Although this is a follow-up to Krillaz, it is a stand-alone story.
This time out, Vic Vargo is hired to bid at auction for a valuable sea shell on behalf of an oligarch with more money than sense and then guard it on its way to a private museum. Easy money, Vargo thinks. What could go wrong? But that's just the start of Vargo's troubles as everything does go wrong. And is the oligarch himself a man to be trusted? Using his wits, strength and reflexes Vargo does his best to save his friends, succeed in his mission and keep his reputation as the best interplanetary recovery agent in the galaxy.
You know what makes something valuable? Scarcity – or the danger of getting it. But as there's always enough fools willing to lay their lives on the line, rarity matters far more than danger. Take an example – alright, why not take a drink as well as an example? Might as well while we wait for the Star-Liner to fly me away to Nova Veaga where the fun'll really start. Where was I?
Okay, an example. Take this drink. It's a rare whisky called Laphroaig. A peated single malt whisky from the Scottish island of Islay. That's back on old Earth itself. They say it's the most richly flavoured whisky in the galaxy. Even now, it's only made in time honoured traditional ways on that one island in the whole universe. Hand crafted by artisans or something. Even on Earth it costs a lot but on this planet hundreds of light years away, the expense is astronomical. Go on, bartender, twist my arm, I'll have another. It's not every day I get to celebrate earning a big bonus.
Where was I? I've probably had too much but I've earned it. Oh yes, rarity. Well, real Laphroaig is expensive because it's still rare. It's not mass-produced and here we are billions and billions of kilometres away still savouring it.
Now some things were once expensive but are now much cheaper. Motor cars after Henry Ford sorted out mass production hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Remember him? Or diamond. That was once the most expensive mineral on Earth but after people sent robots to mine 55 Cancri e – you've heard of it, a super-massive world orbiting a pulsar or something only 41 light years from Earth itself – then the cost dropped like a stone.Even I've got a knife with a blade made of solid diamond. It's saved my life more than once, I can tell you. Holds its edge well. Sorry, I can't show you as all weapons had to be checked in on arrival. But take my word for it, it's beautiful. Now, before 55 Cancri e was opened up, wars would have been fought over such a weapon. Now it's in the hands of an interplanetary recovery agent. That's me – Vic Vargo. Recoveries, rescues, rampages and all odd jobs nobody else would touch is my speciality.
Go on. Pour me another, bartender. I'm a survivor, a winner, simple as that and while I wait I'm getting wasted. That's still allowed, isn't it? The Nu-Puritans aren't here, are they? Big money and I'm alive to spend it. For now. What do they say? Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die? Well, I don't intend karking it any time soon. Not while I've got a tonne of money to burn through. Yes, pour me another – and make it large, why don't you. And why don't you say something?
Yes, I was drunk. But after what I'd survived, I'd earned the right to enjoy a blow-out in the departures lounge of Batavia VII's starport before heading out for a well-earned break on the hedonistic world of Nova Veaga. A bit of R and R never hurt anybody.
I looked up from the highly polished bar and into the highly polished face of the bartender. It was a servo-bot specially designed to wait on bars. It hovered there on its anti-gravity unit while two of its spider arms polished glasses until they sparkled, two more served other customers and another set my Laphroaig onto a coaster. Behind it, further appendages rearranged bottles with exactitude. It could hold several conversations at once but seemed to have adopted a watchful silence with me. Probably it was wondering if it should call a security-bot.