Repost: Talking Down

It always surprised people that she could actually use her gun, as if anyone would voluntarily carry nearly thirty-eight mass-units of metal around on their backs for show. She was fast, too–that always seemed to startle them even more. The government man went very still for a moment, staring, the green-lit gleam of the protective energy shroud reflected in his eyes.

“Don’t threaten me!” Piya rapped out, “You don’t scare me, and I’m the only one who knows where it is. You be careful!”

The government man unfroze. Unlike most people at this point, he looked at her, and smiled again. A cold feeling went down Piya’s spine. The smile was still friendly, still handsome and kind. It wasn’t in the slightest bit intimidated. Something very calm and considering had woken up behind those frank, friendly eyes, and was now thinking about her.

“I’m always careful,” he said. “You’re the one who–might be about to make a mess. That’s a TR-91. Crew-served, but sometimes modified for individual use. Usually by the biggest, strongest, meanest guy on the squad. Buddy of mine carries one. Do you know what happens if you fire that thing in here?”

Piya bared her teeth. “—there’s a hole in you. And a hole in the wall. And a hole in the people behind the wall….And the wall behind them…”

He spread his hands.

There was a long, motionless, silent pause.

Piya, reluctant down to the soles of her feet, safetied and slung the rifle. She left a hand next to her knife, just in case, but didn’t draw. The way things were going, that probably would just make it worse again. “Don’t threaten me. Trade. Like civilized people. You have to make an offer,” she prompted.

“I can offer you a certain amount of money–”

The call of the outermost depths–the darkness between the stars, where there are no shores, only islands.–floated across her mind again. Stupid Ticos. First he put ideas in her head, and then when they needed to do the really serious haggling, he wasn’t there.

But she wasn’t exactly an amateur, either.

“I want a ship,” Piya said firmly.

“Look, kid…why do I have the feeling you’re going to end up getting one?”

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