(51) Business Trip

The Misha Campaign (288-1121 to 289-1121)

56 / 2876 local (288-1121 to 289-1121) : Wonstar / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

    All the Wonstar Development Company field locations are now each patrolled by two Imperial Navy system defense boats.  On the positive side, however, the intrusion into the head office in the town of Starcom seems to have gone unnoticed.
    It is now the morning after the break-in.  The head office revealed itself to be not much more than a giant meeting room.  There is not enough staff, no offices for those in charge, and these and various other clues suggest it is just a front.  The computer in the basement is a little larger than needed just to run the holodisplays, but there's not much extra capacity.  Purchasing and so on is handled at the head office.  There's no hook-up to the outside world -- the images for the conference rooms are brought in on mag tape.  It's not even as if it's movies or something, just static images.  And why would they need six of these rooms?
    Robert Morris tells them that the computer equipment is about thirty years old, just regular Imperial gear -- albeit disguised with false faceplates to look like local technology.
    So what changed thirty years ago, around 1091?  Marquis Marcus Crestworthy's experience with the black ship would have been between 1096 and 1099.  Perhaps thirty years ago they discovered the black ships and set up the container?  The WDC's tax exempt status was assigned at the founding of the company, about two hundred years ago.  Wonstar itself -- along with the rest of Five Sisters -- was put under Imperial Navy administration during the Psionic Suppressions of 800.
    Perhaps, says Misha Ravanos, the best thing to do is actually to go out among the people of this world.  They can buy books on the history of the planet and the WDC, and case the official records offices to see if they can break into them.
    Down Port City is the capital of the world.  The head offices of the WDC are in another town, Starcom, which is a commercial center about 60 kilometers southeast.  That's where offworld businessmen would go for extended work-related visits.  There are no restrictions on offworlder travel (aside from the Naval Base), so the crew should be able to move freely wherever they want -- but to look like they've come from the starport, they should rent a ground car to travel to Starcom.
    So Helia Sarina takes Nightshade to Down Port City, still in stealth mode.  Edward "Shark" Teeth will go ashore and rent a car (he can drive a ground car much more easily than a gravcraft), and meet the ship again on the road between there and Starcom.  They'll then leave Vonish Kehnaan to fly the ship, while most of the crew form the away team.  As cover they will say they're looking for investment possibilities, as they've recently come into some money.  They'll take clothes and luggage for a week-long stay and check into a hotel.  To cover the question of what ship they arrived on, Robert will fix the passenger manifest of a liner that's just left.  That way the ship won't be able to jeopardize their story.  He chooses the Shapeshifter, a Tukera Lines ship out of Iderati, and puts the away team on the manifest: Edward Teach (Misha), Belladonna (Helia), Anne Bonny (Kalida Siena), Roger Jolly (Shark), and John Brunner (Robert).  The ship carries around fifty passengers along with substantial cargo but arrived without a full complement of travellers, so there's plenty of room to add the five crew members to the lists.
    Mich Saginaw will stay on board with Vonish, Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead, Callisto, Sagan, Jaekovic Ils-Nevronne, and Teri Cralla.  That should be sufficient personnel to run the ship and to mount a rescue mission if needed.
    Shark goes ashore on the roof of a hotel.  He enters the building, goes down to the lobby, and arranges a car rental.  He then drives out of town towards Starcom.

    Helia has taken Nightshade to a place out in the country about halfway between Down Port City and Starcom.  When Shark arrives in his rented minivan, the away team goes ashore and joins him.  Vonish takes the ship up to a good height; Helia has already set up the controls so it can automatically follow the ground team, and has preprogrammed some other shortcuts to make the backup pilot's job easier.

    They pile into the minivan, loading a suitcase each -- two for Anne Bonny -- into the back.  It takes a while to get used to the ride in a vehicle that's in contact with the ground.  Shark turns on the AM radio and picks up some local music -- the staple style of all farming areas in the Imperium, bluegrass and country.
    Their arrival at Starcom is signified by a rail station.  The gas station next door is their stop -- they top up the car with the alcohol fuel, pick up a map of the town, and check where the hotels are located.  All are conveniently situated by the light rail stations, and also have their own parking.  Shark takes the attendant aside and asks for a good bar for himself, not the rich guys he's driving around.  The local recommends a place called The Last Cab and marks its location on their map.

    Shark pulls up in front of the Grand Imperial Regency Hotel.  A flunky in purple uniform steps up to park the car, and is instructed that their luggage is to be taken to the "Teach rooms."  Shark hands out the first of what he expects to be many tips -- as driver and general valet to Mr. Teach, he'll be expected to handle that.  He tips enough to be well appreciated, but not ridiculously over the top.
    The "businessmen" go on into the lobby.  Edward Teach asks for five rooms, and the attendant suggests two luxury suites on the top floor.  Bridgehead would like this place -- it's right about his level of posh.  Misha, when requested, produces his Imperial ID to set up the account.  He sighs at having had to leave his sword on the ship, but it would have made him an immediate suspect in the death of the two guards a few days ago.  Likewise his cape has been left behind in favor of appropriate business casual -- over his zack.
    The suites have a wonderful view of the city.  The hotel is at the center of a block, with its own gardens, and every block surrounding it is a park.  The staff are clearly set up to handle offworlders -- they'll take electronic payment here.  Shark of course tips in cash.
    The rooms are good for the tech level of the world.  Shark checks over the suites for bugs before they get into any sort of conversations.  He pronounces the rooms clean.
    There is a balcony outside all the way around both suites -- they are the tallest building around, and they can see the WDC head office six blocks away.  There are no SDB's in sight.  Shark looks over the edge of the balcony and notes that the building is readily scalable.  The stonework is carved and in good condition, providing excellent handholds.  On the other hand, it would involve climbing eleven stories...
    Shark has scanned the city map into his hand computer, and now checks the location of the courthouse.  It's about eight blocks away.  He plans to look up the records of a random company, just to check out the security and layout of the establishment.
    But what sort of business are they in?  It has to be something the staff would need to go look up, and something an offworlder would be interested in.  They peruse the telephone directory for ideas.  They settle on music -- Shark will look up a small recording company, chosen from the phone book.

    At the courthouse, the staff happily fetch the records for the company Shark requests.  The man walks into a back room and takes a file from among a large number of cabinets.  There are armed guards in hte lobby, and the doors and windows are alarmed.  Passive security systems are evident to Shark's trained eye.  Apparently making notes on his hand computer, he actually takes pictures of the entrances.  These should be useful for whoever will be doing the break-in, although he is pretty sure that these low-tech precautions will not present any problems to high-tech intruders.

    Misha has been sleeping to get ready for whatever night-time activities might be required.

    Helia organizes a shopping trip -- bookstores, candy, pastries, and of course music stores.  Kalida joins her.  They take a cab, asking the driver to find them a good music store and bookstore next to each other.  They arrive soon at a central shopping area, about four blocks from the hotel -- they can walk back.  Helia goes on into the bookstore; Kalida starts with music, and will join the larian later.
    Helia picks up some children's books, but also her usual stuff: history, technology, cookbooks, supernatural sciences.  The closest she gets to the supernatural "sciences" is a book of ghost stories -- she buys it anyway.
    Kalida first looks for music on Greengrass Records, and then picks up some pleasant instrumental music for herself.  Then she goes back to the bookstore and looks for her usual interests.  Much to her surprise, she finds a book that is directly relevant.

Kalida's Book Purchase
(Referee and Kalida's player only)

    Helia has finished her book shopping and retired to a restaurant in the same block.  It has baked goods and a candy store, and that's a good start for her.  She asks them where to find a shop with the widest variety of local candies, and they say that she should go to the town of Seaview, 150 kilometers away on the coast.  In this city, the best candy store would be Walkertons, a few blocks from here but within walking distance.  She has her purchases sent back to the hotel, and then stays for a while, sampling their selection and praising them.  Leaving the store, she looks for Kalida, first in the music store and then in the bookstore, where she finds her and immediately tells her they have to go to Walkertons.
    A short cab ride takes them to Walkertons.  It does indeed have a good selection, although there's nothing unusual here.  Helia asks what particularly local candies there might be that are unique to Wonstar.  The clerk says that these are all local; his personal favorite is barley sugar.  Helia asks them to send her purchases to her hotel.  She tries several different candies, and keeps thrusting stuff at Kalida for her to try.  Eventually she notices that it's time for lunch, so they return to the hotel.

    Also in the morning, Robert visits the library looking for computer textbooks.  He does find some, all detailing the primitive technology of this world.  Telephony books confirm his findings on the wire systems here, and fill in some of the details.
    Also of interest to him is the history of the world for the last fifty years or so, although there isn't much that actually happens here.  Politics toddle along without much interest or incident in this representative democracy.  It's all geared towards the farming.
    GNP has improved steadily, without any sort of jump thirty years ago.  That means that all the money the WDC brings in is funneled back out, without making an impact here.

    All meet at the hotel for lunch from room service.  Shark shows Misha the results of casing the courthouse and suggests surveillance locations, while Helia passes around bagels.  The books have not yet arrived.
    Shark announces he'll visit The Last Cab tonight.  All the reasons he says why Helia shouldn't join him -- it's a low-class bar, it'll cramp his style, and so on -- are met with delighted interest.  Helia intends to go too -- she'll get a good chance to talk with the hookers.
    They'll have to wait for the books to arrive before they can expand on history other than Robert's research.  At the end of lunch, however, the candies arrive.
    Helia calls the bookstore to find out when to expect the delivery.  The store says they'll go out in the afternoon shipment, which should arrive at the hotel by 2:30 pm.
    Shark checks the phone book, and finds a recording company near the WDC.  It's one that specializes in what would be brass band music, except the instruments are made out of steel.  It'll make a good conversation opener with a cabbie to lead in to talking about the WDC.

    Helia returns to the shopping district.  This time she's interested in clothes.  There are lots of cute country girl outfits in her size.  She buys some with lots of fringe, a fringe vest, and so on.  As usual, she'll have her purchases sent to the hotel.  Her browsing leads her to a jewelry store, where she looks for something like a flying themed necklace.  She finds one of a winged fairy, very nice indeed, in iridium -- the wings are studded with tiny diamonds that gives them a delicate filigree look.  It's a one of a kind piece, a mere 200,000 credits.  When they hear where she's staying, they even offer to charge it to her hotel account.  As soon as Belladonna presents her Imperial ID, they let her wear it from the shop.  She also looks for a new backpack of the right size and shape, but doesn't find anything as good as she has already.

    Back at the hotel, the books have arrived.  Shark is disappointed to find that there are no law books among Helia's selections.  He makes a short trip to the bookstore himself and picks up a small multi-volume set.  What he's looking for is personal injury consequences -- if he kills someone, how much trouble would he be in?  The legal language in the books is somewhat obscure, but he does manage to interpret it.  If someone were to shoot at him, he would be perfectly within his rights to shoot back.  All he has to do is make sure it looks like the other person fired first.  The details are more complicated, but that's the gist of it.
    Then he checks the legal section of the local paper.  The legal system is geared towards being fair.  Trials are very soon after charges are pressed, and a jury of seven determines the verdict by majority vote.  Jury pay is good, and it's supposed to be a pleasurable experience as well as a civic duty.  Once convicted, punishments are harsh.  For murder, executions are the rule.  A good lawyer undoubtedly helps, but it shouldn't be necessary.  There are not very many offenses, but the laws pertaining to each are complicated.  Don't do someone else any harm; don't take stuff that's theirs; the rule of thumb laws are fairly simple.  In terms of what actually constitutes self defense, for example, the law is rather complicated.  So in a bar fight, make sure there are plenty of witnesses that the other guy swung first.

    The plans for the evening are determined.  Shark is going to sleep until 9 or 10, then grab something to eat and drive to The Last Cab -- in his own car.  Misha is going to stake out the courthouse.  Helia and Kalida are having a hot tub party.  Robert wonders idly whether the hotel have their billing records on computer -- they do, but he'll have fun in the hot tub first.  Helia insists that the jewelry shop must get their money; Robert agrees.