2951-03-29 – Tales from the Inbox: A Profiteer’s Misdirection

We continue this week with the third of four installments of this account of smuggling illicit war material out of Anonga from Sacha T. I still have no good read on when this took place; it references scavenged battlefields on the Frontier but he was careful not to name any of them and thus give the reader a specific time-table.

I also suspect that he is lying about having been a luxury goods importer in Sol. Most likely given how easily he fell into notoriously untrusting smuggling circles, he was a narcotics dealer or a black marketeer there, too, and the comments about palling around with Earth’s high society are probably just part of how he anonymized this account.

[N.T.B. – Even if he was a drug pusher, those parts of the story ring true for me. Sol-based high society has always had a bit of a dark side, and avoiding this sort of company is a big reason I never bothered to climb Everest or complete any of the home-world’s other famous wilderness treks.]


By the time Sacha T. had completed a leisurely stroll through the station’s dingy concourse and was on his way back to his ship, he’d mostly reached an arrangement with the man from Malone. There was still no talk of what the cargo was, but that was normal; Sacha really didn’t want to know what it was. It was something the Malones had pulled off a battlefield on one of the worlds of the Coreward Frontier, and that made it both illicit and valuable.

Discussing business with walk-ins without getting into the messy complications of face to face meetings was something Sacha had kept from his heady days as a luxury goods importer on Earth. Though he’d clinked glasses with clients in some of the most expensive restaurants on that world, the cost of business that way had meant that his take-home income was really quite low. After a decade in that business, he’d had barely fifty thousand credits of savings, so he’d sold the importer company to the first idiot who had seemed interested and headed out toward the Frontier.

That had been only a few years ago, and he’d already made back the high cost of starting in a new line of work and set aside profits of more than five hundred thousand credits. There was danger, sure, but not much of it. This sort of business wasn’t exactly legal, true, but neither had been some of the things Sacha had done to streamline the customs problems around some of the goods he’d been selling on Earth. As long as nobody was getting hurt, he tried not to bother with the moral implications.

The basic gist of the Malone man’s problem was that his cargo was too hot to move with the organization’s normal transporters, but it didn’t have a terribly long shelf life and needed to reach its end customer before that shelf life expired. Sacha’s arrival on the station had been something of a stroke of luck for them; he was a known entity in the business, but so heavily associated with enemies of the Malones that most, even inside their own ersatz family, would think him unlikely to move their cargo.

Fortunately for them, Sacha had no particular loyalty to the organizations for which he normally moved goods. If he wanted to join them, he could have long ago; independence was part of how he maintained high profits and minimized risks. After extracting a few more thousand credits out of the representative, he remotely opened the airlock and let the two men go. By the time Sacha returned to his own ship, they were long gone. He knew he would not see either of them again; their cargo would arrive quietly via a go-between some time in the next hour.

Still, Sacha didn’t board his ship; he walked past the docking hatch to see if anyone was poking around, still disguised as an off-duty local. Whoever the Malones were worried about was not yet watching Sacha or his ship, a very good sign.

Requesting departure clearance would of course draw too much attention, so Sacha stopped in what was once a nicely upholstered viewport lounge area to call up a station schematic and find the backup control system for the docking clamps holding his ship in place just outside the docking ring. Normally, these panels were in off-limits areas and one needed local maintenance staff credentials to use them, but that would be no problem. He was heartened to see that the panel was placed within five meters of an airlock and a locker full of maintenance vac-suits; this simplified his job even further.

Accessing his ship’s systems remotely, Sacha spent a few minutes booking a two-day, one-night trip to the planet’s surface. From what he’d heard, Anonga was a wreck both culturally and environmentally, but there were still a few places near the spaceport catering to tourists and advertising reasonable prices. The cost of these bookings wasn’t refundable, but that was fine; the sunk credits would make it look like he was planning to meet a contact anonymously planetside.

As soon as his fictitious schedule was in place, Sacha pulled a security scrambler out of his pocket and went back out to the docking ring, wandering aimlessly until he spied an out-of-the-way maintenance access point. It took the scrambler only about thirty seconds to penetrate the hatch’s antiquated security program and slide it open. Now hidden from the prying eyes of the main station security system, he hurried back toward the control system for his ship’s docking clamp.

A moment before he arrived at the console, his ship’s security system pinged his comm. A trio of figures had arrived outside his ship’s cargo transfer hatch. Two were men in station cargo-master uniforms, and they flanked a young woman in an unmarked jumpsuit carrying two metal valises. This was no surprise; though the cargo capacity of Sacha’s ship exceeded fifteen tons once external cargo pods were loaded, the cargo he moved was usually not larger than a single crate.

Sacha set his scrambler to work on the terminal and remotely opened the cargo hatch just wide enough for a single person to step inside. Opening his comms through the ship’s sound system, he did his best to sound bored and distracted. “Just, ah, drop them just inside and I’ll get to them later. Payment is transferred.”

The young woman walked through the hatch just as the scrambler dinged; it had defeated the terminal. Sacha quickly set up the command to release his ship from the clamps, left it on the final key-press, then dashed down the narrow maintenance corridor to the space-suit locker. If everything went according to plan, he’d be out clean within two minutes.