“I value my men’s recommendations, Harcourt,” Aldobi-rand said as he poured Jake and Fatu another goblet of wine. “But, I must ask, why Alta III?”
“I heard it was a lucrative gig if you could find the right employer,” Jake answered.
Fatu introduced him as a mercenary for hire. He built up Jake’s past exploits and padded a few numbers to make the freelancer an appealing asset to acquire.
“Good, I like a man that can be bought,” Aldobi-rand said with a smile. “Makes negotiations so much easier when it all comes down to money, and not title or duties. You don’t have any qualms about duties do you Harcourt?”
“I’m a mercenary,” Jake said. “Tell me what you want done and I’m your man for the agreed upon price, but cross me and you’re dust beneath my thrusters,” Jake warned.
“I can live with that,” Rand agreed.
“You will enjoy having Jake around for those quiet times too,” Fatu said. “He is a really good CU player.”
Aldobi-rand rose to the bait. His ego would not let the offhanded challenge pass. “Really? How about a game right now? I haven’t played in ages, but I wouldn’t mind a little game if there was a lucrative enough incentive.”
“I don’t have much on me,” Jake said. This was the plan Fatu and he came up with yesterday when they conceived the idea - enough money to play a game or two and lose. No more.
“How much?” Rand asked.
“I’ve got two gold ingots and a hand full of chits.” Jake pulled them out of his pocket as he spoke.
“I can cover that.” Rand said. “We can play a couple of rounds, anyway.”
The first game Aldobi-rand really did win, but by the second Jake was on to his ‘tell’ and let him win the second and third. Fatu floated him a loan, as planned, and he won the forth. He couldn’t look like a total non-challenger.
Jake raked in the pot. “Want to play one last hand? I’m beginning to feel lucky. Let me see if I can win a bit back.”
“I would, but I don’t think you have enough to stay in the game.” Aldobi-rand fingered his winnings.
“I tell you what,” Jake said. “I been noticing your Class I Blaster there.” He nodded at 3su’s weapon strapped to the man’s hip. “That’s almost a collector’s item these days. They don’t make that model anymore. I’ll bet my new Magnum Class against it. I win. I get the whole pot, whatever we’re up to and the antique. You win, you get the pot and the newest model on the market. How’s that for a deal.”
It didn’t take Aldobi-rand more than thirty seconds to agree to the bet. As Fatu expected he not only thought he lost the use of it as a blackmailing tool against a woman in the hands of the opposing tribe’s inquisitor, but he was also greedy and desperate for the newer model.
Jake drew the game out as long as possible. It really could have been a quick dusting cause every time Aldobi-rand bluffed he clenched his jaw. He was bluffing now. It was odd that no one ever pointed that ‘tell’ out to him. Then again, maybe the guys around here liked having the upper hand with the boss in one field at least.
After the fifth round and both blasters were on the table Jake laid down his cards.
“CU,” he declared with a sly smile.
The young ruler was hotter than a thruster on a titan rocket launcher. He came to his feet and turned his back on the table. “Get out!” he ordered.
Jake strapped his blaster back on and gathered up 3su’s and the rest of the pot.
“Maybe we can have a follow-up game later,” Jake offered with a smile to Rand’s back.
Fatu impatiently pulled on his sleeve. He didn’t want him to rub it in too deep.
When Aldobi-rand turned, Jake grinned at him and stuck out his hand for a good hearted shake. He just couldn’t resist.
Aldobi-rand snubbed him and turned back around to gaze out the window off the terrace where he set 3su up for murder.
‘What goes around comes around,’ Jake thought as he followed Fatu out into the moonlit night.