Saturday, May 23, 2015

Interlude 13: A Fair Trade

“...has promised a full investigation into the collapse of Hellas Trading.” The students at the bar respond with a chorus of catcalls. “Director Trev Gersettus could not be reached for comment, but the Autarch's appointed administrator has denied rumors that he has left the city.” The students quiet as the newsfeed moves on to the next story – some of them lost inheritances in Hellas, she's willing to bet.

Mara takes a sip of simcaf and waits. The bag is sitting next to her in the booth, between her and the wall. Pel and Fir are in a booth opposite her, trying not to draw attention to the bulges under their jackets. Ger is waiting outside, in a shadowy alcove – the lights in the corridor are out again – and Tir and Sel are in a back room with rifles and compieces. The guards aren't here for her – they're here for the bag.

“Another victim of the Asphyxiatrix was found by hive wardens yesterday. IntSec report they expect an arrest soon...”

Mara stifles a surge of irritation. He's fashionably late, of course. That's only to be expected. It's not like there's any need to hurry to pick up a small fortune in precious metals. She takes another sip of bad simcaf and listens to the newsfeed.

“Continued uproar about the recall of the litfic Mars's Children due to violations of the obscenity law...”

Finally, Iskan Iskandrus steps through the door of the Blue Marble. He catches sight of her and saunters over to her booth. So sorry about being late,” he says. A casual listener might think him sincere. He leans forward conspiratorially. “Rather a thrilling raid, from what I hear. They can keep it out of the news but they can't stop people from talking about it, and you're the sensation of the week in the Second Palace. Well done, I must say.”

“Do you have the stick?” Mara asks.

“Indeed I do.” He pulls an unlabeled data stick from his jacket and hands it to her. She hands him the bag. “Many thanks. You have just saved me from a rather unpleasant confrontation over gambling debts. But I'm a little disappointed. Aren't you going to threaten me with dire consequences if the stick's no good?”

“It would seem superfluous at this point,” Mara replies.

“Do you suppose you could anyway, as a favor? It would rather add to the drama of the situation, don't you think?” He grins. Mara just looks at him. “Anyway,” he goes on. “I put a little bonus in there. Complete floor plans to the Urban Palace, including the bits they don't want people to know about. Good luck with your burglary or whatever you're up to.” And with that he vanishes in a cloud of unconscious condescension.

Mara grips the stick, tightly. I promise you. We'll get you out.

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