(3) Gone Fishing

The Misha Campaign (311-1120)

311-1120 :  Goose / Fessor / Foreven

    A shore party assembles, with the intention of exploring the floating steel island that passes for a starport here.  Shopping and bar-hopping is what they have in mind.  The group consists of: Vonish Kehnaan, Ed "Shark" Teeth,  Robert Morris, Helia Sarina, and Sagan.  Helia chooses a strategically cut fur outfit, the remainder regular cold weather gear.
    Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead is staying on the H.M.S. Third Eye.  He is finding the natural gravity on this world a very heavy load.  Mich Saginaw wanted to join them, but his priority is repairing the maneuver drive system.  Vonish has prepared a large pot of the sludge that Mich likes to call coffee to keep him going for a while.
    Some of the shore party are taking personal weapons: Vonish has a shoulder SMG, Shark his gauss pistol, and Sagan has hir hiver laser pistol.  Teri Cralla will stay on the ship, but standing by in case she needs to come and rescue them.

    They walk quickly through the cold outer dock ring.  Vonish soon notices that Sagan is getting some odd looks.  The dock workers on the outer ring that pointedly ignored them on their last visit are still lounging about and ignoring them, except that there's something about them that indicates that they're looking at Sagan.  The looks are not friendly.  Vonish warns the rest of the group.
    They walk on through to the next inner ring.  This area consists of ship related businesses -- chandlers, sea and space ship services and parts, and some bars.  The lighting here is better than the dimly lit outer ring.  It's still obviously steel everywhere, but an attempt has at least been made to make it look friendlier.
    Ed checks the map (now scanned in for their personal computers).  He notes that they could go back to the ship in the other direction around the ring.  It would be longer, but it would pass by different dock workers at least.  He calls Mich to line up a gcarrier ride for them in case they decide to do that.
    This ring doesn't have a lot of people around, but there are some.  They are looking at Sagan strangely too -- some with hostility, some with fear, others are just blatantly staring in astonishment.  Ed wonders if sie might resemble some native sea creature here.  Ed also checks around for any police or security personnel, and is surprised to see none.  Also most of the people here are not obviously armed.  Transactions seem to be carried out with some sort of cash.
    They walk on through to the next pass-through, noting the location of a chart shop -- sea and star charts.  This artificial island strikes them that it is really quite large.

    The market area is similar, but different.  Where on the previous ring the stores took most of the width of the ring, here there are stands occupying the center of the mall between bare ring walls.  Lighting is better, and the walls are often painted with abstract designs in bright colors.  At first some of the group feel a bit uneasy in here, until they realize why.  One is the noise, as of a far-off hum resonating through the structure, and slight creaks as well.  The whole island is also moving slightly.  In all, it's slightly disorienting.
    The stands are selling clothing, some sort of food, bits and pieces of household goods and so on -- everything really, as one would expect in a bazaar.  There are no furs, but there are coats made from some leather-like material.  The people here tend to be short and stocky -- and so their clothes should fit Ed quite nicely.  Their skin is dark olive.
    Ed picks out a long leather coat.  He has a bit of trouble communicating with the saleswoman, whose accent is quite incomprehensible.  Finally he pulls out ten credits.  The woman takes it, and hands him the coat.  The coat is heavy, definitely insulating nicely, and even seems like it would breathe as well.  It feels good.
    Robert looks around.  It seems that haggling is commonplace, and there is some bartering as well as cash exchange.  Some Imperial credits are being used, as well as some sort of paper money with "credits" written on it.
    Ed decides to use hand signals for haggling from there on.  Sagan finds it very easy to follow Ed's "baby talk" signs -- for once he won't need a translator to understand human conversation.
    On to food... Most of the food stalls seem to be selling fresh seafood.  Most of it looks like fish.  Some is whole fish, some are strips clearly cut from some larger fish.  Alongside the fish, there's also some red meat of some sort.
    Vonish asks about preparation -- he wants to be sure that he doesn't serve the crew something deadly.  Perhaps there's some part of the fish that has to be removed before cooking.  The salesman's idea of preparation is to "throw it int'pot."  Vonish then checks on storing -- the answer there is to freeze it or salt it.
    The next stand has what looks like seaweed.  Some are long strands, fairly thick and meaty -- perhaps half a centimeter thick.  There are also strands with some sort of blisters or sacs.  Vonish asks about these too, but the person here clearly doesn't understand a single word.  He goes asks the fishmonger about it.
    "'S weed," replies the fishmonger.
    "What's it for?  Is it a food?"
    "I'm a stranger to this world..."
    "...and I'm looking to freshen up our supplies."
    "Yar.  Ah.  Well, you likes cooks it.  Throws some goarfig with... this.  Inna pot."  He gestures at the food as he speaks.
    Vonish is beginning to think that boiling is the only sort of cooking these people understand.  He sighs.
    Ed's thoughts are on eating too, but in a more urgent manner.  He asks the fishmonger where they can actually eat here, and is directed further around the ring.  He leads the shore party on around.

    On the way, though, is a stand with books.  It even seems to include a cooking section, where Vonish eagerly starts rooting through the books.  Fortunately they are all in Galanglic, although all locally produced.  Just on the off chance, he checks for anything on hiver food, but is not surprised when there are no books on that subject.  He picks out ten he thinks could be useful.
    Ed's interest is in creatures of the deep, creatures of the ice, even a children's book.  He finds a field guide to the northern wastes, and a fishing guide.  He stacks his two books on Vonish's ten, and asks how much.  For once, the stall owner seems to be comprehensible.  They agree on sixteen credits, plus another credit for a bag each.
    Vonish pulls out one of the books and starts studying it quickly.  It doesn't take him long to figure out what foods are for what.  The blisters are explained -- the cook pierces the sac and squeezes out the contents -- it's a seasoning, ingredient, a base for sauce, also adds flavor and thickening.

    Now they've reached the cooking area.  Stands are preparing food with electric cooking devices.  In a break in the row of stands is a common seating and eating area with benches and tables.
    Fish sandwiches, fish stew, fish broth, fish, bread.  They collect the various dishes from the stalls, then beer from yet another stand, and sit down to eat.  Food is cheap.  A credit is enough for a meal.  Seasoning is often shredded seaweed or some sort of flakes.  The beer is weak and frothy, but with a very good flavor.
    Sagan notices that some of the seaweed-derived food, and some of the bread, seem like they would be quite edible.  Some of those boiled seaweed strips, for example, smell really good.  Sie walks up to the stand and buys bread and seaweed strips (from the same stand).  Compared with Ed's experience, the hiver has no problem at all with the transaction.  He takes his plate over beside the table where the others are sitting, places the plate on the ground, and settles down on it to eat.  It is indeed very good.
    Vonish, who has been sampling a little of everything, notes what his alien friend has chosen.  His goal of expanding his knowledge of hiver cuisine is definitely in reach.  Not only that, but he can replenish supplies well from here.  He's even planning to set up a smoker unit -- to smoke food, that is, not the black tar-like substance that is sold near the beer for the pipes some of the locals smoke.
    Here it's a lot warmer.  A lot of the stall owners are in shorts and light shirts, clearly hot in the 10 degree temperatures.
    They talk about the starport building -- perhaps it was once a colony ship, and there's a jump drive and fusion reactor somewhere buried in it where they get their power.
    Ed is surprised not to have seen any booth selling weapons of any sort.  Robert is similarly surprised to have found no technology -- no radios, no clocks even; perhaps back in the ship equipment section?
    Helia wonders on the absence not only of toy stores, but of children.  They have seen no children at all.  If she were not in the same group as the hiver, she might be getting odd looks too.
    Robert now has a sample of the local currency.  It's printed on fine cloth.  It does not name a bank or the issuer of the note.  It just says "1 credit" and has a fanciful fish design.

    Lunch over, they move on around the ring.  Here Ed finds his weapons booth.  Shotguns, rifles, pistols, knives.  With the exception of knives, it's all regular chemical round firearms.  There are no air powered guns, or harpoon guns.  All are quite bulky.  Some of the guns are of mixed material, where the use of metal has been minimized.

    By now they're reaching an open area that continues on around the ring.  The stands just stop, leaving the ring empty beyond.  They've been walking for a good while.  There are numbers on the bulkheads and doors, but none on their map to show them where they are exactly.
    Ed suggests finding a bar; Vonish would prefer to find an upmarket restaurant.  Ed then checks back with the ship, and finds as he suspected that their commdot signal is very weak.
    Ed walks up to the last stall.  "Where are we, please?"  he asks.
    The stand owner points out where they are on Ed's map.  They're to the east of the south quarter, having travelled about an eighth of the way around from the docks on the south.  This circle does not go all the way around the starport; in the center is an area with no markings on their map, and no marked ways in.  Inside from the bazaar ring are hotels, residential areas, some restaurants, some bars; that ring does not go all the way around either.  If they continued further in still, they could eventually in fact travel all the way around.  There are two outer quarters, to east and west, that interrupt the outer rings.  Only one vertical level is marked on the map, but from what they've seen it's very clear that there are other levels above them.  Vonish says that up there must be the upper-class areas.
    Ed leads them off to a bar in the next ring.  As they walk, they look carefully for any ways up -- stairs, elevators, or whatever.  They see no sign of any of them.

    At the bar, the beer is similar to that on the stalls, but a little stronger and somewhat cloudy.  It tastes different, but isn't bad at all.
    Robert walks up to the bar and asks for the hardest stuff they have.  The bartender produces it for him.  It smells rather like rotting fish, and is a clear liquid with a yellowish tint and an oily texture.  It's served in a test-tube style of glass, with a round bottom and about 4 cm across and 10 cm tall; the glass of course can't be set down.
    Ed has experience in biology, chemistry, and forensics.  He takes a scientific whiff and recoils in disgust.  It must be quite an acquired taste.  He suggests not smoking too near it.  His scientific curiosity more than satisfied, he looks around for gambling -- seeing none, he gets the bartender's attention.
    Ed asks, "Where can a gentleman find a friendly game of chance?"
    "A friendly game?" asks the bartender slowly.
    "A game of chance, then.  Other than walking back through the dockyard on the way back to the ship."
    The bartender replies, "That's where you'll find the best games.  There on the docks.  That's not friendly.  But if you've got money you can play."
    "Any organized gaming areas?"
    Further round the bar, Robert sticks his finger in his drink and licks it.  It tastes better than it smells, but he's not sure what it tastes like.  He asks if he can buy a bottle to take back.  The bartender produces a bottle the size of a small keg.  The one drink Robert had cost him ten credits, and the man wants a hundred for the bottle.  They settle on eighty, and get a leather strap carrying harness thrown in.
    Robert sips more of it, holding his breath a bit to start.  It's very cold -- ice is forming on the glass -- and retains the cold well.  It goes down very smoothly.  He's not quite sure of its effect on him, but he's getting used to the stuff.  It's quite odd, very odd in fact.  It's totally unlike anything he's had before anywhere else.  One thing he's fairly sure of is that it'll make his breath smell bad -- and it seems to give him an occasional urge to belch.  It does slide down well, though, and when he takes a big slug of it, it feels pretty good.  It has this cold warm feeling that has a strange aroma to it, and gets up into his nasal passages sort of like mustard or wasabi.  In some ways it reminds him of the sort of coffee Mich likes to drink.