YC??? (100 years ago. More or less.)
Hilion Narath heaved a bail of pikkan over the side of the trawler. The acrid smell of the dried plant hovered beneath the ever-present stink of fish. The stink would stay with the product, but the end users wouldn't care: it was low grade, and any grade of the mild narcotic was tough enough to get on the southern continent.
The sun beat down on the out-of-the-way cove, reddish sand fringed with a tangled, temperate jungle. Hilion was working shirtless and still pouring sweat. At 20, he had already given up hope of ever getting taller than his current 140cm. There was a mild, pleasant ache as he heaved up the next 40 kilo bale. He imagined he could feel the Cyberknight implants coil and uncoil alongside his muscles as he worked. The network of scars over his body were already fading, but a few were still fresh enough he could feel them pull as he tossed the bale to the dock.
All to get the old man political capital. When his father ran out of ways to buy influence directly, he'd started looking for indirect ways. Cyberknight offspring, smart move. But they're never gonna forget he just married into being a holder. It was always there, whenever Hilion went to one of their events. In the glances, in the comments murmured not quite quietly enough. Noone was ever going to see anything but a merchant, especially the old man when he looked in the mirror. Can't fault him for persistence though. Sure glad that leaving me flayed wouldn't have helped him feel more aristocratic.
Of course, Hilion figured maybe he owed the old man something, since it was his boats that were being used to move all the pikkan. He grabbed another bale and smiled.
Hilion had started small, but early: shop lifting expensive electronics when he was 11. Hit so many Holohuts, they've posted my picture in every damn one for 3 systems, he was bragging by thirteen - perhaps a slight exaggeration.
That was before he understood that bragging to the wrong people was a good way to get caught. Of course, when he was caught, his father would make it go away. He'd learned quick that rules were for other people, people who were happy with their boring lives, and he'd picked up plenty of useful skills along the way.
Hilion trotted down the gangway with the last bale and tossed it with the others, then approached the man receiving the shipment. The man's papers (which claimed he was a low level executive for a minor Lai Dai subsidiary) said his name was Verak Kenadenen. He finished tallying as Hilion stopped in front of him, and he smiled ever-so-slightly. "Everything seems to be in order, Narath. I've authorized payment, please verify that it has gone through."
Hilion checked on his com, saw the pleasantly hefty new amount resting in his numbered account with Intaki Bank. He squinted up at the taller Caldari with an easy grin, "Looks good, Verak. Nice doing business with you. This'll be the last for a while, storm season coming, eh?"
Verak nodded, swatting at the biting insects, "What're you going to do until the run opens up again?"
"Well..." Hilion shifted his weight and squinted out over the water, considering what to tell Verak. Truth was, without the southern trade, he was back to the risky, petty stuff for a while. Knocking over stores and hijacking transports and a bit of light extortion. "Ain't got solid plans. Lookin' into a few things."
"If there was something that was solid? Something that pays out, for someone like you?" The Caldari shielded his eyes against whipped up sand as a flyer juddered in just over the treetops, sky-green on it's bottom half, blotchy forest camo on it's top half. It landed with a dull thump and shuddered a moment, then the slaves and workers started loading bales into it's belly.
Hilion watched the work without really seeing it, considering, "Depends. I need to keep a low profile, so I can take the boats out next season for more 'fishing'."
"What if that wasn't an issue?"
Hilion glanced at Verak with alarm, "I'm not looking for anything that's gonna make me 'not an issue'."
"I mean, because you would be off-planet. As long as you wanted. I have some friends who are looking for people like you." 'Friends' meant the Cartel. Verak was a local lieutenant, dirtside, "They're looking for people who can operate on their own. Who have the knack."
"I got time to decide?"
"A couple weeks. Let me know, the usual channels." Verak jogged over to the flyer, which was spooling up for takeoff, fully loaded. He pulled himself into the cargo bay and yelled from the door, "Think about it!"
Hilion narrowed his eyes against the blowing sand and gave the Angel a wave as the flyer lifted off and wallowed away again, nearly scraping the uppermost branches of the trees.
Well, it did sound interesting.