Gaia Wald was not looking forward to her meeting with Speaker Herald Law. When the highest planetary official requests your presence in the Council Chamber, it means serious business. If only it were business, the Antarctic could climb out of the financial hole that it was in. What Law and the High Council wanted was a favor that they believed Gaia was in no position to refuse.
Speaker Law sat at the center of a horseshoe desk. There were no other members of the Council present; Gaia saw this as an advantage. Never one to waste time, Gaia asked, “what do you want?”
Law smiled, “Who says that I want anything?” He waved his hand to usher her toward a chair closer to the desk. “How’s business?”
“Not so good, but you already know that,” Gaia declined the seat and instead stood behind it. The Council had gone to a lot of trouble to drive her into debt; and now they were about to pay off her debts in exchange for something dangerous. “Just cut to the chase. Now that you have me dangling on a string, what do I have to do to get free of it?”
“Do I detect hostility in your voice?” His whole face smiled, “I’d like to think that we could be friends.”
Gaia turned to leave.
“I understand that the Antarctic is outfitted for long-range.”
“There are plenty of other ships outfitted for deep-space exploration. Any one of them would be willing to open a new trade route or look for new sources of industrial raw. I suppose you want us to bring down the price of industrial crude.”
“Something more dangerous,” he replied.
“There’s nothing more dangerous than carrying industrial crude.” Gaia continued her slow walk towards the exit.
“You’ll be back,” he yelled after her. “You’ll never leave port.”
“Don’t bet on it,” she said as the door closed behind her.