(2) In the Name of Profit

The Nightshade Campaign (119-1122)

119-1122 : Regina / Regina / Spinward Marches

    At Misha Ravanos' command, Nightshade drops out of stealth at 100d from the mainworld.  Transponding that it's a yacht from Dulu in Foreven sector, it comes in towards the subsector capital.  Mich Saginaw and Robert Morris have set up the neutrino emitter to simulate a ship with a conventional TL15 fusion power plant, automatically modifying the emissions to match the activities of the ship.  They still can't simulate a jump flash, but unless anyone was actually looking at them at the time they appeared that shouldn't really matter.  They're running the maltese cross color scheme, as it looks more natural because the ship has windows -- large, very transparent windows, but not as unusual as a windowless ship.
    Mich has also arranged to power the Imperial equipment on the ship -- hand computer rechargers and so on -- from the ship's power cube rather than from fuel cell power.  That, along with Robert simulating the Imperial computer on the ship's native unit, leaves them a bunch of stuff they can sell.
    Helia Sarina flies them in at a meager 4g.  Total travel time, through orbit and to land at the downport, is about six hours.  As usual, they let the ship handle all interactions with traffic control.  They come in as a pleasure craft rather than a merchant ship; the decision here matters mainly in terms of what area of the downport is assigned for their berth.
    There are three other yachts in this landing field of Nightshade's size.  Although they're all stockier configuration -- no other needles -- that at least means they don't stand out as much as they would on a less important world.  There are several scientific craft here too, contributing to a total of 30-40 private pleasure craft on the field.
    Regina itself is fairly normal.  It's warm enough, gravity 0.84, with a pleasant dense atmosphere and plenty of water.  The downport is as they would expect at a subsector capital, but with more military presence because of the border location.  Trade is well managed, and it's easy to get in and out without a lot of red tape.  There's the usual net hookup; they can do trading transaction from here at the yacht landing field, but Vonish Kehnaan suggests if they wanted to sell in quantity they might do better to originate the trade at the broker facilities at the trading terminal.  Vonish will be selling the North Whipsnade Irish style whiskey from Wonstar; Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege, will be selling the Blockade Bourbon, although she wants to accompany Vonish to learn more about that side of the whiskey business too, and too look for any other cargoes that might be a lucrative investment.
    The downport is well spread out, with separate terminals for private traffic, small trader, liner, bulk cargo, and so on.  Sprawling over about 50 km, it's much larger than the traditional downports they've visited in the past.  There's a light rail system for internal personal transport.  The Traveller's Aid Society is located in a building between the trade and private sections.  Those terminals are about 5 km apart, with the TAS building in the middle.

    Going ashore will be Vonish, Kalida, Misha, Helia, Mich, Edward "Shark" Teeth, and Teri Cralla.  As they're technically accompanying a noble, they can be discreetly armed despite the local weapon prohibitions.  All those with zacks wear them -- they're the ultimate discreet weapon -- while Teri carries a gauss pistol.  Misha wears a cape over his zack -- at his level of skill, it won't hinder his fighting but might get damaged in a fight.  While their main purpose is trading, they're also planning to enjoy the shore leave.  That leaves Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead, Robert, Marquis Korwin Vanderfield, and Callisto remaining aboard.
    First of all, they head to the trading terminal for Vonish to broker the North Whipsnade whiskey.  The vilani is sure that he can get a better price selling all 96 cases as a single lot than they could if they went around selling small lots directly to individual bars.  In fact, after half an hour of work, he announces he can sell them for 300 Cr each (20 bottles per case), twice what they were expecting.  That brings in revenue of 576 kCr, a clear profit of 480 kCr.
    Next, Mich wants to sell the two computers.  He figures the best place is probably the TAS bulletin board, as the local used parts traders wouldn't give him a good price.  They're high end computer systems, and so they'll be more attractive to a higher end buyer -- the sort who would have bought their own membership to the TAS.  So the next stop will be the TAS building.

    The Travellers Aid Society is located in a large, posh building.  Kalida, Misha, Shark, and Mich are members, so everyone else can get in as a guest.  The place has a number of bars at all social levels, a travel agency, news office, accommodations, legal aid, and so on.
    The most useful bar is clearly the one right inside the entrance -- that's where the bulletin board is.  Mich posts his notice while the others take their seats at a table.
    There is quite mix of clientele here.  Kalida is noticeably the highest social class, although she can't really tell if any of the better dressed patrons are nobles or not.  She is disappointed at the quality of the bourbon -- just mass market stuff that she doesn't bother to order, instead opting for an anonymous glass of wine.  Helia matches her order.  Mich, on the other hand, is definitely not out of place; he grabs a beer -- a pretty generic beer, but drinkable.  Teri follows his lead.
    The place is fairly busy.  Kalida is clearly at the top social end, Misha is dressed strangely, and of course Helia is unusual, but even so the group as a whole doesn't really stand out.  Most of the other people here are dressed in decent civilian clothes; there are some in ships overalls.  Several of them have a bag of stuff with them, as if they're stopping over while travelling.  Perhaps they're taking advantage of TAS's dividend -- a high passage ticket every two months.  The crew resolve to collect the ones they're due.
    Mich posts a note on the board, for the high end General Products computer systems, very good condition, lightly used.
    They look around to assess the people here.  Several look like passengers, probably looking for passage or are going to ship out soon, killing time but not for a long period.  There's a group of three people who look like they've just come off a ship, probably the sort who would be working passage.  There's clearly nobody here who would be in the market for the Blockade Bourbon.
    Misha notices one guy sitting alone at the bar drinking whisky who looks nervous.  Apparently he's come off ship recently, and has a travelling bag at the foot of his stool.  He's wearing ships overalls.  He is certainly the least relaxed person in here.  He's taking sips of his drink, checking his watch frequently, and looking around the bar nervously.  Every once in a while he reaches as if to check his weapon, and looks anxious when that reminds him he doesn't have one with him.  Misha points him out to the rest of the group.
    The rest of them concur with Misha's analysis.  He's definitely not a noble, but not a slob.  He definitely looks like he's come off a ship and has been working, but probably a skilled job.  He appears in his late thirties.  They keep an eye on him for a while.
    After a short while, the three guys who looked like they were working passage leave the bar together.  They cross the lobby to the accommodations desk.
    More people come in, and it definitely looks like a liner has disgorged them.  There's half a dozen who look like passengers, chatting and talking fairly loudly about the level of service on the ship, the quality of the drinks, how the downport is so busy you have to take a train to get anywhere in the starport, and so on.  They settle down to one table as if they're expecting to be served, but eventually one of them gets up and orders at the bar.  They look like seasoned travellers, but not particularly rich.
    The nervous guy finishes his drink and comes over to the crew's table.  Helia smiles broadly at him.  Misha greets him.
    The man greets Misha, then says to Kalida, "Sorry to bother you, but I couldn't help noticing -- my lady -- that you might have some protection with you.  I'm... a little concerned that I might could use an escort.  I'd be willing to pay."
    Kalida replies, "Where are you going?"
    "I need to go downtown.  If you can get me out of the starport... there are some guys, after I came off my ship, that looked like they're waiting for me to come out of here.  They followed me, and they don't look very... well, there's three of them and they're a whole lot bigger than I am.  I know that you might have some... something more effective than a lead pipe in your retinue."
    Misha asks with a smile, "You have a lead pipe?"
    "No, I have nothing.  These guys, I'm afraid they might."
    Kalida asks, "Why might they be following you?"
    "I'm not sure.  Um... I'm not sure."  After a pause he continues, "They might think I have something on me."
    Misha says, "Why would they think that?"
    "Well, I came here to pick up an inheritance."
    Kalida says, "So you're going to want to go downtown and then come back."
    "Yes, but I think if I can lose them... If I can get out of the starport I might be able to lose them.  I've got something to pick up from my uncle's apartment, that's all.  I have cash on me, I'd be glad to pay.  I think if you just show you have weapons, that'll be enough to dissuade them.  I'd like to find out who they are, but just getting out of here would be good."
    "OK," says Kalida.
    "How much...?"
    Misha says, "Ten percent of your inheritance."
    "Of the cash?  Will you escort me down and back?"
    Helia says, "How much was your inheritance?"
    "I have ten thousand cash."
    Misha says, "What do you need to pick up from your uncle's?"
    "It's... something he left me in his will.  It's something he had hidden in his apartment."
    Misha laughs, "You don't want to tell us what it is, just for fun?"
    "It's a small statuette."
    Misha nods.  He says, "We'll take you down and back."
    The man looks relieved and thanks them.  He offers to pay the 1000 Cr immediately, but Misha tells him he can pay on successful delivery.  He is grateful, and very pleased when the group finishes their drinks and prepares to escort him right away.