Cowritten by Avio Yaken
4th January YC124
Market of Prosperity, Dam Vishen
A guard stands in a side alley talking to his sergeant. Both men are members of the Municipal Guard, the local law enforcement agency of the Sovereign Duchy of Beseth Dunijia. Charged with proactively patrolling the Duchy’s territories and eliminating criminal activity, the Guard was both well equipped and well trained. Both men wore dark blue uniforms with a badge pinned to the left breast and a light blue beret. They also both wore brown utility belts supported by white cross belts passing diagonally over the left shoulder. A holster hanging from the utility belt held a scrambler pistol manufactured by Kennin Industries - the service weapon of the Guard.
“Patrol Alley Three. There’s been no acts of violence yet, but these are Guristas. Rivalries might boil over, brawls might break out. Keep an eye out. You see anything, stop it in its tracks. We don’t want any brawls or worse happening, alright? This is a way to make tax money, not get a mob of Guristas admitted into the hospital,” the sergeant lectured the trooper.
“Yes, sir. On it,” the guard said, turning to exit the alley. He turned onto Alley Three, one of the main alleys of the massive open market that had been built for occasions like this one. One of the largest buildings in the Duchy, the Market of Prosperity sat among a series of high rise buildings, most of them government or corporate owned office buildings. In fact, just across the street from the market sat a massive structure that housed the Municipal Guards’ headquarters. Half a block away was the Ministry of Internal Order’s headquarters. And anyone who walked two blocks east would enter the massive spaceport of the Duchy. He passed a series of stalls selling anything from stolen statues of Amarrian religious figures, to holoreels, to books, to … hang on, were those condoms? The guard shook his head. These Guristas really were selling anything that they could find in the bowels of captured transport ships. Up ahead, a young Amarrian girl clung to the hand of an older woman, likely her mother. The woman seemed to be haggling with a Gurista wearing a pirate costume over some toy.
Kheqali walks up to the stall as the latest pair of satisfied customers leave. Kheqali visually follows the girl, who is clutching a Captain Cosmos action figure, before she disappears into the crowd. He then turns to the two Gurista merchants, both of whom look very satisfied. “Hey, Helk. Morello,” he nods at them. “How’s business so far?”
Dressed up hilariously like a cartoon pirate caricature albeit with a Guristas flair to it, Morello looks up to Kheqali looking defeated and humiliated “Fine.” He put blankly.
“Nice costume,” Kheqali replies. He looks around for Helk for a few moments before recognizing the bald Civire, who was similarly dressed, at the back of the stall peering into crates and consulting a datapad. He turns back to the Deteis. “Well, how much have you been able to sell so far?”
Morello takes a swig out of an unmarked bottle before answering “About half our cargo. Helk’s stupid ass idea about these costumes seems to actually be working… I ain’t a fan of it, but I’m making more money so whatever… Rum drinking is also ‘in character’ I’m told.” He says holding up the bottle he just took a swig from
“Stolen, I’m guessing?” Kheqali shrugs. “Not that I care. Hell, we’ll probably have to start buying stolen liquor - our stuff is really crap. Can I see the stuff you’ve been selling?”
Morello drunkenly waves Kheqali on. “Yeah go right ahead … Don’t ask me, ask him … Helk!”
Helk’s attention shoots up from his current task and looks toward Kheqali. He walks up to the Amarrian with a hearty step and sharp grin. “Yarr! Ahoy there grav lover!”
Morello places his hand over his face. “Holy ■■■■■■■ ■■■■…”
“What brings ye around me port? Come to. take a gander inside me chest of wondrous toys?!”
“Helk! Could you not play the ■■■■■■■ character when we’re not dealing with children!?”
“Yarr! This gravity be doing something to yer dome quartermaster! I be not playing a character!”
Kheqali bursts out into laughter. After a few moments, he finally calms down enough to say, “Man, you really stick to character! I can see why the kids love you. Can I see this chest of wondrous toys? I heard you’ve been able to sell half your cargo already?”
“Aye, we done loaded off many crates of some of th’ most exotic toys from across New Eden! Wrangled out th’ holds of th’ most fortified warships out in th’ void! From Lontrek to damned ends of Placid!” Morello takes another hard swig of his rum, emptying the rest of the bottle. “Me and me quartermaster Morello been distributing the booty to the kids of this colony AT AN EXPONENTIAL RATE! Yarr… me cargo hold be empty before th’ week is even over! Then we be out for plunder again! Haha! Quartermaster! Some rum please!”
“I drank it all.”
“Yarr… A shame!”
“Can I see what you have left?” Kheqali asked. “Also, you do realize that you can talk normally now, right?”
Helk turns back to Kheqali “Yarr he can! Right this way, ye grav lo-” Helk starts breaking out in a fit of coughs. Composing himself he remarks in a regular voice “Oh ■■■■ me, that’s hell on my throat.” He continues coughing
“Take your time, take your time,” Kheqali said. “Oh, Morello. You have any more rum? Been so long since I’ve had a drink. As I said, the liquor here is ■■■■.”
Morello raises an eyebrow as Helk continues to cough his lungs out “You paying?” He asks
“Of course. Unless you’re willing to part with a bottle for free?”
Helk regains his composure “No rum!” He exclaims “Come on, you wanna see the stock? I’ll show you.”
Kheqali enters the stall, looking around at the crates stacked in the back with undisguised interest.
Helk gestures around at the stacks “Over there we got a couple of figures to go though still and I managed to ahold some damn plastic building block sets in two of the crates over”
“Nice! Plastic building blocks, you said? Those’ll sell well,” Kheqali said, crossing over to one of the indicated crates and peering inside. He pulled out one of the action figures and mindlessly played with it as he asked, “And the Eggerz figures? Do you still have any of those?”
“Ehhh” Helk remarks, body shifting to display his uncertainty “They ain’t selling like crazy outside the atmosphere here, but here? The market seems a bit stronger for them… Units are moving. Slowly.”
“Alright, that’s good to hear. Have you put any thought into the … business proposal I told you guys about?” Kheqali asks, putting the plastic toy back into its crate and turning to face the two Gurista businessmen.
February 20, 2022
Helk places his finger in his ear and screws it back and forth as he asks, “Ehhh… Could you remind me?”
Morello chimes in, as usual, “With the ‘Duchy’ Helk … become uh, ‘partners’ of some shade, yeah?” He asks looking to Kheqali
“Yeah,” Kheqali replies. “We could start small and just set up regular contracts to buy toys from duchy companies. Then eventually, you could hire a production line from one of our factories to start building your own toys. Maybe even hire some advisors to help you guys set up a factory of your own.”
Morello looks to Helk “Maybe we can also get some other employees so I don’t gotta do this dumbass ■■■■ again.”
“Morello quit your bitching… Hmm.” Helk rubs his chin “How soon do you think we can start this arrangement up?”
“Well, I can set up a meeting between you and the CEOs of the five toy companies we have here in the Duchy within, let’s see, a week?” Kheqali said, pulling out a datapad and checking it. “You want to do it here, or at the fortizar in 6NJ?
Helk ponders for a moment before a smile creeps on his face and remarks “…Aboard the Warren.” He then slips back into character “Show ye’ grav lovers a port out in the void! Hehehe…”
Kheqali chuckles as he exits the stall. “Alright, I’ll send you the meeting details. Oh, and Helk … you know how you can improve that costume of yours?” Kheqali makes ears with his fingers and brings them up by his head. “Make rabbit ears! I’ll see y’all around.” He calls back as he walks away, typing something on his datapad as he walked.
The guard continued patrolling Alley Three, walking briskly past the various stalls that lined the aisle. He passed a family that was reviewing one stall’s assortment of literature and holoreels and paused briefly at a second stall that appeared to be selling wine, knives, and soft drinks. I really want a bottle of rum … but! I’m still on the job. Gotta remember to come back later. He thought before moving on. He passed throngs of casual shoppers browsing the lines of stalls, looking at the merchandise on display. He passed a pair of stern, burly Amarrian Municipal Guards, nodding as he passed. Near the end of the alley, he noticed a stall staffed by an above average number of Guristas. If he remembered correctly, the stall was staffed by … ah, yes. The crew of some Gurista named Sobo. He’s … right, right. He’s on the list of narcotics dealers!
“Hello,” a hulking Brutor man said, walking up to the Gurista’s stall. “You got any … fun products for sale? The good stuff, not that twice-cut half diluted ■■■■■■■■ that planetside dealers have been trying to peddle to me, those sons of bitches. Like that crap is any fun.”
Sobo takes a drag of a cigar as the man relays to him his struggles in getting a fix. Exhaling the smoke, he explains, “Friend, I got boosters alright? I ain’t looking to be coy here calling it “fun” stuff, alright? And I’m carrying standard quality.”
“Alright, which boosters have you got in stock?” The customer asks.
“I have Blue Pill, Crash and Sooth Sayer, that’s your poison?” Sobo remarks.
“Blue pill, yeah. Not gonna touch Crash, and haven’t tried Sooth Sayer,” the customer replies. “How much do you have in stock?”
Sobo raises an eyebrow at the question. “How much are you trying to buy?” He takes another puff of his cigar
“Hmm … four kilos, say?”
“Four kilos?” Sobo says with a blink “This all for you?”
“Well, I trust you over my dealer,” the customer smiles slightly. “But … you’re right. It’s not all for me. I’m sharing with some friends as well.”
Sobo eyes the customer up and down as he luffs on his cigar. He leans to the right to look around them and over his shoulder to check around him. He squints back to the man and asks, “Is this a sting operation or something?”
“Umm … what? What? No?” The man replies. “Narcotics sale isn’t even illegal here, man!”
“No… They’re regulated. Meaning I still got rules I gotta be following. Now. Are you about to try and hand me an unmarked card here to keep your little purchase off the books?”
“No. I … ,” the customer fished out a card. “That’s my narco-card. Got my name on it and everything. Just need to write up what I’m buying.”
Sobo swipes the card out of the man’s hand when it’s presented to him and passes it over his shoulder to another man who begins running the card for the transaction. “Four kilos then? Fine. Can I get you anything else?”
“No, that’s it, thank you,” the customer replied as two men wearing suits approached.
Noticing the drop in tone from his ‘customer’ Sobo darts his eyes over to the suits walking towards them, rolling his eyes he tosses his hands up and asks, “Alright, what little rule did I skip?”
“I’m Senior Field Inquisitor Sallah Gailus, MIO Trade and Commerce Enforcement Division,” the senior official, a short and stocky Amarrian, said. A taller and slimmer Achur man flanked him. “This is my partner, Inquisitor Rikki Nunsz. I highly advise you to finish your transaction.”
“Oh it’ll get done, but don’t think I’m just gonna pretend you two spooks didn’t just waltzes up. Did you say Inquisitors?” Sobo queries with a puzzled look. “Did I break a law or commit some kind of heresy?”
“Mr. Sobo,” Inquisitor Gailus sighed. “Finish your transaction. Then we talk.”
Sobo facepalms and looks to his left to the man he passed the card to “Just weigh the ■■■■ out …,” he orders reluctantly. He turns his attention back to the two inquisitors “Gonna take a second.”
The senior inquisitor shrugs. “We’ll wait.”
Sobo stands with his arms crossed and maintains eye contact as he waits for his man to finish weighing the product out. Two minutes pass before Sobo’s man reappears and hands off the product. Sobo’s eyes widen at the inquisitors, as if to signal for them to go on
Gailus waits until the customer walks out of earshot. “Based on your surprise upon seeing us, I’m guessing you haven’t had the talk yet? With one of my buddies from the TCED Customs Division?”
“I try not to go near you types… Old habit I guess you can say.”
“Well, you’re the captain of the Kestrel docked at port 9, berthing two, correct?” Gailus asks as Nunsz rolls his eyes and sighs in exasperation.
“Correct.” Sobo remarks taking a puff of his cigar. He then removes it from his mouth before exhaling and then says, “Look, enough with the fedo and roes show, alright?.. Tell me what you’re here for.” The man beside Sobo has his attention locked on the two inquisitors. Two other men walk into view from around the stall, undoubtedly members of Sobo’s crew. Both men were alert, yet passive. One leans against the stall itself and the other sits down on a nearby crate, snacking on a piece of fruit in hand. Both maintained careful eye contact with the inquisitors.
“I hope you at least read the pamphlet that the customs officers gave you when you declared your cargo? You did get a pamphlet, right?” Gailus asked, watching the newcomers intently.
“Look, If I broke some rule that’s grounds for arrest then let’s get this over with, alright? Did I read the pamphlet? Sure, the words in big letters and all.”
“Well, then, if you read the pamphlet, you should know that you need to hand over a kilo of every type of booster you are selling to us for testing. Or did you miss that part?”
Sobo shrugs “Guess I haven’t? Is that what that is? You want some free samples?”
“Yes. Gotta make sure your stuff is all aboveboard, you know,” Gailus replied. “Can’t have you peddling anything that might, I dunno, poison someone, you know?”
“Can’t make a repeat customer of a dead man…” Sobo mentions as he takes another puff of his cigar. He looks back over to the man standing behind him “Tel, just weigh out whatever we got and put it in something.” The man nods and walks off to carry out the task. “Alright then… So you get these samples and we’re good?”
Gailus shook his head. “For now. But if even one of your customers dies and there is even the slightest implication that your drugs are involved in their death, I will personally hunt you down and hold you responsible, do you understand?”
Sobo remains unimpressed and asks “So if they accidentally off themselves by overdosing due to their own misuse and stupid choices you’ll hold me accountable?”
“I’ll hold them responsible, but if you peddle boosters cut with other chemicals and claim them to be the pure thing, trust me, I will have your head,” Gailus says as Nunsz rolls his eyes
“Well when you get your own taste of these samples-” Sobo remarks as Tel returns, practically on cue, with a suitcase in hand and extends it to the inquisitors “you’ll see my products are of expected quality. Watch your doses … .”
“Good. I hope so, for your sake,” Gailus says, taking the suitcase and walking away. “Well, carry on.”
The two inquistors headed back down the alley, passing a uniformed Municipal Guard along the way. Nunsz walks in silence for a few moments before blurting out, “Sir, I understand that you’re my superior, but … what you did back there was wrong!”
Gailus turns and looks sternly at the taller man. “Explain, Inquisitor Nunsz.”
Nunsz hesitates for a few seconds under the older man’s laser gaze. “Well, that’s the third Gurista you’ve confronted today. Sixth this week.”
“Well,” Gailus says, holding up the suitcase. “It’s our job to collect samples to bring back to the lab as part of the narcotics regulations. And we should also be telling these Guristas to mind the regulations - that they aren’t just words on a piece of paper. Or do you think we should neglect these duties?”
“Of course not, sir. But … with all due respect, sir, I believe you are being unnecessarily hostile.”
Gailus stares at the other man before barking harshly, “Explain!”
Nunsz stands his ground, arguing, “You kept implying that Sobo back there wasn’t paying attention to the regulations, sir. You also threatened him.”
“As I said, he needs to know that those regulations aren’t just words on a pamphlet. They are being actively enforced. If he violates it, he’ll be punished under the full extent of Duchy law.”
“Sir, I believe it is more than that.”
“It isn’t,” Gailus maintains, turning to walk away.
Nunsz blocks his partner’s movement with his arm. “Sir. There’s something else going on. I might be less experienced than you, but I was a cop. I can tell.”
Gailus sighs and looks around. “Not here, it’s too crowded,” he says, pulling his partner into a side alley. “Look. My sister died of a crash overdose, okay? She didn’t ■■■■ up with her doses or anything. Hell, she was careful as they come. No. She’d fought off the addiction once, then twice. She wanted to get clean, but her dealer refused. Ended up cutting the kilo she bought with a cocktail of other chemicals. She thought it was fine. It wasn’t. After she died, investigators found the rest of the brick under her bed. Turns out, it was only half crash. The rest of the ■■■■ that scumbag put into the damn brick … it was lethal. The dose she took, it was tiny. Half what she normally would have taken. Half the normal dose. She was slowly weening herself off it. But even then, according to the lab that ran the tests, the cocktail of chemicals in that dose … it was enough to kill her two, maybe three times over. So, no, I don’t trust dealers like Sobo. I think they’re scumbags. If I had my way, they’d all be serving out time in slave work crews, working the mines under the Great Teeth. But the government says narcotics are legal, fine. They gotta follow those regulations. It’s not going to be “here’s these regulations, please follow them.” No. It’s going to be “here’s these regulations. Follow them, or I’ll have your ass.” Understood?”
Nunsz sighs. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
Gailus nods. “Thanks. Now, are we good?”
Nunsz sighs. “We’re good, boss.”
Gailus turns and walks out of the alley. “Good. Then let’s get this case down to the lab. I’ve got two more stalls I want to visit before the end of the day.”
An hour later, in the Dam Vishen spaceport, port 6, berthing 9
Kheqali found his boss talking to an eleven year old Amarrian slave girl in the docking bay, watching a team of slaves offload crates from a Badger docked in the bay and carry them onto dollies before moving them out of the docking bay. As he came closer, he could hear the duke asking the girl, “How many more crates do we have to unload?”
“Enough to load two dollies fully, sir. And then another half load.”
“Good. Go supervise the loading of the trucks.”
Kheqali walked over to the capsuleer as the girl ran off. “She’s good. Remind me to give her her freedom when she turns eighteen.”
“Clovar Rojana, right?”
“Yep. So, how’d the meeting with Helk go?”
“It was good. He expressed interest in the proposal.”
“Good, good. So you’re setting up the meet?”
“Yeah. I’ve reached out to the CEOs of our toy companies. Already talked to two, they’re both interested. Got a meeting with a third tonight, and set up meetings with the last two tomorrow morning.”
“Good. We’re pretty self sufficient, but … well, self sufficiency should be a last resort.”
“You’re right. What’s in the crates?”
“Amarrian wheat seeds, if you’ll believe it. Bought them from one of the Guristas. Double what they go for on the Agency, but still cheap. ‘Nother option for the farmers.”
“Alright, well, I’ll be going now. I want to wander around the fair, see how stuff is going.”
“Sure, sure. Oh, one thing. There’s supposedly a colony in a neighboring region, umm … New Dawn? I want you to see what you can find about it, see if there’s any economic opportunities that we can exploit. I’ve sent what I can find to your datapad.”