It was 19.30 the previous evening when the alarms sounded to say that the Unguin’s Princess had emerged from hyperspace safely, so Jie and Will head to the bridge in order to plot a flight path to the Heaven’s Gate orbital platform, while the remainder of the crew and passengers enjoy a final dinner together and then spend their time drinking, as there is no point in sleeping.
Shortly after midnight, the Far Trader has received its flight path from the Heaven’s Gate Port Authority and Will follows the course given to him to make the final approach to the allocated dock of C17.
The ship docks and everyone prepares themselves for the ordeal that they are sure will await them when the airlock door opens.
Sure enough, there is a squad of four looking customs officials waiting for them when the doors open, but at least there isn’t a platoon of security guards and prison vans there as well.
“Papers,” the corporal says roughly. Autumn and Max have checked and rechecked the passenger and cargo manifests several times now to ensure that there can be no problems with them. Two of the customs officials stay at the entrance to go through everyone’s documents as they disembark, while the other two come onboard and check the ship and its cargo. Kiimii and Laarii wave everyone goodbye before they leave. Kiimii is in floods of tears as she leaves, kissing ‘her’ ship goodbye one last time. She’s spent the whole trip debating with Laarii as to whether she did the right thing in selling the Princess.
As before, the customs officials ask dozens of questions to everyone and it takes an hour before all of the passengers have finally left the ship and have had all their luggage checked. Then the officials move onto the crew, asking them question after question about their intentions while they are visiting Dallia. An hour later and all of the crew are allowed to disembark if they wish.
Then all four of the officials go through all of the cargo with a fine toothcomb, opening each of the containers to check their contents. The whole process takes a gruelling six hours before the sullen corporal tosses the paperwork to Max.
“You are free to unload the cargo,” he says officiously before he turns on his heels and leads the others away.
Max whistles a sigh of relief. “Thank fack for that – that’s saved us a shitload of money.”
“I’m knackered after all that,” he continues. “I’m gonna get a little shut-eye. What do the rest of you want to do?”
“When William is free, I would like to see the underground living cavern that Dallia is famous for,” says Jie. “I could take a planned tour, but think that an unscripted walk about with someone who knows his shit about planets and is able to explain it on my level would be the cats’ ass. Does anyone else wants to come along? This may be the last chance to stretch our legs before another week or so stuck on the Princess.”
“Maybe we can do that tomorrow?” Will suggests. “I have heard that it takes a while to get down to the surface because of the insidious atmosphere there.”
With no better ideas, the party members just take a wander around the highport for a few hours until Max calls them to say that he is up now and so they all return to the ship.
“We better get that 150k from Ms Jeri before we do anythin’ else here,” Max says. “Do you guys wanna come with me?”
With nothing else better to do, the others agree to accompany him. Max gives Jeri a call and she tells him to meet with her at the Gravity Well restaurant and casino in an hour.
They head off to the Gravity Well and see Jeri waiting for them at her usual booth. As Max had said, she’s a little past her prime, but still looks pretty good – probably as a result of a great deal of plastic surgery.
Jeri welcomes Max and the other party members and tells them to sit. She then orders a waiter over and invites everyone to have dinner on her.
“So did everything go OK with the delivery?” she asks.
“More or less,” Max replies. “We delivered them OK. Here are the signed bills of lading.”
Jeri checks the bills and seems satisfied.
“Excellent work,” she says. She then gets her handcomp out and transfers the other 150k to the party’s account.
“But you said that not everything was smooth with the delivery?” she asks.
“Yeah,” Max says. “It was what happened after it was collected that was not so smooth.”
Jeri nods and then makes some notes on her handcomp, while Max relate the events to her.
“That’s terribly unfortunate, but thankfully no lives were lost,” she says once Max has finished and she has typed up her report. “The cargo was insured against loss through the TTC’s Insurance firm, Underwood Outworld Bancorp, LLC. It’s damn poor luck on the Tarkine Ministry of Trade, because once the cargo leaves the Starport and they’ve signed the bill of lading, it’s their loss. Underwood Outworld Bancorp only covers freight in transit to and from worlds.”
“I’ll send my notes on the Tarkine incident to my firm’s higher offices who will sort out the insurance details.”
The meal arrives and conversation turns to other matters. But after desert, Jeri says that she has a second job for the party if they are interested.
“I arrange cargo transfers for several Dallian companies in addition to my work for Dallian Chemical Corporation LIC. I have two cargoes from Life Guard Systems Manufacturing, LLC, and Dallian Star Shipyards, Ltd. It is a mixed load of heavy machinery – life support equipment for the world of Talchek, and two small lots of starship parts bound for the world of Elixabeth.
“Talchek,” Jeri explains simply, “is totally reliant on outside aid for its life support needs, as the ill-advised colony that settled there didn’t find nearly the same amounts of mineral, metal, or chemical wealth that we did here on Dallia. Talchek has had Dallia’s support since its founding. We hoped they would develop as we did. After the Loss of financial backing from the Sword World of Biter in 1090, the Talchekian’s corporate leadership sold out to McClellan Factors. McClellan Factors hired an Imperial Mercenary outfit late last year, and declared the planet for the Imperium, canceling the free elections.”
Jeri pauses, watching the party members’ reactions to this news. “I say this sincerely, regardless of your politics or allegiances, Talchek’s people need this equipment or they will perish.”
“The cargo was paid for, but due to the unfortunate current situation on the ground, the money has been held up and the new regime will not release the funds until it is delivered. If you accept, your point of contact is a Mr. Sunaj Dvorcek, the Chief Arcology Power Plant manager, who will sign your bill of lading. The bill of lading will be your proof for payment with the new Talchek ‘Minister’ of Finance, Ms. Giada Tulleri."
“Will you undertake this job?”
Max looks at the others:
“So what do you reckon guys? Do we want to take the job and go to Talchek? Or did we want to head back to Collace now so that Will can get his bionics?”
The party members excuse themselves as they discuss the options out of earshot from Jeri. Jie is initially in favour of returning to Collace, while Taeva prefers to take on the job with the others happy to go for either option. Eventually they decide that they will go for the mission to Talchek. They return to Jeri to tell them that this is the case.
“Excellent,” Jeri says. “The starship parts were ordered by the Elixabeth Yards, Ltd and purchased from the local Dallian Starship Yards here on Heaven’s Gate. The point of contact there for the bill of lading of these two small lots is Elixabeth Yards’ Import Chief Executive of Finance, Imjan Ussuri. The bill of lading will allow Mr. Ussuri to draw funds and pay for your fuel and shipping fee.”
Max is making notes.
“So 30 tons of starship parts to Elixabeth and 10 tons of life support equipment to Talchek,” he confirms. “And how much is it worth?”
“It’s Cr.5000 per jump,” Jeri replies. “So that’s Cr. 300k for the starship parts in total and Cr.150k for the list support equipment. All of this is payable upon delivery.”
“That ain’t too bad,” Max says to the others. “That’s two months of payments taken care of, plus we should make some more on top as we have 20 tons of cargo space left for spec trade and we have passenger revenues as well.”
Max shakes hands with Jeri and she gives him all of the paperwork that he needs. The party members then take their leave of her and head out of the Gravity Well.
“Who’s up for a pint then?” Max asks.
The party members then spend the rest of the evening having a drink, glad to be away from the ship for a while in an environment where their drinking session isn’t going to be interrupted by falling mortar bombs.