The party members are up at a reasonable hour and continue the conversation that they had the previous evening.
Stian had been up all night pondering the situation and has had a number of thoughts that he shares with the others:
“There are a couple of suspects as mentioned, one who has the MO having already held the Connoisseur against his will for a month. Did you look into this guy when you were on Mertactor? The library data on Tarkine mentions that the ruling government has nepotistic links to the government of Mertactor, has the Connoisseur any connection there? Or is this too obvious a link and its a red herring?”
“Nope, we didn’t look into either of the two clients that sounded a bit dodgy,” Max admits. “With Jie finding the badge and knowing that it was a team from Pagaton what grabbed ’im, this was where the strongest lead led to.”
“Were the Horkalite/Connoisseur’s financial dealings looked into?” Stian asks. “Is he/are they as straight forward as they appear?”
“You’ve spent time with Miranda,” Max replies. “You can tell what she’s like – as nutty as a fruitcake with all ‘er talk of keepin’ Baport godly gut full of delicious goodies – but she’s got a heart of gold. All the others are the same. The Horkalites are well-known on Mertactor and the surrounding area as harmless nutters. It’s no secret as to why they’re rolling in dough – the food they make is so good that the rick with cash to burn pay stupid money to ‘ave them do their caterin’.”
“They’d ‘ave to be really dumb to be gettin’ involved with any illegal stuff. From what Miranda says, The Connoisseur lived a fairly simple and humble life. Not like me – if I was makin’ his sort of dough, I’d definitely be spending some serious wonga on blow an’ hookers. But not ’im.”
“Grabbing an NCO from the merc unit may not necessarily yield results,” Stian continues. “An NCO would be involved possibly in the planning of the assault but is unlikely to know the whys and wherefores of the mission. From what you’ve told me of the assault they were well organised and disciplined. Be a better chance of getting more info from the officer(s) responsible for what jobs they take and possibly his/her contact – do they work thru an agency?”
“Dunno,” Max shrugs. “We don’t know nuffink about these guys. ‘Opefully after Jie has spent the day asking around the bars and Taeva has spent a while casin’ the joint, we might find out a little more about them.”
“I’m hoping there’s an office of DynCorp, the unit I’ve been working for up at the high port,” Stian continues. “I’ll ask Autumn to get a directory of businesses, are they or anyone else I might know present?”
“Can we get details of where the M class has been?” Stian continues. “Where would records holding this info be and could we hack them?”
“Dunno an’ dunno,” Max says. “You’ve seen ‘ow lax they are wiv rules an’ regulations up at the highport. They didn’t ask for cargo and passenger manifests like they do on most worlds we visit. Seems like no one really gives a shit what you do up here.”
“The only way for sure that we could find out would be to get onboard the Type-M and get into their computers. By the sound of it though, that ain’t gonna be no easier than gettin’ inside the merc barracks.”
There is a pause in the conversation before Max continues.
“Well if most of you are plannin’ on stayin’ ‘ere doin’ a bit of snoopin’ around, I may as well go back up to the highport an’ get rid of the freight. That AGC is just bringin’ us loads of attention ‘ere, which is the last thing you need when you’re tryin’ to keep a low profile.”
“Stian, why don’t you come back wiv me an’ do some snoopin’ round the highport while the others blend in the with locals.”
“I’ll team up with Taeva if her mission is basically recon,” says Grim.
“Will can come with me,” says Jie. “Just in case we run into any intellectuals while asking around.”
Realizing that there is little point in trying to blend in with the locals while having laser carbine power packs and Auto-RAM grenade launchers strapped to their backs, they stow their serious hardware in their rooms at The Savoy and switch to just their concealable weapons and then they head their separate ways, agreeing to meet back at the hotel at midnight in order to compare notes.
Stian and Max get into the AGC and head back up to the highport, while the others head for ladies and gentleman’s outfitters respectively. Much hilarity ensues as they emerge in their Pagatonian costumes.
The two couples then each take hansom cabs to their destinations.
At 23.00, the pairs all reassemble back at The Savoy for a late dinner.
Max is grinning from ear to ear:
“Did a great deal on selling the gear,” he says. “It ain’t so much compared to the haul that we looted from the Aslan ship, but it pays for all the damage we needed repairing an’ plenty more.”
“So ’ow did the rest of you get on?” he asks.
“Grim and I didn’t learn a great deal from spending the day reconning the base,” she says. “There is very little movement in or out. We just saw basic groceries coming in, which were dropped just inside the yard – they didn’t let the deliverymen in. I went through their garbage but any paperwork was shredded and then burned – there was nothing left but ashes. No signs of any luxury foodstuffs in the garbage either – just basic army meals. There are three shift changes a day. One of their AGCs left and returned a few hours later. It looked as if it went to the highport and came back again later.”
“Well I was able to learn a little useful information,” says Stian. “Apparently the Sir Galahad is owned by the the Overbluff Zoarim Furinyot Dugbie.”
“Indeed it is,” Will says a little too smugly. “And according to the information Jie discovered from the bars, he also owns the Natichippin Mercenary Company as well.”
“I spent the afternoon in the Public Library checking up on Overbluff Dugbie. It would appear that he is probably the wealthiest and most-feared non-politician on Pagaton. In fact he is one of the richest and most-feared men across the whole of District 268.”
“He travels a lot, but Pagaton is where he makes his home. He has his own private island in the Southern Ocean, some 7000km from here.”
Will produces a primitive map of Pagaton. “In fact it’s located right here, just south east of the island nation of Blavyn.”
“Unfortunately this is all that I could determine about the island from the local newspapers. I could find no reports of what is actually there.”
Much debate then ensues regarding methods of recceing the island, most of which involve the Princess with various theories as to how the ship is going to handle underwater.
Max doesn’t seem to be too impressed:
“Do we really want to take that bleedin’ great thing with us on a stealth/recon job? It would be like tryin’ to tail someone while drivin’ a tank. It ain’t very subtle now, is it?”
“Sounds like the Overbluff has plenty of enemies an’ plenty of money. ’E’s gonna be well aware that there are only two approaches to the island – air and sea – an’ ’e’s gonna know that there are plenty of vehicles that can approach underwater so I am sure that ’e will ’ave some pretty decent sensors.”
“So if we need to get close, then I reckon the AGC is the better vehicle for the job. Even then, we’re gonna ‘ave to leave it well away from the island and get closer to it usin’ sumfink even smaller.”
With eyes going wide, Jie sets down her Fermotia drink (a cunning seed from the Ruttler tree about the size of a human head, grown hollow with a sweet blend of natural sugars and alcohol inside that is very tasty to the local fauna who are drawn to cracked open seeds on the beach by the fibrous inner core that looks like a multicolored, pastel umbrella) and gets some papers out of her native khakis. With a pen from the ship that has a stamp on the side that reads ‘ INTERSOL, because we care about write-y stuff’ she begins to calculate wind speed, current flow, ambient temperature, and a various host of other things. Eventually she looks up grinning:
“We might be able to use marine and avian life as camouflage. Also riding in on the Grav Carrier will give us a chance to use our option of scary-looking shark’s teeth appearing at the front of the vehicle to strike terror into those it dives down upon from above.”
She states proudly as she sucks down the last drop of her highly alcoholic drink with a long slurp.
“So, fly the AGC in low to the larger island, whatever it’s called NW of the target…” says Grim.
“Blavyn,” Will reminds Grim.
“Yes, Blavyn,” Grim continues. “From there what shall we do? Do we continue to the Overbluff’s island underwater in the AGC or do we take some other form of water-borne transport from there?”
“Can we find out the names of any on planet contractors who might have worked on the Overbluff’s retreat?” asks Taeva. “Breaking into their records might be a good first option.”
“What about disaffected employees too? A cash reward and a safe (low passage) off planet.”
“I dunno ‘ow you’d go around trackin’ ’em down,” Max comments. “Shame we ain’t got Arvor wiv us still – that’s ‘is line of work. I reckon that there would be more chance of findin’ ’em in Soumester, the biggest city in Southern Blavyn than there would be ’ere, ’alfway ’round the world.”
“Whevver we go first to Soumester or straight to the Island, the journey time will be about the same – about 16 hours. So if we start off after breakfast tomorrow, we should arrive at 2.00am the following day. But we’ll all be shagged out rattlin’ around in that thing for a whole day. The AGC ain’t built for comfort.”
“Lemme get this straight,” says Stian. “We’re going to recon first aren’t we? While it seems fairly certain that Overbluff Dugbie is involved, we don’t know how or why or where the Connoisseur currently is.”
“Starships must be routinely skimming the surface oceans to refuel, the port authority is slack at the best but are there flight paths the refuellers are having to use? Getting some kind of map of the actual site and a clue as to it’s defences is something we can do from orbit.”
“It all seems to be total chaos in this system with regards to traffic,” he replies. “With no coordinating body, it seems everyone just does what they want.”
“However, as most of Pagaton is vast empty oceans, it might look a little suspicious if a ship was to fly too low over the Overbluff’s Island when it is located so close to Blavyn and, as best as I can make out from these primitive maps, looking like is part of a reef, which means that the surrounding waters will be quite shallow.”
“An alternate plan for infiltration,” Stian continues. “Overbluff Dugbie is a man of exotic tastes. He must be receiving off world goods. Can we sit in orbit and monitor traffic to and from the island? Can we bribe/blackmail information from a traffic controller at the highport? Find out who’s delivering what and either fake a delivery or stow away on one of the delivery ships?”
“I would say look for information dirt/waterside while being well aware that the Big Man will employ snitches,” Taeva replies. “So my vote is to go to Soumester or whatever its called.”
“Then my vote goes to a trip to Soumester. If the presence of offworld mercs means we can travel around openly in an AGC, then fine. But I think we should go native and travel there by local means but have the AGC flown to a remoteish place where it can hole up a while till we need it.”
“I can’t see that travellin’ from ‘ere to Soumester by AGC is goin’ to cause anyone any concern,” says Max. “After all, the city is still a good 900km from the Island.”
“If we wanted to go local, that’d mean goin’ by steam packet or Zeppelin – both of which would take friggin’ days or weeks to get there. So takin’ the AGC to Soumester seems like the first step. Then we can decide on how we’re going to make the last leg of the trip once we get there.”
He looks at the others:
“So everyone ’appy wiv that plan to start wiv?”
“I’ll third Taeva and Stian and vote for going to Soumester,” agrees Grim. “I also vote with Stian that we take the AGC as far as practical and then switch to native means, maybe as junior crew on a Galleon?”
Max gets out his handcomp and starts calculating:
“What are you doing?” asks Grim.
“Jus’ workin’ out ’ow many miles to the galleon the AGC does.”
“Fine with me too,” agrees Will.
Jie raises a lackadaisical hand to fifth the plan then her hand collapses back on the shaved coral table as with the other she waves the lean, tan bar boy over to order another one of those fruity drink thingies with the umbrella on top. And she wants it with a shake she says as swats the bar boys backside. She then laughs so hard she falls out of the chair.
The others all look at the state of Jie and Max sighs:
“I reckon that’s all decided then,” he says. “Someone better get Jie to bed and then we had all better turn in ourselves. We’ll have a long day tomorrow so we need to make an early start.”
Taeva grabs Jie in a fireman’s lift and drags her to a room, while the others head for their own rooms.