[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] Hallows #roleplaying #storytelling #otherspace

As Kam waltzes into the Last Orders Tavern, she grins saucily over her shoulder to O’Dell. But as she glides over the threshold, her smile becomes a little more predatory, her dark navy eyes darting left and then right before they hone in on the bar. “Almost feels like home,” she comments lightly.

Fedya’s smile goes cold as he enters the room. He nods in response to Kam’s statement, but says nothing aloud. He makes a slow scan of the bar while waiting to follow the pirate captain’s lead, his right thumb hooked into his belt a few inches from where his revolver is tucked away.

Kam nestles her back up against the bar as she surveys the room. She twists slightly to eye the bartender. “How about we start with a beer,” she orders. “Sit and have a drink, querido.”

As per the instructions given, Fedya sits down beside Kam, keeping an eye on anyone outside her field of vision even though it puts his back to most of the room. “Zhigulevskoye,” he orders from the bartender with a nod, putting a few chits of local currency on the bar.

Landon Briggs steps into the bar. Unlike many patrons, Briggs does not emanate hostility, but rather seems to go unnoticed by most. Briggs is a man adept at not standing out. Average height and build, if a bit wiry. His non-descript clothes would fit in on TK, Earth or most human dominated worlds.

Landon makes his way to the bar, exchanges a friendly greeting with the bartender and tosses a few credit chits in exchange for a clear drink in a not so clear glass.

“Was looking to see if you had any leads on possible work,” Kam says to the bartender, flicking her braid of long red hair over her shoulder. Landon only gets a brief look, mostly sizing him up, before she continues on with her conversations. She’s a tall, well proportioned woman in utilitarian clothes.

Fedya O’Dell sits beside Kam at the bar. He’s a few inches shorter than her, though of more stocky build. He has dark hair, somewhat unkempt. The mechanic glances up as the newcomer arrives at the bar. “Good evening,” he says, a bit curtly, his Ungstiri, Russianesque accent quite heavy.

Landon offers a friendly grin to Fedya, “Good evening to you as well.”  He sips from his glass, staring at the holo broadcast of some sport event that is playing in the corner.

The bartender just eyes Kam up and down and shakes his head. He’s got nothing to say at the moment. The redhead shrugs, turning to nestle her chin against Fedya’s shoulder and eyes Poe up and down with more interest this time around.

“Got all kinds of work around here,” the bartender finally replies. “Depends on what you got a taste for. Wet work? Hacking? Confidence trickstering? Espionage? I mean, don’t just come in here waving an ‘I want work’ sign and expect shit to just drop in your lap, lady. What do you bring to the table that Lord Fagin wants?”

The Ungstiri glances to the side at the redhead’s face beside his. Seeing her giving Poe a once-over, he gives her a mock glare, though it quickly breaks into a grin. As the bartender speaks up, Fedya scowls his way. He seems about to answer, but thinks better of it, allowing Kam to do the talking.

Landon half hides his smirk behind his glass as the bartender chews out Kam. “First time on Tomin Kora?” he says, his tone friendly but also somehow mocking, as only Sivadians can manage. “Landon Briggs. I get things places.” He slides a few credit chits to the bartender. “Their next drinks are on me.”

“We’re easy,” Kam replies lazily to the bartender. “And we’re discreet and affordable.” She straightens up to turn her attention back to the bartender. “Have a ship available for transportation. Any kind of transportation that might be needed.” Landon, however, gets a cool look. “Don’t need slick nobodies to front us any money.”

“Name?” the bartender inquires of the female, after giving a nod to Briggs. “If Lord Fagin’s got any work, I’m sure one of his operatives will be in touch after you’re vetted. And I sure hope you pass the vetting, lady, because…well, His Majesty ain’t fond of undercover Sorties poking around his business.”

“How you no have more scars on face with mouth like that?” the Ungstiri replies to the Sivadian, still grinning. He sips at his beer, following along with Kam’s conversation with the bartender.

Turns to the Ungstiri. “I haven’t found a conflict that a few drinks, some well placed money and perhaps a little self-deprecating humor can’t diffuse.” He nods his head to a table filled with local roughs, a few of which appear to be keeping an eye in this direction. “Plus, it helps to have people who know you’ll show your appreciation if they back you up when things get rough.”

“Kam,” the redhead replies, looking back at the bartender. “We-” she gestures to O’Dell, “fly the Queen Anne’s Revenge to wherever and back for the right price.”

“I’ll pass the information along to Lord Fagin’s people,” the bartender replies. “They’ll be in touch.”

“Ah,” the mechanic replies, still maintaining a somewhat antagonistic grin, “You buy all you friends? Or just when you come to TK?”

He turns to nod in agreement with what Kam is saying.

“I maintain fruitful business alliances. It’s worked for me for 7 years.” Briggs finishes his drink and pushes away from the bar. To the bartender he says “I’ll be on planet for a few more days if anyone is looking for me. I’ve got room in my hold.”

“Room for what?” the bartender inquires.

Kam’s brows actually raise a little in Landon’s direction. “You seriously trying to swipe potential work right out from under us while we’re standing right here?” She asks. Fedya gets a look. She’s annoyed but somehow still smiling. “Best watch your back. TK isn’t always the friendliest place to those who don’t know their place…”

Fedya kind of gives Kam a “What?” look, but then turns back to Briggs. He looks past him, sizing up the group at the table. His right thumb hooks in his belt, about half a foot from where a revolver is stowed.

“His Lordship knows my work, but in case others are asking: No bioweapons, no nukes, no slaves. Small cargoes or a dozen or so passengers. More if comfort isn’t an issue. Specialize in security avoidance, blockade running and time sensitivity.” Landon turns back to Kam. His cheery smile fading for a brief moment, his lips pursing into a thin line. “I know my place. Do you? I don’t doubt that you are as tough as you are trying to appear.  That you would shoot me if you thought it would help you get respect. But I doubt you have enough money to buy out my insurance policies,” he nods towards the table of thugs, “of which they are just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve been doing business here for quite some time. There is plenty of work to go around, and I doubt you will be offered the jobs I usually take.”

“You haul trash?” The bartender picks up a dirty glass from the counter, starts rubbing it with a grubby-looking cloth.

Kam just shakes her head, giving Fedya a brush on the shoulder with her hand. “We know our place,” she says, nodding to her partner. “And we don’t go intruding in on other people’s conversations, trying to steal work. So you’d best keep your little body guards close since you’re not man enough to walk the streets on your own and stay out of our way.”

The redhead’s words bring a smirk to Fedya’s face. He grins over at the bartender. “Can haul some trash right now if you is liking,” he says.

The bartender gives the narrow-eye to O’Dell. “Yeah? OK. You’re on. Pallet full of garbage will be delivered to your ship within the hour. Get rid of it to Lord Fagin’s satisfaction, you’ll get ten thousand credits.”

Briggs’ expression turns to that of appreciation. “You’re in with the sanitation guild? I underestimated you. Sanitation is one of the hardest guilds to break into. I knew a guy was hauling trash without guild permission a couple years ago. Heard they threw him into compactor to make an example.” Landon shudders at the thought. “In any case, have a good day.” With that he walks out of the bar, not looking back.

Kam’s face never wavers. “We’ll make sure the ship is ready to get rid of your garbage for you,” she replies evenly. She nods in Fedya’s direction. “Go get the ship ready. Make sure everything is at 100%.”

Fedya’s face wrinkles in amusement at Briggs’ parting shot, but nods quickly to Kam. “Is done,” he says, reaching out to quickly squeeze her elbow, speaking in a quieter tone, “Be careful.” With that, he moves quickly off towards the space port.

As Fedya and Kam arrive at the spaceport, they find next to the Queen Anne’s Revenge a pallet stacked about four feet high with…something? Under a black tarp. Boots, some slick with blood, jut out from beneath the tarp.

Kam strides towards her ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, her hands tucked into the back pockets of her pants. Her nose wrinkles slightly at the pallet nearby. “Could have at least wrapped it up first so it doesn’t leak all over my damn ship…” she growls. “We’ll just have to make do.”

Fedya steps out of the vessel, chuckling faintly at Kam’s protest. “Will be fine,” he says with a smile, “Already set up for that.” He taps in a key code to open an exterior cargo hatch. As the massive door slides open, a plastic tarp large enough to wrap the whole palette can be seen laid out on the floor. The Ungstiri goes to fetch a hoverjack, which he prepares to load the palette with. “Any sign of troubles?” he asks the pirate captain.

Kam shakes her head, though she does do a quick scan of the landing pad. “None that I saw,” she replies. “But let’s just do this quick. Never know what kind of clock they’ve got on it.” Her eyes shift upwards to the Revenge with a look of affection, “She all set? I’m thinking quick drop and move along. Don’t need to overcomplicate it.”

One of the bodies under the tarp was on an angle, apparently, and slides out from beneath the tarp. It’s a young woman with two scorched plasma wounds in her forehead – killed execution-style. She’s wearing a dark blue uniform with Vanguard insignia.

“Engines is warm and ready for raise up,” the Ungstiri replies, stopping the hoverjack to try and heave the sliding body back into place. “Give me hand here?” he asks, shoving the corpse without hesitation.

Kam tugs a pair of work gloves tucked conveniently in her belt onto her hands. “Best wrap ’em up a bit to keep it cleaner.”

Fedya grunts, nodding as he draws a roll of twine from his jacket pocket, starting to tie the tarp down to the pallet.

It’s hard to not notice certain elements of the dead and while Kam’s eyes do skip over the uniform, there’s no indication that she cares. “Just in case this is some sort of trick, best keep them out of sight. Wouldn’t surprise me if we oh so conveniently got boarded. See if we might snitch to save our own skins. Better to not have anything worth seeing out and about.”

“Is good idea,” the Ungstiri replies, going about the process of tying down the tarp. Once he is satisfied that he can safely do so, he gets the hoverjack going, moving the pallet towards the large drop cloth. “I turn off gravity for cargo bay. When we make turn with door open, garbage fly right out!” (edited)

Kam nods. “Simple, effective plan,” she replies. She steps back, out of the way of the pallet. “Seems like nothing could go wrong, but keep an eye out. Nothing is ever easy on TK.”

“Da,” Fedya says with a nod, “I remember. Wonder what happen if we look up Cabrerra’s great, great grandfather, eh?”

Kam’s eyes twinkle with amusement. “You hoping to change history a little, querido?” she asks lightly. “Though I guess us being here means it’s not history anymore and who knows what our world will turn out like now.”

“Just wanting have little fun, da?” the Ungstiri replies, grinning widely as he sets the pallet down on the tarp, pulls the hoverjack out, and starts to wrap up the package while closing the cargo bay doors. “You want get us up while I finish this?”

Meanwhile, against the violet-blue backdrop of the Tomin Nebula in high orbit of the rocky wastes of Tomin Kora, the smuggler ship Forgot to Pack Lunch drifts on inertia while occasionally blooping the maneuvering thrusters to stay on the float and out of the rather weak grasp of Lord Fagin’s adopted homeworld.

The Lunch’s captain, a fat little woman named Ela Pryn, sits in the cockpit watching a holovid broadcast of an Odarite “symphony” in which dozens of insectoids click their legs together to produce ancient Earth music, such as the current selection: “The William Tell Overture”. Her entertainment is soon interrupted by the wailing of her ship’s alarm klaxon as sensors detect the arrival of a Vanguard warship dropping to sublight. She transmits a warning message planetside.

Aboard the destroyer Clarke, a signal officer confirms to Captain Leonard Hallows: “Picking up the sub-cutes of our missing soldiers. Looks like they’re in the vicinity of the spaceport in Freewheeling.”

Hallows nods, then thumbs the commlink: “Marines, suit up for ground action. Gunners, stand by for anyone making a run for it with our people.”

Kam is just starting to start her warm up sequence to get the ship ready to move when she picks up the warning message from far above. A frown begins to mar her features. “There’s incoming,” she transmits back to Fedya. “Vanguard. Looks like it was a set up. Search those bodies quickly and get them hidden as best you can.”

“Jebat…” Fedya spits, peering around the cargo bay. He runs to a toolbox he keeps at the far end of the room, rummaging until he can find an RF scanner and a knife. He slashes the twine that holds the wrapping together and pulls off each body, using the scanner to pick up anything that might be giving off a signal. He throws each item into a pile. This done, pulls out a handkerchief, and wraps all the transmitting items into a bundle. He races down to the engine room, and steps up to the sublight engine’s ignition chamber. Pulling open an access panel, he tosses in the satchel. “Ok, get us in the air!” he yells into the comm before he runs back towards the cargo bay. (edited)

The Marines are just disembarking from a blocky landing craft on the other side of the spaceport when the sig ops non-comm assigned to the squad smacks the side of his PDA and then announces: “We’ve lost all the signals. Last known location was about half a kilometer to the northeast.”

Captain Hallows looks toward the sensors officer: “Track the course of any vessels launching from the spaceport.” He then orders the Marines: “Go to that last known location. Shake a few trees. Bring me back a name.”

Kam’s eyes keep watch above, waiting for the descent of the Vanguard ship. Beneath the golden hue of her skin, she pales slightly but slaps a hand down on the console lightly, revving up the engines. It doesn’t look like she’s in too big of a rush to depart as she carefully guides her ship up. “We may get chased. Make things look as clean as possible. Clean yourself up too,” she radios down to Fedya. “Want to solve any problems without getting the Vanguard down on us.”

Fedya opens up the cover of a shielded smuggling bay, but does not put the pallet in it, leaving it slightly open. He re-wraps the pallet, and moves it to the corner of the cargo bay door, using the hoverjack to stack a few large, but empty crates on top of and around it.  Then he takes a pulse pistol to the decking, incinerating any potential biological evidence on the floor. “If you make to solar orbit, cargo is ready for dump,” he calls into the comm as he races into the shower, disrobing within.

The Queen Anne’s Revenge rumbles upwards with a slow ascent toward the stars. Kam keeps an eye in general on the Vanguard ship until it’s too small to spot and her immediate direction is toward the closest star to make a quick dump of their cargo. “We better divert to a new planet for vacation after dump. Wait a few days for Vanguard to leave before coming back for our payment. Any place in mind?”

The Ungstiri thinks about the question from over the comm. “I hear Quaquan is nice!” he calls over the shower, “And they no like Vannies much, da?” He steps out and dries off while awaiting the response.

“Sounds like a plan!” Kam chirps in response. She guides the ship away from the planet, making a change in course for the nearest star.

“Sure, I can give you the ship’s name,” the bartender says casually to the trio of Vanguard marines looming over him in the pub near the spaceport. “Won’t be cheap,” he adds.

“No,” one of the marines replies, drawing a shock baton. “But it’ll be painful.”

Hallows, aboard the Clarke, paces in the command center as he awaits word from Tomin Kora. Precious minutes have passed. He’s not happy.

A comms officer reports: “Source tells us the soldiers are all dead. Taken by a man and a woman. Ship called the Queen Anne’s Revenge.”

Hallows considers the information, then says, “Notify HQ. I’m sure General Avocet’s going to put a steep price on their heads.” He then looks toward the nav officer. “Lay in a course to Mars.”

[APPRECIATION] Player of the Month June 2017 #storytelling #amwriting #OtherSpace

Thanks so much to Nick (a.k.a. Razorback, Fedya, et al) for another wonderful month of spreading the word about OtherSpace on Slack.

During the month of June, not only did he participate in a bunch of scenes and promote us via Twitter and Facebook, but he also organized a Google Hangout interview that he then turned into a promotional YouTube video. He was super active in the 19th birthday marathon too!

Above and beyond the call! For his efforts, he gets a $25 Amazon certificate.

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] Digging #storytelling #roleplaying #OtherSpace

A message arrives for Jeffrey Corris from the Martian Superior Court: The warrant on Plantagenet’s holdings has been served and the materials should start arriving in the next few hours.

The AI assistant inquires: “How would you like these materials filed?”

“How much are we expecting? Or do we know?” Corris asks, looking over the details of what the warrant wanted. “Have the forensic accountants work on anything financial. Have the interns go over communication. And ask the counsel’s office to send over some assistants to go over any memorandum, and legal documentation there may be.”

“I am uncertain which elements you may find most valuable, but the alert manifest specified several million terabytes of data,” the AI replies. “An initial review indicates that Mr. Plantagenet may not merely have supplied his corporate and personal real estate holding data, but also entire digitized libraries – music sound files, holovids, novels, encyclopedic compilations of ancient literature and massive galleries of modern and antique art.”

Corris sighs, shaking his head. “Create an algorithm to filter out anything non-relevant, then sort and distribute for analysis. Can that be done?”

“Perhaps,” the AI answers. “What would you deem relevant?”

Corris sighs, his head tilting down while it shakes. “Financial information, internal communication.. Filter out anything non-media, I would say. At a first glance, does anything stand out as odd or out of the ordinary?” The councillor begins to get frustrated with the AI.

“That will take some time to determine,” the AI responds. “It would be useful, Councillor, to have a frame of reference to provide context to the inquiry so that I might efficiently establish appropriate search parameters. Lacking that, perhaps a disgruntled former employee who might have reason to offer information about their former employer?”

“Start there then.” Corris snaps back at the AI. “Expand to include any family issues in correspondence, threats, financial irregularities.  There must be something in there. He knows more than he’s letting on.”

“An accountant named Frank Amisen left the company under a cloud about six weeks ago,” the AI informs Corris. “Internal company documents suggest he was leaking information to CBN about some of Plantagenet’s business dealings.”

“What sort of business dealings?” Corris replies, stepping behind a desk and picking up a random pad to see what’s on it. “It may not be Mister Amisen who is behind it, but perhaps Plantagenet was into something, or dealing with those, who have a lot to lose.”

“News accounts on CBN refer to contracts with the Sivadian Navy,” the AI replies.

The councillor scratches his chin. “What sort of contracts? Is there anything in his financial records to support these news reports?”

“It appears that Mr. Plantagenet’s company held the contract for construction materials for several ships built by the Sivadian Navy, including one destroyed in the recent skirmish near the Line of Pain,” the AI answers. “The Sivadian government is currently investigating all companies involved in that vessel’s development.”

“The Nall destroyed the ship? Or something else?” Corris replies, sitting down. “Why would the Sivad investigate companies involved in development?” He pauses, thinking it through. “Unless they were concerned that, perhaps, someone gave information on the ship to someone?”

“A large sentient creature of unknown origin tore the destroyer in half after snatching and demolishing a Sivadian cruise liner,” the AI answers. “You may recall it was all over the news. The construction company is under investigation for potential issues with the ship’s design.”

Corris waves his hand, “The news… Fear mongers. Half of it is made up. I try not to pay attention to anything that doesn’t directly involve Mars, or the council.” Remaining silent, Corris ponders his next course of action. “I suspect we will find more answers on Sivad. Send a message to the appropriate people on Sivad with a request for information and a meeting. They can come here, or I can come to them. Why do I get a feeling that this is going to be about more than a ‘missing’ kid.”

“I will place a request with the management AI assigned to the Sivadian government ministries,” the Martian AI confirms. “You will be notified once I have a response.”

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING] Mintaka 001 #storytelling #roleplaying

Vechkov Prague, private investigator-turned-freighter-captain, grows much more comfortable with his surroundings once he’s under the dome of Drescher Interstellar Spaceport.

He stops near one of the holokiosks displaying departure and arrival times for commercial flights. Pulls a crumpled pack of cigarettes from his trenchcoat pocket. He turns toward his Pyracani companion and offers the pack. “Smoke?”

“No, but thanks,” the red-furred Pyracani fighter jock replies, “Where we headed?”

A Castori stands in the passenger arrivals area, holding a sign that reads: “MINTAKA PARTY.” Vechkov nods toward the ursinoid. “Our ride.”

“You have Opodians out here?” the caninoid asks in a hushed tone as he follows the Ungstiri.

*The* Ungstiri glances over at Sionnach. “Opodians? Rings a bell. But that’s a Castori.” He stops a few feet from the short bear-like creature with the sign. “We’re here about the Mintaka claim.”

The driver gives a perfunctory bow and says: “Follow me, then.” He waddles toward the exit.

“Huh,” the Pyracani grunts, “Could’ve sworn … hmmm.” But nonetheless he follows both the ursinoid and the Ungstiri, still looking about in curiosity.

As they step outside again, Vechkov keeps his gaze veiled by the brim of his fedora. The Castori holds open the door of a dark blue four-door hovercar. “OK if I smoke?” Prague asks the driver.

“No,” the driver says.

“Ah,” Prague replies. He slides into the back seat, grumbling.

Sionnach grins a bit at the interaction, nodding gratefully to the Castori. “So who’s this meeting set up with?” he asks as he gets into the vehicle. Now it’s his turn to feel a bit uncomfortable as he becomes a passenger.

“Lamar Quinlan,” the driver answers as he enters the autopilot commands and sets the car in motion. “Consortium Agricultural Minister. We will arrive at government headquarters in sixteen minutes.”

“Fancy,” the Pyracani replies, frowning a bit. “I’m not really good with politics,” he says to Vech.

“Not here for politics,” the Ungstiri grunts. “Here for business.” The car eases into traffic flowing toward the center of the sprawling city of San Angeles.

“Not great with business either,” Sionnach mutters back, his muzzle crinkling in disgust.

Vechkov nods. “I get it. Just let me do the talking. You can growl and snarl every once in a while. I bet Quinlan’s never met a Pyracani before.”

“Should have brought my brothers along for that,” the relatively small Pyracani replies with an unamused chuckle.

The detective laughs. “I’d pay to see it.” The car maneuvers toward an offramp, past a sign that reads: “GOVERNMENT CENTER.” The sprawling Consortium government complex is visible a few blocks ahead.

The pilot snorts derisively, but still seems curious about what they are approaching. “Place is huge,” he mutters, “Reminds me of the temple district back home. Only shinier.”

“I just hope the corridors are narrow and the ceilings are low,” Prague ventures. The car whirs to a stop outside the main entrance. The driver steps out and opens the door on Sionnach’s side so that the passengers can depart.

“You’re a strange guy, boss,” Sionnach says with a faint chuckle as he slides out of the car and waits for Vech to take the lead.

The corridors aren’t narrow. The cathedral ceilings are daunting. “Hoopin’ hell,” the Ungstiri complains as a human woman with dark red hair meets them in the lobby.

“Minister Quinlan has you scheduled for fifteen minutes,” she says. “Please don’t exceed that time. We’re on a tight daily agenda.”

“Fifteen minutes?” Sionnach says, trying to grin, “We can probably survive fifteen minutes.”

“Let’s keep it to five minutes,” the gaunt, bald-headed man behind the desk says as the woman shows Prague and Sionnach into his office. “I’m due for a colonial affairs committee meeting. You’re here about the Mintaka claim. Which one of you is…Vechkov Prague?”

The Ungstiri raises a hand – the one with a tube of moss in it.

“That’s the material, is it?” Quinlan asks.

“It is,” Prague answers.

“We’re calling it Mintaka 001,” the minister states.

“Catchy,” the detective quips.

Sionnach shifts uncomfortably, looking around the room, not quite as if searching for an escape hatch. He seems more than happy to let the detective do the talking. He’s just happy he hasn’t broken anything. Yet.

“So that’s it,” Quinlan says, tapping out a sequence on his PDA. “The claim is registered. Leave your sample on the desk, please. Our experts will confirm the nutritional value. If we decide to move forward with a contract, my staff will be in touch. Good day.”

Prague tilts his head. Grunts. He sets the tube on the desk. Nods to Sionnach. “Guess we’re done.”

The pilot seems completely mystified as to what has just transpired. “That’s it?” he asks, blinking.

The red-haired woman ushers them out of the office, back into the corridor, and down the hall toward the lobby. She says, “As the minister indicated, we’ll be in touch once we’ve verified just how useful this food substance is for our potential colonization efforts.”

Sionnach nods absently to the woman as he finds himself in the corridor. “That’s it?” he asks of Vechkov.

“That’s it,” Prague confirms as the woman hustles away. She joins Quinlan as he walks down the corridor toward one of the hive of conference rooms. “If they want what we’re selling, then I guess we’ll get a contract to sign.” He shrugs. “Back to the spaceport, then. Drink? I’m buying.”

“Guess so,” replies the Pyracani, still flummoxed, “Seems like that was a conversation you could’ve had over comms, but … whatever works for you people. Aside from a drink, what’s the plan, now?”

Vechkov slides into the back of the waiting car while the Castori watches, blinking dark eyes. The detective squints. “It’s not just the brevity of the meeting that was weird, come to think of it. No one screened the tube. The gang on the Rucker took a lot more precautions, and that’s a fuel tanker – not the cradle of Consortium civilization.”

Sionnach climbs in, frowning, “Glad I’m not the only one who thought so,” he says, “But hopefully we didn’t just kill of the entire planet.”

The Castori chortles as he gets into the driver’s seat. “The building’s internal and external sensor systems completed full scans of you and your cargo before you entered the minister’s office. Had you any ill intent, or had the organic material proven hazardous, the local defenses would have been activated.”

Vechkov peers out the window as the car pulls away from the government center. “Huh. Good to know.”

“Seriously,” Sionnach replies, blinking a few times. He shifts uncomfortably in the rear seat, though continues to look out the windows.

The car returns to the Drescher Interstellar Spaceport, where the Castori opens the rear door for the offworlders. Moments later, Prague and Sionnach walk through the lobby. The detective leads Sionnach in Palazzo’s Pub and finds a corner table. “Might as well be comfortable while we wait,” he says.

“Sure enough,” the Pyracani replies, grinning. He looks around as he settles into a chair. “Never seen so many of you guys before. It’s a bit weird…”

“What’s weird about it?” Prague asks. A server bot whirs up to the table. He orders a vodka. The bot waits patiently for Sionnach.

“Not really sure,” the Pyracani says. He orders some sort of beer from the bot before turning back to Prague. “Even Ungstir doesn’t have so many,” he adds.

“Oxygen’s in much more limited supply on Ungstir,” Prague says. The bot returns with the drinks. “Makes people talk less too. Nice, right?”

“Guess so,” the Pyracani replies with a grimace. He sips at the beer quietly for a moment before speaking again. “Well,” he says, “I have to say that I didn’t imagine my trip to your part of space would be this interesting…”

“Oh, come on,” Vechkov says, chuckling. “Your homeworld’s got to be at least this fascinating.” He gestures with his vodka glass at one of the potted plants. “Some of your flowers are probably even real.”

“Well, yeah,” Sionnach replies with a nod, “We have plenty of flowers. And my own world is great. You should try it some time. Still, didn’t think I’d be flying around nowhere carting moss.”

It’s about this time that Prague’s PDA chimes. He taps a button, checking the incoming message. Bushy eyebrows inch upward. He almost smiles. “We’re in business. The claim’s approved and the Consortium’s fronting 750,000 credits in seed money to get the operation started on Mintaka. Once we’re online…” He continues reading the offer memo. “Three million in finishing funds to complete any planetside and orbital facilities. After that, we’re expected to strike deals with new colonies as they’re founded.” Prague lifts his glass in salute to Sionnach. “The Pride’s getting some upgrades.”

“Starting with a new hyperdrive?” the caninoid replies, raising his bottle with a toothy grin, “Congratulations, boss.” Clink.