Reznik slammed his fist into the crate. The metallic thump echoed down the corridor. His low growl made Leopold take an involuntary step back. The quartermaster’s black eyes narrowed.
“You have not only insulted me, you have insulted nine generations of my family!” he roared.
Leopold put his meaty hands up in a placating gesture. He was sweating profusely. The fat merchant wiped his brow with the sleeve of his flowery kimono. “Mr. Reznik, please understand, I meant no offense. I am simply –”
“You are simply trying to take advantage of me. Do you take me for some hayseed Rez fresh off the dirt farm?” Reznik said, stabbing an accusatory finger at the fat merchant.
Leopold shook his head vigorously. “No sir. Not at all. I am simply trying to get the best deal I possibly can for my employer.”
They stood in the corridor between the starboard airlock and the main cargo bay doors. The slight vibration from the engines stuttered, then dropped away. The Hell’s Bane had barely docked on Commerce One when Leopold appeared the airlock. Before their arrival, Reznik had posted a full list of the goods they had for sale on the local Q net. The Bane was besieged by inquiries and questions about the cargo they had for sale, but Leopold was first in the queue, waiting to bid on the equipment.
Reznik grunted loudly. He folded his arms and walked around the large cargo crate taking measured steps and giving his prey accusatory scowls. The furry alien stopped on the far side of the crate and placed his hands on the top and leaned towards Leopold. He glowered at the merchant. The spiky fur on top of his head rippled with anger. The pudgy human had a hard time maintaining eye contact. He kept looking away, shifting his gaze to the four large men wearing power armor and holding assault rifles at low ready.
The strikers stood nearby, to the left of the large cargo bay doors. The large and imposing pirates stared at the effeminate merchant as though he were a meal. Leopold’s eyes slid in their direction every so often. He seemed to think they might all pile on him at any second.
Robert Taylor Ford watched the scene unfold before him from inside the cargo Bay. He sat on a crate, a grim smile tugged at the corners of his lip. He considered the merchant carefully, his fear of the strikers was exaggerated. Robert’s smile turned sardonic. It would seem Leopold was a bit of an actor himself, though Robert saw straight through his act.
Leopold mopped his brow again. “Why is it so bloody hot in here?”
Reznik’s head snapped to Leopold. “Oh, I’m sorry, are my environmental requirements offensive to you?”
The blood drained from Leopold’s face, he furiously shook his head again. “No. No, I’m sorry. Again, I meant no offense.”
Reznik finished his circle around the cargo crate. He stood in front of the merchant, holding steady gaze. “Well that’s a start. But you still owe me another apology.”
Leopold squinted cocked his head to the right. “I’m not sure… um, what exactly am I –“
Reznik balled his fists and took half step forward. “You still owe me an apology for that insult of an offer.” He spat out.
Leopold sighed. “Please understand, I have a contractual obligation to my employer, it says that I must get the best deal I am able to acquire.”
Reznik shrugged his shoulders, he leaned his head back and stretched out his arms. “Ancient Ones, why must you give me such tribulations? Have I not delivered the heads of my enemies? How much more do you demand of me?”
Leopold took another half step back. Reznik dropped his arms and closed the distance to the merchant. Leopold was fighting back his growing alarm. Reznik put his free hand on his shoulder. The merchant looked like he might run for the airlock and off the ship.
“See here, I’m just looking for a square deal, yes?” Reznik continued to lean in, his voice dropped an octave. “I’m trying to keep my violent Reznoonian tendencies in check, but this becomes difficult when you are trying to bloody damn rob me!”
Leopold flinched back and stepped to put the cargo crate between himself and the angry Reznoonian. “May I inspect the merchandise?”
“Of course.” Reznik said changing his tone, he slapped the button on top of the crate. The top opened and three sides smoothly fell to the ground revealing a brand-new McPherson Industries fine – tech 3D printer. It was still wrapped in the manufacturers plastic cover.
This type of high-tech industrial equipment was in very short supply way out here in the outback. A fine tech 3D printer could, in theory, replicate itself. It could certainly build things like a medical suite, fusion reactor circuitry, and the smallest communications nodes.
Robert noted as the merchant slipped back into the character of an uninterested buyer. He smirked as the big fop in the flowered robe sniffed and frowned as he picked at make-believe imperfections. He clasped his hands behind his back and slowly circled the printer. He muttered to himself and clicked his tongue.
Reznik pulled a blade from his belt. He stepped forward, grabbing the plastic and slashed open. The plastic covering fell to the floor revealing the pristine new device. Robert suppressed a laugh when this shrewd merchant nearly dropped his act, when he realized that if the manifest was correct he could make a tidy sum once he resold them as new.
Robert looked back into the cargo hold and nodded slightly. Deke and Nigel lumbered forward in their battered exo-loaders, their heavy footsteps clanged against the metal deck plates. Deke scowled at Robert as he passed through the cargo bay door. Nigel gave him a wink took a position next to his foreman.
Leopold turned and looked at the two large, yellow exo loaders and their angry occupants. He turned back to the printer continue his inspection.
Robert noticed the strikers were shifting their weight from foot to foot and were grumbling quietly amongst themselves. Digg and Hack glared at Leopold. The fat trader unsuccessfully tried not look at them.