Cargo Hold

Flash Fiction: Cargo Hold

“I told you, everything is accounted for in the cargo manifest according to regulations.” Captain Dapazu told the Ezauarvet Navy Inspection Officer. They were standing in the Captain’s great room aboard the Adutripa. “I’ve been a merchant captain for twelve years and have never been treated like this before. Who’s your commanding officer?”

“My commanding officer is of no concern here, Captain.” The Inspector replied in a calm voice. “Your ship has entered an Ezauarvet port and must be inspected for contraband. It’s the law.”

“The law says that I only have to present a manifest.”

“Yet, I have the authority to do a full inspection. Please, let me do my job, Captain.”

Dapazu could see he had lost the argument. He just hoped his crew had been diligent in hiding the smuggled goods. They could not afford to have the cargo seized. Their profit margins were thin enough, even with the added income from the illegal smuggling. Where was Inspector Nicyul? He was usually the harbour inspector. Dapazu never had problems like this when Nicyul was around.

“Of course, Inspector.” He apologized.

“Thank you, Captain.”

“These are hard times,” Dapazu noted.

“What do you mean?”

“Harder these days to make money.” The merchant explained. “Taxes are higher. Expenses keep going up. Profit margins are getting thinner. I mean, even you Navy officers took a pay cut.”

“We must make do with less in order to support the Oligarchs.” The Inspector replied stoically.

“Still, you do hard work.” Dapazu pressed. “Officers of the Navy should be well compensated for their fearless dedication to duty.” The merchant captain placed a heavy coin purse in the officer’s palm.

“What is this?”

“Consider it a donation. I truly appreciate your dedication to your duty to protect us merchants.”

“Is this a bribe?” The Inspector asked in a dangerous tone.

“Certainly not!” Dapazu cried with indignation. “Merely a donation, like I said!”

“Captain, I suggest you take your coin purse back.”

“It’s not mine.” The smuggler smiled. “I gave it to you in good faith. It is yours now, Inspector.”

“You have given me no choice.” The young Inspector announced. “Captain, I am formally charging you with bribing a Navy Officer.”

“Belay that charge, Chief Petty Officer.” A man’s voice interrupted from the door. The two men turned to see Nicyul wearing an Erauarvet Navy Lieutenant’s uniform enter Dapazu’s cabin. Dapazu suddenly understood why Nicyul had not been inspecting. He had been promoted. “I’ll take over from here.”

“But, sir…” The Petty Officer began to protest.

“Get aboard my sloop.” Lieutenant Nicyul ordered. “I am taking charge of the investigation into this Merchant Captain’s conduct. Give me that coin purse. It is evidence.”

“Yes, sir.” The younger officer replied, clearly unhappy with the order. He handed over the money to his superior officer before leaving the cabin.

They waited for the man to leave and then Lieutenant Nicyul turned to face Dapazu. “You owe me big for this one. I’m going to have to undertake a formal investigation and find a way to cover things up.” He hefted the coin purse, gaging its contents. “This won’t be enough to pay for all the trouble.”

“I’ll give you fifteen percent of the profits from my smuggled cargo.” Dapazu offered, hoping that would be enough to appease the Navy Inspector.

“And a favour that I can call for in the future.” Nicyul looked at him pointedly. “I’m really sticking my neck out on the line for this, Dapazu.”

The Merchant Captain didn’t like it, but he did not have much choice. Nicyul would make the bribery charge go away. That was better than the alternative – a life of hard labour in an Erauarvet Prison Camp. “Alright.” He conceded.

“Well, I don’t want to hold up your cargo, Captain.” The Lieutenant told him in a professional tone. Almost absently, Nicyul put the coin purse in one of the pockets of his frock coat.

“Thank you, Lieutenant.”

“Enjoy your time in the port.”

“I will.”

Lieutenant Nicyul left the cabin with a smile on his handsome face. Dapazu sat down at his desk and sighed. That had been far too close.


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