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May 13, 2024


By Frederick Foote

Usama is a usurper. He threatens my small smuggling operation on this obscure planet in its remote corner of Sector Four.

My name is Teakwood Ledbetter Ljubisavljevic, III. I'm a business person of scale and significance. However, in this dusty backwater I'm simply John Dough, a sales representative for a small cutlery firm.

I'm here in the Slow Lane Dance-Fight club. The drums are compelling and the fighters are oiled blurs as they twist and turn to the ever faster beat. There is the solid "thunk" of a kick to the head that sends the larger fighter to the floor.

The sweaty crowd roars its approval. Usama is a tall, thin, black cheerleader for the winner. Good, his last minutes should be filled with success and celebration.

This is less than minor business, but Usama interests me. I have observed him for two days and I don't see the potential that I expected. I will eliminate Usama.

The crowd quickly disperses, perhaps sensing the confrontation to come, leaving me Usama, and his seconds in command, Islone and Shad.

I'm on the top row of the six-tiered bleacher.

The trio gathers on the floor below me. Usama starts the game.

"Teakwood, one of the Big Five Bosses -- or have you advanced to the Big Four? Did you truly think your presence here would go unnoticed? What important matter brings your august highness to this bare and chilly corner of the universe? Have you come to learn Dance-Fight, or to learn from me and mine how to operate a truly efficient organization?"

"For your ears only." I wave him up to me.

And now he's in a dilemma. The Street Codes here require him to make that dreadful journey up to his almost certain death at my hands. He can't show fear of an old man of sixty like me. To do so is to lose face, and to lose face is to lose his position of leader, and in all probability, his life. It is amusing that out here in the provinces, outlaws still pretend to adhere to a code of conduct.

"What an interesting proposition Master Teakwood, but I prefer you attend me down here. After all this is my kingdom, small though it may be."

"Fair enough, but I came here to evaluate you as a possible business partner ... however; I have found you ... unsuitable and not up to the standards of my partners or employees. My reasoning in this matter is what I wanted to share in confidence with you in hopes that you could correct my, perhaps false, impressions."

Islome, his right hand and his assassin, can't hide her interest in my comments about "business partner."

Shad, his friend and his muscle, is trying to hide his disappointment that his leader has not climbed the bleachers to confront me.

"Teakwood, Teakwood, that is an old, tired trick. You must think me a great fool. Old man, we knew the moment you departed Toledo Station that you were coming here. Shit, old man, we knew you were coming here before you did. Now, how is that possible?"

I don't know if there is a mole or spy in my organizations, but the seconds do not seem surprised by Usama's statements. So maybe I'm being set up. What an interesting life I lead.

"Usama, that knowledge of my intentions and travel plans that you claim; what use have you made of it? That is extremely valuable information. My enemies would have paid a planet for that knowledge. So, have you used this information for your enrichment?"

Usama pauses a moment too long.

"No. Well, that is one reason I have elected to bypass you as a partner, you fail to understand and take advantage of opportunity." I look at Islome. "You would have been able to bring Islome out of her current legal woes with that kind of payday."

"I will --"

"Of course, of course, I know you have thought this through and have better, more lucrative plans that you have shared with your seconds." I look at Shad. He turns to look at his leader.

"Fuck you, Teakwood." Usama reaches behind his back for his home made projectile weapon stuffed in his belt. Well, so much for Street Codes.

"The other reason I rejected you is that you are a coward. You are still standing down there protected by your seconds. Ready your weapon, boy. I'm coming down to you. I have no weapon so the odds still favor me. You know cowards do not fare well in battle. Ask your seconds if you don't believe me."

Usama has his weapon out now, pointed at me.

I take the first step down.

"Usama you will be famous for shooting an unarmed old man of sixty some years. You better shoot now before your nerves fail you."

I take the second step down.

"Islome, steady his hand or he will shame you all with his wild shooting."

"You, you Teakwood you can't --"

"Don't panic, Usama. I will make your death quick and painless. I promise. Or, or you can shoot me dead. And misfortune shall rain down on you and yours and all their families."

I take the third step down.

"Unless, unless some misfortune should befall you before I reach you, I mean, some might not want to share the shame of killing an unarmed old man ... and the firestorm of repercussions." I look at Shad. He bites his lip and looks down.

I take the fourth step.

"Usama, you're not aiming your gun. You need to aim your gun or give it to Islome. She will do this job for you. Islome, if you were working for me your legal problems would disappear, but I understand and appreciate loyalty."

I take the fifth step.

"Well, I'm one step away, Usama. I've changed my mind. I'm not going to kill you or even harm you." I turn to Shad. "I put our futures in the hands of your seconds. I'm sure they will make wise decisions."

Usama starts to raise his weapon, but Shad pulls Usama's hand down and twists the gun away from him.

I take the last step.

I turn to Islome. "Your legal troubles are rapidly fading away even as we speak." I turn to Shad. "I value your service. You both need to see me before I depart. You know my schedule."

It is a bit chilly outside, but I think I will enjoy the night air and walk the half mile to my hotel. I feel that this is now a safer town for walking, especially for me.

Article © Frederick Foote. All rights reserved.
Published on 2015-01-12
Image(s) are public domain.
1 Reader Comments
03:30:03 PM
Very well paced and sly. I enjoyed the tale.
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