Chapter 35

“O-kay then… Probably best if we hurry this along.” Markhette popped Conmer’s memory stick into a hidden computer in her desk. “Let’s see… Too much data to give you a precise value on the spot. Give me a second and I’ll work out a minimum for your advance payment.” She tapped the top of her desk in a rhythmic pattern, causing a monitor to pop out of the top. “So that’s about a quarter million, right there. Subtract the stuff I already know, calculate for any logical deductions I could make by mixing this stuff with my other data, divide by twenty, and then round it down just to be on the safe side, so… I can give you 12,372 information credits now, and I should have your full payment ready in four to five hours.”
“Actually, I have some… circumstances.” Conmer glanced toward the exit, his mind wandering back to his crew. Back at the shipyard there were a few hundred arlvere and a genzin, all cooped up in a small transport ship on a rosearn colony. It was only a matter of time before things… escalated. “I don’t suppose you can just spread the word whenever you’re done, and I’ll get the news from whatever information shop I happen to stop by first?”
“That would be inconvenient, but if I take 10% off of everything except the advance payment, I should still come out on top. Deal?” Markhette didn’t wait for an answer. Striding toward a seemingly random section of the wall, she knocked five times in a pattern. “Go ahead and think on it. In the mean time, why don’t we get you decked out with the essentials. Your wardrobe is hazardously out of style, and I can tell your bag of tricks is running low just from the look in your eyes.” The various racks of weapons, poisons, and miscellaneous gadgetry that adorned the store’s walls flipped around, revealing stocks of clothing, stuffed animals, and children’s toys. “Knowing you, you’re going to want something casual and a little childish, but with confident undertones. We also have some Betting Disks for the kids, but I doubt you’ll be able to resist buying a few for your collection. They’re cheap, and you’re a nostalgic softie.”
“No clothes, actually. I don’t deal with many rosearn, so my current wardrobe is perfect. I can’t buy any Betting Disks, either. I need to stock up on the essentials, and every credit counts.”
“I know you don’t need clothes for dealing with rosearn most of the time. I’ve been keeping tabs on you, remember? That being said, are you really sure you’re okay with not having a contingency plan just in case you do have to deal with an equal?” A confident grin spread across Markhette’s face. “Oh, and are you sure about those Betting Disks? I told you, they’re cheap! And the latest collection has your favorite superhero team on it…”
Conmer hesitated briefly, his expression becoming more wooden for a second. “Fine, one outfit of your recommendation, and two five-packs of Betting Disks… but I’m only buying the disks if there’s plenty of money left over, and at least two of the designs feature Lie Detector.”
Smugness radiated off Markhette, as she rapidly grabbed a few pieces of clothing off the shelf and knocked on the wall three more times. “Coming right up!” The displays spun around once more, restoring the shop’s previous appearance. “Now, what sort of technology are we looking for?”
“A few hidden weapons and a dozen space suits. I’m also hoping to get my hands on some stuff I didn’t know I needed.” Conmer paused. “On a different note, why were the clothes and toys hidden when I entered? You’d think it’s the weapons you’d want to keep hidden.”
“Well, you know how the Alliance is. They won’t stop until they’ve searched every single teddy bear for illegal goods, but show them just one paintball gun and suddenly they assume everything in the entire store is just a toy. It’s ridiculous.”
“I don’t know…” Conmer’s face grew wooden again as he struggled to hold back a giggle. “I think it’s quite the clever strategy.”
Markhette’s expression turned blank as she tried to work through the tactical advantages of the Alliance enforcers’ behavior. “What in Earth’s name are you on about? No matter how I look at it, they obviously… just -” She froze. “Oh. I walked right into that one, didn’t I?” Emotion began to return to her face, specifically the emotion of mildly annoyed. “Well, at least it’s nice to know your sense of humor hasn’t improved. You and your back-stab jokes. Why can’t you just use puns like a civilized person?”


A note from the author ninja:

Rosearn humor is a little bit… unusual. Due to the vast quantities of secrets, intrigue, and hidden messages in their daily life, they’re very used to reading deep into what others are saying – as well as making sure their partners in conversation have to read deeply in order to really understand what they’re saying. As a result, rosearn jokes tend to be hidden within otherwise innocuous sentences. Their favorites are elaborate puns, which are sometimes hidden so well that audiences members will fail to realize they’re watching a comedy until one of the viewers cracks up halfway through the movie. (When sold in foreign markets, it isn’t uncommon for rosearn movies to be classified as the wrong genre, since the other species don’t pick up on the hidden layers.) The lowest form of humor, on the other hand, is back-stab jokes. These simplistic jokes are basically just a cheap way of annoying ones friends, and comprise entirely of saying something as unexpected as possible. The joke fails if the victim sees the joke coming, even if they can’t predict the details. (Catching a rosearn off guard with a strange or counter intuitive phrase is harder than one might think, especially if a particular wannabe comedian has already garnered a reputation for back-stabs.)

On the topic of how rosearn amuse themselves, Betting Disks have been the most popular toy among rosearn children for the past two hundred years. They’re basically just collectible colored plastic disks (reminiscent of casino tokens in size and shape), with various patterns and designs on them. One “generation” of Betting Disks is released each year, with each generation being further divided into themed “sets.” There is no specific game associated with Betting Disks. Instead they are bet on various traditional card games, traded with other children, and used to bribe classmates. Finally, they serve as an educational tool. Parents whose children go to the same school will pool together their resources and purchase Betting Disks that are evenly and randomly distributed among the students, in hopes that the children will be dissatisfied with what they have and cooperate or compete with others to complete their precious collections. (Which has also led to Betting Disks becoming a status symbol among grade schoolers and teenagers.)

One last thing before I go: Yes, I know I said that any form of currency other than labor credits is illegal in the Alliance. Yes, information credits are technically a currency. (There are a few quirks to the system that makes information credits different from your usual monetary system.) Here’s the thing though, rosearn just don’t care. It doesn’t matter how illegal something is if you don’t get caught, and the rosearn are masters of keeping secrets.


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