After five weeks apart, the party members get together again – back at their regular, more modestly priced hotel now as those that didn’t spend their week in the ‘New You’ hospital had to vacate the Ritz Carlton two days earlier.
Those of the party members who received augmentations over the past week are walking on crutches; in some pain despite the painkillers that they are on.
They meet up for lunch in the hotel restaurant.
“Bloody ’ell,” Max says as he sees the state they are in. “You actually paid people to do that to you? You look like me when that copper gunned me down in Marianske!”
“Anyway, I’ve been busy too, putting my ear to the ground, seeing what jobs are out there for us as I’m gettin’ a bit bored sittin’ around ‘ere, even though my air/raft drivin’ is comin’ on a treat.”
“So there are a couple of jobs up for grabs if we want them,” he continues.
“First one – you remember are old friend, Kiimii Shaaskuu – she of the infamous Unguin’s Princess, which took us to Tarsus?”
“How can we forget,” says Jie, her cheeks turning pink with embarrassment at the memory.
“Well apparently she’s in trouble again,” Max to continues. “Her engineer messed up the M-Drive somehow and the ship is stuck in Dallia and can’t move.”
“Her Dad, Unguin, has just about had enough with her now and refuses the subsidize the ship any more. Not long before this happened, he gave her the ultimatum that she either makes the ship work and pay for itself, or else she better sell it. He is not prepared to bail her out any more.”
“She says that she has made enough money to pay for the spare parts for the M-Drive and that she will pay for it on delivery. Unguin is not sure that she really has the money.”
“Anyway, Unguin is prepared to give us all high tickets to escort the parts to Dallia and then get the money off her. If she can’t pay, then we are to take control of the ship and bring it back to Collace so that Unguin can sell it whether she likes it or not.”
“The money is not very good – just 50,000 plus expenses, but at least we can take some trade goods with us and, if we commandeer the ship, we can make some cash operating it on the way back to Collace.”
“So that was the easy option,” Max says. “A lot easier than our last mission, for sure.”
“Option two is one I only heard about last night,” he continues. “There is a pirate ship which has been causing a problem in Kwai Ching for the past few months and someone is looking for a crew to act as bait to try and lure them to their doom.”
“That’s all that I know about it at the moment. From what I hear, it’s going to be a pretty long job, pretty well paid, but it’s gonna be pretty dangerous and there ain’t going to be much chance of any trading income from it.”
“So who thinks we should go for which job?” he asks.
“Personally, my vote is for the Kiimii job because I ain’t gonna be much use at fighting pirates. But I’m ’appy to go with the majority.”
The party members discuss the options. Arvor favours the anti-piracy job, whereas Will favours the Kiimii job.
“What would give us the maximum amount of money in the shortest time?” Taeva asks.
Max rubs his chin. “Always hard to say when it comes to trading,” Max replies.
“Unguin wants us there pretty quickly so would get us tickets directly there on a jump-3 ship. Then it would be a couple of jumps back to Collace. Even with no spec. trading, we could bring in around Cr.100k a jump by operating the ship if Unguin would pick up the expenses anyway.”
“We have plenty of capital now to invest in trade goods an’ so we should make a bit more on that as well.”
“So, as a complete guess, I reckon that the Kiimii mission could bring us around Cr.400k over a period of less than a month.”
“And what else do you know about the anti-pirate mission?” she asks.
“The bloke who’s recruiting for the mission is a bloke called Netland Broqure – an ex-Marine who is working on behalf of the Kwai Ching government. They’ve set a few Q-ships up as bait in the past, but the pirates didn’t bite so they think the pirates might have some moles inside the government, which is why they are recruiting on Collace.”
“He has hired a Gazelle for the job. The idea is that we will pretend to be pirates ourselves and that this will piss off the real pirates who won’t like competition from us on their patch. He will then set up a couple of merchants that are in on the scam and that we would pretend to raid them.”
“Once we’ve raided them, then we should go to Avastan to sell the booty and brag about the loot that we took and where we took it from. Word should then get back to the pirates and they should come to find us and lure them into a trap.”
“The job is worth Cr.250k plus expenses for signing on, with an extra Cr.200k for success – so a total of Cr.450k.”
“So, the money would work out around the same, but the pirate job would take a fair bit longer – there are four jumps instead of three and quite a bit of hanging around waiting for the merchants and pirates to show up.”
Max’s additional information sets Taeva firmly against the mission, having no great desire to head back to Avastan, and thinking that there are chances that this could be a set up – and for no more money than on the Kiimii mission probably.
Arvor flicks open his handcomp and does a little research on Kwai Ching:
“Kwai Ching is a TTC (Trexallon Technical Consortium) controlled world. It has a repressive law level. There is a significant anti-TTC political movement on the ground comprising merchants who predated the mineral discovery that prompted the TTC take over.”
“For me, it depends on who’s side our patron is. If he works for the TTC, I am out. If his client is the independents, then I am all in.”
“The fact is it sounds like a TTC mission, since Avastan is considered to be operating under Collace “blessing”, and pro TTC corsairs would hardly sell their stuff there.”
“So can Max find out more about our client and his clients?”
“Well the information that’s going around is that it’s for the government. These pirate attacks have been scaring the Far Traders off and they need to ship their iceroot crop out in three months’ time, so need everything sorted out by then.”
“So it’s the government. If the government is pro-TTC, then I guess we would be indirectly helping the TTC.”
This new information sets Will thinking:
“Orobid’s assassinated. Trexalon immediately, and correctly, thinks ‘Imperium!’ So, they load up the high-tech forensic guys and rush to Pavabid to ‘help’ catch the murderers of their good friend the SotS. There they determine it was indeed Imperial scum but, thanks to confusion, grief, and Imperial scum diplomacy, the new Son doesn’t buy it. So, Trexalon figures out who the actual miscreants were (that would be us), and lays a honey-pot: a high-paying anti-pirate job—just the thing to catch those goody-two-shoe freedom-loving scum. They capture us, parade us in front of the new Son, do a little high-tech water-boarding, and Bob’s yer uncle: Pavabid rips up its shiny new Imperial treaty, confiscates the high-tech mining gear already delivered, and hands the whole lot to their new best friends from Trexalon.”
Following Arvor’s information and Will’s theory, no one is that keen on the anti-piracy mission any more.
“I’ll go with Kiimmi, then,” Grim says. “I always did think she was kinda cute under all that blue eyeshadow. That cute look she cultivates to hide the tabula rasa that is her brain seems more appealing with every new fact we learn.”
“Better buy some pink,” comments Taeva.
“I would prefer the Kiimii job as well,” Jie says. “I still haven’t forgotten the humiliation that girl put me through. If there’s an opportunity for some payback, no matter how small, then count me in.”
And so the decision is made – unanimously deciding to go with the Kiimii job.
“Nice one,” says Max. “We better go and seal the deal with Unguin.”
“Grim, can you come wiv me?” he asks. “Probably better if the rest of you leave it to us. You know ’ow snobby the ’ole family is.”
“And he might remember us from the official launch of the Princess as well,” Max continues, with a pointed look at Jie.
The others agree, and so Max and Grim take a grav/cab over to the offices of Shaaskuu Import/Export.
They wait for a little over ten minutes before they are led into Unguin’s offices. Unguin is busy and stressed out with other businesses, constantly interrupting the meeting to answer phone call after phone call, and so the meeting is a short one.
Unguin doesn’t give them a lot more information than Max already knew.
“She chose some clueless idiot for an engineer who damaged the drive,” he says quite angrily. “Apparently it’s the fusion throttle valve that’s burnt out, so she wants me to send her a new one. I told her that I’ve spent enough already on her little ‘hobby’ and that I’m not going to subsidize it any longer.”
“The fusion throttle valve is worth Cr.300,000. If she can come up with the cash, then she can buy it off me and continue – although I don’t think it will be long before she comes begging to me again.”
“If she can come up with the cash, you take Cr.50,000 for your services and deposit the rest into the Hortalez et Cie. affiliate on Dallia – and that’s the end of the job.”
“If, however, she can’t come up with the cash, then you are to take possession of the ship. She can be very persuasive, but don’t let her sucker you with any begging or promises or her telling you to ask me for the cash – I’ve had enough.”
“Just hold on a minute.”
Grim and Max wait for a couple of minutes while Unguin quickly dictates a mandate into his handcomp, signs it with his e-signature and then beams it to Max.
“There – that’s your authority from me to repo the vessel and return it to Collace if it comes to that. That will make sure that everything is nice and legal.”
“If you bring it back, I will reimburse fuel, crew life support and docking fees if you can give me receipts. Any cash you can make on passengers and freight is additional payment to you, just as long as I don’t end up out of pocket. And don’t take forever bringing her back either. I want her back here as soon as reasonably possible.”
“All clear? Any questions?”
“Seems simple enough to me, Sir,” Max replies.
“Very good then,” Unguin says. “Speak with my secretary on the way out. She will find the next jump-3 ship to Dallia and book tickets for all of you and arrange shipment of the fusion throttle valve.”
He shakes hands with the pair of them and they head out to speak with the secretary. After a little searching, the secretary books them on the Duchess Selene, a McClellan Factors Type-M that is leaving at noon on 250, in three days’ time and then gives them the docket numbers.
Grim and Max return to meet with the others and hands out the tickets.
“So if anyone has anything else they want to do when we’re on Collace, you’ve got a couple more days to do it,” Max says. “I need to start looking for a cargo if we’re to make any decent cash out of this little job.”
The party members head out drinking for the night as they haven’t spent much time with each other recently until they have all had enough and then head back to the hotel."