Ill-Gotten Gains

Karim had been right; the USSA had noticed his presence and towed his damaged starship into the docking bay of the far more severely damaged Present Resolve. The corvette itself will need substantial repairs before it’ll be in any shape to make a slipspace jump. That’s why a few of the smaller support ships from the battle group have remained behind while the bulk of the group have departed back toward the centre of known space.

Karim doesn’t know if that means he can count himself as lucky seeing as he’ll only be faced with a captain and not an admiral. But he’ll find that out soon enough, he is sure as he sits weaponless in the grey box of a room. The chair is rigid, metallic and bolted to the floor. His back is killing him but at least he has a table, also bolted to the floor and metal, to rest his tired shackled wrists upon.

The smuggler doesn’t know how long he’s been in this bland single entry room devoid of all other furniture, the light illuminating the space coming from strips recessed into the ceiling and floor edges. The lights cast a solid stark white light that had at first hurt Karim’s eyes, but he’s used to it now as he waits patiently.

And then as if on cue the door to this room slides open moments before in walks Captain Benedict Warner. The man is exactly as he imagined he would be in the flesh, though he is without his captain’s hat now, and that has revealed his buzz cut, as well as a gash from the man’s hairline that runs a good two thirds of the way down his forehead, at an angle, on the left-hand side. The gash looks deep but the captain has clearly had stitches.

The door slides closed behind Captain Warner who wanders across the room before stopping opposite Karim who looks up nonchalantly at the USSA officer.

“Karim Bensho, smuggler.” Benedict begins without a hint of satisfaction or disgust in his voice.

“These are your crimes as we know them. Fifteen counts of trafficking. Thirty two counts of smuggling narcotics.”

The narcotic count would be much higher if they knew the whole truth Karim thinks. But he isn’t about to tell the captain that.

 “A hundred twenty six counts of smuggling prohibited alcoholic beverages.” Again that would be much higher Karim thinks as the captain continues, “Four hundred counts of illegal meat products. Three hundred counts of fuel theft. Eighty seven counts of port payment fee evasions or misreporting. Two hundred and nine counts of illegal weapons transportations from primary to frontier systems. Sixteen counts for attacks and damage caused to a USSA corvette and nine hundred and fifty eight counts of the illegal movement of stolen USSA weapons. That means you’re headed for prison time. Serious prison time.”

Karim knows Captain Warner is understating it as there are enough counts against him for his sentence to cover more than three lifetimes behind bars. If they knew the full extent of his smuggling however that would almost double. But Karim just wants the captain to get on with it. Issue the judgement and let the whole ordeal be over with. He still has his life. That’s something he can work with. A life sentence doesn’t mean he’ll give up. He’ll just work on breaking out of whatever prison they put him in and then return to his smuggling life. He’d have to change his name, but that wouldn’t be too much of an issue if it meant he’d get his freedom back. Though, he would have to deal with Ferris. If the crime boss of Orion IV found out he was still alive and walking free that could prove problematic.

But what Captain Warner says next catches Karim off guard, “But you have a choice Karim Bensho.”

Karim raises his head and looks squarely at the USSA captain who smirks in response to the sheer shock in the smugglers expression. It is clear that Karim hadn’t expected that statement, which is exactly what Benedict had been hoping.

“You can either go to prison for the rest of your life.” Benedict pauses for a few moments clearly in an attempt to build tension.

“Or you give up the cords for Ferris Long and his estate. You do that and we’ll give you back your freedom and your ship.” Again Captain Warner pauses for dramatic effect.

Karim didn’t know USSA officers partook in drama as he continues to stare up at the captain, his eyes blinking slowly and causally.

“So what do you say?” Benedict asks finally before folding his arms across his chest in preparation of an answer. He doesn’t know how long the smuggler will take to make his decision or what exactly his decision will be, but the USSA officer is being honest. The deal is real and he will honour it.

Karim thinks for a few moments, though at no point does he take his eyes off the USSA officer. Then while still looking Captain Warner square in the face and without blinking he smiles wildly.

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