Author: Palmer Caine.

“Have you heard about Lauren?” the fat thing asked, “Apparently your old partner, as wonderful as she is, has upset everyone, dealing to all sides…apparently.” Grottman scratched his flabby, floppy head.

Felix smiled. He knew about Lauren’s troubles, “We both know she can take care of herself.” He said, taking a slug of warm beer.

Grottman’s lips spread across his huge face, a smile as disingenuous as his colon. “You know the UuooLoou have a bounty on her skull.” His lips thinned, “Last I heard she was at the Vega Gate.”

“Then you know more than me.” Felix grinned.

Pluto station was busy. Mineral transports from Vega and beyond were offloaded on the upper ring, their oddly shaped crews swelling the station’s entertainments. Some of them, having spent months at the edge of known space, look like spooked horses.

A young Human, androgynous in design, took Grottman’s empty jug.

“I’ll have another.” The fat thing said. The Human nodded and exited, the audible slap of his flip-flops slowly faded.

“I hear you’re transporting refugees,” Felix said leaning forward.

“So you DO hear SOME things then?” Grottman growled.

“I wouldn’t have thought the income would be worth it,” Felix stated sitting back.

“That just reveals your limited imagination.” Grottman smiled.

The androgynous waiter returned and deposited another jug of golden liquid on the table. Grottman waved him away and drank heartily.

“So what are the UuooLoou offering for young Lauren’s shapely skull?”

“Professional interest, or personal?” the fat thing asked.

Felix smiled before responding, “Just…an interest.” He said.

Grottman snorted blowing large green bubbles from the hole in his face. He popped them with a handkerchief and wiped his disgusting features.

“Your…Interest…could earn you more than you earned last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that…” Grottman flicked his nine fingers, “More wealth than you can manage alone.” He chortled.

Felix played along, “So, what did you have in mind fatso?” he asked.

“Well, if you are truly serious, we could travel together to the Vega Gate. My business here is almost completed and I don’t claim to know your itinerary, but if you ARE serious we could be very wealthy for very little effort. The UuooLoou are notoriously prompt with payments.”

“And I suppose you’re booked into the gate?” Felix asked.

“Not yet, but once my business is complete passage won’t be an issue.” Grottman drummed his many digits. “What do you think Major?”

Felix raised his eyebrows, “So, I just call her when we get there – It’s going to be that easy?”

“It’s no secret how close you two were. I am sure you can contact her or she you if necessary?” Grottman’s grin engulfed his features. A moment later a loud bleeping, emanating from the fat things clothing, rang out.

Felix looked at his watch, “Well,” he said pushing his chair back, “That’s my alarm call.”

Grottman searched his pockets locating the bleeping device and read the message: SECURITY BREECH – FINANCIAL FILES UPLOADED. He looked up to see Felix disappearing into a large crowd of drunken oddly shaped crewmen, gathered beneath a Stimulant Lens.

The transport was lacking paying customers, just as they had wanted. Felix met Lauren on the forward deck as the ship approached the Sol Gate.

“He said I had a limited imagination.”

Lauren smiled, “Did you tell him you could imagine yourself with all his money.”

Felix chuckled and kissed her cheek, “No.” He said, “I couldn’t find the right moment.”