Chuck Wendig: Make Me An Offer

The theme for the Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge this week is Real Estate.  It’s an easy one.  Up to 1,000 words that somehow interpret’s real estate.  I used all 1,000 and tried to make up for the way I interpreted space opera last week.  Please to enjoy and leave comments if you are so led.

MAKE ME AN OFFER

 

The Realtor looked familiar.  Ardith couldn’t place her, but he knew he had seen her before.  She was young and pretty.  Maybe she was one of his old girlfriends.  He hoped not.  Leila stood next to him.  If this was an old flame he’d never hear the end of it.

It kept pricking at his mind as she held out a hand and smiled a Realtor’s smile.  You know the one, all teeth, nothing touching her eyes except a desperate sort of hope.  She was, Ardith knew, hoping to sell him this place.  Probably for more than list price.  At list her commission would be merely massive.  If she could drive the price upward a few more thousand, it would venture into the obscene.

He realized he was woolgathering; the Realtor had already started the tour, walking through the entrance, and Leila was following her, casting surreptitious glances back at him with little “come on” gestures.  He hurried forward and caught the end of the Realtor’s description of the entranceway.

“…portcullis is, of course, a three-meter thick titanium War Door—Archer Armaments, Type Four Mark Three.  It’ll stop everything short of a Grond class ram-bot.  Quick-response raise/clear/lower functions as well.  Your guards won’t be stuck behind it waiting for it to raise high enough for them to deploy.  The front entry here is the fifteen-foot high model.  The hangar entrances are protected by Archer’s Type Six Alpha Hangar Door, tall enough and wide enough for a GN cruiser to fit through.  Of course, you wouldn’t want to try that, there’s not enough floor space for the cruiser’s footprint.”  She laughed.  Fake as it was, Ardith thought she still seemed familiar.

She took them through the rest of the citadel, showing off carbon-reinforced walls, late model (but still powerful) shield generators, gun emplacements, troop quarters, and, most impressively, the command center.

“The main computer deck was transplanted from a scrapped GN dreadnought,” she said.  Ardith had operated similar machines during his time in the Navy.  This one was after his time, but he saw the characteristic design flashes that all naval hardware bore.  “Bowie was scuttled after Fret, but her bridge was in good enough shape that the Queen was able to buy the systems and install them here.”

She froze.  Ardith and Leila looked at each other.  He quirked an eyebrow.  “The Queen?” Leila asked, putting a hint of curiosity into her tone.

The Realtor shook her head, flustered.  “That was what her guard called her,” she said weakly, waving her hand.  “An affectionate nickname.  She wasn’t the real Queen, of course.”

Ardith gave the Realtor a smile as transparently artificial as her own.  “Right,” he said.  “Someone with a place like this is sure to have delusions of grandeur, am I right?”

She laughed, sounding relieved.  “Yes,” she said.  “The rich and powerful do have their affectations.”

“This place is very impressive,” said Leila.  “Why is the…Queen…looking to sell?”

“The Queen isn’t the owner anymore,” said the Realtor.  “I’m not going to lie to you.  This place was overrun a while back.  The new owners installed upgraded walls and doors.  They had exploited the old ones to get in and left them in shambles.  They rebuilt and now they’re looking to turn a profit.”

“A tidy profit indeed,” said Ardith, “considering they didn’t actually buy it when they took possession.”

“Oh, they bought it,” said the Realtor.  “They paid for it with the blood of its defenders.  With the lives of their own troops who came in waves against the doors and the pilots who dove into the path of the guns.  A dear price was paid.”  Her voice was growing louder and harsher.

She realized that she was all but shouting and visibly pulled back.  “You’ll forgive me,” she said.  “I had friends inside when the citadel fell.  I know all too well the price that was paid that day.”

“It’s all right,” said Leila.  “We understand.  War is a terrible thing.  It’s touched all of us at one time or another.”

“If you don’t mind my asking,” said Ardith, “who actually is the seller?  I’m not sure I’m comfortable buying from an anonymous source.”

“If you must know,” said the Realtor, unaware that her voice was roughening again, “the seller is Dark Planet.  Their forces captured this place three years ago.  Count Medin-e has held it since that time and now he wants to get rid of it.  I guess he’s comfortable in his orbital stations and doesn’t think he needs boots on the ground anymore.”

“On the contrary,” said Count Ardith Medin-e, “I very much do want boots on the ground.  But you see, I had to draw you out, your Highness.”  The Realtor froze again.  The Count chuckled.  “I finally realized where I’ve seen you before; on my news screens.  Your mother—the real Queen indeed—died here that day.  I took this place from her, and I knew if I put it on the market you’d come out of hiding.”

“We thought you’d try to buy it, though,” said Leila, Countess Medin-a.  “We never dreamed you’d be trying to sell it.”

“My uncle still fights against you,” the Princess said, “not me.  I just wanted to hide and stay safe.  I got my Realtor’s certification after Mother died.  Nobody at the agency knows who I am.  Then the citadel went up for sale and I thought I could influence who the new owner would be.”  She sighed.  “I suppose you’ll kill me now.”

“Not at all,” said Leila.  “We need a property manager.  Living in orbit makes it too hard to keep our eye on the place.  You seem very knowledgeable.”

“It will require you to turn on your uncle,” said Ardith, “but we can offer you more money than you would ever make in commissions, and incredible benefits as well.”

The Princess stood quietly for almost five minutes thinking it over, then shrugged.  “Screw it,” she said, “I’m in.  Make me an offer.”

 

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