Having made arrangements with the crew for watches, Dirk heads off to the hotel Issari to find Numar and breakfast.
Over breakfast and being careful not to be overheard, Numar explains the situation.
“OK. Background. Olympia is home to a huge sea creature called a Daghadasi. Now, these critters eat some krill like things called Skreekers, which in turn eat the only photosynthesising thing on the planet, floating mats of vegetation, which go by the elegant name of Green-mat.
It turns out that some research company found out that these Daghadasi have a compound in them, PDPT-beta if you want to get technical about it, that has great potential for a whole new class of drugs with the supposed potential to cure anything from the common cold to cancer.
The trouble is this compound is present in a very small percentage of the population, and only in pre-reproductive animals. Unfortunately you cannot tell these useful animals apart from the others, which lead to indiscriminate slaughter for a modest return.
The result has been a significant population crash, with a knock on effect in the proliferation of Skreekers and reduction in Green-mat. This made the ecology boys fearful for all life on Olympia. Hence the introduction of laws limiting the number of Daghadasi that could be caught, in the hope that the population will recover, and the whole ecology saved.
However, some independent research suggests that the Daghadasi numbers are still falling too quickly. This suggests that Seaharvester, the company in question, is going over their quota limit.
So, we have been retained by a sub-sector wide ecology group, ‘The Pan-Galactic Friends of Life’ to investigate. It also happens that SuSAG own Seaharvester and are worried about any more bad press. So they have hired us to investigate and report back to them as well. Consequently, we are in the enviable position of being paid twice for the same work.”
At that, Numar pauses with a large smile on his face and takes a sip of coffee before continuing.
“Right then, SuSAG have given us cover identities as legitimate buyers of PDPT-beta for research purposes. The proclaimed aim is to learn how to synthesise the drug and therefore end the dependence upon the Daghadasi. We shall be meeting a Seaharvester representative“
Numar pauses slightly while he checks his notes “A Jorge Chan, who will give us the ten CrImp tour before we settle down to business.”
Turning to Dirk, Numar continues “I’ll load the background info we have on Olympia and Seaharvester to your tablet so you’ll have the same info as us. Keep quiet and follow our lead and I’ll get your observations when we get back. Is that OK ?”
With Dirk’s concurrence, Numar winds up “Well then gentlemen, let’s finish breakfast and head off to meet Mr Chan.”
Some thirty minutes later the group are assembled in the hotel’s large foyer when a smartly dressed man enters, looks around briefly and walks up to Numar.
“Mr Gimmini I presume.” He says, extending his hand to Numar.
“Mr Chan I take it.” Replies Numar, shaking the mans’ hand.
Introductions are swiftly made all round, with Dirk getting the impression that Mr Chan is mentally ticking off names with an internal list. Seemingly satisfied he continues
“Well, welcome one and all to Olympia and I’ll now take you to our Head Office where we’ll have a short presentation before I show you round. Then I’ll introduce you to Anna Graigor who is the Planetary Operations Manager and who handles the non SuSAG sales.”
Mr Chan herded them all to a large air raft and once aboard they made good time to Seaharvester’s Head Office. The Head Office was a large, new, building and the team were ushered into a large reception area, issued with security passes and logged into the system. Soon they were sitting comfortably in a large board room, having been served coffee and pastries.
Mr Chan then gave an illustrated talk about Olympia’s ecology, focusing on the Daghadasi. The talk moved onto Seharvester’s operation, constantly stressing the quotas and the sustainability of Seaharvester’s methods. Dirk took this opportunity to study Mr Chan and the few aides and technicians in the room, rather than give his undivided attention to the content of the presentation. After all, he thought, I’m not here to ask intelligent questions, I’m here as an extra pair of eyes, simply to give my impression of the proceedings.
After the talk had concluded, Dirk was none the wiser on the specifics of Seaharvester’s operation, they seemed to say a lot, make a lot of sense, but not actually talk about anything in enough details for a rigorous appraisal. Equally, Dirk was seeing nothing out of the ordinary in his scrutiny of Mr Chan or the other Seaharvester employees.
Mr Chan had excused himself, leaving to go and collect Ms Graigor, who would discuss a deal with them. This left Dirk, Numar, and the rest of the team clustered around a side table working their way through more coffee and pastries and chatting about what they had just witnessed.
“Well, nothing there that wasn’t in the briefing packs” whispered Numar.
“No, and I couldn’t see any nervousness or other tells that would suggest he did not wholly believe or commit to what he was saying.” replied Dirk, also sotto voce “Same goes for the minions, I couldn’t read anything from them other than normal behaviour.”
Before long Mr Chan reappeared, alone and with a mixture of irritation and apology on his face.
“I’m very sorry Mr Gimmini, gentlemen, but it appears Ms Graigor has had to fly out to one of our factory ships to address an issue there, and therefore won’t be available to meet with you here. However, this does present you with a rather unique opportunity, as she is able to make time in her schedule to still meet with you, but it will have to be on the factory ship, between her other engagements. Therefore, if you are willing to accept this inconvenience, I can give offer you a tour of a factory ship and the chance to see a live Daghadasi. The factory ship is presently about a fifteen hour air raft ride away, so if you agree we can set off from your hotel in an hour.”
Among the quiet murmuring of the team discussing this turn of events, Numar looks at Dirk and raises an eyebrow as if to ask ‘Do you think we should go ?” Dirks responding shrug conveyed his reply ‘Seems genuine enough, and I can take a day or two having bought all the trade goods I can afford’.
Therefore, Numar turned to Mr Chan and responded
“Very well Mr Chan, I think we have the time in our schedule, so thank you for the invitation, it will be interesting to see a factory ship and the sea life of Olympia first hand. If you would be so kind as to return us to our hotel now, we can gather our toiletries and a change of clothes for the trip and be ready in an hour.”
With that, the team were flown back to their hotel, where they each packed an overnight bag. Dirk put in a call to the Lodestar Phoenix to let the crew know what he was up to, and not to expect him for dinner that night.