The final 36 hours of the trip were without any further incident. Kiimii had told everyone that she just couldn’t cope any more and so was never seen outside her stateroom, Laarii having brought all her meals to her.
As the afternoon on the final day progresses, the ship is able to pick up Tarsus on its viewscreen which Taeva studies intently as it grows larger as the ship approaches. It’s the first time she has seen her homeworld in a long, long time.
“From the amount of ice at the poles, it looks like it’s towards the end of the Big Dusk currently in the southern hemisphere, which is where the family ranch is located,” Taeva tells the others. “That’s what Tarsans call the Fall.”
“So it’s going to get a bit cold out there,” she continues. “It won’t be too extreme outside The Girdle, but it’s not going to be a lot of fun riding in open air/rafts without some cold weather gear.”
Everyone starts to prepare for departure as the Princess gets closer to Tarus – everyone is really glad that this nightmare of a journey is getting close to completion now, especially Kiimii.
William gets coordinates to bring the ship to Newland Down, keeping out of the way of Tarsus’s two moons, Gloeh and Rond. There’s an average amount of traffic going in and out of the port considering the smallish population of Tarsus. There’s a government shuttle heading for Gloeh and a SuSAG shuttle returning from Rond. A Type-M is leaving the planet. A solitary SDB in orbit over Newland is the only sign of any military vessels.
William brings the Princess down through the cloudy atmosphere and successfully touches down at Newland Down. A cheer goes up from the three members of the trade delegation, glad that their trip is finally over.
No Port Authority staff come to greet the ship once it has landed and so Laarii heads off to find someone. It takes 20 minutes before he comes back with a couple of customs officials.
Arvor tells the officials that they are carrying the remains of the doctor with them and starts to explain the results of his investigation. It soon becomes obvious to him though that the officials really don’t care much about the situation.
“Not our problem, man,” the official drawls. “He’s a Collace citizen travelling on a Collace-registered ship. We don’t want him. Just stick him in one of your low berths and take him back to Collace.”
With Dr. Maacreedii somewhat incapacitated, it falls to William to resuscitate the nine passengers in the low berths. Unfortunately, not having much experience of this, William manages to lose a couple of them in the process, thus bringing the death toll on board the Uguin’s Princess maiden journey to three.
“Noooooooooooo!!!!!!” Kiimii wails upon hearing the news.
“That’s it,” she cries. “I’ve had enough. I don’t want my own starship any more. I just want to get back to Collace now and ask Daddy to sell it.”
Knowing that Laarii would just screw things up, Max shows his paperwork to the customs officials. They seem to be totally disinterested in it though.
“I’m sure it’s fine, man,” the customs official says, not even bothering to look at it.
Nervously, Jie brings out her laser carbine. Pretty much every other time she has brought it out from a ship, she has been immediately pounced upon to say that the weapon is either not allowed to leave the ship or must be incapacitated. Not on Tarsus though – the customs officials see her with it and don’t bat an eyelid.
Taeva taps the sobbing Kiimii on the shoulder before she leaves.
“You were going to reimburse the cost of my ticket,” she reminds her.
“Yes, yes,” she sobs. “Laarii will deal with it. Just speak to him about it.”
Taeva manages to get the Cr. 8,000 compensation from him for the cost of his ticket. Kiimii refuses to give refunds to Jie or Max, however.
Leaving Kiimii to her misery, the party members take their belongings and head through the dock to the terminus. There are a handful of ships in port, most of them small merchants, with a fair new non-starships as well. Taeva was right about the weather. There’s no snow on the ground yet, but a digital thermometer tells everyone that it’s slightly below freezing outside.
“Brilliant acting there, Grim," says Taeva. "You were really convincing. Here’s that bottle of Planeean Claret.”
“Thanks, though it would’ve been easier if I’d been given a full copy of the script ahead of time.” says Grim, winking at Taeva.
“What’s the plan then, guys an’ gals?” Max asks. “I reckon we’ll need to unload this cargo before we do much else. Pretty much all our cash is tied up in it an’ so we prob’ly won’t get too far here before we’re solvent again.”
“Are you gonna contact your folks to let them know we’re on our way?” Max asks Taeva. “Or are you gonna surprise them?”
“I’ll give them a call tomorrow,” Taeva replies.
Although it’s just getting light outside, the party member decide to keep to their own body cycles of sleeping and waking, which means that it will soon be time to sleep as it’s mid-evening to them. Not wanting to cart every piece of their possession around with them for the next few weeks, the party members put the vacc suits, toolkits, etc into lockers. They then all buy access to the local telecoms network, plus maps of the planet for their handcomps.
Being too tired to do much else that day, the party members go to the tourist office and take a look at the hotels on offer, selecting a moderately priced one located in the startown adjoining the starport. They then head off for a meal and a few drinks.
Jie looks at the sim stick with the 50 credits endowed on it as a brisk, cold wind blows from a leaden sky. Not for the first time does she wish that her nomadic up bringing about the evils of materialism had been a little more relaxed. She buckles the collar of her new midnight black flak jacket as the winds invisible fingers begin to scratch at her throat. Her very un-new skin tight ablat although allowing her to show off some very Taeva-esk curves, was useless against the cold. 7,000 k travel during Big Dusk and these clothes aren’t gonna cut it. She knows all she has to do is ask for some help from the others and a wealth of supplies would be at her disposal. But Jie was proud. A fault she knew yet was unable to rid herself of besides, Max would soon sell the cargo then she could get what she needed with her cut of the profit. That didn’t help her much tonight.
”You coming, Jie?” Arvor asks as they head out of the hotel to get something to eat.
”Uhhh, no, thanks Arv, I think I’m just gonna look around this,” looks to Taeva “great home of a planet.”
”’Oy! yee might be needin’ ah protective hand , Gal” Max says as he fumbles for his pistol.
”Pffffftttt!” Jie replies with an amused dismissal as she powers up Black Betty then switches it to the safety setting before letting the grav-gripper on her hip take the weight of the old and deadly friend.
Jie heads out into the cold Dusk. Newland Down was a pretty nice place as downports go. The geo-thermic steam plant has its multiple pipes snaking their ways to various buildings and warehouses held aloft by 2 story tall poles. Grav-Loaders and taxies dart in and out of the tangle of tubes while people on foot stop every so often under a nexus and bask in the free heat from the pipes. Jie asks questions of strangers and is eventually lead to a military surplus store. JENKS the flickering neon sign reads. Its light reveals a set of shoddily wrapped feet sticking out from the alley. The homeless man lay there snoring covered in papers and old shipping cardboard. Jie remembers Taeva predicting that this long night will be a bitterly cold one, even for a native Tarsun. With a shrug she turns and heads in to the shop.
As it happens Mr. Jenks immediately recognizes the Hells Brigade patch on Jie’s shoulder. He says that, about 10 years ago, he and his family were fleeing a religious war on Tarkine and would have been wiped out by the fanatics if it weren’t for the aid of the Imperial Space Marines, (He pronounced the capitol letters) especially the ones who protected them to their very death till the Hells Brigade arrived to take them to safety.
Two glasses of gin lead to a bottle of rum them some more old stories of the past. Long after closing time, Jenks asks her what she needs of him. She explains that she will need a coat warm enough to hold off the Big Dusk and sturdy enough to survive a rough life…and for 50 Creds. Mr Jenks says he has just the thing! He rustles through the stocks and returns with a full set of Imperial grade cold weather survival gear recently altered by SuSAG for their scientists especially for Tarsus weather. It was brand new and obviously very expensive.
“Only 50 Creds !!” he proclaims.
Jie pays the man and they drink a bit more in the dimness of the old shop. Then she has to go and he hugs her as she held the new suit in her arms. He locks up from the inside and Jie notices it is even colder now then before. She turns into the ally and easily finds the homeless man shivering in the darkness.
”Old man, here. This is for you,” she says offering the coat with an angelic smile.
”Wha..Who the…Bugger off chick, this is MY alley and I don’t need no gifts from strangers!”
”This is a coat so you don’t die of cold this night. I can help…”
”Don’t need no Farkin’ help lady!! Piss off. Lemme alone!”
”Sir, you will wear this coat. Now…put it on!” jie says, a little gruffly.
”Ain’t gonna do it, you can’t make me. Go to hell Off worlder!”
Jie has had enough. Regardless of this idiot’s pride (or alcohol induced dementia) he was going to wear this expensive coat tonight. She got him in a head lock and wrestled the elderly homeless man into submission in the filthy alley. He shouted “Rape!! Rape!!” at the top of his lungs while his scrawny legs flailed about in a ballet of futility then all the blood stopped flowing to his brain. Releasing him from the sleeper hold and checking to make sure he was still alive, Jie tore off the rags around his chest and shoved his jelly like arms into the super warm coat then zipped it up. Standing she surveyed her good deed. Somewhere off in the distance a solitary tiny bell rang.
Meanwhile, the other party members have found one of the better restaurants in the starport area. Compared to the meals onboard the Princess and the processed foods of Collace, the natural food of Tarsus tastes absolutely great, as does the beer and everyone has a really great evening, glad to finally be away from the claustrophobic atmosphere on Uguin’s Princess.
Taeva gives some background information to the world as they drink, explaining the possible dangers that they might face.
“Just a warning: Law may seem fairly lax on Tarsus but the reason it survives is that by and large people co-operate," she explains. "Any-one behaving like a nut case is likely to get lead poisoning- and anyone you get into an argument with is likely to have a lot more friends on planet than you are.”
“Noted,” agrees Max with a nod. “I ain’t gonna start causin’ no trouble. Trouble’s bad for business.”
They then finish and head back to the hotel, arriving an hour before Jie gets back.
Returning to the hotel cold, poor and covered in alley slime Jie knocks on William’s door. He answers bleary eyed and yawning but with a smile. Jie stands a little while shifting weight from one foot to another. She is not good at asking for things, but tonight she saw that everyone could use some help from their friends every once in a while.
”Hi Bill, I’m not good at this but can I borrow enough creds to outfit myself for the travel to Taeva’s ranch. I swear on Grim’s life that I will pay you back as earliest as I can.”
Jie swallows something that tastes like pride.
“Of course you can Jie, although Grim’s life as collateral is not of much value,” says William with a smile. “How much do you need?” he asks, reaching for his wallet.