I actually wrote this to enter into Rachel Ritchey’s #blogbattle and at the time I did not have a wordpress site of my own, so she graciously posted it on her blog. I’m posting it here after the fact because I’m thinking I’m going to make a series of it, and thus it would be important to have the first installment of the series posted here along with the others.
A Smuggler’s Story
And why did he care? It wasn’t his ship. He probably wouldn’t even know what to do with one if it was. Blasted tickers. Blasted bureaucracy. Wasting everyone’s damn time. To hell with them all. But he was still there, his eyes staring innocently back into mine, waiting for an answer.
Drat. And I didn’t have an answer. I glared at him but he seemed not to notice. He appeared to be quite comfortable behind the bars and the high wooden counter top, surrounded by guards. Hell, who wouldn’t be? He leaned forward slightly, not even wrinkling his pressed black suit, to repeat the question more slowly, as if I hadn’t understood the first time. “What was the date of the last inspection of your craft, Mr. Jeck?”
“January tenth of last year,” I lied. I pulled a cig from my jacket pocket and started to light up. Would he check the truth of my claim? If he did I was toast. On the other hand, if I told him I had avoided the mandatory annual inspection for five years in a row, I was toast anyway. I was going down, my license was going down, I was going to be fined into a hole I might never get out of. I might as well dive off a cliff; I was finished. Dammit.
“Mr. Jeck if you would please refrain from smoking in here.”
I shot him another look of hatred that he didn’t appear to comprehend and dropped the cig on the marble floor, grinding it in with my boot. There was a flicker of something through his thick facade, a wince of intrusion on his compulsive sense of neatness. Then he regained his composure. He turned his gray eyes to look at a display to his right. “January tenth you say?”
“Yeah,” I muttered. I was definitely screwed. I wished I could rewind time and make different decisions. But I hadn’t known. I hadn’t known the empire had taken over Shotter’s Base. Shotter’s had always been on the fringe, always relaxed, you always knew you’d find friends at Shotter’s. Technically it was inside the empire’s territory, but there was a lot of territory and the imperial forces couldn’t be everywhere. But I guess sometime between my last visit and yesterday they had decided Shotter’s was an important hub to “straighten up” so to speak. I had arrived with my guard down and they had impounded my ship.
Why didn’t I get my craft inspected? Well first, because inspections are expensive, and second because they’re thorough. My ship was a cargo ship, and I had made a name for myself by my willingness to carry anything, no matter how illegal. When you carry things in the hold, it’s rare that there isn’t something left behind. A particle of dust, a hair follicle, a residue, a scent, something. None of my equipment was sensitive enough to detect any of that, but rest assured, imperial equipment was. I could flush out the hold, but I was still paranoid that I might have missed something. So I avoided inspections.
“January tenth, January tenth,” The ticker murmured as he searched the database. He looked to be about forty with a receding hairline and deep frown lines. I gathered he wasn’t much of a smiler, but that’s not really surprising.
From a doorway behind the tall counter top, a heavy-set silver-haired man that looked to be in his sixties walked up to the ticker and whispered something in his ear. The ticker looked suddenly unhappy and stood up from his chair, whisking away to the back room. The older man took his chair and grinned broadly at me. “So Mr. Jeck, when did you say your inspection was?”
“One, ten, forty-six.” I was tired of repeating, but somehow I couldn’t hate this guy. He didn’t seem so bad.
“Ah, yes, let’s have a look here,” he said congenially. He began typing on the membrane in front of the display. “hmm, yes, here we are. Results were good, you got a four-point-three rating, and it’s hard to beat that! Here’s the technical read out, yes, good, good, yep… Looks all squared away to me, let me print you out a pass to redeem your ship, I’m terribly sorry for the inconvenience.”
I was floored. “Th-thanks,” I stammered, “that’s quite alright, don’t mention it.”
The previous ticker came back to lean on the door frame, having overheard what was being said. “George are you sure you got the right records? I was just looking for that guy.”
“Well you must have missed him. It’s all right here, you want to see?” He angled the display towards his companion.
The man took a step toward him and leaned forward, squinting to make out what was on the display. After a moment he withdrew to the door again. “Well that’s strange, but sure enough, there he is. Alright George, carry on.”
George winked at me and lifted himself from the chair. “Let me escort you,” he said, moving around to the iron gate that kept a separation between the people inside and the people outside. He unlocked it and stepped to my side of it. Then he moved ahead of me and guided me through the halls of the base until we reached the dock where my ship was sitting. He greeted the guards along the way and led me all the way to the airlock of my ship where he handed me an envelope with a name scrawled across the front. I was still in a stupor of amazement at my own good fortune.
“You know you owe me,” he said, his voice low enough to not be heard by the guards. “Get this to the person it’s addressed to, and we’ll call it even.”
Copyright 2016 Grace Petrelli