[YC 122 NEWC Prose] Hauling Offer

Hauling Offer. YC122-05-13

„I think, this is a good opportunity, worth considering"

Those words, said by the Isagite Itera, manager of the Aridia Solutions Corporation, were directed to its CEO Lirraga Visteen. Capsuleer, already in a semiformal outfit, was sitting in the leather armchair in his suite in the orbital station and was in a bad mood. It was long since his last visit to the „ground“, to the surface of the planet. He picked up the low-value cargo to deliver in the Haimeh system only to visit the blue planet Haimeh VIII, where he spent so many years before applying for the Royal Amarr Institute. The planet was in a view below, with the familiar coastline, now partially covered by a large storm cloud, mountain ridge along the coast and the multitude of islands, dwarf and huge ones – one of the latter belongs to his friend’s family – illuminated by the warm light of the pink star. Lirraga anticipated a week-long sailing retreat; in his generosity, he offered the days off to the crew of TES Emilia, his Sigil-class spaceship. And now the long-awaited sailing retreat was at risk of delay: a hauling request, which looked profitable but unfortunately urgent, appeared on the datapad of his manager about an hour ago.

The deal was lucrative indeed: relatively short-range transport of the bulk live cargo, with a higher price tag for urgency. The cargo itself was not unusual for this system. After terraforming the agriculture flourished on Haimeh VIII; local genetically enhanced livestock, fruits, cotton, and crops were well known in the entire Aridia region and were the main items of export and profit for the local landlords. Clean natural products from Haimeh were grown in the most sustainable and ecologically-friendly way possible, using extensive manual labor instead of drones or automated greenhouses and thus was valued far beyond the Aridia region, offering serious competition to the hi-tech Galletean or mass-produced Caldari ones. In this way, farms provided a lot of work for season workers, who traveled north or south twice in a year, and for slaves, whose life was understandably more stationary. Rich landlords enjoyed the traditional lifestyle, staying in luxurious villas in the countryside during the summer and changing them for the equally opulent palaces in larger towns for the long winter. And one of such landlords was the current client.

“Look – " the manager continued “we still have 650m3 unfilled room, and they will provide a cargo of 500m3; the destination station lies on our planned route; no detour is needed.”

As each hauler, Lirraga hated to undock a ship with unused space in the cargo hold, thus the offer was more than suitable. From the other side, there is always cargo of opportunity, and some free space – a hundred cubic meters or so – should be reserved. It was not uncommon to meet pilgrims or other travelers in need, ready to pay hard ISK for the flight in the right direction.

“The connection with the client is established and we will know the details soon. Maybe it’s not so urgent.”

They both assumed more formal, business-like postures when the hologram of the Corth Arada appeared. The old landlord was talking from his villa down there.

“Well, it’s a blessing to meet an old friend of my nephew. Ric told me a lot about you. By the way, remind him to remember his family; I barely heard of him since he became a Paladin. But to the business. I have some living cargo already up there on the orbital station and I am most interested to get it out as soon as possible. As you know, the last decade was profitable here. Trade is vivid and the flight schedule of our usual contractors is tight. Transportation of any kind of livestock is booked for months ahead. The harvest time is just ended and the fruits and crops are the prioritized cargo. There are indications, that my “poor flock” became an expensive burden on the station. About the cargo now. The market is competitive and hard choices need to be made. So, to avoid inevitable inbreeding (yes, even the genetic… well… alterations can’t eliminate some side effects) I agreed to exchange some of the most promising – but at the same time disturbing – specimens with my business partner few systems away. It is not the easiest choice emotionally, you understand. That’s why we decided to send them out of the planet, not to just to the other continent, as we usually do.”

Lirraga nodded. He understood. As capsuleer, he had a near intimate feeling of each spaceship his pod was attached to; what to speak about living creatures? A passage from some old book came to his mind about a good shepherd, who knows each of his flock by name. A miniature slaver dog, white-and-brown two-year-old Dotty, taken as a puppet from Danyana, was sleeping at his feet right now, a living example of tender bonds between human and dog. Lirraga never got used to the emotionless vocabulary of farmers, who addressed their flocks of sheep, cattle, horses, etc in terms of “assets”, “heads”, “specimens”, ”units”, “pounds per months”, “inbreeding”… Lirraga never was interested in traditional farming, he dreamed of space flight. As most boys do, however.

“The planned transport was overbooked and now we suffer financial consequences of the delay. I admit it was not wise to accept the cheapest bid. The cargo is already a few weeks in the station. I am ready to pay - well, even double tariff! – just to get the station slots free of them. I would be thankful if you can depart with the cargo tonight.”

Depart on such short notice was a bold request. The manager gave a quick look at the CEO. On the other hand, the double price was a decent compensation.

The short awkward silence fell. In other circumstances, Lirraga would consider turning down the offer – the blue planet below, with its warm seas and steady winds was all he wanted right now, - or at least attempt to delay the departure, but the client was not a usual one. Landlord Corth Arada was not only from old and respectful Ni-Kunni family but his acquaintance and the uncle of his best friend, Ric. It was villa Arada, where Lirraga spent a few years preparing for the Institute, getting hands-on experience of how to run business. There were no other proper choices than to politely accept the offer and hope, that this favor will be returned one day. The double price will allow compensating the crew for the delay of the long-awaited days off, too. And each ISK earned was a step towards his dream – a Prorator-class blockade runner!

“By all means, it is always an honor to be of help to you” Lirraga rose and politely bowed to the hologram, knowing that down there, in the villa, not only each movement of his body – the slightest sign of emotion is carefully observed. “No extra payment is needed, to help each other in the time of need is a duty and privilege for me”

All three smiled. It meant, that the extra ISK will be processed in the less official way. That was handy as no one knows when the unaccounted ISK is needed.

“Fine, but you can’t refuse a few crates of the red wine. Needless to remind that you are always welcome to stay here, whenever you need to relax from your travels. The blue sky is as beautiful, like the black one.” Corth made the relaxed move, indicating the business part of the conversation is over. While Lirraga swallowed the last words of his uncle – his hospitality was sincere, but currently, the Corth was the one who broke Lirraga’s plans to marvel “the blue sky” – the Isagite interfered as the deal was not yet closed.

“There is a small issue to refine if you mind” – her voice was firm and focused. As a true Jin-Mei, she paid attention to the smallest of details. “According to the documentation, the cargo will be transported in bulk, in pressurized modules, not in individual cryopods. The usual, secure route is about 20 jumps, so the exposed cargo will suffer a lot; we clean the mess in the ship, sure, but the cargo might be delivered in less-marketable shape. The shortest way, 5 jumps only, doesn’t offer the usual security. If there is an armed opposition, a delay or even fatal loss of the ship and the cargo is not excluded. If I may ask, what is your risk tolerance, do you have any preference?”

Lirraga recalled how he smuggled Minmatar immigrants into the Gallentean space. They paid all they had to afford a one-way trip in the cheapest possible way – and suffered severely despite hour-long pauses after each jump. They looked miserable at the arrival, most of them swearing never to enter a spaceship again. Lirraga felt near sympathy for those poor souls – free people who didn´t manage to cope with their “freedom”.

However, he didn´t worry at all. TES Emilia was well insured, and it was easier to find a new crew for the transport ship than for an armed one; ordinary mortals are well aware of the risks involved with the enlisting on board of a capsuleerś ship. As of details, Lirraga was uninterested – he had lost few ships before; his thoughts were on a Prorator. He always trusted Isagite to discuss the details. Regarding the cargo – he had transported near everything possible, from exotic animals to Gallentean Holo-Vid reels.

It took seconds for Corth to consider the options. “The cargo was in station long enough; better to deliver it in better shape – or not to deliver at all. I’d prefer the shorter way; even if there is a risk of Blood Raiders interference. I’ll increase the payment for 20% if you accept the higher collateral – sounds fair?”

“Fair enough” – after Lirraga nodded and Isagite quickly closed the deal. After some small talk and the exchange of proper compliments, the hologram of the Corth Arada faded away.

Hints about the higher payment for the upcoming trip elevated moods of the crew, which was summoned back on board. Isagite routinely worked out the documentation. Lirraga strolled down the gallery towards the elevator to the pod station. The blue planet down below was entering the night with all her farmlands, forests, pastures, mountains, and seas; her towns now brightly illuminated. And the cargo rooms of TES Emilia were already being fitted with Basic Medium Pressurized modules to receive the cargo – a large group of Vherokior slaves.


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