Good Works, Part Deux.

149 -1122.

The next day dawns, without further incident. The members of the relief party go to the refugee camp to perform their various duties.

Col. Shaw asked the ship's captain if there were extra room for cargo and passengers on the trip off. The captain explained that there would be cargo room, and there might be room for passengers, if they didn't care how comfortably they travelled. Shaw said he'd take five tons of cargo space, and he would be willing to pay high passage for four or five people, no matter how they were housed. The captain thinks this sounds like a good deal, as long as he ends up with room. He doesn't tell Shaw that he's going to ask the gunners to quadruple-bunk, in return for extra spending money once they get back to Regina.

Shaw checks up on Caroline Smith's medical records to see what they say about her. Evidently, she has suffered a fair amount of psychological trauma, which is not unexpected for one of the refugees. They do have limited DNA records on the children in the camp, and Caroline Smith's record matches that of Shaw's target, at least on the points the less advanced records show. No one else at the camp matches as well, although five people (two children, three adults) do come close; Shaw takes note of the five.

Shaw then looks up Mr. Van Horne, and tells him that they don't have current blood samples on "these people", giving Van Horne a list of eight names (three added randomly), not including Caroline, since she's not in the camp. Van Horne directs Shaw to Miss Margaret for this, after Shaw retrieves a case from the ship (containing high tech equipment).

Miss Margaret arranges for the eight people to come to the medical area, and Shaw takes the blood samples. He enters the info into the camp's database, and then checks the samples for his own purposes. None of them match the "target" parameters closely enough to matter. Shaw is being assisted by young Harold von Shultzheiss, a younger son of a noble house here to study admin.

Hunter and Treal are involved in the military/security end of things. Kiffin has whipped up a batch of really simple cookies, and only needs two or three people to assist in carrying them to the camp. Okay, so it's a very big "batch". Treal isn't working, so he'll help; he's young and strong. They are instantly the centre of attention when they reach the camp. The cookies are delivered to the school.

A 'car' (the term is used rather loosely here), suffering from advanced heat and exposure apparently, approaches the camp, possibly en route to the refugee camp. The car does, in fact, go to the refugee camp, and a no-nonsense older female in a broad brimmed hat with a very brightly colored band gets out. She is greeted as "Miss Hattie". Ah. She's heard that there were new doctors in, and she's come to check them out and see if she can trade for supplies. Turns out she was a nurse-practicioner, before the war. She probably hasn't kept up on her continuing education classes, but she probably doesn't care.

Marcus approaches Hunter. He's concerned that he may have to do something outside of his "area", and may need Hunter's advice. He wants to know if Hunter can put together some kind of "impressive uniform" or something together, as Marcus needs to speak with the man who is holding the Imperial citizens (Gustafson), and he does not want to meet them from what they may perceive as a "weaker position". Hunter ponders this, and decides that maybe he could put on his pressed BDU's, and wear all his medals and ribbons. And Treal can come along as the really big beweaponed guy.

Treal is a bit concerned about Gustafson's off-planet gunman, and Hunter explains that's what the guns and armor in the car, and the grenades on his person will be for. Marcus asks Hattie to arrange for an introduction to Baron Gustafson. After Hattie speaks with Marcus, Shaw approaches to inform Marcus about the "local Baron" who is rumored to have the prisoners, but Marcus already knew. Hattie will arrange a meeting for later this afternoon. Marcus will take Shaw along, in one of his uniforms, to help make sure they get the people they are supposed to, should things get that far.

The merry band goes off on their little jaunt, resplendent in their militariness. They pick up an armed escort of riders along the way, to show that the group is under some one's "protection". The Baron's "castle" is actually a walled town, with a palace-like main residence (imagine something like Blenheim Palace). The interior of the palace is lit by natural as well as gaslight, and they even have a computer. They arrive without incident, and are taken in to see the main man, after passing under the scrutiny of Gustafson's men. Treal, the big guy, and Hunter, Mr. Attitude, attract most of the attention, as the "dangerous ones".

Treal wore his cutlass to the meet, and while Marcus and Shaw (as Admin Guy) speak with Gustafson, Treal is approached by an older man, who asks if he fences? Yes, he does. There are also four other men watching the dangerous ones.

Gustafson turns Marcus down flat, stating that he may see the people who are being held to make sure they are "unharmed", but they "must serve their sentences". Which is two planetary years at hard labor; unless they have "further offenses". Right. For stealing food. (And does this include the children?) But Gustafson does invite the visitors to lunchie. Shaw asks for a glass of water, and passes the waiter a napkin with the same note he gave MacGregor the night before: "I'm looking for something, and I think you can help me find it." Followed by '$$'. And he asks the servant to make sure to "thank your master". There are a number of people practicing with rifles in view of the terrace where the group is dining, and Hunter can tell that they are shooting targets, like target shooters - not like trained military riflemen.

After lunch, the group is taken out to observe the Borloi fields, and the people working them (including children). The "volunteers" are watched over by mounted men with rifles and a type of whip (shambock). Charming man, Hunter would like to shoot him right now. Gustafson goes on, and on about his product, and his experimental crops, Borloi wine, etc., etc. Shaw encourages him to discuss the production and distribution numbers. If there's anything Gustafson doesn't know about Borloi, no one has found it yet.

Things are pretty boring until Gustafson invites Marcus to "hunt" with him. Shotguns are brought out, servants all over the place, very 'civilized'. While they are getting organized, a shot rings out nearby, but no one seems concerned. The hunt goes on without any trouble, netting some grouse and rabbits. Marcus keeps trying to pull the conversation back to the Imperial citizens, but Gustafson is absolutely determined to see to it that they "learn their lesson. They might be all right where they come from, but they degenerate when they are away. These people are little more than trained animals."

Before departing, the group is presented with little prezzies. The lower echelon people get bottles of the Borloi wine. Hunter does not want anything to do with Borloi, what with his exposure to it due to his parents, so he very loudly tells the servant with the bottle to bugger off, and gives him a shove. Heinkle comes over to comment on Hunter's "ungentlemanly behavior", and Hunter doesn't take that too well either: "You're wrong on two counts. A) I ain't no f...ing gentleman, and B) I don't need that crap rotting my brain; I don't want to end up like you."

Words are exchanged, and Heinkle intends to "chastise" some one, but for some odd reason decides he'd rather fight Treal (perhaps because he's wearing a cutlass). Treal agrees, and Hunter inquires if Heinkle would like to place a little side bet? Hunter tosses a $10,000 Dakar coin onto the table, which causes some raised eyebrows. Hunter offers to bet his money against "five pieces of your property, whichever ones strike my fancy; after all, I've got to take care of my men, and they've got needs, if you know what I mean?" This is agreed to. Shaw takes the opportunity to ask the servant if he passed the message on to his master, and is told yes, but that "the master must attend to affairs of State this evening."

Heinkle and Treal agree to duel to "second blood", and Mr. Heinkle gets a bit of a surprise. He manages to get Treal's hand, but only after Treal hits him twice. Heinkle ends up unconscious, and on the receiving end of Miss Hattie's not so tender mercies - she doesn't approve of this sort of macho nonsense. Heinkle is going to be laid up for a while, lucky for the group; he's taken off to the main house by the servants. Miss Hattie takes a look at Treal's hand, after Hunter bandaged it, and gave him Regen 1. She tells him he needs to eat lots of meat tonight - real meat, not that soy crap either. Treal figures Hunter owes him a big steak, which Hunter does not dispute.

Hunter will have his choice of the "volunteers", so they have to go to the barracks in the back. Hunter is offered a horse, but he's not going to ride the "large hairy animal", so the group takes their own vehicle. Hunter is shown the adults, but his primary concern is to get kids away from these people, so he asks to see them. The overseers (the Baron didn't deign to come with) are horrified, but Hunter and Treal start making comments about "welching", so in spite of their disgust, they agree. There are eight children. Hunter asks "How much for the other three?", but they are not keen on that. Although, he is playing with the Dakar, and he's offering a "brokerage fee" of a gold round.

Treal asks the kids their names, and identifies three (two boys and a girl) as being on the list of people they are looking for. Caroline is the girl. An agreement is made, the coins disappear, and Hunter decides that he should have some kind of ownership papers for his new property. The overseer does come back with a bill of sale, and ownership papers. Hunter is really thrilled to see that four of the children are there to pay off their family debts; one is down as a thief, and the others as "smugglers" - they were attempting to "smuggle" food and medicine to the refugee camp.

Marcus has sent for a second Humvee, and the children are split up between the two vehicles. An escort of armed men is provided. The sisters show up in the other vehicle to help, and Treal shows Sisters Mary Xavier Vebelplester the paperwork on the kids - her response is: "This will not do. This is not proper." The nun voice does it's work, one of the men rides off and comes back, then is sent back one more time to get it right. Hunter distributes his MRE's. Shaw tries to separate off the refugee kids, but is unsuccessful.

Upon arrival at the camp, Dr. Oboto is waiting. Treal gives his bottle of Borloi wine to the doctor, in case it can be useful in getting the kids who have been in the camp long enough to become addicted to the Borloi, off it. The children will be kept separated from the main group until they have been cleaned up, vetted, etc. Some of the local kids in the rescued group are awestruck by the "wealth" of the refugees. Parents show up, tearful reunions, etc. Marcus looks at the older refugee girl, and remarks that she "reminds him of some one". Shaw takes the parents to one side, and tells them that "they" don't want to let the children return to their families until after they have been seen by the psychologist. Dr. Oboto states that he wants to run the children through the autodoc, to find out what kind of substances they have in their system; Shaw can help by running the autodoc terminal. While he does that, he deliberately represses (as much as possible) Caroline's DNA markers. And he decides to forge her information on the computer system.

During all of the excitement, Kiffin has been cooking, delivering, and 'catering' meetings. Now Treal is worrying about when he's going to get his promised steak?? Hunter offers to buy steaks for the whole group, and asks Kiffin to procure the beef. Miss Bertha's is the best place to go for good meat, which means a trip into town. Hunter overrides Treal's offer to go with her, and sends Terry with Kiffin, and Treal to the doctor.

Hunter goes and visits the children, chatting with them, and getting Caroline to talk about her childhood. She only remembers being with her mother, Alice, and then being in a school some where. Hunter doesn't press it beyond that. He does talk to the kids to gain intel about the compound.

It's Green's day in town. Yea-rah. Although the Orange camp is very loud tonight. Terry and Kiffin go to Miss Bertha's, and speak with the kitchen staff. Kiffin selects some very good meat, and packs it into the cooler. When they head back to the Humvee, with a man carrying the cooler, there are two large men in Green lounging around the vehicle. One of them is unhappy that some girl would have the nerve to "dress up like a soldier", and the other one "isn't into dykes". The first one grabs Terry by the wrist, so she goes with him, driving a very big knife into his midsection. The other Green man reaches into his sleeve for a knife, and Terry looks that direction in time to see him leaning against the Humvee before sliding off, unconscious. Kiffin's left hand is slightly sore, and she didn't really register what she did.

Terry suggests Kiffin put some ice on her hand, which she does, after putting the meat in to marinade. Terry speaks with Hunter, letting him know about the little problem in town, including the fact that the "little steward" took out a guy with one shot, really fast. Hunter asks her to take a walk with him, and brings her in on the 'side' mission (he intends to cut in all his men, but doesn't want to tell them before they have the money to spend), about the girl. Terry's concerned about conflicts with their primary mission, but Hunter doesn't think it will. He is a bit concerned that he was wrong about "the old guy" being a potential hazard, and that it's "the girl" they need to worry about.

Shaw finds Hunter, and goes for a stroll with him to discuss some issues. Shaw says "You seemed a bit upset at the Baron's today..." Hunter's response is: "Yeah, and your point?" Shaw: "I was wondering if you'd like some payback?" Hunter: "I'm here to do a job - keep the nobles from being hurt by the locals. But I'm listening." Shaw: "I might be able to get back onto the Baron's estate." Hunter: "No offense Colonel, but isn't that a bit out of your line? Maybe you should leave it to the professionals." Shaw: "Trust me Captain. Or don't. But I am a professional." Hunter decides to not ask "professional what?" Shaw then brings up Caroline. Pause. Hunter wants to get things out in the open. Shaw tells Hunter that McCafferty hired him to get his daughter back to him, and although McCafferty didn't tell Hunter about Shaw, he did tell Shaw about Hunter. But Hunter doesn't need to worry about Shaw getting a cut of Hunter's money. The only potential problem is Marcus, Shaw says, because "Marcus thinks he recognizes her, and that's bad." (Shaw explains about Marcus' uncle's position being threatened by Caroline) , but Hunter was hired by Marcus, so Hunter is sort of recalcitrant about killing him while he's working for him. Shaw tells Hunter that they can deal with Marcus later.

The barbecue smells really good, so the coconspirators head back into camp. There's enough food for everyone, even including Treal. The meat turned out very good. The newly rescued children (Cora the 'thief', who hands over the silverware after the meal, to prove she didn't take it; Peter and Paul, the brothers; Lissa; Johann; Caroline; Alex and Andy, also brothers, and they're twelve, so they're not kids, really, are brought along to the meal. Kiffin makes sure to get down on their level when speaking with the children. Marcus speaks with all the children, trying to see if they might have any information on other people being held by Gustafson. He also speaks with Dr. Wentworth the psychiatrist, and Dr. Shelford the GP. Shaw has been watching Marcus, and chats him up. Marcus comments that the children, especially Caroline, remind him of "how much we've lost" in the war, and the fact that his family lost several members, including his aunt and cousin, which is a pity, since the cousin (due to the convoluted dynamics of the noble house) would actually be the person in line for the title, and his uncle wasn't "raised to it". Shaw gets him off the subject of Caroline, onto other business, which isn't hard. Marcus is concerned about what happened with Gustafson, and the fact that it didn't bode well for negotiating with other locals for the release of other missing Imperials.

Outside of some noise from the Orange camp, and Jennifer getting drunk on beer (the food was a bit spicy...), the night passes uneventfully.

150 - 1122.

Col. Shaw gets to spend most of the day dealing with admin stuff on the ancient computers. Miss Hattie shows up to speak with Marcus. She wants to warn him that Gustafson is very unhappy, and is spreading the rumor that Marcus brought in an AP (that would be Treal?). The other two factions haven't had 'their ox gored', and don't see any reason to get into a row with the newcomers, especially if they do have an AP. Gustafson has his crops to worry about right now, so he probably won't have time to do anything other than talk for the moment.

Shaw asks Hattie about the Imperial forces stationed on planet. Her opinion is that they "couldn't organize an orgy in a whorehouse, with a million credits." They have six officers (four Navy, two Marines), thirty enlisted. The officers do the measuring, the navy makes sure everything is clean, and the Marines guard the Navy. Aside from the enlisted men who keep going AWOL and into town, they have no contact with the locals. The commander has almost everyone on report, and the only reason he hasn't had them thrown into the brig, is because they don't have "an approved brig facility". They've been moving their camp around as they survey, and have almost made it around the old B class starport.

Dr. Wentworth believes the rescued children should not be kept in the camp with the ship, but should be moved to the hospital in the refugee camp, as it would be more familiar surroundings, and they would have a better chance to be more socialized. Also, the children are reacting better to aliens and females, than to adult human males. The refugee children need to spend more time with their families.

All the local children are responding well, except for Cora who keeps saying she needs to go take care of her sick mother. She's too young and too little to be sent off to take care of a parent, and she is also suffering from Borloi poisoning.

Marcus takes Hunter, Shaw, and Treal off to meet with Baron Vandenhelles. He's not as conceited as Gustafson, and is more friendly with Marcus. Vandenhelles has a large meal set up, and after many hints are dropped, about "charitable donations", Hunter facilitates for Marcus, who has missed the hints. All of them. Sigh. Once everyone understands, Hunter had helped the Baron find his "dropped" gold coins, "donations" are made, and the three Imperials will be turned over after the scrumptious meal served by buxom maids.

After the correct number of toasts have been made, Hunter mentions something about Vandenhelles and Gustafson having "disputes about borders", and how he saw a big map in Gustafson's house that showed his borders encompassing "all of this area here". Discussions about Gustafson being an "anal-retentive jerk", and having a "private army", etc. are intermingled with much imbibing. Vandenhelles even brings out the good stuff - no more of this sissy wine. Hunter is feeling no pain, and has a bit of a buzz on when the amber liquid is brought out. The Baron gets much more talkative, and asks questions about hiring some off-planet mercs, and how much that would cost, etc. The Baron may be a lot of things, but he's having a good time, and doesn't believe in forced companionship - the females are all well-paid. Hunter talks machine-guns, etc., and passes on Angela's card to the Baron in case he's ever on Regina.

While the party is going on, Shaw goes out to the vehicle and radios MacGregor. He tells him that he has "arranged for the cargo space and rooms" on the ship, and he will let MacGregor know when and where.

Kiffin was told by the staff at Miss Bertha's that if they need more food supplies, which they do, she should see Baron Kerchev. She arranges for an intro, and Terry sends several people with her. There are a few tense moments with the Baron's 'technicals', but they are allowed to pass. The Baron's man Mikhail is the one who deals with the "off-worlders". He's a bit brusque at first, but he warms to Kiffin after a few minutes, and comments on her "striking eyes" (she does have extremely dark blue eyes), and says that she's the second person he's seen with eyes "like that". "A fascinating gentleman [an awe-like respect in his voice] who came through, and I was wondering if you might be related? He brought us those..." indicating two small Flute trees. Kiffin has an odd memory of seeing some mature Flute trees, with a more mellow tone, in a park somewhere...

Kiffin will have to check the prices quoted with the senior steward Mr. Torgwen, but Mikhail will send her back with samples (including fresh watercress, which should make Dr. Oboto very happy). And then Mikhail gives Kiffin and her escort a lovely "Farmer's" lunch with fresh milk and bread. Kiffin is invited to come back and bring the senior steward along to finalize the prices. Kiffin makes sure she finds out when during the day would be convenient - morning, but not too early. They will probably be over the following morning, or the day after that at the latest, as they do need to arrange for fresh supplies.

Kiffin thanks Mikhail, and she leaves with her escort.