Even the bare hallway itself was interesting. The enclave where they were staying was composed entirely of silver metal, but the floor of the corridor where they now walked offered more relief to the eye. At each juncture where one corridor crossed another, colored symbols were embedded in the flooring, and a frame was set into the wall, surrounding a dark space illuminated by a single word printed out in glowing Prettian letters. It read: TOUCH.
“Burlon?” she called softly.
He halted and looked back over his shoulder at her.
“What is this?” she asked, indicating the frame.
“Can you read it?” he asked, sounding genuinely curious.
“Yes. It says ‘Touch.’”
“Then go ahead. Touch it.”
The others gathered around her, Tetralanna looking horrified, Keegan interested, Sill impassive, and Cirin amused. Gingerly, Gredin pressed her finger to the screen.
“Where want go?” a disembodied voice asked, in Tradetalk.
Gredin pulled her hand away as if she’d been stung.
“Answer it,” Burlon instructed.
Gredin took a breath and responded, in Tradetalk, “Director office,” then added uncertainly, “Wyve.”
“Red,” the wall replied, and the area within the frame lit up, showing a series of intersecting lines and a red dotted path. “Go red,” the wall added.
“That’s a map of this part of Tradepoint,” Burlon explained. “The blinking dot is where we’re standing now.”
Before Gredin could reply, the wall spoke again. “Look floor.”
Looking down, Gredin saw that the thin space between one shining floor panel and the next now glowed red.
“Go red. Director Wyve. Go red,” the wall instructed, and the space within the screen went dark again except for that single word: TOUCH.
“Touch it again and ask who’s here,” Burlon prompted.
Again, she pressed her finger lightly to the screen.
“Where want go?” the disembodied voice asked again.
She ignored the question, and instead said, “Want know who trade now.”
This time, the screen blossomed forth with a multicolored display along the left margin of the screen. The various colored shapes that she had seen displayed above the enclave door were now stacked vertically, each surrounded by a square.
“Which one are we?” she asked Burlon in Vennan.
“Our symbol isn’t up there. We aren’t open for trading yet. But touch one of the others, and the screen will tell you more.”
She chose a symbol at random, a red, three-sided shape, and pressed her fingertip to it.
“Polpethtira in port,” said the screen. “Polpethtira maartza open now.”
“Okay, that’s enough for the time being. Let’s go,” Cirin said, and Burlon began to walk again, following the illuminated red line.
Gredin would like to have lingered long enough to touch each of the symbols and hear the voice pronounce the names of the various races, but the Director was waiting for them, and so she moved along with the others.