Example Entry for BlackAdder's Cantina
|Sure, I got a story if there's a round of drinks in it. You can call me Jim Grease. No, that ain't my real name, and don't ask.|
It was, oh, ten or fifteen years back I did a little milk run. You always remember your first time, but this one would've been special anyway. I guess you could say it went sour, though I still ended up with the cream. Picking up a new gig is always hard, but it's easier when you have less to lose. I'll be honest: I wasn't in the best place when it happened. The woman who had promised to love me forever and raise my babies had just gotten a better offer. She ran off with a lawyer and cost me my son, my apartment, half of everything I owned, and 3000 credits a month so long as I was employed. I can't blame her for everything, though. The drinking was on me, and so was losing the gig on the mining ship: I'll own that now.
Anyway, I was in the middle of finding my way to the bottom of a bottle in a place that looked a lot like this one when I got a tap on the shoulder. It was an old "friend" from my mining days. He wanted to know if I had come through the divorce alright and if I could use a gig until I landed on my feet. I told him that yeah, maybe I was interested. So he asked if I still owned the camper outside. Sure did, I told him. The Yolaris Space Yacht wasn't just the last remnant of better times, times when the wife and I took the kid sightseeing clear across the sector - it was where I slept. So my buddy told me there were 10,000 credits in it if I could take a suitcase to his friend two stars over, no questions asked. My bank account being nearly as empty as my bottle, how could I say no?
So I took the scenic route toward the address, a little waystation near the big mineral belt in Gradil, and that's when I heard the alarm go off and saw the blue flashing lights on the dash that announced a Snooper. Space is pretty big, so you'd think you could avoid them. Turns out you can. They mostly hang out in the jump points near gas stations with the radar on. Most times, running into one is a rookie mistake. The voice that came through the speakers sounded bored, irritated. "Pilot, this is a routine inspection. Please kill your acceleration and wait while I match orbits."
Well, that was a shit sandwich I wasn't hungry for, but you don't always get to pick the menu. So I did what he asked, and watched as he drifted over to the airlock in his armored flight suit. I let him in, of course. They tell me in the early days, when the law pulled you over, they didn't have missiles the size of Elon's rocket-dick pointed at you, on a deadman’s trigger to make you play nice. Well, they do now. You don't mess with that.
"Can I help you, officer?"
The fellow was tall, with skin like midnight and a smile that didn't leave any doubt about who was in charge. And it for damned sure wasn't me. He held out a little sniffer on a stick, the kind only Snoopers have, and it lit right up. He pointed it to the cargo area toward the aft, right behind the bunks and the can, near where my suitcases were. "Looks to me like you can. Show me what you've got in the back."
I rolled my eyes but headed down the aisle. "What makes you stop a family vehicle like mine? I don't mean no trouble."
The fellow laughed for the camera. Snoopers were always recorded. Of course, they get pretty good at editing those videos, but that's a story for another time. "Nine out of ten drug smugglers drive sleds like this: good range, decent gas mileage, good for camping, and not too expensive for a family on holiday. But nobody's taking holidays near a run-down mining belt - the biggest gold and platinum rocks have been gone for years, and what's left is only for small-timers. But my sniffer isn't picking up drugs, it's picking up cash. What've you got there, friend?"
All I could do was open the suitcase I'd been given. When my friend had said "no questions asked," I took him at his word, so I was as surprised as the cop to see a stack of cartridges, each one representing a secure money transfer. As everybody knows, com beams don't run faster than light, so if you want to make a bank transfer or payment between systems, it's got to go by courier. But legal couriers record every money transfer, "for insurance reasons." If you don't want people to know what you're buying, you need to take a cartridge yourself. And if you really don't want people to know what you're buying, you make a bunch of small payments to different accounts - say, in a little suitcase. I'd just been caught red-handed. Almost.
"This, officer? This is my alimony." Which was true, in a manner of speaking.
That midnight smile never faded. "Uh-huh. You don't even know whose money this is, do you?"
All I could do was shrug.
The officer poked one of the cartridges with his sniffer stick, then eyed me over, as if looking for a confession. "In that case, you don't mind if I confiscate this. After all, it isn't really yours, is it?"
My eyes widened. I didn't know how much money I was carrying, but I suspected there were a lot of zeroes involved. "You can't do that! There's nothing illegal about carrying money!"
The officer shook his head and held out his hand. In it was a pale strip. It looked exactly like a piece of the tape I used to wrap my son's presents. "You don't watch the news much, do you? Whatever this money is for, somebody really doesn't want you to know about it. But I tell you what, you don't seem like a bad guy and I don't believe you know what you're into, so I'll give you a chance to do the right thing. Stick this on one of the cartridges. When you take this money to whoever you're taking it to, make sure it goes with you. And I'll be right behind you."
I picked up the sliver of tape. "I don't got a choice, do I?"
The Snooper raised his hands, all innocence. "Sure you do. I'm like the tape - I've got two sides. You can be on my good side, and I'll have your back - I'll make sure you get out of this just fine, maybe even better off than now. Or we can do this the hard way. You won't like the hard way."
The tape went on to one of the cartridges, and then I closed the suitcase. "We do it your way then. You won't be too close behind me, will you?" All the unasked questions about who I was dealing with started to seem a lot more important.
The midnight grin was back. "You'll be fine. I've done this a lot more than you have."
I finally got to the way station two hours later and headed inside to steady my nerves. The whisky in that dump went down as smooth as a bag of rocks, but it did stop the shakes. That was when I heard the voice behind me. "You Jim?" Subtle, that.
"Who's asking?" I said.
"Heard a guy named Jim found my luggage," the guy gave back.
"Think I have, actually," I answered, and led the way back to my camper. Now, it was a strange line, because the dude had a suitcase of his own. And no, I don't know his name - never asked.
"You got mine too?" I asked. I said it real quiet, of course, because we were standing in a cavernous hangar full of spacecars, and places like that have cameras and ears. A teenager waited for his dad to pick up the paycheck. A few drunks chatted in front of their vehicles after they got turned out. A young lady walked in to take her shift, and her footsteps echoed from the metallic frames of the small-time spaceport. I was none of their business and didn't want to be.
The guy lowered his own voice. "Maybe, maybe not. Job's changed: double or nothing. Take this to Reince Walker's restaurant in the big spaceport around Gradil prime and leave it under the table while you go to the bathroom. Your own suitcase will be there when you get back. Don't try to open this one."
I raised my eyebrows. I didn't like to be jerked around, but he had me by the short hairs. I took his suitcase and stepped back into my vehicle without a word. It wasn't thirty minutes toward my destination when my dashboard flashed with blue lights again. A familiar voice came through the speakers, the same Snooper that flagged me down earlier, telling me to heave-to for boarding. Man, I hate being told what to do, especially when I don't have a choice.
The officer with the dark smile lifted his little sniffer, but this time it came up empty. Interesting. "How'd it go?" he asked.
I didn't wait for a search. Instead, I held up the suitcase, a two-foot box of trouble made of metal and leather. "They told me to make one more drop. They warned me not to open it."
The Snooper reached into his pocket for another tool, some kind of pad with a bunch of metal probes connected to it by wire. "Let's see."
My shakes were back. I was in over my head and I knew it. The real payload was in this box, and it was locked for a reason. Whether it was guns or drugs or secret documents, I didn't want any of it. Whether I was on his good side or not, if this lawman couldn't pin the contraband on someone else, he'd pin it on me. I would go to jail for the rest of my short life, and I'd have to pay my alimony from there. I could see myself in chains, working in the famed Arsenic mines of Gladstone, that hellhole of hellholes. And who knew if the officer could even get in the suitcase? What would he do to me then? In fact -
Snick. The suitcase opened to display a dozen inflatables, easily portable robots used for household chores - and sometimes, less savory tasks. The officer lifted one up to examine it.
It was an anime character from a children's show, one of those waifus that seemed to have come back in fashion. But this one had never been built for children. It was unclothed, with very exaggerated breasts and um, other features. The officer laughed out loud, one of those belly laughs that put the world to shame. I was turning beet red, starting to feel like the world deserved it. At that moment, I wished I had been running guns - I could have lived with going to jail for that. "You're right - there's nothing illegal here. Go see if you can make your alimony, friend. You're gonna need it. Sex doll smuggler! Ha!"
The officer's laugh didn't fade from my ears for days. But it turned out that my friend's friend the billionaire was as good as his word, and he paid well. Still does.