Sutton does not invite me to sit. I take a seat anyway, smiling at him across the table. "Now, we can talk sensibly," I say.
"They are Feds, then?" Sutton says, with a jerk of his head towards the doorway.
He smiles. "Federation doesn't pay ransoms on its officers," he says. "Not officially."
"We need not discuss the Federation."
"So who are we discussing, then?"
"That," I say, "is an open question. I am a member of the KDF, and of the Orion House of Sinoom. Your answers may determine which of those takes precedence."
Sutton seems to think for a while. "The Orion woman who was in charge of the Klinks," he says, eventually. "She was asking after old contacts from the House of Sinoom."
"Cysitra Cira'tenis, for instance. How is Cysitra?"
"Dead. She called in Antell, tried to sell the Klinks out to the Feds."
"How distressing," I murmur. "I would have had questions for Cysitra. Can her data records be made available? That would be the next best thing." I see him hesitate, and I reach for my belt pouch. Eyes and drawn weapons follow the movement of my hand. I take a small object from the pouch, lay it down on the table with a click. Sutton looks at it, seemingly hypnotised by the ruddy gleam of the Lobi crystal.
"I do not pay in promises and agreements as the Federation does," I say. "Consider that... an advance, or a consultation fee. Cysitra's data records."
"I'd -" He swallows. "I'd have to make some arrangements - there were people who -"
"Who would rather their data transfers through Cysitra remained private," I finish for him. "That is understood. They must be compensated, of course." Click, click, click, as I put more crystals down on the table. These people are fools. They are not even watching my left hand, let alone Foojoy: he might as well be invisible to them. "Now, then. To other matters. Were there survivors, from the raid?" The man is a narrow-minded opportunist, so I add, "The Federation is awkward about ransoms; other factions are more realistic." I punctuate my words by putting down another crystal.
Sutton licks his lips, but before he can speak, his wrist communicator chimes. "Just a minute." He holds the device to his ear; all I hear is an agitated chittering. He stands up. "Have to deal with this." He retreats to the other end of the bar, muttering angrily into his wrist. I can't hear what he's saying, but I don't need to. Shohl is clearly not cooperating with his idea of holding her for ransom.
I glance at Foojoy, who nods. I pick up the half-empty bottle on the table, take a good look at it, decide against pouring myself a drink. There are watchful eyes all around me, those of Sutton's subordinates; they are nervous. I concentrate on ignoring them.
There is a faint rumbling sound from far away. The sound, perhaps, of distant thunder. Or of angry Andorians with guns.
Sutton comes back. He has two datapads in his hands, and the look on his face of a man considering how best to cut his losses. "The data cores at Cysitra's place were damaged when the Klinks blew the EPS grid," he says, putting one pad on the table before me. "Forensic reconstruction hasn't finished - maybe never will, it's not a priority. I have a raw dump here of all the retrieved data, it's the best I can do." He sits down again, weighing the second pad nervously in his hand.
"The other matter?" I ask.
Sutton bites his lip. He holds out the second pad. "One of the Klinks didn't make it offworld with the rest. A Nausicaan, gave his name as Lieutenant Kurjik. I took him on. We always need experienced men," he says, defensively.
I take the pad, consult it. "Full-service contract... hmmm. You struck a hard bargain, Commodore." I read on. "He claims his previous contract was automatically severed due to battlefield abandonment... the KDF is very unlikely to accept that. 'Battlefield abandonment' too often is used as a cover for simple desertion."
"The shuttle took off without him."
"It would be bound to, if he was running away from it... well, that need not concern us." I compare the biometric data with the listings on my own pad. "No Lieutenant Kurjik on my records, but I have a biometric match for a Warrior Jikkur. It seems reasonable to conclude that they are the same... given a field promotion, perhaps by his captain, perhaps by his own authority." I look up at Sutton. "So. To practical matters, then. How much?"
"For Kurjik's, or Jikkur's, contract." There is more noise from outside. I smile. "You are in a seller's market, Commodore. I suspect your troops are becoming rarer all the time. But I want this one. How much?"
He bites his lip again. "A hundred," he says, pointing at the Lobi. "A hundred of those."
"For one lieutenant's contract? Believe me, Commodore, I am doing you a huge favour in taking him off your hands."
"Fifty. And the ones already on the table. For the job lot, Commodore, the contract and the data dump. It is an equitable price."
He opens his mouth to make a counter-offer, and then the lights in the bar flicker, go out entirely for a second, then come back on, at low power. "Agreed," he says. I reach for my pouch, start to count out crystals. "Where is this Kurjik now?" I ask, as I count.
"He was on patrol in sector four - south-west quadrant near the main landing pads."
"I should be able to find him, then." I finish counting, pick up the datapads, and stand. "Activate," I say to Foojoy.
"Of activation, confirmation there is," he replies. Sutton's eyes widen.
"Look down, Commodore," I tell him. "Carefully."
His eyes widen further as he sees the thin lines of golden light, one on either side of his waist.
"A precaution," I say. "My pilot has deployed a modified Tholian stasis drone in a stealth field. Its entire emitter output is concentrated in those two threads. Under certain conditions, it will burn itself out harmlessly. Under certain other conditions, it will switch the directions of those two threads, so that they cross over each other. Rather like a pair of scissors." The web filaments are a micron thin and rigid to a degree impossible to mere solid matter. Sutton has started to sweat freely. "I need scarcely point out that the conditions... most favourable to you... involve me reaching my ship and departing unmolested. If you were to make incautious movements, or if I were to encounter difficulties - well." I give him my sweetest smile. "I am sure there are parts of your body below the waist that you would miss. Goodbye, Commodore. It has been a pleasure to do business with you." And I turn and stride out of the bar, leaving him sitting there, sweating.