A Trader’s Day

Sheridan and Lorien had been looking all morning, wandering from store to shop on the Zocalo without success. Making their way from one to the other. Sheridan had been fussy, selecting several choice pieces but, each one he had rejected, for one reason or another. Too gaudy, too plain, the wrong colour, each had had a fault.

In the mean time the two of them had been discussing their final strategy. The plan had shaped up quite well in the last couple of days, and Sheridan was refining the details. As they did this, neither paid close attention to the last doorway they had stepped through.

Lorien slowed his walk and stopped speaking, as he became aware of his surroundings. The shop had an air about it, which could only be described as antiquated. Brightly coloured packets were scattered about the shop’s shelves like confetti. Products, which by rights should not be in the same store, were placed on adjacent shelves.

On hearing the shop doorbell tinkle, the shopkeeper appeared from the backroom. The man was of average height, with grey hair. His build could only be described as portly, covered with an unflattering light brown workcoat. His hands were clasped in front of him and rubbed against each other, in a manner that appeared to be completely without conscious thought.

"Good Evening Gentlemen. What can I do for you," said the shopkeeper.

Sheridan wasn’t looking at Lorien and so missed the sudden blank expression which appeared on his face. Lorien had not lived as long as he had without learning the danger signals, and he made a hasty, but dignified retreat. This was not a fight he wished to partake in.

Sheridan was oblivious to this and stepped forward.

"Yes. I’m looking for a ring …"

"Well, then, you’ve come to the right place. Rings, I’ve got plenty of rings. I’ve got rubber rings, pastry rings, flotation rings, sau-sau-sausage rings ….

* * * *


Susan Ivanova had not been having a good day, the Drazi had been causing trouble with the other members of the Non-Aligned Worlds. In fact, the Gaim Ambassador had called her three times in the last hours complaining. And now there was this disturbance on the Zocalo.

Susan stood in the middle of the marketplace, listening to the hustle and bustle of the stallholders selling their wares, and talking amongst themselves when there wasn’t a customer to see to. They didn’t seem too distressed, but there did seem to be a common thread to the conversations.

"He’s on that bloody bike again . . ."

" . . . should be using the transit tubes."

"That basket was overloaded."

"Something should be done, that’s for certain."

Susan continued walking through the main corridor, getting more frustrated. The stallholders didn’t seem to involve station security, the matter wasn’t that important. Plainly the problem wasn’t a security threat or criminal in nature, just inconvenient and Susan did not like those kinds of problems.



The ringing noise was coming from behind Susan, and getting louder. She spun on the balls of her feet towards the noise. Just in time to see a stack of groceries piled high on the top of a basket supported by a thin spoked wheel. The apparition was travelling rapidly towards her.

"Watch out!" She yelled, leaping quickly to one side and a muffled squawk of terror could be heard above the squeaking of the wheel.

The wheel turned aside, and the rest of the dilapidated vehicle was revealed as it careered down the corridor. Susan could see a young man perched on the bicycle, peering up and over the stack of boxes in front of him, a long whip-like antenna rising from his seat supporting a triangular flag fluttering in the breeze.

Pedalling like mad, he glanced in her direction as he passed, and suddenly he was out of control. The stack of boxes began to topple sideways. He overcorrected, sending the bike to the left and then to the right in a vain effort to regain control, when suddenly he was out of room of manoeuvre and he crashed, all be it slowly, into one of the support pylons spaced regularly down the corridor.

Susan flinched as she witnessed the ensuing riot of boxes, tins, vegetables and spoo spread out across the floor from the wreck.

Granville shook his head to clear it. Slowly the world about him was making sense again. He disentangled himself from the crossbar of the bike and stood up. Below his foot came a crunch, and Granville looked down.

"Aww no. Now I’ve gone and broken the eggs! Mrs Sternbacken’s going to glower at me again."

He looked around him, at the pile of groceries before him and slouched down to start clearing the mess up.

"Are you alright!" A woman’s voice says to him.

"Yes," Granville sighs without looking up. "I just need to this lot back on the bike again."

"Here, I’ll help you with this." Granville looks up with gratitude at this offer of help. The woman who’s offering her hand to him is not just pretty she’s beautiful. Her long hair cascades down her shoulders, emphasised by the black and grey uniform she’s wearing.

"Cor, I mean, thanks a lot."

"You know, you really shouldn’t be riding that . . . that thing in here. You could cause an accident." Susan told him, sternly.

"I know," Granville couldn’t agree more, "but he says we’ve got to use the stations resources sparingly. Besides, if you stack the tins just right, you can make a hole to see thou . ." He ground to a halt. He could see she wasn’t impressed.

Granville sidled to the other side of the bike and picked it up, hoping that the bike would cover his apron. He didn’t think aprons were the ‘in thing’ at the moment and thought she might not see it.

"It’s not a matter of how you stack them, that bike’s dangerous and certainly the stations’ regs . . ." Susan began to lecture Granville on safety.

Granville’s eyes were slowly getting rounder and rounder. She was his ideal woman, beautiful, and strong, and intelligent, all he wanted in life. All he’d dreamed about for years, and had never even imagined meeting. She was standing in front of him, just the other side of the bike with her hands on her hips. Looking at him.

Looking at him? What was she saying?

"Are you listening to me? I said, You can’t use this in here!"

* * * *


The door of the shop opens, and Captain John Sheridan steps out, holding a pound of pork sausages and a tin of baked beans.

"Lorien, I could have done with your help in there. I still don’t know why I bought these, but it seemed plausible enough when he said it." John looked down at his purchases and then up at his companion.

"Even I cannot stand against some forces. I pray that the battles we have ahead are not a taxing as the one you have just endured."


* * * *

Arkwight came and stood on the doorstep of Arkwight’s General Store, located at the quiet end of the Zocalo.

"It’s been a funny old day." he thought to himself, as he pack away his produce for the night.

"That Captain Sheridan didn’t seem to be to interested in the sausages he bought," he continued thinking. "A difficult customer really, not easy to sell to. But not as bad as that Morden fellow last year. Didn’t seem to be interested in buying anything, that one didn’t. Kept asking silly questions, some kind of salesman maybe. But still, he did buy a quarter of pear drops in the end. Took some persuading, mind, but that’s customers for you. Just don’t know what they want to buy, until you suggest it to them, hard enough."

"Where has Granville got to?" he thought, as he locked the door.