Welcome to the next installment of Captain’s Journey. In case you have missed the previous parts, here they are in order.
- Bad Dreams
- Call the Question
- Dreams Remembered
- Desperate Measures
- Picking up the Pieces
- First Contact
- Danger Close
- Down Below Station
- Spider’s Web
- You can’t go home again
The siren song of sleep was calling me but there was one thing left to do before I could sink into oblivion for a short while. I pulled up the the security protocols of my domicile and patched Chikara into them. I closed my eyes and opened my mind to provide him a secure channel to upgrade my security.
I watch the code fly past my minds eye and feel him lean into my power to force this new configuration on to reality. The process seems to take only moments but when I open my eyes the chronometer shows two hours has slipped away. With a swipe, I activate the new security protocols and feel the hum of a minor shield power up.
Secure behind my curtain of alien technology, I stumble into my bedroom and collapse.
“Chikara, reschedule the appointment at the Scarlet Empress to tomorrow evening. I don’t think I will make it this evening.”
Sleep envelopes me like a flood and I am out.
I wake to the sound of my own screams. The wall to the right of my bed has warped and twisted into an anachronistic display panel. Flashing in red across the screen in several languages is the phrase Upgrade Possible: Uplink Required. With the cessation of my screams, the wall slowly returns to its original configuration with only a red glow to show anything has happened.
I pull my knees up to my chest and wrap my arms around them and slowly rock back and forth in bed for a few minutes. I slowly work through the meditative technique I learned in my time with the Kossun and feel the tension in my body dissipate. An excess of energy that I had acquired while sleeping is released back into the environment.
Feeling more secure, I looked at the time and realize that I had slept for over twelve hours. I must have really needed the rest. I stretch out in my bed and pull up the commodities node. I scan through the listings seeking a reputable broker to handle my payload. There are several of note but only one that mentions the level of discretion that I require. It is risk to go through an intermediary but no choice I make at this point is risk free.
I send a message via secure channel and am pleasantly surprised to get an immediate response. I drop them the information in regards to what I have to sell and the price that I expect to receive at the end of the day. They dither over the vagaries of the market and that I should make somewhere in that region. Their standard fee is forty-five percent. Thankfully I am aware that the going rate for secure transactions is thirty. I make a counter-offer of Thirty-five knowing that it will be taken and ensure the privacy of my business. I give them coordinates to the ship and make arrangements with Chikara to offload to them upon the presentation of the quatranary code.
I haul my ass out of bed and get myself cleaned up. I have a trip to make to the Cyten Bazaar this evening to visit the Scarlet Empress.
All the clothing in my wardrobe is a year out of style but I have neither the time nor the inclination to get anything more stylish at this point. I make due with the best armored clothing I have as one can never be too careful. I slip out the front door and activate the away protocols and head into the evening crowds.
I make my way through the corridors of the station with no trail that I can see or sense. I make good time and look down the several tiers that make up the Cyten Bazaar. Each level is marked by a different variety of goods being traded. The upper tiers are where information and smaller technological items can be found. They are housed in small booths and storefronts that require very little power or space. The booths are decorated in florid colors and fabrics to draw the eye while shielding transactions from the casual passerby. As you progress down levels in the bazaar, the type of items for sale change. The data and techlords are replaced by greengrocers and commodity merchants. At the bottom are the large scale endeavors such as the ZinZin club and the Scarlet Empress. The ZinZin club is a bar and gambling establishment that deals in the blackmarket trade. The Scarlet Empress is the Companion enclave on the station where one can go for solace and entertainment without fear or rancor.
It has been awhile since I have visited a Companion but their rules of hospitality and security are enough to ensure that this will be a diversion encounter regardless of the outcome of my meetings.
I arrive at the gates and place my palm on the security panel. A mellifluous feminine voice floats down from the above my head, “Greetings and Salutations, Thelan. It has been some time since your last visit. Enter and be welcome as all will be well while you are here. Mistress Y’vtara will see you in a few moments.”
The gates slide open silently and soft strains of music and sweet scents pour out and around me as I step into the subdued lighting of the Scarlet Empress. The interior is arranged to create little clusters of divans perfect for conversation. There are several alcoves tucked around the outside of the room with heavy drapes to provide a more little more privacy in public area of the house.
True to it’s name, the house is decorated in a panoply of reds throughout with subtle accent colors for balance. Fabric, light and sound are combined to create an atmosphere of serenity with a touch of sensuality to ease the souls of the Empress’ patrons.
I do not have to wait long as a young woman dressed in a green and yellow sarong comes to escort me to Mistress Y’vtara. We wend our way through the public area and past the grand bar. After a short walk through a corridor lined with doors, our path ends at a set of large round double doors. A golden dragon twines through ancient kanji that surround the door and the I feel the energy pulsing through the door as I am scanned before I am allowed entrance. My guide bows to me saying, “All will be well.”
The doors swing open and I step through into the private quarters of the Mistress of the house. I walk to the small door at the other end of the room and enter her office. Her scream assaults my ears and my mind.
“What did you do to my Brother!”