This planet is the warmest they have visited for quite some time. They contact the Naval Base and ask for some information and advice about this planet. The base recommends that they go armed, although it should be fairly safe; they recommend near the poles as being cooler and more comfortable. The "government" is by family and clan bonds, rather than any central system. The towns tend to be clustered more towards the poles for the temperate climate.
They pick an appropriate town near the north pole, and Chiang Ho, Avon, Sir Bridgehead, and Helen go down to the planet in the GCarrier while Fostriades works on selling the cargo. NoName (a.k.a. "Lefty", "Nelson", etc.) still has 35 days left to recover -- his physiology is slightly different from the other people on the ship, says Sir Bridgehead as an excuse for why it's taking so long.
The planet group is armed to the teeth with gauss rifles (Helen, Avon), a gauss pistol (Sir Bridgehead), and something civilized (Chiang Ho). Helen, as Flight Officer, pilots the GCarrier down. It's a fairly open town by the sea--the temperature is in the 70's Fahrenheit. It looks pleasant. The day length here is about 19.4 hours, and they have chosen this town so that they arrive a little before noon. Sir Bridgehead has selected some very nice safari clothes, Helen has picked a short skirt with a short-sleeved blouse, Avon has chosen nice civvies. There is no clear indication of any shops or anything, although there are buildings that look like commercial buildings -- a butcher's shop, for example.
The local fashion seems to be for fairly tight-fitting clothes, knickerbocker-length shorts, short boots -- it looks rather strange to the crew, who are used to the fashions of the Imperium. Several people are carrying obvious weapons -- private pistols, ceremonial swords, and so on. The town seems in general upper-middle class, healthy, with a fair mix of ages.
They land in a small park or square and wander around from there. They notice people eating at a place down one of the streets, and decide to look for lunch themselves. The locals are speaking a heavily accented Galanglic. The crew can communicate with the locals, but only with great difficulty. They approach the building, which seems to have been built primarily consisting of a great hall, with people sitting at large tables. There seems to be no money changing hands. The serving procedure is buffet style. The patrons lay their weapons beside them on the table as they eat. Spoons are the eating utensils of choice.
Avon confidently leads the group into the room. People are going through a serving line, then sitting down. The food consists of seafood, cooked grains, and so on. Sir Bridgehead's sniffer says it's all healthy -- if they take something from most of the dishes, they will have a nicely balanced diet. To drink there is water or weak beer. The food is good.
They eat in harmony, and follow the example of the other people and stack their dishes on the way out.
They go down to the beach and spend some time swimming, and sunbathing in the red sunlight. There are quite a few locals here, mostly young teenagers. The beach is obviously clothing optional-- as a matter of interest, Helen opts for clothing while Sir Bridgehead strips off enthusiastically. The beach is very pleasant indeed, with soft sand and warm sea. All enjoy themselves. Waves roll in slowly onto the beach in the lower gravity.
The group walks back to the square, where they see two people dueling with the ceremonial swords. A crowd has gathered. Since no-one in the group can understand the local dialect well, Chiang Ho arranges to have the shipboard computer relay a translation via communicator.
At the moment, the crowd seems to be discussing how nice the weather is for a duel. The duelists are fairly good at swordwork. The conversation Chiang Ho is overhearing discusses that it they are reasonably matched, but that it won't be decided today -- it should last 2-3 days, they think. They wonder who will call for a time-out first. One of them runs backwards quickly, waves his sword in the air, and shouts something. Apparently the anticipated time-out has been called, because the crowd now starts to disperse.
Chiang Ho (with some assistance) sets up the translation relay for two-way conversation. It's a little awkward, but possible to use with patience on both sides. He talks to one of the crowd, and asks him why they are dueling. "Who knows?" the chap replies. Chiang Ho asks about the customs concerning duels. Anyone can challenge anyone for any reason; time-outs are mostly unlimited, but governed by some complicated rules. Chiang Ho would have to go through the starport to get training in combat, rather than directly from a local.
The person is friendly -- they don't get many visitors. The Navy frowns on their people coming down here, as they tend to get into duels from overconfidence. The only polite way to decline a duel is to kill oneself. They return to the GCarrier and thence the Anastasia. Chiang Ho relates the lessons he has learnt about dueling, and that the beach is nice, and there's a good place to eat free. There don't seem to be any stores here, but rules could differ in other places. Oh, and they dress in pantaloons and short boots.
Fostriades is not satisfied with the trade prices available at the moment, and wants to wait a week for a better deal.
Chiang Ho calls the director of R & R at the Naval base, and says he has some interesting coffee and booze. The Navy will send someone over to examine it. The officer adds that there are some towns where it is not safe for an outsider at all. A list is provided which details both dangerous and (reasonably) safe towns. By chance, they had picked a safe one for their visit. Dueling is a generally accepted way of settling arguments between branches of families; they are always to the death. There is no sure way of avoiding duels-- someone might just decide they don't like your face. Dueling rules depend on the town in which the duel takes place. The crew decide it would be safest to stick with the town they already know.
Chiang Ho wants to take the ship into the depths of the ocean to relieve the boredom, but that is vetoed.
Sir Bridgehead continues his work on the white rabbits -- he has made some progress, he thinks. He claims to be working on increasing their fertility. He will remain on board at least until the next planet.
David Brock decides to go down right now with Mich. They land in the central square again. The streets are fairly wide, so Mich drives the GCarrier around -- there's residences, shop-like buildings, and down towards the beach there is a harbor with small fishing boats.
Brock is looking for an entertainment center--there seems to be a sports stadium, but not in use right now. There are several parks -- one with quite a few sculptures in it. They go down to the beach and relax until later, swimming and so on. The weather stays clear. Locals come and go, mostly young people.
As evening comes and the sun goes down, they find somewhere to eat. There are several places, which seem much the same but the locals seem to choose based on age group. They go into a suitable one near the beach (a couple of streets back). Seafood dishes are plentiful -- this seems to be a fishing village. People in general are fairly well-off and happy. There is no entertainment provided, and in fact they have heard no music at all here -- Brock asks about that, and apparently there is music by collections of musicians who are all expected to perform well.
They are questioned as to their profession -- Brock is a retired enforcer, and Mich works on starship engines. As for the local chap talking with them, he does fishing boat maintenance -- he works on their fusion generators. For entertainment, he likes to watch sports -- there's a match between this town and the nearest one in a couple of days. It should be interesting too, as their opponents have a couple of good riflemen.
Brock asks about the rules -- the town with the last survivor from their selected team wins. The team is generally drafted rather than volunteered. The local suggests the ship might like to put up a team. This appeals to some of them, but the prospect of losing essential personnel sounds risky, even if Sir Bridgehead could probably revive dead people. To put up a team, they should talk to the Mayor and arrange a match. The matches are always prearranged so that there is time to set up concessions stands and so on -- much of the between-town trade happens during the games. They decide to come down to watch the games in a couple of days time, but meanwhile they return to the Anastasia.
When they get back, David Brock logs in to the local library data, and asks about the games. They are regular competitions every now and then between towns -- the winning team has the honor and the right of staging the rematch on their home ground. Most of the currency changing between towns happens through concessions and trading at the time of the games.
The game itself is a battle to the death between teams of 3-10 people on each side, using any weapons they like provided they are paired off. There are rules that a more powerful weapon cannot be used against a lower weapon, unless that lower weapon is the highest most effective weapon of the people on that side. No spectators are to be hurt, even though the game takes place in the stadium.
The Navy representative comes over to examine the bean stuff -- 10kg of coffee and 2 kegs of brew. Chiang Ho wants sector maps, but the Navy person can't do that. He buys the coffee and brew for 800Cr; they will probably find a home in the upper officers' club.
Several of the crew go down to the beach frequently during their stay, particularly Avon and Helen. They park the GCarrier on the beach to use as a changing room.