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   Chapter 41 No.41

Free-Wrench By Joseph R. Lallo Characters: 5303

Updated: 2018-01-19 12:02

"Profit?! But we're talking about life and death here!"

"Yes, Nita. We are. In the fug, profit is life and death. You saw our city. There is no sunlight here. That means no crops. Very few animals survived the fug, which means no fresh meat. If we are to survive, we must trade our technology for goods from those on the surface. You are asking for something which will cure your mother. That is a single payment. Hardly justifiable."

"There has got to be a better way. I'll pay any price! Anything!"

"I have no doubt that you will pay any price, but the simple fact is that you will only ever pay that price once. It would be different if this were a drug that had to be taken again and again, for years and years. The problem is that it is a cure. You'll need it only once, and then you won't need us anymore. We must cultivate our dealings with you and your like as a farmer would a crop. And a crop you can only ever harvest once is no crop at all."

"Surely we can find a way to trade fairly."

"Oh no. There are very few of us, and quite a few of you. Fair is unacceptable. It would afford us too little. No, in order for us to survive, the balance must be quite heavily in our favor. We trade our disposable goods and, more importantly, our services, and we take those steps necessary to ensure that those services will always be in high demand."

"How can you be so—?"

"Oh, good heavens, look at the time. I'm terribly sorry, but there are other meetings to prepare for. Captain West, if you'd take your samples to our treasurer for appraisal, we'll settle the addi

e stuff that still clung to her clothes. It was horrid, overpowering. She could compare it to nothing in her life to date. Somewhere between strong solvents and burning weeds, but each to a depth and scale that almost caused her to wretch.

She wandered back to the closest thing she had to a home for thousands of miles, the trusty Wind Breaker, and climbed aboard. Her feet had barely touched the rungs of the dangling ladder when the distinctive sound of a gun cocking came from above. She looked up to see Gunner, apparently the one who'd drawn the short straw and remained behind to defend the ship.

"Ms. Graus. I'd suggest you announce yourself next time, " he said, easing down the hammer of the pistol. It was yet another fresh one from his collection, this one with a flared end and a barrel as wide as that of a shotgun.

"I'm sorry, " she muttered, continuing up the ladder. "And you may as well call me Nita."

"Oh? Why the change of heart?"

"Because I think your first impression of me was a sound one. I was a liability after all."

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