#1 [fr] 

It didn't matter where the dappers came from.

All the same, Néjimbé couldn't help judging the irrationality of human beings and the tortuous way in which certain problems were approached. For the same price, she could come up with a number of far more reliable solutions, and it wasn't for want of having made a few suggestions to her sponsor. But she had *her* idea, and the fact that it was highly inefficient wasn't going to stop her.

Never negotiate for too long with madmen and criminals; this rule had saved the Company a lot of trouble over the years. Be a simple intermediary, a facilitator, but above all, never overcommit yourself. The Zoraïan in front of her wanted to complicate her life; that was her problem. Perhaps this was part of an even more twisted plan to muddy the waters. More than likely. The other was accustomed to calling on the most varied of mercenaries and taking rather improbable side roads.

The two Zoraïes chatting in the back room of the Dyron fortress were quite a contrast. Néjimbé, tall, calm, coldly professional, assuming her role as figurehead of the Company without a single quiver. And the sponsor, slender, small (for a Zoraïan), camouflaged in a cloak that made her more suspicious than anything else, wringing her hands in anxiety as she tackled the final details. However, this appearance of fragility was not to be trusted. This homine had been full of surprises over the years; her file occupied an entire trunk in the Company's archives, and despite this abundant literature, Néjimbé wasn't sure what to expect. Maybe the other would give up at the last minute. Or that she'd plunge a dagger into the back of the first person she met. Or an ally's. Or maybe, when the time came, she'd calmly and skilfully carry out what she'd planned. Maybe she'd work a mask over her mask. She was good at that. What was true about her? No idea, and it didn't matter, as long as the dappers, information and other payment methods arrived.

For all these uncertainties, the contract was a paving stone carefully detailing the most improbable aspects and limits of liability. These contracts were a lot of fun, and Néjimbé regretted that most homins didn't see the beauty of them, contenting themselves with skimming through them and signing them as if to get rid of a chore. At least this sponsor was taking her time, reading everything, questioning every detail:
- What if I can't get the... merchandise out in time?
- We could send you someone with the skills to conceal it, but his arrival would be noted and cast doubt on the rest of the operation. You'll easily find an excuse to get out of town with the parcels, provided we ask you for something. But you won't be asked, precisely because you're entitled to move them.
- And the... well... what's left at the destination... are you sure it will stand up to scrutiny?
- Yui and born. That's more than enough for most observers. Now, given who you're about to face... You'd better discourage him from looking too closely. We've done our best and remain on the lookout for a better opportunity, but the merchandise in question is really tricky to find in the condition requested. Of course, you'd be even better off not getting caught after this.

This was the point at which Néjimbé was willing to bet that the homine would blow the whole thing. Taking her to a place where no one would come looking for her, discouraging even any attempt to find her, was a complex undertaking. First and foremost, we had to rely on the lack of hominin perseverance, which is fortunately widespread. But they also had to rely on the fugitive's instinct for self-destruction, and in this case, they'd be dealing with a champion. Néjimbé had finally agreed to bet with Barakha this time. She was certain that once the merchandise was out of reach, the sponsor would refuse to go any further, under the most specious pretexts, and would wait trembling for someone to come and pick her, with all the inconvenience that would entail. Barakha had preferred to bet on the fact that the homins would quickly lose interest in the affair.

As for the rest, the homine had planned to disappear, and the chances of her coming to collect her merchandise were close to nil. She had left Nejimbé some latitude as to how to dispose of it, excluding some obvious uses but leaving other uses open. It would have been easy to simply resell the whole thing to the very person the zoraie wanted to fleece. Too easy, of course. But explicitly forbidden by the contract.

Néjimbé did, however, have someone else who would be a buyer, so unlikely that the sponsor hadn't even considered it. The Company's manager had asked Murmure and the Ancestor for confirmation, and both had loved the idea. All that remained was to convince the other organization to get involved and remain discreet.

The whole thing was an absolute shambles, and there were plenty of opportunities for secrets to be leaked, given the number of homins involved, and the reliability of some of the players too. But Zoraia was paying for it, and not just a little.

That was all that mattered.
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