After half an hour, everyone's finished their three
drinks. Ed rounds up the shore party, and arranges the group to provide
security for the hiver.
Sagan will take the rear -- sie's armed and can cover the rear hirself,
especially with hir 360 degree vision. Vonish and Ed will lead, with
Robert and Helia in the middle.
They leave the bar, go straight through the bazaar ring, and to the ship shop ring. Here the radio reception works well, and so Ed calls Teri Cralla, still back on the ship. He asks her to meet them at the entrance from the dock ring to the shop ring, dressed in full regalia. He explains that the hiver was eyed in a somewhat hostile fashion by the stevedores on the way in, and they want extra security on the way out. He also tells the captain, Misha Ravanos, that they're coming back to the ship, and about the deliveries to come. They then wait at the rope shop until Teri reports she's in position.
It doesn't take long for Teri to take up station at the entrance to the dock ring. She is indeed impressive in full battledress with her FGMP-15 armed and ready. The rest of the group join her, and they march along the dock to the ship.
It's clear the stevedores are eying them with hostility. Ed notices that there are indications of weapon bulges under their clothes that weren't there when they went in; there are more of them around, too. One of them flashes a long knife at Ed; it was a flash that wouldn't be noticed unless he was really observant, but at the same time it was clear to him that it was deliberate, and intended for Ed alone to see.
They arrive safely on the ship.
An hour or so later, the kegs arrive, carried by
two men (not stevedores). The large one is carried between two poles,
with the smaller one hanging from those. Ed has warned the doctor
that they were arriving, and wants him to analyze them before anyone drinks
The kegs are left in the lock. Now that the grav plates are restored, it's easy to move them around. Ed takes them down to sickbay, but Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead tells him to get them out of there and just bring him a sample.
The kegs are set up in the module lounge. Mich has already prepared a tapping device, and sets up the drinks. Ed insists that the drink is tested before anyone tries it -- he's concerned that it may be poisoned, given the reaction to the starfish.
The Grandam tests the beer, and announces that it's harmless. He requests another sample, a bit larger this time, in a mug, and then goes off to set up a full analysis. He'll finish with the beer first, and then test the oily stuff. He runs his sniffer over the sample of fishy oil, and says that they should not drink it yet. When Ed tells him that Robert has already had three glasses, he looks a little concerned. He doesn't know what the problem might be, but he insists that no-one drink it until he's completed his analysis.
The reindog likes the beer too, and is given a small saucer of it. Not too much, as no-one wants a drunken dog with antlers wandering around the ship.
The Baron soon calls the lounge, and says that the
beer is very good for them. They shouldn't drink it to excess, but
it contains all sorts of good nutrients. In fact, he'll prescribe
himself another glass once he gets down there.
The oil, however, is proving more difficult to analyze. It contains a lot of... stuff. He's not sure what's in it, or what effect it might have, but they should not drink it. Robert says it's pretty good stuff. Now he's been reminded of that, the Baron asks that Robert come to sick bay for observation.
Robert complies; he's asked to lie down on a table, and then hold still while the doctor straps him down. Robert is uneasy about it, but the doctor says it's just a precaution, for the safety of the ship. He tells Robert to lie there are relax. The doctor wishes he had some proper high tech equipment, but in the mean time just hooks up what monitoring equipment he has.
Ed is surprised to get a call from Bridgehead, who tells him that "It's OK, Robert is now restrained in sickbay. I'll make my report to the Captain." Ed has a sudden thought, and checks the football sensors; they reveal nothing.
When Misha gets to sick bay, he finds Robert strapped
to a table with a bunch of wires attached to his head. "Robert,"
he says, "Why are you strapped to this table?"
"The Grandam insisted that I be strapped to the table for the ship's protection. He didn't explain."
Misha turns to the Doc, who's sitting drinking coffee. "What danger does Robert pose to the ship?"
"I have no idea," the Baron replies. "I have no idea what the effect on a human may be."
Robert pipes up, "It's quite tasty when you get used to it."
"I'm sure it is," says the Baron.
Misha asks him, "Have you been drinking?"
"Me? I had a couple of the beers, but that's very nutritious. Oh, and some coffee."
"So why don't we release him?"
"I don't think that's advisable. I have no idea what effect some of these compounds might have on his brain. I've never seen some of this stuff before. There's some interesting combinations."
Misha turns back to Robert. "Are you comfortable?"
"It's not too bad."
Misha addresses the Baron, "Doctor, let him go."
"I really don't think that's advisable."
"I'll take the responsibility."
"It's against my advice, but I will certainly release him. It's depriving me of medical data."
Robert says, "Let him have the medical data."
The Baron adds, "I really want to see what it does to his brain."
Misha compromises, "Well, unstrap him but keep monitoring him."
"I don't want him ripping the wires out. It would damage my machine, primitive as it is."
Robert asks, "Is it OK if I take a nap?"
"Absolutely." The doctor turns to Misha, "If I'm unstrapping him, I'll have to disconnect him."
Robert says, "I'm not uncomfortable. I'll stay here for medical science."
"I've no idea how long it will take. Do you mind if I take some blood samples? Good. Now let me see what's in here." He starts pottering about with his machines.
Ed gets bored with watching this conversation, and returns to the lounge for more beer.
Time passes. Every once in a while, Ed drops by sick bay to check on Robert; the Doc says he's fine.
Finally, about the time the crew is going to sleep, the Baron calls Misha. He reports that Robert is now in a trance, as an effect of the stuff he drank. He seems to be moving around, or rather he thinks he is. It's very interesting. He's probably not in any physical danger. The chemicals are doing strange things in his blood, and interacting in strange ways. What's happening to his brain is very interesting.
Mich has been working on the details of the towing operation to get the ship to dry dock. Since the contragrav is back to normal, they can lift the ship up to make it easy to tow around. Still, it'll be a difficult task, and he wants to be certain all the attachment points will hold and that the gcarrier is up to the job of towing.
Misha asks Ed what this stuff was that Robert brought
Ed replies that they were at a bar, they asked for beer, and they got beer. It was pretty good. Robert asked if they had anything stronger, and the bartender pulled this stuff out. It smells like rotting fish, but Robert drank it anyway. He then bought the bottle, and asked for another drink -- which Ed thought was pretty strange, since it was so nasty. He doesn't remember a name for the stuff, and there was no label on the bottle. Ed pulls out a map and points out where they got it, from an establishment called the Corner Bar.
Misha drops by sickbay again to talk to the Baron.
"I assume that when you say this stuff is unusual, it's more unusual that
your average recreational drug."
"Yes. I still haven't identified everything that's in it."
"Still believe he's in no immediate danger?"
"I don't believe he is. I see no reason not to let this run its course."
Robert looks asleep, breathing very slow and relaxed. Misha asks the Doc to tell him if there's any change.
Ed, meanwhile, goes up to the bridge and makes sure they can monitor what's going on at the dock. He starts reading his books. Nothing in them resemble a hiver. He muses on the people here, and how different they might be from him. They are short and stocky, olive skin (like Ed), and look definitely human. He tries to think back on the first time they looked hostile. They reacted to the hiver, not to him, he's sure.
About 2 am, Ed calls Teri to relieve him on the bridge. He takes one last good look around, and then heads back to his stateroom for the night.
In the morning, Misha goes to check on Robert.
The Baron reports, "Oh, he's slipped into a coma. It's not life threatening at all. It didn't seem worth waking you, Captain. It's OK, because his metabolism is doing very nicely. He's fine"
"And when do you expect him to recover from this coma?"
"I have no idea," replies the Baron cheerfully. "I don't even know if he will. He probably will -- some of the compounds are getting metabolized."
Misha decides to go for a walk. He leaves the
ship alone, dressed for the cold and carrying his sword as usual.
His jherig is still uncomfortable about being outside the ship -- maybe
it doesn't like the weather -- and so the captain is truly alone.
He follows the route through to the bazaar. On way he observes that the stevedores are watching him but ignoring him -- he is clearly supposed to feel ignored. He approaches a group of three of them sitting on a loading pallet. They ignore him. He says, "Good morning, gentlemen," and it's as if he hasn't spoken. He knows they understand Galanglic, so their intention is quite obvious. As far as they were concerned, he did not exist. He moves on.
It's still very early in the morning, and by the time he gets to his destination the bazaar is barely waking up. Not everything is open yet, but some are. A few people are just sitting by their stalls eating. Here, unlike the docks, Misha is not ignored. He makes small talk with them as he surveys their wares.
The accents here are very difficult and varied. They all speak Galanglic -- some with such an accent and turn of phrase as to be incomprehensible, but others are quite clear. Misha finds it quite easy to pick up their patter, and has no communications problems at all. He asks a particularly talkative stall owner about the stevedores -- do they always ignore everyone?
"Yes, unless they have reason to do business with you."
"How do you engage their services?"
"You don't. They have to have business with you, not the other way around. If you go in, wave cash, and want to gamble, they'll have a game for you. Other than that they deal with the freight director -- their representative does. They normally don't have business with anybody, and anybody around is beneath them. They have a very close-knit culture."
"One of my crewmates bought this beverage that smelt like rotting fish. Is it a common beverage around here?"
"Yes. It's available almost everywhere."
"What's it called?"
"It's called klatrin."
"Is is particularly dangerous to drink?"
"No. It depends what you're doing at the time. Well, you'd want to drink it in your room or something where you wouldn't get into trouble for the next few days."
Misha laughs. "Because it tends to put you in a coma?"
"I wouldn't call it that. It's not really a coma. It's a higher state."
"Do you usually recover in a couple of days -- or return to your normal state?"
"Nobody's ever quite the same again."
"But you do return to... function."
"Usually. Of course it's a bit safer if you're a tar smoker."
"So somehow it's not so effective on tar smokers?"
"Yes. But then if you smoke tar you'll be dead by the time you're forty, they say. But my grandmother lived to be 95, and she smoked every day since she was about seven. So you never know."
"So do you get a lot of strangers here, or is it pretty self-contained?"
"Everyone here is strange in some way or another. The planet does that to you. People who come in are... different. Quite different."
"Are strangers welcome here?"
"Here, yes. Well, the dockers screen them."
"The stevedores? They screen them? How"
"Well, they don't like creeps at all, but if they're a certain sort of dangerous they can't get in."
"So they're welcome here but they can't get here because they can't get through the dock workers?"
"Depends whether the dock workers let them through."
"Do you know what the dock workers like and don't like?"
"No. No idea. Only they know that. But heck, they're protecting us."
"Have any creeps come through lately?"
"Yeah, there was one just the other day. Strange creature it was, with all sort of legs sticking out, and tentacles, and stuff. Quite polite."
"So the dock workers let him through? Must have given him the OK."
"I guess so."
"Well, that you for you time and information."
At this stall the wares are are some sort of body suit, like a leather jumpsuit with a hood. Most of them are off-the-rack, but there are some set aside with different proportions that might be custom alterations. The material is like leather -- it was probably an animal skin at some point. He asks the proprietor where he gets it.
"We get it from the hunters, from the deep fishers."
"So these are water animals?"
"Mostly, yes. Some ice creatures we use the skins for special applications."
Misha looks around for something that might be his style. Obviously the size is wrong -- Misha is tall and thin, and towers over the man by a good head. Here are no jackets, either, just the jumpsuits. He thanks him again and leaves.
Most people in the bazaar are talkative. There
are some different answers, but it's all mostly the same. Other people
remember seeing the hiver, and none of them had ever seen a creep like
that before. It turns out that about 3000 people live here on the
starport. They'll all officially starport staff, so don't appear
on the UPP census -- it only counts the thousand who live outside the starport.
Misha continues to wander around for a while. He passes by the food area, where they're mostly clearing up from breakfast. He retraces his steps back through the bazaar to pass through to the next inner ring.
The Corner Bar is right there when he reaches the
residential - hotel ring. It's open, although he's the only customer
at present. Misha sits at the bar, and asks for water.
The barman looks at him strangely, but hands him some water, at no charge.
"One of my crew purchased a bottle of klatrin."
"Oh yeah? Didn't share it with you, I see. He was on his way to getting pretty wasted."
"I started out this morning to find out if he was intentionally drugged, or foolish."
"Hey, he's a person, he's got a right to drink it if he wants."
"You don't bear him any particular malice."
"No. Why? I wouldn't have sold him the bottle if I did."
"When the Captain wakes up to discover one of his crew in a coma, he has to wonder."
"He'll come around. It's not someone you can't live without for a few days, I hope. He seemed to have an affinity with it."
"My crew also bought a keg or two of beer. They found it quite tasty." He wishes the barman a good day, and leaves the Corner Bar to return to the ship.
As he's passing through the bazaar, he notices that
the guy with the leather suits seems to be surreptitiously trying to get
Misha's attention. Misha walks over.
"Just wondered," says the guy conspiratorially, "Just wondered if you'd be interested in something... more interesting."
"Yes. What did you have in mind?"
"You got three thousand?"
"I can get it. What would it get me?"
"Of course I'd have to take some measurements for someone your size. But you look like the sort of person who might be able to use..." His voice drops to a whisper. "...a zack."
"I'm afraid I don't know what a zack is."
"Right. Uh huh. That's right. But I could have something like that ready for you, if I took your measurements today, I could put it together for you tomorrow."
"What would it look like?"
"Much like one of these," he says, gesturing at the jumpsuits.
"Let me think about it," says Misha. He wanders away, and in small talk to another vendor says "What's a zack?"
He gets a very strange look. "No, that's OK, I thought you said something else. That's OK."
Misha thanks him for his time and returns to his ship.
On his return, he tells the Doctor that typically
those who drink klatrin recover after a few days, but are never the same
again. The Doc is not surprised -- it's doing some odd things to
his brain. He adds that some of the metabolic products of the breakdown
are very interesting too.
Misha asks the Doc if he wants a zack. The Doc looks at him strangely and wonders if he's OK -- he takes a blood sample to check. The Doc says he has no idea what a zack might be.
Today the dry dock is available to start work on
the maneuver drives. Mich organizes the personnel for the operation.
Vonish, as the ship's most qualified gravcraft operator, will pilot the
gcarrier. Helia will remain at the controls of the Third Eye
to run the ship's contragrav system.
Vonish gets off to a bad start. He fails to take up the strain on the cable carefully enough -- the gcarrier reaches the end of the cable, jerks back, and swings around towards the dock. There is a loud smash as the gcarrier slams into the dock, bounces off, splashes into the water, and settles there.
Vonish tries again. This time his piloting is flawless. He takes up the strain, and starts the process of towing the hovering Third Eye around the starport to the dry dock. A small crowd gathers around the holodisplay on the bridge, watching the projected path, direction of pull, and so on. The winds are lighter today, which is making the job a little easier. It's not long before the ship is in position to enter the dry dock.
The dock doors open. There's a crew standing ready with lines to pull the ship in if need be, but Mich opts to have Vonish pull the ship into the bay.
It's a bad choice. The gcarrier starts to pull the ship in, but starts to get off line -- the Third Eye is heading directly towards the side of the entrance. Vonish quickly pulls it back and the ship swings around back on the right path, but in the process he slams the gcarrier hard into the side of the dry dock. The gcarrier drops like a stone, bounces off the walkway, and hits the water.
Communications with the grav craft have gone off-line; presumably it has lost power. The craft is floating in the water, but not at all level. The airlock is most of the way under water.
The ship is drifting in a perfect line to the correct position. Helia lowers it into the water, and the dock crew attach lines to it and start to moor it in position. The Third Eye is quickly secured.
With the ship safe, the workers close the dry dock doors and start draining the water out of it. The ship settles gently onto the supports. The gcarrier settles upright on the bottom of the dock.
Mich grabs a gravbelt, and goes down to the wrecked
gcarrier. He opens the door manually -- water drains out of the airlock.
He steps in, opens the inner door, and sees Vonish slumped over the controls.
He's unconscious -- he has taken a nasty blow to the head -- and probably
has a broken arm. He calls for the air/raft
to fetch Vonish, while Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead gets ready to receive
the patient in the vehicle bay.
Helia takes the air/raft out of the vehicle bay and down to the gcarrier, but in the high gravity slams it hard into the bottom of the dock about 20 meters away from the gcarrier. She is hurt in the crash, and very annoyed. "This craft does not know how to work in this gravity!" she exclaims. Fortunately the air/raft seems undamaged, and she eases it carefully over to the gcarrier airlock.
Mich then comes up with the next problem -- he and Helia are not strong enough to carry Vonish to the air/raft. Teri offers to help, and just gravbelts down to them. She picks up Vonish and places him in the air/raft. Helia flies the vehicle back up to the ship, where Vonish is transferred to the sick bay and the Baron starts work on him.
Mich makes a quick assessment of the damage to the gcarrier. All power is out, and unfortunately the craft has also been tweaked and bent. It's going to take a lot of work to fix it. The dock crew offer to swing it into the vehicle bay with cranes and ropes. It takes about an hour, with a lot of moving around and shouting, but the gcarrier is placed carefully in the vehicle bay.
The heavy equipment is all ready. Mich immediately starts work on the Third Eye's maneuver drive. The machinery is not operated or laid out the way he is accustomed to, but he quickly works it out. From then on it's a routine, if major, task. He thinks he'll be done in about three days.
Helia reports herself to the sickbay. "I think
I tweaked my back when I landed the sled a little hard," she says.
"Let me finish up here with Vonish first, and I'll get to you," replies the Baron.
"Sure," says Helia, "I'll just play with the oxygen machine."
"No, don't play with anything in here!"
"OK, I'll just utilize the oxygen machine."
"Don't play with anything in here."
"My back hurts, I need something for it."
"OK, lie down over here."
"Yeah, OK, now I'm bored."
"That's fine, that's good." The Baron keeps working on Vonish as he talks.
"Got a portable entertainment unit in here?"
"No. You're supposed to be bored, it's a sickbay."
"I'm not supposed to be bored. I can't be bored, it doesn't work. I don't like being bored. All right, I tell you what, I'll get a portable entertainment unit and I'll be right back." She jumps up, says, "Oh. Maybe I should have done that slower," and trots off.
Helia returns quickly with her bag. She climbs up on the bed, says, "Oh. Wait," gets off the bed and gets a big glass of water from the sink, gets back on the bed and starts pulling her toys out and playing. She cranks the bed up so she's propped up nicely, fluffs the pillow, and says, "OK, Doc, whenever you're ready! Oh. Got any ice cream?"
The Baron is still working on Vonish. "No," he says.
"Makes my back feel better."
"I'll make your back feel better in a minute."
"OK," she says sweetly.
Baron Bridgehead works on Helia's back a little, and gives her something to relax her and ease the pain. He tells her not to drive the ship or operate vehicles for a while, about seventeen hours from now. He suggests she rest. He then reports to Misha about her, and that Vonish will be out for longer. The ship is without a pilot and copilot for a while.
Helia goes up the bridge and climbs into her hammock in the corner. She then calls Misha, telling him that she isn't supposed to fly the ship for a while and will that be OK? Misha approves, and she curls up in her hammock with her stuffed toys, eating ice cream. She puts on some heavy metal music to relax her. After she finishes the ice cream, she goes down, fetches some beer, and gets back up in the hammock with a long bendy straw to drink it. With beer, chocolate, and heavy metal, she curls up again happily.
Misha has found that his jherig is spending lots
of time near Robert in the sick bay. It doesn't seem to bother the
Baron, so it can be there as long as it likes. Oddly enough, the
Marquis' footballs registering something in that general area too.
No doubt he'll be interested in this when it gets back to him at the University