(2) The Happy Planet

The Crusader Campaign (348-1122 to 349-1122)

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348-1122 : Jake / Lirian / Foreven

    At 02:00, Nightshade arrives from jump at Jake.  This world uses Protectorate Dollars, of which Robert Morris seems to have a more than ample supply.  The ship is registered in Foreven, so it's not suspicious for them to be travelling with a lot of cash.  Dulu is at the far end of the sector, but even so Protectorate Dollars are an important currency and they'd be expected to have a supply on board.
    Beacons inform them that there are refueling restrictions.  They are permitted to refuel at the gas giants, or at the starport.  They are not permitted to wander around the mainworld picking up water wherever they want.  They will say they have already picked up fuel when they come in to land, to give them flexibility in case they need to leave in a hurry.
    Helia Sarina has brought them out of jump near the inner gas giant.  They're not in stealth mode, and have the transponder emulator running.  They are Nightshade from Dulu.  Their "homeworld" is rather in a mess, of course, having been the site of major battles in the cockroach invasion.  Certainly any ship registration records would have been lost, especially with the collapse of Scorpionis that was triggered by the war.  Dulu is now an independent world associated with the Tail Nations.
    Helia brings them into the gas giant upper atmosphere, while Callisto and Edward "Shark" Teeth scan the system.  Since they're not trying to hide, they can even use active sensors.  The search reveals nothing, however, with no spatial anomalies in the small asteroid belt or anywhere else.  That doesn't stop them continuing to scan for the eight hours they spend pretending to refuel.
    The system is quite compact, with the mainworld tidally locked in the innermost orbit.  The asteroid belt is next out, with the small and large gas giants outside that.  The star is a red but cool main sequence type.  From what they remember of their last trip here -- Anastasia came here -- , though, Jake is quite pleasant.  The sun shines all day, except for a lunar eclipse every 25 days.  What Mich most remembers about it is the lack of interesting bars.  It's a quiet farming community -- a little too quiet if anything.  The most the engineer can hope for is a drink with the farmers.  The starport is run by the locals, and it's set up for interstellar trade.  They export a substantial amount of what they grow here, presumably importing farm equipment and so on.  Finding an industrial world nearby could be a very lucrative regular merchant run.
    With an appropriate time spent at the gas giant, it's a short trip to the mainworld.  There are a fair number of ships around, but nothing large and commercial.  This seems to be Free Trader country.  The local population of only 30,000 presumably limits the extent of trade.  It's still a very successful backwater and clearly supports independent traders very nicely.  News would reach here regularly, but about a month behind the main xboat routes.
    Helia brings them in at a sedate pace while Nightshade handles the formalities.  It's surprisingly easy to get in here, the bureaucratic sequence is really easy.  Mostly it consists of welcoming the visitors.
    Nightshade is the largest ship here.  There's one 800 std ship, while the rest are in the 200-400 range.  Aside from the unusual looks, they stand out.  They're in the most normal color scheme, with windows showing and a large red maltese cross on each maneuver pod.
    They come in to land at about noon Imperial time.  Here there's not much in terms of a local time schedule, and nominally they keep Imperial time but aren't fussy about it.

    They have been on the ship for about a month now, and it's definitely time to get off and stretch their legs.  Vonish Kehnaan has prepared a shopping list in anticipation of a visit to the farmers market.  Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege, hopes to be able to sell some of their trade goods here -- rugs and alcohol.  She plans to start by asking at the farmers market.
    Normally, visitors sleep on their ships.  There are some inns, but they're intended for locals bringing their goods to market rather than for offworlders.  They're not at all set up for tourists or casual visitors.  From the starport, there's a shuttle bus to the starport village.  Vonish says he'll arrange delivery, so he won't need any transport.  They decide to take the bus, about a fifteen minute trip.
    Vonish, Kalida, Misha Ravanos, Helia, Mich, and Teri Cralla decide to go ashore.  Misha takes his zack and his dragon, and leaves his sword and cape behind.  It is certainly warm and pleasant.  Helia is wearing as little as she can, of course, taking Misha's lead over the threat level and leaving her zack behind.  Robert has given Misha a stack of bills -- the denominations are different colors, making it easy for the barbarian to know what each is worth.  Misha will pass it out to crew members who need it.  Shark says the money is real, nothing fake about it, and they should use it with a clear conscience.

    The farmers market is a village green, well manicured grass.  Stalls are set up throughout, some selling small amounts, and some from larger farms carrying just samples.  There is a big sign on one of the buildings that says "Jake Chamber of Commerce" -- Vonish suggests that Kalida tries there first, while the vilani heads off on his own to restock the ship.  He says he'll get them to bill him, so he doesn't need to carry cash for the supplies.
    There are no interesting bars, but around the green are three pubs all doing a bustling business.  Mich heads straight there for a corned beef sandwich and a mug of stout.  Starport costs are standard prices, but local food and drink is inexpensive.  Helia accompanies him, as she gets a lot of looks.  The people also seem to be trying to figure out the relationship between Mich and the larian.  She calls him "Daddy" and drinks beer along with him.  She is disappointed to find that they don't have much candy here, but they do have some very good fruit pies.
    Misha accompanies Kalida.  As they walk through, it seems mostly to be locals.  All the stalls are local, certainly.  It's mostly farming goods, agricultural products, but there are some local crafts.  The emphasis is on utility, and what local crafts there are seem to be hobbies.  They obviously have no major industry here.  Local textiles are not particularly good, and Kalida does notice a fair number of offworld clothes.  It's not exactly the height of fashion here, but the offworld gear does look more durable.
    The Chamber of Commerce is at lunch from 12 to 2.  Misha and Kalida go for lunch too, joining Mich and Helia.  The engineer tells them that there isn't much of a drink variety -- beers of various sorts, and vodka.  The beers are low volume local brews in about five different styles, and rather good.  The vodka is good vodka, but that's it.  No wine, no other forms of liquor.  Entertainment is mostly of the "talk amongst yourselves" variety, about the details of crops, diseases of cattle, whether you should use artificial light during the eclipse, and so on.
    Everyone seems very happy with what they have here -- it's a sleepy little farming planet and that's how they like it.  It's not that there's any restrictions on outside goods, there just isn't the demand for them.  They like higher tech clothes because they last well.  There's none of the hostility for offworld goods that they saw on Digitis, they're just happy with what they have here.
    Mich wonders idly if they could introduce the beans from Faldor here.  Maybe they wouldn't be so uptight then... A stray thought that he hopes they haven't killed everyone with anything they picked up on Plague, but it doesn't distract him enough not to order a keg of his favorite beer, a heavy sweet stout with much the same consistency as the coffee he likes.  "Light Sweet Crude" is what Mich calls it.  He'll have to pick up the keg, of course, so he'll have to come back with the air/raft.  This is not a small keg but a full barrel, and they can't really carry it on the bus to the starport.  He resolves to ask Vonish if it can be picked up with the rest of the supplies, and tells the landlord he will arrange delivery.  In fact, at Misha's suggestion, he calls Vonish on the commdot -- the chef is really busy, but readily agrees to pick up the keg.  Some large animal grunts loudly in the background of the call.
    The food is simple but excellent, based as it is on totally fresh ingredients.
    The crew stand out as offworlders, but this seems just to be a cue for the locals to be especially nice to them.  Everyone is just so nice here.  Of course, they are still looking at Helia funny, but they can hardly be blamed for that.
    Two o'clock rolls around, and Kalida and Misha return to the Chamber of Commerce.  They are indeed back from lunch, all two of them.  There's a receptionist and a guy at a desk reading a newspaper.  The latter is a large red-faced man with a very large mug of beer by his side.  When he notices the visitor, he smiles broadly, waves, and slowly takes his feet down off the desk.  The receptionist is doing something with some papers that doesn't look particularly exciting.
    The man walks over to them and greets them warmly.  Kalida explains that they're from offworld and they have some trade goods, and were wondering what the process is for arranging trade.  The man says that he can hook them up with a local distributor and reseller, depending on what it is they have to sell.
    Kalida explains that they are not carrying a lot.  They have a load of exotic carpets, and a number of cases of fine whiskey from Wonstar.
    The man says there might not be much of a market for the whiskey here.
    This comes as no surprise to Kalida.  "I noticed you run towards beer," she says.
    "I run towards it at every opportunity," laughs the man.  "As you can tell," he adds, patting his gut.
    "The ale I had at lunch was excellent."
    "Isn't it?  You should see what it's like in spring."
    Kalida looks confused.  She says, "Isn't it always spring?"
    She should have guessed by his straight expression when he said it.  Now he beams at her and says, "That's a local joke."  He adds that there might well be some interest in the carpets, and he'll make a call and hook her up with somebody.  Kalida suggests he have the person contact her at the ship and set up the meeting.
    The receptionist is now reading a magazine dedicated to the cultivation of barley, as the man takes her contact information.  He says goodbye to her in an enthusiastic friendly manner, and the offworlders say goodbye and leave.  He waves at them as they walk back across the village green.
    On the way through the market Misha looks at the crafts.  There is some woodworking, furniture, and so on.  They look like they're designed for export -- while the locals stop and admire things occasionally, it's clear they aren't buying anything.  They seem to be hobby pieces aiming at the offworlder who might find it interesting.  It's all fairly everyday stuff, solid and functional but not outstanding.  There's nothing special that would make it particularly sellable elsewhere.  All the handcrafts are along the same line -- the baskets are too simple to be anything but baskets, the animal woodcarvings are good enough, but nothing distinguishes it from anything they could get almost anywhere else.  No doubt the occasional free trader picks up a few pieces to furnish a dining room or something.
    Misha and Kalida return to Nightshade with Mich and Helia.  Vonish is just off doing his stuff, and tells Misha he's going to "fill the ship up."  Teri wandered off by herself, doing her own thing.  Misha calls her and tells her to check in with the ship every now and again.  She agrees, adding she's enjoying the shore leave to just relax without worrying about threats or looking after anyone.  Misha says it looks like a good place to retire.  Kalida says she already has a place to retire.  Mich agrees, adding they can just make a pile of money running Blockade Bourbon.

    Soon after they get back, Kalida is contacted by someone from the town about the rugs.  They agree for him to visit Nightshade in about a quarter of an hour from now.  She pulls out a representative sample and spreads them out on the main cargo lift floor.
    Soon the buyer arrives.  He's a tall fairly thin man, wearing offworld but not Imperial clothes.  Kalida shows him the samples.
    He is fascinated by them.  He says he's never seen a material like this, and remarks on the very odd patterns.  He examines them in natural and artificial light, and considers them carefully.  He seems really pleased with them, and says he definitely has a market for them.  They haggle briefly over the price, and agree to sell all 100 of them for $1600 each -- $160,000 for the whole shipment, about 89,000 credits in Imperial terms.  They arrange for him to pick them up in about an hour.
    An hour later, a truck rolls up.  Two hefty guys carry away the rugs, all the while smiling and thanking Kalida and anyone else they see for coming to Jake.  When the rugs are loaded, they offer Kalida a beer, which she gladly accepts.
    About the time they're halfway through their second beer, Vonish turns up saying that the supplies will all arrive tomorrow.  He is delighted that the ship will be very well stocked.

    Teri calls Misha and asks how long they'll be staying.  He tells her until tomorrow, and readily agrees to her request to stay in town overnight.  She says that it's a pleasant change not to be challenging the universe to mess with them, adding this will recharge her for the next year of messing with people.

349-1122 : Jake / Lirian / Foreven

    By the next day, Misha has had more than his fair share of quiet.  Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead and Marquis Korwin Vanderfield decide it's time they went off to sample the peace and quiet -- or at least the beer.  The Baron won't ride the bus, however, and the two nobles go off in one of the air/rafts. 
    That also keeps them out of the way of all the loading.  There is enough that Vonish even has to arrange very carefully where it is stowed.  The ship will indeed be quite full.  Mich's beer is installed in his stateroom.
    After several hours of loading and a large cash payment, the two nobles come back right on cue.  The air/raft is undamaged, and they seem to have stayed out of trouble.  About half an hour after that Teri turns up too.

    Everyone is back on board, all the loading is done, and Nightshade is ready to leave.  It is noon.