His sense of smell picked up something turning to rot. “Why?”
“You don’t need to know.”
“I do if I’m hauling it. Which I haven’t even decided yet.”
Oren fell silent for a moment. Then, “This is engspice.”
Zeerid blew out a sigh. No wonder the job would wipe his slate clean. Chem-engineered spice was not only especially addictive, it also altered users’ brain chemistry such that only more of the same “brand” of engspice could satisfy their need. Mere spice would not do. Dealers called engspice “the leash,” because it gave them a monopoly over their users. They could charge a premium, and did.
“We have a buyer on Coruscant whose supply is running low. He needs this order to get to Coruscant quickly, Empire or no Empire. You know why.”
Zeerid did know why. “Because if the users can’t get their brand of engspice, they’ll go through withdrawal. And if they get through that …”
“They break their addiction to the brand and our buyer loses his market. His concern over this is great, understandably.”
“Which means The Exchange got to name its price.”
“Which works well for you, Z-man. Don’t sound so contemptuous.”
Zeerid chewed the corner of his lip. He felt a bit nauseated. On the one hand, he could be free with just this run. On the other hand, he’d seen an engspice den on Balmorra once, while serving in the army. Not pretty.
“No,” Zeerid said. For strength, he stared through the cockpit canopy at Vulta, where his daughter lived, and shook his head. “I can’t do it. Spice is bad enough. Engspice is too much. I’ll earn my way out of this some other way.”
Oren’s voice turned hard. “No, you won’t. You can die trying to make this drop, or you can die not making this drop. You understand my meaning?”
Zeerid ground his teeth. “Yes. I understand it.