My Father’s Interstellar Pawn Shop

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When I was too small to remember it, my father bought a pawn shop in the Nexus. His friends told him he was crazy, but he was a people person and he wanted to see the worlds. This way, he said, the worlds would come to him and he could sleep in his own bed at night. Having spent my whole life here, I can confirm that it wasn’t a bad plan. In fact, I’d say it borders on genius. You see more in the Nexus in a half hour than you see in a month of planethopping, and I guarantee you’ll never see the same thing twice.

Every day we’d have visitors from places that I’ve still never heard of. When I was old enough my father let me work the counter, and I’d rarely be without a conversation for more than ten minutes. Here was a medicine man buying “relics” for his tribe (nuclear-powered, but magic to him). Here a great hairy beast with dozens of diamond pelts in her bag; they’re the skins of really cute but nearly indestructible mice-things on her homeworld. Here’s a swarm of fireflies (actual fire, mind you) that are only sentient as a group, just looking for deals (they pay big for anything blue; apparently it’s like a narcotic for their visual system). Occasionally we’d have traffic from the less corporeal parts of the universe as well, but they were usually just passing through. Nice folk, though, if a bit talkative.

That’s the beauty of the Nexus. It’s a crossroads. As far as I know, it’s the only place there is where everything is understood. No matter who you speak to, he’ll hear you in his language, and you’ll hear his answer in yours. Even the telepaths and the folk who communicate entirely with light or chemicals. Ever “heard” an emotion? Ever understood what a brilliant orange-red means, or the smell of roses and smoke? I have. Somehow it all works. I can’t tell you how many epiphanies have taken place in our humble shop when people understand each other for the first time in their lives.

The other characteristic of the Nexus is its stance on violence. That is, it’s not allowed. No one knows know who or what enforces the rules, but it seems to be inherent in the physics here. There’s literally no way to commit it. Guns don’t work, swords don’t swing, and explosions just… don’t happen. You’ll also find that fists, or horns, or stingers or whatever you’ve got–they just don’t hurt. This of course explains the popularity of the Arena down the road. It’s a wonderful place to grow up, but I admit it doesn’t teach you much about the real worlds.

In fact, the longer I stay here the less real those worlds become. By blood, I’m from an island on a little planet lost somewhere in a big sparse universe. It takes days to get anywhere interesting, and years to get to the next habitable planet. But in the Nexus (as my father was wise enough to see) those places come to you. And unlike a visit in the real worlds, you can truly understand them, and make yourself understood. I don’t know why anyone bothers to go anywhere else anymore. As for me, I’m a Nexus-dweller now. This is my home.

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