West stable block, Seviki Equines and Exotics – a ranch master and an author meet
Irin Seviki: …Ilan?
J C Steel: Not exactly. She said she was going to visit your horses.
IS: You’re Ilan’s mysterious friend?
JCS: Something like that. Nice to finally meet you in person. How did you meet Ilan?
IS: You aren’t going to tell me why Ilan set up this meeting, or who you are, are you?
IS: Fine. In actual fact it was Ilan’s horse I wanted to meet. I didn’t realise until I’d already got myself into the situation that a Cortiian horse must have a Cortiian rider, somewhere. Happily, she decided not to shoot me.
JCS: I understand that most of the Federated Planets Alliance thinks Cortiians are dangerous. What do you think?
IS: Dust and void. I thought you knew Ilan. I don’t think she’s dangerous, I know she’s dangerous. I also know she isn’t the sociopathic murderer that FPA propaganda tries to depict. She’s risked her life to save my family and my business. I count her a friend.
JCS: How would you describe her?
IS: If you see her on a horse, you realise your boots are dusty, you’re sitting like a sack of grain, and your horse probably trusts her more than you. I doubt she ever tells me more than half of what she’s actually thinking, and either half can give me nightmares, when she isn’t talking in circles for the pleasure of it.
JCS: Would you tell me a little about your business?
IS: I can give you a data packet.
JCS: …probably not compatible with my system.
IS: So I can assume you’re from somewhere Ilan wasn’t supposed to be. Interesting. All right. Seviki Equines and Exotics breeds and trains pets, mostly for the citizens of the Central Worlds. Our galaxy’s oldest and richest humanoids like to maintain a presence on ancestral soil, and space, as you can imagine, is at a premium. They also like to flaunt their wealth. I specialise in horses, with a sideline in smaller creatures. A Central Worlds citizen can be sure to attract attention if they have the space to maintain a horse for their pleasure.
JCS: Living status symbols.
IS: If you like. Do you ride?
JCS: Yes. Not, of course, as well as Ilan. What do you enjoy most about the business?
IS: I like animals. I enjoy the open spaces, and seeing the results when a new breed turns out exactly as I hoped. Do you know what percentage of FPA citizens have ever seen a horse in real life?
JCS: I’m sure your figures are more current. How do you come into contact with your clients?
IS: Less than point zero zero five of a percent, since I notice you didn’t ask. You’re quite a rarity, friend of Ilan. Actually, you’re unique. Everyone else she’s introduced me to has been a Cortiian, and you’re about a head shorter than any Cortiian I’ve met.
JCS: Mmm. Do you have to travel a lot for your business?
IS: Now I believe you two know each other; neither one of you will answer questions unless it suits you. I don’t travel unless I have no other choice, artificial gravity and my system don’t get on. I do have a couple of people who travel for me, when there’s no alternative to an in-person meeting. Most of my clients are through word of mouth, by this point, or have found our virtual presence.
JCS: How long has your family lived on this planet?
IS: We’ve been in business for three generations now, but my family colonised the planet. My mother’s father founded the stables. These days, I run it with as many of my cousins and siblings as are interested.
JCS: Thank you, Citizen. I appreciate your time.
IS: I’m not going to find out who you are, am I?
JCS: Ask Ilan.
IS: Or my horse…it might be more informative.