The journey to Talchek is a very pleasant one. Although the grieving Handerskuyts rarely leave their staterooms and speak with anyone other than Autumn, the other passengers are all good company. Jan and Valencia almost seem like part of the crew now they have been on the ship for almost as long as it has been under new management.
Anousheh and Dr. Schloss get on very well with each other and Will is very pleased to have some refined company for a change. Anousheh and Dr. Schloss spend much of their time discussing health and living conditions on Hazardous Atmospheric worlds with Mr. Jan Huss, and to a much lesser extent, Ms. Valencia Davies-Jones.
Dr Schloss admits that her trip to Talchek involves checking on the health status of the inhabitants of the Imperial client state, which she fears maybe suffering under the current low tech conditions they’ve been living under. She asks if Mr. Huss or Ms. Davies who are from Dallia (which also possesses Atmosphere B) would mind donating some blood samples for her to make a baseline for her upcoming studies. She comments that she doesn’t feel comfortable intruding on the two Handerskuyt women in their time of grief.
Mr. Huss and Ms. Davies-Jones volunteer to do so and so Dr. Schloss asks if Will may give her the use of his Med Bay/stateroom so that she can take the samples. As well as Will is hitting it off with Dr. Schloss, he is still a little nervous of leaving passengers alone after the events at the Noctocol gas giant and so agrees to it as long as he can help them out.
Dr. Schloss is more than happy that Will is prepared to help out and so immediately agrees. Will is also a little paranoid that there could be a more sinister reason for taking blood samples and checks Jan and Valencia himself afterwards. All is fine with them though (which comes as a great relief to Max who has regularly been slipping into her … stateroom … on a nightly basis).
They all meet up again for dinner. Mr. Huss and Ms Davies-Jones discuss how brutal the New Worlds Corporation (NWC) is to the original Forinian, Dallian settlers and those from Biter, describing how they force them to work and pay them in air-hours, and charge them for everything from meals, housing, and basic medical services.
They also relate that due to the precipitous fire-sale price the original Talchek Mining Co-operative Corporation sold out to NWC, the miners were saddled with working off the balance. Both Huss and Davies-Jones claim this keeps all but the wealthiest or the most frugal from escaping what has become corporate indentured servitude — virtual slavery. They claim the NWC reaps all of the profits, and suppresses the rights of labor to organize against their management and form a union.
Ms. Iskander asks the two Dallians whatever happened to the settlers from Milagro, Biter, and Elixabeth who were also part of the original settlement. Both Dallians look in stunned surprise when Iskander continues and wonders aloud:
“Why didn’t Dallia and Forine use the money gained from the “sell-out” to ship their people back to their homeworld like Milagro, Elixabeth, and Biter did?”
Iskander parks her reading glasses up on her head, looking very much a schoolteacher, and adds:
“Now it’s true that Forine’s Supreme Leader Generalissimo, Yves Ste. Guevara emptied his prisons to meet his world’s agreed upon colonial quota, and surely he wouldn’t wish them back! But what reason did the Dallian Republic give? Did they take the money and run as well? I’m sorry but it seems a sorry business all the way around to me.”
Autumn sees that the air is getting a little heavy with politics and changes the subject:
“I do like nice fluffy kittens. How about you, Anousheh?”
The journey continues without much incident, allowing the crew members to get on with their personal training. Grim finds that he is getting pretty good with his vacc suit now.