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24 ** - Just add hot water

As I was sitting down to coffee and something quite enchanting called "Croissant du chocolate," I was visited at my table by a very polite gentleman in uniform (no sarcasm there either), and as he 'begged my pardon,' I slid the chair out on the other side of the table with my foot and merely glanced at it.
With a polite thanks (which I had mistaken earlier for a call for mercy), he somewhat ceremoniously sat down while I had the 'garr san' bring him a cup of coffee to match the one I was drinking (did I mention they have great coffee?), we exchanged pleasantries (yes, all that work on social skills is beginning to show), I expressed my amazement at the devotion to beauty and grace, and eventually he got down to the business at hand.
Apparently I had only a few days left on my visa, but I can renew it as early as tomorrow. These are people I don't want angry at me, and I have been missing Taungoo, so I thought I would come back long enough to take care of a few things while I waited to visit the embassy once again.
I gathered a few things, stopped into the market, bought a can of dry coffee (freeze dried, they say . . . Just add hot water . . . the instructions were written in their language but also in standard), paid a long, last visit to the main concourse where the richest of the artwork is always on sale (more likely just on display, as nobody with that amount of money is going to spend it like that), and looked for a shuttle.
I found to my delight that the next one was only 100 credits. There were cheaper ones, but I'd picked up a book to read on the trip home, and I wanted to get started with it. "Grimm's Faerie Tales," the cover read. The old fellow had seemed a bit sad to part with it, but a little extra coin brightened his smile. I had no sooner begun reading than the docking clamps were slamming shut at Tau station.
I will never see that embassy in quite the same way. No wonder its attendants didn't seem so friendly. It seems so sparse and drab compared to the place they come from. It must wear on them, though it seems quite normal to those of us who make our "home" here.
I listened to the empty echo of my footsteps against the undecorated walkways, the absence of music, the angrier tone of the chatter from passers-by, the lack of smiley social greetings and street vendors, looked around at the drab emptiness of the whole place and reminded myself "This is just Tau."
The familiar foul stench that once again assaulted my nostrils, so I figured after a stop at my room, still rented for most of the next 180 days, try to catch that rat I'd been chasing around in there, not knowing what to call it, drop off a few things in storage and see if my old friend, 'Thief' was still hanging around in the ruins. We had some talking to do.
Before I even got past the docks, the portmaster called me into his office. Seated around a large table were the captains of several ships I had worked on. They were quite irate, and I was told gruffly to sit down.
"You're in a lot of hot water, there, young man," one of them began.
"Oh, good," I replied, holding up a package I had with me. They weren't looking any happier. "I brought coffee."
The portmaster folded his arms and grimaced, and the 'conversation' erupted, and I suggested that people needed to work on their social skills. Apparently my being a 'collie' prohibits me from saying that to anyone. I was asked to wait in the hall.
I set off to my room to read that book, but on the way past the repair yards, I heard a whiney, fussy young guy who sounded like he was trying to tell his boss how to do his job. I stepped in, to the relief of his trainer, and handled the matter so well that I spent the rest of the afternoon working instead of reading.
After the fourth unruly apprentice they sent my way (where do they get these guys anyway?), my patience was wearing thin and I let him get the best of me, so while his regular supervisor was attempting somewhat unsuccessfully to reign him in, I noticed a small fleet of research vessels. They needed new research equipment installed, new star charts updated and extensive repairs. I did it all, but on the last one, I started to have difficulty.
I've never been a quitter, but this was my day off, and I had other plans to begin with. Besides, I don't want to ruin my progress, and that room full of captains was still making volcanic sounds as I walked by. I picked up my pace a little. Too late.
The door flew open, and the portmaster screamed at me to get back in there . . .
I really thought I was in trouble, but three of the captains from that research fleet were at the table, and they were stopping to check messages on their Core Techs. The conversation shifted gears and changed directions. I was then told I'd be called in if I was needed any further.
It seems that it is illegal to help myself to unneeded spare parts that special customers are so eager to pay for. Who knew?