He is called saying that if he's looking for a job,
to meet at the TAS, and to ask for "Steve" at the bar. He does so;
the barman gives him a drink on the house, and while he's setting that
up an older man (looks fairly upper-class) comes over. He's maybe
in late 50's, greying, short beard, and introduces himself as Steve Hamilton.
He's looking for somebody to do some undercover work -- nothing illegal,
nothing too dangerous, just to keep an eye on someone and deliver him to
his people when there's a chance. Since Brandon has a good reputation,
with a good merchant career.
The only catch is that it involves dropping him into a Red Zone. The people he's looking for are there. He won't go into too many details now, but he'll pay 10,000 Cr in advance, and 50,000 Cr when the guy is delivered over to them, plus a ticket anywhere brandon wants to go.
Brandon wants to know why they want him.
Steve replies that he's been involved in some stuff of dubious legality, and the people Steve works for can't go through the official Imperial channels, but they want to get him over to "let's call it an intelligence organization." They think he was involved in the recent explosions on Pimane. They want to capture him without injury and just talk to him for a while.
Steve says he can think about it for a day or two, but Brandon is a man of action (and no baggage) and decides to take it now.
Steve takes him directly to the starport, to a hangar where a standard Imperial 40 ton modular cutter awaits. At Steve's signal the door opens, and they take off to orbit.
Steve explains further. "The man we're looking for
is called Mich Saginaw. He's an engineer. He's been working
in some ways against the Imperium for a while. There are reasons
our bosses want to contact him, because he's one of two people who knows
about a certain piece of equipment, and the other one is not accessible
to us -- another branch of government is watching him way too closely for
intelligence to get in on this. He shouldn't be dangerous in person,
except that he's a remarkable engineer and capable of modifying anything
on the ship to do what he wants. We've heard that he's modified retinal
scanners into weapons, for example. He's not averse to taking a walk
from one part of the ship to another through the fuel tanks. Once
he gets set against you, he's pretty single-minded. On the other
hand, if he doesn't suspect, it shouldn't be a problem.
"What we're going to do is take our ship and jump it into the Red Zone system. Do you have any engineering skill? You don't? Excellent, perfect. What we're going to claim is that the ship is misjumping. We're headed for Quiru. That's our 'planned' destination. We're hiring you as an operator of this cutter -- our regular pilot is about to fall ill. We're going to misjump -- apparently -- into Gorram, which is the Red Zone system. We'll come out there and the jump drives will still be somewhat hanging in and out. You'll take the cutter outside to take a look at the jump grid, at the outside of the hull. While that happens the ship will drop out into jump and leave you. The ship won't make it to Quiru, so it'll apparently be lost on its way. There'll be no record other than the date we leave here today, so your story can't be contradicted. Eventually the ship will be reported missing and never found.
"This is a regular 400 ton Donosev-class Survey Scout ship. The story is that it's run by a scout on detached duty, just trading and so on. This trip it's chartered by me, Steve Hamilton, for passage to Quiru.
"When we jump out, you'll be stranded with the ship's boat. There is just one habitable planet in the system -- the innermost planet -- and you're to head to that. When you find there are other ships, you'll broadcast a Mayday signal, and they're required by law to pick you up.
"When you find Mich Saginaw, get to know him, and when you come to another place where you can get a message off, leave a message at the TAS -- this personal computer has the code to give us the information. Keep observing, and when you reach a place where we can catch up, we'll contact you and let you know that we're ready to pick him up. At that point, just take him to a bar or something, and we'll deal with the rest from there.
"Here's your advance money, in cash so it's untraceable. It'll take a week to get there, in the meantime just relax around the ship, play poker, whatever, so you'll have a full story of the trip. We'll just be a perfectly normal ship from here on out. The name of the ship is the Rattlesnake, and it has a crew of around 10. That's really all you need to know, I think. Any questions?"
Brandon shakes his head.
Steve reviews the procedure for Gorram. "We'll come out of jump, and send you out in the cutter to get a good view of the outside hull, and a good video feed for the engine room. The story is that the hull grid will show up, as blue flashes across the hull, occasionally showing up as a slight grid shape. While you're out there, the ship will be gone, and you'll be alone."
They board the Rattlesnake and head out of