The Voyages of the PS Nones
Chapter 9, The Octaiene Box
We rejoin our heroes as they return to the Nones from delivering the ULATAs to the Engid estate, a private island owned by Honeur Alisso Formas. The ULATAs were given to us by Tom, whom we met on Moncair.
As we return to the landing field, we start discussing what we're going to do with the other bit of merchandise that Tom gave us, 8 pairs of splice jobs -- "add on" sets of arms that can be outfitted with assorted tool heads. Splice jobs are legal on Meth, but not on Loald, where Aelwe will leave a message in a bar in 22 days that will start us on this goose chase.
The first question is should we even bother selling the splice jobs? On the one hand (if you'll pardon the expression), having them contributes to our bona fides as traders; they're just one more item we have to sell. On the other hand, they're illegal on many of the worlds of the empire, and may cause us trouble on other worlds, especially Loald.
We contact the Nones and ask it to search for people looking for splice jobs, to check what prices are being offered. It finds one relatively quickly: "Looking for arms. 80 marks per pair." The Nones checks further and finds that the going price for a new bottom of the line set without modifications is 120 marks.
Morniesul notes that we certainly don't want to sell at a loss.
To try and get a better idea of what the splice jobs we have are worth, we ask the Nones to examine a pair. It asks Markel to open the box and bring a sample to the bridge. Markel does as he's asked, and the Nones announces that these appear to be new, not yet customized. No personality. The Nones estimates that these are reasonably good quality, but there's no visible manufacturer's mark. Assuming that they're moderate quality arms, they're worth 200 marks per pair.
The Nones then suggests that we have it look up the splice jobs in its old logs. We agree. After all, we got the splice jobs from Tom, who is bouncing around the Terraform Reach in an earlier incarnation of the Nones. Surely he logged information about the merchandise he bought.
After a moment, a small turret comes sliding into the bridge holding a small card and surprising Markel and Kate. Kate asks "What is this?" The Nones explains that it's the remote handler. The turret's arm slides the card into the bridge console. After a few seconds, the Nones tells us, "The splice jobs were purchased for 130 marks per pair."
As we approach the landing field, we agree to place an ad offering the splice jobs at 250 marks per pair with quantity discounts available.
When we get back to the Nones, a mail message is waiting, offering to take the splice jobs off our hands. We call the responder. On the screen is a platinum blond Melior who tells us that his name is Gaius. He wants the splice jobs for space work. Since we've been on the go since we arrived at Meth and need some down time, we arrange to have Gaius come to the MV Dubious (a.k.a. the Nones) in 10 hours to inspect the merchandise.
Which brings us to dinner. Agreeing that almost anything would be better than ship's fare (and apologizing to the Nones), we head into Fort Tous. As we wander through the working port area, we notice a number of workers with extra limbs. So that's how you wear a splice job.
Morniesul notices a clothing store and we stop to see what's available. As we're shopping, Robbie's phone rings. He answers, and the Nones announces that it's transferring a call. The caller's name is Casius, and he's also interested in our splice jobs. Robbie invites him to come to the MV Dubious in 9 1/2 hours to examine the merchandise. (This is the same time that Gaius is coming, but we don't tell Casius that. Who are we to prevent two potential clients from bidding against one another?) Casius agrees to meet us then, and rings off.
Everybody selects "worker garb". Morniesul picks a tool belt with a holster that will hold his glamour blaster. Kate gets a hand tractor. Salimar gets a stubby little thing with lots of buttons. It's a miniature furnisher which projects multiple tool heads. Robbie gets workaday tools -- screwdrivers, multimeters, etc.
Morniesul mentions to Robbie that he'd like something like the miniature furnisher that Salimar selected, but that could create larger things. Robbie rezzes up an unidentified object like a multicolor dinosaur vertebra and hands it to Morniesul. "Do you want a prop or something that works? We can usually make either." As Morniesul looks at the object, Robbie notices that one of the sales people is looking at the two of them very intently. He must have seen Robbie make the form. Drat. Robbie hands the object to Morniesul and (over the net) suggests that he leave it on the shelf when he's done examining it. Morniesul puts it down and the two of them walk away. Before the salesperson can reach the object, Salimar comes over, picks it up, looks it over and puts it back down, complete with a price tag, which she's just created. After she walks away (and we leave the store) the salesperson comes over and picks it up. He's never seen anything like this, but it does have a ! valid-looking price tag. He scans the price tag into the computer, which claims it's a part code. As we walk past the window, we can see that he's very confused.
We pick a restaurant at random along the concourse and have dinner. Afterwards, we continue on until we find a pawn shop in an "unattractive" part of the station. There are 3 grainy, holographic gold balls hanging outside next to a sign naming the establishment Iscapo's Buy 'n Sell. Morniesul and Robbie quickly find a selection of used but still useful tools. As they select a useful (or useful-looking) collection, Salimar looks for "interesting" jewelry. After poking about, she spies a group of greenish metal rings in a display case. Kate and Katrina join her and none of them have seen anything like them. The counterperson explains that they are chlorium-plated silver. Chlorium is a fractal metal, meta-alumnium, atomic number 13.33. He's also got some red ones (Rubium, peri-aluminum, atomic number 12.67) and purple ones (Regium, peri-gallium, atomic number 30.67). All fractal-metal-plated silver. They decide to take them all, along with a jewelry case.
Looking up from the used tool bin, Morniesul sees the women examining the pawned jewelry. He leaves Robbie to select a few more tools, and joins the others at the jewelry counter. He selects some synthetic opals & other "trade goods." Salimar also finds a ratty purple robot rabbit. She tries to convince Robbie that he needs a pet. In spite of his protests, the group buys the toy. Morniesul waxes enthusiastic on the idea of Brunalf chasing the rabbit if we need a diversion on Loald, and Robbie stops protesting.
Speaking of fractal metals, Robbie contacts the Nones and asks it to buy 2000 marks worth of fractal metal ingots. Mostly cyanium (meta-copper, atomic number 29.33), since that's what Tom recommended, but also a sampling of the other fractal metals.
With six hours remaining until our meeting with Gaius and Casius, we go home to the Nones. Everybody loads their new clothing into the washer to make them look used, and then turn in for a nap.
We're waiting for our visitors to arrive when Brunalf hears arguments through the lock. Robbie opens the door to find our two bidders arguing LOUDLY. He asks, "Gentlemen, what is the meaning of this?" They stop and look at him, and then start complaining and blaming us for the fact that the other is here. Salimar comes out and quietly morphs into a Melior. The argument quickly degenerates back into Melioran, which Dafnord recognizes but can't speak. Fortunately, the ship has a dictionary. Robbie consults it for the appropriate phrase, and then yells "SHUT UP!" at top volume. Any references to the ancestry of the people being yelled at are purely accidental.
This has the desired effect of producing a shocked silence.
As if there hadn't almost been a brawl on our doorstep, Morniesul comes out with a grin and proclaims, "Ah Gentlemen, you're here! Do come in." The two Meliors are still in shock and do nothing but stare. Morniesul waves them into the ship with a "Come, come," and goes through the lock. The two glare at each other, and try to fit through the lock at the same time.
Morniesul just waves them in and sits in a chair. "I'm sure that you'll want to examine the merchandise." Markel comes from behind the wall with a splice job. Gaius grabs it before Casius can. Markel quickly gets a second pair and hands it to Casius. Morniesul claps his hands together. "I take it that the splice jobs meet your requirements?" The two Meliors glance at each other, then nod their heads. "As I recall, we offered the splice jobs for a starting price of 250 marks per pair. How much are you willing to offer?"
Gaius glares at Casius and offers 260. Casius grits his teeth and offers 270. Gaius takes a deep breath and offers 280. Morniesul looks at Casius, who looks down and says that he can't afford to offer any more.
Morniesul turns to Gaius and asks, "Well then, how many pair do you want at 280 per pair?"
Gaius glares again at Casius and says, "I can only afford 4 pair."
"Sold! Each of the splice jobs is identical, but feel free to choose the ones that you want."
As Gaius rummages through the box of splice jobs, examining them for minute or imaginary differences, Morniesul turns to Casius. "And how many will you want at 270 marks per pair?"
Glaring at the wall which Gaius is behind, Casius says, "I'll take the remaining four."
Gaius comes from behind the wall carrying his splice jobs and thumbprints the credit transfer chit that Katrina holds out. Casius shoves past him and takes the remaining four, then thumbprints a similar chit. As they leave, carrying their arms, they snarl at each other in the airlock. Dafnord grunts "Not here" at them. They leave.
When Dafnord returns, Morniesul grins and says, "That went as well as could be expected!" Between the money we made on Moncair selling gems and art, and the money we made on the splice jobs and ULATAs, we've got approximately 1 million marks in our account on Moncair. However, Morniesul still isn't satisfied. Just to be safe, he wants to pick up a couple of hundred thousand marks, just in case.
Morniesul asks the Nones to locate the largest and wealthiest jeweler on Fort Tous. The Nones responds that Safacal's is located on the main promenade. He then takes 3 dwarvish gems out of his collection; two small and one large. "We're going to need a presentation case." Robbie contributes the voice-actuated hinges and Salimar make a presentation box. For effect, she leaves the box octarine; the purple complements the color of the gems, and the green brings out their highlights. Morniesul lines the box with elvish cloth of gold, and then places the gems in it. Finally, we dress for the occasion; Robbie, Dafnord, and Salimar get into their uniforms. Markel is also put in uniform, with his "guard dragonette." The others put on their good clothes from Adwin's on Moncair. Off we go to Safacal's.
When we arrive at Safacal's, there is a saleswoman waiting on an uppercrust lady. They are both very startled when we make our appearance and Robbie and Dafnord take stations by the door. Fortunately, we don't make any (other) threatening moves, so the saleswoman and her customer go back to selecting rings. With frequent glances at various members of our party.
Morniesul spends his time examining the items for sale. There are some items that are almost (but not quite) up to elven standards of workmanship. The customer eventually makes her selection and buys it, but continues to peruse the cases, mostly to watch the strangers (us).
After putting away the items that the previous customer had been looking at, the saleswoman comes over to Morniesul. "May I help you?"
"I'd like to talk to the chief buyer or the owner please."
"Who may I say is calling."
Morniesul pulls a card from his pocket and extends it to the saleswoman. "Here's my card."
"Are you expected?"
"No. But I have an unusual item that I'm interested in selling."
The saleswoman takes the card and disappears into the back of the store.
Time goes by. There are no obvious cameras, but we know that they are there. Bored with waiting, Salimar sends a second sight into the back to see a woman dressed in a severe but elegant outfit talking with the saleswoman. The two of them look at the security monitors frequently, mostly looking at Dafnord and Robbie who are still posted by the door. Fortunately, we left Markel and the dragon outside. After a few minutes, the second woman comes out with the clerk fluttering behind her.
"May I help you? I am Safacal."
Morniesul grins. "Quite possibly. I have a set of unique gems that I might be interested in selling."
"I am, of course, always interested in fine gems. If I could see them?"
Morniesul gestures to Salimar. "Salimar?"
Salimar pulls out the box and places it on the counter. It's immediately the center of attention. Both Safacal and the saleswoman are riveted. The other customer drops her pretense of shopping and stares at the presentation box in open mouthed amazement. Nobody here has ever seen octarine. It's a completely new color to them.
After a moment, Morniesul says gently, "Actually, we had in mind the gems."
Salimar says, "Open."
The box opens.
Safacal visibly rips her eyes away from the box and looks closely at the large gem in the center. Despite her best efforts, her eyes keep getting drawn back to the box. She pulls herself together and says, "I'll be back in a moment," and goes into the back of the shop, then returns with four instrument packs in her hands. One is a black square with one shiny black side. She picks it up and is clearly taking pictures of the box from various angles. After Morniesul clears his throat, she puts the box down and reaches a hand towards the large gem. She then stops and looks at
Morniesul. "May I?"
"Of course. You must forgive me for coming unannounced, but I'm sure that you understand that there are some things that you shouldn't be known to be transporting."
"Of course." Safacal picks up the large gem and turns away from the box, clearly trying to get it out of eyeshot. She and waves the tricorder over it and mutters mineralogical technobabble to herself. "It's almost a quasi-crystal..."
Turning back to the box, Safacal puts the large gem back and picks up one of the smaller gems. "Is this a pearl?"
"No, it's a gem. Mined near my family estates."
"I don't suppose you're at all interested in telling me where your family estates are?"
"It's hard to say, actually."
"I'm sure. Mined, you say..."
"Of course. What were you thinking of asking?"
"To be frank, I'm not precisely familiar with your currency. I've done some business on Moncair..."
"Are you asking me to set a price?"
"Well... half a million."
"That ... is ... certainly in the reasonable range."
"I can add to the set an assurance of uniqueness."
"I'm sure you can. Would that ... include the case?"
"Well, yes. It was made for them. I'm afraid that we went a little overboard on the case."
"Quite eye catching. I must ... Yes half a million would be fine. May I have your credit slip?" Katrina hands it over. Safacal goes back into her office and returns with a form. She takes the camera thing and places it on a corner of the form. Kerchunk. There's now an (unsatisfactory) color holo of the box with the gems in it. With appropriate ceremony, she signs it, thumbprints it and breaths on a square to the right of her name. Then she hands it to Morniesul. Clearly, this is a very serious transfer of goods.
Morniesul isn't quite sure what this ceremony is all about, but he's willing to play along with the ritual. He pulls out his book, pages through it and takes out a fountain pen. He signs his full name in Tengwar with a flourish, then put his name beneath in Universum, thumbprints and breaths on the square. Capping the pen, he puts it back in his book, and the book back in his pocket. He then slides the document back to Safacal.
She examines the document, and then asks, "Sir?"
"What are you willing to tell me about all this?"
"Well, I've traded in a fair number of places and I've found that these gems from home are valued everywhere I've been. They were mined by naugrim. I believe that my friend referred to them as dwarves. You must understand that it's quite far away."
"Um. That would explain the box."
Salimar grins slightly.
"If you feel that the box is an inappropriate setting, there's no relationship between the box and the gems... It merely seemed appropriate."
Safacal lights up. "Thank you! It was very good to do business with you."
We turn to leave. The owner and the clerk take the box back to the office and sit there staring at it.
The customer is left staring towards the office.
We leave our heroes as they head back to the Nones.
Last Updated: 7-Oct-06
©2004 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved