Everyone drags themselves out of their beds at 5.30 to make all of the necessary preparations for departure.
As is usually the case, it’s the low berth passengers who arrive first. Mr and Mrs Chang are a young, simple couple who have scraped together enough cash to get away from this shithole world, hopeful of making a better life for themselves on Glisten.
Len Samuels is also travelling to Glisten with his wife. Len studied geology and ecology at the University of Telmat and has finished his thesis on the possibilities for terraforming Aki. He is heading to GLIPS to present his thesis in the hope that he might get a grant in order to continue his studies. Will is very reluctant to put him in the fridge as he would have loved to have spent much of the trip chatting with him.
His disappointment is somewhat relieved when the first of the high passengers arrives – she is jaw-droppingly beautiful and all the male members of the crew are elbowing each other out of the way to welcome her onboard. Aged around 23, 6’3", blonde haired and blue-eyed, her passport shows her to be Veronique Dubois.
Next on board is a young man in the dress uniform of a Sublieutenant in the Aki Planetary Navy. He has a slim attache case attached to his wrist and a Navy snubbie at his waist, which he hands over without question when asked. He is more reluctant to open the attache case, but reluctantly agrees to open it just to show that there are only papers in the case. Reassured that there is no weapon inside, they let him through.
The next couple of high passengers raise eyebrows.
“Fack me,” Max exclaims. “No one told me it was Halloween today.”
The pair, a male and female both in their late-thirties, are obviously from somewhere very primitive as they are dressed in robes and togas, with the wife dressed in expensive furs.
Autumn asks them for their travel documents. The couple grunt something unintelligible and then the male pulls out a very basic handcomp. He clumsily presses a few button and thrusts it in front of Autumn. She repeats the request and the handcomp translates it into a series of grunts.
Him and his wife produce a couple of pieces of tattered papyrus with some unintelligible scrawl on it.
“Oh well, we’ve got until Glisten to try and figure out the names to put on the passenger manifests at least,” she whispers through a fixed smile.
It’s getting close to departure time now and the last of the high class passengers has yet to arrive. A couple of minutes before it’s time to close the doors, a man in a dark suit quickly walks up to the airlock. He heads up to Arvor, then reaches into his pocket, where he pulls out a badge.
“Agent Martin Carter, IMoJ,” he whispers.
Arvor calmly asks the agent if he can check his badge. The agent agrees. Arvor determines that it is genuine – all the way from Gazulin Subsector.
“You’ve got a passenger on here who goes by the name of Maria Chan, haven’t you?” he asks quietly.
Arvor nods – knowing that harboring fugitives would get them all into a whole world of trouble.
“Good,” Carter replies as he strides onboard.
“We need to search you,” Taeva says.
“I can save you the trouble,” Carter replies. “I assume you’re looking for this.”
He opens his jacket to reveal a snubbie.
“Don’t worry, it’s only loaded with tranq and I’m not intending on using it,” he says. “Chan’s cunning and slippery, but she’s non-violent.”
“I don’t care,” Taeva replies brusquely. “Our policy is that absolutely no passengers carry weapons onboard. I don’t care if you’re Strephon – if you want to travel with us, the snubbie is going in the locker.”
The pair argue for a while, eventually agreeing that, if Carter is allowed access to the radio upon arrival in Glisten so that he can arrange a team of take Chan down, he will give up his weapon.
While Taeva and Arvor have been arguing with Carter, Will, Grim and Max have all been fawning over Veronique.
“Unfortunately, Veronique, Will has a ship to pilot and Grim needs to grease monkey around with the engines, so they are going to have to leave you now,” he says with a cheeky Grin.
“But don’t worry, darling, in my role as Purser, I am at your disposal throughout the journey, night and day.”
Autumn has closed the doors now and so Will and Grim somewhat reluctantly head for their positions in order to make final preparations for departure.
The take-off goes without a hitch and soon the Princess is leaving the scummy atmosphere of Aki behind them and heads out on the long, 18 hour journey to get outside jump diameter of the Aki system’s weak second sun that the planet is orbiting.
Over lunch, the afternoon and then dinner, passengers and crew start to make friends.
Maria Chan continues to stay locked in her stateroom, calling Autumn through the intercom when she wants more to drink. Agent Carter seems relaxed, seemingly just as happy that Maria Chan has placed herself under house arrest as she is. He spends his time chatting with the Naval Sublieutenant as Carter seems to be ex-Navy himself.
Max continues to flirt outrageously with Veronique, ignoring all of the other passengers and crew members alike. After a lot of probing, he learns that Veronique was a major celebrity on Elixabeth – an actress/model/singer/dancer/whatever, whose face was a regular feature on the world’s glossy magazines. This was until she became the mistress of the Governor of Elixabeth, the oligarch, Bilvio Serlusconi. All went well until the paparazzi started putting 2+2 together and Bilvio ‘strongly suggested’ that it was time she headed offworld. Having gone as far as she could on the tiny world of Elixabeth, she had no problem with this and is heading to Glisten to take her career to the next level.
Meanwhile, Autumn has been diligently trying to communicate with the barbarian couple with the help of the online translation program on her handcomp and some assistance from Grim, who taps his basic knowledge of Linguistics and his Army experience from varied postings. With these aids, she manages to determine that the language they are speaking has a similar structure to Swordie although the dialect is completely different and much of the vocabulary. Through means of this plus some mime together with a map of the region, she learns that they are from Faldor, at the Coreward edge of District 268. She learns that they are King Karel and Queen Boguslava, head of a moderately-sized city state on the world. They look at everything with the fascination of a child and are courteous to everyone except for Autumn, who they treat as a serving wench, much to her annoyance, although she is too professional to show it.
Once dinner has ended, the passengers stay for a few drinks before heading to their rooms. Taeva’s eagle eyes spot Max slipping into Veronique’s stateroom. “I knew that is was worth saving the last of those pheromones for someone really special,” he says to her with a wink as he closes the door behind him.