And I’m back to work on Rimworld…
The usual caveats apply 🙂
Fargo sat in front of the comm suite, toying with a bulb of coffee as he waited for 0800, to start the morning reports. It had been a quiet week, none of the sites had reported any problems, and none of the observation posts they’d observed had been occupied. Fargo had continued the daily patrols, and only site three had reported any issues. Daman had said that their patrols were being followed, and had launched Ferrets to follow the patrols, getting video and some audio of two younger techies.
Fargo had pushed the video over to the colonel, but nothing had been heard back from him, nor had anything been heard from Nicole, which was beginning to worry him. At exactly 0800, Barun called, “Morning base, site one, nothing to report, unless strange sand snakes count.”
Barun chuckled, “Pics inbound. Karun managed to step on one. It bit his rifle instead of him, but he had to come back in and change shorts.” The system ‘dinged’, Fargo pulled up the pictures, and whistled. The sand snake was at least 12 feet long, and had a head the size of a dinner plate, which was still attached to the foregrip on the rifle. It had apparently bitten through the heat shield and either trapped its fangs, or Karun had been awfully quick with the kukri. Fargo marveled at the picture, even with the snake laid out on the sand, it was almost impossible to see.
“Where was it when it attacked Karun?”
“Right across the path where we go in and out of the sonics.”
“Did Karun take it out with the kukri?
Barun laughed, “Oh yes, one cut. According to Balraj, he didn’t even get turned around before Karun had the head off, the rifle off, and was standing six feet away, panting.”
Fargo shook his head, “Amazing what a little adrenalin can do. I suppose Karun wants to keep the skin?”
“He does. He also wants to clean the fangs out, and leave them embedded in the rifle as a reminder.”
Fargo shrugged, “That’s your call. Tell him if he poisons himself, it’s all on him.”
The other sites reported in with no issues, and he trooped down the passageway to the colonel’s office, knocking on the door, he said, “Colonel, nothing to report. All four sites normal.”
Colonel Zhu glanced up, “Good. I like quiet,” then went back to his data comp.
Nicole dressed with care, with no perfume or powders, choosing an outfit that was nice but not dressy. She concealed her pistol on her thigh, made sure the vidcorder was fully charged, and headed out. She’d only found two stores that sold wine, and the one called Makers was having a tasting at noon. She’d thought that was a little odd, but she was discovering Endine was a little strange anyway.
Makers was what she would call a decent place, with a more varied collection of wines than she would have expected, this far out on the rim. When she walked in the door, she saw the young clerk that she had talked to earlier in the week, and walked over to speak to him, “Morning Renard, I would like to attend the tasting. How much is it?”
“It is two hundred credits, madame.” He proffered the chip reader, and she scanned her ID chip into it, approving the withdrawal. “We will start exactly at twelve, and everyone will enter together. Feel free to browse until twelve.”
“Thank you. Do you know how many will be here?”
Renard shrugged, “Not sure madame, I know the buyers for the three restaurants, and maybe a couple of the firsties. I know Senor Perez will be here, since two of his vintages are being revealed, and the supply ship brought a good variety this time.”
“Thank you.” She turned and walked around the store, noting the Perez varietals, and some interesting bottles that resembled the classic Italian bottles known as Chianti. She quickly made a vid of those bottles, then went back and made a vid of the Perez bottles. Huh, looks like two vineyards on the planet. That could be good or bad. She took a closer look at one of the Italian bottles, and noted the name Abruzzi, and the name Abboccato. Italian name, white wine, Abboccato means mouth filling. I wonder…
At noon, there were ten people milling around when the door to the tasting room was opened. Since she was across the store, she was the last one through the door, and immediately noted a strong odor of aftershave, Why, why must there always be one? Do they not understand that we need to smell the wines? Whoever it is, I’m staying as far away as possible.
She glanced around and saw that she was the only woman, and that this would not be a seated tasting. There was a table with what looked like crackers and cheeses for cleansing the palate, and she was relieved to see large plastic cups, obviously meant to be spit cups. Although she’d taken the precaution of taking a pill ahead of the tasting, just in case, if she had to drink too much she felt logy by the end of the tasting. The layout of the bottles was interesting too, it seemed the Perez offering was the premier, since they sat on their own table, while all the other bottles were crowded onto one table.
Since everyone else crowded around that table, Nicole eased around to the second table, munching a cracker, and picking up a spit cup. The young girl doing the pouring looked at her nervously, “May I pour for you, Madame?”
She pointed to one of the Abruzzi bottles, “The Barbera, please.”
The young girl found the bottle and poured a generous half a glass, and Nicole whispered, “Not more than two sips. About half of what you gave me. Tastings don’t get much wine in the glass, just enough to get the aroma, and a taste.”
The girl nodded gratefully, “Thank you. I have never had to do this before.”
Nicole moved away, swirled the wine gently in the glass and sniffed, Oh, that is… nice! Taking a sip, she slurped a little air with it quietly, and swished it around in her mouth, holding it for about ten seconds, This is as good as I’ve tasted at home! Berries, nice and full, somebody out here is good! She spit the mouthful in the spit cup, and set the glass down, quickly noting her impressions into the vidcorder.
She went back and asked for the Sargiovese, and this time the young girl poured just the right amount. Nicole smiled, and whispered, “Perfect.” The young girl looked relieved and turned as one of the men came up. Nicole stepped away, repeated the tasting, and marveled at it, Damn, another good one, Cherry, nice tannins, now I want spaghetti or lasagna. This would go great with anything Italian.
Nicole continued to circulate, trying the different wines, and watching the others. The older Latin was the one with all the aftershave, and he stood off to the side of the Perez table, with a proprietary look in his eyes. She’d picked out the buyers for the restaurants, and a couple of others that might be buyers from other towns. One older man had come in late, but he didn’t seem to be tasting anything, just watching. And when he did, one of the buyers suddenly became very serious. Wonder if he’s the restaurant owner? Or I should say which restaurant owner…
She tried one more wine from the crowded table, but it was barely fit as plonk. She quickly spit it out, and grabbed a couple of crackers to try to clear her palate. Since the others had finally moved away from the Perez table, she eased over and asked for the Chardonnay. As she swirled the glass, she smelled the aftershave overlaying everything as the little Latin man stepped over to her, and into her personal space. “Who are you, and what are you doing here? I don’t know you.”
His attitude immediately pissed her off, and she deliberately took a sip of the wine, then spit it in the cup before answering. “I’m not from here. I’m on sabbatical from Star lines. I’m a sommelier, looking for new and different wines that might please the palates of our customers,” Nicole said in her best hostess voice.
“I’m Perez. My wines are the best on the Rim, but they do not come cheap.” He turned and stomped off, obviously irritated by Nicole’s failure to respond immediately or cower before him.
They are cheap wines, at least they’re not sleazy like you, you little… She tried the Cabernet Sauvignon, and it too was middling at best, Gran Cru my ass. And I’m beginning to wonder where those grapes came from.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the older man, who stopped a respectful distance away and merely waited until she had spit the wine out. “Madame? May I inquire?”
Nicole smiled at him, “I’m on an extended sabbatical from Star lines. I’m a sommelier, looking for new and different wines that might please the palates of our customers. We have found some interesting wines are being bottled out here, and our customers are adventurous enough to be willing to try them, especially pared with local cuisines from their planets of origin.”
“My name is Vincent DuMaurier, I own the Endine Inn and Restaurant, among other things. I couldn’t help but notice that you don’t seem impressed by the offerings of the Perez winery. What would you recommend from this group?”
She laughed, “Nicole Levesque, I’m a poor sommelier, I’m not allowed to buy, only recommend. And I’m not sure I would want to recommend without knowing what kinds of meals one serves.”
DuMaurier smiled and nodded, “Spoken like a true sommelier! My father told stories of working with his sommelier back on Earth, before we came out here.”
“You have a vineyard?”
“No, we… we have cattlelows and vegetables, and a couple of restaurants. We took the food trade as a secondary skill. Would you be interested in some consulting? For a fee, of course?”
Nicole cocked her head, Ah, the in I was looking for. Now to not appear to jump too quickly. “That might be possible.”
“It would be appreciated, and we will comp you all meals, of course. Would you be willing to come to the restaurant this afternoon and discuss our menu with the maître and the chef? Around sixteen?”
She nodded, “I believe that would be possible. The address?”
DuMaurier touched his wrist comp, and she saw the address pop in on hers, “Until this afternoon. Pleasure to meet you, Ms. Levesque.”
“And you, sir.”
Horse called in for Fargo, and Grayson finally tracked him down, in the mess, “Horse is calling, something about liberty for the troops, Captain.”
Fargo sighed, “Figures it would be Horse. I swear… Is Boykin around?”
“No, sir. She went flying with one of the other warrants. Something about planetary approaches.”
“Okay.” He finished the bulb of coffee, flipped it at the disposal, and missed. With a groan, he picked it up and carefully placed it in the bin, “That’s why I don’t play Tri-D ball.”
Grayson grinned, but didn’t answer, as they walked back down the hall to the detachment’s little office. Fargo flopped down in the chair in front of the comms unit, calling up site 2’s location on the holo. “Site two, base. Fargo for Horse.”
“Standby by, base.” A seg later, Horse came on, “Oh great leader, we need some relief. The men would like to get some time away from the site on their down time.”
Fargo chuckled, “Site two, base, they need time, or you need time?”
“Um, base, of course I would have to verify…”
“Sites one, three, and four, are you listening?”
Fargo looked at the site, distance from it to Archer City, and then quickly pulled up the other sites. Site one was outside Capital City, site three was at the Kwamaine village, but the city was Canyon, and site four was outside Paradise. “Let me work on something. Plan on four pairs men a week, for each site, which would give them… Liberty every third week, lets say.” He pulled up the schedules and winced, “Looks like some people are going to have to double up, since if we give liberty, I want it in daylight. I’ll need to work this out with the WO, and with the GalPat colonel.”
All four sites rogered up, and Fargo pushed back from the comm unit, scrubbing his hands over his face, “Liberty? Really Horse, liberty? And over an open damn channel, so all the other sites would hear it?” He laughed, “You are one sly sumbitch, sir. Yes you are.”
Grayson burst out laughing, “Sly? That damn warrant is twisted. It’s no wonder everybody gave him a wide berth on the ship.”
“So, Senior. What kind of issues are we facing if they go to town?”
“Uh, nothing they haven’t already had vaxes for. Endine is surprisingly clean. No real plant, water, or bugs we haven’t already mapped and checked.”
“What about foods?”
“Well, I haven’t seen any warnings, other than the usual off limits locations on the planet for other issues. But I gotta admit that damned Vindaloo they have here should be classified as a bio weap. That shi… crap burned from end to end!”
Fargo covered a laugh by coughing, “Okay, good to know. Would you mind getting a list of the off limits locations planet wide, please?”
Grayson reached for his data comp and squirted a file to Fargo’s, which pinged with an incoming message, “There you are, sir. I keep that on mine for purely professional reasons if I need to assist the local troopers.”
Fargo did laugh, “I can’t believe you actually said that with a straight face, Senior. But okay. If you see the WO in your wanderings, could you let her know I need to talk to her?”
Fargo, Jiri, and Boykin had spent most of the previous evening running through various plans for setting up liberty runs to the four main cities nearest each site. Fargo had decided not to allow liberty in Kwamaine, due to the potential for hostile action, but he did want to keep the regular patrols working.
Since Boykin already did twice weekly runs to the sites, it was more a matter of revising the days and times than anything else. They had checked and found they could draw supplies for the sites on any day, and chose to move to first and fourth days. Since sixth and seventh day were considered weekends/religious, he didn’t want troops in town during those days, even though seventh day had provided a quiet time for Boykin to get in and out of sites.
She had come up with at least two locations where she could land for each site, except site three, that was inside the perimeter, which made her happier. And it would give her more excuses to shoot a variety of approaches.
What Horse had not planned on, and Jiri laughed about, was Fargo’s decision to add surveillance modes to each liberty. All of the troopers would wear their greys, but would add the the lapel cameras and do data collections on all of the towns. He also laid on a tasker for each of the team leads to meet with the TBT techs in the major cities at least once per month.
“Fargo, you Horse is going to have a Slashlizard when you put this out. He’s not going to like the surveil requirement, that means the guys can’t play.”
“I know. That’s part of why I did it. We’re only here three months on the initial contract, and they should be able to do that standing on their heads in a corner. Horse started it, all I’m doing is finishing it.”
“And adding the off limits places?”
Fargo grinned, “Cherry on top.”