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Captain Earle Plakqu ordered the Tressian to land on Mount Kunn, location of the Whelm's automated monitoring station to the south and west of Port Mar. Jantiff's aircar was pushed out of the patrol cruiser's small cargo hold and made ready.
Jantiff zipped into a heavy hooded parka and said farewells to the librarian and the Captain. He then made his way out through the aft hatch and onto the surface of Marune. The summit of Mount Kunn was a gray mix of granite and a few tiny wind-swept ice crystals.
Geologists insisted that mountains this high could not exist naturally. To account for Mount Kunn, some suggested that in the distant past the Fwai-chi had a technologically advanced culture and the means to artificially stimulate orogenic forces. Taking one glance off towards the horizon, Jantiff felt like he was actually in space.
Jantiff ran through the cold thin air and quickly took refuge in the aircar. The Tressian sprang up on its jets and then streaked off to the south, quickly lost among the stars that, at such great height, glinted against the blue-black dome of the sky even in daylight.
Jantiff activated the autopilot and the aircar, struggling in the tenuous air, swung off towards Port Mar. Soon the aircar was dropping down into the stratosphere from the Herior peaks. The aircar began to function normally as the atmosphere thickened. Passing beyond the Herior glacial field, Jantif began seeing cultivated land and small farming villages below. Then Port Mar emerged in the distance, a gray smudge peeking out from behind the Low Range, nestled among the hills just beyond the Ajat Gap. The aircar dropped down among a deck of scattered clouds and as Jantiff passed through the Gap, New Town could be distinguished on the port side. Tired Old Town, almost lost among a heavy growth of tall trees was to Jantif's right.
Still on autopilot, the aircar settled itself onto the top of the University Inn's garage. Jantiff left the heavy coat in the aircar and hauled out his travel bag. An elevator took him down to the lobby where Jantiff paid for a room.
Jantiff's room had a view over the river towards the hills of Old Town. In the distance, Jantiff saw the upper floors of the Royal Rhune Hotel where they extended above the trees near the summit of Garlin Hill. There was a knock on his door.
Jantiff opened the door and saw an energetic middle aged woman who wore a jacket similar to that of the Hotel staff. Her darting brown eyes quickly scanned Jantiff and the interior of his room. He said, "Yes?"
"I'm Sterr Hoolmayr, Manager." She held a lightpen that projected an image of Jantiff's aircar on the roof of the garage. "Mr. Fersten, is this your aircar?"
Jantiff replied, "It is." He wondered if Hoolmayr was part Rhune; she showed none of the distinctive Majar facial features.
"I'm sorry, sir, but we can't have an unregistered aircar in our garage."
Jantiff pretended surprise. "I'm sure that the registration process was completed before my aircar was allowed out of the spaceport."
"Well, it is not broadcasting a registration code."
"I've just been down to Denlanny. I went through an electrical storm on the way down there, maybe the code transmitter was damaged."
Hoolmayr switched off the lightpen and advised, "Have it fixed immediately, sir. The constabulary has been alerted and they might act at any time. If you do not mind my curiosity, why do you need a private aircar?"
"I'm here on Marune to teach and study. I'll be making many out of town visits such as my trip to Denlanny."
"There is commercial aircar service, Mr. Fersten. Private aircars make the authorities nervous. Surely you are aware of the Connatic's restrictions imposed on the Rhunes."
"I'll have the code transmitter serviced at once. Thank you for bringing the problem to my attention." As soon as Manager Hoolmayr bowed and departed, Jantiff phoned the Connatic's local correspondent. "Donna Weye? This is Jantiff Fersten."
"Welcome to Marune, Mr. Fersten. Joole warned me to expect your arrival. Is there anything I can help you with? Where are you?"
Jantiff replied, "I just took a room at the University Inn, but I need to rent a house. My family will soon be arriving from Zeck."
Donna suggested, "I know someone who can show you several fine houses in Old Town. Houses are harder to find in New Town where there are mostly apartments."
"I'm not particular about location; either side of the river is fine. I'm going to drop by the College first, then I'd like to see the available rental houses."
"I'll have Mr. Brezne contact you. He's generally not willing to rent to non-Majars, but I'll put in a good word; with luck he'll decide that he can accommodate an off world visitor. How long will you be on Majar?"
"I have a one year appointment at the College. I'm prepared to sign a one year rental contract."
"Very well, I'll let Brezne know."
"One more thing Madam Weye. I need to get my aircar registered."
"Yes, I've made arrangements, at considerable cost. I have a registration strip for you. Stop by and I'll install it in you car."
"You are at 3 Royal Road?"
"Yes, down by the river. Land out back between the trees so that my neighbors won't see us."
Jantiff then called the College and spoke to the head of the World Literature Department. They arranged to meet and Jantiff walked over, crossing through the maze of glass and steel buildings of the University.
Two hours later, Jantiff had been welcomed to the College and informed that his teaching duties would start in two months. Jantiff returned to the Inn and took the aircar aloft. Across the river and a mile upstream he came upon Donna's house, perched a hundred feet above the river, not far from the start of the Ajat gorge. The autoplilot had no problem finding Donna's house, but Jantiff over-rode the autopilot and landed in the back garden.
Donna came down a walkway from the house and bowed to Jantiff. He was dazzled by her synthetic-looking Majar skin which, seen live under the multiple suns of Marune, took on an alien multi-hued tone that was not captured in static images. Jantiff handed over a mission intag that Joole had prepared for Donna.
Donna asked impertinently, "I doubt if it is worth my time to read anything from Joole. She pours out pages of nonsense in an effort to conceal her thoughts. Can you tell me what you are up to, Mr. Ravensroke?"
Jantiff reminded her, "While on Marune I'll use the name Fersten."
"Understood; I'll only use your real name when speaking directly to you in private."
"I've already been warned that the local police might be watching me. Are you sure that we cannot be over-heard?"
"The local police spend all their effort trapping snow bears who wander into town from the mountains." Realizing that Jantiff would tell her nothing interesting about his mission, Donna turned and gave her attention to the aircar. Working efficiently, she equipped the vehicle with a registration code transmitter. While she worked, Jantiff briefly outlined his plan for making contact with Efraim.
When Donna was done with the aircar she handed Jantiff a dataplug. "Here is where you can meet Brezne. He's already there, waiting for you.
Jantiff took the aircar up to a safe height then sild the dataplug into the autopilot. The car quickly flew to Barrie Hill and landed a short distance from Brezne where he waited at one of the many abandoned houses of Old Town. Brezne was an ancient Majar with a bald head, bent spine and skinny limbs. Jantiff was surprised by Brezne's agility and brisk manner.
Brezne showed Jantiff around the old cavernous mansion. "A few sentimentalists like me can't let all the old houses fall to ruins, but nobody wants to live in these grand old places any more. This house has the most convenient location for your work at the University."
Brezne and Jantiff walked to a dark alley behind the Avenue of Brass Boxes that constituted Marune's financial dstrict, such as it was. On the ancient streets of Majar Town, Jantiff felt an urge to acquire paints and canvas, but he knew he had no time for anything except his mission.
After a two hour session at Brezne's bank, Jantiff had successfully established a local bank account and he now held a one year lease on the Barrie Hill house. Brezne insisted on having a cleaning crew go through the house. "Nobody has lived there in recent memory and I want to check that everything is in good order. I understand that you are in a hurry, Mr. Fersten. You can move in at next Rowan. By the way, the house was built by the Yeakitov clan and it is locally known as Yeak House."
Jantiff complimented Brezne on his efficiency. "My wife will want to make some changes and hire a domestic staff."
"We have a young daughter. My wife will not want her wandering off. We'll probably upgrade the fences."
Brezne explained, "In the past there were strict ordinances for Old Town, but they are seldom enforced now, with half the structures in ruins. Still, I insist that my properties remain compliant."
"Of course. Perhaps you can suggest a contractor who you trust."
The above is Chapter Two of a fanfiction complement to Jack Vance's science fiction novel Marune: Alastor 933. Chapter One of Assignment: Marune can be found in an earlier blog post along with a brief description of the story. The story is still under construction and collaborating authors are welcome.
Chapter One - Blazon spaceport
Chapter Two - Port Mar
Chapter Three - Glisten
Chapter Four - Efraim
Chapter Five - Lorcas
Chapter Six - Flaussig