033-1117 – Boilingbrook – Adar/Hinterworlds

Boilingbrook – Adar/Hinterworlds 0801 A9C9751-D 700 Na G0 II

I didn’t do much today.

I posted our trade cargoes and managed to sell most of them, but I did that without leaving my room. Once that was done I was at a bit of a loose end, so I started looking to see what I could do.

I had come to Boilingbrook to see where they built the floating cities but, now that I was here, I was wondering why I had come so far to see a factory. A really big factory, but a factory none the less.

Instead I just watched netvids for a bit. The programming was the typical mix of galaxy-wide programming that came in via the X-Boat network and locally created stuff. Sometimes I liked the local programming, but here I couldn’t get past the high-pitched voices.

Eventually I gave up and wandered downstairs to the hotel bar. It was relatively early still, by the clock anyway, but it was the local “off-day” so it was getting dark outside already and there weren’t many people in the bar. Fine with me.

A waitbot came over as I sat down. I ordered an Imperial Boil and a basket of tama leaves, then pulled up local data on my comp. I idly looked through the local tours and sites but couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for them. I sighed and flicked off my comp in annoyance.

I wasn’t mad at Saahna. Well, not really. This was hardly our first break and nowhere near our worst, but I was a bit irritated that the rest of the crew seemed to have taken her side. It was apparently due to my carrying that datastick from Fugitak, but that was hardly the first clandestine cargo we had carried. I wondered what had set them off.

“That bad, huh?” came a voice from beside me. I looked up to see a young man, barely of registration age, standing next to me. Without invitation he sat down on the stool next to me.

“I’m not looking for company,” I said, more irritated than I should have been. He was clean-shaven and bald, wearing a sleeveless shirt and vest and cargo pants with boots. There was a complex tattoo on his upper arm and, despite myself, I tilted my head to get a better look.

“I’m not either,” he said. “I’m looking for a business partner.” He noticed my gaze and, with a frown, pushed a cuff up his arm to cover the tattoo. I looked away awkwardly.

“What kind of business partner?” I asked, waving the waitbot back over. “If you’ve got cargo you want transported we’ll probably be posting our next destination in a day or two.”

He shook his head. “Nope. I need someone on-planet.”

The waitbot arrived and I ordered another Boil. He ordered a Stemilk for himself. I raised an eyebrow at that. Stemilk is a K’kree drink that is basically fermented algae. What salad becomes when it gets left out in the sun too long. It was alcoholic, but beyond that I couldn’t think of a single good thing to say about it.

I said nothing until the waitbot returned with our drinks. I took a sip of mine as he took a long swallow of his and coughed. I shook my head.

“OK,” I said, finally, when it became apparent that he wasn’t going to volunteer anything more on his own. “What is this about.”

He took another drink, grimaced, then sat it aside. “I need someone who can get into places and won’t seem out-of-place there. And someone who has been there before and so won’t be scrutinized as closely.”

I frowned. “I only got on-planet yesterday; I haven’t exactly been to a lot of places.”

He smiled slightly. “Besides the Uptown Downport?”

I frowned further. What was he up to? I took another drink.

“There didn’t seem to be any restrictions on who they let in. Why not just go there yourself?”

He made a snorting laugh, gesturing down at himself. “Do I look like someone that they would let in?”

I shrugged. “They let me in.”

He laughed at that. “You’re a ship captain. A Free Trader. That opens a lot of doors that us grounders can’t access.”

I sighed. “So what is it that you want?”

He reached into a pocket and pulled out a wafer-thin device. “Just take this in there and stick it somewhere. Under a table, on a wall, whatever. It’ll camouflage itself to fit in. That’s all.”

I looked at him skeptically. “Why? And what is in it for me?”

“You don’t need to know why.” He pulled up something on his comp and flicked it to me. “And that’s what’s in it for you.”

I looked at my own comp. There was a voucher there for a High Passage; 10 kCreds.

“We haven’t even said where we’re going yet.”

He shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. Do the job and you’ll have a passenger. Don’t and the voucher won’t activate. That’s all.”

He glanced at the Stemilk then got up, shoving the stool back into place. “It’s your call.” He left without looking back.

I sighed and shook my head. Did Captain Anna put up with stuff like this? I’d had people approach me as First Officer, but first that encounter on Fugitak and now this?

I drained my beer and called over the waitbot, handing it my glass and waving away what was left of the kid’s Stemilk. I looked at the menu quickly then ordered what looked to be a seafood pie and another beer.

When the waitbot had left I pulled up the voucher on my comp again. It looked valid, but wouldn’t be activated until the passenger entered a passcode upon boarding. Not entirely unheard of, but I had only seen it done that way a couple of times before.

There was something about the whole encounter that seemed wrong. The kid was too young, obviously didn’t like the drink he had ordered, and I could only get paid if I accepted someone onto my ship after doing something, that while maybe not illegal, was definitely on the questionable side. Either I was dealing with someone completely incompetent, which I doubted, or they were doing everything they could do to confuse me. At which they were succeeding.

My beer and seafood pie arrived and I took several minutes to eat. I was hungrier than I had realized. That taken care of, I pulled out my comp again.

I composed a message describing my latest encounter and sent it to the crew. If they were unhappy with me doing things without them then they couldn’t complain if I kept them informed about what was going on. Then, for what could only be described as irritation, I sent a second copy of the message to Dr. Korvusar.

I didn’t expect to hear back from anyone. Not directly, anyway. Varan texted back that he didn’t think it was a good idea but that was the only response. I was about to leave to head back to my room when my comm pinged with an incoming text.

“Derek Kodai of the Grayswandir. Can I help you?”

“Can you send me a copy of that voucher?” It was Dr. Kovursar’s voice.

I hesitated. “Sure… I guess?” I said. “I don’t know why I sent that to you; I just thought you might possibly be interested.”

“I’m on your ship for the foreseeable future,” she said, sounding annoyed. “Of course I’d be interested.”

I hesitated, wondering if my impulsive decision had been correct. “I needed everyone’s input on this. You aren’t crew, but you’re with us for a while so I figured you’d want to be involved.”

“Very,” came the reply. There was a long silence. I almost thought that she had disconnected, then she spoke. “Are you going to do it?”

“Do what?”

“Place the bug.”

I had figured what it was, but I decided not to acknowledge. “No. I’ve already stepped in enough since getting here; I’m not going to get myself further into whatever is going on.”

“Probably a good idea.” There was another pause. “What does your crew think.”

I sighed. “Varan isn’t keen on the idea. Saahna isn’t talking to me. Haven’t heard from anyone else.”

“You know what you need to do,” she said.

I looked around. The bar was still fairly empty.

“I know,” I replied. “Something is off about this. And I don’t need to let someone on board my ship who might be determined to make sure there are no witnesses.”

“I don’t think you have anything to worry about there,” she replied. “Too obvious.”

I sighed. “So what do you think I should do?”

She laughed. “Why are you asking me, Captain?”

“Because you know something!” I said, angrily. “I have no idea what I have gotten myself into, but I think you do. That’s why you were so determined to travel with us! What the frell is going on?”

There was a very long pause.

“Do you trust me? And are you sure you want to know?”

I hesitated at that. Did I trust her? Finally, I replied.

“If I didn’t trust you I wouldn’t have let you on my ship. And I know you know more than I do. You know I know your background; you even called me on it. So, what is it!”

There was another long pause. “You came here to see the floating city factories, right?”

“Yeah?” I said, irritated. “So?”

“Take the Boilingbrook Tours tour to the Mastadon factory tomorrow. You can still sign up.”

“Why?” My irritation was now obvious.

“Just take the tour. Trust me.” She abruptly terminated the call.

I sighed and looked around. The bar was still relatively empty, for an off day anyway. I waved over the waitbot to pay my bill and discovered to my irritation that my visitor earlier had left his bill for the Stemilk to me. I became more determined to not do what he wanted and headed back to my room.

Once there, I booked a tour through the floating city factories through Boilingbrook Tours. Now I’m going to watch local net dramas until I fall asleep.

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