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Bargaining Chip

(1149.39 of the Standard Era)


The door opened to Brandy’s cell. The star forward of the New Washington Saints women’s Thrownball team had been alone for hours. She’d been nabbed passing through security at a spaceport on Solvet Prime. They still hadn’t told her why.

She looked up, terrified, as the drug enforcement agent of the Solvet Republic approached her.

“Hello Ms. Rering.”


“You’re in a lot of trouble.”

“I want to talk to my lawyer.”

“You’ll have one, eventually. I need to give you some information first.”

“I won’t say anything without my lawyer.”

“Fine. Sit silently, I don’t care. I’m not here to question you. I am here to tell you facts. The sound recorders are off. The cameras can’t see my lips.”

Brandy stared at him in silence.

“My colleagues are currently drawing up paperwork to charge you for possession of several grams of hashish oil we found in your luggage.”

“I don’t use hash, and if I did, it would have shown up on my WTBA drug tests. I wouldn’t be able to play in the league if I used that stuff.”

“That doesn’t matter. What matters is we say we found it in your luggage. And we will sentence you to fifteen years for having it.”

Brandy glared at him.

“I see you have two options right now, Ms. Rering. You will go to court, where you can either confess, and receive your sentence, or you can accuse us of planting the drugs in your luggage, which we did, but this is our court, so you will still lose.”

The Agent paused, and the WTBA star was paralyzed by what she was hearing. Human minds didn’t evolve to deal with the kind of stress she was experiencing. For billions of years mortal, life-ending fear for conditioned our ancestors to fight or run. Only for a few millennia had humans created these systems where facing death required charismatic composure.

“I can feel you asking why?” The agent resumed. “The answer is simple. We will exchange you for some people held back on Tanalcany. Some convicted of some terrible things. So, to make the exchange worth their while, we needed someone the Tanalcanian people would want brought home. Someone they feel has been wrongfully imprisoned.

“Which brings us back to your decision between fighting and confessing. Whichever you chose will have no effect on your conviction. You will be convicted. We will see to that. What you’re deciding on is what happens after your conviction. If you make this some grand display of civil rights violations on our planet, we may decide to find a different bargaining chip and let you serve out your full sentence.”

The agent paused, letting his words sink in. “And of course, if you confess, we will take leniency on you. Our jails, just like yours, vary wildly in terms of the disagreeableness and rowdiness of their occupants. Some of our inmates, especially the more violent ones, may not take kindly to a Tanalcanian millionaire celebrity. You may find, if you do not end up in a desirable facility, that your sentence is unnecessarily unpleasant.”

Tears were welling in Brandy’s eyes.

“But I assure you,” the agent continued, “If you confess to absentmindedly leaving the drugs in your luggage, you can say they weren’t even yours. Maybe you’d let a friend borrow the bag months ago, and you are deeply sorry for bringing that filth onto our planet. In return, we will do everything we can to make your sentence as comfortable as possible and ensure you are exchanged for our people as quickly as possible.”

Brandy’s head was on the table, sobbing. She’d never thought she’d be in a position like this. Not even in her darkest nightmares.

“We’ll have you home in six months or so. Consider it a vacation, Ms Rering.”


If you enjoyed this please, share, subscribe, and check my blog for more content. This is from my upcoming short story collection, Inevitability Approaches. Also check out my released short story collection Remote Viewing Session X719. See the books page for more info.

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