Author: Dave Ludford
I’d just entered the orbit of the planet Obran when the form of Senator Drex materialized; a not very welcome visit. I set the controls to manual and prepared myself for whatever was to come; Drex and I had crossed swords on several previous occasions. The Senator walked towards me a few paces, looking around the bridge as though he’d never been aboard my vessel before.
“Drex, good to see you again,” I lied. He regarded me with hard, steely eyes, his mouth set in a grim line.
“Hessler, welcome. It has been a while since your last visit.”
“Not surprising, given that you virtually ran me off this planet last time.”
“You were trading stolen goods. You know we cannot allow that.”
“That was legitimate stock! I had all the necessary documents of authentication.”
“Which were probably falsified.”
I moved to remonstrate further but Drex made a placatory gesture.
“Past history, Hessler. I’m sure you managed to offload that stock somewhere, a trader of your abilities, if slightly dubious reputation.”
“I sold it virtually at cost, hardly made a dime. You’ll have made sure of that; a word here, a word there.” I could feel my blood pressure rising alarmingly.
“Such is my duty.”
“OK, but I don’t like having my professional reputation tarnished. Several buyers in the Frol galaxy- previously good customers- won’t trade with me now. So, to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?”
Again the brief pause, a hesitation. Then:
“A month ago a plebiscite was held on Obran and the result was narrow but decisive. We’re pulling out of the Free Trade Alliance to cut our own deals outside the bloc.”
I was dumbfounded; not sure, at first, if I’d heard him correctly.
“But that’s crazy! You’ll never get better deals than those within the bloc. The same goods will cost twice as much, or more!”?”
“I, personally, am not happy with the outcome of the vote but it was a democratic decision and therefore the result stands. We will no longer be dealing with traders the likes of yourself. I’m sorry but the decision is made, and that’s the way things stand.”
“I can’t believe I’m hearing this. Are you trying to ruin me? What have I done? Just tried to earn an honest living doing what I do best.”
Drex stood resolute, unspeaking, unwilling to enter into further debate. I knew better than to attempt further argument, it was pointless. Obrans have never been known to change their minds or reverse decisions. I slumped back into my seat, shaking my head. After a short while my anger subsided and I felt able to speak again.
“OK, so what about my current load? I’ve got a hold full of cargo that’ll take the best part of three hours to unload, including the wine your President is rather partial to and which he’ll struggle to get elsewhere.”
“We will, of course, honor that order as it was placed prior to the plebiscite. We are still in a transition period until new trading deals can be put in place, so you are free to land and unload.”
Later, as I left Obran’s orbit, I couldn’t suppress a smile at the knowledge that although my previous cargo hadn’t been stolen goods, that last load was, and the terms I’d negotiated with Drex’s buyers had been some of my best ever. I’d just made a killing on goods that hadn’t even been mine in the first place…
As a trader you are, by definition, a chancer.
Time to try my luck elsewhere.