By far, the easier assignment of the two squads of Multipians was the one that was sent to Gorman 3 in a heavily armed cruiser. This is not to say that the task was a pleasant one, but it was at least a straightforward one. The Gorman system was one that the Multipian empire had generally left alone, knowing its population to be unsavory and wanting to deal with it as little as possible. But since a korinthidon had gotten mixed up in its business, it was time for matters to be upped in importance from salutary neglect to a mission to remind the Gorman system that their freedom depended on not getting Multipia riled. And Multipia was at least highly concerned, which did not bode well for the well-being of the smugglers in the Gorman system in their long-term plans at increasing their profits and preserving their freedom.
The cruiser sailed from Multi Prime with an enthusiastic group of security forces that were happy to have an investigative and anti-smuggling remit related to the preservation of the rights of the korinthidons. Quite surprisingly, a few korinthidons decided to join the group as well, which everyone figured would terrify the people at Gorman. To no one’s surprise, it did. The cruiser made a call at Gorman station, after having gone through the portal to that system.
“This is Gorman station, please hail.”
“This is Commander ________ of the _____________, notifying you of our course to Gorman 3.”
“Why notifying? We are no system of yours that you can simply sail through,” the duty officer responded huffily.
“We are responding to a distress call from an infant Korinthidon who was on a ship leaving from Gorman 3. You might not be aware of it, but korinthidons are a charter member of the Multipian alliance, and any kidnapping or murdered korinthidons are a subject of internal police authority for the Multipian Empire,” the commande responded.
There was a bit of a pause at this.
“Is your notification of entry strictly limited to concerns about the well-being of Multipian korinthidons?” the duty officer replied.
“That is correct,” the commander replied. “Once that has been dealt with, we are under orders to return home.”
There was a bit of a pause at this.
“You have permission to investigate Gorman 3 and the matter of the korinthidon, but we will be watching to make sure that you do not exceed this,” the duty officer said.
“Understood,” the commander said, moving his ship on a course away from Gorman station and towards Gorman 3.
The commander and crew had no doubts that the government of Gorman 3, such as it was, would have been warned of their arrival and would no doubt be trying to find a way to either stonewall the investigation or, alternatively, to give them something that would make them want to leave as soon as possible. Either option was in play, and the Multipians were prepared. It did not take them too long, though, to arrive in a serene course to Gorman 3, where the cruiser once again interacted with a station providing notification.
“This is Commander ___________ of the ______________, and we are requesting information relating to a kidapped korinthidon who was tracked on a ship leaving this planet.”
“This is Gorman 3 station,” the duty officer replied. “And ships leave this planet all the time.”
“We are aware of that,” the commander stated. “The ship happened to leave for a portal near your system’s suns and went through that portal __ hours ago.”
There was a bit of a pause.
“We request to know how it is that you could track the ship,” the duty officer replied.
This time it was the commander’s turn to pause as he thought of a proper response. “It is possible for us to track the locations of korinthidons to fairly narrow coordinates,” the commander decided to say after some thought.
“The only ship that meets the timing and coordinates you stated was a ship that was taking refugees to a new home,” the duty officer said.
“Where were the refugees before they left on that ship?” the commander said. “We have reason to believe that while refugees are not the most likely population to engage in smuggling dinosaur eggs from far off systems, that your system has plenty of people who could engage in such business.”
The duty officer did not respond, silently cursing that this was true.
“We therefore request permission to investigate the area where the refugees left in hope of finding out where the korinthidon egg came from. Once we are satisfied with our investigation we will depart from here and return home.”
The duty officer gave them the coordinates for where the refugee camp used to be, and before too long the cruiser had landed in a meadow near the abandoned refugee camp, much to the surprise of the merchants in their stores who were still not finished taking down their stores to move their business to another location.
The merchants eyed each other nervously as the Multipian police officers and the royal korinthidons got out of the cruiser and moved towards them.
“Who are you and why are you threatening us?” an ad hoc spokesman said, coming towards them.
The commander was quick to the point. “We have reason to believe that one of you sold or gave a korintihdon egg that has since hatched to refugeees going on a ship that left from here.”
There was an angry chatter in the cant that was used by the merchants, with some angry accusations and denials about the fact that armed Multipians had suddenly showed up without warning with suspicion that they were involved in such a dangerous trade. The Multipian security forces looked at each other and smiled, while the korinthidons focused their attention on one merchant in particular, who had a guilty look about him.
“I don’t know you,” the merchant said to the staring korinthidons, who titled their head at him.
“But they know you, it seems,” the commander replied.
The merchants looked at him and chattered with him once more in their incomprehensible cant. As the combined glares of the dinosaurs and of his fellow merchants as well as the unpleasant nature of the discussion continued, eventually the merchant confessed to having given a girl a korinthidon egg that was about to hatch. First he said this in his own tongue, and then he said it in common to the Multipians.
“Where did you acquire this egg?” the commander asked him.
The merchant hemmed and hawed.
“Look, based on what you have already said, we can arrest you for trafficking in korinthidons, and let me assure you that the courts will not be happy about that. Our friends here might even get involved.
The dinosaurs looked at the guilty merchant hungrily.
“How did you guys figure out that it came from here anyway?” the merchant asked, to the general interest of his associates.
The security forces explained how it was that the baby korinthidon had cried out, exposing its location, and how it was that this had led them to check out the location here, thanks to some timely information from the authorities of the Gorman system and Gorman 3 in particular.
The merchants looked around at each other seriously. They had always been told that trade in anything involving korinthidons was a bad idea, once they had become aware of the species at all. Now they knew how unwise it was, that it was not just their own planetary authorities that could find them if they harmed a korinthidon, but that angry people and dinosaurs could chase them from halfway across the galaxy, guns blazing, wrecking them and all that they hold dear. All of the people there resolved not to have anything more to do with korinthidons and to tell their family and friends what could happen to them if they messed with such creatures. And that was precisely the point.
Eventually the merchant broke down in the face of being arrested and told the security forces where he had gotten the egg from and who brought it, and they invited him to come with them to have a conversation with them personally. The merchant figured this was an invitation that it was not safe to refuse, and so he sighed and went on their ship freely while they traveled to a location in the nearest city, where the ship remained in the area and a small team landed and surprised the smuggler, bringing him on the ship for a conversation.
“What’s your problem,” the smuggler said.
“How did you acquire a korinthidon egg?”
“How do you think I got it? I stole it.”
“Where did you steal it from?” the commander asked.
“I stole it from Makron 5,” the smuggler said, and the security forces noted this as a place whose security needed to be upgraded, perhaps.
“Why did you do it?” the commander asked.
“My brother is still in slavery for smuggling, and I thought that by taking a korinthidon egg I could take something back,” the smuggler replied.
“Where did your brother smuggle and find himself in trouble,” the commander asked, somehow knowing the answer.
“Maddon Island” was the inevitable answer. “At least that’s what we were told,” the smuggler said.
“It would have been Maddon Island,” one of the officers stated, having been familiar with that situation. “With luck they will be free in a few years.”
“That is small consolation to me,” the smuggler said. “What do you plan on doing to me, though?”
The commander pondered what to do, and figured that it would be worth finding some more information, and so a relatively friendly interrogation happened on the ship, where the smuggler claimed that he had not harmed any adult korinthidons, he just happened to nice an egg that was unattended and quickly grabbed and egg and left, not sure what to do with it. By the time he got to Gorman 3 he was concerned that the egg might bring trouble, so he got rid of it by pretending that it could be a profit opportunity for another merchant he dealt with. He was concerned as well about how it was that he had been discovered, and this was explained to him as well, convincing him also that messing with korinthidons has a bad idea, an even worse idea than he had thought before.
Once the two merchants figured out that the dinosaurs were not going to eat them, they became a lot more cooperative as they recognized that Multipians were not monstrous but were in fact people with whom a deal could be made, even in adverse circumstances. And here, of course, they were looking to save their lives and their freedom. It was well within the rights of the Multipians to lock them up and throw away the key. Yet it did not appear that was going to happen. The commander was weighing the situation carefully. He clearly could, if he wanted to, drag away these merchants, but would that do any good? It did not appear that the baby dinosaur had come to any harm. It was now on a trip into space, to be sure, but if it had ben given to a girl who was anything like the usual sort it was being cared for properly, and hopefully would find out that it was not all alone after all. Yet at the same time not to punish smugglers at all would incentivize this sort of treatment and perhaps lead to great suffering for a great many people.
The commander thought about it and privately asked some of the security officers about what could be done, and one of them came up with a brilliant idea.
“Why don’t you let the authorities of Gorman 3 decide how to punish them?”
There was silence as everyone mulled over what that meant.
“I’m sure that there is at least some sort of legal and moral order here, however unusual it may appear to us,” the officer continued.
This was indeed an acceptable option. The commander went out and told the guilty merchants that he would take them before their own authorities and that he would not presume to punish them himself, seeing as he would be likely to err in one way or another, but that their own people would know better the right balance to strike given the sensitivity of the case. This, of course, proved to be quite a surprise to the authorities when they figured this out. And it was quite instructive for the Multipian observers as well, as the case was laid out along with all of the mitigating factors, including the fact that the little korinthidon appears not to have come to any harm, at least so far as was known. Yet the authorities of Gorman thought it was of particular trouble that the Multipians were there as well. Once they realized that the Multipians interest in Gorman was narrow, namely the protection of their own citizens, whether human or dinosaur or shipeater, for example, as well as the avoidance of anything that would reduce the standard of living among their people or their own tax revenues, the authorities of Gorman were quite willing to figure out a way where the punishment met the crime, and where the two smugglers would be forced to do public service announcements about the korinthidon and about the hazards of smuggling korinthidons or their eggs. The Multipian security forces were happy to play up, in dramatized form, the sort of unpleasantness that could result from having a negative experience with them or with their dinosaurs.
Truly this part of the mission had been a success. If there was not the sort of horrific punishment that an armed cruiser usually entailed, the mission did give the Multipians a better understanding of the Gorman system and its ways as well as the chance to scout the system and better understand its social system and justice system. This was information that could be very useful and it was well worth the cost of an armed cruiser traveling for a few weeks. Such benefits far outweighed the cost of a little bit of gunboat diplomacy, and everyone left Gorman 3 and returned to Multi Prime having sent out a wide variety of reports that would greatly expand the Multipian knowledge of the system and its people and also provide the opportunity for career advancement. If all journeys should be so successful.