'As I said, 'twas some drub sellin' what she'd mistook for quartz but I know a hefty lump of Zenithenium when I see it. So I stuffed her some scads an' sent her on her way. Her name? Calling herself by... now wait a minute I jotted it to remind me 'cos it ain't her real name that much was obs., here we are... Leema Bollet. I scanned the necklace after she left, the resonance scan showed up its provenance code. A rare lump of that purity would be worth more scads than a drub could afford. More scads than I could afford. I did a trace, it was mined by Brace Technologies on the moon Frigida and sold to you, Sir, almost twelve years ago and then... well, in case it was stolen. I thought you might want to have it returned, you know, help you out a bit. Shame if it had been sold on by me without you even knowing...' The voice on the end of the line drops the mock outrage and softens with the thought of closing a deal.
Tourmaline Joyce the Thirtieth blinks to himself in the cool gloom of his conditioning tank, rolling over over in the sweet scented balm oil and hydrating aphid milks. The only Zenithenium quartz he had ever purchased was as a birthday present for Juno, years ago. He had forgotten about it. Perhaps Juno had sold it or gifted it to one of her many charity galas, even so, a rock of that quality shouldn't have ended up in a scad brokers in the Third Galaxy mining quadrant. So how did this Leema Bollet get hold of it? Tourmaline can sense that the scad broker is waiting for an answer and so he runs through his options. If Juno had needed to sell it quickly, for a bribe or to smooth over some illegality maybe it could have fallen into the wrong hands...
'You still there Sir? This line ain't too peachy...hello?'
'Yes, yes, I'm just trying digest what you are saying.'
'Obviously if it was stolen, I can't ask for nothing I'd just like to see it get back to it's rightful, grateful owner and you, Mr. Joyce are registered as that.'
This scad broker wasn't going to give up easily. Tourmaline can sense the inevitable and so decides to buy himself a little time and, more importantly, silence. The gem was worth a small fortune and he didn't want this broker prying any further into his and Juno's private affairs.
'I think I know the gem you are talking about and you are right, it was stolen just not reported yet. It's a bit... well, how can I put it, indelicate... you see I bought it for a secret liaison and....'
Tourmaline can hear a chuckle at the other end of the line. ' Love eh? Never mind Sir, I'm the height of discretion. I won't breathe a word.'
'Good, then one hundred and fifty thousand scads should be enough for the safe return of the gem.'
The sharp intake of breath at the other end signalled all Tourmaline needed to know, this man's silence could be easily bought and thirty stacks would do it. 'I shall send it from a Pay-Direct. Tell me your company details. I don't want to leave a digital trail leading back to any of my bank accounts. Send the gem back via courier to the address I use on the Pay-Direct. I shall include a courier credit in the transfer.'
'Thank you Sir, I am so happy you'll get your lovely necklace back.'
The DEMISE call cuts abruptly and Tourmaline is left in silence but his conditioning spa has lost its appeal. Why had Juno not mentioned getting rid of the necklace to him? He stares at his toes at the other end of the tank, aware how his skin is beginning to stretch and wrinkle. The call has made him spend too long in the oil and milk and it is turning sour. He sighs and carefully steps out of the conditioning tank in his bathroom, feeling the balm oil and milk slide from his skin. He steps into the air-cleaner and alights at the other end, into his dressing room, clean, dry and sweetly scented. He shrugs on a nearby robe and wonders what to do first. Call Juno or find a Pay-Direct.
Pia stares at the quint stack of scads in front of her on the cheap bar. Twenty five thousand scads would not take her far but it was a start. It would pay for a new identity. Piatina Rabette and Leema Bollet would only lead as far as the scad broker and the quartz. From now on, Pia could be whoever she wanted to be, as long as it cost no more than than a quint stack.
The bar keep pours another quart of Miner's Mead into her empty glass and nods at the scads. 'Keep 'em outta sight, lady, don't want no thievin' ere.'
Pia nods and sweeps the stacks into a small body rucksack, tightening it flat to her stomach. The mead is sickly sweet and weakly alcoholic, the standard drink of the mining quadrant. You could always tell an old miner from the Third Galaxy by their black teeth.
Since yesterday Pia had put as much distance as possible between Mistress Ban's Fighting House and herself, after emptying her account and selling her shoes, leaving Sayonara Spaceport for the Mining Quadrant, a mineral rich system deep in the Third Galaxy. Currently she was on Brace One, with its metallic moons, home to the biggest of the mining corporations in the five galaxies, Brace Technologies. Here she could pick up a ride out to one of the mineral frontiers discovered in new galaxies far beyond the old five. Here, she would start her new life. All she needed now was a new face and a new name to go with it.
New chapter soon
New chapter soon