Dan felt a familiar chill in the air. A Portal appeared. In a puff of icy mist, a tall figure stepped through.
Gone was the tight uniform. In its place, the lanky Australopithecine wore skin-tight blue-jeans and a loose sweat shirt. An oversized beret clung to the small round head. Immense dark glasses covered the yellowish eyes, and sandals flapped on the bare, long-toed feet.
Dzhackoon waved a long cigarette holder at the group.
"Ah, a stroke of luck! How nice to find you standing by. I had expected to have to conduct an intensive search within the locus. Thus the native dress. However--" Dzhackoon's eyes fell on Snithian standing stiffly by, the gun out of sight.
"You're of a race unfamiliar to me," he said. "Still, I assume you're aware of the Interdict on all Anthropoid populated loci?"
"And who might you be?" Snithian inquired loftily.
"I'm a Field Agent of the Inter-dimensional Monitor Service."
"Ah, yes. Well, your Interdict means nothing to me. I'm operating directly under Ivroy auspices." Snithian touched a glittering pin on his drab cloak.
Dzhackoon sighed. "There goes the old arrest record."
"He's a crook!" Dan cut in. "He's been robbing art galleries!"
"Keep calm, Dan," Blote murmured, "no need to be overly explicit."
The Agent turned to look the Trader over.
"Vegan, aren't you? I imagine you're the fellow I've been chasing."
"Who, me?" the bass voice rumbled. "Look, officer, I'm a home-loving family man, just passing through. As a matter of fact--"
The uniformed creature nodded toward the paintings in the carrier.
"Gathered a few souvenirs, I see."
"For the wives and kiddy. Just a little something to brighten up the hive."
"The penalty for exploitation of a sub-cultural anthropoid-occupied body is stasis for a period not to exceed one reproductive cycle. If I recall my Vegan biology, that's quite a period."
"Why, officer! Surely you're not putting the arm on a respectable law-abiding being like me? Why, I lost a tentacle fighting in defense of peace--" As he talked, Blote moved toward the carrier.
"--your name, my dear fellow," he went on. "I'll mention it to the Commissioner, a very close friend of mine." Abruptly the Vegan reached for a lever--
The long arms in the tight white jacket reached to haul him back effortlessly. "That was unwise, sir. Now I'll be forced to recommend subliminal reorientation during stasis." He clamped stout handcuffs on Blote's broad wrists.
"You Vegans," he said, dusting his hands briskly. "Will you never learn?"