The Marquis Marcus Crestworthy calls Mich Saginaw
to his stateroom. "Antimatter bombs are not the normal used weapon
by anyone in the Imperium?"
"No!" replies Mich emphatically.
"So they're restricted to very high level people."
"They're extremely hard to come by."
"So how many of these bombs are in the Imperium?"
"None, as far as I'm aware of. The technology to create antimatter bombs is not very common at all. You're not going to find any engineering texts on how to make antimatter in your home. It's pretty far out there, around tech level 17. So all this antimatter bomb stuff seems pretty far-fetched, especially a bomb big enough to destroy a city. I do admit that the Anastasia had antimatter on board while the jump engines were running, but the antimatter that was created was destroyed immediately."
"So these stories are false? You can't believe them?"
Mich laughs. "They came from the supreme commander of the Imperial Navy in this area. My training tells me that I must believe what he has to say; but what he said, on the basis of my technical expertise, is an unbelievable story."
The next discussion concerns what needs to be done
to bring the H.M.S. Third Eye and her equipment up to scratch again.
The grav vehicles should be replaced, no question -- the one operating
air/raft and the gcarrier are both a hodgepodge of fixes. And while
the Marquis' ship is fine for a luxury cruiser or something (as Mich puts
it), the spares complement is not up to military standards. Still,
if the ship is to go to various out-of-the-way places, Mich feels strongly
that they should keep a good supply of spares on board.
The Marquis asks him to put together a list; that list is to include supplies to be able to continue to work on the special sensors and shielding that they started on Gorram. Also, of course, they'll need plenty more raw components for probes.
The cost will be high. The three grav vehicles alone will come to around 15MCr, and the total would come to around 25MCr if Mich's requirements are satisfied and the ship fully restocked (including Vonish Kehnaan's purchases).
The Marquis has an income from his holdings on his homeworld, and that is supplemented by contributions from his patron in return for his reports. In his report of the Gorram mission, it does include the losses incurred. Of course all the information of sources and strengths, and so on, is in there too. He does not include data on the upgraded sensors and shielding -- he's saving that for if he needs to come up with some sort of report during a period of less active research.
Normal procedure is that it takes about two days from when the report is filed to when the money comes back.
Speaking of reports, Mich recalls that the papers that he and Fostriades had published did include intentional errors -- they know what the errors are, but no-one else does, including Professor Benshani Farol.
The Marquis announces that they will remain here on Mora for 15 days. They will then leave on the next mission with two tasks: to investigate the loss of the Anastasia and the city of Hope's End on Pimane; and to investigate the disturbance to the local flora and fauna in the canyon on Pimane.
Helia Sarina wants to find some real space here,
somewhere she can stretch her wings. There are recreational flying
areas here, and she takes advantage of these. Gravity here is heavy
-- 1.20 -- but she has no problem flying in the dense atmosphere.
She's also wearing a grav belt that she can use for assistance (and to
cover her ability to fly) if she gets tired.
She's a little concerned about her personal security too, and so goes to talk to Edward "Shark" Teeth about it. They come up with a ring containing a non-fatal paralyzing neurotoxin. It has to be manipulated in a certain way to activate it, so it won't go off by accident. It's a plain band, very attractive in its simplicity of design. It should work on most intelligent species, as far as Shark knows.
She decides that it would be a good idea to work on improving her skills. She'll teach Shark some Gunnery in return for personal weapon skills.
Mich will also teach her some Engineering, while she talks to him about her Astrogation, and why her jumps only take six days every time. Helia explains to him that she thinks most pilots just don't understand it as much as they should: "Sometimes you just look at it, and the numbers fall into place."
Mich has a hard time understanding Helia when she starts to get into jumpspace mathematics. She seems to consider intuitive -- and as such an exercise for the student -- areas of the subject that are normally too advanced for most people. She suggests recording a jump and studying it together afterwards.
Helia asks Mich if he wants to go out on the town tonight. He's going to be busy tonight, but he would like to go tomorrow. In preparation for this, she calls Alice Waterford and asks her where the most interesting gambling house is -- not necessarily the nicest, or the best chance to win, but the most interesting.
For his part, Mich works on the supply list, and also going through his classified papers to correct the intentional errors.
Shark goes shopping for a full set of wardrobes,
covering the full range of styles and social classes. (In fact he
actually he requisitions it from his contacts here...)
The gambling house is right across the street from the rough docklands area. It's clearly a high roller joint, but no-one in their right mind would walk to the place -- so Helia gets them a taxi. Technically firearms are against the law here, but Shark still takes his gauss pistol. Misha's "ceremonial" sword is legal.
The taxi -- carrying Helia, Mich, and Shark -- rolls
up in front of the gambling house.
First stop is the coat check, where Helia removes her cape. Suddenly all eyes are on her. They're used to seeing her on the ship in her coveralls and colored vest, and this is quite different. For a start, she's wearing makeup and doesn't look at all like a little girl. She's built like Tinkerbell (or Barbie), and she's wearing what looks like see-through silk dyed so you can't quite see through it. Her wings are unfurled. She has a chain around her waist with a small purse. No-one will be paying attention to Mich, that's certain.
In the gambling room itself it is quite dark, although the playing surfaces are well lit. Shadows around the edge of the hall could be hiding all sorts of people. The clientele ranges over the whole spectrum, from over-the-top fashion to casual scruffy. Everyone seems to be having fun. Waitstaff are handing out drinks and snacks.
Helia leads them into the hall. She's clearly attracting attention, and she smiles politely at her admirers as she sails across the floor (on foot) to a blackjack table. A chair is adjusted for her to sit comfortably at the table. She orders a glass of Zilan wine from the girl who comes over to them, and tips her heavily.
Mich takes a seat too, and Shark stands beside them. Mich orders a beer.
Shark watches the game for a while, long enough to determine that it does not seem to be rigged. He joins the game.
They play for a while, neither winning nor losing much. Then Shark starts losing some, probably because he's paying too much attention to the people around him -- he notices some guard with hidden automatic weapons, obviously establishment people.
Helia and Mich decide it's time to move on to craps.
They start by ordering snacks from the waitress, who's moved tables with
them. Helia continues to tip heavily. The girl then escorts
them to another room deeper in the casino before going off for the snacks.
This room has two tables, about eight people at each one. Everyone is dressed nicely and tastefully. The ceiling is ornately carved.
Shark notices that the room is a little better lit around the walls, and can see the guards -- security guards and bodyguards -- watching the room. In fact there's a separate table for the bodyguards, where they're drinking (nothing stronger than a Diet Zurta) and talking shop. Shark takes a seat there and relaxes at not having to act at his social standing. He recognizes one person in the room -- someone who, to put it politely, is in the "service industry" as it were.
Helia and Mich take their place at the craps table. Helia immediately notices a very tall guy with golden tanned skin and slightly pointed ears -- but no wings -- at the other table.
Helia and Mich immediately start to make money.
Helia sets aside her initial stake, and continues playing with their money.
She continues to win, while Mich starts to lose. Perhaps it's because
she is being so cute.
The tall guy from the other table comes over and steps into a place beside Helia.
Shark notices the tall guy's bodyguard is an offworlder too, but less conspicious in looks. Shark turns the conversation to news, but learns nothing of interest; no indication that the Pimane disaster was anything but natural. There is a rumour that the Zhodani isn't as peaceful as it seems to be -- nothing solid, just rumours, but he'll be keeping his employer out of that area for a while. Shark mentions Robin Sherwood and her piracy, but no-one knows what's behind those reports. It doesn't sound like she's too bad -- just taking the cargo, not hurting anyone.
Helia continues to win, as the guy next to her strikes up a conversation. She says she's from some small place no-one's heard of; he says he's from Darrian, here on business. Helia notes that aside from the size, they look related. He smiles and says he sees what she means.
Mich asks the guy if he knows Professor Farol; not surprisingly the darrian hasn't heard of him -- his field is business, not jump drives.
The people at this table are generally doing quite well, apparently bucking the odds -- for a while, then it swings back some. Helia and Mich continue to be well ahead.
Helia takes the dice. Her luck continues, while Mich stays even. Finally she craps out, and passes on the dice to Mich.
Mich gets on a good streak, and Helia builds on her profit. Helia continues to tip the young lady (Yvette) heavily when she brings her wine and so on.
After a while, the darrian bids goodnight and leaves the room with one of the bodyguards.
Mich craps out. Both he and Helia are still well ahead.
Helia suggests roulette. She asks Yvette about
it, and the young lady leads them to another room, even further into the
building. They go through a side door into a lobby -- as Helia expected,
someone is following with her gambling chips.
They take their seats in the roulette room. It's lively here, with a good class of people. Their seats are ready, with drinks all ready for them.
Shark takes his seat back in the room. No particular news around here. There's a little talk about a professional assassin who's in town, and other normal small talk.
Helia and Mich have carried their good luck into the new game. Their luck goes up and down, but overall they are raking it in rather well.
Or rather, they are until Mich starts losing. He stays ahead, but his winnings go down -- until he rakes it all back in on a single roll.
They've been drinking a lot. Helia visits the ladies' room, which is every bit as lavish as she'd expected, and notices it's starting to get late. They wind down their bets and get ready to leave.
Helia cashes out, then tips Yvette about ten percent of her winnings (in cash) and thanks her very nicely for making their evening so pleasant and bringing them so much luck. Yvette's hands are full, so Mich -- after looking around for some way to give her the money -- stuffs a handful of chips into her cleavage. Helia rolls her eyes at him.
They exit by a different door to the casino -- clearly
a more privileged and private door, and one enclosed and protected from
the weather. A limo is ready and waiting for them, along with a stocked
bar by the back seats.
Shark gets into the jump-seat and asks the driver to take them to the best hotel in town. He thinks it suits Mich and Helia's social standing better than going to a small research ship. Helia wonders what he means, and then realised she has won 50kCr -- no wonder Yvette was so pleased, Helia tipped her 5,000Cr!
At the hotel, Shark makes sure their money is deposited with the hotel safe, and transferred to their accounts.
At Helia's suggestion, they get a large suite -- with a luxurious bath to satisfy Helia's every wish.
(Referee and that player, and Robert Morris' player, only)
Robert Morris remains on board. He's studying the reports he's acquired recently, and modifying the ship's communications systems to take that information into account. He is impressed with the encryption method, and appreciates being able to translate such transmissions -- and the previous (current) encryption -- in real time. He tests it on radio traffic he can pick up from here, and it seems to be working perfectly.
During the day, the Marquis' money has arrived in
the anonymous box. He takes the list of Mich's parts, and orders
them for delivery on 346-1119. He then writes an abstract of the
proposed next mission, and leaves it for his patron.
He then calls Mich and Helia in the hotel. He tells them that he's extending the trip beyond their original destination, and asks them to review the supplies and navigational routes for the voyage. They needn't return right away -- the plans are to leave in just under two weeks, on 356-1119.
Marc asks Robert to prepare a political and risk assessment for the area they'll be visiting -- it involves leaving the Imperium, and being fairly near the Zhodani. It's also near where Robin Sherwood is working her piracy. It might well be worth avoiding Ianic because of the local political problems they've been having there.
Helia invests her winnings here on Mora -- in a moderate risk venture that carries the potential for good reward.