The bridge crew rather regret over-eating and over-drinking the evening before when klaxons start blaring out at 0400 to announce that Unguin’s Princess has emerged from jump.
While the other members of the crew are able to continue sleeping, Will, Jie and Arvor crawl out of their beds and head for the bridge, where Jie checks to see that they have successfully arrived in the Mithras system and, upon confirming that they have, sets course for the world.
Mithras is a large world and so it’s a seven hour journey to the downport. The first four hours of the trip in-system are without incident but then Will on the bridge is hailed:
“Unidentified Type-A2, this is Gazelle Mithras Protector III, maintain your course and prepare for boarding.”
Will was expecting this, especially as it seemed to happen with every arrival they made during the last part of their trip in District 268 and so radios back his agreement to the SDB.
An hour later and the faster moving Gazelle has caught up with Unguin’s Princess. The Gazelle docks with the A2 and a Customs Official comes aboard along with four mercs, all wearing uniforms which show that they are employees of Sternmetal Horizons. Jie can tell that they are all former Imperial Marines.
The Customs Official starts off by checking everyone’s IDs and asks the reason for the ship’s visit.
The party members all look to Karolina, not wanting to say the wrong thing.
“I am returning to Glisten after a trading trip to Grote,” Karolina says nonchalantly, not wanting to give any indication as to the real reason why she is coming to Mithras. “There aren’t any scheduled liners on the route, which is why I am taking tramp freighters for this leg of the trip.”
Max confirms Karolina’s story:
“We’re just on our way to Glisten with the gear we bought from Grote,” he adds.
The Customs Official seems happy enough with the story and so asks to inspect the cargo, asking to see in a few of the containers and using chemical sniffers on the rest of them. After half an hour, he seems to be satisfied that the ship is not carrying any contraband.
The Customs Official finishes off by having a word with the bridge crew.
“You are to follow the landing instructions that will be given to you by Ground Control to the letter,” he says sternly. “If you deviate from the flight path, you will be given a warning to get back on it and fighters will be launched to follow you. If you set down on the surface of Mithras anywhere other than the downport, there will be no warnings given – you will immediately be fired upon. Do you understand?”
“I understand,” confirms Will quietly.
The Customs Official and his attendant mercs depart, allowing the Princess to continue towards the surface of Mithras. Half an hour later and they are hailed by Ground Control who give them the coordinates of the flight path that they need to take down to the downport, which Jie keys into the computer.
Will follows the coordinates down, through the planet’s heavy atmosphere. The route takes the ship over the brackish-colored, uninviting-looking seas of Mithras and down to what appears to be an island, joined to the main continent of the world by a couple of peninsulas. Will brings the ship down safely to land at the starport.
The starport is relatively quiet, which comes as little surprised as the world is far from the main trade routes. There are another five tramp far traders in port at the moment and a solitary unmarked Type-S, but the majority of vessels are non-starships, some of which are ferrying ore up to a Sternmetal Horizons bulk freighter and jump tug which are orbiting above the starport.
While waiting for the Port Authority vessels to come and collect them, the party members discuss how they will undertake the mission. They decide that Max, Autumn and Karolina will stay aboard so that Max can sell the cargo and prepare the ship for a rapid departure if necessary while the rest will go on the mission. Karolina gives each of them the papers they will need to identify themselves as rookie prison guards who have arrived to take up jobs as prison guards with Sternmetal Horizons. They arrange that the party will have two weeks to undertake the mission – until 010-1107. If they are not back by that time, then Karolina will blow the whistle on the whole mission and get the party members back. They also prepare details of some call signs in case the party members are able to get access to a radio while they are away so that they can ask for more time or an instant recall.
The large pressurized ATVs from the Port Authority have arrived now and so Karolina, Max and Autumn wish the party members the best of luck as they depart from the ship.
It’s a little before noon now and so there’s no urgency for the party members to head for the Sternmetal Horizons offices just yet. They decide to check out a bar before their meeting to see if they can pick up any useful gossip before heading off.
After purchasing filter/respirator combos, they catch a tracked cab and asked to be dropped close to the Sternmetal Horizons offices and head off towards downtown Circle City.
It’s a 30 minute drive to downtown and they pass through the suburbs of the small city. Although all of the buildings are covered in thick grime from the atmosphere, the city appears to be relatively wealthy as a result of the large amounts of cash circulating in the city from the lease that Sternmetal Horizons pays each year. The city is quite primitive, however, compared to Imperial standards.
The cab drops them off in front of the Sternmetal Horizons HQ, which is by far the largest and most impressive building in the city – some 20 floors high and taking up an entire city block. Opposite the building they see a bar called the Cross Keys and decide to head in there to see who they can find.
It’s half full at the moment with several people in Sternmetal Horizons uniforms enjoying a lunchtime pint. The party members buy drinks and listen to some of the conversations to see if any of the customers are prison guards. Several of them are and so the party members strike up a conversation with some of them.
The guards are all pretty simple folk. Most of them are from Aki, having accepted the tough job as one of the few available alternatives to a life of unemployment back on their home world.
Arvor asks about conditions at the prisons. The guards say that it really depends upon which prison they end up at as there are many different prison complexes on Mithras which vary a great deal – the good, the bad and the ugly. The others ask various questions too, but they soon discover that everything depends on which individual prison that they are going to be assigned to and so there’s a limit as to how much useful information they are going to get.
Arvor shows the guards a picture of the murdered Dr. Winston. None of them recognize him, however.
They buy another round for the guard as thanks for the information which they have received, then drink up and head for the Sternmetal Horizons offices.
The receptionist guides them to the Prison Guards Recruitment Office, which takes them a while to find inside the massive building. They eventually find themselves in front of the Head of Recruitment, Martin Wendholme.
Martin checks the party members’ paperwork:
“Ah, some new blood – excellent,” he says. “We weren’t expecting anyone, but we are always short-staffed and so any new recruits are gratefully received.”
He checks his computer screen.
“So male and female together,” he says to himself, “So best to send you to one of the mixed prisons.”
He taps a few more keys of the keyboard.
“So I think we’d better assign you to Prison P-239. That’s where we’re most short-staffed at the moment.”
“There’s a shuttle due out there tomorrow morning. We’ll have to put you up at the hostel tonight.”
The party members agree and so Martin gives them the details of how to find it. He wishes them good luck and tells them that they are free for the rest of the evening and that they will receive more instructions in the morning.
The party members thank him for all his help and then following the directions to the Sternmetal Horizons Hostel which is located a couple of blocks away. The hostel is clean but quite spartan. There’s not a lot to do there and there are very few people staying there at the moment. They correctly guess that most of the occupants are probably out at the bars.
They head back to the Cross Keys which is a lot busier now than it was at lunchtime. They spend a while chatting with more of the Sternmetal employees, but there is not much more to be learned. They realize that they are only going to get more information once they finally get to P239.