To Nick’s surprise, the interior of the Cutter was even more beautiful than the exterior. Nearly everything on the ship had a holographic interface, and bright blue lights followed them throughout the ship's extensive, and surprisingly roomy halls. We entered cavernous and luxurious dining room, with fine wooden chairs magnetically attached to the floor. An array of luxurious foods that Nick didn’t recognize covered the center of the table. On the ceiling was a large crystal chandelier, and though the chains that held it to the ceiling were fake, and as stiff as a support beam, it gave the impression of gravity binding it to its position. At the opposite end of the table was a well dressed man with fine blonde hair, pouring a bottle of wine into a glass. On his flanks were two more well armed escorts, who stood unflinching as Nick entered the room.
“Ah! Commander! Glad to see you could make it. Please, take a seat.” Persing extended his hand, beckoning Nick to sit down. Wanting to maintain a professional look, Nick forced his attention away from the luxurious decor and on the ship’s owner.
“You’ll have to forgive me, I haven’t quite had the privilege to see the interior of such a magnificent ship until now,” he replied as he sat down.
“Ah, yes. Well I daresay the Cutter is the most beautiful ship to ever fly among the stars, even if the top executives at Saud Kruger would never admit it. Care for a drink? I happen to have a fine bottle of Kamadhenu Red from 3284.”
“If you’d please, Nick replied. One of the guards moved towards the table, bottle in hand, and his heavy footfalls echoing through the hall. He half expected the brute to smash the bottle with his mere grip, but to Nick’s surprise, the guard carried the bottle over and poured it into his glass with a level of grace on par with even the most well trained of man-servants.
“Guards, pilots, and servants? Your men are very skilled,” Nick remarked, bringing the glass of wine to his lips. He hesitated for a moment, however; he was not entirely convinced that the drink had not been poisoned. Swallowing his own spit, he nodded to imply that he had enjoyed the taste.
“Indeed. They were trained quite meticulously in a variety of skills. I trust them all with my life. I must say, however, that I am also quite surprised. You are very well mannered for someone of your profession.” He took another sip of his glass before signalling a pair of his guards to exit the room.. “Now, down to business. According to your message to me, you have already completed your assigned task, correct?”
“That is correct, yes. I have the body in my possession as well, as you requested.”
“Good, good. If you do not mind, I would like to have my guards retrieve the body from your ship.”
Nick paused for a moment, choosing his words carefully before speaking again. “I would prefer if our transaction was completed before such an exchange is made.”
“Oh? Commander, you do understand that a man in my position cannot commit to anything without the proper evidence that you’ve completed the job. I would find it most… displeasing if I were to give you your payment, only to learn that you never finished the task I gave you.”
“That may be true, but a man in my position is also quite easy to simply…” Nick glanced at the glass of wine in front of him, “remove from the equation entirely unless I were to withhold some sort of insurance.”
Before Persing could counter, a small device to his right emitted a faint chime. He turned his attention to the small device and pressed a small button. “Yes?”
“We’ve finished scanning the ship. The prototype is not on board,” a voice declared from the device. Persing paused, his gaze locked on the small communicator.
“Understood. You may return to the ship. Can you explain this to me, commander?” The Imperial asked, his attention returning to Nick.
“As I said, I needed insurance. The body is contained in a cryo-tube on a remote station. Only I know which location. Even if you were to check my flight logs you will have to sift through a couple hundred different places.”
Though Persing kept a straight face, Nick could tell his blood was starting to boil. The guards could tell as well, and readied themselves for his orders. “And so you expect me to just take your word for it?”
“No, of course not! I brought you some proof of my success,” Nick quickly replied. Getting the man angry now would have been suicide. He pulled a small container off of his belt and held it out. While one guard raised his weapon, another slowly approached and took the container. She opened it and looked inside for a moment.
“It’s hair,” the guard concluded.
“Hair?” Persing asked.
“Yes, hair, from your little cyborg corpse. I thought you wanted me to keep her as intact as possible, so I figured you wouldn’t want me to bring a finger or something, which brings me to why I’m here in the first place. She was not easy to drop without using heavy weapons. You could have at least warned me about that.”
Persing thought for a moment before turning to the female guard. “Go make sure it actually belonged to the prototype.”
Without so much as a noise in acknowledgment, the guard walked down one of the nearby corridors. Once she was gone, Persing turned back to Nick. “So, how would you have me adjust your contract?”
Nick leaned back and considered the question for a moment. “Well, I’m a reasonable man, and I could tell you would be profitable ally so I will suggest this: A meager ten percent raise on my current contract and in return I would like you to call upon me the next time you need something dealt with. And next time I would prefer it if you payed me the proper amount of money for the job.”
Persing thought for a moment about the offer. Nick figured it was reasonable. The raise was minimal, and any other assassin may have asked for double, if not triple, in this situation. On top of that, it was also an offer to work for him once again in the future, and since Nick had proven himself effective, it would be in his favor to rehire him, rather than hire a new assassin, and risk either failure, or a demand for higher pay. Growing uncomfortable in the silence, Nick looked over at one of the guards, who stood motionless near the hallway entrance.
“If I may ask, you’ve been calling the cyborg chick a ‘prototype’ during this entire conversation. Would it be safe to assume that your guards are the final product?” Nick asked. It was dangerous for him to ask questions like this, but he was here to gather information, after all.
“That’s a rather bold question, don’t you think?” Persing asked, as if he read his mind. He smiled, however, and seemed excited to answer. “But to answer your question, yes, that is exactly what they are. Let’s just say my business partner is very appreciative of the job I do. Some of these guards are from his personal collection, and their ships are highly customized. Just one could blow your dingy little Eagle out of the sky in under five seconds, should you make me angry.”
The room fell silent for a moment. Nick fought the urge to react, and nearly stumbled from the threat, but he knew what was happening. It was a test to see if he was hiding something. Reacting quickly, he twisted the surprise on his face into innocent confusion. “Have I made you angry?”
After another moment of silence, Persing smiled and leaned back in his chair. “No, not yet, but you still haven’t told me where the prototype is.”
Nick wanted to relax but couldn’t let it show. “Well, if we have reached an agreement, my plan was to a group I have ties with to contact who will hand the corpse over to you.”
As he finished speaking, the guard that had left with the hair returned and gave his conclusion to Persing. He, in turn, nodded before speaking. “Very well, commander. You have a deal.”