Subgenre: Space opera, short story
Monday, January 16, 2017
The Cost of Business (A Dragonfire Station short story) by Zen DiPietro
Subgenre: Space opera, short story
Cabot Layne has unintentionally become the owner of someone else's problem. In order to get free of it, he'll need to use every bit of his trader cunning. If he does it just right, he might stay out of prison. With a little luck, he'll even manage to turn a profit.
“Are you going to turn me in?” Arlen stood next to the trunk, which Cabot had opened just long enough to show her their very large problem. She was nice-looking, though part of that handsomeness might have been due to her youth. Like Cabot, she had naturally tan skin and light-brown hair. Her eyes were an amber brown, compared to his own blue-gray ones. She had a winsome rugged frame that spoke of Rescan sturdiness.
Cabot admired her composure. Being the connoisseur of people he was, he recognized the anxiety beneath her placid features. “That would save my skin at the direct expense of yours. Since you’re guiltless, I don’t wish to see that happen.”
Instead of reassuring her, this caused her face to harden in suspicion. “And what do I owe you for that?”
“You have nothing I want. What could I need from someone just getting set up in the business?” He laced his words with disdain, which took the edge off her suspicion. Yes, she’d understand derision and self-interest much better than she would altruism. His own distrust of philanthropy ran deep.
“Then why not sell me out?” she demanded.
“Even an innocent transaction involving Brivinium would tarnish my reputation. I don’t need the PAC breathing down my neck on every deal I make for the rest of my life. We can get the stuff back into the right hands, and keep our names out of it besides. We stay clean, the Brivinium gets returned, and nobody has to deal with countless hours of debriefings and administrative work. Everyone wins.”
“If we get caught—”
He cut her off. “We won’t.” He fixed her with a hard look, daring her to argue.
She backed down. The young ones always did. Taking a breath, she asked, “What’s your plan?”
A certain acumen, combined with a few decades’ worth of experience, gave Cabot the skills to retrieve information from the voicecom that, technically speaking, he wasn’t supposed to have. He prided himself on maneuvering within the gray areas that couldn’t result in any charges being brought against him. Even so, it was always prudent to avoid being caught.
In two days, a Briveen ship would dock for scheduled maintenance in accordance with the PAC’s strict protocols for engine safety. The security notes had indicated that the Briveen would inhabit standard guest quarters during the repairs. That would give Cabot time to arrange a business venture.
He opened a channel, placing a call to a pair of human traders who had been darkening Dragonfire’s boardwalk for a little too long now.
Cabot had no issues with competition. In fact, he found that the more trade activity that happened on Dragonfire, the more business eventually came his way. His objection to these two humans was personal. No, professional. Actually, it was personal, because of his dislike of how they sullied his profession. Yes, that was it.
Dirtbags like those two didn’t fulfill their contracts. They lied about volume, freshness, or item origin. They didn’t deliver as promised, and Cabot had no tolerance for that kind of sleazy, amateur behavior. He wouldn’t have that rubbish on his station.
Intending to leave a message, Cabot was surprised when one of the traders answered. It was Morris, the younger of them. He wasn’t bad-looking, overall, but he had the hardness around his eyes and mouth that Cabot recognized as an indicator of nasty temperament.
“What?” Morris snapped.
Cabot wore his most benign, pleasant expression. “How lucky to have caught you in person. I was hoping to schedule a meeting with you.” He paused, smiled knowingly, and added, “A business meeting.”
Zen DiPietro is a lifelong bookworm, dreamer, writer, and a mom of two. Perhaps most importantly, a Browncoat Trekkie Whovian. Also red-haired, left-handed, and a vegetarian geek. Absolutely terrible at conforming. A recovering gamer, but we won’t talk about that. Particular loves include badass heroines, British accents, and the smell of Band-Aids. Writing reviews, author interviews, and fun stuff at www.womenofbadassery.com.