Episode 102. Part 1

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Present: Jay, Mary, Terri, Bobby
Air Date: 09 Dec 2008

Jump to Part 2

Wednesday, 09 Jun 2518
Juniper Springs Settlement
Jiang Yin, Red Sun (Zhu Que) System
05:45 hrs, local time

After some consideration, we new hires have decided to parlay with the bandits in order to suss out their motivations, their numbers, their strengths and weaknesses…and then take them out. It's close to dawn and the Captain is still asleep, so we have some time to plan.

It's not known if the bandits have a permanent camp or where they come from or where they go. They are basically nomadic. However, they must have some surveillance on the settlement. Do they have an observation point in the hills surrounding the settlement? Do they have a mole or an informant in the settlement itself? Or is it just blind luck on the bandits' part? How else do they always know just when there's something good to snatch or just when would be a most opportune moment to strike?

Making plans is all well and good, but they'll amount to fuck-all if we can't arm ourselves. The Captain's got the only key. Rina's pissed because in all the commotion surrounding the mutiny-suppression action, she'd had the gun locker key in her possession yet neglected to make an impression of it. Damn. One golden opportunity squandered. It would have been a cinch to make, using putty for the impression and the grinding tools in the workroom to cut a copy. A hacksaw blade would have sufficed for the blank. Oh, well. They'll just have to get the guns the hard way: convincing the Captain to release them.

Since the Captain spaced two people without compunction on very little evidence of guilt, we're not holding out much hope he'll agree to put weapons in our hands.

Nika is a hard sell as well, not being entirely on board with saving the colonists. It's not our job, we didn't sign on to do it, what difference could be possibly make and so forth. Christian is committed to it, because it's the right and compassionate thing to do. Rina's for taking the settlers' one working tractor, digging defensive trenches around the settlement, setting the trenches with spikes and making homemade napalm out of gasoline/fuel and detergent. Christian wants to parlay with the bandits and he wants to know who is with him on it.

Listening to Christian and Rina going on about offensive numbers, ambush points, finding enough bottles for Molotov cocktails [Okay, mainly it's only Rina going on about those things—Maer], Nika's thinking she's signed on with a group of terrorists. It's not that she doesn't want to help, precisely, but Nika's trying to figure out why we're doing all this when we've only been hired to fly the ship here and fly the ship back. We weren't hired on to be do-gooders. Christian suggests that Nika sit in her quarters if she doesn't like it. Nika shoots back that if he wants to talk to the bandits, she'll go with him. Rina backs that notion.

We go to the settlement's Headman to ascertain if they had attempted parlay with the bandits before.

The Headman clears his throat and tells us the background:

In the beginning they did parlay. The bandits were originally settlers who had fallen on hard times and had taken to hunting to survive. When that no longer sufficed, they took to outlawry. The settlement had heard about this band from the inhabitants of Forestville (the next city over) and the word was one should be cautious when dealing with this roving band.

So when the strangers finally showed up, the settlers were cautious. At first, the band just asked for some help, saying they'd been attacked, they'd lost their crops, could they spare some food and some fuel. The settlers gave what they could of the food and fuel.

Rina asks the Headman if he'd ever heard the Parable of the Camel's Nose. Nobody reads the classics anymore, apparently.

The Headman resumes the story: The next time the strangers came by, they demanded livestock. When the settlers refused, the strangers drew weapons and intimidated the settlers into giving the livestock up. That was four months ago and since then, the bandits have become more and more aggressive. The settlers killed two of them, but the bandits had killed four of the settlers. The bandits burned down the town one night after one of their number was killed. (We'd seen the burnt-out remains of the town, a little distance away) Since then, the settlers had barricaded their families and what little they had left behind the encircled cargo containers, fortifying them the best they can and holding the bandits off. It's been one raid after another. Livestock stolen, homes burned, vehicles destroyed.

Christian asks about the bandits' leader.

The Headman doesn't know how much of a leader that man is, but he's an older gentleman, by name of Hollister. Tanned, practically leathered by the sun and the elements, grizzled of beard and rather fond of his whiskey, one could mistake him for the town drunkard. Or a miner. Or a begger. Not a leader, but somehow he's managed it. The group has weapons and they seem to know how to use them. Their guns run to hunting pieces, not assault rifles, but Christian remarks that even so, it won't be long before the bandits use those weapons in earnest against the settlement.

Christian decides to talk with the bandits to find out more about them and is reasonably sure he can talk the Captain into giving him weapons in order to do it. Arden pledges to patch Christian up when he returns from his trip. Nika and Rina agree to go with Christian as back-up…and not so incidentally get armed as well.

In order to ensure the Captain is in as pleasant a mood as possible when we bring him our request, we refrain from waking him, but instead wait for him to awaken on his own.

When the Captain does wake up, sleep-tousled and blinking and spiking his coffee with a splash of liquor, Christian grabs a coffee before approaching him with his request. Nika leans in a doorway nearby to watch the show. She's got a twenty riding on the Captain refusing.

Ivan wants to know how many settlers are coming with us, as we'd planned the day before.

Christian: Actually, we've chosen for the moment to see what the entire situation is.
Ivan: The entire situation….
Christian: Yes. We wish to talk to the bandits. It could be that they might want certain goods and be willing to pay for it.
Ivan: (Hmmm…) Bandits are tricky to deal with.
Christian: Of course.
Ivan: You'll go speak with them?
Christian: Yes.

Ivan says he'll stay inside and Christian agrees with him.

Christian: We will need weapons.
Ivan: Okay.
Christian: Thank you.
Ivan: (Sternly) One side arm, each.
Christian: All right.
Ivan: Who is going on this mission?
Christian: Myself, and the doctor has chosen to go with us.

Arden is present and speaks up.

Arden: If they need medical help…
Nika: (from the doorway) I'll go look after these guys. I've grown up in areas like this, so…
Ivan: Very well. You will of course tell them that anything you negotiate is subject to my approval, of course,
Christian: (Not making waves…) Of course.
Ivan: I am not giving them my ship. But if they have money or something of value to trade—
Christian: They could very well be a win-win situation if you could trade some of your goods, emptying more room so you could get more colonists that can pay…
Ivan: (Hey, that's an idea…) What goods on board we can sell?
Christian: A whole bunch of colony equipment.
Nika: We were re-supplying this area.

That sits well with the Captain. He'll let some of that cargo go. And he'll let us have some weapons. Christian gets his rifle. Nika gets a pistol and her rifle—the rifle just in case she has to cover them when we haul ass out of there. Arden stows his pistol in his bag.

Ivan: What are you doing, Rina? Are you going with them? All the action is in the bandit camp.
Rina: (On board with this) Sure.
Arden: I'm sure we can find you a husband there.
Rina: Oh, fuck you. And I'll get my gun back.
Arden: Just don't use the gun on me.
Rina: (to Arden) Don't give me a reason. (To Christian) Okay, I'm going.

Rina gets her gun back and holsters it under her arm.

We get to work immediately, operating under the suspicion that the bandits are either watching the ship or they have a spy in the settlement. They'll know we're coming, so why wait? Christian runs up a white cloth on something suitably high outside the settlement to signal our wish to parlay. We use the antennae array on the ship. Nika's of the opinion that Christian's making a mistake doing this and he shouldn't ever be made Captain. Christian's of the opinion he doesn't want to be Captain.

Signal mounted, we warn the settlers to hide and we wait. Arden spends the day in the compound, giving everyone—even the children—a medical once-over. The settlers aren't malnourished, per se, but they are getting by with the rudest of rations, having spent their resources in planting. Which crops are now lying fallow in fields the banditry has made unworkable.

We set someone to observe the area at all times so the bandits cannot get the drop on us.

The day passes. The sun sinks toward sunset. A group of horsemen arrive. The alert is given and Christian, Arden, Nika and Rina go out meet them.

One rider is clearly the leader. Four others flank him in wing positions. Two have rifles, the other two pistols. The leader may be armed, but nothing is visible. He does, however, have a very nasty-looking bullwhip slung on his saddle. All are dressed in full cowboy garb.

The riflemen hang back on final approach and the remaining three come forward.

Christian notes the rifles are held at rest, yet in a way they can immediately be brought to bear on us.

The leader opens the parlay.

Leader: I guess I'm here to accept your surrender. On behalf of the law in these parts.
Christian: The law?
Leader: That's me. Such as there is.
Christian: That's interesting. Actually, no. We are here to negotiate on behalf of our ship.
Leader: All right. What do you got to negotiate?
Christian: We have a certain number of trade goods you might find useful, considering what you've already…taken as a tithe from the local colonists.

Arden cuts in.

Arden: (Frowning)That he probably stole. He knows what he did. You know what he did. Let's call it what it is.
Christian: He's the law.
Leader: We didn't take any tithes.
Arden: No. They just took what they wanted.
Leader: Just some livestock and some other stuff, but didn't take no tithes as far as I know.
Arden says something rude and Christian calls him on his language. Then:
Christian: (Briskly) So. Who died and made you sheriff?

Oh, like this was any more polite than what Arden said?

Leader: Heck. Lotsa folk. (laughs) So, um, whaddya say you got to trade there? Stores? We could use some…you got alcohol?
Christian: Yes. Yes, we do.
Leader: Well…
Christian: A seemingly never-ending supply of it.
Leader: (Shrugging) We got some gold, I guess.
Christian: Well, we could—I'm curious about something, indulge me if you will.
Leader: (Easily) Sure.
Christian: Why the raids?
Leader: What raids?
Christian: Okay… Why the acquisition of goods from the people behind these walls?
Leader: Oh, we done some trading with them, if that's what you're talkin' about .
Christian: …yeah…
Leader: Oh, are you talkin' about the bandits? I wouldn't know anything about them.
Christian: Ah. So there's a third group out there? …I see….
Leader: May be. But don't you worry about it, though. We'll take care of it.

Nika speaks up.

Nika: They been hittin' you?
Leader: All I know is they're all around us.
Christian knows the man is lying. Nika continues.
Nika: Just outa curiosity, whaddya think these bandits're gonna do when there ain't nobody to steal from no more?
Leader: Hmmm….well. Don't know. Seems there's always somebody to steal from.
Nika: Bein' that you're the law in these parts—
Leader: Such as it is.
Arden: `Such as' the law here? Or `such as' these parts are?
Leader: Both. What was your question, again? Ma'am?
Arden: What are you going to do when the victims are gone, was the question. When you fleece the sheep and the sheep have no more fleece.
Leader: There's always someone. Always somebody lookin' for a green pastoral environments.
Christian: I'm just curious as to why the bandits don't work with the locals.
Leader: Work with them….what d'ya mean?
Christian: For example, they're taking food, livestock and the like. I'm guessing the bandits don't have the facilities as the people who train people to raise livestock, breed them, grow the crops—
Leader: That `s what the villagers are for.
Christian: And when they don't have any livestock left?
Leader: Look like there's ships comin' in, every now and then.
Christian: Yes. There might be. But this ship doesn't have any livestock on it.
Leader: This ship? You say.
Christian: (gesturing) Do you see cows? Do you see the shaking of things that comes from cows moving around? No, no cows.
Leader: Okay…
Christian: That's not my point. My point is—think of it this way: if they were to have their livestock and their grain and to grow it, till the fields, produce with it and get new livestock. Wouldn't you have a more reliable—or the bandits—have a more reliable and regular supply?
Arden: (asking Christian) What you mean "or the bandits"?
Leader: Lessee if I understand this correctly. You're sayin' we shouldn't take from these townfolk so later we can take from these townfolk.
Christian: I'm saying—
Leader: You're talkin' 'bout moderation. Bein' careful. Not—
Nika: We're talkin' about building an economy. What do you think these bandits actually get outa these raids that they're not skilled enough and smart enough to actually raise and produce their own?
Leader: Well, golly. You done convinced me. We're on the side'a good now. You know what? I think what I probably need is the love of a good woman to show me the right way. Ain't that right.
Arden: I think there might be someone on board.
Christian: The Captain, I trust?
Rina: (finally chiming in) Yeah. I'd pay to see that.
Leader: (ignoring the heckling) If that's what you're suggestin'. You know, productive and all.

Nika gives the man a look from top to bottom and up again.

Nika: I'm sure you couldn't possibly be productive enough to entice me.
Leader: Well, then, I guess we'll have to stick to our unlawful ways.
Christian: I'm curious about one thing: How long do you think you have before the Alliance comes.
Leader: (faking fear) Not the Alliance…!

The Leader openly scoffs, stating that the Alliance doesn't give a rat's ass about the settlements this far out from the Core.

Nika: (indicating Christian, God he's such a moron) This is why he's not going to be the Captain. He thinks he can negotiate with this—!
Christian: (looking daggers: shut up to me) Certainly I can negotiate. If you'll let me.
Leader: Send the Alliance. We'll be happy to see them.
Christian: Oh, really?
Leader: We know these hills like nobody's business.
Christian: What if they bombard you?
Leader: You think.
Christian: Yes, I think.
Leader: All the livestock we done taken in the last year ain't worth one'a them bombs. You think they gonna waste them on us?
Christian: Yep.
Leader: I don't think so.
Christian: Because, you see—
Leader: These people have been on the horn callin' for months and how many Alliance spaceships have shown up? I'd sat that'd be…none.
Christian: See, the thing is—
Leader: They don't care about life out here on the Border.
Christian: I think you're a little wrong there. They're pushing out further every year. Eventually, they're gonna come here and their not gonna care about your—
Leader: Well, then maybe we'll find a nice ship like yours and take it up to the Rim
Christian: Really? Can you fly a ship?
Leader: I'm sure we can convince people to fly us.
Christian: Hnnn. And repair it?
Leader: We can pay our way, but we're not goin' now. Because we're fine, here.
Christian: Well—
Leader: First you tell me that we're runnin' outa people, now you're sayin' we's gonna be overrun with people.
Christian: No. In fact, you're gonna run outa people eventually, and eventually…see, the Alliance is gonna want this place colonized because they'll want food. This area's very large and can be turned into a lot of food, which can be sent back to the Core. Eventually they're gonna realize they're not getting food. Because you're stopping that. They'll come, see you as a challenge to their authority and you saw what happened during the war when someone challenged their authority.
Leader: Right. How much do you want for that alcohol. And any ammunition you have.
Christian: Hmm…We want a tractor and 50 gold.
Leader: I don't have any tractors but I can give you a mule.
Christian: The four-legged kind or the motored kind?
Leader: I got both.
Christian: Hmm. Sure.
Leader: For how much alcohol and how much ammunition?
Christian: No ammunition. We don't have any to spare. That wasn't one of the things we were carrying.
Leader: You seem to be….armed.
Christian: With enough ammunition for ourselves. It would be foolish to be without ammunition in this area. There are bandits about.
Arden: But the law will protect us. Such as it is.
Leader: Anyway. All right. So…we're lookin' at a mule and how much alcohol?
Christian: Let's see….(he thinks about it…)

Rina leans over to Arden and says for his ears alone:

Rina: I say we drug the alcohol and while they're sleeping it off, we come back and slit their throats.
Arden: (quietly) We're not doing that again. And we aren't doing that, either.

Rina rolls her eyes. All right. Whatever. Wuss.

Christian knows most of the best alcohol is locked up in the Captain's quarters and for the bandits, a case of the hard stuff will do. But how to get it? Rina's of the opinion the only way to get a drink out of the Captain is to stick a finger down his throat. Arden looks the `lawmen' over, and thinks that they don't look that hard off. Certainly they're in better condition than the settlers.
Christian: A case. Of various hard liquors.
Leader: We'll give you fifty for that. That's fair.
Christian: All right.
Leader: I know we're not giving a mule for it.
Christian: That's all right. We probably don't have the room for it anyway.
Leader: Very good. All right. We'll come back tomorrow.

We say our goodbyes. They ride off. But not before all us ex-military types notice the body language: the Leader has people on the heights with sniper rifles. He looks around, a not-so-subtle signal to them: all clear.

Nika tells our party to pull back now.

Christian: I believe that man is tryin' to kill us.
Rina: No. You think?
Nika: (I need to speak with you…now!) Christian.
Christian: (to Nika) Don't. Really.
Rina: Not here. Not where they can hear us.

We watch them go and then step inside the airlock, the last point before we'd be forced to give up our weapons upon boarding, to discuss it.

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