“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 thought it was time, but Rand beat him to it.
“CU,” Rand declared with a sly smile. He laid his hand down. It was a Full Galactic Flush against Jake’s Half Flush. The bastard won.
Jake’s eyes squinted into slits. The cleaver bastard had played him and he didn’t even see it coming. The ‘tell’ was a trick. Jake was decoyed like a rosy flat-beak to a pond.
Rand picked up Jake’s blaster from the top of the pot and strapped it on his other hip opposite 3su’s. He grabbed the fruit bowl from the low table, dumped its contents and raked the rest of the pile into it.
“Nice playing with you, Harcourt,” he grinned and offered his hand. “Maybe we can have a follow-up game sometime.”
Jake stood, rage boiling just below the surface. Damn! He let the man play him like some school girl.
Fatu impatiently pulled on his sleeve. He didn’t want the mercenary to do anything rash. They both needed time to figure this out.
Jake took the warlords hand. “Another time,” he promised.
Rand nodded in dismissal.
As soon as the door closed behind them Fatu turned on Jake. “I thought you said you knew how to play CU?”