Characters: Jack, Ianto, OCs.
Summary: Jack introduces Ianto to the wonderful world of making deals for cargo.
Word Count: 1455
Written For: Challenge 114: Deal at beattheblackdog.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
A/N: Set in my ‘Ghost Of A Chance’ ‘verse.
“So, do we have a deal or not?” Jack asked. He and Ianto were sitting at one of the negotiating tables in the port-master’s office of a space station some eight hundred and seventy light years from earth. Across from them sat an odd-looking lumpy alien, with a face like a walrus, minus the tusks, and four arms ending in three-fingered hands, one of which it abruptly thrust out at Jack, bumping its fist against his in the traditional gesture of acceptance as it huffed from beneath its drooping moustache.
“Deal. You strike a hard bargain, Captain.”
“Have to; we independents don’t have the backing of the major haulage companies, but we don’t have their restrictions either. We’ll get your cargo to its destination, no problem.”
“You do that, on time and intact, and I might have further work for you. Not many independents out here have stasis holds and without them my spices deteriorate over the weeks it takes to transport them to my distributors. Lose their value.”
“You won’t have that problem using the Happy Wanderer. Your wares will be in prime condition on arrival at Hephras Station. You have my personal guarantee,” Jack assured the Garphion spice merchant.
“Good, good. The cargo will be delivered to your ship for loading at tenth hour tomorrow. My nephews will assist with loading. You will receive half payment then, the balance on arrival at Hephras Station.”
Jack bumped the merchant’s fist once more with his own, bowing slightly. “A pleasure doing business with you, Jai Phroninx.”
Getting to his feet, Phroninx shuffled his way out of the port-master’s office. Jack rose too, going over to the main desk to log the transaction, handing over the signed forms and having the Happy Wanderer put up on the board; destination Hephras Station, departure twentieth hour station time next day.
He stopped by one of the refreshments machines on the way back to the negotiating table, purchasing two cups of a refreshing hot fruit drink called Staccho. Coffee would have been preferable, but that could wait until they were back on their ship.
“What now?” Ianto asked as Jack rejoined him and resumed his seat, sliding one of the cups across to his lover. This was Ianto’s first time at the negotiating tables, having left earth only just over three weeks earlier, so making deals for cargo was a completely new experience to him.
“Now we wait. We have a destination up on the board so if any other merchants have cargos they want transporting in that direction, they can come to us and negotiate a price.”
“It’s an odd way of doing business.”
“When there are hundreds of different races with thousands of different cargos to be carried in every direction possible, this method of matching merchants with ships has proved to be the least complicated. Some merchants prefer to use the big haulage companies, taking out contracts to have all their goods carried by them to specific destinations for set fees, depending on distance, but smaller merchants prefer to do individual deals. It works out cheaper for them, and we get our performance rated by the merchants who use our services. Earn a good reputation for efficiency and fair-trading, which is something I already have, and word soon gets around.”
They’d barely finished their drinks when they were approached by a tall, thin, birdlike being who bowed to Jack before crouching at the opposite side of the table, its physiology being unsuited for sitting in chairs.
“Cargo of fine cloth bound for Zicchorios,” it whistled in high-pitched Galactic Standard, the basic language used for all trading negotiations and business deals.
“Size and weight?” Jack was all business.
“Five-hundred standard rolls, weight seventy-five per, total weight thirty-seven five-hundred.”
Jack had explained to Ianto on the way here that negotiations tended to be carried out in a kind of trading shorthand, always using the same set of standard weights and measurements depending on the type of cargo. It simplified things and saved a lot of time. Ianto had read up on their ship’s specifications and made some quick calculations in his head.
“Should just about fill the small hold,” he said in English.
Jack nodded, smiling. “Pretty close. If we can pick up a few trade goods of our own to fill the rest of the space that would be ideal, but even without, it’s a good load. Then we’ll just need cargo for the large hold.”
The alien merchant watched them curiously, clearly puzzled by their unfamiliar language.
Jack turned back to the merchant. “We can handle that.” He named a price, and there followed the expected haggling that was essential to such negotiations, resulting in a flat payment plus a quite generous three extra rolls of fabric that they could then sell on for a profit. With that the deal was done, cargo to be delivered to the ship for loading at eighth hour the following morning. That was good; it would be in place before the spices arrived. Not that cases of spices took very long to load, being one of the smaller cargos they were equipped to carry, thanks to Jack’s foresight. He’d long since had one of the Happy Wanderer’s two smaller holds converted to carry perishable items, fitting it out with banks of stasis lockers in various sizes, similar to the ones that kept their own food supplies fresh.
“What happens if we don’t get any more cargo?” Ianto asked after the fabric merchant had left the table.
“Then we do some last-minute buying of trade goods. There are always things colony planets can use: tools, furnishings, strong fabrics, seeds, building supplies… It’s seldom hard to offload things like that and we can sell or trade the stuff either along the way or after making delivery of our other loads. I don’t think it will come to that though. We’ll pick up some trade goods anyway, that’s always a good idea, but I think our holds will be mostly full by the time we’re scheduled to depart.”
Jack was right; by the time they left the negotiating table to go for a late lunch they’d secured a load of bulky machine parts heading for Hephras, which they’d deliver to the orbital station for the buyer to transport planetside, and a load of raw lumber on its way to Crofford’s World, a dozen or so light years beyond Hephras.
Coming back to the negotiating tables for an hour after lunch, they made an additional deal to take a load of fresh fruit and vegetables in their remaining stasis lockers. That was for delivery to a world going by the unlikely name of Nikniknik’ulp, apparently named after the sound the native birds made, where a drought had left the small colony short of food. This would be their first delivery, for which they would be paid only a tenth of their usual rate since it was a mission of mercy. Jack would have done it for free, but that was against the rules of negotiation on this particular station, so he had to accept some money, but he intended to use it to purchase additional supplies for the colonists. The Happy Wanderer still had a bit of space left in her holds; there was no sense in wasting it.
“Not a bad day’s work, though I say so myself,” Jack said as he and Ianto headed towards the station’s main market to pick up an assortment of trade goods and the extra supplies. “Hope you weren’t bored, but there’s no better way to learn the ropes than by sitting in on negotiations.”
“Not at all; it was fascinating, but I still have a lot to learn before I try it myself.”
“You’ll pick it up in no time,” Jack assured him. “Now, help me pick out some stuff for trading; practical items are always needed, but luxury items are what people really go for. Oh, and don’t forget to haggle; it’s expected. Nothing in the market has a set price; it all goes for whatever buyers are willing to pay. The sellers will push for the highest price they can get, and most have a price in mind they won’t go below, so just keep going until you reach an agreement, like at the negotiating tables.”
“I’ll do my best, but don’t get mad at me if I wind up overpaying.”
Jack laughed. “We’re not so poor we can’t afford to pay over the odds if it comes to that, but I’m not worried; you’ll do fine.”
“I certainly hope so.”
Hard in hand, they set off among stalls filled with all manner of outlandish items to see what they could buy.