"I don't have the money to stay in," Andrew said, looking at the empty table in front of him.
"And you don't gamble more than you can afford," Killjoy said. "I suppose that means that you're going to have to fold."
"Now hold on a second," Andrew said. "I can afford to lose a little bit more, yet. I have full stock back at the store. What about a shield generator? I've got the Mark VII in stock."
"Mark VII?" Killjoy said with some surprise. "That's supposed to be the latest and greatest. How much do those things retail for?"
"Around two hundred thousand," Andrew answered matter-of-factly.
"Two hundred thousand credits," Killjoy said with a low whistle. He seemed to consider the statement, looking around the table as he did so. Besides himself and Andrew, only one more person still had the funds to continue playing this late into the night. The money from the other four players had been redistributed among the three that remained though with the considerably largest portion going to Killjoy.
"What do you say?" Killjoy asked, looking to the third player. "Two hundred thousand, but it's not cash. What value should we give him? One hundred?" The other player shrugged, so Killjoy turned back to Andrew. "We'll give you one hundred thousand value for the Mark VII."
"I'll take it," Andrew said instantly, and why shouldn't he? He was sitting on a full house, kings high.
"That means that you're in essence raising twenty five thousand," Killjoy said, pealing some bills from the stacks in front of him and placing them in the pot. He looked down at his cards; four twos stared back at him. This game was in the bag. The other player folded.
"Read 'em and weep," Andrew said with a smile. He laid his cards on the table and began to rake the pot toward his seat.
"So close and yet so far," Killjoy said as he placed his cards face-up. Andrew stared at the quadruple twos in disbelief as Killjoy collected his winnings.
"Don't worry about it," he told Andrew. "I played you bankrupt because I needed your attention. Now that you owe me a Mark VII, I think I have it, yes?" Andrew nodded. "Good. I'll get us some drinks and we can find a more private booth to talk business."
Five minutes later they were comfortably seated in a secluded booth drinking beers that both looked and tasted vaguely like urine. The place definitely wasn't known for its drinks. Killjoy's money had been placed in a duffle bag that he had brought for such a purpose and was tucked safely under his seat.
"So you risked all of that money just to get my attention," Andrew said. "You're a persistent man."
"Desperate is more like it," Killjoy said. "Remember how I said that winning money was a matter of life or death? Well, money alone won't get me what I want."
"I'm confused as to what you think that I can do," Andrew said. "It sounds like you're talking about contraband; I don't deal in that sort of stuff."
"Not contraband for you, but definitely for us," Killjoy said. "You see, I'm in a bit of a pickle. I've been assigned to an SM frigate." Andrew gave a small gasp, and Killjoy continued. "You know better than I that government regulations prevent us from buying anything for our ship except for what has already been cast off by the Space Corps. On the other hand, if we want to survive, the cast offs aren't going to cut it."
"So you want me to sell to you?" Andrew said. "Why would I risk getting caught? Do you realize what would happen to my business? To me?"
"I do realize that which is why I'm willing to make it worth your while," Killjoy said. "You already owe me a Mark VII which you can deliver to this hanger," he slid a card across the table, "tomorrow at your earliest convenience. Here's the deal that I have for you: if you can secure us a new core, and I mean a new one not a crappy cast off, then I will pay for the Mark VII and the core. I'll even bump up the prices to make it worthwhile for you. You know that I have the money to do that."
"So let's say that I go along with this?" Andrew asked, clearly warming up to the idea. "The government keeps tabs on everything that goes into and out of businesses like mine. How am I supposed to cover this up?"
"Don't play me for a fool," Killjoy said. "You gamble your parts which means that have a way to cover your tracks."
"Busted," Andrew said. "So what, you just want the VII and the core?"
"Anything that you have in stock would probably be appreciated," Killjoy said. "When you come to deliver the VII, bring a list of what you have, and let our mechanic look at it. We'll buy what we need at above premium price until the money runs out. "
"You have yourself a deal," Andrew said after a few moments of consideration. "The Mark VII will arrive with the core tomorrow. I think I have just the thing; it'll have your frigate operating on overdrive."
"I don't know what that means, but it sounds good," Killjoy said. "Convince our mechanic and you'll have yourself a sale."
"In that case, I think that I've lost enough money for one night," Andrew said as he rose from the booth. "Time to go make some more before I hit the tables again."
"Look forward to seeing you tomorrow," Killjoy said, or would have said if he hadn't been interrupted by a commotion near the pool tables. A large, burly man was dragging a woman toward one of the poker tables.
"It doesn't happen often, but every once in a while, people are bet on the games," Andrew explained, seeing Killjoy's look. " I would never do it, but some people have no sense of decency."
"It would appear so," Killjoy agreed. He retrieved his duffle bag from the floor and slung it over his shoulder. "Well, I'll see you tomorrow."
"Agreed," Andrew said and left.
Killjoy meandered through the tavern toward the pool tables, the cash in the duffle bag weighing him down. He adjusted the strap as he looked around for Bulldog. The two of them needed to head back to the ship before something tragic happened. Loosing this hard won money would be equivalent to signing a death warrant for the crew. Without it, they couldn't upgrade the Safe Haven and would almost certainly die in battle. As it turned out, he didn't have to find Bulldog, the ex-Marine found him.