22. Nice Little Runner, Needs Work
Date: 174-993 to 175-993 Imperial.
Location: 069-526 system (0721)
Fish was busy.
First he and Maelcum went to see Honest Ab. Maelcum had forgotten more about weaponry than the Avaricious would ever know, and Fish went into terminal geek mode at the first mention of equipment shopping. They oohed and ahhed at the fancy lasers and vehicle mount gauss weapons, then bought Cr20 worth of carbine ammunition for the ship's locker.
Then he went with Sir David to visit a couple of the local repair yards. With Kursis paying, they picked the best. Their overhaul was scheduled six weeks hence, and they also contracted for certain sensor modifications which would be useful in a gas giant's atmosphere. Sir David reached a tacit understanding that as much as possible of the costs would end up on the "refit" bill. Then they went for lunch with the yard owner and he finessed an agreement that the yard would have a TL11 fuel purifier ready to fit if they wanted it. There would be no need for a deposit, and no cancellation fee if they changed their minds.
Next Fish and Silea settled down for a thorough computer search on the local net. They looked for anything they could find on the scout Malfeasant they'd intercepted in the gas giant back at Liar's Oath, or the freighter Vraidercalt which was presumed in to be abandoned in the Kleister Beta system, or any of the sophonts involved to date. They found records of the Malfeasant retrieving a drifting launch, with dead sophonts aboard, its origins unknown. Vraidercalt was in the database of ships registered lost. It was the property of Ling Standard Products, who offered salvage on ship and cargo. Putting an offer for salvage on cargo on public record was unusual, so far as Silea could tell, and it suggested that the Ursa captain was right about there being something valuable aboard.
Finally Luan borrowed the Fish to look at some water purification gear she'd found on the local net. "Do you think they could use this on a world with steam power?" she asked. He studied schematics for a bit, then accidentally delighted her by suggesting that they should get a shuttle down to the planet to check the gear out properly.
Her eyes grew wide as the grav shuttle shot through the clouds towards the blue and white planet, then decelerated and levelled out over pack ice and sundry bergs. It hurtled towards the landing tower poking up through the waves at exhilarating speed then braked to a halt at 5g (internally compensated) just when she started to worry. Three hundred meters down the elevator shaft, they arrived in a submarine habitation. It seemed, well, just like the orbital spaceport. The gear checked out, so Luan placed an order.
They caught the shuttle back up. It was local evening, and the pilot flew a few unscheduled circles to give the passengers a view of sunset on the ice field. This was more like it. "It's a pity the surface atmosphere's not breathable," said Fish, "the missus would love to go for a swim".
The starport delivered two dtons of hardcopy records that evening, ship's time. They loaded freight and booked in a group of five passengers for Kerin's Tyr, respectable businessvargr every one of them. Sir David made sure they knew their weapons would be going in the ship's locker, and assured them that Major Rivers the ship's security controller would take good care of them. The team from the medical charity who were going in low berths presented less of a worry.
Bright and early the next morning, just as everybody was about to start in on whatever they'd planned for the two free days before jump, the comm rang. A lieutenant Jamish Kharassiss, Imp Nav (retd), now of the starport authority, had an offer of work for them. It should only take about 36 hours for a 2g vessel. Fish blanked the comm and made rude gestures at the screen as he routed the squid through to Sir David.