The Pirates of Ersatz-Seventy-Three
Hoddan stopped off at Krim by landing grid, to consult his lawyers. He felt a certain amount of hope of good results from his raid on Walden, but he was desperate about Nedda. Once she was confident of her safety under his protection, she took over the operation of the spaceship. She displayed an overwhelming saccharinity that was appalling. She was sweetness and light among criminals who respectfully did not harm her, and she sweetened and lightened the atmosphere of the space yacht until Hoddan’s followers were close to mutiny.
“It ain’t that I mind her being a nice girl,” one of his mustachioed Darthians explained almost tearfully to Hoddan, “but she wants to make a nice girl out of me!”
Hoddan, himself, cringed from her society. He could gladly have put her ashore on Krim with ample funds to return to Walden. But she was prettily, reproachfully helpless. If he did put her ashore, she would confide her kidnaping and the lovely behavior of the pirates until nobody would believe in them any more–which would be fatal.
He went to his lawyers, brooding. The news astounded him. The emigrant fleet had appeared over Krim on the way to Walden. Before it appeared, Hoddan’s affairs had been prosperous enough. Right after his previous visit, news had come of the daring piratical raid which captured a ship off Walden. This was the liner Hoddan’d brought in to Krim. All merchants and ship owners immediately insured all vessels and goods in space transit at much higher valuations. The risk-insurance stocks bought on Hoddan’s account had multiplied in value. Obeying his instructions, his lawyers had sold them out and held a pleasing fortune in trust for Hoddan.
Then came the fleet over Krim, with its letter threatening planetary destruction if resistance was offered to single ships which would land and loot later on. It seemed that all commerce was at the mercy of space marauders. Risk-insurance companies had undertaken to indemnify the owners of ships and freight in emptiness. Now that an unprecedented pirate fleet ranged and doubtless ravaged the skyways, the insurance companies ought to go bankrupt. Owners of stock in them dumped it at any price to get rid of it. In accordance with Hoddan’s instructions, though, his lawyers had faithfully if distastefully bought it in. To use up the funds available, they had to buy up not only all the stock of all the risk-insurance companies of Krim, but all stock in all off-planet companies owned by investors on Krim.
Then time passed, and ships in space arrived unmolested in port. Cargoes were delivered intact. Insurers observed that the risk-insurance companies had not collapsed and could still pay off if necessary. They continued their insurance. Risk companies appeared financially sound once more. They had more business than ever, and no more claims than usual. Suddenly their stocks went up–or rather, what people were willing to pay for them went up, because Hoddan had forbidden the sale of any stock after the pirate fleet appeared.
Now he asked hopefully if he could reimburse the owners of the ship he’d captured off Walden. He could. Could he pay them even the profit they’d have made between the loss of their ship and the arrival of a replacement? He could. Could he pay off the shippers of Rigellian furs and jewelry from the Cetis stars, and the owners of the bulk _melacynth_ that had brought so good a price on Krim? He could. In fact, he had. The insurance companies he now owned lock, stock, and barrel had already paid the claims on the ship and its cargo, and it would be rather officious to add to that reimbursement.Hoddan was abruptly appalled. He insisted on a bonus being paid, regardless, which his lawyers had some trouble finding a legal fiction to fit. Then he brooded over his position. He wasn’t a business man. He hadn’t expected to make out so well. He’d thought to have to labor for years, perhaps, to make good the injury he’d done the ship owners and merchants in order to help the emigrants from Colin. But it was all done, and here he was with a fortune and the framework of a burgeoning financial empire. He didn’t like it.
Gloomily, he explained matters to his attorneys. They pointed out that he had a duty, an obligation, from the nature of his unexpected success. If he let things go, now, the currently thriving business of risk insurance would return to its former unimportance. His companies had taken on extra help. More bookkeepers and accountants worked for him this week than last. More mail clerks, secretaries, janitors and scrubwomen. Even more vice presidents! He would administer a serious blow to the economy of Krim if he caused a slackening of employment by letting his companies go to pot. A slackening of employment would cause a drop in retail trade, an increase in inventories, a depression in industry….
Hoddan thought gloomily of his grandfather. He’d written to the old gentleman and the emigrant fleet would have delivered the letter. He couldn’t disappoint his grandfather!
He morbidly accepted his attorneys’ advice, and they arranged immediately to take over the forty-first as well as the forty-second and-third floors of the building their offices were in. Commerce would march on.