Date: 187-993 Imperial.
Location: Kerin's Tyr (0620), main world, Tersberg spaceport.
Tersberg Spaceport in the Kingdom of Harven was straightforward. They picked up the records without any great trouble, and sold half Luan's water purification gear to an importer/distributor who had ideas about starting a new business line with it. Unfortunately he only wanted half to test the market, and if things worked out he'd be bringing any further machinery in as freight rather than buying it from traders. Still, they had plenty of time to sell the remainder on the other three quarters of the planet. The deal worked out about Cr22000 better than using that space for freight, so they were pleased.
Their next destination system, the cold and lightly populated but mildly wealthy world Adukgin, was a freight clearing house on the edge of the cluster. It had a reputation as a good place to find small freight looking for onward shipment, but it wasn't a major destination in itself. So they spent a fair while poking around, talking to brokers, checking out the market for anything they might get to haul to Adukgin or perhaps buy as speculative cargo.
"Premium meat and fancy veneers," said Luan, "they'll sell on a watery world like Sentry if the market's just too small at Adukgin."
The real travellers aboard – Sir David, Silea and the Fish – took Tersberg in their stride. Seeing a canal barge moored alongside a 50dton grav shuttle, loading crates of salted meat for transhipment to the orbital, had stopped seeming incongruous years ago. The great big diesel trucks hauling giant tree trunks gave Luan a fright by rattling past her and blotting out the sky ("and they've got no computer guidance at all!"); but they looked like ants crawling up to the 4000dton Tukera freighter across the field.
Maelcum looked around with interest, especially at the jet interceptors patrolling out of the Kingdom's nearby airbase. It seemed like most of the planets he'd served on as a starmerc, except they weren't having a civil war right now. So this was how it worked when it wasn't going wrong.
After a long day, they decided to hit the spaceport bar and grille before catching the shuttle back up to the highport. They went in, and stood at the "please wait to be seated" sign (ubiquitous on eleven thousand worlds). There was a bit of a ruckus coming from the other side of the bar. After a moment, Silea went running towards it. "Bill!" she yelled, as she pulled a 4g turn round a startled waitress.
A grizzled old man stopped pontificating to the assembled spacers at the bar and turned smartly at the sound of a young female voice, just in time for Silea to go flying into his arms and plant a kiss on his lips. He squeezed her tight, lifted her off her feet, and spun her around as his drinking buddies dodged back.
"Hey cool, it's the cat man" said Fish.
"Looks like he got da cream" said Maelcum, as Silea wrapped her legs around the old guy's hips and made squealing noises.
"Mister Anderson, you will explain" said Luan to Fish.
"Yes, explaining would appropriate at this juncture" agreed Sir David.
"That's Bill" said Fish, as if it were all they needed to know.
"So we heard" said Maelcum, arching an eyebrow.
"And Bill is...?" Sir David added.
"He's... well he's Bill. From Bill's ship."
Fish looked at three "I'm about to start tapping my foot" expressions and got it together. "He's Sir Bill, or Sir William something-or-other, since the emperor had him knighted for flying right through the middle of a space battle picking up survivors. Everybody knows him. He's got this Suleiman1 that's about a million years old and somehow still flies, and he tramps around the Linkworlds with about fifty cats and the occasional cargo. Or maybe the cats run the ship and they hired him to fetch cat food. Nobody knows, he's been here forever. Silea's aunt worked for him as an engineer, and cat-wrangler. She likes him."
"So I see" said Maelcum. Silea was leading Bill across the floor by one hand.
Bill arrived. He seized Fish by both shoulders, held him at arm's length, and eyed him up and down. "So you finally got lucky, young fellah, and pulled the wool over her eyes. Permanent trouble-and-strife." Silea punched him on the shoulder, not very hard.
"Yep, she was putty in my hands. As soon as I drugged her and hired that hypnotist you told me about, the ring was good as on her finger." Fish got his kneecap out of the way double quick, before Silea's kick could connect with it.
"Come and have a drink young lad, come and have a drink."
And there was much drinking, and good times were had, and tales were told, and Silea came away with plenty of ammunition to poke fun at her older relatives.
1 A Suleiman class basic 100dton scout/courier starship, as built for the Imperial Interstellar Scout Service and sold on to just about everybody. It's about half the size of Avarice Rewarded and a third the capacity. Suleimans have been modified for pretty much everything. Probably 50% of adventurers get around in a Suleiman of some ilk. It's like the VW Kombi camper van of space.