“My name is Cerian Nintral,” she said. “Happy now?”
He looked a little surprised. “And where are you from...Cerian Nintral?”
“My family are administrators on Tor Phi.”
There, she had given him a name and a possible profession. That should take care of the damned pirate’s curiosity.
“Tor Phi? Your parents must be good at their jobs to be located so close to the Republic centre. I bet they’re very well respected, too. They’d have to be, to be living in the Tor system. Do they know, I wonder, about their young daughter traipsing around the galaxy in stolen spaceships while they’re busy...administering?”
“What my family does, or doesn’t, know about me is none of your business.” Tera’s voice was short.
“And what level administrators are they, this family of yours?”
The question took her off-guard. “Er, Level Five.”
In truth, she hadn’t met many people from the administrative class, but her father had once mentioned negotiating with Level Seven administrators, so Tera assumed that Five was a nice, solid, mid-level to be at.
He nodded. “Level Five. Ambitious, but not too ambitious. Privileged, but with no excesses to be ostentatious about. All right,” he hesitated for a split-second, “Cerian Nintral. Let’s say you’re the treasured daughter of Level Five administrators. In that case, taking into account possible credit ratings, I think fifty thousand credits might be a fair price to pay to be set down safe on some rock somewhere.”
Fifty thousand. It was a steep price, but not as high as Tera was anticipating. She tried not to let the relief show on her face.
“I can get you forty-five,” she said. “Five hundred up-front. The rest triggered when my ship and I are thirty light-seconds from yours.”
“Ship?” He looked surprised. “Who said anything about you taking your ship? We’re just talking about your person here.”
Startled, she jumped to her feet and stared at him. “My…person?”
“Just what you’re standing in. No trips back to your scout to pick up extra clothing, or to pack a bag. Just you, right here, right now. Delivered safely back to, oh let’s say, the edge of the Tor sector. Shouldn’t take you too long to hitch a ride home from there. All for fifty thousand.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Why can’t I go back to my scout?”
He stared at her innocently. “For now, the cargo bay’s being completely cleaned out while we effect repairs. Your, ah, attempted escape led to some structural weaknesses in my ship’s outer hull. They’re being assessed but, in the meantime, we wouldn’t want you to get sucked out into hard vacuum, would we? But just give me the word, and I’ll set course for the Tor sector this minute.”
She didn’t believe him about the cargo bay—not for a moment—although the explanation sounded plausible enough. As for the destination he named…no, they couldn’t transport her to the Tor sector. That was too close to Tor Delta, where she had stolen the craft from in the first place. If she knew the Republic, they would still have the entire sector locked down and swarming with Security Force personnel.
“What if I don’t want to be dropped there?”
“You mean you don’t want to go back to your family? I’m sure they’re very worried about you.”
“Not. Tor. Sector.”
He looked her up and down—assessing, but still with that hint of detestable good cheer in his eyes.
“A destination of your choice? A hundred thousand.”
“One hundred thousand.” Even if she called in every favour she was owed, she doubted she’d be able to scrape up more than sixty thousand without tipping off her family. Her real family. “And what about my ship?”
“You want your ship as well? You’re a big spender, aren’t you? Adding in compensation for repairs, hazard duty for my crew to extract the scout from the bay, incidentals, extended hospitality while we get the bay airtight again, I make it…four hundred thousand.”
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