ORDOBAT'S FOLLY, by Joel Sparks
Faced with bankruptcy, tavern owner and master brewer Mellinick ORDOBAT flies to a dangerous jungle, hoping to sell his ales at gold-rush prices to the thousands of glossy-skinned offworld workers called SHINERS. Sabra DEMIFERA, a half-breed woman, teaches him that the Shiners are gene-engineered labor indentured to the COMPANY, and have no money for beer. She agrees to help him establish a place free from Company surveillance. Ordobat sets up a bar in a run-down inn. In payment, he accepts the Shiners' ration of watery Company beer, then returns the cans for a cash deposit. The Company sends two THUGS to burn down the inn; Ordobat intercepts them but gets beaten up. The Company stops providing beer in cans.
With Demifera's help, he sets up his own tavern, Ordobat's Folly. The effort puts him even further in debt, but he hopes to attract a buyout from rich hosteller Sleena STENNER. Before the Folly can open, the thugs kidnap Ordobat and drop him deep in the jungle. He fights his way back and finds that Demifera opened the tavern without him, collecting enough cash to keep the business alive. They become lovers.
Ordobat acquires a SHOCKBELT, a powerful self-defense device. He reopens the Folly with a play: Othello as a white-skinned Shiner among normal humans. On opening night, Demifera is missing. Ordobat finds her captured by the thugs. A peaceful man, he can no longer avoid violence. With Demifera's help and his knowledge of the jungle, he tricks the men into attacking him at the same instant. Ordobat's shockbelt detonates and kills them both.
Ordobat concludes a deal with Stenner, saving his livelihood. Demifera becomes a planetary citizen and sues the Company, but they don't cooperate until Ordobat gives evidence about the thugs. The ruling Council establishes a rate of exchange between cash and Company scrip: a key to the Shiners' eventual freedom. In time, Demifera may have to pursue her quest on other worlds, but they are together for now.
Flash Fiction Contest this weekend!
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