(5) Five

098-1117 to 123-1117

098-1117 : Karin / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

The refit is complete. They obtain training programs for the computer in all non-military skills at instruction level 1. Chiang Ho has learnt the first stage of TDS Combat, but at the cost of a superficial wound -- the training was painful.

Now that they have such a great Engineering expertise on board, they could practically go into jump on a planet's surface, so they stand a much better chance than other ships of getting into and out of a system quickly.

Fostriades relays some points the Captain has made:

  1. Nothing was put on this ship during the refit without being checked by an engineer or the Computer Officer, as appropriate;
  2. "Loose lips sink ships." They don't have to tell these people anything they don't actually ask for;
  3. they don't work for these people, they work for the Emperor.
These people may also work for the Emperor -- they are allies, not servants, and the crew can take suggestions from them, but they are nothing more than suggestions.

That evening they have a graduation party after their intense training at the base, and Jack joins them. The brew from the beans seems slightly hallucinogenic (people see dragons, clouds of butterflies around people's heads, lizards climbing up Chiang Ho's leg, and so on). Sir Bridgehead gets drunk again -- Delaney has a lizard's head, just like that horrible captain on some Naval ship Sir Bridgehead served on -- he rationalizes that lizards are slimy, slithering along the ground and not listening to people who know better.

Helen has some, and announces that she will trust everyone too. Fostriades sees horns on Helen-- they're nice; Jack has insect eyes. Sir Bridgehead and Helen get turned on and leave. Jack says, "Can anyone fly this frog? Let's go up to the bridge and have a go." She is dissuaded from this, but the party certainly gets weirder. It comes to light that a ship with STAN V3 actually caused the Imperium and the Hinay Protectorate to be at war for six weeks.

Before they leave they get a question and answer session, and they will leave the mysterious box from Spirelle behind. They don't know what the box is, and the description of what they saw does not help them. As for the building, it sounds like an Octagon Society building -- they are referred to the library data entry. They can get nothing from the box, but would appreciate them leaving it with them -- they will play 5 million Protectorate Dollars for it (exchange rate is $1.8 per credit) and the shielding for the box. By the way, this station is slightly secret, and obviously has strong influences and high-up people in the Scout and Naval bases.

They can also fit some equipment which will compress an air supply, but of course they would have to replenish their own food supply. The equipment takes up one stateroom, and can fill up the tanks in 3 days.

Fostriades plans a suitable trade route based on the limited information available here.

099-1117 : Karin / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

The Anastasia leaves orbit from Lianne and transfers to Karin, where they load the freight.

100-1117 : Karin / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

At 00:00, the Anastasia leaves orbit bound for Emape / Five Sisters. They enter jump at 04:09.

106-1117 : Emape / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

At 04:09, the Anastasia comes out of jump at Emape. They get to orbit around the gas giant at 11:09, take a four-hour break for Chiang Ho to sleep, then refuel.

107-1117 : Emape / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

At 00:09, refueling is complete and the Anastasia continues in to Emape -- Chiang Ho takes the ship out of orbit, then Helen takes over for the routine part of the insystem transfer.

108-1117 : Emape / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

The Anastasia enters orbit around Emape itself. They intend to remain in orbit for trading and freight delivery, bearing in mind the zero law level and government.

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.

110-1117 : Emape / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

The group spectates at the games. The local team wins, losing only one person of six (to an opposing rifleman).

115-1117 : Emape / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

Fostriades finishes selling the cargo. They buy life support rather than using the air tank replenishers so that they appear to be a "normal" merchant cruiser. The flight plan will be Emape to Scothe to Hinay to Brod, which will include their first-ever Jump-1! Where they go from there will depend on what information they can get at Brod about trading classifications on the route to Karakus.

The engineers discuss the possibility of fitting drop tanks to extend their jump range in enemy space, and decide that what they probably need is a tank built from pre-fabricated components to assemble in space when they need it. They reckon they could jump in, pump fuel into the main tanks in about 20 minutes (while the sensors scan the system and calculate the return jump vector), then drop the tank and jump out. What they want to do is to jump-3 in, and jump-3 out again without refueling. Currently they only carry enough fuel for a jump-2 and a jump-3. The most important thing is to be able to jump-3 out, and it may be that a drop tank is just too complicated and expensive to be worth while -- jump-2 in could be adequate.

Chiang Ho takes the Anastasia out of orbit at 12:00 noon. At 15:08, they go into jump for Scothe.

122-1117 : Scothe / Urnian / Yonder

The Anastasia comes out of jump at Scothe at 15:08. They perform a simple scan of the system on the way in to the main planet, finding that only two planets have radio emissions. The ship lands at 18:43 ships time, which is 04:00 local time in the 21:20 local day. Chiang Ho is starting to like the new computer system, as it can do all the tedious stuff like identifying the ship, getting landing clearance, and even some of the paperwork for him.

Scothe is an Imperial Client State. The planet is quite cold (-113 in temperate zones) with low gravity (0.28). The government is an impersonal bureaucracy with a very high law level. The language here is very close to Imperial Galanglic, and readily understandable by all -- a nice change from their most recent stops.

Although they could have delivered their cargo in orbit, they decide to land as the local TL-5 would probably delay the process otherwise. Fostriades sells the cargo for Protectorate Dollars via the primitive computer hook-up available here.

Sir Bridgehead continues his experiments and stays on the ship.

Chiang Ho, David Brock, and Helen take the GCarrier (Brock can drive a grav vehicle now!) and go to the starport bar with a small keg of brew and a small bag of coffee. There is an enclosed garage to park the GCarrier, so they don't need vacc suits to get in to the bar.

The bar is a bit of a dive, and it's full of rednecks who look hard at the group as they come in. Helen lays her gauss pistol on the bar (the starport isn't technically under government jurisdiction) as Chiang Ho orders beer. The locals are still suspicious -- the bar is crowded, and the Anastasia is the only ship down on the landing field.

Chiang Ho starts a loud conversation about how good to is to be off the ship away from the Admiral. General agreement is expressed, and Brock asks Helen how are things with the Admiral? Helen says she has no complaints -- he's still great, getting better with practice, and hasn't even tried to slip her any drugs recently. Chiang Ho asks if he's spent all his money, and Helen says he never spends ALL his money -- anyway, she has more on the ship than anyone else, probably. They find it interesting that Helen and the Captain are the two who are carrying all their money with them so that it's accessible.

"So, if we're not going to start trouble, what exactly are we going to do here?" says Brock. Helen calls for some serious drinks, not this "rat's piss" that they have been served. The barman complies -- it is much better beer. Chiang Ho orders a whisky chaser, and his 100Cr note vanishes quickly to cover the tab. They drink for a while, Helen knocking back drinks like she's trying to use up Chiang Ho's 100Cr. The locals seem to be less suspicious now.

Chiang Ho fetches the 20-litre "pony" keg from the GCarrier, and asks the barman to tap it. He offers the barman a drink, and he chokes on it a bit, but pours another quickly. "One dollar a drink!" shouts Chiang Ho. The locals all queue up, dropping their money on the bar. The evening develops into a good party. Chiang Ho spends the whole evening complaining about the Admiral.

Chiang Ho ends up with $100, and gets $10 change from his tab; he leaves 100Cr tip for the barman when they leave, and tells the barman he has some more kegs if he wants to buy some -- he says he will, if they take the pig away with them. They take the "pig" (ashtray) and step over the sleeping bodies on the way out.

They refuel the ship from the water hose provided at the starport (50Cr per ton of fuel equivalent). Fostriades announces that they will only be carrying 19 tons in the hold, and so it is suggested that they fill up the bladders in the hold with fuel as well to test the system over the next jump.

123-1117 : Scothe / Urnian / Yonder

There seems to be very little of interest on this planet -- there's not really even anywhere decent to shop. No-one wants to stay here for any longer than necessary.

It seems that one of the reasons why the starport bar is popular is that they don't mind the occasional fight, unlike the planet outside the starport where fighting can get you into serious trouble.

Sir Bridgehead is told about the bar -- it's a real dive, somewhere where Mich would be right at home (he's actually busy checking the drives and supervising the refueling). Sir Bridgehead says he does not want to go there -- Chiang Ho says that's a shame, because they told them so much about him! After what they had said, Helen points out, he might not be welcome in there anyway.

In the evening local time, Chiang Ho (accompanied by Helen) returns to the bar with 120 liters of booze and 5kg coffee. The bargaining starts at $500 for just the bean mash (over many drinks), but he actually sells it all for $2200 and 4 empty wooden barrels (which he needs to mature more of the bean products).

The coffee, by the way, is highly caffeinated, tastes interesting, and does not seem hallucinogenic. It does, however, seem to sharpen the senses.

Chiang Ho contemplates buying wood here, but it is extremely expensive as it does not grow naturally here. Chiang Ho remembers his first cargo -- flammable acidic (corrosive) wood!

Midnight local time is at 12:03 ships time.