Unnamed Journal Volume 3, Issue 3 - Page 21

Cantilever Jones Lands Hard look at. "The hell without intermission," I intone solemnly to myself, so pronounced is my reaction. "Since when do you quote old Bindu texts?" bubbles Norl in my mind. "When the damnation suits, wear it," I reply. Vin execute a landing soft enough to keep babies asleep were there any aboard. I compliment his performance and he fixes me with his one baleful optic camera and then mutters something about readying the manifest. I stand and stretch and feel Norl at last uncoil and pick his way up my shoulder and take a friendly nip at my left earlobe. He does it every time and I barely notice it anymore, so I hope it's some esoteric reason and not vengeance at having subjected him to hyperspace again. The only thing worse than vengeance delayed is vengeance unnoticed. I stretch out of my captain's chair and head for the personnel exit underneath the wings. I grab a dark brown scur- leather jacket and pull all zips and close all pockets. Then I unhook the strap on my lasgun and let it dangle at my hip, clinking slightly with each step. I know people in the line - smugglers of experience, even -- who think it the height of foolishness to wear a weapon in the sight of any Imperial officer. But my intuition and experience tells me that trained killers are not bothered by the sight of weapons or the bravura of one wearing them. It's the ones who feign innocence and harmlessness that arouses their suspicion and contempt, not necessarily in that order. It's the oldest and truest smuggler trick: look like you belong there, and people will assume you do. So I don't make eye contact with the brooding tower of officiousness in a Legion Underofficer uniform, I just amble over and present my credentials and manifest, which he scans while I turn my back to admire my ship. The Jones is a T-111 SluTech Fighter-Bomber, one of the newer models to emerge from the shipyards of Goran-4, which is always a fun planet to visit if you like seeing dense virgin forests surrounding domed technopoli. CJ is shiny and cream-colored and still has that new ship smell (which is also built on Goran-4, and marketed to people who buy after-market ships from owners who have excellent service records, like me). I look back over at the Underofficer "You gonna be long?" "Why are you taunting him?" says Norl in my mind. "Curious about how tauntable he is." "The scar along his cheek says not very tauntable." "Please. This guy's a clerk. That scar's an affectation. He probably did it himself and rubbed salt into it." "Next you'll be saying he castrated himself..." "Nah. He's not the Deathguard type." "I dunno, Rand. He kind of bothers me." I make it a habit to trust Norl's instincts - why have a psionic familiar if not to pay attention to his intuitions - so when