Captain Eli Saffinger stepped towards the office entrance. The doors separated and a
flickering red shield of light appeared in the archway.
“It’s alright, you can step through,” encouraged a voice from behind a desk in the back of the
room, muffled and deep, and as coarse as a yanhay smoker before reconstructive lung surgery.
The room was nearly pitch black, with only a corner of the desk illuminated by Odin, the
largest moon hanging in the northeast sky.
Saffinger took a step into the red door light and froze on contact. He couldn’t move. He tried
to step back but it was as though his entire body had been turned to mush – bones broken and
muscles stripped. He felt weak, helpless. He was sure he lost control of his bowels, but nothing
came out. He just floated – suspended – feet off the ground with no feeling.
The man inside chuckled.
“Don’t worry, Captain,” the man said. “It’s procedural. My CFO hasn’t even gotten used to it
The light disappeared and Saffinger descended, regaining control of his limbs the moment his
feet touched the floor.
“There. That wasn’t so bad, was it?” asked the dark figure behind the desk, finishing his selfsatisfied
Saffinger said nothing.
“Why don’t you come have a seat?” the man suggested and held his hand out over his desk,
pointing to a pseudo elegant Hydra Oak chair.
Saffinger approached the desk and pulled the chair out from beneath it, panning his eyes
from one end of the cavernous office to the other.
The man across from him leaned forward, bringing his face directly into the moonlight. His
cheeks were plump and round, with scars and stitches running across his forehead, chin and
neck. He stared back at Saffinger like a wolf – one blue eye and the other brown.
“You know why you’re here, don’t you?” the man asked.
“No, but I’m sure you’ll tell me,” Captain Saffinger replied.
“Your employer said nothing?”
“My employer tells me only what I need to know.”
The man leaned back in his chair and picked up a yanhay pipe from atop his desk. He struck
a match and lit the top of the already packed hay resting inside the ornate, cobalt drum. He took a
puff and tilted his head back, storing the smoke in the back of his throat for what seemed like too
unhealthy an amount of time. He turned to the side and released the smoke into the room. A thick
gray cloud instantly formed around the man’s melon-like head.
Saffinger took a whiff. He had quit eight years back but couldn’t resist a second-hand toke
now and then.
“Eosberry?” Saffinger asked.
“Very good,” the man complimented. He held out the pipe and raised his thin, fire-shaven
brows suggestively. “Would you like some?”
The man paused and took another puff. He placed the pipe back down on the desk and
“You’re right,” the man continued. “Your employer is a very careful woman. As she should
The man pushed a button atop his desk and a display screen unfolded in front of him.
Buzzing and churning, it immediately sprang to life.
“She’s told me quite a bit about you.”
Saffinger said nothing again.
The man behind the desk pushed a button on the display screen and leaned further back in his
“Alright. I’ll just get right to the point, then. The reason I contacted your agency is because I
have a job for you. High risk. High pay. You’ll be escorting my most valuable freighter.”
“I don’t work for slavers.”
The man burst out laughing.
“Slavers?” he managed to get out. “You think we’re slavers?”
“I don’t think you are. I know you are.”
“So why are you here?” the man asked, his laughter nearly spent.
“I go through the motions of the interview so my employer doesn’t fire me for
The man’s face suddenly turned gruff.
“Listen, Captain Saffinger. We run a legitimate mining operation in the Hydra solar system.
All of our valued employees are paid fairly for their work and time.”
“Really? I used to run protection for your gas harvesting project out near Hydra IV. I didn’t
see a single legal Quint working there in my six month tour.”
The man behind the desk smiled, showing a row of titanium coated teeth that shone brightly
in the moon’s cyan glow.
“You think the Galactic Parliament recognizes the Quints as a sovereign state? Are you
kidding? They have no rights.”
Saffinger slid his chair back with enough force to drive a meteor sized hole into the floor. He
shook his head and stood up, spinning around and starting for the door out of the office.
“Wait!” shouted the man and stood up as quickly as Saffinger had. “We’re after a Jalar.”
Saffinger stopped short. He didn’t turn around. His face was still full of rage. He wanted to
rush out of the room, but he didn’t.
“We’ve lost six freighters in the past year alone to Jalar pirate activity.”
“Why should I care?” said Saffinger in a near whisper, still facing the door.
“Werklust Mining Corp is the human race’s single biggest extractor of raw materials here. Do
you know who benefits from our operation going under?”
A dark smile formed on Saffinger’s face.
“Small mining outfits that do it better than you?”
“No! Those dreamers barely even make a dent in our economy. Our entire colony. Our entire
existence. Our entire way of life will fall apart if I can’t maintain a healthy trade relationship with
the Dubdonians. Me, you, the entire planet crumbles to ash and we ship off back to the Milky
Way with our tails tucked between our legs, crying, asking for the Old Alliance to take us back.
Our people have worked 5000 years for this new life. I’m not going back to that hell hole and I
know you’re not either, Captain.”
Saffinger stood silently with his smile now gone from his face. The man behind the desk
relaxed and wiped a bid of sweat from his wrinkled forehead.
“I know who you are, Captain Saffinger, and I know why you’ll take this job.”
“Oh yeah? Why don’t you enlighten me?”
“When he finds you – and I know he will – your job will be to eliminate Tango Tssirgow.”