It’s an early start for Grim, William and Arvor. They check out of the hotel early so as to be at the dock that Kiimii gave them the previous day for 06.00.
A nervous Kiimii is waiting for them. She’s terribly stressed out about the whole thing, running around like a headless chicken.
The three party members meet the rest of the crew that Kiimii has assembled. Jaamii Noorthaan is the second gunner, recently mustered out from the Collace Navy. Dr. Haamisssh Maacreedii is the ship’s medic – an older guy who’s in his early fifties. William speaks to him and discovers that he’s a friend of Kiimii’s father. He’s recently been through a bitter and painful divorce and just wants to get away from Collace for a while to ‘get his head together’. He’s dour and taciturn and says little to the others. The party members soon figure out that he’s a spy put in from Kiimii’s father to keep close tabs on what’s going on, but Kiimii doesn’t seem to have figured this out yet.
Laarii Noortaan is the steward who is, like Kiimii, fresh from the Merchant Academy. Incredibly camp, the party members soon figure out that Laarii is from another of the minor noble families of Collace. None too bright, it would appear that his family just want to get him away from Collace so he can’t embarrass them any more. It soon becomes apparent that Laarii is Kiimii’s best friend.
Kiimii welcomes everyone on board. It has that great ‘new starship’ smell – having come straight from the yards. Laarii has helped Kiimii with the interior design. It’s very … feminine – lots of pinks and pastels and over-furnished – like walking into the bedroom of a 13 year old girl. It’s certainly going to be comfortable though.
The crew need to share staterooms. Grim and William immediately choose to double up together. Arvor chooses to share with Jaamii the other gunner, leaving Dr. Haamiish and Laarii to share – a fact which doesn’t improve the medic’s mood very much.
His mood worsens considerably when he sees the uniforms which Laarii and Kiimii have prepared.
“Errm, welcome onboard everybody,” Kiimii says. “So … err … I’ll just leave you to do all your … spacecrafty type things that you need to do.”
It’s obvious that Kiimii is totally clueless about all aspects of running a ship and so the party members set to their work. With Uguin’s Princess having come straight from the shipyards and featuring every optional extra in the catalogue, William and Grim see that this is going to be a really easy job. The ship can practically fly itself and look after its own drives.
As previously agreed, the other party members arrive one by one so as not to alert anyone to the fact that they are together. Max is next to arrive mid-morning. He checks that all of the goods is onboard and secure and that all of the paperwork is in order with Laarii. It’s fortunate that he did as Laarii has made a complete mess of it and it takes Max quite a while to rewrite his forms.
Taeva arrives at 11.00. She doesn’t makea fuss or acknowledge the others – she just heads to her stateroom and unpacks.
There are just three staterooms that are unoccupied by the crew and party members. They all arrive together. All three are from Tarsus, a delegation consisting of a botanist, a lawyer and a high ranking official from the Tarsus Department of Agriculture. They are returning from an AgWorld Combine Meeting, renegotiating import quotas and prices with the relevant ministry on Collace.
It’s getting very close to departure time now and Jie has not yet arrived. Kiimii’s father has arrived to see his daughter off, which is just making Kiimii even more nervous. Dr. Haamiish gives her some sedatives and Laarii gives her lots of reassuring hugs.
Just 15 minutes before departure time, Jie stumbles toward the boarding plank of the Uguin’s Princess carrying everything she owns on her back. Not that the weight of her medi-kit, various guns and what-not weigh a lot, it’s just that she is having the sector’s worst hang-over. The last 24 hours were truly a blur to the well-inebriated ex-marine. The memories swirl around her head like vultures circling the dead and, at this moment, eyes squinting in the Collacian sun, she wished she was. Jie leans against the passenger door of a platinum colored grav-limo just out side the launch tube of the brand new trader.
She seems to recall dancing in an ice cave where the holo-vid lights were reflected off of the cold, shiny walls to make a garbled image that gyrated in time to the booming music that echoed in the packed hall. Moving in rhythm to the latest new dance hit just shipped in from Coreward, she was covered in sweat and wearing next to nothing with a bottle of cheap whisky in one hand and a man named Demitre in the other. He was young and lean and spoke almost no Galanglic but he could dance. He wore make-up, (Make-up!! Jie bows her head in shame) and was part of some diplomatic blaa blaa blaa, the details elude her in the sun light. She remembers telling the other ex-marines at the club that she had met that night and bar hopped with for the first of the evening that she and the boy were gonna leave and make some music of their own. Demitre was a master of many tongues, a cunning linguist so to speak, but they didn’t do much talking. She has a flash of memory of her walking to the Zhodani Consulate with Demitre happily worn out and slung over her shoulder then it cuts to her at the tram station, belting out Imperial war anthems at the top of her lungs, and…
”Oh my god I killed a Clown with my bare hands!” Jie says just as she forcefully vomits most of last night’s contents into the passenger seat of the grav-limo.
She wipes her mouth on her sleeve. No…not a clown but some kind of automated food service speaker made into the form of an ancient red haired, yellow jumpsuited icon of fast food. Jie remembers that she had the munchies and this freak of a robot was giving her flack because of her accent. So she ripped its friggin’ head off.
Feeling better, she pushes away from the limo and walks to Uguin’s Princess. There on the welcoming plank was Kiimii and her father and her new crew.
Jie has to stifle a laugh when she sees the crew. They were dressed in what could only be described as Kiimii’s vision of an intrepid merchant heroes uniform. It was high grade full body spandex with thigh high leather boots and a velvet cape that came down to the mid-back. The color scheme for the uniform, and the ship, was black and pink and feathers were highly featured.
Judging from the expressions of Grim, Arvor and William who were standing and greeting the guests with forced smiles, they were having second thoughts about their working passage. She also noticed Taeva and Max pretending not to notice each other in preparation for their ‘Grand Plan’ (Jie was very against acting the ass to gain a profit. Hidden agendas were loathe to the forthright soldier!).
”Now remember pookums,” says Uguin Shaaskuu to his daughter, “Never trust your lackeys to do a competent job!! Always look over their shoulder and never miss the opportunity to correct them!”
”Oh Daddy, I know that!” Kiimii replies with short-tempered poutiness tempered by unbounded enthusiasm. “Now get out of here and let me live my life. Ohh! Ohh! Tell Mummie to keep up with my correspondence. I don’t want Sir Drukkos or Sir Frummiere to think I am not interested in their proposals.”
Jie stood behind the two as they bantered. Once, Kiimii glanced at her with a look one would give a wad of greasy hair in a sink drain, then she just totally ignored Jie altogether. After an embarrassingly long moment waiting to be acknowledged, William waves Jie aboard with a hip high flick of his hand. She walks ahead into the grateful dimness of the Uguin’s Princess. Just as she passed the last of the crew she spies a complimentary bottle of champagne on ice. The label looked old and the date stated it as a year 894. Picking up the unguarded bubbly, Jie thinks this will go along way to easing her hangover. She cracks open the cork with her teeth and takes a glorious drink of booze draining it almost in one swig. She turns to watch the nobleman, Shaaskuu, leave the launch area head shacking in the classic fashion of a man filled with great advice that has just been ignored.
”People!! People!!” Kiimii announces over the speakers, “We will now christen the maiden voyage of Uguin’s Princess with the most expensive bottle of champagne I could find on Collace!!! Laarii … bring me the bottle!!!”
Jie spews the last of the champagne on the wall in shock as she hears this. Laarii turns to see her holding the empty open bottle as her blood drains from her face.
Off in the distance towards a platinum colored grav-limo, Uguin Shaaskuu’s booming voice could be heard screaming “Who’s vomit did I just sit in?!”
Laarii and Kiimii look in shock at they see the messed up form of Jie, the empty bottle, the pool of vomit that has now dribbled down the wall onto the pink crushed velvet of the common room and then Kiimii bursts into tears.
“YOU’VE RUINED IT!” Kiimii screams at Jie. “YOU’VE RUINED EVERYTHING!”
With that, she turns on her heels and runs to her stateroom, slamming the door behind her.
Five minutes later, Laarii returns with his arm around Kiimii’s shoulder. She is sniffing back the tears as Laarii wipes her nose with a tissue.
Laarii grabs another bottle of champagne from the fridge. It’s only a Motmos ’03, but it will do the job.
The crew and passengers come back outside in order to witness the official launching of the ship, but it’s a half-hearted affair due to the fact that Kiimii’s speech is punctuated by her sniffing back the tears.
The crew and passengers are all anxious to get away now. William tells Kiimii that, if they don’t launch immediately, they will lose their departure slo. Kiimii reluctantly agrees and everyone takes to their posts. No sooner has Laarii closed the doors than William pulls the ship away and heads towards jump distance.
Kiimii has calmed down a little (the sedatives that the doctor gave her having now properly kicked in). She spends her time in the passenger lounge making smalltalk with the passengers – with the notable exception of Jie.
This continues for the five hours that the ship is accelerating towards jump distance, the crew getting used to the layout of the ship – not that there’s much else for them to do. Whenever anyone asks a question of Kiimii, her answer is always the same:
“Errm … what do you think we should do? I’m sure that will be fine.”
As William announces that the ship will soon be entering hyperspace, Kiimii gets a little nervous once again. The transition is a smooth one though and so Kiimii starts to relax again as Laarii starts to prepare dinner for the high class passengers.