13. Taking Care of Business
Date: 144-993 to 146-993 Imperial.
Location: Liar's Oath system (1021), aboard the free trader Avarice Rewarded.
They landed, the third ship in port, and took care of business: waking the students from cold sleep, unloading baggage for the passengers and cargo for its owners, customs, and a brief meeting about the Malfeasant with a starport security officer (who was also an army captain and wore service uniform). They told him the story and he said the authorities would look into it, with a view to informing the owners and relatives of the deceased. Malfeasant was not a local vessel, and there was no evidence of a crime.
The Ursa went to a local hospital, still in his "not exactly a coma".
The local bureaucrats were alarmingly efficient at the things they did do. The Avarice Rewarded barely had time to display ID and authorisation from Kursis Mail LIC before a shipping crate with three tons of hardcopy starport records came aboard. An engineer (who was also an army corporal and wore service uniform) had had a look at their recently stressed airlock and pronounced it healthy. They could leave within hours of arrival.
"Sod that," said the Fish, "I'm going for a drink".
Liar's Oath was dull. Everything was clean and tidy. Half the functionaries were in army uniform. Swimming was considered entertainment rather than exercise (Silea partook, and wowed the locals). It was all so mundane that the video games fetched a healthy profit.
The place even looked miserable, with its dim blue sky lit by a weak red star. Not that anyone wanted to see the sky – the mainworld orbited the gas giant they had so recently departed, and its slightly poisonous atmosphere held the same chemicals in smaller doses. When Fish entered a mall and saw a sign offering "twelve hour shopping and sparkling entertainment", he changed his mind about hanging around. "Where next?" he asked.
"Sentry" said Sir David. "Aleif's a red zone, so the contract excludes it for pickup. Everything else is more than one jump so we have to stage. I don't want to stage at Aleif space station, there'll be no cargo and the navy might shoot us. Which is the only excitement Fish will find there..."
"I'll talk to the brokers," said Luan, "but I don't know if there'll be much to buy here. We might end up sticking to fee-paying cargo and passengers for this leg."
They set to work.