From Elite Wiki
A less than flattering image from the Captain's scrapbook
The Dubious Profit (right half is in the shade)

Stranglehold is a short novella by Blaze O'Glory, recounting an episode in the life and travels of Captain Hesperus.


Stranglehold highlights many of the difficulties faced by merchant captains in the Co-operative today. It contains interesting insights into negotiation techniques, commander–crew relations, and the importance of hats, and shows how some trades can have awkward consequences.


Captain Hesperus, a grey furry feline from Orrira, took another heaving gulp of the stale atmosphere. The air on board the Dubious Profit was sour and warm, ripe and rancid, and oxygen levels were critically low. The scanner blurred and swam in front of him as he struggled to pinpoint the powerful warship that was hunting him down. It was, he reflected bitterly, all Rus’s fault.

“It’s your own fault, Hesperus,” said Rus, the Dubious Profit’s engineer, when the problems with the atmospheric reprocessors first began. He glowered at his captain across the narrow, stained table that dominated the merchant vessel’s cramped messroom. “You’re a shifty, penny-pinching shyster with a cavalier attitude towards proper procedures, and you’re more concerned with your own pockets than you are with the welfare of your crew. I didn’t think it was possible for you to surprise me any more, let alone shock me, but this – this really is something special, even by your low standards.”
“It is a simple, straightforward business deal,” said Hesperus. “All parties gain. This is the fundamental basis ...”
“Fundamental basis, my eye,” shouted Rus. “It’s wrong, Hesperus. Do you even know the meaning of the word?” Cords stood out on the engineer’s thick, blue-scaled neck: he thrust his head down, jabbing the stubby horn on the end of his nose forward. “It’s exploitation, pure and simple.”
Captain Hesperus was master and commander of the Dubious Profit, a battered Python-class cargo hauler of uncertain provenance and vintage. Like all merchant captains, he was a keen student of the body languages displayed by the myriad species and cultures that made up the Co-operative. A tic here, a twitch there: a cocked ear, inflated sac or arched antenna could be worth percentage points on any trade. Rus’s body language, thought Hesperus, was more basic than most – and with a limited vocabulary, all negative. The engineer came originally from Inera, a rich, heavily industrialised and technically sophisticated world, whose blue lizardlike inhabitants were noted for their aggressive trading strategies and enthusiastic pursuit of profit. Hesperus regarded them, on the whole, as a talented and admirably acquisitive people. Rus, though, did not fit the general profile of his species. Although skilled as an engineer – his ability to keep the Dubious Profit running made him an indispensable member of the crew – he displayed a baffling cynicism regarding the cut and thrust of trade. Deals and counter-deals, wrestling profit from the hands of another, the wild dance of opportunity that was to Hesperus the heartbeat of civilisation – Rus affected disdain for it all. Except, Hesperus thought sourly, when it came to extracting his own shares from the Dubious Profit’s voyages.
“Sploition, yes, the fat reptile talks a true!” A voice squeaked out from a ventilation grille tucked just below the ceiling of the Dubious Profit’s compact mess. “We are sploited, we demand!”
Rus, whose head had jerked somewhat at the phrase fat reptile, rose to his feet. “I am going,” he said, “to oversee the running of the ship’s engines. This is my job, for which I earn a wage.” He spoke slowly, aiming the words at the grille. “You,” he said, stabbing a finger at Hesperus, “sort this out. It’s not hard to do.” He strode from the room, bulling his way past Stepan, the ship’s Erbitian navigator...

(Stranglehold by Blaze O'Glory)


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