by Glenn Card
When space travel becomes common, sombody has to sell the used star ships.
|The human race has leapt into space. This edition of human expansion into the space frontiers stretches the capacity of the government to institute regulations and control humanity in order to make space safe from opportunistic individuals; as always government is a step behind those who are ruthless enough to seize the moment to increase their material worth.
Gabe McFarlan had his feet propped up on his plasticene desk while he read through the daily news. He hated spending the money on the Universe Today subscription but if you were going to dupe the customers out of their money you had to know what economic buttons to push and if you were all about making money you had to know the conditions changed everyday.
Of the few friends that he had, every one of them would testify to the frugalness of Gabe’s existence. The running joke amongst them was that Gabe could squeeze 2 meteor credits together so hard that the end result would be five shiny new sol dollars that he would end up slipping into his bottomless jumpsuit pocket.
In reality Gabe knew that he was one of the ten richest humanoids in the Glax quadrant. He was frugal for a reason. He planned on making a hostile take-over bid on the largest transport docking port in the region as soon as his accounts would support that move.
He started making his fortune in new ship sales. He quickly realized that his efforts to make the sale often ate into his profits as discount after discount was offered to entice the buyers. Government fleet sales were the worse and you damn near had to give the ships to them at cost.
This led him to realize that the profits were in the used transport business. He was now snapping up the trade-ins and government surplus ships to stock his lot. Of course he didn’t have the volume of the new dealerships but his clientele commonly looked to avoid the scrutiny of the government controlled Star-faring Association which regulated new sales. Background and credit checks were nearly unheard of in the used star ship business as it was usually a cash and carry transaction. If you could carry in the cash you could carry out the ownership tag of a gently used star ship.
To make the assumption that his clients may be involved in unscrupulous endeavors would open questions to Gabe that he really didn’t want to know the answer to. As long as the client didn’t share their intents Gabe wasn’t required to report anything to the government. Sure some of the ships that he had sold in the past somehow became connected with Pirate actions or asteroid theft but he could not be responsible for “sale by owner” transactions that might have resulted in those ships being identified.
What Gabe did recognize was that his time as a used transport salesman was coming to an end. The Star-faring Association was now making noise about instituting the same restrictions and regulations for new sales with those of the fringe used star ship sales market as well. It was another reason that he read the Universe Today religiously. Once those regulations became law his client base was going to dry up.
He only needed a few more ship sales and then he would sell the entire business. That would give him the needed capital for his next conquest in commerce.
Just as Gabe was drifting off into his money-making daydream he heard the door chime from out in his display showroom. As he gathered himself up and out of his chair he checked his appearance in the door mirror before he went out to greet his next customer. He looked over his pristine tailored and pressed jumpsuit and highly polished gravity shoes before he pulled a comb through his jell-shined hair making sure the part down the center was laser strait and then a quick two finger brush back of the pencil thin moustache he’d cultivated on his upper lip. He quickly thought to himself, “You handsome devil, let’s go and make some money.”
As he stepped out of his office he was happy to see his customer was none other than Captain Regulus. This was one client that repeatedly returned to Gabe’s establishment for purchases and repairs to older ships that had been bought here. The sales were always welcome but the needed repairs to the Captains growing fleet often seemed of questionable origin. But again, don’t ask don’t tell rules applied and Gabe kept this customer happy.
In a loud boisterous voice he greeted his client, “Captain, you should have given me a buzz on the communicator. You must know that it isn’t necessary for you to come to the showroom for every transaction we make now days.”
The grizzled old Captain turned and gripped Gabe’s extended hand and gave it a vigorous shake then stated, “You know I prefer eye-to-eye contact for our transactions.”
Gabe thought, “Whoa boy, there’s going to be sol dollars exchanging hands today.” Then to the Captain, “Regulus my friend, what can I sell you today?”
As the Captain gave him a hard steely squint he stated, “I intend to purchase your entire available stock of star-ships.”
Gabe didn’t blink and his smile remained plastered on his face even as he felt his knees go a little weak. Recovering quickly, he did some mental calculations and realized that he would be folding up shop if he could complete this transaction.
Gabe scrolled through internal files and reviewed some of his normal sales pitches. “Each and every one of my ships go through a thorough multi-level diagnostic check and have a full Star-faring Association certification of operation before I’ll put it on the lot, besides these are gently used vehicles. Go ahead and take this one out for a hyper jump you’ll be surprised how responsive it is. Here take this plasma rifle and give the shields a workout, we’ve installed the Oberton upgrade and these shields can take a 150,000 joule hit without drawing down the other shields to maintain integrity.” But Gabe had done enough business with the Captain to know that he would only be wasting his breath and his customer’s time.
Instead Gabe decided to clarify the situation, “Captain Regulus, you do understand that my current inventory is twenty seven ships on the lot with an additional six in inspection for release. Of the thirty three, fifteen of them are former government troop transports which are not normally considered when you make a purchase. Unless you’re planning new planet colonization or a revolutionary strike force I would fail to see why you would purchase that many transports.”
Gabe instantly regretted his statement and in his mind saw millions of sols incinerated in a plasma drive exhaust plume. Back pedaling fast he blurted, ‘Never mind that last statement Captain, I’m sure that you have no need to share with me your business intentions; I may have overstepped my position.”
The Captain’s eyes became even harder as he gave him a suspicious stare before he replied. “The scuttlebutt I’m hearing in the domestic quarters of the station is that it’s pretty clear that the used transport business is due to fall under Star-faring Association control in a short amount of time. I also have heard that you have been fishing for a buyer for your complete business.”
“It’s true; they are pushing for further regulations. Not that I don’t fully comply with new sales mandates”, replied the salesman. “I ahh…actually have been considering getting out of the trade and making a go at other business opportunities.” Not wanting to give away any hints to his future plans.
A small perceptible grin cracked the Captains otherwise stone face. He knew this salesman, McFarlan, would bend any rules possible to make a sale but to actually break a law and put himself at risk of incarceration was a line that he found hard to cross. The Captain decided not to push him over that line today. Knowing the salesman’s greed, today’s transaction was going to eventually drag this stooge over the line, that’s when the Captain would recoup the millions he had spent developing this asset.
The Captain knew it was time to ease this mans tension with what he knew would be an indecent proposal that McFarlan could not refuse. “Gabe, you don’t mind that we continue on a first name basis do you?” He waits for the man to nod his head before he continues. “Good. We’ve been doing business for several years now and it pains me to think that I will have to break in another salesman if you decide to close shop. I thought I could help ease you into that space port that you’ve been eying by adding a bit of seed money to the cause. It’s quite possible that I can persuade you to simply expand your plans by proposing an association of our own that might prove mutually profitable”
This time Gabe did blink as he thought, how the hell did he find out about my plans? The Captain must have gotten the information out of his lawyer. The little sniveler must have divulged Gabe’s request that preliminary papers be prepared for the take over bid.
The Captain continued, “Now don’t rush to judgment just yet. I fully intend to purchase your current stock but as usual I’m going to need some upgrades on many of the vessels.”
Gabe thought of the last purchase the Captain had made and the eventual upgrades that were completed in his service bays. That star ship could have nearly been labeled as a battle wagon when it had eventually left his lot. Technically he had not exceeded, well maybe just a little bit, the maximum armament allowed for commercial ships. He had listed many of the cannons as collision deterrent systems and that was how he had avoided the regs.
Still with an unwavering squint, “So you see Gabe if we get you set up in that space port you want so badly, you can easily recoup your initial outlay by expanding a dry dock for the upgrades I need and from any repairs other ships might need. And by the way a couple of my earlier purchases need a bit of work as well but we can discuss that once you’re master of the port. So what do you think Gabe?”
It only took a moment for him to do the mental calculations on docking fees, freight transfers, ship repairs and upgrades not to mention the clubs and entertainment facilities for long traveled space farers that he would also control. The pay back would be enormous and almost immediate.
“Captain, I don’t want to sound overly enthusiastic but with your purchase and seed money I won’t need to sell this enterprise. I’ll be able to move forward with my take over within a week and be the Port Master the week after that. In that time we can start moving some of these ships into dry dock immediately and have them space worthy and to your liking in a very short time. What do you say we step over to my office and start transferring those ownership tags over to you?”
It may have been the first time that he had actually seen the Captain with a genuine ear splitting grin. For a moment Gabe thought of the Captain as a predator preparing to devour a helpless prey. He put it out of his mind as he started counting his near future earnings and thinking, I’ll be frugal no more after this.
Sure, the government might eventually catch up to commerce and institute regulations on space ports the way they placed controls on ship sales. But by then Gabe will have secured his fortune and perhaps he could consider purchasing a planetoid by that point. His personal mantra started running through his head; Make money, making money, make more money.
Word count: 2006