A blog where Stephanie M. Belser test-drives her fictional stories.
Expect the occasional
"stall, spin, crash & burn".

Friday, May 17, 2013

Don't Cheat J-Hod

(Flash Fiction)

Jayerdene wasn’t judgmental. She couldn’t be, not in her town. It was on the edge of the largest spaceport in the sector. She was a trader and good at it. If you needed to outfit a wedding party or a raiding party, you went to Jaye’s House of Deals, known as “J-Hod” throughout most of known space. Only two things you couldn’t buy from (or sell to) her: Nuclear weapons and sentient species. Anything else, all you needed was either something to trade or about three different forms of specie. She didn’t care who you were or where you were from.

J-Hod had four rules. The other two were “no counterfeits” and “no stealing”. The rules were established by Jayelene, Jayerdene’s great-grandmother, the first “Jaye”. She founded J-Hod, you know. Oh, she bought and sold counterfeit goods.  It didn’t matter to her if it was a Cygnean knock-off of a Green Gyrene fusion fuel pump or the genuine article. She sold knock-offs, but she told you that’s what you were getting. And if you tried to sell her a knock-off and passed it off as genuine, she’d ban you from the store. If you succeeded in selling her a knock-off and Jaye (any of the generations of Jaye) found out about it, you were in serious trouble.

Cyrano wasn’t an Earther. He came from Twilight, a planet that was so far out on the edges of known space that it was almost the stuff of legend. A regional conflict had cut off the supply of circuit cards for a rather popular model of warp guidance computer. No, it wasn’t a “Star Trek” warp drive, dummy, everyone’s been calling bubble-space travel that name since forever.  Now shut up and let me tell the story. And you can buy me another drink.

So Cyrano had six cases of the cards. He sold them to Jayerdene. She checked them out, of course, she pulled some from different cases and had them run through a test rig. They proved out. He took a store credit, loaded up the stuff he wanted in his ship and left.

Jaye woke up in the middle of the night, three days later. She said that she had a vision from her great-grandmother. She sent three of the cards out to a test lab on Zhukov. That lab deconstructed the cards down to the subatomic level. You bet you ass they were fakes. Of course, Cyrano was long gone.

No, I don’t know where he got the cards from. He was a real dumbass, though. Working parts for that system were so scarce that Jaye would have paid him almost as much as she did. She sold them all for a good price, though as knock-offs. They still worked, they were top-shelf fakes.  The factory might not have even been able to tell the difference.

But you know, she had a reputation to uphold. Nobody sells disguised fakes to or steals from J-Hod and gets away with it.  Nobody. Even EarthGov will give up looking for someone. Not Jaye, any of them. Some kid stole a case of weapons from the second Jaye, you know that story? The third Jaye found the kid, forty years or so later, or so the story goes. He was the president of Nouvelle France, they say. Ah, I see you heard about how he accidentally fell out of an airlock.

She put the word out on Cyrano. Yeah, Cyrano ran. A lot of my competitors were looking for him.

Took me three years to find him. Took me another six months to grab him on a world that didn’t have a problem with offworld bounty hunters kidnaping people. Took me another two months to bring him back to J-Hod and it was a real bear keeping Cyrano alive. I finally had to put his ass into a stasis pod. Because she wanted him alive, if possible, and she was willing to pay a premium for it. That’s why. I heard what she paid for those cards and you can bet your ass that was a lot less than what she paid me. She didn’t quibble at all about my bill.

No, I don’t know what she had done to him, not exactly. I imagine that it wasn’t quick or painless. But if you look up at the row of heads in the long case above the rules signs, he’s the fourth one from the right. They say he was still alive when she had his head put in the case. Don’t ask me how.

Jayerdene is good people. If you can get the better of a deal with her, she’ll laugh and buy you a drink next time you’re passing through. You have a good sob story, she’ll buy you a meal or put you up for a night. She doesn’t care which side you fought on and in what war. She’ll deal with anyone, anytime, and for almost anything. She pays her help well, treats them right and good luck finding one of her people who hasn’t worked for her for ten years. A couple of their grandparents worked for her grandmother.

But if you do business with her, don’t screw with her, ever. She will have her vengeance.

After all, there are six more empty spots in that case.


Allison said...

Deal fair dinkim.

There is a rep to be protected.


Anne-Maree Gray said...

formidable women, indeed.