The man seemed to be in his late thirties and had a frivolous look on him. Like most Altairians his face was heavily freckled, which did quite well with his yellowy orange hair. And like most Altairians who were born in the Years of the Flare he had to wear tinted glasses to make up for his visual deficiencies. But what was most irritating about him was the heavy Altairian accent, if you weren’t accustomed to it. At times he seemed to sing and at times he let out harsh staccatos of words.
“So, you’se that new Chief on them blocks, no? Fed says they’se gave you command over theirs hunger for stuff. Word is them Feds needs’em metals and alloys, no? Hao’se you doing? Everthing’s in order? Thing’ses turn out fine for ours a’dearest friends, ‘em Feds, no?”
He had his difficulties sorting out that gibberish. Chief Petty Officer Andrew Gaspurr had only recently been transferred to the Federation Navy’s Sector Logistics Command (SLC). The promotion had come along with it. One of the first tasks his superior, Lieutenant Commander Hobbs, gave him was to establish a network of reliable business clients with whom the Navy could deal.
The Federation was rapidly expanding into the Eravate area, ever since stories of its wealth in resources found their mark within the colonial bureaucracy. They were not yet ready to claim the majority of these worlds maybe, but they sure wanted to have a firm grip on their riches. So they had installed an Acquisitions Bureau in Eravate with all haste and were now scrutinizing the markets. And one outcome of this scrutiny was this Altairian broker. He might be eccentric but his record was flawless: Around two dozen business calls and they all named him as referral. At least those who had survived in business long enough (with him) to tell the tale.
So Andrew answered: “Well… Mister Masiun, is it? Araan Masiun? The Federation is interested in some major deals here, from metals and machinery to munitions, medical supplies and last but not least convenience items for troop morale. It would seem you have the contacts to get started fast and the Federation always likes people who can act fast. I invited you, because you seem to fulfil one or more criteria for working with us. With me, in fact.”
Masiun looked around in the Chief Petty Officer’s workplace. It was a big office and one of the walls was entirely covered with holo displays bearing nearly every bit of useful information in order to understand the region’s economy: extraction sites, service providers, stations, shipping lanes, shipping volumes, tons of rows of raw data and the buttons to put it all into an economic symphony worth tens of billions of credits. The other office wall had a plastisteel window directly overseeing the Eravate Trade Market. So if you ever were in need of more panels and statistics, you just had to look out of the window or shout down and somebody would answer as sure as hell.
“You’se Feds sure a’made some fancy, flashy show here, no doubt’ses. You’se wanna show’em how big you’se a’plunging into the biz here, how’em all must a’bow to them Feds way, no?”
Andrew put on his best pokerface smile: “Markets always welcome big investments. We are here to invest, are we not? Our ‘fancy, flashy show’ will bring wealth to the area. Wealth some of our new friends might even share with us, if they jumped on the train in time. Markets are fast. And markets forget those who weren’t there in the first place.”
“Yeah, youknow…” He pompously made himself comfortable in his chair. “Alrai sector ‘tis strange place, no? Not a trustful place, no. Not very. You’se best a’realizing you’se Feds are next to strangers.” He pointed his finger towards Andrew. “Occupants even. Not a’many merchants willin’ a’deal with occupants, no? Bad rep. It’s all ‘bout bad rep.”
Andrew stood up. He slowly went towards the big market screens, seemingly oblivious to his talkative guest. He crossed his hands behind his back and stood there for a moment.
“Pity. If only we could identify some – how shall I put it? – ‘key figures’ who know their stuff. It’s not like we could afford to sink billions of credits in a volatile market. I will not say, we need a ‘friend’. But then again… a trustful acquaintance perhaps?” He turned, raised an eyebrow towards Masiun and let that hang for a second.
He got his answer in form of a big grin: “It’s a’always good to know’se your’se friends.” He leaned forward as if wanting to share a secret. “Friends…, friends makes’em life much, much easier, no? And life? Why, life’ses a big game’o’buziness. You’se have your’se friends, you in big an’bigger.” He still grinned. If slyness could generate heat he would have incinerated the place.
Andrew was prepared. “You’re so right about this. I guess, Mendoza wasn’t your friend then, when you dumped him from that LTT 7421 salvage contract in ’98. But you weren’t exactly sued, were you? Last minute drop of the case.” He pretended to pause. “Or in ’96, when you bought out your own partner Reno Torr and handed him to FedSec on grounds of illicit Hevlian fur trade. Didn’t you publicly say that Torr was ‘one of the best friends a businessman could wish to have’ merely two months earlier? How that must have felt: Betrayed by a friend.”
Masiun seemed amused by all that, he did not so much as blink. “Who?” was his answering question.
Gaspurr went back to his chair. “You decide. And no fucks are given on my part. It’s not like we’re buying your loyalty here. We’re buying your skill to tell a good deal from a bad one. Like I said: An acquaintance who knows his stuff.” He shook his head: “I don’t need a buddy here. I need expertise on two legs and with more than half a brain. And an open wallet.”
“An’ what’ses that I’se a’trading in for these?”
He had him. He gestured towards all those flashy holo screens. “The usual. Endless holo conferences, databases full of business leads and shipping lanes, ordering people around checking market data, brunettes in high heels presenting business models, a big office with a view, dinner parties on Traders’ Floor, you get the picture. You’d be an important shoulder to rely on for the Federation in this sector.”
All Altairians were weasels after all.
Masiun grinned, his slyness being a supernova this time: “Deal!”