The sun was now a glowing orb lingering on the rosy horizon, casting the warm glow through the open window, creating long, comfortable shadows everywhere it made contact with. Daniel was slumped on the armchair, with his head and legs resting on each of the arm rests, his legs were dangling lazily above the wooden floor. His eyes bored their cracked ceiling idly and his stomach made guttural noises. He was hungry and didn’t make an effort to conceal his annoyance. He complained about it to his father, who sat opposite him, reading a book.
“Maybe Aimee should take on the female role of the household,” Daniel suggested, “now that mom is gone.”
“That is being very sexist,” Joseph observed. “You know your sister wouldn’t want to be ensnared in four walls cooking in front of the stove the whole day. Besides, we ate already.”
“You call corn soup and some bread, food?” Daniel grunted. “Gee, I wonder what we’ll have for dinner, the crumbs from lunch?”
“Apples,” laughed Joseph. “Aimee must be on her way home by now. I heard Eliana’s family orchard is blossoming into the greatest plantation the Northern Territories has ever had!” A knock on the door roused both men. Joseph smiled victoriously at Daniel, “dinner is here. Mind opening the door? I think she is laden with apples.”
Daniel got up and walked to the front door, dragging his feet. He pulled open the door, expecting to find the pale figure of her sister, but instead, he found a woman dressed in gray with two armored blokes standing stiffly behind her. Daniel narrowed his eyes at the visitors when he saw the rifles. “Who are you?” he asked brusquely.
“Good evening young man,” the voice of the woman was a slow and imperative drawl. “My name is Loretta Gehasa, representing the Shkein Corporation in a matter of utmost importance. I am sure you’ve heard of our organization, we’d like a minute with you and your family. May we come in?”
“Whatever you’re here for, it must not be good,” Daniel seethed. “If it’s otherwise, you wouldn’t have the necessity to come here armed. Nothing we can offer you will help you. Now leave please.” He was closing the door, when Loretta stopped him abruptly.
“Please Mr. Wilker,” she smiled viciously, “we only want to talk.”
“Fine, then do it where you’re standing,” Joseph rose from the couch and stride to the door. “We don’t welcome armed strangers into our house.”
The two men behind her were reaching for their rifles because of the insolent tone Joseph addressed Loretta. But Loretta stopped their attempts with a wave of her hand. “Very well, sir. We respect your privacy and wariness toward newcomers. After all, you cannot expect less from Northerners.” Joseph didn’t answer at her mocking tone, she continued, “like I said, we’re from the Shkein Corporation, we harvest Lights in enormous quantities and sell them to much more appropriate and reasonable prices than merchants from the Trades do. We decided to invest in the North. As you might have heard from your neighbors in the East, we’re offering to buy your airship for one-hundred and fifty gold pieces and two-hundred silver pieces. In addition, you are allowed to keep your ship as long as you don’t violate the terms of the contract. It is a very appealing deal for small local Chasers like you.” She cocked her head and smiled an arrogant smile.
“Not interested,” Daniel snarled.
“Think about it, it is a great opportunity. We’re clearing the skies from small ships so that our airships can fly freely. I dare say that many chasers have accepted this great deal without hesitation.”
“I think you didn’t heard correctly,” Daniel let each word roll off his tongue with angered determination; “we’re not interested in what the big Dust corporations might offer us. We are not selling our ship.”
Loretta glared at Daniel and turned her attention to Joseph, who had remained silent, with his gaze fixed on the hanger. “Mr. Wilker, I do hope you have a better sense of judgment than your son.”
“I am afraid Daniel is right,” Joseph said, “this ship is our life and sustain. We cannot part from the skies, not even after having been offered large sums of money like you have, Ms. Gehasa.”
“Then let me warn you, I won’t come around again. When we set our airships in the air tonight you would beg me to differ and ask me to offer you the deal.” Despite the fury that lay behind Loretta’s voice, she kept a composed demeanor. “Your own foolish decision will plunge you and your family into a life of misery. The Dust market is not for small chasers to compete in, and you’d soon learn that.”
“I’d rather abide to the consequences of my decisions than sell my entire life to greedy people like yourself and he whom you serve,” Joseph draw himself in his full stature, “I’m sorry if we made you lose your time.”
“Not at all,” Loretta said, tapping her clipboard, “I am sorry for your imprudence and short-sightedness. Have a good day gentlemen, I am sure we’ll be seeing each other very soon and often.” She bowed her head and then left for her vehicle.
Daniel frowned at her until she disappeared downhill, “I hope she crawls her way back to the hole she came out of and stays there. It's just intimidation, I am sure of it. The local chasers should band together.”
Just then, Daniel saw the figure of Aimee approaching them.