I had met Misltu beofre, but in a workshop with other xenologists. I wasn't sure he would recognize or remember me as I entered his apartments and walked out to his porch. He had his back to me, sitting on a table, playing Solitaire.
"Well, well, the Spiritshepherd. Going to see if you can play shepherd to a pack of wolves?"
He turned around. As usual, I was struck by how like, yet unlike, his form was to ours. A biped, humanoid form, with gray, sealike skin. The hair on the top of his head was actually made of something halfway between hair and feathers, and was a flaming red, standing up enough to give an impression of a head aflame. His eyebrows were the same. But details kept cropping up, correcting the humanlike impression. The eyes are covered by a multifaceted shell, a nicatating membrane that looks rather like an insect's eyes. There was a lateral line. Most startlingly, there was a long string of chitinous links that connected the wrists to the ankles that almost looked like chains.
Oh, well. You can look up the details of Lokiite Physiology. The point was that behind those multifacted eyes was a mind that betrayed his entire race to save his life.
Of course, any Lokiite would do the same. They have no real concept of loyalty, love or concern. Just intelligent self-interest.
"So I hear you're heading for my old home town? My old stomping grounds? We're going to be almost like twins. I'm a Lokiite xenologist stuck in a world of humans...and you'll be a human xenologist stuck in a world of Lokiites. We're two sides of the same...card."
Grinning, he held up the card for me to inspect.
"It seems appropriate."
"So---any words of advice?"
"Sure. Don't go. I don't think you humans have quite grasped how...different you are from us. But if you have to go...watch your back."
"I don't have much choice. If I defied the Cardinal...he has enough influence to make sure my career would take a nosedive."
"You don't seriously think the Cardinal gives a damn about whether Lokiites have souls that can be damned, do you?"
I didn't answer; but my eyes flicked towards the camera I knew was installed, and doubtless there were many nanocameras scattered throughout the apartments.
Misltu didn't care. He was too valuable to the Community Cluster to advise them on Lokiite behavior. He was enjoying my discomfort, my not being able to say what I knew was the truth.
"He just wants to learn more about my race, my people. If he can subjegate us by religion, great. If not...he will at least know more about us, and perhaps find clues for other ways to manipulate us. Him I understand more than I do most humans. It's the rest of you that are a terrible puzzle to me."
We discussed Lokiite protocol and customs, contacts to look for and things to avoid at all costs. As I left he called,
"I doubt if I'll see you again, Redwine."
That was a cheery thought to walk through the canals of Havlinn town with, on the crosswalks. It was funny how much our situations would be alike, once I got to Loki. I stopped at one crosswalk and tried to drink in Havlinn town...the canals running through the city, the strident guides telling tourists where the Empress used the bathroom or broke wind, the smell of newfallen rain, the gleaming silver vegetation.
It was a beautiful town on a beautiful world. I would miss both.
Return to Redwine at Dinner.