Hello all, here we go with part 2 of last week’s story, and my entry for the story prompt “Indian” in Rachel Ritchey’s #blogbattle
Let me know what you think! Positive and negative feedback welcome. 🙂
A Smuggler’s Story, Part 2
Amilan Severs. Son of a terrestrial slug. Who the hell was that?
I had searched every database my questionable reputation would allow access to. Nothing. I was tempted to open the envelope just to satiate my own curiosity and then throw it out the nearest airlock. But I couldn’t. George had me by the balls, my gratitude toward him be damned. All he had to do was “discover” that he had been looking at the wrong file when he “thought” my record was clear, and every imperial patrol officer with something to prove would be out looking for me. I needed to find this person. Whoever they were.
So here I was, in a Callistian base, paying an old friend a visit, and hoping he could solve my problems.
“You gotta be desperate to come here,” Joe Clarkson said, his voice warbling with age, as he lifted the sealed white envelop to the light. “I know you hate the Jupiter district.”
I shrugged. It was true. Jupiterians didn’t agree with me. They were, for the most part, too snooty for my taste. Jupiter was a place of immense wealth in resources and trade possibilities. And wealth breeds rich people.
I watched Joe’s old, gnarled hands as he turned the envelope over a few times. Old man Joe, or Joe the Magician as some called him. People said that he could do anything. I hoped for my sake, they were right. I didn’t dare try to open that envelope myself. If I damaged it, the recipient would know I’d been snooping inside, and that probably wouldn’t bode well for me.
He sat down, his legs crossed indian-style, on a wooden floor, strewn with tools and instruments of chemistry. Flasks, Bunsen burners, knives, screwdrivers, water pumps, electrical meters and all sorts of measuring devices were scattered about in a chaos that even I found a little disconcerting. On his shelves there were numerous bottles of different substances, most of which had labels. One hoped the labels were accurate.
He leaned close to the envelope, his white beard almost touching the paper, scrutinizing it through his bifocals. After a time he nodded and pointed at the edge of the rectangle of paper, tilting it toward me so I could see. “Manufactured by the Tria Paper Company. You can tell because it’s beveled right here where it folds instead of rounded.”
“Is that good news or bad news?”
“Good news,” he said. “Now that I know who made it, I’ve got a pretty good idea what sort of adhesive was used to seal it. In this case they would have used an isobutylene compound. It makes a difference.”
He reached for a thin tube coming from a small steel tank no more than a foot in diameter. Despite appearances, his hands were quite nimble, and with just a short pressurized burst of gas from the tank, he had the envelope open with no marks, and no damage. He gently slipped the letter from the envelope and pushed his glasses up on his nose as he began to read aloud:
“General Amilan Severs.
“It is with regret that I inform you that your terms have not been accepted by the Emperor Terrence Malcom, son of Richard Malcom, and Ruler of the Solar Worlds.
“The Coalition will not be given any of what it requests, and alternatively, I have been instructed to tell you that immediate disbandment of your military regiments is advised. Any opposition will be met with deadly force.
“On the other hand, if you lay down arms, the Emperor gives his word that you will be embraced and welcomed into our society with open arms. The decision is yours.
Incredible. No wonder I couldn’t find this guy. I wasn’t looking in the Coalition! Who would’ve guessed that an imperial would want me to send a message to a Coalition General? And why did George think I would know who he was talking about? To be quite honest, I was a little offended at the presumption. Yeah, I was a borderline criminal, yeah, I’d done a little business with coalitionists under the table, but that didn’t make me a damned coalitionist. I didn’t know their politics. But hey, that assumption had gotten me out of hell and high water, so I couldn’t complain.
Robert Kull was the Emperor’s adviser, so this letter must be pretty important. I wondered who George was to be trusted with it. But then George had entrusted it to me – a nobody – without blinking, so perhaps I was over-thinking matters.
Old man Joe put the letter back inside the envelope and resealed it. I handed him a coin, and he handed me the envelope. “Thanks Joe, it means a lot.”
He waved at me like he was shooing away a fly. “Get out of here Tom,” he grunted. “You’re bad luck.”
I chuckled. “Damn right old man. I’ll see you around.”
I exited his shop and made my way to a local market. I would need supplies. It would take me about a week to get to the Oort cloud from Callisto. And just like that, I found myself planning to head into Coalition territory. Never thought I’d see the day.
Copyright 2016 Grace Petrelli