Date: 196-993 Imperial.
Location: Kerin's Tyr (0620), Confederation of City-States, Unity Downport.
"You need the civil records office, sir. They're responsible for archiving government information."
"No, that's not us I'm afraid. The starport keeps that. I think it's the Office of the Starport Manager."
"Oh yes, we collate those but we pass them on to the Bureau of External affairs with one of their tag numbers. You'd have to ask them what they do with them."
"I'm afraid that information is confidential, sir. If we told people how we route incoming parcels, they could use it to send letter bombs. I'm sure you understand."
A few more minutes of conversation ensued.
"Well, I suppose it's alright in this case. They're kept on the parliament train sir, with all the other state documents and regalia and so on. It's on its way to Katter at the moment, to mediate on a land dispute. You can get hold of them there, if you want to go after them."
Fish was the first to say "Train?"
No air/rafts for hire. No aircraft going to Katter. No roads worthy of the name. "Well," said Silea, "I wonder what the freshers are like on these trains."
The train was rather splendid. It thundered mightily along the rails, until you got used to it and ignored the noise and shaking. Everything in first class was polished brass or waxed wood, set off by crystal glasses and starched linen. The freshers were tolerable. The Avaricious had a pretty good time, all told. There was good food, and lots of alcohol, and the entertainment could not be faulted.
The fun started when Sir David and Luan turned up to breakfast together, grinning and laughing and leaning on each other's shoulder. Silea raised an eyebrow at Maelcum, and nodded across the table. He pursed his lips. Fish did a double take. Sir David and Luan managed to avoid kissing each other for all of fifteen seconds, then did so and turned great big grins on the rest of the crew.
"Here we go" said Maelcum.
"About time" said Silea.
"So are you two shagging?" asked Fish, putting on his best bewildered voice.
The table collapsed into laughter. Laughter is pretty incapacitating when you're wearing a filter mask to keep the local pollens out.
On the second morning the train hauled itself through a mountain pass and headed down through forests along the rails that would eventually reach Katter. Everybody except Sir David and Luan noticed a certain sobriety in the air. A few of the other passengers in the first class breakfast car had decided to wear guns today. The waiters bustled a bit more and smiled a bit less.
Fish spoke to a mining engineer they'd befriended the previous evening. "Is there trouble in this part of the world? Everybody seems nervous."
"Yep. The farmers are jumpy over a mining proposal. We want to build an open cast mine, and they seem to think we're going to dig up the whole region instead of a square kilometre of it. Three or four farmers will get paid way over the odds for their land, a few hundred others will get free roads and so on, and they're treating us like an invading army. Yokels. I think there've been demonstrations, with rocks thrown and so on."
They reached Katter and walked over to the parliament train without trouble. After a few blank looks, the records pickup was smooth.
On the way back, an angry looking crowd of farmers with shotguns and (Fish later swore) pitchforks spotted their government cases and decided that they were Obviously The Wrong Sort. Various Yelling and Shaking of Fists ensued, followed by Ominous Advancing, but Maelcum hustled the Avaricious down an alley and dropped a smoke grenade in their wake. That was the end of it.
Soon they were back on a passenger train, with another two day ride ahead of them. Maelcum found it a bit dull, sitting in the club car on his own all day.