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A Dark and Hungry God Arises 6 - Nick [1]

 
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2020 9:24 am    Post subject: A Dark and Hungry God Arises 6 - Nick [1] Reply with quote

On the bridge of Captain's Fancy, Nick Succorso is waiting to learn where he stands with the Bill, by knowing which docking area Billingate Operations assigns to his ship. Nick knows that he's put the Bill in a tight spot, as he believes the Bill doesn't want to either displease his Amnion masters or openly sell a human (Davies) to the Amnion. Nick starts musing on how Morn escaped from the cabin where he'd imprisoned her. His ship's computer has stated the lock works, so one of his crew must have betrayed him. Nick paces while thinking of these things, while his command second Mikka Vasaczk and her second-shift crew run the bridge equipment.

Nick wonders aloud why Billingate is taking so long to assign the ship a docking location, and Mikka responds that Billingate has to figure out whose side they're on. Nick snarls at her that he already knew that (then why did he ask?). He feels hostility from Mikka, and blames Morn for it. Nick asks the crewmember running scan for the id of the ship that captured the ejection pod holding Davies. He learns that it's called Soar, and it's captain's name is Sorus Chatelaine. Nick orders data first Sib Mackern to cross-reference those names, and report on his findings shortly.

Then Nick gets the news that his ship is given a dock generally reserved for visitors seeking recreation, not a dock in the shipyard area for someone who could pay for repairs. Nick gets worse news very soon: Billingate Operations tells Nick his credit-jack has been revoked, on the authority of Amnion warship Tranquil Hegemony. Mikka comments that the Bill will want to know what's happened between themselves and the Amnion, and Nick knows it's because the Bill wants to figure out how to get maximum profit from the situation. Based on the distances of the two Amnion warships, Nick figures he has a half-hour to talk with the Bill, then a maximum of five hours to stall before taking some action. Nick gets ready to go to to his cabin, but first whispers to Mikka that she's better be prepared to fight him if she should ever look so distrustful of him again.

Half an hour later, Nick is waiting by an airlock, and resentfully acknowledges an intercom request by Mikka to keep ship's drive on standby, something he should have thought of. Also over the intercom, Sib announces to Nick that he has alternate id on that ship, Soar. Nick orders Sib to tell him later, and silences the intercom. The airlock opens, and Nick strolls into Billingate through a short hallway with devices that scan him. He meets with two bio-retributive guards at hallway's end. Nick heads to the Bill's stronghold room and jeers at the guards as they accompany him. Nick feigns confidence as he walks into the Bill's stronghold room. He notices the lights in the room are all focused on the Bill.

Quote:
If recent events disturbed him, he [the Bill] didn't show it. Alone in his command center, he stood encircled by a neat ring of computer stations, gleaming under the spots: boards, terminals, screens, and readouts which, presumably, kept him in contact with every part of Billingate. The grotesque length of his head was mimicked by the rest of his body: he was insatiably thin. Stark in the light, he looked hungry enough to suck the marrow from Nick's bones. Shadows filled the hollows of his cheeks. Arms like sticks supported hands with fingers as sharp and narrow as styluses. Under his dirty hair and glittering eyes, his lipless smile exposed his keen, crooked teeth.

As if in welcome, he spread his arms. "Captain Nick," he said in his incongruously boyish voice, "How nice to see you. You haven't been away all that long--not as long as some--but it's always a pleasure when you visit.

"I gather you've led an interesting life recently. It isn't every day that you arrive here escorted"--he relished the irony of the word--"by Amnion defensives. You must tell me all about it sometime.

"But not now," he added quickly, like a solicitous host. "I know how busy you must be. For the present, tell me how I can serve you. Somewhere here, we have"--he made a gesture which seemed to encompass the galaxy--"everything you can pay for."

Nick was in no mood for blather. Nevertheless his ship--as well as his life--depended on his ability to match the Bill. Deliberately casual, he remarked, "That depends on how much money I've got. I have a credit-jack"--Nick named the sum--"but Operations tells me you won't honor it. That limits my options."

"'Won't,' Captain Nick?" the Bill put in promptly. "Surely Operations didn't say 'won't'?"

Nick tried to grin with his old, dangerous amusement. "Maybe I've missed something. I requested a shipyard berth. They docked me with the visitors." A little of his anger leaked into his voice, but he kept it quiet. "And they tell me my credit-jack has been revoked. Doesn't that mean 'won't'?"

"Not at all, not at all." Whenever the Bill moved his head, the light made his face look like it was being eaten by shadows. "It simply means the situation has become delicate. The 'issuing authority' of that credit-jack has 'instructed' us not to honor it. Apparently the Bill enjoyed euphemisms. This is not strictly--shall we say, not strictly legal? If it were, no one would ever pay me for anything. Men in your position--not you, of course, Captain Nick, certainly not, but men with fewer scruples--would give me credit for goods and services, and then after they were gone they would simply 'revoke' my remuneration.

"I don't do business that way. I'm the Bill you owe, Captain Nick." Behind his light, enthusiastic tone, he was fatally serious. "That means I get paid first--and I make sure the money is good before I accept it. If I accept your credit-jack, you can be certain the Amnion will honor it."

"Fine," Nick said, "good." His poise was fraying. He would have loved to hit the Bill a few times and hear those thin bones snap. "How do we get there from here? I needs repairs. I have a credit-jack to pay for them. But you're suspicious. Now what?"

"Simplicity itself." the Bill smiled so that his teeth shone. "Ask the Amnion to rescind their instructions. As soon as they inform me that they no longer object to our transactions, your credit will be good, and I'll provide repairs which will satisfy you completely."


The Bill is described in a way that makes him sound not quite human, as if he were actually a predatory insect like a preying mantis. As for Nick, he becomes less likeable with every chapter, as he craves violence against the Bill for not getting his way.

The two of them go round and round on the payment issue. Nick tells the Bill he can't get the Amnion to validate his credit-jack unless the Bill gives him Davies. The Bill states he might just give Davies to the Amnion. Nick objects that the Bill would be cheating him, and that he could damage the Bill's reputation as a result, and he promises to pay a salvage fee if the Bill will give Davies aback to him. But the Bill objects he doesn't know what monetary value Davies has, so no appropriate salvage fee can be set. Nick suggests the Bill consult the Amnion on Davies' value. The Bill counters he's already asked the Amnion on Davies' value and didn't get an answer.

So, Nick whispers in a conspiratorial tone to the Bill that he's willing to trade Morn, police id tag and zone implant control included, for Davies. (In his eagerness to sell Morn into life as a sex slave, Nick seems to forget that the Amnion have already demanded her.) The Bill remains suspicious (and no doubt that suspicious nature has served him well over all these years) of Nick, demanding to know why Nick hasn't just sold Morn to the Amnion. Nick answers the Amnion don't know Morn is a cop, wouldn't be interested in sex with her, and he just doesn't want to help the Amnion with their problems, if possible. This back-and-forth with Nick and the Bill just seems to go on and on.

The Bill wants to know why the ejection pod was diverted from the Amnion ship Tranquil Hegemony to Thanatos Minor. Nick snaps that it's Morn's fault, then regrets it as the Bill accuses him of collaborating with Morn (here is evidence that Davies is getting his revenge upon Nick). The Bill further observes that Nick has a reputation for doing side jobs with the cops, and so Morn will likely not be as Nick promised, and the offer Nick is making is probably just to plant a cop within Billingate as a spy. So, Nick puts on an expression and tone of defeat as he gets ready to offer the Bill some of the mutagen immunity pills.

Quote:
But the words died inside him as the door swept open, and a woman with a slight stiffness in her stride came into the strongroom.

"Captain Nick," said the Bill with his usual incongruous eagerness, "do you know Sorus Chatelaine? She tells me you haven't met, but you may recognize her by reputation. It was her ship"--his grin was obscene--"that salvaged your 'property.'"

The light seemed to contract around Nick. The woman was all he could see as she approached. Baffled by surprise and old terror, he stared and stared at her while she greeted the Bill, then shifted her stance to study him with an air of detached amusement. The stiffness in her limbs suggested that she disliked even the rock's lesser g.

"As it turn out," she said in a low, vibrant tone, "I was wrong. Captain Succorso and I have met after all. He was using another name at the time, as I recall. That's why I didn't made the connection."

Sorus Chatelaine, the captain of Soar. He hadn't made the connection, either, of course he hadn't, like her ship she'd had another name then. And she was much older now. Lines and tired skin marred the structural handsomeness of her face; the light made the gray in her hair look white. Yet her recognized her instantly, absolutely, as if she'd stepped out of a recurring nightmare.

She was the woman who'd put the scars on his cheeks, the wounds on his soul.

"I see the surprise is mutual," she added archly, as if he were still only a helpless boy in front of her.

Fear and rage knotted his muscles, twisted his face. An instinct for survival stretched as thin as thread was all that kept him from hurling himself at her throat.

With a confident smile, she dismissed him and returned her attention to the Bill. "You've been busy." Her voice still had the contralto richness which had once wrung Nick's heart when made love to him, when she laughed at him. "You may not have had time to pick up the latest bulletins. I wanted to discuss them with you--and Captain Succorso may have something to contribute." She was laughing at Nick again, secretly but unmistakably.

He couldn't stop staring at her. His muscles were so tight with strain that he could hardly breathe.


We meet the infamous woman who has defaced Nick! In the last book Forbidden Knowledge, we heard a lot about the color of Nick's cheek scars changing to reflect his various moods. It would have been interesting to know from Donaldson what color those scars where the moment he recognized Sorus! I'm guessing his cheek scars turned white with utter shock.

Seems like it takes all the will power Nick's got to just be quiet in her presence. But, Nick does manage to stay quiet while Sorus tells the Bill the news that Angus and Milos have requested approach in a Needle-class scout ship called Trumpet. What fortunate timing for Nick to hear this, so he won't reveal he has mutagen immunity pills to the Bill! All the same, Nick doesn't seem to be feeling too fortunate at the moment.
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StevieG
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2020 2:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's a great moment when Nick meets his nemesis!
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Cord Hurn
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2020 7:20 am    Post subject: ADAHGA 6 - Nick [1] Reply with quote

StevieG wrote:
It's a great moment when Nick meets his nemesis!



Oh, absolutely, StevieG! We've seen Nick nervously scared when he and Morn were deep inside Enablement Station, but we've never before seen him frozen with the confusion of confronting an old terror that he didn't expect to see again! Nick Succorso is now Shocked ! Wink
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