035/037-1117 – Boilingbrook – Adar/Hinterworlds

035-1117 – Boilingbrook – Adar/Hinterworlds
Boilingbrook – Adar/Hinterworlds 0801 A9C9751-D 700 Na G0 II

Today I spent most of my time on the nets, trying to round up cargo and freight for our next jump. I had decided to head over to Kupakii. It was towards the Anubians but seemed like our best option at the moment.

A lot of Free Traders don’t like dealing with the Anubian Trade Coalition. They’re cyonics. If you are an Anubian who had any level of authority, then you have an interface chip implanted in your head that gave you instantaneous access to the local network and instant mental contact to anyone else with a chip. It’s really hard to negotiate with someone who has always-available, perfect access to data.

I, on the other hand, am really good at reading people. I thought it might be a challenge.

Of course it isn’t like the Zhodani Consulate where they implant everyone with an interface chip when they are infants. Only some people in the Confederation have a chip. That was part of the challenge; who had full access and who was just pretending?

I went through the cargo offerings and put in bids on the most likely ones. I got responses from a few and put the rest of our space up for freight.

I checked the passenger boards but nothing was there yet. Sometimes those lagged as people made plans so I wasn’t concerned. I’d start worrying in a day or two if we didn’t have anyone.

Or maybe Varan would get a week to relax. We would see.

In the end I wound up never leaving the hotel today. Oh well. We’ve got a few days left and I’ve taken care of most of the ship’s business. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

036-1117 – Boilingbrook – Adar/Hinterworlds

Boilingbrook – Adar/Hinterworlds 0801 A9C9751-D 700 Na G0 II

Well, I may have committed us, or at least me, to something and I don’t know what it is. Yet. I hope I’ll find out later. And hope even more that I won’t regret it.

I checked the net again this morning and we had picked up four passengers. A family of three heading for Kupakii and a solo traveller wanting a High Passage. Nice. With Dr. Korvusar that took up 5 of our 6 slots.

That left one cabin. And that mystery passenger I might or might not have depending on what I did with that disc. I had to make a decision about what I was going to do.

It was a late day so nothing would be happening until evening anyway. I thought a bit longer, then went down to the hotel bar for lunch. I ordered a spioel bowl, which was apparently a local seafood stew. It was OK, but way saltier than I normally liked. Afterwards I went outside, got the first aircab that came by, and headed for the Uptown Downport.

I handed my snub pistol off without being asked then went inside. I went directly to the bar.

Delenda wasn’t there and the guy who was in her place seemed a bit stand-offish at first. I still wasn’t wearing my captain’s jacket, so he probably took me as some random off-worlder who had wandered away from Startown. I ordered a Boil and when he came back with it he asked if there was anything else I needed.

“Yeah,” I asked. “Jestin been in lately?”

“Who?” he asked. He acted confused but I could tell it was that. An act, not confusion.

“Tell him Captain Kodai is here and wants to talk to him,” I said, tossing about twice what the beer had cost onto the bar. “I’ll be over there.” I gestured to one of the tables by the window. “Can you bring me a Vilani Club when you get a chance?” A Vilani Club was a sandwich; cheesy and full of baloney.

He hesitated a bit too long before shrugging. “Sure, but I don’t know who you’re talking about.”

I stood up and headed for the table. “Well… I’ll be here for a while anyway.”

I had been there about an hour or so, had finished my sandwich and was on a basket of tama leaves, and my third Imperial Boil, when Jestin slid into the booth opposite me, frowning.

“I said we would contact you,” he said, waving the waitbot over in irritation. “Don’t go slinging my name around thinking it will get you better service or something.”

“I didn’t,” I said, draining the last of my beer and signaling to the waitbot that I wanted another as well. “I just thought you might want to see this.” I pulled the disc out of my pocket and slid it across the table to him.

He picked it up and looked at it in irritation. “So?”

I shrugged. “Someone asked me to bring it in here and plant it. Offered me a high passenger in exchange. I just figured you might like to know about it.”

He turned the disc over a few times in his hand, then looked back at me.

“It activates when you strip the backing off, so it isn’t active now.”

I shrugged. “I didn’t try to figure out how it worked.”

He tossed it back towards me. “I thought you just did what you were asked.”

I sighed and leaned back. “When there is no reason not to… sure. When I’m apparently being asked to take sides…” I took a drink from my beer. “When I’m being asked to take sides I want to make sure which one I’m on. I’m picking this one.”

He frowned and took a drink of his own beer. “Why?”

I stared out the window at the starport for a bit, formulating an answer. Why was I doing this? Finally, I turned back to him.

“I’m a Free Trader. Have been for… what? 30 years now? Close enough. I get to do that because the Imperium likes it’s trade. I actually think I’ve used that line more in the past month than I have in the past 10 years. But a lot of people seem to think the Imperium may be in danger. I think they’re over-reacting. We’ve been through worse; we’ll get through this.”

I took another drink. “But enough people I know, enough people I trust, seem to think that this time things may be different. And I would be a horrible Broker if I couldn’t read people. I’m not a horrible Broker.” I smiled at that but when it wasn’t returned I continued.

“Maybe I do need to worry. Maybe everyone needs to worry. But if things are as bad as they keep telling me, then I need to know who my friends are.”

He shook his head. “That isn’t an answer.”

I sighed and picked up the disc. “There are people who are looking out for their own interests. I think this belongs to them. And there are people who are looking at the bigger picture. Since that isn’t them, it’s you.”

He looked at me levelly for a long moment, eyes locked with mine. “Stick that under this table in about 15 minutes,” he said finally, indicating the disc. “Go ahead and make your Jump to Kupakii. Once there, go to a place called the Rusty Stanchion. Yeah, I know there’s probably one of those on every planet. This one is in Coverton. That’s a few hundred klicks from the starport but I’m sure you can handle that. There, ask for Elijah Green. Tell him I sent you. He’ll deal with you from there.”

He drained his beer and stood up, turning towards the entrance. “Wait!” I said, a bit louder than I had planned.

He turned back. “Yes?”

“That’s all you’re going to say?”

He nodded. “Yes.” He started to turn away again.

“Who is Dr. Korvusar?” I asked.

He hesitated, then turned back. “Who?”

I sighed. “OK. I’ll visit ‘Elijah Green’.”

He nodded. “Don’t forget that.” He pointed at the disc. He left without looking back.

I waited about 30 minutes. I looked at the disc. Did I want to do this? I figured it was too late; I was involved now whether I knew what I was involved in or not. I stripped the backing and stuck it beneath the table. A few minutes later I paid my tab and left.

An hour later I was back in my room. I thought about contacting the crew, or Dr. Korvusar, but figured that the one would only berate me for involving them in something they wanted nothing to do with and the other would just give me the runaround. Again. In the end I just called room service and called it an early night.

037-1117 – Boilingbrook – Adar/Hinterworlds

Boilingbrook – Adar/Hinterworlds 0801 A9C9751-D 700 Na G0 II

We’ve got a full passenger load and I’ve picked up enough Freight to finish filling up the cargo bay. So we’re good to go.

After breakfast I wandered over to the Starport to see how the Grayswandir was doing. Maintenance seemed to have been completed and a few stacks of cargo were sitting in the pad with us. I opened the bay and had the cargobots carry what was there inside. I trusted the computer to handle the load balancing. Saahna probably wouldn’t like it but she wasn’t here.

Once that was taken care of I looked through the ship. Everything seemed to be fine but, struck by an idea, I started looking around more carefully.

In both the crew lounge and the passenger lounge I found a disc identical to the one I had placed in the Uptown Downport. I frowned. How many more of them were there on the ship?

I pinged the ship’s computer. “Hey, Gray?”

“Yes?” Her precisely modulated voice came on. “How can I help you, Captain Kodai?”

“Did you see who placed these things here?”

“What ‘things’ are you referring to, Captain?”

I sighed. “There is a device under the table here and another behind the lounge in the passenger cabin. Did you see who put them there?”

“No, Captain. I did not. And my internal log files do not show anything.” There was a pause. “Both devices are emitting a radio signal.”

“Are there any others?”

Another pause. “Yes. One on the bridge and one in engineering.”

I cursed under my breath. “Thanks Gray.” I pulled the disc free from beneath the table in the crew lounge, it was surprisingly harder to do than I expected, then went to the passenger lounge and removed the one I had found there. Next was engineering and the bridge, where I looked and eventually found those discs. I collected all four of them.

“Gray?” I asked again.

“Yes, Captain?”

“Start keeping our internal logs for a few weeks. Say four. And notify me at once if you detect any kind of internal broadcast that isn’t coming from one of the crew or a passenger.”

“Of course, Captain.”

“Thanks Gray.”

I made a final walk-around of the ship then left. Outside the pad I saw a starport cargobot and stuck the discs I had removed from the ship on one of its arms. The cargobot squawked in indignation but I ignored it and headed towards one of the bars circling the Starport.

The place I wound up in was called the Singularity. It was a bit of a dive, even by Starport standards, but I figured that might actually make it a better place to stay for a while. I sat down at the bar and, when they didn’t have an Imperial Boil, just ordered a Galactose Intolerance. Every place has that.

I pulled up my comp and idly flicked through it for a bit. Whoever had placed those monitors on the Grayswandir would of course know I had found and removed them. I’d have to sweep the ship again after we cleared atmosphere but before we hit Jumpspace. I’d just toss them out then.

I shrugged and pinged the crew, telling them to meet me at the Singularity tomorrow for the pre-Jump meetup. It was as good of a place as any and no one could complain about me dragging them across town again.

I stayed there probably longer than I should. And probably had a few more Inflorescence than I should. I wondered again if Captain Anna had ever had to deal with things like this. Eventually I wandered back to the room and recorded this. Time for sleep.

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