Catch of the Day

Catch of the Day

“Gallente frigate Notrimus, you’ve been cleared for docking. Prepare for initiation of docking sequence. Enjoy your stay in Korridi station.” The monotonous voice of the command tower’s personnel sounded even more bored than Gaspar Anoun was feeling. Although the journey had been short and relatively uneventful it was always tiresome to deal with Amarr custom officials, and Gaspar had met a lot of them in the last few hours since his arrival into Amarr space.

The Amarr station loomed large above him, majestic in its monstrosity. Gaspar swiveled his camera drone around, behind him he saw a line of ships waiting to dock while a handful of police vessels shuffled along the lines keeping an eye on the foreign merchant ships. Looking forward again he noticed that from his angle the sun was already partly obscured by the planet - it was late afternoon at the station.

Gaspar felt his ship respond to the commands of the docking sequence sent by the command tower. The ship sailed in a gentle curve towards a docking bay close to the lower end of the station. Gaspar noticed that the docking bay was only half full. This years Trade Fair wasn’t particularly well attended, it seemed. The auto-control eased the ship into a berth, fastening it with a loud clank and a low hiss.

The camera drone had entered the ship when it docked and only the infrared sensors were available to Gaspar to get a picture of his surroundings in the few moments it took the berth crane to lift the capsule from the ship. Gaspar always hated these moments, he relied heavily on his camera drone to get a sense of his whereabouts and with it gone he always became uncomfortably aware of the sticky goo and the blackness enveloping him in the capsule. But this discomfort was offset by the anticipation that in a few minutes he’d be free of the confines of the capsule and his senses would again be allowed to feel and function normally.

Gaspar washed himself clean in the neat little shower box adjacent to the disembarkation room. Then he dressed himself, putting on clothes he kept in the small storage box in his capsule. He chose a smart looking suit with a long-sleeved jacket, nothing too fancy - he didn’t want to irritate the Amarrians too much by his appearance. Gaspar left the room and commissioned a cart robot to follow him with his luggage taken from the ship’s cargo hold.

On the corridor connecting the docking area with the main body of the station Gaspar was greeted by a short Gallentean in a ruffled suit. The man introduced himself, matching his stride with that of Gaspar’s.

“My name is Naine, Niedanai Naine. I have been appointed as your diplomatic attaché during your stay here.” He wheezed, smoothing his greasy hair.

“A diplomatic attaché you say.” Gaspar said, hiding his surprise. “I don’t recall having requested one.”

“It’s the policy now, sir.” Naine said with a tiny smile. “The Federation demands that all Gallenteans wishing to enter into a formal trade agreement with the Amarrians must be accompanied by a diplomatic attaché from the Foreign Ministry.”

“How very thoughtful of them. So, your role is what? Fetch my slippers, make me coffee, that sort of thing?” Gaspar answered sarcastically.

“No, sir.” Naine said, visibly hurt. “No. I’m to ensure that your dealings with the Amarrians remain civilized and go through smoothly. In the last few months there have been numerous incidents where the negotiating parties parted on bad terms because of some real or imaginary slights. It is my job to make sure that any misunderstandings don’t escalate into a serious breach.”

“I see. Tell me Naine, you must have extensive experience in dealing with the Amarrians, right?” Gaspar asked.

“I have worked for the ministry for 14 years. During that time I have analyzed and filed thousands of field reports on every race there is.”

“So you have no direct experience of a face to face contact with the Amarrians?” Gaspar probed.

“Well… I, uh…” Naine’s face suddenly seemed flushed. “Not as such, sir.”

“So, correct me if I’m wrong.” Gaspar said in an amused tone. “You, a man with absolutely no experience in dealing with the Amarrians or anybody else for that matter, are going to supervise me - a 20 year veteran of inter-stellar trading - in how to conduct my business. Is that right?”

“Well, I won’t supervise as such. I’m more of an advisor, you see.” Naine said hesitantly.

“Ok then, Mr. Advisor. Why don’t you give yourself the advice to stay out of my face and we’ll have peace and harmony all around. I’ll quietly make my deal and for you it’s mission accomplished.” Gaspar said convincingly. Naine mulled things over for a minute before answering:

“I guess that could work, as long as I’m present when you’re conducting your negotiations, sir.”

“Splendid. Stick to me my dear Niedanai, and not only will we swing a hefty profit back home sweet home, but along the way I’ll teach you a trick or two about being a Gallentean super-trader.” Gaspar said raucously and put his hand over Naine’s shoulders.

“So Naine, where are you from?” Gaspar asked in a friendly tone.

“Me, sir? I’m from Sacreaux.” Naine replied perplexed. “In the Neronne district.” He added when he saw the lack of recognition on Gaspar’s face.

The two men navigated the narrow corridors of Korridi station en route to Gaspar’s suite, the cart robot trudging behind them carrying Gaspar’s emerald-green travel trunks. Gaspar knew his way well around the station as he’d been here many times before. He stayed clear of the busy thoroughfares, preferring the side corridors as they allowed for a more relaxed stroll. He used the time to explain to the woefully ignorant attaché the purpose if his trip here.

“You know, Naine, the Amarrians can be a real pain in the ass to deal with. But the Amarr Empire is a huge market and it seems every soul there is crying out for Gallentean or Caldari or Jovian goods. The Amarrians like to regulate things, just to let you know who’s got the power, and these Trade Fairs are a part of that. You can’t just waltz into the Empire and start trading left and right. You have to have permission to trade certain goods. That’s what these Trade Fairs are all about - establishing contacts, making trade agreements, getting permission, you get the picture.”

“So it’s not a market fair, then?” Naine asked. Gaspar shook his head.

“No,” he answered. “There’s very little actual trading going on, it’s all about making those connections.”

“Sir, I’ve been waiting here since yesterday morning, when the fair started. Why are you running so late, the fair ends at midnight tonight?” Naine inquired.

“It’s all part of the head game.” Gaspar said, tapping the side of his head. “My trade rivals will be thinking the exactly same thing. And the more they wonder, the more irritated they become, which is good for us. It’s all a part of the Plan.” Gaspar finished with a flourish, waving his hands in the air like he was talking about some religious experience. Then he laughed heartily and slapped Naine on the shoulders.

“Very clever, sir.” Naine said, obviously wondering how much truth was in what Gaspar had just said.

“Remember, my dear Niedanai, appearance counts for everything.” Gaspar said and looked at Naine’s skeptical face. “You’ll see.”

Gaspar’s suite was more of an apartment, with a huge living room and a luxurious bedroom. The suite was decorated in the latest Gallentean fashion, contrasting nicely with the somber but stylish Amarr fashion. Gaspar unloaded the cart robot in the living room and sent it rumbling back. Then he ushered Naine out of the room.

“I’ll have to make some small preparations before we go to the main hall. I’ll be with you in five.”

Once the door had closed on Naine, Gaspar in a quick motion belying his former easy manners opened his briefcase, revealing a small portable computer. He plugged the computer into the station’s public system. For the next few minutes his agile fingers tapped furiously at the keyboard, only stopping occasionally when he established contact with persons in other parts of the station and brief conversations ensued. Finally, he slapped the computer shut, locking it again down into his briefcase. Brushing down creases on his trousers, he then proceeded out into the corridor once more, where Naine was patiently waiting.

“Ready, sir?” Naine asked, the disdain in his voice over Gaspar’s apparent fussiness over his physical appearance barely visible.

“Ready for anything.” Gaspar replied cheerfully, again embracing his jovial charismatic behavior as they set out for the elevators to the main hall.

The floor of the main hall was an unblemished white marble and the ceiling was a sparkling glass dome, through which the lush Korridi planet was clearly visible. The effect was quite magnificent, something the Amarrians excelled in portraying. The sheer size of the hall seemed to engulf everyone in it and it almost had the appearance of being deserted. Numerous small groups of people were scattered around it, huddled together in discussion. The majority of those present were Amarrians, with Caldari and Gallenteans being of about equal number. There were even a few Jovians visible, but understandably not a single Minmatar was in sight. Waiters scurried around carrying trays stacked with glasses filled with every kind of drink imaginable.

A gaudily dressed Gallentean waddled towards Gaspar and Naine. The man was obese and reeked of greed.

“I knew you would come, Gaspar you bastard!” The man almost shrieked, turning a few heads in the vicinity. “Not sure if could stomach another round against Anton, eh? I’m telling you, this time you’ll leave empty handed. Anton hasn’t been idle in your absence, no he hasn’t.”

“Well, well, well, if it isn’t the great Anton Ecumide. Master of shaky investments and lost deals.” Gaspar replied, seemingly unruffled by Anton’s rude manners.

“Don’t you taunt me, Gaspar. It will only make you look all the more of a fool when I’ve stolen each and every one of your deals from under your nose.” Anton said and grinned nastily. It didn’t help his appearance a bit.

“Let me introduce you, Niedanai this is the esteemed entrepreneur Anton Ecumide. Anton, this is my diplomatic attaché Niedanai Naine.” Gaspar said, continuing to ignore Anton’s outbursts.

“I see yours sticks to you like a fly on shit. How appropriate. I kicked mine out the moment I arrived. I believe he’s sulking in some corner composing a complaint to his superiors.” Anton said nastily.

“Aw, I saw pity on the poor lad. I’m teaching him the ropes of inter-racial trading.” Gaspar said. Anton replied, addressing Naine:

“Watch out, boy. Don’t let the manipulative bastard screw too much with your mind. As for you, Gaspar, I hope you’ll sleep well tonight.” With that Anton stormed away, giving Gaspar an evil side-look as he passed him.

“I can sense you two share a lot of history.” Naine said to Gaspar once Anton was out of earshot.

“Yes, our paths have crossed many times in the past. Old Anton never seems to get the breaks and he blames me for his bad fortune.” Gaspar answered.

“And is he right? Are you to blame?” Naine inquired. Gaspar just smiled, clasped his hands behind his back and ventured further into the hall at a leisurely pace.

Gaspar set the course for a couple of richly dressed Amarrians standing by themselves. Once close enough to be heard Gaspar said:

“Governor Sed-Innad, you’re looking older than ever.” Naine jumped at the words, fearing the Amarrian would flare up at the insult. But when the older Amarrian just smiled he remembered that to the Amarrians looking old was a sign of maturity and stature. The younger Amarrian, probably still in his twenties, had even made obvious efforts to make himself look older than he actually was, thinning his hair and painting his face pale and gaunt. The older Amarrian, the one Gaspar had addressed as governor, was at least a century old. The two shook hands, they undoubtedly knew each other well.

“Gaspar Anoun.” The governor said warmly. “So you turned up after all.” The old man indicated the younger Amarrian standing beside him and continued:

“This is my nephew, Tarnak Nas-Innad. We’re searching for a suitable position for him.” The young man bowed a little to Gaspar.

“Of course.” Gaspar said nonchalantly. “After all, next to despotism nepotism is the favorite past-time of the Amarrians, right? You guys never change.”

“And neither do you, Gaspar. Always the witty one. One of these days your rude quips will become your bane.” The governor replied, yet he didn’t seem the least bit ruffled.

“Forgive me, my lord.” Gaspar said. “Unfortunately Asslicking 101 wasn’t on the curriculum at my school. Instead I had to learn such useless tasks as adding and subtracting. Such a pity.” By now Naine was literally jumping from foot to foot in his anxiety, fearing the worst.

“Gentlemen, meet my diplomatic attaché, Niedanai Naine. He seems a little agitated at the moment.” Gaspar said and turned to Naine. “What’s the matter? You need to use the little boys room?” Naine, noticing that the Amarrians were still calm despite Gaspar’s words, composed himself.

“No, sir. I’m fine. Don’t mind me.” He finally murmured. Gaspar turned back to governor Sed-Innad.

“How’s the wheeling and dealing going?” The governor asked.

“I just got here. No time to screw anybody over yet.” Gaspar answered jokingly.

“And the Upper Debyl deal?” The governor inquired, taking a sip from his glass.

“On schedule. It can proceed.” Gaspar answered, giving Naine a glance. The governor stood silent for a minute, sipping his wine.

“So what’s this I’m hearing about you trading in Caldari wares, Gaspar?” He finally asked.

“Pure coincidence. I happened upon this heap of excellent Caldari scanner systems a while ago. Dead cheap. You know I’m not scrupulous about what I sell. Or to whom.” Gaspar answered.

“Well, lucky for you then. Scanner systems are always in demand. Anywhere.” The governor said innocently.

“My thought exactly, governor.” Gaspar said. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to mingle a bit.” The Amarrians nodded their heads in farewell and Gaspar and Naine did the same. Then Gaspar set out for a group of Caldari standing near the main entrance. Naine took the opportunity to berate Gaspar.

“What you did was very dangerous, sir. The governor could easily have been offended and where would you stand then?” He said.

“Me and governor Sed-Innad go way back, Naine. He’s as close to being a friend of mine as an Amarr Holder can be. Besides, I’ve told you, it pays to get people on the edge.” Gaspar answered.

“I’m still not convinced of that, sir.” Naine said sourly.

“Look, it’s very simple.” Gaspar explained. “Both the Amarrians and the Caldari put a huge stock in maintaining their dignity and posture. If you crack that mask a little by unorthodox behavior you make them uneasy, unsure of the situation. Pierce that crack a bit more open and before long you have them eating out of your hand. And that, my dear Niedanai, is the whole idea.”

By now they were very close to the Caldari group. Naine saw by the military uniforms some of them wore that they were representatives of the CBD Corporation. The Gallenteans stopped just outside the little group. The Caldari ignored them for a few minutes, on purpose no doubt, trying to gain the upper hand in the upcoming discussion. Finally, one of them, apparently the head of the delegation turned towards them. He was a tall, grim-looking man in a military uniform.

“I’m major Ati Mittuchi.” The man gave a brief military salute. “Whom do I have the pleasure of conversing with?” He continued in a formal tone, looking questioningly at Gaspar and Naine.

“I’m Gaspar Anoun, this is my diplomatic attaché Niedanai Naine.” Gaspar said, giving a mock salute in response, something that didn’t go down too well with the Caldari.

“Ah, so you’re Anoun.” The major said. “I should have recognized you by your flamboyant arrogance.”

“The one and only.” Gaspar said, showing no sign of irritation over the major’s insult. “Tell me major, this is a Trade Fair. Where’s the war? Why this military showdown?”

“The Amarrians respect power, Mr. Anoun. They, like everybody else, want to make sure that what they’ve bargained for gets delivered in one piece. Now, with all those pesky Minmatars pirates around, the Amarrians appreciate all assurances that the border-zone trade routes are safe.” The major said confidently.

“So you’re giving a safe delivery guarantees? That must cost a bit.” Gaspar said.

“Our trade package is very reasonably priced, Mr. Anoun. And most importantly, for a few extra credits every item is guaranteed to arrive safe and sound. That’s naturally much better than never getting anything at all.”

“Is it?” Gaspar looked surprised. “Gosh! I never would have thought of that. You Caldari sure do think things through.” The major seemed to inflate with smugness. Beneath that dignified exterior hid a pompous man Naine thought. And Gaspar flushed him out right away with some silly sarcasm, something most people saw right through.

“Well, too bad for you then that the Amarrians are planning on dealing with me.” Gaspar continued. The major exhaled, his face turning red.

“What?” He shouted. “So you’re the one that have been offering our scanners to the Amarrians at a ridiculous price, eh? Well, I’m interested to know were you got your product from, Mr. Anoun. I wouldn’t be the least surprised if we found out that these were stolen goods. Ah, ah, don’t look so offended, Mr. Anoun, it isn’t your style. So, can you show us legitimate papers to certify where you acquired the scanners?” Suddenly the Caldari seemed more menacing, looming over the two Gallenteans. Gaspar took his time reaching for a glass from a passing waiters’ tray and taking a sip before answering the major’s accusations.

“Your paranoia amuses me, major. I will indulge your interest. I got them from Yria Base.” Gaspar reached into his pocket and produced an id-chip, handing it to the major. “Check this out. It should satisfy your curiosity.” The major gave the chip to one of his assistants, who inserted it into his palm computer. He scanned his screen for a few minutes before speaking.

“The chip seems to be authentic, sir.” The assistant said.

“Just to make sure contact Yria Base, check their logs.” The major said, handing the id-chip back to Gaspar. The assistant established wireless contact to the Korridi station’s mainframe and requested a com link to Yria Base. Gaspar put the chip back in his pocket and Naine noticed he seemed to finger something in his pocket for a second before retrieving his hand. The assistant fiddled with his palm computer for a minute before speaking again:

“Sir, we’re unable to establish contact with Yria Base, there’s some interference. The Amarrians think it’s one of these sun flare phenomenons.” The major seemed disappointed.

“Well, Mr. Anoun. How fortunate for you. You seemed to be sweating there.” He said.

“The idea of all the credits I’ll make on these scanners tonight makes me all hot, major.” Gaspar teased. The major frowned.

“Good evening to you, Mr. Anoun. And don’t expect to get lucky every time.” He said and prepared to leave.

“Believe me, major. Luck has nothing to do with it.” Gaspar replied and raised his glass in farewell. Gaspar and Naine watched the Caldari delegation depart, the major cursing the poor assistant for his incompetence.

“Come, Niedanai, lets return to my suite. “ Gaspar said and started to leave the main hall. Naine was stunned.

“But, Mr. Anoun, you just got here. You haven’t made any deals yet.” He said.

“There are still two hours till midnight. Plenty of time.” Gaspar said while they waited for an elevator.

“If I may say so, sir, I don’t understand why you’re trying to outbid the Caldari on their own product, it seems so far fetched. And what is this Upper Debyl deal you and the governor were talking about?” Naine asked, his curiosity getting the better of his manners.

“It will all be revealed in good time, my dear Niedanai. For now, let’s just say that I’m playing the head game for the high stakes. It’s all about keeping your adversaries occupied.” Gaspar answered as they entered the elevator. Once the elevator’s door had closed behind them Gaspar fetched a palm computer from his pocket. He frowned at it for a moment.

“It seems my palmer is out at the moment. Can I borrow yours for a second? I just have to send one simple message.” Gaspar asked.

“Uh, sure. Here you go, sir.” Naine handed Gaspar his palm computer. Gaspar operated it quickly and efficiently and finished before the elevator reached their floor. Nothing more was said before they came to the double-doors leading to Gaspar’s suite. Gaspar spent some time staring at the doors like he was expecting them to open on their own. Finally the two of them entered the suite. Gaspar sat by his desk and once again opened his briefcase with the portable computer. He established a com link and briefly chatted with a Gallentean on the other end.

“Who was that?” Naine asked when Gaspar had closed his briefcase.

“That was my good friend Barridour. He’s organizing a little something for me later tonight.” Gaspar answered. Naine stood mulling things over for a while before he poured himself a glass of water from a jug on a side table.

“I wouldn’t drink that if I was you.” Gaspar said as Naine raised the glass to his lips.

“Eh? Why not?” Naine asked.

“Because there is a sleeping potion in there. It will put you to sleep for the rest of the night.” Gaspar answered.

“How do you know?” Naine said, putting the glass down.

“Because the fool Anton Ecumide more or less blurted it out when we ran into him. And when I noticed that someone had fiddled with the lock on our door it was easy to figure out. But now, we must ready ourselves for the night. Don’t you have anything better to wear than that wrinkled suit?” Gaspar asked. Naine looked down on his suit.

“Uh, yeah. I’ve got a spare suit.” He answered.

“Good, why don’t you change into that and meet me here in 15 minutes?” Gaspar said.

“Very well, sir. But I can be ready in five.” Naine said.

“But I can’t, Mr. Naine. Fifteen minutes, ok?” Gaspar said. Once Naine was out of the room, Gaspar once more got his portable computer out of the briefcase and fired it up. First one to appear on his screen was governor Sed-Innad.

“Well?” Gaspar asked.

“He bought it. Double what we’d figured.” The governor said smiling. “And the Caldari?” He asked.

“They took the bait. Expect to haul them in later tonight.” Gaspar answered. “That only leaves our little deal…” He finished.

“Yes, of course. I’ll give you the confirmation later tonight. And the guards you asked for will be ready, as you requested.” The governor replied.

“Good, good. Then all is settled. See you tonight.” Gaspar said and cut off the link. He established another connection. This time a serene Jovian face appeared on the screen.

Naine was waiting patiently outside in the corridor when Gaspar left his suite some ten minutes later. Naine looked marginally better in a light gray suit, but still left a lot to be desired.

“Where are we going, sir?” Naine asked.

“Now, my dear Niedanai, I’m going to show you how real Gallenteans conduct their business.” Gaspar exclaimed. “Until now we’ve been playing by the business books of the Amarrian and the Caldari - boring conversation between somber men making somber deals that might earn their grandchildren a nickel. They’re always complimenting themselves how smart they are in their long term planning, but there’s no fun in it Niedanai, no fun in it at all. I mean look at them. They labor like ants around the clock, setting aside some measly sum so they can go on some lame space cruising when they’ve become too old and spent to work anymore. They’re spending their youth toiling away so they can have a bit of fun when they’re 150 years old. Too old to have any real fun, as I see it. Where’s the logic in that, I ask you? You know what their problem is?” Gaspar paused, obviously expecting some kind of an answer from Naine.

“Uh, I don’t know, sir. What’s the problem?” Naine ventured.

“They’re too fixed up on keeping work and leisure separate. To them, the two things don’t go together. But we Gallentean traders know that work and leisure go very well together, they’re just two sides of the same coin. Meaningful playing and playful working, that’s what I always say.” Gaspar finished his speech just as the two reached a large double-door at the end of a corridor.

“And now, Niedanai, I’ll show just what I mean.” With that Gaspar threw the doors open. Loud noise and bright lights engulfed Naine, battering his every sense. Behind the doors was a large room and at the moment it was filled with laughing, shouting people. There was a wild party going on. The attendants were mostly other Gallenteans, but a number of Amarrians and some Caldari were also to be seen.

“What do you think?” Gaspar shouted over the din.

“I don’t know, sir. What’s going on?” Naine asked clearly bewildered.

“This is what I was organizing. This is playful work, or meaningful playing, which ever you prefer, in it’s purest form.” Gaspar said and then dived into the crowd.

Gaspar quickly got into his host gear, walking among the guests, shaking hands with many and sharing a brief chat with some. Naine trailed behind, trying to grasp the situation.

In one of the corners Gaspar came upon Anton Ecumide seated with couple of girls on each arm. The man was already well drunk. When he saw Gaspar he cackled loudly and shouted:

“Gaspar! I bet you’re wishing you were asleep right now because I stole the Upper Debyl system from right under your nose, just as I promised!” Anton laughed loudly, enjoying his victory to the fullest. Gaspar seemed a little taken aback.

“How did you know…?” He stammered. “Well, never mind. Say, Anton, I’ll buy it back from you. Whatever you paid plus 50% extra, that’s a hefty profit right there.” He said, looking hopeful.

“In your dreams. That system is mine. You’ll never get it!” Anton laughed again, even louder this time. Gaspar, dejected, walked away. Anton’s shrill laughter chasing his heavy steps. Naine followed Gaspar, wanting to comfort him but unsure how to go about it without embarrassing him even more. Once they were close to the entrance Gaspar whispered quietly to Naine:

“Can he see us?” Naine looked back, Anton was hidden from view by a happy throng of party-goers.

“No, the crowd is in the way.” Naine replied.

“Good.” Gaspar said and then he lifted his slumped shoulders and unwrinkled his saddened face. The old Gaspar was back again, jolly as always.

“Well, Naine. That went rather well, didn’t you think?” He said merrily. Naine felt his head spinning.

“But, sir. Anton just bought the system you were after.” He said.

“Yes, he did.” Gaspar said. “And do you know why I was after it?” He asked with a twinkle in his eye.

“Well, I guess because there’s something of value there.”

“No, the system is totally and utterly void of anything interesting or valuable. I was after it because I wanted Anton to buy it.” Gaspar said. Suddenly it dawned on Naine:

“I see, sir. You knew that if Anton heard about your interest in the system, then he would become interested in it. So you deliberately started the rumor that you wanted to buy it. Very clever, sir. But from whom did Anton buy it? No! Don’t answer, let me guess. Governor Sed-Innad, right?

“Well, the governor’s brother actually. But otherwise you’re correct in your assumptions, well done. You might have a future in politics after all.” Gaspar said. Naine beamed. Gaspar spotted governor Sed-Innad and his nephew. He waved them to come over. Then he leaned towards Naine and said:

“Meet me at my suite in one hour. I’ve got some business to discuss and then some hard partying to do.” Then Gaspar took Naine’s arm and led him to a sofa where two Gallentean beauties were seated. “Why don’t you in the meantime get on first name basis with my friends over here?” Gaspar whispered into Naine’s ear and steered him down into the sofa.

“Sir, are you sure about this?” Naine wailed in near panic as the two girls leaned into him on both sides.

“One hour, remember that!” Was all Gaspar shouted as he led the Amarrians away into the crowd.

An hour later a sweaty but happy Gaspar rounded the corner to his suite. It didn’t surprise him all that much to see Naine already waiting in front of the door. His hair was tangled and his cloths disheveled.

“So, did you get on ok with the girls?” Gaspar asked him as he led them into his suite.

“They… they we’re like animals!” Naine exclaimed, clearly still flustered from his encounter.

“Ooo! You lucky man!” Gaspar said smiling. The two men entered the living room. Two heavyset Amarrians were seated near the door. They stood up when Gaspar and Naine came in.

“Ah, gentlemen.” Gaspar said, not the least surprised to see the two Amarrians there. Gaspar seated himself while the Amarrians planted themselves on either side of Naine.

“Well, Naine. I’m afraid this is the end of the road for you.” Gaspar signaled the Amarrians, which promptly pinned Naine’s arms to his sides. Naine’s face registered astonishment and fear in equal proportions.

“What’s the meaning of this? I will let you know that I’m employee of the Foreign Ministry, they’ll surely hear about this and then it’s the end of the road for you, pal.” Naine said, anger welling up in him.

“I’m afraid not. The Foreign Ministry has fired you and absolved themselves from any fate that may befall you. And your fate is in my hand.” Gaspar said harshly. “I can see you’re confused, Mr. Naine. I’ll make things a bit clearer for you. I know that you’re a Caldari agent.” Naine licked his lips, but otherwise his face was impassive. For a minute neither man said a word, then Naine spoke:

“You come here all high and mighty, constantly making boisterous remarks and outrageous claims. But now you have gone too far. I’m afraid I cannot let these accusations go unanswered.” He said, sounding confidant, but sweating profusely.

“Don’t bother with the lies and denials.” Gaspar said. He reached into his pocket and produced a small data-vis chip. He activated it and a pale hologram sprouted from the floor between the pair. Even if it was grainy and occasionally out of focus the men in the hologram were clearly the Gallentean diplomatic attaché Niedanai Naine and major Ati Mittuchi of CBD Corporation. The two were conversing in hushed tones in a bar or restaurant it seemed.

“Do you want me to turn the sound up?” Gaspar said. “It’s pretty condemning, what with you spilling your guts about all sorts of interesting issues supposedly a secret. I have a whole stack of these holograms.” Naine seemed to go weak at the knees, slumping like a drunken man. Then he contemplated for a moment trying to escape the steel grips of the hulking Amarrians, but thought better off it.

“Your fate is sealed, my dear Niedanai.” Gaspar said, driving the facts home.

“What made you suspect me?” Naine finally moaned pathetically, seeing no point in trying to deny anything anymore. He was clearly crestfallen, his little world collapsing around him.

“Huh! You’re more Caldari-like than many Caldari I know. You practically reek of being their spy.” Gaspar answered. “All I needed was a confirmation and I got it earlier tonight from a Jovian contact I have. Do you know what I had to pay for a proof? Do you know what you’re worth to the Jovians?” Gaspar taunted. Naine shook his head.

“A rock. A medium sized rock from Gallente Prime. Not a special rock at all, just… a rock. Don’t you find that funny?” Naine vas visibly shaking by now, his body hanging limb between the Amarrian strongmen. Gaspar continued:

“But then again I understand that is the standard price for a Caldari spy: a medium sized rock from Gallente Prime. Weird, don’t you think? If you ask me I think the Jovians are conducting a little experiment. Are there more Caldari spies within the Gallente Federation than there are medium sized rocks on Gallente Prime? I don’t know, maybe one day we’ll have to go to the Jovian Empire to visit our ancestral planet.” Gaspar let out a short laugh at the thought.

“What are you going to do to me?” Naine whispered.

“I’m selling you to the Amarrians.” Gaspar said coldly. “Oh, don’t worry, you’ll be well cared for, you’re going to one of their better slave plantations. I gather the work is not so hard there once you get used to the heat. I hear they got a slave spokesman there, sort of like a union leader. I’m sure if you put the things I’ve taught you tonight to good use you can work your way up to it. And until then, remember, playful working. Take him away, boys.” The Amarrians started dragging Naine towards the door.

“Wait, wait!” Naine wailed. “Answer me just one question. How did the Caldari deal go?” Gaspar motioned the guards to halt. Then he withdrew the id-chip from his pocket and threw it at Naine’s feet.

“That chip is a phony, Mr. Naine. Just like you.” Gaspar said. “It was all a ruse, a bit of a trickery by me and governor Sed-Innad. He got the Caldari to lower their price by 15%, I’ll get a share of the profit and my own little deal involving Gallentean-made ship thrusters went through smoothly, what with all my rivals focusing on something entirely different. I guess major Mittuchi is quite pleased with himself at the moment for ‘outbidding’ my Caldari scanners, but I’m not so sure if his superiors will agree when they discover that I’ve never bought any scanners on Yria Base. That’s what happens when they send amateur negotiators to do a real man’s work. Goodbye, Mr. Naine.” The two guards dragged the whimpering man out of the suite.

Gaspar sat down at his desk, pouring himself a stiff drink and DNA drug tested it before sipping. He ran the events of the day through his head. The thruster deal alone netted a hefty 200% profit and his share of the Upper Debyl sale and the Caldari deal was not too shabby either. Firing up his portable computer he scanned his diary, making a few notes and reflecting upon those things next on the agenda. He established connection with the station management office.

“Wake me up at 7 am tomorrow.” He said to the receptionist, glancing at his timepiece. “And can you contact the docking bay and make them have my ship prepared at 8 am?”

“Yes, sir. Have a good night.” The receptionist answered. Gaspar leaned back in the chair, taking another sip.

‘Tomorrow its Hrokkur station for those sly Krusuals and their contraband goods. And the day after… Well, lets not waste today thinking too much about future days. I’ll play it by the ear as always.’ Gaspar thought. Saluting himself in the mirror he drank the rest of the spirit and went to bed.