THE NEGOTIATOR by Madcap Madcap hated winter. Why of all of the seasons to come here did she have to pick winter? That is a bit of a complex answer. Chicago had changed a lot over the many thousands of years it had existed. While many things did change, many things remained the same. The snow under Madcap’s boot was only slightly less cold than the wind slamming into her face as she walked across the street to a manufacturing plant situated on the south side of the city. These plants had been here for a very long time, some of them long abandoned and hundreds of years old, some of them newly rebuilt to manufacture parts of star ships, weapons, engines or munitions in general. Of all the things in the city that had changed over the course of time, some things did indeed remain the same. The police were still corrupt, for one. It was still dangerous to be alone in this area of the city – crime was still, and had always been rife here. It was well known that pretty much everyone in this area of the city had a firearm of some kind, so while Madcap was not from here, she knew better than to come here unarmed. 4 Truth be told, she had come here to buy one of the plants. Although it was a seedy area, production here was incredibly cheap. Much cheaper here than in some of the nicer and safer parts of UEE space. This was still secure space, yes, but this particular neighborhood needed the income from the production plants it hosted. So it was no surprise then when the door to the facility opened for her. A man offered her his hand, she took it and shook it lightly. He was short, stocky and spoke softly. Brown hair, matted as if it had not been combed in many months. She could tell what side of his face he slept on – there was a small matted part of his hair that conformed more to his head than on the other side. “Yer trip was safe, yeh?” his whisper was muffled lightly by a soft cough, gained from probably having smoked far too much. Madcap nodded and looked around. The office they were in was perched in a corner of the plant, closer to the ceiling than the floor. “Mostly. Cabbie tried to rip me off, but that seems typical for this area”. The manager nodded and opened the door, “Let me show you around...?” he seemed lost for a name. Madcap followed him, “Call me Mad, most of my friends do.”. The staircase was steep, so she had let him take the lead, following a decent few steps behind. “Call me Parker. Wha’ company do you represent?”, he coughed again as he spoke. “Black Eclipse Corporation”, Madcap replied, she had caught up with him by now at the bottom of the staircase. “What is this factory tooled to build?” her first actual question came quickly. In her mind, it didn’t matter a whole lot – her boss, Malzra, had wanted to get into everything more or less. The more they made, the more money would go into their collective pockets. Money had a way of being used to make even more money with due time. What was being made here, was really of no concern, but Madcap wanted to know anyway. The reply from Parker should have been predictable. “Guns and explosives”. Madcap shrugged with a bit of a sigh, “Yeah, we’ll take it. How’s sixty thousand UEC for the entire park?” Parker didn’t need to reply, Madcap knew what the reply would be as she climbed the stairs back to the office. A credit chip and contact information had been left on the desk. Parker only had enough time to see the door to the outside close before turning his head to the money. Madcap might’ve hated winter, but it made it easier to do business.