Mustered Out on Regina

033-1106
The Naasirka Meeting

After the previous late night, much of the party sleeps in. Dev and Professor Ron, however, are up at a reasonable time in order to spend the day wandering around the robotic supply wholesalers of Facet.

Having already discovered the best wholesalers during his first trip to the suppliers with Sin-Sasha, Professor Ron knows exactly where to go. The wholesalers are well-stocked with parts as Naasirka have a factory on Jewell. As a result, Professor Ron is able to find all of the parts that he is looking for at the standard technology level of the world. Due to Jewell’s location in the furthest-flung corner of the Imperium, there are no imports of higher technology, however.

Coincidentally, while Dev is in the process of paying for a collection of Naasirka spare parts when he gets a call over his commo. It’s Martijn Thalareissen, Naasirka’s President for the Jewell Subsector who the party rescued at Starbucks a few days earlier. Thalareissen asks Dev if he can arrange a meeting later that evening with the party as he wants to thank everyone for their quick thinking during the hostage situation. A meeting is set for 9pm at the Gleeful Dragon Chinese restaurant.

By late afternoon, the shopping for robotic parts has been successfully completed so Dev and Professor Ron head back to the hotel. Here they find DI Morrison and a couple of his underlings talking with Sinclair and some of the other party members. One of the underlings is removing Sinclair’s tag.

“We had a message come through the xboat network from Ruby,” Morrison explains. “Turns out that ‘Miss Fontaine’ or rather ‘Miss Brussman’ to give her her real name, has form as long as your arm. She’s wanted on suspicion of murder which occurred within the 12 hour period prior to your leaving the world.”

“She’s still at large at the moment. However, we don’t feel the need to detain Sir Bartholomew any longer.”

Sinclair is very polite with the officers who remove the tag from him, showing them no resentment at all. The fact that he is completely drunk once again is probably much of the reason why and wishes them well in their attempts to bring Miss Fontaine/Brussman to justice.

With that situation now taken care of, Dev speaks to the others about the Naasirka meeting. Then, everyone gets changed and they head off to the Gleeful Dragon.

Martijn Thalareissen and one of the other executives who was caught up in the hostage-taking situation are both waiting for them when they get to the restaurant.

They start off by thanking the party members for their quick reactions that day.

“We were very impressed with the way that you handled the terrorists that day,” he says. “The board have authorized me to present you with a reward of Cr. 50,000 for rescuing us.”

“However, we have a potentially even more serious problem that I wanted to speak to you about. Naasirka owns an experimental mining/ore-processing facility in the asteroid belt closer to the star which we have been developing over the past few years and which came online a few months ago.”

“Unfortunately, however, late last night we lost contact with the facility for reasons that we do not know. It could be just a failure of the communications system, but it could also be connected with the situation in Starbucks are the terrorists asked quite a few questions about it before you rescued us.”

“As you handled yourselves so well previously, we wondered whether you would be interested in taking a look at the situation there? If you can regain the situation and/or recover the installation and our employees there, then we would be prepared to offer you a much more substantial bonus to represent the complexity of the mission.”

The party members and Martijn discuss the proposal. After much debate, the party members decide that they were prefer to forego a reward in favor of getting some of the space on the refinery to use for themselves. Eventually a deal is reached whereby the party will get an area of around 100m2 for their personal use until the end of 1109.

Martijn then shows them the map of the plant and asks for any questions. Sin-Sasha has quite a few.

Martijn tells her that, as Dev probably figured out from the contracts he saw, Naasirka is pulling out of Jewell subsector. Most of their assets have either been moved back to Regina subsector already or been sold off to other corporations. The refinery remains one of the last problems that he has to solve as there is no firm deal on the table yet. He has meetings with Sternmetal Horizons in the coming weeks and hopes that this might be the solution.

He tells them that, as robotics is Naasirka’s specialties, the plant is heavily automated. There are 20 humans at the plant and 22 robots – all pretty basic models. Standard issue for robots and humans alike are snubbies with tranq although there are ACRs, laser carbines and shotguns in the storage area if needs be.

Neither the robots or the human staff are combat specialists though. The exterior of the base is well-protected. There’s a pulse laser on the roof of the power plant to see off any ships or non-starships that cause problems. Any smaller vehicles like air/rafts should be dealt with by the four 10cm recoilless rifles on the four corners of the complex. Personnel should be dealt with by 23 laser rifles dotted around the exterior. He suggests that you might want to invest in some reflec armor just in case they are hostile. The area around the base is quite rocky. Because of the small size of the asteroid, there is no line of sight from the base further than 2km.

Martijn is very much against the use of any ship-mounted weapons against any part of the base. “All breakages must be paid for,” he says.

Each of the areas of the base should be sealed by iris valves, but this base is very new and so he’s worried that the iris valves might fail in some area and the explosive decompression could wreck the whole place.

He gives the party members several pass keys which should allow entry through any of the iris valves. The whole area is covered by CCTV cameras feeding into the control room. There are no black spots as far as he knows.

There is no back up on this job. If the party can’t handle it alone, then he will have to hire a larger force of mercs. But if he has to do that, then the deal is off.

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032-1106
Another Day on Jewell

As is the usual routine, the party members meet for breakfast.

While discussing the plans for the day, Sin-Sasha receives a call. It’s DI Morrison. She listens for a while and then addresses the others.

“Apparently ‘Miss Fontaine’ has gone missing some time during the night,” she informs the assembled party members. “They found her tag at the bottom of the river. The DI says that she must have made some good underworld connections very quickly to have managed to find a way of removing it.”

“The result is that she is now their prime suspect. Sinclair is not completely off the hook just yet – they need to get more evidence on her before he is, but they are not as interested in him as they were yesterday. They aren’t removing the tag from him yet though.”

“Well that’s some good news,” Sinclair says, breaking another croissant in two. “I never liked the woman anyway. I thought that she must have been some kind of lesbian.”

“Anyway, hopefully they’ll catch the witch again soon and then we can move on. So what’s on everyone’s agenda for today then?”

Dev’s the only one with much of an agenda and so Sinclair celebrates his newly-won freedom by taking everyone to the fake beach for the day. With the pollution too bad to make sitting on a real beach a very pleasant activity, there are several fake ones in domes created for the purpose.

While the others take the day off, Dev spends the day meeting with lawyers to find out about the possibility of obtaining yet more new passports. He learns during the course of the day that Jewell is one of the worst places in the Spinward Marches to try and obtain a new identity due to the high level of technology on the world and the high law level, the combination of which makes Jewell passports highly complicated instruments which are practically impossible to recreate. Instead he is recommended to get one on Esalin where legitimate passports are issued to rich investors and forgers should have little problem in copying the simple little paper booklets they issue which feature security measures no more complicated than a simple embossing device.

The party members meet up again for dinner. Then, after a quiet night the night before, Sinclair takes many of the crew members out for a long and drunken night out.

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031-1106
Sinclair in Jail

The party members are awoken around 7.30am by the sound of female screaming coming from down the corridor. Sluggishly, they rise from their beds to check on what’s going on.

They arrive to find Miss Fontaine at the entrance to her suite with her head on Sinclair’s shoulder. Sinclair looks very tired and seems to have no idea what’s going on.

A waiter from room service is looking concerned.

“What’s going on?” asks Dev.

“It’s Dr. Ramguteran,” Miss Fontaine sobs. “He’s d … d … dead.”

She buries her head deeper in Sinclair’s shoulder, bawling her eyes out.

“Let me through,” Splinter says, “I’m a doctor.”

“I’m sorry, Sir, I can’t let you in there – not until security are on the scene. They will be here soon.”

Right on cue, three members of security arrive and enter the room. They immediately call for police and ambulance.

The party members stand around impotently, waiting to see what happens. Ten minutes later and four cops and a team of medics arrive. They are in the room for ten minutes and then the medics emerge with a bodybag on a gurney. The doctor is definitely dead.

One cop starts taping up the room.

POLICE LINE – DO NOT CROSS

Another cop speaks to the party members. “I would like you all to return to your rooms now. We will be asking you all a few questions.”

Everyone heads back to their rooms to get dressed and await their meeting with the police. Throughout the morning, a couple of police officers individually ask each of the party members a few questions – their activities of the night before, where they went to bed, how they knew Dr. Ramguteran, etc. The party members have nothing to hide and so answer truthfully.

For a couple of hours, nothing happens and the party members sit around their rooms watching cable TV and wondering what is going on. Then the detectives are back asking more questions. This time they are asking questions about Sinclair – or Sir Bartholomew Brinkerton-Chatsworthy as he is known on his Ksorraknue passport. The questioning continues for a while.

Eventually, by early evening, all of the party members are told that they are free to go about their business now, but Sinclair is being held at Facet Central Police Station under suspicion of murdering Doctor Ramguteran.

The party members head down to the hotel bar in order to discuss the situation. They haven’t been there long when Dev’s communicator rings. It is Sinclair:

“Errm … Dev, old chap … I’m using my one free phonecall so don’t hang up. You know a fair bit about the law, I remember. Any chance you could come and … errm … help me sort this mess out?”

Dev rolls his eyes. “Alright then,” he sighs. “We’ll be over as soon as possible.”

The party members finish their drinks and then Nick drives them to the police station, which is located just ten minutes’ away.

Dev makes his way to the Desk Sargeant and tells him that he is Sinclair’s attorney.

The Desk Sargeant asks everyone to sign in and then escorts them into an interview room. After a wait of thirty minutes, Sinclair is led into the room, handcuffed and wearing an orange jump suit. It doesn’t suit him.

Dev and Splinter have terrible flashbacks to their time on The Gash.

“Well this is a rum deal,” Sinclair sighs. “A dashed nuisance if you ask me. I had a reservation with the boys at Le Manoire du Trompe L’Oeil for tonight as well. I don’t think they realize how bloody difficult that was – the place is booked solid for months.”

“We’ll get you the best legal representation that’s available on Jewell,” Dev reassures him.

“Legal?” questions Sinclair. “But that’s going to take bloody months. You know when these penpushers are like. No, obviously these amateur donut-munchers have just made a big mistake. Someone just needs to set them right and I’m sure that this whole matter can be cleared up.”

“Well let’s see what evidence they have first of all,” Dev says.

Sinclair is led back to his cells and Dev manages to track down the arresting officer, Detective Inspector Hercule Morrison, who agrees to a meeting. After the usual pleasantries, Dev gets down to business.

“So what evidence do you have to suggest that my client was somehow involved in the doctor’s death?” Dev asks.

The DI looks at his notes and gives Dev the evidence.

“First of all, the smoking gun is that the victim’s hand was bunched into a fist. Inside his fist, was a shirt button. Upon investigating the alleged murderer’s wardrobe, a shirt was found with a missing button – an exact match for that found in the victim’s hand.”

“Secondly, the communal balcony that was shared by the doctor’s suite and that of the murderer’s showed that someone had been through there. Furniture had been moved to suggest that someone had entered or exited via the balcony, which is how we believe he entered the suite.”

“Thirdly, the adjoining door between the two apartments had been opened and closed in the previous 24 hours. This is how we believe that the murderer made his escape.”

“Finally, the doctor’s datapad shows that a search had been made regarding the murderer and his companions, especially the murderer.”

Sin sits back, allowing Devlin to speak with the DI in order to thoroughly understand the situation Sinclair and the QLoK had been put into. She does not seem out of place in her formal attire, looking like something of a private investigator. Sin had managed to find a sophisticated pair of red sunglasses that had been folded and placed on the table for polite conversation.

When the opportunity arises for her to speak, she politely calls for the DI’s attention.

“Sir, while I must concede that you know far more about the matters of crime and punishment than I, I believe that I can offer some insight into this matter. While I may not be a professional such as yourself, allow me to cogitate on the nature of this crime with you.”

“I have observed Sir Bartholomew for many months as we have traveled from system to system together, and believe myself to be a fair judge of his character; the good and the bad. Sir Bartholomew has his share of vices and distractions, one being that he is a notorious womanizer. Perhaps it is this reason that you have put him under suspicion; for his advances on the young lady Fontaine were rebuked and frowned upon by the late Dr. Ramguteran. I must stress however, that Sir Bartholomew’s womanizing nature does not fit the psychological profile of one that would murder a rival for a mate. To Sir Bartholomew, one woman is as good as the next and no woman is worth killing over. To him, women are to be used and tossed aside when they are no longer entertaining. A woman like Miss Fontaine who rebuked his advances would cease to be entertaining, and thus would cease to be worth his time. I do not pretend to approve of Sir Bartholomew’s behavior, but I know that he is not capable of cold blooded murder. He is a successful man who would never risk his empire for little more than a mound of salt.”

“If you will follow my reasoning, since Sir Bartholomew would have no motive for the murder then it is necessary for us to consider the alternative suspects. Only Miss Fontaine would be close enough to Dr. Ramguten to have some reason to wish him harm. I do not pretend to understand her reasons, as she is little more than a stranger to me, but based on the entry logs you have listed it would be a simple thing for Miss Fontaine to retrieve the incriminating button from Sir Bartholomew’s wardrobe while he was out handling the QLoK’s business itinerary. Miss Fontaine was quite overt with her dislike for Sir Bartholomew, going as far as to physically attack him on one occasion. As the QLoK’s Security Officer, I naturally intervened immediately and once separated ensured that the issue had been settled. Regardless, that incident proved to me that Miss Fontaine is more than capable of responding with violence, and it would not surprise me if Sir Bartholomew was framed, if not by Miss Fontaine than by a proxy.”

“For the moment, let us entertain the button itself that was found clutched in the late Dr. Ramguten’s hand. In order for the button to have been found there, we must assume that Dr. Ramguten was able to grab hold of his attacker at some point in an effort to defend himself. While it may still be premature for us to determine the manner in which he died, or the extent of the wounds that culminated in his expiring, you made no mention of defensive wounds on his arms or body indicating that he did in fact fight back. However, the button was found clutched in his hand. The only way that it could have been found there was if Dr. Ramguten had fought back, which the lack of wounds on either Sir Bartholomew or himself would indicate he did not, or… it had been placed there.”

“If that is the case, then the manner of Dr. Ramguten’s death must be called into question. Poison or the use of a weapon would not eliminate either Sir Bartholomew or Miss Fontaine as the potential killer, but it would decisively call into question the manner by which the incriminating button ended up in Dr. Ramguten’s hand. The use of either would not allow Dr. Ramguten to have gripped his attacker’s clothing. In fact, the only manner by which Dr. Ramguten could have been dispatched in the silent way that Miss Fontaine described (quiet enough to have not woken her sleeping only a room away), would have been the use of highly skilled martial arts methods that he does not in fact possess. The button in Dr. Ramguten’s hand indicates a struggle, but a struggle is impossible because Miss Fontaine did not wake as she claimed and the button could only have been placed in his hand. Miss Fontaine’s testimony is not genuine and must be called into question, and the reason for her deceit must be addressed. The simple excuse that she is a heavy sleeper is not enough, and a simple blood test would confirm whether or not she was under the influence of a sedative during the time of the murder.”

“The furniture that had been moved in Dr. Ramguten’s suite would have fingerprints of course, none of which will return as belonging to Sir Bartholomew since he has not in fact been inside the suite itself. And since Dr. Ramguten and Miss Fontaine both traveled as passengers aboard our ship the QLoK, it is no surprise that he wanted to do a thorough background check on those providing him passage. I am also aware that Dr. Ramguten had become concerned that himself and Miss Fontaine were in danger due to their participation in the Augmentation Pageant, though he had since decided to leave his security in the hands of the Pageant guards. Upon thinking on it, that day that Miss Fontaine showed up on the QLoK she was behaving strangely and had broken a heel and within days physically attacked Sir Bartholomew for his advances.”

“I am under the distinct impression that Miss Fontaine is rather more than she has let on. This is of course only conjecture, I merely speak my mind to give you as much information as is necessary to see justice done for this crime.”

Detective Inspector Morrison is silent for a long while after Sin-Sasha speaks. As she looks into his eyes, she can tell that a lot of what she has said to him obviously makes a lot of sense, and he is taking a while to compose his response to her.

“Well the coroner has found that the cause of death was suffocation,”he eventually replies. “The classic smothering with a pillow method – that would explain why Miss Fontaine was not awoken by any disturbance that resulted in the doctor grabbing a button.”

“It is true that Sir Batholomew showed no signs of any scratches, but he is a lot younger and stronger than the doctor with the obvious element of surprise, so that is perhaps not unusual. There were also none of his fingerprints inside the room, but he could easily have worn gloves to have prevented that.”

“As for his being too rich and important to bother with one woman, I’ve seen jealousy do strange things to a man’s mind. In some cases, the rich and the powerful are more likely suspects than regular working men. It’s their huge egos; they think that they are above the law and can get away with … murder.”

“As for Miss Fontaine, I can’t give too much information away as it is against police procedure, but we have not completely eliminated her from our inquiries at the moment. The only reason that she is not here in the next cell is that we don’t have any evidence against her at the moment.”

“You came from Ruby, didn’t you?”

The party members nod in unison.

“We have already sent a dispatch to our colleagues on Ruby by xboat asking if they have any more information on her. I would imagine that we would have more information on her in a little over two weeks.”

“Now have you any more questions for me? I do have other business to attend to.”

Sin-Sasha takes a sip from her Styrofoam cup of coffee as she listened to the Inspector. It was already cold but she preferred it that way anyway. She sets the cup down on Morrison’s desk and leans forward almost apologetically for taking up more of his time.

“As I am sure you know Sir, suffocation is perhaps one of the most terrifying feelings in life. Panic sets in immediately, the victim wakes and begins to thrash about in a desperate attempt to free themselves. The suggestion that Sir Bartholomew used his superior strength to complete the silent execution of Dr. Ramguteran is possible, but if the Doctor’s hands were in fact free then he would have no doubt clawed at the hands and wrist of his attacker. For the button to have been found in his hand, then he must also have been able to scratch at his attacker’s body and arms; the arms holding the pillow against his face. Now, provided that we know that neither the Doctor nor Sir Bartholomew have these defensive wounds, and as I am sure that your expert coroner has thoroughly checked the victim’s fingernails for DNA then we can assume that he was unable to strike at his attacker at all.”

“The only way for this combination of evidence to be possible would have been for the attacker to have pinned the victim’s arms at his side while simultaneously applying the pillow over his face. In other words, the attacker must have sat on Dr. Ramguten’s chest while covering his face with the pillow. Again the incriminating button must be called into question, if the attacker used this method there is no way for the button to have ended up in his hand. With that in mind, I would postulate that even the lighter form of Miss Fontaine could accomplish this task by sitting on Dr. Ramguten’s chest and smothering him. In that position, the Doctor would not have had a chance… he may have been awake at the time and not known the danger he was in until she pressed the pillow down on her face. Only a theory of course, but I am fairly confident that a demonstration could be arranged.”

“Regarding the lack of Sir Bartholomew’s fingerprints on the premises, the absence of evidence should not be misinterpreted as an affirmation of guilt. Indeed Sir Bartholomew could have worn gloves to keep from leaving a trace, but I would be far more interested in the prints that were in fact found on the moved furniture. Were the surfaces wiped down or marked by their occupants? How many marks were in fact found at the scene? How often does one handle the furniture in their suite after all?”

“I agree with you regarding the danger of those with resources, and while I agree with your theory regarding the generally over-inflated egos of the aristocracy, I can assure you that Sir Bartholomew cannot be counted among their number. Sir Bartholomew takes his orders from our Captain here, who is a good but thoroughly common man. The arrogance of the nobility cannot help but be somewhat stifled when they receive orders from those traditionally viewed as beneath their station. While Sir Bartholomew may in fact possess some small measure of wealth, he does not in fact have enough power for him to develop the ego necessary to be a thrill killer. Travellers like us are in fact some of the least powerful people in the universe, leading the lonely life of drifters we are always finding ourselves in another new and unfamiliar landscape with no friends to turn to when things go wrong.”

“While I can understand that you have no reason to trust Sir Bartholomew or myself, I can give you my personal assurance that if you let him out of those cells he will not disappear. I am sure he would even consent to wearing a tracking bracelet, which I would strongly suggest you place on Miss Fontaine if you do not intend to place her in holdings. At this time Detective Inspector Morrison, if you truly believe that the man you have in holdings is the only one capable of having committed this crime beyond the shadow of any doubt then by all means keep him in that cell. I think you know better.”

“In policing it is important that one create theories to suit facts rather than facts to suit theories. The old Sherlock Holmes vids taught me that.” Sin smiles and retrieves her cold cup of coffee. “I wish you luck on your investigation Detective Inspector Morrison. You know how to contact me.”

“Bravo.” Devlin looks at Sin with a new respect and, not for the first time, thinks he should give himself a raise for hiring her.

Detective Inspector Morrison sighs deeply. He looks very tired after listening to Sin-Sasha’s long speech.

“Very well then,” he says with a sigh. “OK, so you’re right that this is not a cast iron case we have here. I will agree to letting Sir Bartholomew out with an electronic tag. He won’t be allowed out of Facet until this matter is resolved one way or another. He can’t enter the starport, the airport or any of the rapid transit stations. He’ll get a nasty electric shock if he tries it.”

“Miss Fontaine is wearing the same tag. You’re to have nothing to do with her if you come in contact with her. This is a police matter now.”

“Once we have word back from Ruby,” we can hopefully get this whole matter cleared up.

The party members thank the DI for his help and then sit back in the waiting area.

Half an hour later, Sinclair emerges with a couple of cops behind him. He has one trouser leg rolled up, displaying a white ceramic bracelet just above his ankle.

“What do you think, chaps?” he asks. “I’m not sure it’s really my style. I asked them if they had something in matte black or brushed chrome, but this is all they have.”

The escorting cops roll their eyes.

“Take him away from here,” one of them says. “You’re bloody welcome to him. These nobles are always a pain in the neck.”

Sinclair checks his watch. “If we hurry, we should be able to catch that reservation at Le Manoir du Trompe L’Oeil. To the air/raft, my loyal companions – and don’t spare the horses.”

The spell in jail doesn’t seem to have affected Sinclair terribly much. To him it just seems to be yet another anecdote to add to his collection and he proudly displays his tag as if it’s a badge of honor.

He starts to tire as the evening goes on though and he’s ready to leave with the rest of the party after the meal. Checking back in at the hotel, he asks to be put in a different room, well away from the suite of Dr. Ramguteran.

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030-1106
Assault on Starbucks

As usual, the party members start the day with a breakfast meeting. After their success yesterday, Sinclair and his canine chums are going to the conference to give some moral support to Dr. Ramguteran and Miss Fontaine. The others, plus Helmut, are going to the Institute of Pharmacology to see if they can find themselves a chemist.

They spend the entire morning hanging around the Institute trying to speak to as many people as possible. By lunchtime they seem to have found a good prospect. One of the professors recommends Dr. Charles Seymour, who has just finished his PhD. and so could be interested in the type of position that they are offering. Splinter gets Charles’s number and gives him a call. Charles is interested in talking and they agree to meet at Starbucks on Ramshill Road at 16.00.

The party members have lunch at the University canteen and then drive over to the Starbucks, which is located just ten minutes away.

They have just parked the air/raft and are walking towards the Starbucks when they hear the sound of breaking glass before the area in front of them is strafed with automatic weapon fire. A cop who was standing in front of them is gunned down, and Esra is also hit in the leg. The driver of a passing air/raft is also hit, sending the air/raft colliding with a parked car.

The party members all duck down behind the parked car and the crashed air/raft. They drag the unconscious form of the cop into cover and check him for weapons. He’s carrying an SMG and a snubbie in a side holster, plus two smoke grenades and a couple of concussion grenades.

Helmut takes the SMG and fires a volley towards the gunman in the window of Starbucks. He only manages to inflict a minor wound upon the gunman though. The gunman retaliates by bringing Helmut down.

Dev throws both the smoke grenades into the centre of the road to give them some cover. While Splinter tends to Helmut, Nick runs to the south towards where it looks like the gang has a getaway car car waiting.

Sin-Sasha takes the dropped SMG from Helmut and runs to the edge of the smoke and sends a volley at the gunman. She hits, but the gunman refuses to drop. She leaps into the smoke and crouches down as a hail of fire erupts just above her.

Nick reaches the getaway and opens the door. Inside another member of the gang is reaching for a snub pistol. Nick is faster though and hits him with a tranq round and the driver crumples as he falls unconscious.

Sin jumps out of the smoke onto the hood of a parked car. The badly injured gunman can’t get out of the way in time and Sin easily brings him down. She sees another couple of gunmen inside. together with three hostages. Dev comes up behind Sin-Sasha to give him some support.

Sin leaps through the window, tosses the SMG to Dev and grabs the ACR which the first gunman dropped. Quickly she manages to drop the other two gunmen. There’s one more inside. Sin-Sasha drops behind a table to get cover, but the final gunman tosses a grenade at her and runs out of the door. The grenade falls short of the target, but Sin-Sasha still blacks out from the concussion.

Nick and Dev both rush into the coffee shop, but they are too late to stop the fleeing gun man.

The air is filled with the sound of sirens. The party members drop all of the weapons so as not to be accused of being involved.

Three police squad/rafts and a couple of ambulances land and the street is filled with cops and medics. The party members fears that they might be implicated in all this are allayed when the Police Chief tells them that they saw the whole thing on CCTV and that the party members are heroes for their swift actions and the assistance that they provided to the downed cop. The Police Chief scans the face of the dead gunman.

“Just as I thought,” he says. “Members of the Flaming Torch. They’re an extremist group that are tied to the Ine Givar – tied pretty loosely though as they are too extreme for most of the Ine Givar members. Religious nutters if you ask me.”

While most of the party members are dealing with the cops, Dev goes over to have a word with the hostages. The three of them are still petrified as a result of being in the middle of a firefight. Dev casts his eye over the table where they were sitting to see that there are several contracts on it:

DISPOSAL OF ASSETS FROM NAASIRKA CORPORATION TO JEWELL INVESTMENTS LLC

His eyes alight onto the plan of a mining base on an asteroid that forms an appendix to one of the agreements. The contract itself is heavily marked in red pen.

The executives come to their senses and one of the senior members quickly stuffs the paperwork into his briefcase.

He introduces himself as Martijn Thalareissen, Naasirka’s President for the Jewell Subsector. He thanks Dev and the other party members for all their help in rescuing him and his colleagues. He tells the party that he will ensure that the party is well rewarded for their quick thinking and asks Dev for his contact details, which Dev gives them. The three executives are then asked to go with the police to give statements.

While this is going on, a visitor arrives at Starbucks which turns out to be Dr. Seymour. He waits a while as the police ask the party members a few questions and then they are free to go.

Dr. Seymour suggests that they go to a small bistro to discuss matters in more detail.

After half an hour of chit-chat and generally dancing around the issue, they get down to business. Charles seems to be the right candidate for the job – very intelligent and knowledgeable about the pharmaceutical business. He asks many questions as to the party’s intentions and asks Splinter to tell him all that he knows about the chemical compound. Splinter and Charles talks a lot of mumbo-jumbo for a while that means nothing to the others. Charles then nods and says that the compound will be very expensive to produce outside Zero-G. He also says that such research and production would be illegal on Jewell and most planets. For that reason, he suggest that they rent a labship or else they find an out of the way asteroid.

Dev smiles, knowing exactly who might have just the right location for them. Having gone as far as they can for the first meeting, they shake hands with Charles and tell him that they will call him to join them when they arrange a meeting.

They head back to the hotel. Sinclair and the Vargr are celebrating once more. This time the excuse is that Miss Fontaine is through the first round of the competition. Miss Fontaine and the doctor are not part of the celebrations, however, having gone to get an early night in preparation for the second round of the competition.

“I did all of the trading that we discussed yesterday,” Sinclair says. “The ferritanium is sold and delivered and I used some of the money to buy the vacc suits and put the deposit down on the gauss rifles. Gaan has handled the delivery of the ferritanium and the collection of the vacc suits and so they are onboard already.”

He keys over the profits from the day’s trading to Dev via his datapad.

“Just let me know when you want me to arrange the collection of the weapons and I’ll arrange it. They have asked for 24 hours’ notice to get everything ready.”

The party members join in with the celebrations for a while before heading in for the night.

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029-1106
Meet With Pete

The party members meet up at breakfast in order to plan their day. Sin-Sasha requisitions Professor Ron to go around the robotics suppliers looking for materials for her latest project. Dev and Nick are going around the electronics stores to buy wall-sized screens for the QLoK. Splinter is staying at the hotel to hopefully go through applicants for the chemist positions. Sinclair, Gaan and Nung are going to try and find a buyer for the ferritanium and some new trade goods to sell. The party members all set off on their various tasks for the morning, arranging to meet back up for dinner.

Dev and Nick are back the earliest, having had the easiest task. Ten whole blocks of the city are devoted to nothing but consumer electronics and the pair of them ordered 11 Naasirka Plasma NX5000XP panels – only 10 molecules thick for a total cost of just Cr. 55,000. They find Splinter still tapping away at his datapad. He tells Dev that he has had a few applicants through, but they all look to be too inexperienced to run an important operation as per the one they have in mind.

Sin-Sasha and Professor Ron return around 18.00. Sin-Sasha looks disappointed. Although there are plenty of mid-tech robotic parts around, there are none of the higher tech items that she was hoping for. Professor Ron speaks to the others:

“While we’re here on the only industrial mid-tech worlds in the subsector, would it be possible to invest in some spares for the robots? All of my spares were lost in the combat with the corsairs leaving Koekh Uez and we’ve been fortunate that none of the robots have been badly damaged since then. If I had a budget of Cr. 250,000 I would have at least one spare for each of the robots in case of serious damage – apart from Samantha who is more hi-tech than I could make from the locally available parts.”

Sinclair strides in at 19.00 with Hung and Gaan following in his wake, grinning like a Cheshire cat. He clicks his fingers to summon a waiter and asks for a bottle of the most expensive champagne in the house.

“But Monsieur, it is Cr. 100,000 a bottle!”

“That won’t be a problem – we can afford it,” grins Sinclair.

The other party members are about to give Sinclair a right ear-bashing over his extravagance, but he just holds his hand up.

“Wait,” he says. “Those three tons of ferritanium I found for Cr. 150,000 – I just sold them for 9 million. I think we deserve a little celebration.”

With that sort of mark up, the other can hardly begrudge Sinclair his little indulgence.

“And that’s not all,” he grins. “Nung has found 30 tons of vacc suits. Normal price for the lot would be MCr. 12. Our price would be MCr. 3.6.”

He then winks at Sin-Sasha.

“And Gaan found something very special for the little lady,” he adds. “Four tons of gauss rifles and three tons of ammo. That’s 1000 rifles and 7500 magazines. They are asking full retail for them though – we couldn’t get them down in price. In total it would come to MCr. 2.175.”

“If we want them though, it can’t be done dirtside. They want a MCr.0.5 deposit with the transfer of goods being done well outside sensor range of the planet as these arms are for export only.”

“So do we want to do all of these deals?”

The party members discuss the deals for a while as they sip the champagne. Sinclair declares it to be excellent and worth every cent; everyone else thinks it tastes quite average.

After some discussion and assurance from Sinclair that there will be no problem bringing the weapons dirtside again after the collection, providing that they don’t leave the ship afterwards, the party members agree to all of Sinclair’s suggestions. He says that he will take care of it the following day.

It gets to 9.15pm and the party members need to head off back to the Silver Helm to meet with Pete the Pill. They arrive just before 10pm to see the usual rough crowd, plus a skinny, geeky looking guy who seems rather out of place and ill at ease there. Nick asks the barman if he knows Pete the Pill and the barman nods towards the geek.

The party members introduce themselves and they start to chat with Pete. Pete is a nice enough guy, but it soon becomes obvious to the party that this is out of Pete’s league. Boiling up some meth is one thing; running a commercial pharmaceutical operation is quite another. They do learn from Pete though that combat drugs – licensed or not – are illegal on most mid to high law level worlds, most certainly on Jewell and so they will need to be discrete. They ask Pete if he has any suggestions as to where they might find a suitable chemist. He suggests that they try the Institute of Pharmacology at the University of Facet. The party members thank him for his assistance and then head back to the hotel where they have another early night, despite Sinclair’s pestering them to continue with the celebrations.

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028-1106
Arrival at Jewell

It was just before midnight that the QLoK emerged from hyperspace and Nick started following Dev’s course for Jewell.

Approaching the world, Helmut manning the scanners picks up a vast amount of ships in the system, which appear on the holodeck, showing the awesome might of the Imperial 212th Fleet with its array of BatRons and CruRons, not to mention the large amount of commercial ships going to and from the planet – more traffic than the party members have seen since leaving Regina well over a year ago.

Dev hails control at Facet Downport and is given a course which Nick follows through the traffic before the ship safely touches down at the starport just before 6.00am.

As soon as the ship has landed, a team of customs officials boards the ship and spends a while going through all of the ship’s paperwork. They make a thorough inspection of the ship, also checking the cargo quite carefully. They also check the party members’ IDs. Those that are travelling using the Kssoraknue paperwork are questioned as to what humans are doing with Vargr paperwork, but Dev, Sinclair and Splinter have their excuses memorized and this seems to work as the customs officials accept them.

The officials remind all of those onboard that all weapons are strictly prohibited on Jewell outside the home, the punishment being large fines and/or prison terms and so they need to be locked in the ship’s locker until such times as the party members leave Jewell.

Eventually, just after 9.00am, the customs formalities are complete and the officials allow the group to be on their way. The crew shakes all of the passengers by the hand and once more receive glowing reports from them all.

Doctor Ramguteran and Miss Fontaine stay onboard until all of the other passengers have disembarked.

“We’re booked in at the Facet Carlton by the Conference Center,” the doctor explains. “We have been given two suites as part of the competition and we only need one of them and so you are welcome to use the other one. It’s also possible to get a very good rate on other suites if you need them.”

“The Carlton sounds good to me,” agrees Sinclair. “We need a change after being cramped in that tin can for the last week.”

The others are no entirely convinced that it’s a great idea to stay with Dr. Ramguteran and his patient, but leaving Sinclair alone is an even worse idea, so they agree to stay there as well.

They put the doctor and his patient on the grav/truck with some of the best brawlers in the crew along with them, with the air/raft following behind them at a short distance. As it was, however, their security efforts were not necessary as the thirty minute journey from the spaceport to the hotel was without incident and everyone checks into the hotel without a problem.

Once everyone has unpacked, they all meet up in the bar and spend the afternoon watching Sinclair and the Vargr getting more and more drunk. As they get sillier and sillier, the novelty of being with them wears off. While accompanying Sinclair, the party members discuss their priorities while they are on Jewell. Everyone is most concerned about setting up the pharmaceutical manufacturing operation. Splinter tells them that he is no expert in producing drugs – he just prescribes them and so, before they go too far down the line, they need to get an expert onboard. Splinter gets to work on the dataweb, placing a series of adverts for chemists.

Nick, looking for a bit of excitement, asks the concierge if there are any casinos around. He is informed, however, that gambling is illegal on Jewell. Not giving in so easily, he gives the concierge a generous tip and asks if he knows of some underworld places. The concierge quickly pockets his Cr.50 note and tells him that the Silver Helm in startown has a bit of a reputation.

The other party members are also getting bored sitting around at the hotel and so agree to accompany Nick. They take the air/raft back to the star town and the GPS quickly reveals the Silver Helm to them. The place is as sleazy as they were expecting; a motley collection of spacers, Vargr and bikers. Nick goes to the barman and asks if there are any games going. A tip of Cr.100 results in the barman indicating that they should try the back room.

The doors opens to reveal four seedy looking characters, each of who has a minder. They check that Nick has a minimum of Cr. 10,000 to stake and start to play. Nick is completely out of his league among these semi-pros. He does manage to win one game but, after half an hour of play, he’s down Cr. 13,000 and the others manage to convince him to quit before things get even worse.

One advantage of Nick’s losing streak is that the formerly frosty players are now very friendly. Sin asks them if they know of a chemist. They do – ‘Pete the Pill’ as he is known. One of the players gives him a call and they set up a meeting for the same place the following evening at 10pm.

The party members have another couple of drinks with their new friends and then head back to the hotel after a long day.

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025-1106
In Jump Once More

The journey to Jewell is little different from the Esalin to Ruby leg due to most of the passengers being on the second leg of the journey and the nobles and idle rich have another pleasant time being entertained by Sinclair. There always seems to be a party going on in the passenger lounge.

The only ones who aren’t joining in with the party spirit are Doctor Ramguteran and his patient. Although the come out to eat with the others at meal times, they spend the rest of the time in their shared staterooms. The doctor apologizes for being a party pooper; Miss Fontaine says that she needs to rest her ankle so that it is completely healed before the conference.

Sometimes, however, usually late at night, Miss Fontaine can be seen walking the corridors alone, needing to give her ankle some exercise. Whenever he spots her, Sinclair is on to her immediately. The first time he did so, Miss Fontaine was very charming, allowing him to escort her back to her stateroom. After joking that he would prefer to escort back to his own stateroom (well, knowing Sinclair, he probably wasn’t joking) he is happy to oblige.

As the days pass though, Miss Fontaine starts to tire of Sinclair’s constant attempts to seduce her. Initially she elegantly rebuffs his advances. After a few days though, the veneer of charm starts to slide and she pins Sinclair up against a wall and snarls at him. Somewhat shocked by her change in behavior, Sinclair leaves her alone, retires to his stateroom and doesn’t bother her again for the duration of the trip, returning to his duties of entertaining the other passengers.

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020-1106
Departure from Ruby

Departure day is always a busy one and so everyone is up early in order to make the preparations for taking off again.

Sin-Sasha heads off into town in order to do a little shopping while the others get the ship ready. Ramon and Manuel finish off cleaning all the staterooms while Gaan and Francois take care of the other preparations, seeing the restocking of the fridges with more goodies for the journey.

Mid-morning and thirty tons of freight which Sinclair found arrived. It’s nothing too interesting – just zinc destined for the factories of Jewell.

Dev orders the ship to be refuelled with unrefined fuel as there’s no water to dip from locally and also arranges for the life support systems to be recharged. By mid-afternoon, everything is ready for departure.

Sin-Sasha arrives back a short while afterwards looking remarkably different with a new haircut, cosmetics and a new set of clothes.

Around 18.00, Sinclair leads the passengers back onto the ship and Francois and Gaan get them settled into their staterooms ready for departure. Doctor Ramguteran arrives just half an hour before departure time. He is alone. He looks a little flustered.

“Miss Fontaine should be here shortly,” he says looking at his watch. “You know what these women are like – never anywhere on time.”

The doctor looks increasingly concerned as the minutes tick by. Gaan is also concerned, not wanting to have to delay the passengers for the sake of one later-comer.

Finally, to the doctor’s great relief, he sees a figure scurrying towards the ship, limping slightly.

Dr. Ramguteran is not the only one happy to see her. Sinclair’s face also breaks into a smile when he sees a slim, long-legged woman dressed impeccably coming onboard the ship. Seemingly favoring the same looks as Sin-Sasha though, her face is shaded by a hat with a black lace veil over it which matches her dress.

She stops in front of the doctor and announces in a melodious voice, “Sorry that I’m running late, doctor; I broke a heel and had to change shoes.”

Sinclair is on the scene immediately. He winks at her as he bows to her and introduces himself before helping her to the stateroom she will be staying in with the doctor.

“Lucky old bugger,” Sinclair comments to Gaan standing next to him. “Sharing a cabin with a lovely like that. She must be less than half his age.”

Now that all of the passengers are onboard, Gaan closes the airlock doors and calls up to the bridge to say that they can leave immediately now.

Nick, Dev and Helmut are in position. Dev calls the port authority and they are soon given permission to depart. Nick pulls back the ship from the dock and brings the QLoK up and into the air, before setting off for jump distance.

As the partying downstairs continues where it left off some 60 hours earlier, the ship reaches jump distance just before midnight and Nick sends the ship smoothly into hyperspace.

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019-1106
Doctor Ramguteran's Proposal

With departure time set for just 36 hours’ time, there is not a lot of time to make arrangements for the next leg of the journey to Jewell. By 10.00am, there is still no sign of Sinclair and the rest of his commercial crew and so Francois is sent around to wake them all up.

A groggy looking Sinclair and Co. stumble into the crew common area for a late breakfast and are instructed that it’s time for them to earn their keep once again, looking for some passengers and freight. Still not looking that great, the four of them steel themselves with several black coffees and head off to their business.

Professor Ron stays on board and waits for delivery of the Ferritanium. Once the consignment arrives late morning, he checks the contents of all the containers. Once he has told Dev that they all seem to be genuine enough, he give Dev the all clear, and he pays for them.

With there being no oceans locally for scooping from, and the nearest gas giant more than a day’s travel away due to the QLoK’s poor maneuver drive, they need to pay for unrefined fuel, which Nthak arranges. Francois and Dev see to restocking the ship’s fridges after the goodies got decimated by the non-stop partying.

It’s a little after lunch when Dev gets a call on the radio. It’s Sinclair.

“Good news, old chap, there haven’t been any departures to Jewell since we got here and everyone who came with us from Esalin is more than happy to carry on with us to Jewell. The only exception are the two from TAS who got off here.”

“Apparently though there’s a chap by the name of Doctor Felix Ramguteran who’s in the market for a couple of high class tickets to Jewell and I’ve been told he’s prepared to pay over the odds for them. He wants someone to go round and meet him at his surgery. Do you want to go and see him?”

With nothing else much better to be doing, Dev tells Sinclair that they might as well check it out and gets the address of the doctor’s surgery from him. The rest of the party want to come too – Splinter is particularly interested in checking the doctor out.

The five of them take the metro back to the commercial area and find Dr. Ramguteran’s offices located in one of the town’s more expensive shopping streets. The doctor must obviously be doing quite well for himself for his office to be located in such an exclusive area.

It’s just before 17.00 when the party members arrive in the doctor’s waiting room where they meet with the doctor’s young and attractive receptionist, Lucille Barness. Dev tells her that they are here to meet with Dr. Ramguteran regarding his passage to Jewell and Lucille tells them to please wait until he has seen the last of his patients for the day.

There are three patients waiting to be seen, all of them female. The party members sit down and look through the dog-eared magazines while they are waiting. Looking around the waiting room at the holoposters displaying sad women with big noses transformed into happy women with small noses, and sad flat-chested women transformed into happy large-breasted, it’s not hard for them to figure out that Dr. Ramguteran is a vet plastic surgeon.

It takes over an hour before the last of the patients emerges and Lucille finally tells the party members that Dr. Ramguteran is free to see them now. They file into the doctor’s office and are greeted by a gray-haired professional looking chap who is approaching sixty. Smiling, he thanks everyone for coming and asks them to take a seat before starting to give them details as to what he is looking for.

“Basically, I need passage to Jewell for myself and a patient of mine, Miss Juliette Brussman,” he starts to explain.

“The reason why we are heading to Jewell is to participate in a competition which starts in ten days’ time. The competition was to take some from an underprivileged background and “improve” them to give them a better chance in life. Each of the doctors who were chosen to participate in this very prestigious competition were given one year to alter their patient via surgery, genetics and/or education before returning to Jewell where our peers will vote in order to decide which doctor has been most successful."

“The winning medical team will get a major write up in the subsector’s main medical journal as well as a grant for further humanitarian engineering, not to mention how good for future business it will be for the winner. The patient gets a one year tour of the hotspots of the rich and famous while should serve as an introduction into their new and higher social standing.”

“As a result, I am looking for two adjoining staterooms; one will be shared by myself and Miss Brussman while the other I will use as an office for finalizing my presentation to the judges.”

“With such a lot at stake in this competition, I would also need your assistance in providing security from the starport to the hotel. Although Jewell is a safe world, I would prefer it if someone was to look after us as I am worried that some of my less-scrupulous competitors might try and do something to scupper my chances as I am one of the favorites for winning the competition, having been the runner up when the competition was last held five years ago.”

“Once we arrive at the hotel, then the organizers of the competition will take over security and so I will not be in need of your services after that time.”

“For this, I can offer you double the regular cost of two staterooms – Cr. 40,000. Would this be acceptable to you and do you have any questions at this time?”

“What kinda Captain would I be if I didn’t enquire what lengths these ‘less-scrupulous competitors’ of yours might go to…?” asks Dev, “Your answer will go a long way towards determining our ‘rate’, as it seems we’re being asked to provide a Security detail. This isn’t something we’re incapable of doing, quite the contrary. It’s just that 20k CrImps is a little below our going charge for that kind of service…”

“Well my competitors will have sworn the Hippocratic Oath and so I would very much doubt that they would cause physical harm to anyone or so order someone else to do it,” the doctor replies. “In addition, all weapons are strictly controlled on Jewell and so I think it unlikely that anyone would be armed.”

“My main fear is that someone might kidnap Miss Brussman,” he continues. “They would only need to hold her for 72 hours for her to be ineligible for the competition.”

“I only require you to escort us from Facet Down to the Four Seasons hotel which is just thirty minutes away by air/raft, so it should be too onerous a task to be worth Cr. 20,000 for you.”

The party members discuss the situation with one another for a while. They seem more concerned about not having access to their beloved weapons on Jewell than the likelihood of encountering any trouble when they get there and so they agree to the doctor’s proposal.

“Splendid,” says Doctor Ramguteran. “I was planning on heading out to dinner now. Perhaps you would care to join me? It’s on me.”

The party members have nothing else better to do and so they agree to join the doctor. With the receptionist having left, the doctor locks up the office and escorts the party to a very pleasant restaurant called the White Horse a couple of blocks away. The Maitre d’ fawns over the doctor and his guests and the party members spend a pleasant couple of hours together before they head off, shaking hands with the doctor and telling him that they look forward to seeing him again before 20.00 the following evening when the ship will depart.

The party members then head back to the ship.

They have only been there for half an hour when the doctor calls Dev on his communicator.

“Hello,” he says, sounding a little perturbed. “Unfortunately, while we were out at dinner, someone broke into my office and tossed the place. Nothing is missing and so I can only assume that they were looking for my medical secrets which, fortunately, I had already transferred to my datapad.”

“It is a concern though. I’m worried that someone might try and follow us on the ship. As a result, please can you make sure that my name and that of Miss Brussman are changed on the passenger manifest and that no one other than your companions who were in the meeting with us know the purpose of our trip to Jewell?”

The party members don’t have a problem with this and agree to change his details and Miss Brussman’s on the passenger manifest.

There’s not a great deal more to do in the evening. Several of the party members head on over to Ruby’s to see how Sinclair and the Vargr are getting on. They seem to be doing fine – entertaining a lot of the passengers. Ruby’s is nothing particularly special so no one stays out too late – not even Sinclair and the Vargr. Everyone is ready to move on to the more populous world of Jewell as they are already starting to find the small and enclosed town of Sawaiu to feel rather claustrophobic.

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018-1106
Muller Time

It was 10pm the previous evening when the QLoK emerged from hyperspace. With arrival on Ruby due just four hours later, there wasn’t any point in anyone going to bed.

While Sinclair occupies the passengers’ attention with his final bout of tomfoolery, the other crew members solemnly take Forbes’ body, now wrapped in a bodybag and bring it down to the airlock. Dev says a few words, trying to remember what Duncan said when he performed the same ritual for Sarge’s funeral and then Forbes’ body is released into the freezing vacuum of space.

It’s 2.00am by the time Ruby fills the forward viewing screen and all the bridge crew are on deck. Dev calls the starport for clearance to land and is quickly allocated a landing pattern. Half an hour later and the QLoK is on the ground. Although Ruby is technically a B-class starport, most of the facilities are for the exclusive use of the IISS base which shares the commercial facilities. Sin-Sasha is relieved to see that the two Far Traders she shipped the excess rubber and pharma on are still in port.

Gaan and Francois are standing at the airlock to meet the customs officials as they step onboard in order to check the ship’s paperwork. At this time of night though, their enthusiasm for the task is low and they sign off all the documents after just cursory glances at them. Sinclair, dressed in his formal whites, shakes everyone by the hand as he lines up along with the rest of the crew in order to see the passengers off. The comments are universally excellent, with all of the toffs commenting that they can’t remember the time that they enjoyed a flight so much.

It’s 4.00am by the time that all of the passengers have disembarked and the customs formalities have been dealt with. Knowing that there is not much going to happen in the town for several hours, most of the party members head to their staterooms to get some sleep. Sinclair takes all of the Vargr to the large spaceport bar, Ruby’s, though where they continue the non-stop party with a few of the passengers.

It’s lunchtime by the time most of the party members are up. Calling the trade team of Sinclair, Professor Ron and Nung out of the bar, they head for the metro which links the starport with the four domes of Sawaiu Town – it’s hardly worth getting the truck out when the habitation is so small and the integrated transport system so efficient. Within 15 minutes, they are inside the commercial part of the undercity and head straight for The Factory, where Taylor told them they should be able to find Daniel.

The Factory is a large place which serves as a bar, restaurant and a meeting point for the few traders and brokers who make Ruby their home. It’s bustling with activity at lunchtime, tables filled with on- and off-worlders, haggling with one another to make some deals.

While Sinclair and his chums start to mingle with the buyers and sellers, the others head for the bar where they have a word with the barman, asking him if he knows where he can find Daniel. The barman shakes his head saying that he doesn’t know anyone by that name, but that he gets asked the same question on a fairly regular basis.

Knowing that Daniel is a regular here, they ask for the most frequent visitors to be pointed out to them. The barman lists off the names of half a dozen of the merchants who are in the place most days and the party members set off to schmooze.

They split up in order to speak with all of the regulars. In all cases, the merchants’ reactions are the same as the barman’s – they don’t know anyone called Daniel, but they get asked the question a lot. When Sin-Sasha speaks to a merchant called Stephen Muller and he hears the same line, however, she notices something about his body language and somewhat nervous reaction to the question that he is not entirely telling the truth. Knowing that she is on to something, she calls the rest of the party over to introduce them to Stephen.

The party members speak with Stephen for the next half-hour, playing a verbal game of poker where neither side wants to reveal their hand. Once he has pushed Dev as far as he can in order to get information, Stephen goes quiet for a moment, studying each of the party members carefully as if trying to determine which side they are on.

“The bench at the south side of the boating lake in Taenu Diran dome at 21.00,” he whispers.

Without saying another word, he gets up from the table and heads outside.

There are nearly eight hours to kill before the meeting and so the party members join Sinclair’s trading team in order to look for buyers and sellers. Sin-Sasha heads back to the starport where she picks up Francois and the pair of them make contact with the captains of the ships that brought the cargo over.

Back inside The Factory, it doesn’t take too long to speak to a large number of merchants to see whether they are interested in the rubber, furs and pharma supplies.

There is not a huge amount of interest in the rubber as there is no processing facility on Ruby which can make use of it. After a full afternoon of shopping it around to every merchant in the building, they do manage to find one buyer who is prepared to buy it for the standard wholesale price of Cr. 2000/ton.

Sinclair is still wearing his Pink Panda Pelt Pimp coat and goes on at length about how it is the most fashionable thing to be wearing this season; that the Jewell edition of Vogue is running a feature about it being the coolest fashion accessory for the spring season and how he ran into the famous rappers Matty-G Dawg and Murder First Perp wearing the exact same jacket on Esalin. One gullible buyer takes the bait, offering to buy the 4 tons of pelts at 20% over wholesale, at Cr. 8400 per ton.

It’s the pharma that gets the best reaction from the buyers though. Fortune has smiled on the party members as they discover that a minor virus has hit the town in the past couple of days – nothing serious – it just causes vomiting and diarrhea but, in a sealed town like Sawaiu, the constantly recycled air has seen the virus spread like wildfire.

With Ruby’s supplies of the appropriate pharma exhausted the previous day, a bidding war breaks out among the buyers in order to get the supplies. By the time the dust settles, they are sitting on a bid of four times standard wholesale for the pharma – at Cr. 400,000 per ton.

On the buying side, interesting purchases are not so easy to come by. There’s a massive amount of lead ore on the market – over 300 tons of the stuff, selling at just 30% of wholesale. As the wholesale value is just Cr.1000 per ton though, Professor Ron reminds everyone that the opportunity cost of any deal is the price of shipping commercial freight at Cr.1000/ton in pure profit and so he calculates that it’s still a not very interesting deal.

The afternoon is dragging on and it looks like the buying party are going to come up empty-handed, when Sinclair bids everyone to come and meet his new friend. His new friend turns out to be a merchant with a semi-precious stone called ferritanium to sell – three tons of the stuff. Maybe it’s the vast quantity of alcohol that Sinclair has shared with the man, but he says that he is prepared to let it go at just Cr. 50,000 per ton – just 5% of the whole price of MCr. 1 per ton.

Worried that the deal is too good to be true, Professor Ron checks the samples that the merchant has. He nods his head. “Yes, that’s genuine,” he says.

Business for the day is now pretty much over and so the party has an early dinner before making preparations for the meeting with Daniel later that evening.

Sin-Sasha heads to the park an hour before the meeting in order to scout it out. The place is pretty much empty now it’s getting dark. She locates a clump of bushes a few hundred metres from the bench and takes up position, covering the bench with one of Sinclair’s hunting rifles as her gauss rifle was not allowed through the security checks leaving the starport.

She sees Muller arriving half an hour before the meeting is scheduled to start. He is alone. He checks the area carefully, but doesn’t see the well-camouflaged Sin in the bushes.

In constant contact with Sin by radio, the other party members arrive at the scheduled time. Muller says nothing as they arrive, he just starts to move slowly around the circumference of the boating lake, the party members following him.

After thirty seconds of silent walking, he speaks. “I am Daniel,” he announces.

He explains that he is not Naval Intelligence. Like Martha Redway back on Esalin, he is just a courier – passing messages back and forth between agents knowing very little as to who they are or the contents of the messages in order to avoid damaging the network if he gets burnt.

Dev tells him that the main reason that they came to find him is that Forbes is dead and they have his datachip and he is the only contact that they have, given to them by Taylor. They are unsure as to whether to hand over the datachip to Daniel or not, but Daniel solves the dilemma by telling them that he doesn’t want it anyway. Forbes’ assassination has made him nervous in case the trail is already leading to him.

He asks about the contents of the datachip and Dev tells him that it’s heavily encrypted so they have no idea as to what the contents might be.

Daniel just nods. “In that case, there are just two people left in the ’Verse who will be able to crack it – the intended recipient – and the information who that is will have died with Forbes – and the person who encrypted it.”

“That person I do know as I introduced her to Forbes. She’s a Vargr cryptologist by the name of Gakha. She used to work at RubyCorp up until a year ago until she was laid off. She then got a job with MagnetoDynamics on Mongo. I guess she is still there.”

The party members sigh, not having any particular desire to head back to Mongo after being there just a month previously. However, they realize that, once the mission of great importance to NavInt is over with, any encounter that they have with Naval Intelligence after that will result in their immunity from trouble with the MoJ being over as well, so it will buy them some more time if they continue with the mission.

As they continue to walk around the circumference of the lake, they then tell Daniel about the events at the Ace of Clubs. Daniel promises to put the messages on a chip and pass the information on to the next ‘real’ NavInt agent passing through.

The meeting is now over. Daniel shakes each of the party members by the hand, wishes them good luck and then disappears into the night.

With little else to be done for the remainder of the day, the party members head back to the ship to find Sinclair already crashed out there together with his friends, his manic energy having subsided once again.

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