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The Scent of Sondja
by Patricia Green
Copyright ©2015 Patricia Green
All Rights Reserved

Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.
Part 4 is here.

Chapter 3

The conference room set aside for negotiations held the two Seeters and Sondja plus one Kratian aide named Mimika. The red-eyed Mimika, who sat behind his leader was quiet, making notes on a hand-held device that was unfamiliar to Jack. Sondja did all the talking. She was respectful and reasonable. She wanted to sell the moon, not give it away, but the Seeters felt it was theirs to begin with, despite the long history of the Krates having charge of it.

“That treaty is outdated and no longer relevant,” the swarthy Seeter said to Sondja. His Interstallar was marred by a thick accent, and Jack had to carefully parse each word that came out of the Seeter’s lipless mouth. Sondja, on the other hand, looked focused but relaxed despite wearing the helmet with the breather quietly humming. There were slight differences between the Krates and Seeters, but it was clear that their races came from the same genetic stock, albeit a long time split off.

“We disagree,” Sondja said firmly. “Krate is willing to accept an offer of six billion bets for Dolaris, plus royalty rights to the minerals there.”

“Six billion! Outrageous,” the Seeter exclaimed. “Dolaris’ mining is worth less than half of that.”

“Are you offering three billion bets?”

“We will go no higher than two, and no royalties.”

It had been going on like this for hours, with neither side budging. Jack thought it reasonable to step in. “Have you considered going with an all-royalties scheme rather than the purchase of Dolaris?”

The Seeter frowned, dark eyebrows beetling. “We want to own the moon and all its minerals.”

“There is a compromise here,” Jack told him. “If Krate is willing to accept royalties for the mining, and perhaps the water, maybe it would be equitable.”

Sondja shot him a wary look and a tiny smile. “We would be willing to discuss royalties only, Minister of Seeter.”

“You would?”

She nodded.

“What rate would that be?”

They negotiated for another two hours, but finally settled on a royalty scheme whereby Krate would receive a percentage of the mining and water profits, in exchange for the use of the surface of the moon for anything but projects deleterious to the environment there. The moon would remain the property of Krate, though Seeter could populate it in whatever fashion they chose. Since the Setter population was booming, outgrowing its small planet, it was a good deal for all parties. It also had the benefit of both worlds forming an alliance as each wanted something tangible from the other, something that could only be had through good behavior.

Jack tried to be unbiased during the negotiations, not encouraging either side to misbehave. Sondja pushed the limits more than a few times, but so did the Minister from Seeter.

Sondja left the bargaining table first, and Jack wrapped up with the Seeters and then left as well.

There hadn’t been time or opportunity to tell Sondja about the promotion to ambassador, but Jack had wanted to get through the negotiations without influencing her or creating the impression that he was siding with her over Seeter. It was her job to get the best deal, and Jack’s job to point out places where there was potential agreement and move the process along. But the negotiations were over, and Jack’s obligation for impartiality along with them. He could hardly wait to give Sondja the news.

Unfortunately, he was told that Sondja was in conference when he arrived at her quarters. He left her a message and headed back to his office. As he was walking along, he got a comm from Tatum.

“We think we’ve identified the two Kratians behind the terrorism, Captain Hamilton,” Tatum told him.

“Come to my office. I don’t want to discuss this over the comm.”

“Aye, aye, sir.”

Jack settled into his chair and was reading messages on his vid screen when Tatum came in. He was the picture of a calm and collected, efficient and stiff security chief.

“Sit down. What have you got for me?” Jack began.

“Thank you,” he replied, taking a seat in front of Jack’s desk. “We traced the chemical signatures, and then correlated them to potential black market dealers for those chemicals. We narrowed it down to a single dealer in this quadrant, and had a…chat…with him.”

Jack arched his brow.

“He was actually fairly easy to convince. We used a combination of muscle and money. He responded well to both.”

“I see. Go on.”

“We showed him pictures of the Kratian delegation and he identified two faces.”

“And?”

“One was Mimika, and the other was a Kratian female called Artis.”

“Mimika! He was in the negotiations today. He didn’t say a word.”

Tatum shook his head. “No surprise there. After the interrogation, when we were sure he was in the conference with you, we intercepted his transmissions off the Dreadnaught and decoded them. He was sending messages back to Krate, planning to kidnap Hefalia Sondja and hold her hostage unless the Hefalia breaks the contract and keeps the moon.”

“Political suicide for her,” Jack pointed out. “The new deal would be lucrative to the Krates, easing up their economy and leading to greater prosperity. I’m sure Sondja would rebel against killing it.”

Shrugging, Tatum went on. “I only know what I read on Mimika’s messages. But we’ve got him red-handed.”

“And the Kratian female delegate?”

“We arrested her immediately. She’s in the brig.”

Jack sighed. The situation was awkward, but there weren’t too many ways to resolve it diplomatically. “All right. Grab Mimika and get ID on whomever he was communicating with on Krate. The Hefalia needs to know about the plot and her security at home depends on knowing who is behind it at home.”

“Agreed,” Tatum said, standing. “I’ll get right on it.”

Jack watched him march out of the office and immediately went to work recording an urgent message to Sondja. Hopefully, she’d get it as soon as her conference was done.

short stories in five minutesPart 4, the final chapter, on Wednesday.

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