Max and Autumn are out working again for most of the day.
Will files the flight plan for a noon departure the following day.
The KwikBite truck arrives with the delivery which Taeva and Arvor check over carefully before Jie starts to load the goods onto the ship in her waldo, recently named Ted.
Max arrives back late afternoon looking resigned. “I filled the rest of the cargo hold with 30 tons of rice,” he says. “I got a great price for it, but the profit margins on cheap shit like that is going to do little more than pay for freight costs. The entire cargo only cost me a little over 100k, so we have plenty in the bank.”
“So how is it looking for passengers?” he asks Autumn.
“So-so,” Autumn replies. “I managed to pick up one new low passenger on top of those three engineers heading for Mertactor who are still in the fridge. Looks like I have all of the staterooms filled, but only with middle passengers though. Parlek’s not what the elite travel out of so no lords and ladies travelling with us this time.”
Max shrugs, “Better than nothing though. It’s a two jumper so we’ll still make some decent cash off the middles.”
“One of the middle passenger wants to bring 5 tons of foodstuff on board,” Autumn replies. “Have we space? She will pay Cr.800 per ton.”
“Yes, we can just about squeeze it in. Make sure it’s checked carefully though.”
“So what’s the deal with this passenger?" asks Arvor. "Must be a small merchant of some kind. We’d better check him (or her) out carefully”.
“And the cargo," adds Will. "With our luck it’ll be illegal at the other end. Isn’t Egypt where Round’s cargo came from? Given what they export, who knows what they import!”
Autumn taps on her handcomp to bring up more info on the client:
“Miranda Hampshire,” Autumn reads.
She looks confused.
“But under title, she’s given Major Savory.”
“Major Savory?” Max replies, a smile starting to appear on his lips. “Is she booked through all the way to Mertactor.”
Autumn checks. “Yup, she is.”
“In that case, I’m pretty sure of it – she’s a Horkalite,” Max replies.
“A Horkalite? Really?” Autumn replies, now also starting to get excited.
“I’d put money on it!” Max replies. “Fackin’ Happy Days!”
He and Autumn high-five one another.
The other party members look completely mystified.
“Would one of you care to fill us in on what a ‘Horkalite’ is for those of us who have no clue what you are talking about?” says Will.
“Sure,” Max replies. “They’re followers of the Church of Horkalie. They’re a bunch of religious nutters.”
“But good religious nutters,” interjects Autumn.
“There are a lot of religious nutters on Mertactor for some reason,” Max continues. “Most of them are a pain in the arse, but the Horkalites are definitely good nutters. Not as good as some of the ‘Free Love’ sects – they’re my favourite religious nutters. But Horkalites are definitely second.”
“Why?” asks Arvor.
“They believe that the universe is actually the stomach of some kind of god who they worship,” Max explains. “To keep him happy, they keep trying to create the most ultimately tasty food which they launch into hyperspace to feed him.”
“So why does that make them good nutters?” asks Jie.
“Because rather than wastin’ their time kneelin’ and prayin’, they spend all their time cookin’,” Max answers. “Always researchin’ an’ testin’. Like most god-botherers, they’re always lookin’ for new converts. But rather than just yakkin’ on about their bullshit religion, they practice what they preach – literally – by cookin’ meals for those people who they think might be possible converts.”
“And they’re really good cooks,” Autumn adds. "You’ve never tasted anything as good as a Horkalite meal. “Their temple on Mertactor is not far from where my mother lives and so I’ve eaten there on a few occasions. It’s fabulous.”
“They’re a very rich sect as well,” Max continues. “All the nobles and nouveau-riche who can afford them want one of the top-ranking Horkalites cooking for them and they pay through the nose for it. It’s worth it though. And a lot of the top restaurants get their staff trained there which costs an arm and a leg for ’non-believers.”
“So all we need to do is give her bonkers religion a bit of respect rather than telling her that it all sounds like a load of old bollocks and that we could, potentially, be interested in joining and we get gourmet meals prepared for us all the way to Mertactor.”
“Fackin’ result and a half!”
He high-fives Autumn again.
“That would explain what the five tons of cargo are as well,” Autumn adds. “With Overnale being a good source of food stuffs and being so close to Mertactor, I would imagine that she’s bringing supplies back to the temple.”
Arvor nods. “We should still check it carefully anyway.”
The party members return to watching holovids for a while when Jie suddenly speaks up.
“Heeey, what ever happened to that passenger of ours who Ex-Chief Round said was Ine Givar?” she asks. “The quiet guy Round said as he interegated us was a mastermind terrorist and his super doofus police force caught him. Another lie?”
“I’ve no idea,” says Will.
He fires up his handcomp and surfs the Web looking for any information. He spends a while reading and then passes on the information that he found to the others.
“For once it looks to me that Chief Round may have been telling the truth,” Will explains. “It’s hard to say for sure because we know that most of the media in Lorton is censored, but it made pretty big news and it says that he was extradited back to Glisten where he is wanted in connection with a couple of bombings there.”
“He wouldn’t have sent a patsy to Glisten and so, either the guy really was a terrorist or Round went to an awful lot of trouble to set us up which he really didn’t need to do.”
They carry on watching the holovid a few minutes longer when Jie comes out with another random thought:
“I still feel sorry for Elliott’s wife having to struggle with her kids while her husband is gone,” she says. “I want to give her my old vacc suit. She should be able to make a fair bit on it which should keep her going for a while.”
Max looks at his watch.
“You’ve left it too late, girl,” he replies. “You won’t be able to fly to Lorton and back in time for our departure slot in 15 hours’ time.”
“Give it to me, Jie, and I’ll send it to her via courier first thing in the morning,” Autumn says helpfully. “If you want to write a note, better to do that now as there is a lot to do tomorrow.”
With departure day tomorrow and still a fair bit of preparation to do in the morning, everyone has an early night again.