Was originally planned years ago as a dedication to an old corpmate. However, it never did make it into print….until now. I hope you all like it!
For Love and Money
Norin Mahddson awoke with a broad smile. Today, he was going to make a killing. He had a plan.
He attended to his morning rituals and when cleaned and fed, he dressed in a worn but comfortable flight suit. All the while smiling at what was to come. He stepped out his door and was greeted by a brilliant sunrise. He stretched and breathed deeply while the breeze danced across his light olive skin and dark hair. Today was going to be warm and pleasant. It was too bad he would miss it. He heard a woman’s voice and he turned to look across his small property. Elian, his wife of twenty years jogged to catch up with him. She was a stunning beauty in her youth; he was so lucky to have won her favor. Over his years of marriage, she had given him three beautiful children and tended the house while he was away. As she closed the distance, she still looked lovely. The years had been kind to her and had converted the stunning beauty of youth to a stately femininity. Despite the dirty work coveralls, her sun streaked hair and lightly tanned skin gave her a radiant look.
“Oh good,” she said, “You’re smiling this morning. You always do so well when you wake up happy.” She gave him a hug and a kiss then took his head in her soil stained hands. “Be careful.” She insisted. “I’m not worried about riches; I am worried about my husband coming back to me.”
“What if I return to you a capsuleer, pockets jingling with wealth?” He asked, adopting an air of exclusivity.
She frowned, “Why, then I shall divorce you, take our children and find another man whom I can give my life and love.” She smiled and snuck in another kiss. “You know I don’t care for such things. We have a small but beautiful home, wonderful children, happiness, and we love each other. We do not need such silly things as capsuleer.” She waved away the word ‘capsuleer’ like an insect about her head, but then stopped and looked pensive. “Love, I know we’ve talked about this many times, but do you really want such a thing?”
He sighed; they had indeed had this conversation many times. “Elian, I must work hard to supply the meager things we have. Being a capsuleer would open new avenues. I know that my skills applied with a capsuleer’s influence would provide for us much better.”
She pouted; an expression that looked slightly out of place but he found it adorable. “I love you and I’m happy with our life.” She brushed the errant bits of soil clinging to his flight suit from their embrace. “I only want us to be happy, go grow old together, and not have our life complicated by such things.” She turned him towards the road and said, “Now shoo! You will miss your convoy.” He looked back over his shoulder and smiled as he walked to the street. She was smiling but he knew that she was holding back tears.
He took transport to a shuttle facility and commuted in an Interbus shuttle to the station in orbit. He moved purposefully to the lower rent docks where his hauling vessel was birthed. As he walked through the Capsuleer docking areas, there were larger and more wondrous industrials and freighters, their pilots and crews working studiously. “Ah,” he thought. “Someday I shall be wealthy enough to fly among the stars with the wealth of kings.” His broad smile faltered at this thought. He had managed to hide away a small amount of actual ISK. If Elian had known that he had acquired and hidden actual ISK, she may have disapproved. But an independent trader must be prepared for eventualities. His smile returned with the thought, “I’ll not let the big fish get away for lack of funds.”
As he approached his ship, the Wine Song, and placed his hand against the hull, touching it lightly as he walked its length. “Bring me wealth and bring us back safe.” He said aloud, part of his preflight ritual. A loud clang caught his attention and he looked up to see the mass of his chief mechanic, Ronner. Ronner lifted the welding mask from his eyes and looked down to Norin with a scowl.
“The shield emitter is back online and we’re ready for space.” He growled. “Let’s hope that pirates have better targets to chase this trip.”
Norin beamed his broad smile back to the oft grumbling mechanic and said, “This should be an easy run. I have no intentions of going back through pirate space.”
Ronner scowled down to the ship’s owner. “You said that last time. Look what that got us.” He snapped.
Norin smiled even more broadly, “It got us a fat paycheck and plenty of supplies to keep this lady operating.” He placed his hand on the hull of the plain hauler. Ronner grumbled something unintelligible in Matari and went back to work with his customary scowl. Normally, Norin would not have kept Ronner in his employ but he was a near miraculous mechanic, despite his grumbling. There had been more than one encounter aboard the hauler that would have ended their lives, were it not for the crusty old grease monkey. “We’ll be fine!” he shouted up over the general din of the hangar. “Are we loaded?” he asked, timing the question when Ronner started back into welding just to be irksome.
“I said we were ready for space.” Ronner snarled back, his welding mask flipping back into place.
“I’m planning on cutting your pay!” Norin shouted up with authority.
The mechanic flipped up the welding visor, this time with a grin that matched Norin’s. “Then you won’t survive the trip.” He said, then flipped the visor down and resumed his welding.
The trip had been blessedly uneventful. The Wine Song’s crew had already netted a tidy little profit from running trade goods along the caravan route but Norin had his sights set on one more prize. A call had passed along the caravans of an agricultural world called Targin Flat. The world had been recently recolonized by a brave group after the previous inhabitants went missing. Upon the colonist’s arrival, they found the infrastructure of the previous colony more or less intact with the neglected equipment and dwellings as their major concern. The colonists called upon the merchant captains for goods and materials but none had braved the trip.
Dark rumors had circulated among the merchant fleets that a deep incursion from Sansha captured the original colonists. Many of the trader captains were interested in tapping this new market, but were anxious of being the first. Often heard were ‘What if they return’ and ‘the place is an ill omen’. Most of the captains were content to wait and see who would be the first to chance it.
The Wine Song crew, to a man, felt that this would be an opportunity worth chancing.
Norin hailed the colony and landed the Wine Song on a broad strip of worked bed rock. He powered down the hauler and moved to disembark; pausing only to glance in a mirror to make sure his appearance was acceptable. Outside, a small contingent of people in simple work clothing waited until it was safe to approach. Norin stepped out of the ship with a bottle of wine, and was greeted by a deeply tanned grey haired man.
“Captain,” began the colonist, “I am Roget Behn. I’m the…” he struggled briefly, “mayor? Governor?”
Norin beamed a friendly smile and chuckled at the man’s awkwardness. “May I call you Administrator?”
Behn looked pained as if the title fit clumsily. “Please Captain, call me Roget.”
Norin took the man’s hand in a firm handshake and said, “Only if you call me Norin.” This brought a smile from Roget and he shook the captain’s hand briskly.
“Roget,” Norin began, breathing deeply and looking around, “I have brought, for your approval, mechanical equipment, seed stock, some frozen supplies and construction materials.”
“Excellent, Captain Norin,” Roget began with a genuine smile, “I was beginning to worry that my calls for materials would go unanswered.” Roget paused, suddenly fearing he had said too much. Norin could tell that the desperation of the administrator’s tone may give the man a fear of being overcharged.
“We are but a small colony,” Roget began, looking awkward, “we don’t have a lot of money.”
Norin’s grin turned reassuring. “Be at ease, Administrator,” he said, using the man’s title, “I’m not here to raid you. My intent is to open trade with you and your colony.” The captain swept a hand around the cultivated fields and said, “I may, however, aggressively ask you for the privilege of bringing your excess harvest to market,” said Norin with a mock serious look that quickly washed into a friendly smile.
“In a show of good faith,” Norin continued, “I’ll gladly open my books to your accountant so that he can see what our purchases cost and, with the addition of a little something for my crew, what I will sell them to you for.”
The thought seemed to brighten Administrator Behn and he began to look comfortable as he told the captain about the regions, their crops and a bit of the history of Targin’s Flat. Norin signaled for a crewman to bring a couple of glasses and pulled a tool from his pocket. With the deft ease of a man performing a familiar task, he pulled the cork from the wine bottle. When the glasses were brought, he carefully poured the deep red wine into each glass.
“This is a very fine wine, captain.” Roget said. “I wonder if you’d care to sample some of our vintage.”
Norin’s eyes lit. “Why administrator, I would be deeply honored.” Roget had a bottle brought in and Norin sampled it with obvious pleasure. “Roget, I could find an easy market for this.” He said. “If you would be so kind as to exchange a few cases of yours, for an equal share of what I carry, I will test the waters and see what I can fetch for a price.” He turned back to the administrator, “Honestly, I could probably put your colony on the map with this alone.” He poured more of the administrator’s wine into his glass.
“That would make me very happy, captain.” Roget responded, reflecting the formality.
Both men settled back, enjoying their wine and looking over the pastoral vision of the worked fields. One of the Wine Song’s crew whispered to Norin. “It appears that our unloading is complete, Roget, and the coin has been exchanged.” He turned to the administrator with a more serious face and asked, “May I ask what that blight is over on that field?”
Roget blushed slightly, “It is a ship of some sort. I am unfamiliar with its make. The sad thing is, it’s taking up valuable field space and we have no way of removing it.” He cleared his throat, “Salvage metal does us little good with no foundries. Do you think this would be something you would like?”
Norin focused on the hulking mass of metal. “Salvage price is down and I can see where the farm land is far more important than storing rusting metal.” He pondered wistfully. “How much of this do you have?”
The administrator looked thoughtful. “There are 5 such wreckages. “ He cast a shrewd eye to the merchant captain, “Would you trade a load of materials for taking such wreckage?”
Norin cast a level gaze back to the administrator, working numbers in his head. After a few moments, “I will bring two loads of equipment and materials for the five wrecks you have. Maybe I could talk you into a few more cases of this wine?” He said, holding up his near empty glass.
“I think we have an arrangement.” Roget smiled broadly and extended his hand. Norin shook it gravely.
“You sir, are a tough negotiator.”
The Wine Song lifted up from Targin’s Flat loaded heavy with two the massive bulks of metal. As the plain hauler jumped into warp for its return trip, Norin called Ronner up to the bridge. The chief mechanic grumbled his way up and plopped into one of the bridge chairs. He cast a gimlet stare at Norin and said, “I hope you got something good for all that scrap.”
“Indeed I did.” Norin said, smiling broadly. “And, with the profits from this trip, minus the crew expenses, we should have enough to purchase a structural hull repper and potentially an armor repper.” He sat back in his chair, his grin threatening to wrap around is face.
Ronner stared as if the good captain spoke an alien language. “You intend to repair those frigate wrecks?” he asked incredulously.
“Indeed I do.” Norin responded quickly. “Do you know the value of a Succubus?”
Ronner sat dumbfounded. It was the first time in their career together that this had happened. Ronner’s mouth hung loosely; he stood and sprinted for the cargo hold.
Norin smiled broadly at the idea of finally being able to afford the conversion to being a capsuleer. His wife would be furious, but…
He had a plan.