Tea Leaf Technology (page 1 of 4)
© Copyright 2000 by Stuart J. Whitmore
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Tea Leaf Technology
The Teller stood silently by the table, his darkly-hooded face concealing any emotion, allowing the cluster of seated men to have their fun deriding his cult. The slanders rarely varied, but the speaker always laughed as if it were an original thought. When the laughter died away and no further insults seemed forthcoming, the Teller nodded his head slightly and steeled himself for the next onslaught before repeating his question for the second of three times. Always three times; the galactic population assumed it a ritual. The cult demanded consistency.
"Would you care to know your fortune, sirs?" the Teller repeated.
"Track off," one of the men snapped with a heavy accent. "Ask again and get on with you." When no one else said anything, the Teller repeated his question the final time. He noted the fast mood shift at the table, and assumed he would get no takers from this group. He was about to shuffle over to the next table in the restaurant when he was surprised by one of the men speaking up.
"I don't know why there's such a traditional tolerance for the likes of you," the man said, "but I guess you're about as amusing as a minstrel. What the hell, you can read my coffee grounds and tell me what beautiful wench I'll bed tonight."
The Teller silently extended his hand for the traditional donation while the man's companions erupted in a mixture of laughter and derision. There was no set amount; many customers... the cult called them leeches... took the Telling for free. It wouldn't matter, the Teller understood, and he was new enough to the cult to feel mild surprise when a customer actually did pay. He didn't let that surprise show when a few coins clinked into his hand. A generous one, the Teller noted as he shifted the coins to his mostly-empty purse. He extended his other hand for the man's cup. Coins with the right, cup with the left. Consistency, or ritual, the effect was the same.
After tossing back the last of the hot, dark brew, the seated man grinned at the jeers of his comrades and handed the empty mug to the Teller. With a slow, silent sniff, the Teller detected the blend, the pseudobrand, and the need to decalcify the brewer. Given the contracts, he was shocked at the poor quality, but the run-down district in which the restaurant sat probably indicated hard water. This might be an issue for the next Seminar. For now, a casual Telling was in order.
"Ah," the Teller said softly, as he was required to do, staring into the depths of the cup. The next few moments would be stylized ad-lib, but he would not stray from the path defined by the cult. The swirl of grounds he saw was meaningless; they always were. But the cup held the key to the cult's survival. "Money. Influence," the Teller began in a slightly-droning voice. "A friend will give you a gift of money soon. Beware a drain of your influence. Isolation. Hunger. You will travel alone. You must prepare well for your journey, or risk a loss of strength. Passion. Fury. Your love for a woman will be rejected. You will blame another man. These six things I have seen; all matters of the future are affected by your actions today."