Chapter 132: Shopping on Two Worlds
We have wounded nephilim. But we also have the money to buy a bunch of
mobile, heavily automated field hospitals, infested with top-of-the-line
autodocs. We even have permission to park these in one of Jumping
Jacks' Black hangars. The only remaining question is who will staff
Jumping Jacks does not have enough medics for our estimated 1000 casualties. We can use the pantope to space them out, but then that ties up the JJ medics for a long time. And the nephilim don't have many trained doctors -- not who remember high tech -- and we're already using the few they‚ve got.
So we have to get more. Cantrel recommends a mix: some of his medics, plus a lot of non-sentient medical bots, plus, in the middle some sentient robo-medics or medic androids. After a bit of research, Cantrel recommends we get the medical bots on Aurelius and the medic androids on Outback. And could we please do this quietly? (Of course. You know us.)
Cantrel doesn't want Jumping Jacks in the lime light at any time, especially doing something odd like buying masses of medical equipment. But it's particularly touchy on Aurelius just now; they've been making close political and economic ties with Capek, the robot colony, and Capek takes a very dim view of trade in sentient or even potentially sentient automation. We promise to be good, and to do all our shopping under assumed names.
We open the pantope onto the Munch, which has been parked in high orbit over Hellene, doing nothing much, for about a year. So far as we know. Dafnord decides that, if anything has happened in the past year, he'd rather not know about it, since it very likely involves stuff we haven't done yet, so he tells Edvard to initiate what he calls a "discontinuity protocol" and not mention events in the past year. Edvard thinks he understands.
We fly to Aurelius. It takes a couple of days. We all switch to fake identities, announce our ship as the "Gaugin," and Robbie assumes the likeness (in a molded-plastic way_ of Mr. Edgeway from Adonis.
We are not greeted in high orbit by conflicting bureaucracies, the way we were on Adonis. Oh, no. Aurelius is the polar opposite in culture. We are immediately contacted by Aurelius Control, which is intensely interested in our heavy gunnery. (That much is the same, at least.) We explain that we have occasion to venture far from civilization and promise to keep our gun ports dogged.
Control then transmits us a big buffer-full of text -- their latest regulations, with the interesting bits bookmarked. Then they transmit our docking path and request confirmation. And please read those regulations.
We do, at least the highlighted bits, and then all the organic types queue up at the autodoc to make sure we have all the right shots. Then we read up on the current Aurelian dress code. We pass, barely.
Carefully leaving all weapons behind, we present our papers to Aurelian customs at the space station. They approve the papers, scan us, and let us through. We then start filling out forms, a favorite Aurelian occupation. These soon get us local access to our bank accounts, local phone cards, web access, and tickets on the next shuttle down to the planet.
We land at the Stoa shuttleport and contact the local Jumping Jacks factor, Cicero Schwartz, who tells us the address to give the autocab. We spend the ride reading the Eight Edicts of Aurelius that grace the wall of the cab. They're very edifying, we're sure.
The office has a long and misleading name, and is in a red-brick-and-white-trim building as neat and sober as the rest of Stoa. Inside, we discuss particulars with Schwartz:
The medical bots must interface with the top-of-the-line autodocs in our hospitals. "Nurse automata" is the local, politically correct tern for them. We'll also need some "medical technician automata" and some "service technician automata," plus a comm core. While we're at it, we'll get three new sets of supplies for the hospitals, to refresh the three we installed on the Tellemataru.
Even though none of this stuff is sentient, we'll have to go through careful channels because of the current budding relationship with Capek. It will all cost money. And take four to six weeks, especially if we want it all done covertly.
Okay, then we'll leave Schwartz to it and go shop for androids in the meantime. We bow out, go through the exit ceremonies, and set course for Outback.
Two days later, we're using another set of names for ourselves and the ship. Dafnord is calling himself "Don Ameche" for some reason, and Robbie looks like a extrusion-molded version of Mr. Schwartz.
Once again, landing control is interested in our big guns. Once again, we reassure. This time, we're escorted in by a lovely, zippy, deadly, little corvette with two honkin' big missiles that could vaporize us nicely. If we're bad. We're good.
In near orbit, it leaves and leaves us stacked up over New Sydney landing field for three hours. Dafnord watches the next installment of his Kendo Queens "training" video. Meanwhile, we are watched by a gun-bristling little space-tank.
We land under the watchful gaze of seven land stations and two ships, all with weapons. They really don't like our guns. As soon as we're down (parked far, far away from anyone else, out in the back lot), three air-cars come whizzing up. While two stand guard, the third disgorges an official with a clipboard.
Dafnord, striking a casual pose, appears at the airlock with a drink in hand. He offers one to the official. Who accepts!
He has forms, but he doesn't bother us much about them. The main thing, he explains between sips, is for us to sign these waivers. These mainly preclude us from launching lawyers at them. And he would like a look at those guns. Gannar shows him around. He drools over the guns admiringly and wishes we had some Backpackers on our crew. (Sorry, mate, we're not hiring.) He gives us a pamphlet listing, basically, the parts of New Sydney to avoid after dark, if there ever was dark -- which there isn't, this being a one-face world, so they're basically places to avoid at any time.
As soon as the air-cars leave, three air-trucks zoom in. These are from a local entrepreneur, who wants to sell us fuel, or just about anything else our ship might need. He's a little crestfallen to see how self-contained our ship is, but we let him top off the hydrogen that we use for lasing plasma.
We then seek out our Jumping Jacks agent, Mr. Dundee. We have, by now, reduced our total of hospitals to eight, and we reckon on two android medics per unit, for a total of sixteen. That's no problem, Dundee assures us, they grow good androids here on Outback. And covertly, please. "Of course!"
He asks, with almost a leer, if there's anything else we would like to acquire -- anything that needs to be covert, apparently. We think a bit and ask for some PDPS -- an anti-psionic drug that might be useful against psychic or magical beings. We also ask for some heavy-duty personal restraints -- handcuffs and the like. Dundee asks if we need this for "restraining our own indentured" or for peace-keeping. Peace-keeping, please.
All this will take only three or four days to acquire, which is almost unnerving. Dundee recommends we stay at Col. Walker's inn, the colonel being the militia commander for this whole sector of new Sydney. We thank him and bow out.
We check in to Walker's inn, Dafnord cheerfully looking forward to a bar-brawl or two, Gannar mulling over Dundee's remarks about "growing androids" and "our own indentured." This is probably not a good planet for people who can be mistaken for property.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.