A handoff with a new connection is always tense, but there is a script to these arrangements. To the point it would be boring if it didn’t always come with a chance of murder, life imprisonment, or destitution.
First, you pick the place. Gives you the chance to scope things out and make sure your gut isn’t telling you to get. Gives you a chance to screw your head right with a couple toxics before kicking things off. He knows that of course, if he’s smart, but you’re also the one who has his cargo. So that’s his own burden to worry about. You stand your ground on that shit.
Second, you buy him a toxic when he arrives, even though he’s the one who is about to pay you. No, it doesn’t make any fucking sense and yes, it does slow down the whole process. But trading requires gestures masquerading as friendliness for most crooks of most species. So you stick to the script.
Third, you exchange pleasantries neither of you have interest in, while avoiding discussion of the cargo you’re carrying until he finishes his first toxic. At which point he will either buy you a drink or toast to your new partnership or some other overly-friendly gesture so it feels less obvious the only reason you know one another is your mutual distaste for the Confederacy.
Fourth, after this exhausting bit of social interaction, then and only then can you finally even mention the actual purpose of your meeting. Keep the actual subject matter vague. No specific credits per unit, no descriptions of cargo, no discussion of planets of origin. If he fucks up and breaks this rule, make sure he knows that you noticed, but don’t accuse him of anything yet. If he fucks up again, tell him you’re leaving but let him talk you back. If he fucks up a final time, stash the goods and lay low while finding a new connection.
Fifth, he bitches about something in order to try and lower the price. You argue back and demand what you’re owed. It could be delays, it could be damage to merchandise, it could be discomfort from Con activity, so long as it’s your fault. Any crook who doesn’t at least try to rip you off at least once is probably not a crook. So don’t trust them.
Sixth, a pissing match of some sort is required in order to display your ability to hurt him and his business before he will pay what he promised. A small display of violence to preview a much bigger violence he doesn’t want goes a long way. Make it big, make it flashy, but keep it controlled. Papa was fond of triggering a small amount of plastic explosives within their eyesight, but I’m more partial to flipping a table or smashing a glass as it requires less prep work. But this is the part where you actually have some freedom to get creative and improvise.
Finally, he agrees to the terms you had already established, perhaps even more if step six was especially impressive and you’re lucky. You have your robots tug the cargo where he wants it, and he gives you the credits on an encrypted drive. You give the toxtender an incredibly generous tip and thank them for their discretion. Everybody walks away happy.
This new connection is a Sapien man named Anthony Gates, and we’re about halfway through Step Five already. He’s young, loud, and definitely way too confident in himself and his bored looking avian bodyguard, whose colorful plumage looks uncomfortable in a tailored suit. This next part might actually be fun.
“Look man, I don’t want excuses! I want my fucking product delivered on time or otherwise I lose money which means you lose more money.” He slams his third drink onto the bar, causing snores of the old man sleeping in the corner to pause for effect.
That’s as good a cue as any.
I grab the back of his head with my left hand and he reacts by reaching into the right side of his jacket. He then resists having his face smashed into the bar, so I allow him to fling his body backward by letting my arm go limp while I kick his barstool with the heel of my right foot instead. He falls flat onto his back and while the wind is knocked out of him, his pistol scattering sadly across the hard floor.
I belt out an overly friendly laugh and say, “Whoa, careful there friend, we haven’t had that much to drink!”
The toxtender glares at us. The bodyguard is off his seat. But I’m already extending a friendly hand to his client, whose red face glares up at me as I keep mine resolutely, frustratingly pleasant. Eventually he accepts my hand and his defeat. I guess this one is a fast learner.
Jackie’s on the way with the tugboat. I made enough credits to pay for half my return circuit to Remidian IV. He’s got enough product to make back three times what he just paid me. And the toxtender has enough money to quit and work somewhere else if they’ve finally had enough dealing with toxed assholes. Everybody walks away happy.