plain and no-nonsense. Her boots were knee-high, studded with metal spikes and steel reinforced in the heel and toe. It was clear she needed to carry no weapons. She wore them on her feet. Morris tried to look casual and efficient and not gape as he answered her question.
"That would be Governor Prilock. He is the governor magistrate of the Farport territory."
"Governor does not have officer for security?" the beast inquired.
"Yes, but he prefers to handle matters of port security himself whenever possible." The fact was, Prilock didn't trust anyone else, and probably with good reason. Farport had been the despair of the U.P., with administrative corruption so rampant and the criminal element so deeply entrenched that all hope of cleaning up the place had been abandoned long ago. Then somebody up in Dalowai had had the bright idea of solving two problems at once: this, and something else they had no idea what to do with. They made Prilock governor magistrate of Farport and told him to have at it. The place would never be the same.
"Where, then, can be finding Governor Prilock?" the Byahail asked.
"Let's see," Morris murmured, looking past her, scanning the docks to see where folks looked the most nervous and upset. "Ah, yes. I believe you'll find him on pier 4, inspecting that Northman freighter."
The beast inclined her head courteously, bowing slightly with a sharp click of her boot heels. Then she strode off. Morris watched her go. A formidable creature. Morris wished he could watch how she dealt with Prilock, but his lunch hour was almost over. Duty trumped curiosity.