Conmer staggered into his cabin, exhausted after a long and silently awkward shuttle ride. Manri had done her best to break the tension with a few jokes, but really only made things worse. The whole experience made her really uncomfortable, so she made a sprint straight for her rope nest as soon as her shuttle docked. She’d be bolting around there and screeching for hours – Renz was probably going to complain about that. Fates, everyone always had something to complain about, and nobody ever had a solution. Why did he even bother?
Conmer needed a break. “The walls have eyes, the floor has ears.”
A prerecorded voice spoke up, its tone equal parts feminine, emotionless, and authoritative. “Voice command received. Initiating privacy protocols.” Some might say that such a public way of activating privacy protocols attracted too much attention, but Conmer’s mother had taught him to always have as many pieces on the board as you can keep track of. Silence can reveal far more to your enemies than a stream of noise ever could. “Locking door.” The entrance to Conmer’s cabin sealed tightly shut, the walls closing in with a slam to cover the door. “Sealing room and switching to internal oxygen supplies. 36 hours of air remaining. Activating noise cancellation. Triggering EMP.” A bright wave of electricity coursed through the room, strong enough to be felt but too weak to hurt. Well, maybe it hurt a little. It was worth it though, since any electronics in the room not keyed to a very specific frequency was now completely destroyed. Including a hidden camera the Alliance had planted a few months ago. Shame, it had been quite useful. Even after the alliance found out he knew it was there, it had still been pivotal in dozens of schemes. “This room is now secure – but remember: A rosearn is safest when they know they’re in danger.”
Truer words were never spoken. Conmer reached into one of his coat’s many hidden pockets, gently pulling out a small, unassuming book. The gaudy cover read “Lohzen iyt Parst.” It was the name of a cheap rosearn romance novel infamous for being sold in grocery stores for half a labor credit, since no respectable bookstore was willing to carry it. “I want to make a deal with the devil, and challenge her throne of lies.” The letters on the cover began to rearrange themselves, revealing the true title of the book: “The Devil’s Contract.”
A note from the
Alright, let’s just get three things out of the way: One, yes, the official name for the Alliance’s currency is “labor credit,” but most of the time people just call them credits. (Or creds, if one is the type to use that sort of slang.) Two, “Lohzen iyt Parst” translates to “Lies and Passion,” which should tell you exactly why respectable bookshops don’t carry that particular novel. Three, before anyone asks, no, Lohzen iyt Parst and The Devil’s Contract have no relationship with each other. (Aside from the fact that they were both written by rosearn.) Conmer is merely using the trashy novella as a smokescreen to hide The Devil’s Contract, since most rosearn wouldn’t ask why he’s hiding it. (No human descendant would ever admit to having purchased a copy of Lohzen iyt Parst.)
Moving on, the idea for The Devil’s Contract was actually inspired by a real life book called “The Art of Worldly Wisdom.” Which is basically “The Art of War,” but for socialization and politics instead of military battles. If you have the patience for it, I’d recommend giving it a try. It isn’t exactly an easy read, but if you’re the type that doesn’t mind that sort of thing it has some pretty handy life advice.