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Wanderfall, 1309, 255-1125

About a minute into normal space again, the comm gear lights up. "Unidentified ship, this is SDB 1818 'Aces and Eights'. Are you inbound for Gralyn or just in to refuel at the gas giant?" The frequency used is a normal Imperial ship to ship channel.

Buzz turns to Gogo. "We stopping for fuel on the way in or heading straight in for Corbingrad?"

Go-Go kicks the intercom on. "Corbingrad. It should be closer, from what I can make out of your plots. I want to have the ship given a once-over when we get there. Besides, the Gralyns would still charge us for fuel if we dipped it from the gas giant."

"That's what I figured," Buzz hits the comm, "Aces and Eights, this is the freighter 'Wanderfall' requesting clearance for Corbingrad."

About a minute later, the comm kicks over. "Wanderfall, you are clear to 10 diameters, subject to customs inspection. Stand by to be boarded in... 3.5 hours. Continue on current course; we'll match you."

The 'Schmooze' leans over to Go-go as he refills her Kaff. "Aye, wonse we've past to the space powrt, Ayd be mighty glad to accompany yerself whilst ye do yer business. Folks tell me Aym a grayt judge a character. I'm handy with a blade and have dun a bit of tradin in me time as well."

Go-Go ponders this a moment. "Alright, but if you piss off the Gralyns, there will be Dire Repercussions. And not from *them*, either..."

Koparan nods his hairless head and says "Donna goo and werry yer sweet 'ead neww. Koparan'l be takin good care a ye." With a wink he stands up and heads back to the galley to prepare for the boarding party.

Go-Go looks at him with a bit of disbelief, muttering to herself, 'Now what the hell did I just commit to?' before turning back to the detector board. She cranks the holo tank down, sacrificing resolution for range, and picks up the SDB coming in at about 4,000,000 kilometers, at about 4 gravs accelleration. "Hey, guys, if you go to minus log 20 on your scopes, you'll see the incoming. Don't take anything more than a soft lock. You hard lock them, they're liable to shoot."

"No need," Buzz says, "Old routine for me. No need to look. Just be a good boy and play follow the leader," he grins at Go-Go. "Besides...we're here to do business. They like our money as much as we like theirs, right?"

Go-Go chuckles. "Better, probably. The Gralyns are in a bit of a slump, and I don't expect them to get out of it anytime soon."

'Kira sits in his chair.."yeah yeah, but *if* they start shooting we can shoot back. Right???

Lightfoot says, "We damned well *BETTER* shoot back if they start shooting!! There ain't no target painted on *MY* back!!!"

Go-Go pipes up. "I wouldn't worry about it. The Gralyns have a strong local defense setup. Even the new Reavers leave them alone and pick on somebody else."

"Hhmmmm....I think I still have a few glass beads in my box if they have a nice boat they want to unload to pay for the light bill...." Buzz answers.

'Kira looks over to Go Go..."So, you want us in semi formal uniforms for this??"

Go-Go chuckles. "We're supposed to be tramp merchies, 'Kira. Just wear clothes."


Wanderfall, 1642 Hours, Day 255-1125, Gralyn Space, Inbound

Lena, A'Rolr, Koparan, and Lightfoot gave the Jump Drive a onceover, the customary post-Jump checkout. Lena pronounces it fit for yet another jump. The entire procedure takes about 2 hours. Buzz and Akira remain on watch, with Akira moving up to the navigator station to keep tabs on 'Aces and Eights'. Go-Go locked her gunnery board and went fishing around in her cabin for the ship's papers. Mikhail threw some instaheats into the nuke and served everybody a quick lunch at their stations. Tornquist locked his board and took a quick hour and a half nap.

'Aces and Eights' pulls to 1000 kilometers and takes station. Buzz is a bit impressed with her helmsperson's skills. A few minutes later, a pinace seperates from 'Aces and Eights' and rendezvous with Wanderfall. "Hmmm," Buzz watches the pinnace coming in, "At least the budget cuts didn't cut back on training. Oh well...Let's have a looksie at traffic." He turns on the comm to listen, "You never know who you might run into in your old neighborhood, right?"

Not a lot of traffic on the comm. Most civilised systems regulate that if you use comm, you keep power output to the minimun needed to make good contact. That way, you don't interfere with everybody else. Masers and message lasers are also highly prefered. This also helps keep comm channels relatively clear.

Koparan, A'Rolr, Go-Go, and Tornquist form up at the airlock with sidearms scabboarded as the lock light turns green. The lock opens to reveal a young man about 20 in black fatigues, an older man in black fatigues with hashmarks on his sleeves, and two obvious Marines in combat armor, assault rifles slung over their shoulders.

The young man salutes. "I am Ensign Morgan Topolov, Gralyn Space Navy. Permission to come aboard?"

Go-Go gives him a little bow. "Welcome aboard, Ensign Topolov. I am Captain Brandi Hiromashu, owner aboard. My facilitator, Koparan Borsalla; Security Specialists A'Rolr and Tornquist."

Topolov nods. "Petty Officer Second Class Markham, Corporal Kuzov, Private Rheinman. We are here of course for your customs inspection."

Go-Go nods. "Understood." She hands him a couple data solids. "My ship's papers and current crew and cargo manifests." She turns to A'Rolr and Torquist. "If you two will escort Mr Markham and his assistants to the hold for inspection, Mr Borsalla and I will take care of the paperwork."

Alan nods to the Captain and to A'Rolr ,"Gentlemen, " he raises his hand pointing in the direction of the hold, "If you will walk this way." He moves to fall in with Mr. Markham on his left side as he leads the way.

A'Rolr sniffed as the Gralyn marines walked by. "The one named Markham and the two marines seem competent, but the Ensign..." Thought A'Rolr as he smelled the scent of fear and tension from that one. As he fell in behind he knew that if there would be trouble...it would come from the unblooded male. He flexed his dewclaws as he was want to do when anxious. "Yes.." He thought "That one could be trouble."

The SPO and the two Marines follow Tornquist down to the hold. The jarheads stand back as the SPO looks over the crates. He pulls out a geiger counter and waves it around the containers marked 'Radioactives', nodding as he reads it. He waves it at the seam of the cover and the crate, nods some more. "Mind if we open this one, sir?"

Alan raises an eyebrow at the man, "That depends on what your little detector indicated. I not used to this stuff, is there anything to worry about?" Alan retrieves a crowbar from the bulkhead as he talks.

The SPO shrugs. "Geiger counter says the outsides are clean. Manifest says the contents are radioactive. I'm not gonna crack this sucker and irradiate the whole damned hold." He slaps seals against the seams of the crates marked 'Radioactive' and initials them. He then cracks a case marked 'Paper', and pulls out a handful. He looks a bit puzzled, then takes a sniff and smiles. "Fickleweed paper. Your broker will fetch a nice price for this. We use it to make money." He slaps seals against the cases and initials them as well. "Now let's check for the stuff that's *not* on your manifests."

Alan again raises an eyebrow at the man, "Like what?"

The SPO chuckles. "Oh, like anything you wouldn't want me to find. Illegal drugs. Proscribed biologicals. The Crown Jewels of Caledon." He grins. "Shall we take a look at your Engineering Space?"

Alan returns the man's grin and says, "One moment, I'll have to clear that with the Captain." He moves to an intercom panel and calls the bridge,"Bridge this is Alan, our friendly neighborhood customs inspector wants to check Engineering. Would you check with the Captain for me? Thanks." He closes the circuit and leans back onto the bulk head, smiling at the customs team he says, "Only be a minute." Alan leans against the bulkhead next to the intercom and pulls out his pen knife, as he starts to clean some imaginary dirt from under his finger nails he'll try to gauge how the inspector is handling the delay. He also will glance at the jar heads to see if they are getting edgy. "So, inspector, what are the can't miss attractions of your home world?"

SPO Markham chuckles. "Depends on what you consider an attraction. We're putting up a couple of habitats we're rather proud of. Fact is, I'm working on getting a flat on Novylen when it's done." He scratches his head a bit. "You like hunting, fishing, hanging out on a beach, what?"

Alan watches the exchange across the deck from him and shakes his head. Then looking back to his charge, "Actually I kinda prefer quiet activities but this bunch will probably want to drink. Any good night life?"

Markham shrugs. "Around Corbingrad? Yeah, there's a few places worth drinking at if you're Navy. Most offworlders head into 'Little Carrill'. Lotta Carrillians there. Things are nice & loose there."


Lightfoot will likewise be subtle in his attempts to keep an eye on Akira, in case the lad needs some older and hopefully wiser counsel, should he overreact and attempt something rash and possibly deadly. If Akira pulls a weapon unnecessarly, Lightfoot will be ready to wrest him to the ground. But if Akira pulls a weapon and shoots one of the inspection team *before* Lightfoot can wrest him to the ground, Lightfoot will pull his piece and be ready to use in on the inspection team. His body pistol is holstered at the small of his back, under his jacket."Hey, Akira! I wonder how much they charge planetside for two women at once?"

"Dunno but I'm willing to find out!! What are you gonna do while I'm busy though??" 'Kira makes himself comfortable at his station although you can tell he's rather nervous about the inspection team..Still, he know better than to lose face..

The intercom crackles. "Bridge this is Alan, our friendly neighborhood customs inspector wants to check Engineering. Would you check with the Captain for me? Thanks."


As the inspection party moves down into the hold, Go-Go leads Topolov and Koparan back to what is usually the Passenger Commons and lets Topolov inspect the paperwork. He scrutinises it a bit, nods and says, "Everything looks in order for the ship." He starts going through the crew manifest, stops and frowns. "Koparan Borsalla. No immunization for Red Plague." He looks at Koparan. "That is you, correct?"

"Who me!!!?" Koporan points at himself trying to speak without an accent "Sure I had it. Isnt it mandatory or somesuch? Must be some kinna clerical error." Topolov looks doubtful. Koparan smiles big "Well Sair, What kinna we doo tu rectify this rectal situation?"


1650 Hours

Lightfoot hits the intercom and says "Navigator Lightfoot here. I think she's up this way. I'll let her know and we'll call you right back." Intercom off, and Lightfoot will go look for her, saying to Buzz and Akira, "Stay cool but stay sharp", not in an authoritive tone of voice, but as if talking to comrades. 'Kira remains cool..kinda bored and disapointed that he's so far from all the supposed action he *knows* is going to break out..still, he knows his place is here..at least for the moment..

"You bet," Buzz answers, "If they really need my help back there, I'm sure they'll ask." He continues monitoring course and traffic.

Lightfoot opens the lock and go through, and close it behind him, go through the crew common area and go through the lock to the Passenger common area, and if he gets that far and sees Go Go he'll say, "Pardon me Captain, there has been a request to inspect the Engineering section. Can I be of assistance here, there, or anywhere?"

Go-Go nods. "Of course we'll comply with their request. Take care of it, Randolph." Lightfoot heads back for Engineering.

The Schmooze will get closer to Go-Go's ear and whisper. "Aye, thats ware ye engineer keeps er wee still." He looks back at the young customs officer and smiles.

Go-Go gives him an evil look, then turns her attention back to Topolov. "So what is it going to take to get Koparan here cleared to land, Ensign?"

Topolov says, "He just needs to get his immunization from my Flight Surgeon. Unless of course, your ship's doctor stocks Red Plague serum?"

"Wayl" says Koparan "Show me weyr too sayn oop and If it is gointa be in the arse, I would kindly ask the cap'n two avart er eyes."

Topolov shrugs. "Shall we take you to the 'Aces and Eights', does your ship's surgeon have the needed serum, or do we quarantine your ship until the Corbingrad Down flight surgeon can get to you?"

Koparan looks over his shoulder at Go-Go. "This skow has a schedule to keep lad. If ya feel the need, take me over to your ship since I dont kin our 'surgeon' has didly in the way of serums".


Lightfoot nods and heads toward Engineering. At the first intercom he comes to he'll ring the cargo hold. "Lightfoot here. Please escort our guests to Engineering. I'm meet you there." Then he rings the bridge: "Hey gents, I'll be in Engineering doing the tour guide thingie. Go Go is in the crew common area, FYI." He enters Engineering.

The boarding party and its escorts come in from below. Markham gives the engines a glance, checks the power readings on the reactor, and skims the engineering log. "You're about due for another spaceworthiness certificate soon. We're pretty particular about that kind of thing here. Don't want nobody running into each other over an equipment malf." He grins at Lena. "That kind of thing could ruin your whole day." Lena just shrugs. Markham glances around a bit, then frowns at some piping around the heat exchanger of the reactor. He peers at it for a closer look, then smiles. He holds out his hand. Lena puts a paper cup in it, and Markham draws a taste of starshine from the still. "Not bad. If you really wanted to hide this thing, I'd think about putting it inside the cooling jacket."

Lena shrugs. "If I did that, the quality of the product would go down and it'd be a bitch to reload it for its next run."

Markham looks thoughtful. "You use the still itself for the fermentation vessel?"

"Doesn't everybody? Why waste space when you don't have to."

"Good point." He looks the rig over. "You get what, 2, 3 liters a week out of this?"

"Something like that."

"Okay, it's strictly personal use then. No huhu. Can you pull me a half liter for testing?"

"No problem, Chief."

"Petty Officer Second." He doesn't look happy saying that. Lena looks at him, nods, and draws half a liter into a plastic bottle. Markham puts it in his pocket. "That should be all, and thank you for your co-operation." He thumbs the iris door to the Passenger Common Area and leads the boarding party and escorts into it.


Passenger Lounge

The boarding party comes in from Engineering. Markham says,"Cleaner than the Committee's scantlings, Mr Topolov."

The ensign nods. "All we need now is to get this man vaccinated, and you're clear to orbit."

"Wayl" says Koparan "Show me weyr too sayn oop and If it is gointa be in the arse, I would kindly ask the cap'n two avart er eyes."

Topolov shrugs. "Shall we take you to the 'Aces and Eights', does your ship's surgeon have the needed serum, or do we quarantine your ship until the Corbingrad Down flight surgeon can get to you?"

Koparan looks over his shoulder at Go-Go. "This skow has a schedule to keep lad. If ya feel the need, take me over to your ship since I dont kin our 'surgeon' has didly in the way of serums".

Mikhail says, "No, I don't. There's not much call for it, so I never stocked it."

Topolov says, "I guess you're coming with us then." He stands. "Thank you for your co-operation, Captain."

"Not a problem, Mr. Topolov." says Go-Go.

Topolov leads the boarding party and Koparan to the pinnace and they head back to 'Aces and Eights'. Korporan grabs any paperwork he thinks he might need and follows.

Alan watches as the airlock door begins to swing shut, "Captain, are you sure it's such a good idea to let him go alone?"

Go-Go shrugs. "It's not like we had much choice. I wouldn't worry about Mr Borsalla. He can take care of himself." She grins. "I rather think, though, that the moral virginity of those poor defenseless Gralynites is in mortal danger."

After the visiting firemen take away the 'schmooze', Tornquist grabs another cup of coffee and heads back to his gunnery chair. He unlocks the display and watchs the pinnace pull away. Strangely enough, it's not headed back for the 'Aces and Eights', it's heading toward the planet. From its track, he *thinks* it's headed for one of the system's Lagrange points, probably that habitat that's showing on the scope at the edge of its resolution at the L4 point.Alan sighs and says softly, "I hate it when I'm right." Then he pulls up a system map to see what's listed at the apparent destination of the pinnace. As he's waiting for the computer query he opens the intercom, "Ahh....Captain. Just thought you might be interested in knowing that the smooze, as you like to call him, is on course for one of the L4 points and not the fabled aces and eights." He pauses for a moment before continuing, "Is that something for us to be worried about?"

Go-Go says, "If they're going by the book, they'll be taking him to Pataki Orbital 2. It's the GDF replacement depot. Best military hospital in the system."

Alan smiles humorlessly," Suit yourself, but times aren't what they used to be."

She shrugs again. "Gralyn's one of the most civilised systems in the area. They're strong enough to where they can afford to be nice, not like the Marlheimers. My bet is, the Gralyns will be running things around here in a hundred years."


Bridge

Lightfoot makes his way back up to the bridge.

'Kira turns to Lightfoot.."Anything of intrest happening?? Everything OK??"

Lightfoot: "Everything's fine. They're satisfied. The leader dude seems like a pretty decent sort. Likes to drink. Koparan is going over the the "Aces and Eights" to get a Red Plague vaccinine. Go Go gave her blessing so I guess it's no big deal."

Lightfoot takes his seat. Sighs..."It will be nice to get dirtside. Maybe raise a little hell."

'Kira sighs.."Yeah. I suppose. Just wish there was a bit more happening up here. These runs get darn boring.. We're not allowed our weapons on planet..how'r we gonna protect outselves if hell catches us first?"

Lightfoot: "Damn, I was thinking of a *little* hell. A friendly bar fight, some drunken shouting and fornicating. Not shooting people. From what Go Go says, it sounds like this is a very well regulated planet. There's probably not much hell to catch us." Lightfoot leaned back and thought about it some more. "But of course, she could be wrong."

"I'll keep tabs on the pinnace, but I don't see anything going wrong," Buzz says, "And as SOON as they give us the green light, I'll get us all dirtside at the first. We've been in this tin can too long."

Wanderfall is about 2 hours out, and in the decell lane. Ground to air traffic is starting to come through, but it's very weak. Sounds like the ground control people are pretty efficient at moving ships around.

"Wanderfall, this is Grayln Approach. Continue on current heading until 5000 kilometers out, then contact Orbital Control on frequency 2278.8. Do you copy?"

"Grayln Approach, this is Wanderfall," Buzz answers, "Current heading till 5.000 K ackknowledged. Switching comm to 2278.8." Buzz turns the comm over and says over his shoulder, "Ladies and Gentlemen, we are on final approach to Grayln. Please put all drunken passengers in the upright position at this time. Thank you for being bored to tears and choosing the Wanderfall....."

Captain's Personal Log, 255-1125, Wanderfall, Brandi Hiromashu recording.

The crew is shaping up nicely, although two of them still make me a bit nervous. That big Aslan is dangerous of course, and slightly disgruntled. From what I remember of my trading sophontology classes at Academy, he's probably wishing he was fighting his clan's enemies hand to hand. Tornquist, on the other tentacle, is just plain spooky. There's more than just a simple Imperial grunt under that skin someplace, I can feel it.

Borsalla seems to be my biggest prize. He's an excellent schmooze and a true asset. I think he's trying to seduce me, but I'm playing dumb and innocent. He's pretty subtle about it, though, moreso than others have been in the past. Gods, do I miss Grey...

We're due to land at Corbingrad around 1920 ships' time, if we can get good clearance. We got checked out by a Gralyn SDB, one 'Aces & Eights'. They sent over this green Ensign, probably on his first deployment; an old unkillable Petty Officer Second who looks like he's been around since the Reaver days; and a couple suited goons, obviously to fullfill a local union regulation or something. They must have done this before; they had sense enough to stay out of the way of people who *work* for a living.

The Ensign was kind of cute in a puppydog way. If he would have been ten years older, I probably would have put the moves on him. Damn you, Grey, why did you have to head for Federation space? Looks like more masturbation until I can get the cargo sold and hit the bars for somebody nice and cuddly...

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