Author: David Barber

This species is very wary of us. Skittish. Paranoid even. And all because of the reckless behaviour of the Adversary in times past. Though doubtless that is what the Adversary says of us, so neither can pretend the Accord was an act of benevolence. Between us, we were driving the Talents to extinction.

Of all the Talents, the Sense Of Universal Location is the one humans occasionally have, and is a mind-state essential for the functioning of Mayaships. Which is why, as we cross the Orion Arm, we drop in sometimes to see how the harvest is coming along.

Mostly they were obsessed with stone axes, though tribes were willing to sacrifice the chosen one in return for success in the hunt or something. In those days we didn’t have to wait for death by natural causes; we just ripped the mind-state and went on our way.

Then suddenly they had cities, and writing, and rumours of hidden penalty clauses, and no-one trusted us. Hence the Accord, which insists contracts are strictly supervised, with an end to caveat emptor.

Take this fellow, named something unpronounceable like Williams in the local gibberish, doubtless why they’re referred to as Faust in contracts. Or asset in the language of Powers.

He shone out; a prime Talent we had to sign up before the Adversary made him a better offer, though he saw right through the mumbo-jumbo that had served us so well in the past.

“No, you want to abduct me,” he insisted. “You want to take me to your ship and probe me!”

Improvise and adapt. Was he open to a deal about this abduction business? Sex, wealth, and fame were on the table. Also, to be clear, he wouldn’t be abducted until his deathbed. And by probing we meant…

Our Faust worked in the City and knew about deals. Reproductive success? He didn’t need aliens pimping for him thank you very much. And how would he explain two tons of gold bullion on his Tax Returns?

Was there nothing else he wanted? Nothing at all? In times gone by, contracts have involved some creative accounting.

Ponderous humans. We amused ourselves while his thoughts coagulated into speech. It appears they can almost hear us when enough join in to sing the Songs.

He loved sport when he was a kid.

Sport: a form of ritualised combat.

Played a bit at uni, but was too busy now, and besides, some crappy Sunday league? No thanks. Had a trial for Spurs, you know.

Spurs? Searching…

Imagine being told at thirteen you’re not good enough. So you grow up and get on with life, but sometimes…

No, it was just foolishness.

With sufficiently advanced technology, anything is possible. It only seems like magic. In the end, altering his physiology with nanoware was the simplest option. Totally undetectable with their technology, and he would be twice, three times faster than their top athletes.

And it was all sorted before the Adversary arrived. We showed them the contract, with his unique DNA signature in circulatory fluid. Also, as required by the Accord, proof that we kept our side of the bargain. This translation of a news headline about our Faust.

“Lightning” Williams scores all two hands of goals(?) in (metaphorical) destruction of rival Deuch nation-state in final of Global Drinking Vessel.

As a side-effect of the nanoware, sadly he’s in top condition. We should have thought of that. We won’t be collecting our end of the deal for about a century.