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I looked toward the dockmaster's window as Charles and Alyssa turned over their weapons and received check receipts for them. I glanced at Steve and Orlex and then walked up to the counter. Looking from side to side, I got out my ID and my Nakjima laser pistol and set both on the counter. Before leaving Sheratan, I had traded the Blazer I'd  previously bought for the Kuritan weapon instead, both because it was more concealable and because it would be more passable in the space that we'd be travelling through.

The dockmaster grabbed the ID and the laser and put the weapon in a lock box. Then, he pushed my ID into a card reader slot. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as the computer churned and processed. I wasn't sure if the process was just reading the name information and entering our presence into a database, or if it was also doing a background check and validation. Ultimately, the computer gave a loud buzz and a red light came on. My fight or flight instincts kicked in.

"Blake-damned computer is out of toner." the dockmaster grumbled. "Here, I'll write your claim information down for you."

I sighed a breath of relief. The dockmaster wrote my information down and slipped me a piece of paper with the claim check data on it. "Here you go, Mr. MacGillicudy."

I stepped over by Charles and Alyssa and gave them a long glance. It seemed like we would be in the clear if Orlex, Gretchen, and Steve could make it through......

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Ozymandias Station
Vega System, Draconis Combine
May 24, 3029
____________________________________

Nathan Schmidt, the resident technician aboard the Hurry Up Bessie who was apparently the newest member of her crew, made it through customs without too much trouble. It seemed like there was some kind of history with him but I didn't know the details of it yet, despite several months of travel aboard the Bessie it never really came up and I didn't try to pry into it, everyone had their own secrets they preferred to keep. When the buzzer sounded and a red light shone from behind the dockmaster's desk Nathan seemed to tense up, along with a couple other members of our entourage, but it was just the printer was just out of ink and everyone seemed very relieved.

Next up was my turn, I had partially anticipated that weapons would not be allowed aboard the station and the fact that this was meant to be a shore leave of sorts meant I had only brought my Serrek 7875 pistol as a sidearm, at least outwardly that is. I stepped up to the desk and handed in my ID along with the pistol and spare mags I carried.

"Alright, give me a moment to write out your claim information too, same spiel as the others," the Dockmaster said, barely looking up to collect my ID and weapon, "Play nice inside or deal with security, you can collect your weapons from the claims office on your way out."

He handed me the ticket stub and my ID back and motioned for me to either join the others or pass through the metal detector, I wasn't sure which since he didn't bother saying anything and wasn't even looking up. Either way I would have to go through the metal detector before we got inside, I figured I might as well get it over with. I thought to myself, This out to be fun...

Smiling and giving the others a small nod I made my way past them to the metal detector and stepped through, there was a slight pause, long enough for me to start turning around with a surprised look on my face before the detector went off, beeping shrilly with a red flashing light pulsing across the room.

"Alright," called the Dockmaster, "come on back, what else have you got. I said all weapons have to be deposited here."

I stepped back through the metal detector, setting it off again, and approached the desk, "I don't have any more weapons, I have a prosthetic arm."

"What?" asked the Dockmaster.

"Prosthetic arm, like a fake metal arm," I said tapping my left forearm against the corner of the booth and creating a slight metallic echo. 

"Ok, is it removable?"

"Um, not easily, why?"

"Ugh, fine. Wait there," said the Dockmaster with a disgruntled scowl before disappearing for a moment and then coming out from a semi-hidden door behind the teller style booth.

He stepped up to me with a wand-style metal detector and began running it over me, starting on my left arm which naturally caused it to beep the whole way, before moving on, setting it off on a few pockets where I had some micro power packs stored as well as my noteputer before the wand started going crazy as the Dockmaster swept it across my right leg.

"Alright, what have you got here, a Needler or crowbar shoved into your pants?" asked the Dockmaster only half joking and clearly more bored than concerned.

"Nope, another prosthetic actually, was a mercenary back in 3020 and had a rather rough time on Algorab," I relied with a smile.

"Sure, didn't ask for your life story. You're clear, go on through." He waved me through after using a key to turn off the metal detector, apparently he didn't care for the loud warbling tone either.

After I passed through the detector he turned it back on and went back to the teller booth before hollering out, "Next!"

Edited by Orlex Jaeger
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Everybody had went threough tht eSecurity Check except for me and Gretchen. I looked at her.

"Ladies first." I Said, then I did a huge bow to let her know I was Serious. Gretchen giggled at me, I think she was in to me. Then I walked up to the counter and got out my ID.

"I'm Steve Jenkins, Attorney At Law and Mercenary Gun For Hire. Also I run the Sake Baths on Sheratan in Gellen's Heights, they are the highest rated......."

"I DON'T NEED TO KNOW ALL THAT, JUST GIVE ME YOUR ID AND CHECK IN YOUR WEAPONS!!" The Dockmaster said. I looked at him with Concern.

"Alright, I would of thought you would be more Respectful to your fellow Kurita." I said. Then I got out my ID and I slapped it on the Counter. The Dock Master took it and put it into the computer, it made all kinds of groin grabbing noises and computery noises. "Give me all your Guns while we are waiting." Said the dock master.

"I don't have any Guns!" I said. "Well I can see your Sword on your belt, you can't bring that inside." Said the Dock master.

"Alright fine." I Said, then I undid the sword from my Belt and slammed it down on the counter. "Here, don't lose it, also don't do stupid crap with it like slicing Watermelons or other Things, once you draw the Bushido Blade, it must draw blood before it goes away."

"I Don't have time to play with Swords." He said, then he took the Sword and looked at me.

"What??" I Asked. "You need to give Me all your weapons. I Know you don't have just a Bushido Blade on you." Said the Dock Master.

"Youre crazy and you know it." I Said back. 

"OK then go through the Metal Detector." the man said. Then he pointed at the Metal Detector. I stared at it and then I focused really hard to Mind contol the metal detector and I walked through it. The Metal Detector made no noises.

"There see I don't have anything else, if you Dishonor me ag" All of the sudden the metal detector made a bunch of Sirenes and flashing red lights fell out of the Ceiling and spun next to my face and a buzzer started, then there was a loud Announcement that came on. "THIS IS A METAL DETECTION, TURN ALL YOUR WEAPONS OVER TO THE DOCK MASTER OR FACE LAW ENFORCEMENT INSURRECTION"

I looked back at the Dock Master who frowned hard at me. "You Lied to me, that is 15 points off your Space Station access."

"What. what even is Space Station Access??" I Shouted. Then I looked up and Jingles was standing behind the Dock Master with a HUGE revolver pointed at the back of his Head!!

"You Want me to paint the walls with his brains?" Asked Jingles, then he made a bicycle horn honking noise with his Shoe.

"NOT RIGHT NOW!!" I Yelled. Jingles walked away, then the Dock Master stared at me. "Huh???"

"Never mind!!" I said, then I went back over to the Counter and slammed down my Nunchucks, my Flipping Knifes, my Gaiden Chains, and my Mini Ripper Frisbees.

"Is that all of it???" Asked the Dock Master. "You are wasting my time!!"

"YES" I Said, then I Stomped through the Metal Detector. It made all kinds of sirens again.

"AAARRRRRRRGHHHH!" I Screamed. "I'M WEARING A METAL THONG, OK???"

"I did not need to Know that Steve Jenkins!!" The Dock Master yelled. "GO on through!!"

"Finally" I said, "Now where can I get an Alcohol drink for the stress??"

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I turned over my pistol at the security checkpoint and passed through the metal detector without incident. Steve proudly declared “ladies first” before taking his turn, which Gretchen seemed to get a laugh out of. Then she stepped up to the counter.

 

“This is all I’ve got,” Gretchen said, and took a multi-tool from her pocket and set it on the counter. The dockmaster gave her a blank look. “It has a knife in it.”

 

Sure, that’s all,” the dockmaster said. Please step through the metal detector.”

 

Gretchen did, and it didn’t go off. Then she returned to the counter, where the dockmaster was measuring her multi-tool against a ruler set into his desk. “I guess you really don’t have anything. You can take this back, it’s under 8 centimeters so it doesn’t count.” He handed over the multi-tool. “Id, please?”

 

Gretchen passed him her ID, and he scanned it in. “I’d like to remind you that no proselytizing pamphleting, or other unauthorized advertising is allowed aboard this station,” the dockmaster said as he handed her ID back.

 

“Okay?” Gretchen said, confused.

“You look like you’re in some kind of cult,” he said.

Thanks, I didn’t know this station had a fashion check to go with the weapons check.” Gretchen joined me and the rest of the group on the other side of the security checkpoint.

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"Alright, that's it; your crew are clean," the gray-haired Asian man announced with a bored sigh, glancing at me. "You can go on through."

With a nod, I stepped through the metal detector, which promptly elicited a shrill buzz and flashed its red lights. The dockmaster extended an ancient, gnarled finger, gesturing at me with a "come here" motion. With a resigned eyeroll, I walked back over to the dockmaster's window, withdrawing a compact hold-out pistol from a holster around my ankle, a butterfly knife from my hip pocket, my comm unit, and an Electronic Security Bypass Kit.

"There. Take your pick," I replied, dropping the contents on the counter. The dockmaster's eyes widened as he slowly took everything but the lockpicks and the comm unit.

"You can keep the burglary tools, but don't try anything clever. Station ISF doesn't miss," the dockmaster warned, handing me a pile of claim tickets a few moments later and gesturing toward the metal detector dismissively. Stuffing the papers in my now empty pockets, I sauntered toward the metal detector, passing through it without issue, and casting Alyssa a bemused glance as I did so.

"Nice try, Rambo," the Lyran smiled. The squelch of the vestibule's intercom punctuated her words.

"Ok, ladies and gentlemen, when the light turns green, you're going to step through the doorway behind you and into the lift car. Take hold of a wall strap. Once the door closes, you'll feel the car moving sideways. It's accelerating up to speed with the grav deck. The doors on the other side will open when it's safe to disembark. You'll be on Grav Deck 4 - 'Mayonaka no toshi.'"

With that, the dockmaster hit a button, and the lift door rumbled open. Our group stepped in, and the hatch slammed shut behind us. A few seconds later, the transport lurched and accelerated briefly before trundling to a stop and casting open the doors on its far side. A dark twilight spilled into the car.

"Holy shit," Alyssa blurted with surprise, as, stepping into the new environment, we found ourselves on a busy, bustling avenue of neon-bedecked, ramshackle low-rises, shops, tenements, and market stalls at nightfall. Running the entire circumference of the gravity deck, the street, crisscrossed with paper lanterns, power lines, and banners bearing Japanese characters, was alive with all manner of bicycles, rickshaws, and pedestrians, the sights and smells of a crowded and energetic marketplace tantalizing our senses. Overhead, instead of stars twinkling in the night sky, the celestial vista was replaced with the pinks, reds, and blues of the far side of the gravity ring as it circled opposite to us, creating an odd inverted effect as the buildings "above" us appeared to be "upside-down" relative to our own location. I let out a whistle of amazement as I took in the scene.

"This is really something," I commented, toggling off my mag boots and feeling an Earthlike level of weight overtake me. "Color me suitably impressed."

"Yeah, the question becomes, where the hell are we?" Nikki asked, gesturing toward the eclectic mix of street vendors that appeared to be selling everything from freshly-prepared food to live animals. "This doesn't look like the place to arrange ship repairs."

"I see what looks like an information kiosk over there," I observed, pointing toward a three-sided obelisk, illuminated with yellow signboards, that stood at a nearby intersection. Cutting a path across the avenue, stepping over various piles of refuse, and maneuvering around a couple of panhandlers as we did so, we arrived before the directory.

"This place has even got modern city issues," I chuckled, looking for the side of the index that was in English. Locating it, my eyes traced down its entries.

"Alright, so it looks like this place is divided into four different zones. Mayonaka no toshi, or 'Midnight City' is Grav Deck 4. That's where we are now. All manner of businesses are available here; going by the names, there's stuff here to satiate desires both subtle and gross. To get to the shipwright's office, it's two blocks down. Grav Deck 3 is the next ring over. It's called Kōya no dasshutsu, which has a rather unfortunate translation of 'Escape the Wilderness.' That one looks like it's got a small forest, some grasslands, and an equestrian farm, if you can believe that," I explained.

My finger traced across the directory as I attempted to make sense of the data it presented. "Grav Deck 2, Shukuhaku shisetsu, means 'Sleep Lodging,' and it's what it sounds like - various hospitality businesses. Grav Deck 1 is housing and facilities for station crew. There's a monorail that connects all four decks, and I think it leaves from that place over there," I continued, pointing at an illuminated tower that rose several stories higher than the rest of the cityscape. There are also - "

"Rickshaws!" Steve exclaimed gleefully, pointing to the colorfully-decorated human-drawn carts that passed us on either side. "You can ride around like a king!"

"Steve, do not hire one to pull you around in the woods. That's cruel," Alyssa quipped.

"Rickshaws, yeah," I nodded. "I don't know what everyone else's plans are, but I'm game for hiring one to take us to wherever the food and drink are. Seems like a reasonable way to get immersed in the culture. Let's have fun and try to stay out of trouble. If we're splitting up, let's make this kiosk our meeting place for anyone who gets lost. Remember, Bessie's going to be in the drydock downstairs, so if you want to stay ashore or go crash in your bunks, your stuff will be within staggering distance. Ready?"

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I looked toward Nikki, my Captain, along with Charles and the rest of the group.

"I've gotta take care of some things and I think this is the place to do it." I said. "Do you guys mind if I take a rain check on the festivities for now and run a few errands?"

"No, not at all." Nikki said. "I'm pretty sure we have no official agenda for the next while and the ship is going to be in the drydock with the local crews working anyway, so everything there is covered, too. Have fun, Nathan. And don't get in trouble."

"I'll try to do the first thing and avoid the second thing." I joked. Nodding to the group and shoving my hands in my pockets, I walked into the crowd. Soon, the city, such as it was, folded in around me, and I started wandering, looking for whatever part of this particular town would end up qualifying as "slums." Every town had them. You just needed to know where to look. Eventually, as I worked my way down the road, I started to traverse into a section of the street where the shops looked darker, where the alleys loomed intimidatingly, and where the locals seemed shiftier and seedier.

As I walked, I kept an alert eye out, and eventually found a particular pawn shop. The LIC taught us how to find a specific kind of shop on any specific world. They all had similar characteristics, you just had to know where to look. This place was no exception. It appeared to be a pawn shop, but as I walked in, the shop was stocked floor to ceiling with the most useless merchandise possible and the lights were all but off. I strode past the dozen or so mhelves full of rummage and approached the counter itself, were a bored-looking shopkeeper presided over a glass case full of equally useless merchandise.

"What can I do for you?" the man asked.

"Oh god, not sure that you can." I said. "Unless you can make me disappear."

"For the right price, very many things can be procured." the shopkeeper said. "Give me more details."

"Well, hypothetically speaking." I said. "What would it cost to disappear?"

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The Rickshaw banged to a stop and I got threw into the little glass window that was between me and the Outside. "OWWWW!" I Yelled as I got out and Captain Maxwell & Alyssa followed and then Orlex rolled up in a Rickshaw behind us. We were outside a Bar & grillhouse called the SCREAMING DRAGON BAR & GRILLHOUSE except that the sign was written in Kurtita and had a picture of Emperor Kurita bending over and dragoning the sign like a word bubble out of his mouth, over Top of him there was a double dragon and one was barfing food out while the other was barfing Drink out, it was really symbolism and reminded me of my Heritage. 

"OK guys, we are here and we are going to get some good food and drink, this is a Traditional Kuritan chow house so you have to remember to be super respectful." Then I went inside and everybody followed. When we Went inside there was a big fence wall and 2 bead curtains that kept you from seeing anything, the lighting was Red and eerie. Rock and roll gong was playing on the radio and there was a bunch of Opium smoke in the air. I could hear a Bar Fight happening somewhere in the building but I could not see it. There was a Huge bouncer at the inside door who I had to bribe with money. When I did that he let us inside the bar.

Inside the bar it was totally Crowded with people, there were a ton of Booths that looked like Dojos in a giant square that had lots of floor sitting tables in them, in the main part of the room the bar stuck out from the front wall and went 3/4 of the way into the room and you could walk up to it on 3 different sides. It was full of people who were drinking and eating Alcohol and food. Up at the back wall across from the Bar there was a stage where 2 wrestlers were doing a Battle Match with Kuritan Bladed Weapons and Sumo techniques. Over to the right up on a platform a rock gong band was playing, their music was pretty loud and follow the beat of the wrestlers who were battling. All of the servers who walked around were dressed in full dragon costumes from their head down to their toes, I wondered how they could serve food and other things without running into stuff.

The menu was printed on the ceiling in Kurita and really bad English. They had everything from Japanese food to bacon and Pancakes. There was also a kids menu, which I thought was weird since this was a bar. At the bottom of the ceiling menu was a sign, IF YOU DON'T KNOW HOW MANY FINGERS THE BAR TENDER IS HOLDING UP YOU HAD TOO MUCH RICE WINE. 

I looked around and there were a bunch of different customers, most of them looked pretty normal. I did see some gang members at the bar and I went to grip my Bushido Blade instinctively. But then I remembered that my Bushido Blade was back in the parking garage with the guard and I could not I also saw what looked like a guy in a Crime Boss outfit, I didn't know what he was up to but he was somebody to be suspicious of.

"OK guys we're here!" I shouted "This is just like my childhood, let's get drunk!" 

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We took our seats on the floor in one of the pagodas on the left side of the bar room. Despite the setting of expectations by Steve that the Screaming Dragon was a place of "respect" and dignity, in actuality, the bar oozed a rough-and-tumble atmosphere that wrapped itself around us in a bear hug of sights and sounds. The exhibition match playing out on the platform elicited a variety of catcalls and cheers from all manner of riffraff jamming the traditionally-decorated, dimly-illuminated space, while a thick veil of smoke and haze rose slowly into the aging building's sweeping, open rafters, glowing a dark crimson in the ambient lighting. A colorful variety of sake-sloshing characters played games of chance, arm-wrestled, and threw darts at paper representations of Melissa Steiner and Hanse Davion, while a house band, whose gimmick seemed to be rock and roll fused with gong music, provided a lively backdrop to the goings-on in the venue.

As I surveyed the establishment, a server arrived at our table, attired as the type of dragon you'd expect to see in a holiday parade. With a respectful bow, he spoke, his voice muffled from within the costume head.

"Kon'nichiwa, sukurīmingudoragon e yōkoso. Bāsābisu to tēburusābisu no dochira ga īdesu ka?"

I turned to Steve for the translation.

"He wants to know if we want table service or bar service. Wanna do bar??" Steve asked excitedly. I looked toward the mob around the bartender.

"Uhh, let's go with 'table service,'" I replied.

"Tēburusābisu o onegaishimasu," Steve relayed to the server. The dragon bowed again.

"Arukōru kara hajimemasen ka? Tsuyoi o sake?" the server inquired.

"He wants to know if we want some alcohol brought out. Hell yeah, right?" Jenkins explained.

"Sure, and how about some appetizers? What do you all want?" I asked Orlex, Alyssa, and Steve.

###

A few minutes later, we had a generous pot of rice wine set before us, keeping hot atop a small portable heater, laid out along with a spread of various Japanese entrées. As the first couple shots of saké started to work their way to my brain, I studied the crowd at the bar, noting the cross-section of patrons gathered around it. My attention was drawn to one fellow in particular - a tall, broad-framed man with shoulder-length black hair, clad in a dark-colored shawl with matching low-profile armor. On his left sleeve, positioned just above the bicep, was a woven illustration of a skull, set against a four-pointed shape that vaguely resembled an Odin's Cross with the center cut out.

"Check it out," I noted, gesturing toward the man at the bar. "I think that guy's a Belt Pirate. Want to buy him a drink?"

Orlex squinted his eyes, trying to focus on the point of interest in the low light.

"I like your line of thinking, sir, but if that guy really is a pirate, it seems like a plan that could take a sudden and unfortunate turn," the Lieutenant responded.

"I'm just saying, we chat him up now, get him to spill the beans about how pirate affairs are going down in the Outworlds, and maybe end up with some valuable intel that we can use later to avoid problems when we get there," I explained. "Hell, maybe we can even find out what he's doing so far from home."

"Do you ever take a day off?" Alyssa joked. I chuckled and shook my head, taking another shot of saké.

"Apparently not," I replied. "So what do you think? Want to meet a pirate?"

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Screaming Dragon Bar & Grillhouse 
Ozymandias Station 
Vega System, Draconis Combine 
May 24, 3029 
______________________________
 

"So what do you think? Want to meet a pirate?" 

The Captain's question hung in the air, no-one seemed keen to answer at first and I looked around at the others. Alyssa appeared only mildly put off, though her demeanor was more playful chiding than actually being upset, but also wasn't about to give Charles the go ahead herself either. Steve on the other seemed to be deeply engrossed in the odd sumo match playing out across the room while alternating between mouthfuls of various food dishes and copious amounts of sake. He must have seen me looking because he stopped mid-bite with some kind of rice roll halfway between his plate and mouth. 

"Do I have something on my face?" he asked, as he slowly moved the rice ball to his mouth and took another bite.

"No, the Captain was just wondering if we wanted to meet a pirate," I said with a slight shrug.

"A pirate?!" Steve exclaimed, somehow even more excited than before, "Do I ever, but I don't think we'll find any here. This is a respectable establishment."

Suddenly getting serious Steve looked at us all closely, "Unless you're talking about those gentlemen on the far side of the bar, the one's in suits, that's Yakuza and we don't want to meet them."

"But otherwise, yeah I'm game," continued Steve, just as suddenly back to his jovial self.

"Alright," I said with a questioning glance thrown towards Charles and Alyssa, "the guy at bar sure isn't wearing a suit, so yeah why not. Let's buy him a drink and see what happens."

Silently I hoped that nothing untoward would come of him, at worst we might get told of, at best we could learn some valuable intel or at least have a good time drinking with another non-local. But just in case, I silently tapped the cargo pocket on my right thigh thinking of the discrete cargo unit built into my prosthetic leg and the couple items I had smuggled onto the station inside it, that and the power cell in my pocket for the laser hidden in my left arm.

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Meanwhile...

Diamonds in the Dump Bargain Store
Ozymandias Station 
Vega System, Draconis Combine 
May 24, 3029 
______________________________ 

"This one seems like it "fits" the most. It's been inactive a while too, which is good." I said, pointing to a profile in the man's folio of "orphaned" identities. "Matches my general physical makeup and stuff."

"Same initials as you, too. You realize of course that once you've pulled the trigger, there's no going back? That this isn't a situation where you decide the change wasn't worth it and now you want to go back?" asked the shopkeeper. "This isn't a legal thing and if you decide you want to go back, if you think you have legal troubles now, it's a cakewalk compared to what's coming for you."

"I'm totally sure." I said. "This life is a train wreck and if I'm going to have any future at this point then the only way is to start a new page."

"Do a lot of people know you right now? I recommend that you start completely over. It's not airtight unless you do." the shopkeeper replied, typing a bunch of things into his computer.

"No." I lied. "Nobody knows me. I'm totally on my own right now."

"Alright well that makes it pretty simple. Well, as simple as these things get. But just so you know, this isn't something we can just flip a switch and do. It takes time. There are a lot of hands involved." the proprietor warned.

"What do you mean? How many?" I asked.

"Don't you concern yourself with that. What you need to know is that I'll take it from here but I need a couple of weeks. We have an HPG on board that's not tampered with by ComStar but we're still relying on them for certain...things. Will you be on board?"

"Damn. No. I have business out in the Outworlds." I said. "That's where I'll be."

"Where are you going specifically? There is a second part to this process that needs to be done once we have the information in place. It involves you, physically. I need you to be somewhere in our network." said the shopkeeper.

"I'm going to be on Oberon IV itself." I replied.

"Well that's perfect, its our hub as it would happen. This station is pretty far outside our network. Alright, how long do you think it will be before you're there? It's a real hike from this location." the shopkeeper replied.

I pulled up our itinerary and gave the timeline to the shopkeeper. He nodded approvingly.

"Ok, this is the contact information for the person you are going to want to look up when you get there. KEEP IT TO YOURSELF. If you deviate from my instructions at all, you risk blowing your chance as well as losing all your money. Which reminds me. I need a 50% payment in advance. The other 50% is due at completion."

"Okay, fine. I'm only transacting in cash right now though." I said, pulling out a clip of large bills.

"Cash is ideal, thank you." said the shopkeeper. I paid my due and then headed back uptown to try to find Captain Harlow and the rest of the group.

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