Chapter 128: Welcome to Adonis
We left our heroes planning to raise money by selling chocolate fruit. The money
was to buy medical facilities for war-wounded, in our on-going Nephilim Exodus.
We plan to sell the chocolate fruit throughout Terran Space, introducing it through Adonis, the most free-wheeling of the long-established Terran colonies. It's only two days' journey from Hellene to Adonis, by the Munch, so we make the trip that way rather than trying to dowse for Adonis with the pantope. Anyway, even on Adonis, it's still conventional to show up with some sort of ship...
We are quickly greeted by several patrol ships, which take a lively interest in the Munch, since it bills itself as a merchant vessel but looks a whole lot like a battleship. (It is. It was originally a destroyer in the Philippian fleet.)
Ground control is interested in us, too, mostly because Dafnord explains we're here to set up an import/export business. The patrol boats and ground control proceed to give us contradictory landing directions. Dafnord picks the set he likes -- landing at Sybil Spaceport -- and invites the Ranger captain in the patrol boat to thrash it out with ground control, which he does. Edvard easily decodes their transmissions, and we amuse ourselves by listening in.
The patrol boats want to make sure we understand about not using our considerable gunnery while dirtside. Dafnord makes reassuring noises, until some civilian hot-dogger zips past our nose, rather too near and too fast. Then he has Edvard warm up one of the laser cannon and tells the patrol captain it's our collision avoidance system, and that this ship is heavily automated, so we might not be able to reign in its reactions fast enough. The Rangers get his very polite threat and make sure no one, including them, gets too close to us thereafter.
Though we don't really power down the gun until the Rangers power down theirs.
Eventually, we land. We are immediately greeted by three ground vehicles, from which emerge three sets of people in three different uniforms. One of the vehicles looks a lot like a limousine, and only one fellow gets out of it, looking a lot like a chauffeur.
Dafnord, Robbie, and Katrina step out onto the gangway and remain, smiling silently, at the top, until the chauffeur shouts up, "Permission to come aboard?"
"And you would be?..." prompts Dafnord.
He's the chauffeur of a Mr. Augustine Chin-Wa, and he's large enough to block the progress of the other two sets of uniforms as they try to mount the gangway. Dafnord gives permission, and soon Mr. Chin-Wa himself emerges and comes aboard, while the chauffeur stays below, playing Gate.
Mr. Chin-Wa is a red-haired Eurasian, very nicely dressed. He represents the Sybil Chamber of Commerce. He explains that the other two uniformed groups, now jammed at the bottom of the gangway, are the Rangers (in black) and Customs (in blue). We have the furnisher project three small conference rooms.
Robbie and Katrina closet themselves with Mr. Chin-Wa and have Kate bring in some sample chocolate fruit.
Dafnord, meanwhile, goes back out and brings aboard two Customs officials, stowing them in another conference room. They get all excited when they hear we're planning on importing fruit and want to know all about it. Well, they probably don't want to hear that we got it off an elf-owned star-ship from the far future, so Dafnord just assures them that it's derived from Earth's biosphere, is genetically engineered, and we're only planning on bringing in radio-sterilized stuff.
Yes, but. They have loads of other questions. What was the biosphere where it was raised, for instance. It's going to be raised on a still-undiscovered planet, but we lie valiantly and tell them it's raised in hydroponic greenhouses. Greenhouses where? Um, on Hellene. Where on Hellene? Ipsylvania. Oh (looking faintly disappointed), that's all right, then. But what kind of radio-sterilization? (What kind would you like?)
Once Dafnord gets them arguing with each other over the finer points of filling out forms, he leaves for a bit to collect the Rangers, still outside.
Meanwhile, Robbie and Katrina have been hosting Mr. Chin-Wa much more cordially and have offered him tea or coffee. Thanks to a slightly careless wording of the order to Edvard, they get a delivery of tea and coffee and a blend of the two, in three separate carafes, delivered by an engineering drone that looks more suited to repairing reactors.
Dafnord notes this and orders a second round for the Customs officials, feeling it's the least they deserve. It gets delivered by an even more formidable robot. Good.
Meanwhile, Dafnord has Gannar answer the Ranger's questions, which are mostly about the ship and its weaponry. Gannar explains about the ship being a starfleet-surplus made-over destroyer. He declines to tell them where it's from, since the Philippian Empire won't be building Edvard for several decades yet, and the Rangers will be just as happy not knowing about the time-travel angle. Still, they notice that the ship and its weaponry look very advanced, and take lots of notes.
Meanwhile, Mr. Chin-Wa has sampled the chocolate fruit and is very favorably impressed. He tells us that he sees lots of possibilities for us. He tells us the Chamber of Commerce can help us ... cut through the paperwork ... and if we take a full advisory contract with them, they'll charge us only one to three percent. Robbie says we'll think about it.
As we show our various guests out, we see still more vehicles rolling up, and workmen building erecting a cordon around our ship. Gee, none of the other ships on the ground have those. Robbie strolls out to investigate and is invited aboard a vehicle very like a luxurious van, by another chauffeur type. (On the way, some Rangers scan him, then have to check their scanners for malfunction. That'll teach them to probe a robot who is a mass of djinnish magic...)
Inside, Robbie meets another Eurasian, a Mr. John Hin-Twa, who turns out -- surprise, surprise -- to be the business partner of Mr. Chin-Wa. (He also immediately falls off the telepathy net. The van is psilenced.) Mr. Chin-Wa could only speak as a representative of the Chamber of Commerce, just now, but he can speak for their own business, Three-Ways, an import/export company. He, too, wants to be very helpful for a small percentage. His partner must have wasted no time giving us a rave review over the phone to him.
Robbie politely says we'll think about it, then looks back to the ship, which now has two cordons around it, each with a gate to pass through. Mr. Hin-Twa offers him the services of his chauffeur, who turns out to be moonlighting; he's also a local sheriff and, once back in his sheriff uniform, can wave Robbie through the checkpoints and onto the ship.
In the distance, we see more bureaucracies mustering.
We decide to consult with Morniesul, so we gate in on him five days after he left us. He's been to Adonis, it turns out. Or he will be. Anyway, he explains that, yes, Adonis is, by and large, the freewheeling place we heard about, but that very fact tends to push the fussier, stodgier minority into control-intensive areas like the Rangers and Customs. Sort of a defensive crust around the culture. We can cope with it in any of three ways:
- We can trump on agency with another we like better. This can be fun. - We can ally with a rich merchant, which is what we've been offered. - We can become powerful private citizens, which would take a long time.
We decide to accept offer number two, if Hin-Twa and Chin-Wa hold up under investigation. We decide to do this investigating about a week before we arrived...
Tom lets Gannar and Robbie out in a Sybil back street. Robbie tries to contact the Adonis-Wide-Web and promptly faints. Gannar re-boots his partner, then tries, more cautiously. Oog. Yes, lots of comm going on. Robbie fainted from overload.
Fortunately, there's a cafe nearby, with public terminals in some of the booths. Gannar presents the cashier with Hellene marks and asks for local currency. There are several; Sybil bucks look good, so he takes some of those and starts the terminal going. Three-Ways has admirers and detracts, but not a lot more detractors than any other similar business. Contrary to the anonymous disgruntled customer, they probably don't eat babies.
Next, the two AIs take a cab to the Ristorante Outre, since it appears to be the sort of place that would buy chocolate fruit. There, they'll sample their wares and find out who their supplier is.
The maitre d' eyes Robbie's glossy black finish with silver piping, and Gannar's ship's fatigues, and offers them jackets. Paisley. Because it's Tuesday. (This is more like the Adonis we were expecting.)
Each orders a chocolate desert and a fruit desert. Gannar orders pigeon berries and chocolate bombe, wondering if it explodes. ("And tea, no coffee.") Robbie orders komodo fruit and chocolate souffle. ("And coffee. Hold the tea.") They in no way freak out the waiter -- this is the Ristorante Outre, after all -- and each splits deserts with the other. Robbie decides he likes pigeon berries.
We ask the maitre d' who their suppliers are. One of them is Three-Ways, and they're very satisfactory. Okay, Three-Ways appears to be in. We leave. Gannar, who is mostly organic, including a digestive tract, finds he'd rather walk than face a cab ride while harboring chocolate bombe and komodo fruit.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.