It’s 1.00am when the klaxon sounds to announce that the Tide is Turning has emerged from hyperspace. The three crew members are more than capable of handling the approach to Pavabid themselves and so the party members get some sleep, knowing that they might not be getting much of it over the next few days.
They are woken up again at 06.30 to say that the ship is now entering Pavabid’s atmosphere and that everyone should get ready by getting dressed in their Pavabid outfits for the first time, apart from Max, who will need to sell the cargo. The less passengers there are who then disappear, the less questions are likely to get asked.
It’s still dark as they come down to land at Pavabid Down. As they peer out of the windows, they can see that the snow is still thick on the ground.
“It’s the middle of spring in the southern hemisphere now,” comments Arvor. “Get 1000km north of here and the snow must be gone now and it’s starting to thaw down here.”
“Thawing’s not good though,” comments Grim. “Thaw means mud and that will make it heavy doing. I’d rather have virgin snow to get through than mud.”
Natalia the Purser comes through.
“I think it’s safer if you head to the containers now,” she says. “Customs are likely to board us as soon as we land. Even with the Senior Customs Official in our pocket, we can’t afford for anyone to see how many people there are here.”
The party members agree and helps everyone to get into their containers. As the last of them get inside, there is a slight jolt as the ship touches down.
For the next thirty minutes, nothing happen. Then the party members hear voices. The Customs Officers are entering the cargo hold. Everyone holds their breath as they hear the sound of some of the containers being opened. One of the containers that is opened is the one that Arvor is hiding in. Fortunately though, they don’t bother to search through the clothes, closing the container back up again after just a cursory glance.
Another half hour later and they hear Natalia’s voice again speaking softly.
“You might as well come out again now,” she says. “You’re in for a long wait.”
Everyone comes out of their containers.
“The flight to Twalarsk doesn’t leave until midnight,” she says, “So there is going to be another twelve hours until they will be loading the cargo, so you might as well come out.”
“That’s bad news,” Arvor says with a sigh. “It means that we will be arriving around 8am – well after dawn up on the equator where Twalarsk is located. I was hoping that we would arrive at night to make it easier to get out of the airport.”
“From the time we land, we have only 52 hours until it’s time. We could well do without having to sit in those containers for another 12 hours until it gets dark.”
“Well at least it gives me some time to sell the cargo,” Max says. “I better get on it right away.”
Max heads out of the ship, heading for the trading hall. The others head back to their staterooms, making sure that they can’t be seen through the portholes.
Taeva has a word with Natalia, telling her to make sure that the other understand that they can’t flout any of the starport regulations while they are in port. She also tells them of the tradition for the starport crews to host one another on their ships to pass the time and that the crew should not participate in these meetings due to there being a risk of being infiltrated.
Natalia is obviously not too keen on the idea of her and her two shipmates sitting around with nothing to do for several days, but understands that Taeva is making a good point, so agrees.
Max arrives back at the ship late afternoon looking very pleased with himself:
“Got a really good deal on the cargo,” he says. “I got full wholesale for the piping and 85% of wholesale for the paisley shit – no offense, William.”
He taps away at his handcomp:
“So that’s Cr.177,250 we’ve made on that little exercise – our best result yet. Makes up for the disaster we ‘ad with those thievin’ bastards on Avastan at least.”
“The next train from Southport doesn’t come in until 163 so we can’t get the money yet, but I had a word with Natalia and she will take care of it for us while we’re away.”
The party members have one final dinner on the ship. At 9.30pm, Natalia comes to meet with them in the common room.
“I think you better get back into the containers now as they will be coming to transfer you onto the plane in half an hour.”
With some trepidation, the party members all check their belongings and help one another into the containers. Natalia has prepared a packed lunch – bought from the local canteen – for everyone for the long flight.
Around twenty minutes later, they hear the sound of the cargo door being opened and the electrical whirs of fork-lift trucks. It’s a very disconcerting feeling as the coffin-like containers are jolted as they are lifted by the truck and placed down roughly on a lorry. They can feel the cold now they are outside the ship.
Once the last of the containers are loaded, they hear the truck moving. The journey lasts less than five minutes though and then there is a short wait before more fork-lifts arrive and the containers are jolted once again as they are loaded onto the transport plane. They hear the remaining cargo being loaded and then there is another wait. It feels like ages, but is perhaps 45 minutes before they hear the cargo planes turboprops splutter into life. The pilot guns the engines and they feel the plane starting to taxi down the runway. The sound is very loud as the pilot gives the engines full thrust and, with a jolt, the plane takes to the air.