MENTAL ESSENCE
PAGE 57
    "Yes, we do.  Be sure you drink only the water from the purifier though." the desk clerk answered.
    Pace put her hand over her face and walked toward the stairs.  She didn't think the clerk could hear her.
    "She's lived a rather privileged life." Orin said to the clerk.
    The clerk just looked over his glasses.
    "Ok then, we'll just be off to our rooms." said Aukous.
    The lobby, stairs, halls, and rooms were supporting ample quantities of dust.
    "I didn't see any other guests." said Hulmara
    "Surprise there." Quipped Pace.
    "I wonder how many planets have this sort of devastation?" asked Orin.
    "According to the records supplied be the military, ten were cleansed, and hundreds suffered massive ruin.  It's in your
prepping files." said Aukous.
    "Yeah, but seeing it in person is substantially different." Pace replied.
    After washing, they decided to explore the town.  It took an hour or so, but they finally found a restaurant.
    "I see there's not much left on the menu.  What would you suggest" asked Pace.
    "I'd suggest someplace else, but it's the same no matter where you go.  The soup off the day is not bad."
    "We will take a bowl." Pace stated.
    "Each, or five spoons." the waitress said with a laugh.
They all laughed, a little.
    "Wasn't always like this.  Was a time when beings from a dozen different worlds came here.  Real busy place." said a man hunched over a book on the corner table.
    "We needed a stopover.  We've never been to a world that's seen a war that looks this devastating." said Hulmara
    "You're lucky." the man said, then went back to his book.
    They finished their soup, then left without saying a word.
    "That guy looked like he was all but dead." Aukous said.
    " Says here that this planet lost 95% of its population." Orin said leading from his hand link.
    As they walked through the city, it was apparent the remaining population was in rough shape.  Everyone they met had at least one ailment, a cough, dirty bandages, and some carried oxygen bottles or other devices.
    "Is the whole planet like this?" asked Hulmara.
    "Pretty much.  The Intel indicated all the major cities were hammered.  The smaller cities suffered only minor damage because they were of little strategic value." said Aukous.
    "Have you noticed nobody wants to even look in our direction?" asked Orin.
    "Shame, fear, probably a lot of reasons." said Doc.
    When they returned to the hotel, they decided to head out to another planet.
    Winen was not the kind of place to look for Ventan.
    "Trent, have you bonded to yourself yet?" asked Aukous.
    "Partially.  It will take a while.  Especially when we are moving around." said Trent.
    "How long would we have to be in one location?" asked Pace.
    "There is no way to tell." Trent replied.
    "Says here the closest planet known for gambling and vocational activities is Ruta.  Sounds like a place Ventan would hide." said Pace.
    "Done." said Orin setting the coordinates.
    "Is there war damages?" asked Hulmara.
    "Doesn't say." said Pace.
    "Paces like that seem to weather conflicts rather well.  Which begs questions by itself." said Hulmara.
    "Any insight on Ruta Trent?" Aukous asked.
    "We did not venture into this region, and Ruta does not stand out the data bases I have browsed through." said Trent.
    "Should we notify the military we are going there?" asked Pace.
    "They are aware of our location at all times." said Aukous.
    "Within helping distance?" asked Pace.
    "Maybe." said Doc.
    "If I ask again will you be more comforting?" Pace said with a snicker.
    "No." Doc said with the same snicker.
    After departing from the ship, they made usual monetary exchanges, and made their way to the local transport service.
    "Take us the where ever the action is." Aukous commanded.
    "Pick a direction.  There's whatever you are looking for, all over the place." the driver said in monotone voice.
    Orin pointed straight ahead.
    "Now this is more like it." said Hulmara looking up at the 100-story hotel casino bathed in multi colored lights.
    As they looked around they could see many different species of beings seemingly getting along, and even enjoying each other's company.
    "Looks like a right friendly place." Pace stated.
    "Sure does.  Let's hit the tables." said Orin.
    "Remember, the minerals we extracted from that meteor field was done with Ree technology.  If you win, you will give them a cut, right." Pace said to Orin joking voice.
    "Yap.  Sure will.  You bettcha.  Absolutely." Orin replied as he disappeared into the crowd.
    "This gives me an idea." Pace said, motioning the others to follow her to an open space where nobody could hear them talk.  " What if we run up a huge tab and can't pay it.  We can figure out some scam to pay them off, and by doing so we will be working into their confidence.  These places are run by organized crime, they probably know where Ventan is."
    "Only one problem with that.  They'll probably kill us instead." said Aukous.
    "How about we lose a bundle and act like it's nothing.  They would be friendlier thinking we are wealthy eccentrics.  Maybe we could weasel into them that way." the Doc suggested.
    "Weasel.  Weasel.  That gives me a sense of something familiar." Trent said.
    "Trent, can you scan their files to see if they have a reference Ventan.  We should first find out if there is a chance these guys even know Ventan.  If we go around to enough of these places, you can bet one of them has done some kind of business with him?" Doc asked.