“Where’d you get those?” Tuck leaned over and whispered. The power of his beverage of choice a little too evident on his breath.
Jasper cradled the eggs carefully in his jacket pocket. The three others at his table eyed the specimens intently. They were real, sure. Real eggs. Jasper was certain they wouldn’t hatch real dragons.
He leaned in over the table as if he were getting to the good part of his story. He looked around the crowded bar first, to make sure no one else was listening. He was good at the sale. He didn’t keep things friendly like Sly, he didn’t grunt in response like Rhaspion, whose species had a completely capable language, and were well known for speaking the inter-galaxy tongue flawlessly.
Jasper was rugged. His hair was nearly always matted; he only took his hat off for his deals. His shoes always bore some kind of dirt, even though he made a show of kicking them clean at the door. He was a mercenary and he dealt with rarities. He had to look the part. Play the part. Heck, he even had to give genuine deals, because when he played the con, everything went into the sale.
“I won them, in a game of cards.”
“Sssssssss.” Rhondo hissed. His blue-scaled tail twitched in vexation.
Janx leaned back in her seat; frustrated, she tossed her silky, purple arms in front of her.
Tuck, the drunken man that passed lightly for a human, slapped his hand angrily on the table, disgustedly releasing his alcohol-imbued breath in a wet spray.
“How will we know it’sssss real?” Rhondo’s thick accent wouldn’t be denied its Reptilian hiss.
“You can’t prove it.” Janx crossed her purple arms in front of her strangely human form. Jasper always thought Drandon females beautiful.
“The man I won them from claimed he got them from one of the lush planets. He climbed a cliff from the bottom and plucked them from a nest. I saw the pictures. Besides, I did my research; these are real.”
“I’m a drunk. And even I know they aren’t real. You’ve been swindled.” Tuck rubbed his thick stubble.
“Swindled? Sw—Tuck, since when does Jasper Jayne get swindled?”
“I can think of a time or two.” Tuck huffed.
“With something like this? What do you take me for? I know they’re the real thing.”
“No. You don’t.” Janx wasn’t out yet. Even though sat with her arms crossed, her golden eyes were still interested. Jasper set the eggs carefully on the table. She looked from them right into Jasper’s eyes, her purple eye brow cocked.
“Okay. I admit it; I believe they’re real.” He glanced at Tuck who scoffed. He couldn’t bear to be left out. If the others were in, Tuck was in. Rhondo was harder to read. His blue-scaled face rarely gave any indication of what he was thinking. But that was why Jasper had him sit on the end; Rhondo’s tail betrayed him. He wanted an egg.
It was said that dragon’s fire alone could melt Ahemian weapons. Dragon’s scales regrew, everyone in the system knew that, and they made the finest shields. In fact dragon’s fire could melt dragon scales, and you could forge weapons from them. If Jasper ever got his hands on a real dragon’s egg, he’d keep it. But his rugged adventuresome outlook made him appear more trustworthy than was true of his mercenary heart.
“But I’ll give you all a break since it has been pointed out that I can’t prove they’re real.” Jasper gave a hard glance to Tuck who bobbled his head as a satisfied smirk grew across his face—yes, Tuck was in. “You give me half now. As always, the money is non-refundable.” He smiled politely. “And if you don’t get a dragon, I’ll give you a deal on my next trade. If you do,” Jasper allowed himself a crooked grin which produced a simper from Janx and a slight lean in from Rhondo. The hook was set. “Then I collect my other half.”
“You are too easy.” Janx’s smooth voice accompanied her accepting posture.
“Hardly.” Jasper smiled at her. “I tracked you all down tonight, didn’t I?”
Mya returned to their table balancing their drinks on her tray. It was well-known that Mya loathed Jasper. At least it was a widely accepted fact. Even Jasper was pretty sure she hated him. Most of him. Her eyes fell on the eggs and opened magnificently.
She gently set their drinks on the table and collected empty glasses. “You brought dragon’s eggs to my joint?” Her hiss rivaled Rhondo’s.
“Shhh.” Jasper motioned for her to keep it down. “You want everyone in on our deal?”
“What makes you call these dragon’s eggs?” Janx voiced the right question.
“You take me for a fool?” Mya eyed each of them. “I know a dragon’s egg when I see one. But I’ll keep your little secret if you cut me in on the deal. I see five eggs and four of you.” Her eyebrows shot up with a challenge.
“I think that’ssssssss a good idea.” Rhondo actually smiled. Jasper nearly shuddered at the Reptilian’s sharp fangs. Why one of his race needed a dragon was enough to scare Jasper, a little.
“How much are we talking?” Mya asked.
“Ten thousand now and ten thousand after the hatch—if they’re dragons.” Jasper specified.
Mya looked at him incredulously. “Rich bloods.” She looked at the eggs. “Cut mine in half or I spill your secret.”
“Mya, Mya, Mya. We all come here…regularly.” Janx even sounded sweet when she threatened.
Mya’s eyes darted between the eggs and everyone at the table. “All right.” She conceded.
“I’m in.” Janx said. She had her proof it seemed.
“I’m in.” Rhondo agreed. Jasper smiled.
Tuck sat pressing his fingertips together under his chin as he eyed Mya. He was always last to commit.
“You already know my offer.” She said back to Tuck’s lifted eyebrow.
“As always, it’s a pleasure doing business with you.” Tuck grinned at Jasper.
“Good.” Jasper wiggled his fingers. Money bags were placed on the table.
“I’ll be right back.” Mya turned on her heel to get her coin. When she placed it on the table she eyed the eggs greedily in a way that made Janx seem even more sure of her decision.
“Janx, first to commit, first to choose.” Jasper motioned to the eggs.
“Mya was first.” She nodded to the woman. Mya eyed the eggs carefully and took the one from the middle. The one most heavily speckled.
Janx snatched the one similar to hers and Rhondo took the largest. Of the two left Tuck chose the one Jasper eyed. If he eyed something it made Tuck choose faster.
“I’ll be seeing you soon. And for your sake, I hope I’ll be giving you money.” Janx sang sweetly.
“Hey, we all risked together.”
“Oh, I understand Jasper.” Her smile was even pretty.
“Tuck,” Mya started.
“Don’t worry, I’m hitching a ride.” He laughed and patted his coat pocket gently.
Rhondo’s tail slithered happily as the Reptilian exited.
Jasper walked up to the bar and Mya sauntered over to him. She poured him the usual. She set in on the counter and smiled. Conversations were thinning; only the drunks remained.
Jasper emptied his glass. “Perfect timing, as usual. And your performance was superb.” Jasper winked at her.
“Save your flirting Jasper, it doesn’t work on me, remember?”
“Yet, I’ll still try.” He emptied some coins on the bar counter and slid her cut to her. She looked at the money for a moment.
“Where did you find the eggs?” She asked casually as she poured a refill.
“Some creepy cave on Blue. They looked exotic enough, and large enough.” He drank again.
“I really don’t know where you get your ideas. I mean, dragons? Really?”
Jasper had to laugh. It was a crazy thing to sell, but he’d pulled it off. So far. He was sure he’d have to do some favor for both Rhondo and Janx, but favors were his specialty. And they meant more deals on other planets.
The last customers were leaving, and again, Jasper closed the bar. He grabbed his heavy jacket from the stool next to his, the last egg still lay nestled inside. He put his hand in his pocket and fingered the soft shell wondering for a moment what was inside. What he should do with it.
“You going to keep it?” Something in Mya’s voice made Jasper’s gaze snap to meet hers. She eyed his pocketed hand with a smirk.
“You going to keep yours?” He asked skeptically.
Mya’s only reply was a sly smile. “See you around Jasper.”