APAGear II Archives Volume 1, Number 10 October, 1999


Deal With the Devil

Scott R. Blow

Soldat Binson approached his opponent with dread, his palms damp and his throat uncomfortably dry and scratchy. His worst enemy lay in wait just scant meters away; a diabolical mind hid behind that fat, slouching, bland- faced exterior. Like a smug, malevolent Buddha. To the untrained eye Binson's adversary was just Sergent Rejinald, bored supply clerk, but to any rookie MILICIAman he was the devil himself.

After a moment spent steeling his nerve, Binson approached the malignant lump of a bureaucrat, padding across the cold tile floor in his bare feet. He very calmly placed his boots on Rejinald's desk, clearing his throat. "Sir." No response; Rejinald kept his eyes on his cheap romance novel, spit-soaked cigar end hanging precariously from the corner of his insolent mouth. "S-sir!" Binson stammered, recalling how Rejinald had once reduced Sous-Lieutenant Reyte to tears.

Rejinald glanced up, his stool creaking under his tremendous weight. "Soldat!" he cried, his voice full of mock hospitality. "What can I do for you?"

"The boots issued to me are three sizes to small!" Binson gritted his teeth, waiting for the inevitable "So?" He did not have to wait long.

"So? Whaddaya want me to do about it?" Rejinald drawled, his foul cigar nub migrating from one corner of his frog-like mouth to the other.

Binson stifled a bitter laugh. "Well, sir, you are the quartermaster, I was hoping you could replace them." If that's not too much to ask, he added silently.

"Weeelll..." the troll creaked, piggy eyes alight with unholy glee. "We don't seem to have your size in stock right now..." He lifted his palms in a gesture of helplessness, neither bothering to check the boots' size nor calling up the equipment manifests on his dataglove. Binson noted one of Rejinald's meaty hands rolling into the interplanetary symbol for "Gimme."

Binson's face fell. He very quietly placed an envelope on the counter. "One season's wages." Binson was desperate. He needed those boots. Aside from various deep jungle patrols, he also had a unit inspection in a couple of days; being barefoot in either situation would have dire consequences and serious repercussions. Rejinald was unimpressed. "I make more in a season than you do in three cycles, kiddo." Mostly in bribes and kickbacks, was the unspoken addendum.

"How about a bottle of vintage elohar wine dating back to the end of the St Vincent's War?"

"Nah, makes me puke," came the crass reply. Of course, thought Binson, the esteemed Sergent's palate would tend towards beverages with the ability to strip paint as well as intoxicate.

"What do you want from me?!" Binson cried, his voice close to cracking.

Rejinald cocked his head to the side. "Hey," he said finally. "You've got a sister, doncha?" His wicked laugh would have put even Mephistopheles to shame.

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APAGear II Archives Volume 1, Number 10 October, 1999