The City of Akupánthur
Terran Date: 17.03.62011
Two Terran weeks ago, Captain Arto Patánalanya stood under the twin giant white suns on the windswept deck of a loading bay at Dar Püz Star Port on Sirius 7 watching as a swarm of red suited proles and cargo-bots loaded nearly four million credits worth of Anti-Tox, Vax, Skin spray, rare botanicals, and gene vat fluid on the Clan Patánalanya Traffickers starship Mutable Destiny, a 200 ton trader.
Strangers, Jesamin Ling and Maxaml Drankan, sat facing one another in a crowded tubecar as it hurtled into the starport station, unaware that they were both wanderers and that each had booked passage to Mars aboard the Mutable Destiny.
The flight out-system was uneventful, a leisurely three days ship-time as the Mutable Destiny raced through the void at aspeed just incrementally below the speed of light. Patánalanya opted to delay the warp until the ship was well beyond the point where the strong gravitational field of Sirius might interfere with ship’s inter-planar translation.
In deep space, Ling, Drankan and Patánalanya dined together and chatted; they found that they had much in common, all Citizens, all recipients of the bounty afforded the elites of Humanspace, each somewhat unsure of their role in the great game and a bit adrift.
At the appointed time, the translation was instantaneous; the ship’s interfogulator sliced the planes of reality and the lemon colored light of Terra’s ancient sun sparkled on the viewscreen. Soon red and dusky Mars was clearly visible.
Ling had visited Mars some years before, and remembered that when in Akupánthur City she had spent a few pleasant nights at the excellent yet inexpensive Feasting Hall and Lodge of Joyful Endings, conveniently located within walking distance of the spaceport on the fringes of the Old Quarter. . Leaving his trusted crew with the ship, Patánalanya and his two new friends strolled to the Lodge and made arrangements for their stay in the city. Patánalanya contacted the agent of the local government that was to receive the shipment of medical supplies and remit payment.
Over dinner, all the ancient hells of old Earth broke out. Armored air cars spitting deadly Z- rays battled in the red sky overhead. Depleted wavium shells exploded in the streets. The mercenary army of sub-Nar Thulzá Túrjan, Warlord of Jakár had laid siege to the city.
By the morning, the opposing armies had exhausted themselves and a trip to the starport seemed reasonably safe. Upon arrival; however, it was clear that the port had taken a beating in the fight, but the most horrific surprise was yet to come.
The ship sat in its damaged landing bay, scorched and pock marked. The crew of the Mutable Destiny, all long time employees of Clan Patánalanya Traffickers, Achnár Zébul, navigator, Chúrn Múz, engineer and Yána Zhu, steward, were not to be found. The cargo was gone, the ship stripped of its computer, wavium crystal containment pods smashed and emptied, even the standard utility air transport in the ship’s vehicle bay was vandalized and looted. The body of Zhu was found in the back of the utility, burned almost beyond recognition.
That was one week ago, but today at the Feasting Hall and Lodge there is joy because word has been received that the siege is lifted and the forces of sub-Nar Thulzá Túrjan are retiring. In days it is expected that the curfew will be rescinded, the severed tubeway car lines will be repaired and communication links to the galaxy beyond the city will be restored.
At a large table in the hall, drink in hand, sits Arto Patánalanya; to his right Jesamin Ling and to his left Maxaml Drankan. What to do about the missing crew and cargo and damage to the ship? Reports were filed with the local prefect of police; however there seems to be little official concern. There have been no leads to follow. It is likely that, once communication links are restored, Clan Patánalanya Traffickers’ insuring service will reimburse the clan for the loss. Repairing the ship will easily cost CR 100,000. The standard utility air car could be repaired for 2000. The cost to Arto’s reputation in the Clan might be considerable. Would he ever be given another command?
The old space rat that cooks at the Hall, Mosanu "Cookie" Iki, has been hanging around the table on his breaks, listening and spinning stories. He motions to a well dressed sharp faced man, sitting alone across the hall. Cookie heard him say that he has a big salvage job for the right team, a real score.
The well dressed man introduces himself as Husz Chénu, dealer in exotics and antiquities. He explains that a recent quake in the mountains to the north opened a fissure that looks very promising. The radiation signature indicates that it may be the location of a lost installation dating to the early Second Empire. Unfortunately he is not in a position to investigate this find himself but he would be willing to sell the site's coordinates for CR 2000 and a 10% share. He adds that the potential for valuable artifacts at such a site is very good but the job could prove quite dangerous. He jerks his thumb toward a corner table where a couple of Shén are sitting with a tall, rugged bronze skinned human, and says, “You might want to take them, out of work mercenaries, they look like real killers….”