The party members all meet for breakfast at 8.00 so that they can make their final preparations, knowing that they won’t be staying much longer on Collace.
While the others can take their time, Max gobbles down his breakfast so that he can take care of the cargo and get it loaded as soon as possible so that it doesn’t delay the departure. Arvor gives him the name of the ship that they will be travelling on, the Tide is Turning and its dock number – E22.
William asks if he can come with Max to investigate the cargo and Max is only too glad to have the company, and so they head off together.
The others head off for a last look around the shops before they leave. Grim goes to a drug store and picks up a few canisters of Hirsute Vitesse – Luscious Locks, Luscious Looks – And all in just minutes!
At his suppliers, Max diligently opens all of the crates to check the cargo is as advertised.
Paisley has always intrigued William; probably it reminds him of Jennie Lueng, she of the fuzzy sweaters (that she called jumpers in her cute accent) in biology. Jennie had a thing for amoebas and parameciums and, well, paisley just triggered that memory. William recalls fondly his western-style paisley shirt with the fringed yoke and pearl snaps…
“Max, old chum, do you think anyone would miss this 36 regular?” he asks. “Maybe I’ll see Jie’s tailor about making me an “advanced cloth” suit when we get back. Paisley beats even a sweater vest you know.”
Max casts poor Will a queer look. “Not that there’s any’ting wrong wi’d that, mate.”
He asks the suppliers if they can spare a sample, and they agree to throw one in.
Max is happy with the cargo and so keys over the credits to the seller before heading off to his now old friend at Collace Tubes & Piping. He gives the cargo just a cursory glance and has a drink with the owner while the pipes are loaded up ready to deliver to the ship. He pays the owner and then rides on the grav/truck with the driver to oversee the loading.
The others finish their shopping and return to the hotel where they have lunch together, still trying to figure out how best to make their escape from Twalarsk after the hit. They have lunch together and wait for the call that Aarnool is supposed to make once everything is ready.
The call comes through just before 3.00pm. He tells Arvor to meet him onboard the ship at 5.00pm, by which time he should have everything ready.
Max arrives back shortly afterwards and settles up the hotel tab, then everyone packs and heads for the Tide is Turning. She’s a pretty old model – a standard A1 with no armament. An old tramp freighter like this, which should have had its loans paid off a while back, is going to arouse less attention than a gleaming new model.
They meet the crew. There are just three of them, the Pilot, Khe; Natalia the Navigator/Purser and Vincent the Engineer. They are friendly enough and welcome everyone on board. At least there’s enough room for everyone to have their own stateroom, a welcome change from the last journey they made when they were all wedged in like sardines. Max also makes sure that the ship is well-provisioned, not wanting to spend another week living on protein paste and water.
At exactly 5.00pm, Aarnool arrives with a porter pushing a grav trolley.
“Good afternoon, gentlemen,” he says. "I think that I have everything that you asked for.
The porter unloads the contents of the trolley into the common room and disappears. Aarnool waits for the crew to busy themselves preparing for departure before he goes through the equipment which he has brought with him.
He shows the party a collection of battered-looking cheap suitcases.
“Your clothes are in here,” he says. “Each of them has a false bottom which should be sufficient for hiding your IDs and the currency. You won’t be able to fit much more in there though without it being obvious.”
“Here are your IDs,” he adds, passing everyone three copies of different IDs to each person.
“In this box here are the signage for both Pavicom and an ambulance on self-adhesive plastic,” he says pointing to a cardboard box. “Quite how you’re going to get hold of a suitable vehicle that will pass as an ambulance though, I don’t know.”
Next he produces a slim, metallic attache case which is similar in size to a small suitcase, although a lot slimmer. He opens it up to reveal the sniper rifle, broken down into its constituent parts.
“That’s as small as we can get it, unfortunately,” he says. “It’s the barrel that’s the problem. I can see that it’s going to be a struggle to get is through a checkpoint where you’re searched.”
“Now if you would all please follow me,” he says before leading them all to the cargo hold.
He shows them ten containers which are 2m long by 1m, wide and 1m deep.
“This is what we came up with to get you into Twalarsk,” he says.
He opens up one of the containers to show that it is full of suits (dull gray ones rather than paisley).
“Four of the containers are completely full of these clothes,” he says, rummaging down to the bottom of the container.
He moves onto another one. “But the other six have false bottoms, with the clothes only in the top half.”
He reaches down, and opens up a panel. He gets in the box and lies in it, pulling the panel down.
“I hope that none of you are claustrophobic,” he says.
“If someone would care to seal the container now.”
Max shuts the container. A few seconds later, Aarnool reappears.
“There are self-release mechanisms from the inside.”
He gets out.
“As the Baroness should have informed you, we are blackmailing the Customs Official not to check the containers before they are loaded onto the plane. As they should have been checked carefully upon loading, there should be no need for anyone to check them again upon arrival. You’ll probably want to get out of them as soon as you can though as you will be short on time anyway and they certainly aren’t going to foil anyone who gives them more than just a casual inspection.”
“So, any last questions?” he asks.
“Very good,” he finishes. “Best of luck with the mission.”
He shakes everyone by the hand and heads off.
Immediately that he has gone, the crew of the Tide is Turning start the launch procedure. Half an hour later and the ship is moving away from the dock, heading for jump distance.
The party members settle in for the jump. Arvor beams everyone all of the data that he has on Pavabid plus all of its customs and quirks so that everyone can get started on cramming up on all the basics.
Just before 1.00am, the Tide is Turning slips safely into hyperspace.