Episode 103. Summer's Gift
Present: Mary,Terri, Bobby, Jay
Air Date: 18 Dec 2008
Friday, 11 Jun 2518
Jiang Yin, Red Sun (Zhu Que) System
09:30 hrs, local time
Captain Ivan Potemkin is dead. We give him a decent burial dirtside and fire off a message to his brother with the bad news. Then we make ready for our departure.
We say goodbye to the Robinsons and the settlement, lift off and make our way to Forestville. Once at Forestville, we look for and find a job that will take us to Angel. We find one hauling livestock. JJ and Frank, the ships mechanic, tell us they want to be put off in Forestville. There being no point in keeping them when they don't want to stay, we leave them where they wish.
Another unexpected complication hits us. That livestock we'd hired on to carry to New Duba on Angel isn't cattle as we'd thought: It's bees, bound for New Duba, for 120 credits, half up front, the rest on arrival.
The beekeeper insists they shouldn't be any trouble. Just keep the cargo container between 40º to 60º Fahrenheit and the bees should remain dormant and docile. We aren't too sure, but a job is a job and more importantly, we're getting half the money up front. 60 credits before we burn atmo and 60 more upon delivery. Even though we found 400 creds in the Captain's safe, the money up front will help us stretch the money out further.
So we burn atmo out of Jiang Yin—a Kuiper class ship manned by just four crew— with our tanks topped off, heading for Angel. It's a 23 day journey, one-way.
Sunday, 13 Jul 2518
09:30 hrs, ships time
Christian and Rina draw bee custody and a couple of days into our trip, Christian opens the cargo container door to check on the bees…and is swarmed. A hive has vacated and though he closes the door, lots of bees escape the container. He runs into the storage locker where the vac suits are hanging, shuts himself in and puts one on. The bees are traveling through the air ducts now and some are even in the locker. A couple of the bees make it inside the suit when Christian puts it on, which makes for a few uncomfortable encounters. Still, we have a duty to our cargo. Christian leaves the locker to ascertain the damage done. He is instantly covered in a crawling buzzing carpet of the critters. They're mad and the bees inside his suit are stinging. Using icy calm, Christian makes his way to the nearest intercom to inform everyone what's happened.
At about the same time, Rina figures out the source of that odd harmonic she's been hearing: the ball bearings in the grav rotor have gone wonky. Not enough to stick or muck up the works, but enough to make the entire ship vibrate subtly. Or in the case of the bees we're shipping, enough to disturb them into swarming. Christian puts a gloved hand on the container in question and confirms it: it's vibrating.
Christian and the others try lowering the temps everywhere below decks in order to chill the bees back into the container…but it doesn't really work.
We end up stopping the ship dead in the water. The vibes stop and the bees settle down. Enough so Christian can return to the upper decks and get out of the suit. When we start up the engines and the rotor again, Rina decides she's going to have to babysit the bearings, despite the amount of lube she'd managed to apply.
Arden tracks down one of the freed queens and puts her back in the container with the others. We rig up pots of warm sugar water and place them below decks to entice the bees down. We also find out that the hives inside the container are fully roused and fighting each other. We're just about ready to face losing the other half of our payment. We slap filtering material—mostly gauze from the medical stores—over the vents on the upper decks to keep the bees below and continue on to Angel. Only having made the stop, the MakeMake did not have enough fuel to reach Angel. We needed to refuel. A quick check of the starmaps, had us on route to Paquin, a hop, skip and pulse away. It would be a delay, but needed.
Monday, 14 Jun 2518
Red Sun (Zhu Que) System
13:32 hrs, local time
Once on Paquin, we get replacement bearings for the grav rotor for 10 credits and while Rina's busy with that, the others make some discreet inquiries and hire an insect expert to calm and corral the bees. We pay him 25 credits out of the slush fund from the Captain's safe. It takes two days to contain the bees and the expert's mostly successful, but some of the bees are still flying free on all decks. All we can do now is fly for Angel and hope for the best.
Meanwhile, Josef has replied to Nika's message about his brother. Basically, he's threatening to turn us over as thieves and murderers to the authorities if we do not return to Bernadette and give him back the MakeMake. Nika reckons we will be more than halfway to Angel by the time we over-run the estimated arrival time for Bernadette…and thus set Josef looking for us in earnest. Since we cannot be certain that once in his hands we won't be killed outright, we keep to our plan to take the ship to Angel and to her original owners, Fairweather Flyers.
While Nika's taking in the sights, someone on the ground recognizes her from her war career: it's an old blockade running buddy of hers, Solon Massoukis. He ran for the Independents, just as she, though his ideology was more …. fervent than hers, and once the greetings were exchanged, he offered us a job shipping a load of comm equipment to Beaumonde. The cargo hails from Osiris and is for setting up Cortex access on Beaumonde…it's what Solon and his buddies are up to these days: honest businessfolk, making a living bringing civilization to the far corners of the 'Verse. He's also going to pay us three times the going rate. It's an awfully tempting deal, and Nika takes it. Besides, she knows the man. She'll vouch for him with the rest of the crew. She bargains for her price of 75, gets it, makes arrangements for delivery to our berth (#12) and a handshake seals the deal.
Nika asks if Solon knows Potemkin. He asks, trouble? She says yes, and soon. He returns, we'll slap him down.
We'll take the cargo to Beaumonde for a sweet 75 credits and turn it over to Solon's partner, * Colonel Nguyen (pron.: "When") when we get there.
The next day, Josef messages us again, and again he's threatening dire consequences if we do not fly back to Bernadette. We stick to our plan, despite his claim he knows people everywhere, and carry on.
The second day after landing and meeting Solon, we lade on his cargo and take off.
We make Angel 19 days later.
Thursday, 17 Jun 2518
En route to Angel
09:25 hrs, ships time
En route to Angel, the very next day Rina goes down into the hold to inspect the cargo. Opening up a crate she sees that what's inside is most definitely not Cortex uplink equipment. Nothing even close.
After some careful examination, she determines we're carrying 4 portable EMP generators, weaponized, and powerful enough to shut down a small town or a few city blocks of any Coreside metropolis. There is a databook packed along with one of them, and it's got the Alliance stamp all over it. Rina itches to open it and boot it up, but she leaves it alone—no telling if it's got failsafes or booby traps on it. And to put the cherry on this particular frakked-up sundae, these EMPs are Iskellian tech and illegal as hell.
Rina tells Nika what she's found and straightaway Nika gets Solon on the horn, and tears him seven ways come Sunday: he's lied to her, the damned snake, and this is after she vouched for him to the rest of the crew and oh, she's not exactly flying without trouble dogging her footsteps already. She still has Josef to worry about and if she gets caught with the EMPs aboard, her name and face will be splashed from one end of the 'Verse to the other and make her a nice big fat juicy target for Potemkin. She goes on like this for a while more. When she's finished, Solon apologizes. Then:
Solon: There's more.
Nika: We'll talk when we land. You tell the Colonel not to give me any shit for opening those crates.
They sign off.
Welcome to the Resistance, y'all.
Monday, 04 Jul 2518
Angel, Kalidassa (Xuan Wu) System
07:45hrs, local time
We first deliver the bees. We off-lade the little buggers onto a rented truck and get them on to their new home at the New Duba settlement. Oy! That's the last time we're taking on bees.
Angel is called Malik by the locals. The continent Erelima's dominant culture is Arabic and Sharia Law is enforced for women. There is no going out in public without male escort. Rina opts to stay aboard and fix things. Christian does the same, prudently surmising a male Companion might not be entirely welcome, despite his gender. Nika and Arden take in the sights.
Once the bees are off, we take off soon afterward ourselves. A Cortex search on Fairweather Flyers, Inc., show its HQ is on the next continent over, on the colorfully named Orphan, sited on Lucifer's Landing, a meteor impact crater. Finding Lucifer's Landing is pretty easy, as a consequence.
Monday, 04 Jul 2518
Lucifer’s Landing, Orphan
11:30 hrs, local time
We land, the only ship there, at what is clearly a mining town. Mine shafts and work scaffolding sprawl liberally vertically and laterally along the slopes of the crater. Verdant vegetation also sprawls along side the mine works, waving in the thermals rising along the slopes. Colorful flowers dot the green, winking from under the greenery in the breeze.
The town itself is unremarkable. We all get off to find our quarry. We quickly find the bar, the Cliff Divers, and inside we find someone who's willing to tell us what we want to know. Aaron Marquess is a font of information.
Marquess:Whaddya lookin' for? Animal, vegetable or mineral. We got animal, sure, but we gotta whole lotta vegetable. All that green stuff you see growin' on the cliffs? That there is cannabis, and sweet stuff it is. And them flowers, whachcallem…orchids, yeah. Them orchids what docs're always makin' meds outa.
Christian: No, thank you. That isn't what we're looking for.
Marquess: If it's mineral, we got it all.
Christian: We were looking for animal. The owner of Fairweather Flyers, Inc., to be exact. Do you know where we can find him?
Marquess: Sure, I heard tell of Fairweather Flyers, Inc. Run by Jameson Fairweather, sure enough. Ain't seen much of him lately, though. And Fairweather Flyers' business seems to have dropped off considerable-like. You c'n find his offices on the edge of the town, down thataways.
We thank him and move on with a purpose.
Just as Aaron Marquess said, you can't miss Fairweather Flyers' HQ. It's a building with a chainlink fence running off its two front corners, sealing off a sizable yard on three sides of it, and topped with barbed wire down its entire length. It sits in solitary splendor, a clapboard building that has faded from its glory days, but still kept up enough not to look run down. Fairweather Flyers, Inc. its sign says. We walk right up to the door and go in.
We enter the lobby of the modest office building and are immediately greeted by the receptionist. Young, Asian, and pretty, modestly dressed and pleasant voiced, she looks up at us and asks if she can help us. When we say we want to talk to Jameson Fairweather, she rises from her desk and says, just a moment, she'll check if he's free. She goes through a door behind and to her left, and steps out again.
Sorry, he's not available right now. Would we like to make an appointment.
No, we aren't.
Would we like to wait? We can have coffee, tea or water.
Christian has watched this woman move and speak and there's something off about her. He draws her into conversation and notices more how she keeps talking in a circular fashion, as if she's merely repeating things learned by rote, regardless of their relevance to the actual conversation. Standing beside her and observing her make tea with disintegrating tea bags as if nothing is wrong clinches it: she's a robot.
At which point, Christian waits til she's distracted with the tea things, and then turns and silently waves Nika and Rina toward the inner door. While he and Arden keep her talking outside, Nika and Rina slip inside.
They close the door softly and stand blinking as their eyes adjust to the murkiness of the inner room.
It's a modestly appointed office. Stereotypical furniture comes into focus—file cabinets, a large desk, the obligatory towering desk chair…. and the not so stereotypical corpse laying slack in it.
We examine the body without touching it. A single shot through the forehead explains cause of death. The desiccated condition of the remains explains the time of death—at least a year. There are no other signs of violence besides the bullet hole. Everything looks more or less untouched.
We toss the office as neatly and quickly and quietly as possible, hoping to find documentation to prove Fairweather's legal claim on the MakeMake. We find the wall safe and stick our heads out to get Arden in there to crack it. Outside, the two men manage to turn off the robot and Arden tries the safe. We find nothing of real value inside. No deeds to the property, no papers for the MakeMake. There are some handwritten business documents dating back to 14 months ago and in one of the desk drawers is a photo of a half-Asian woman.
It looks like we're the owners of the MakeMake.
Going back outside, we look around the outer room. Arden finds 4 data discs under the receptionist's desk (along with the power outlet she plugs into via her shoetips) and viewing the discs we see that they are recordings of the room. We zip through people arriving and leaving and freeze the frame on two men: the Potemkins. The time stamp on the image says it's from 14 months ago. They are greeted by the receptionist, shown in to Jameson and twenty minutes later emerge again. Josef is wiping his hands. They leave.
It's pretty clear what happened and how.
We get the hell out of there and go back to the ship. We part company: Christian and Arden go on to town to find the sheriff to tell him what we've found. After all, murder has been done and we have evidence of who did it. Nika and Rina board the ship to warm up and preflight her for take off. Once on the bridge, Nika tells Rina to yank the MakeMake's pinger and slap a new name on it. Rina plugs in the names of Hope Taswell, owner, and Maddy's Gambit for the ship's name. Nothing that would pass close scrutiny, mind, but good enough to satisfy the sleep-deprived tin pushers in traffic control.
Meanwhile, Christian and Arden go back to the Cliff Diver and hunt up our friend Aaron Marquess. Where's the sheriff, there's been a murder done. Aaron points to the bar. The bartender is the Sheriff. Sheriff Earl Messner, at your service.
We tell the Sheriff the news and he takes it in phlegmatically.
Sheriff: Huh. Figures, since we hadn't seen Jameson much around lately. Heard bout a year back he'd contracted his ship out and when it left, we all assumed Jameson had left with it. You say he ain't and he's actually molderin' away in his office? Damn. Shoulda checked back with him. Those contractors, a couple'a shifty lookin' Russians, what did they do with the ship?
Christian tells him of the Potemkins and that they're based out of Bernadette.
Sheriff: No matter what, someone's gonna have'ta tell Jameson's daughter her daddy's dead.
Christian: He has a daughter?
Sherrif: Well, shoot, yeah. Xiàjì Fairweather. We all call her Summer. Lives up in one of her daddy's mine shafts up yonder. That's how he got rich the first place, anyhow. She's the quiet sort, kinda keeps to herself, don't come down much to mingle with us town folk.
Christian: Tell me where she is
Christian and Arden return to the ship to tell Nika and Rina the news. Christian wants to track down Summer and tell her she's the ship's rightful owner as Fairweather's heir.
Nika's not entirely convinced.
Nika: Why should we put ourselves out? We've done our duty.
Christian: (implacable) Because it's the right thing to do.
Nika: (exasperated): Hell—Go!
It's a long trek to the cliffs. Summer's mineshaft is nowhere as dreary as it sounds. It's brightly lit, with a southern exposure, and orchids grow liberally throughout the cannabis. The entrance to the shaft is well-kept, almost pleasant looking. Christian calls out a hello.
A moment later, a woman appears. She matches the picture of her we've found in Fairweather's desk, only she's a little older and her head is shaved. She wears the robes of a Buddhist monk and it becomes clear why she's here—the mineshaft is more than a home, it's a retreat, a one-woman monastery.
Christian bows respectfully, on familiar ground as a Buddhist himself, and makes the introductions.
Christian: Are you Summer Fairweather?
Christian: I am very sorry, ma'am, but I have come to tell you your father is dead. Shot through the head. Murdered, I'm afraid.
Summer: (nodding thoughtfully) I'm not surprised. He wasn't the most honest and straightforward of men.
Christian: If it's any consolation, it would have been quick.
Summer: He lived and then he died. I am sure he got what he deserved.
There is no bitterness to her, or sadness. Just a calm acceptance of the facts.
Christian tells her she is legally Fairweather's heir and what he once owned is now her rightful inheritance. Summer shakes her head. She doesn't want it.
Christian: (delicately) If you are interested in selling off his assets, we are interested in buying some of them. Specifically, his ship, the MakeMake.
Summer: I have no need of it. But tell me, what would you do with it?
Christian: Business. We'd do business, hauling cargo and people where they need to go. Good things, helping people. Maintaining balance.
Summer: Good things?
Summer: Then the ship is yours. Provided you do good with it. If someone cannot pay, carry them. If someone has need, help them.
Summer: Then she is yours.
Christian: I will return with the papers for you to sign, to make this a legal transaction, with the Sheriff to act as witness.
Arden notices the orchids growing around Summer's door and she notices him looking at them.
Summer: Do you like them?
Arden: I'm a doctor. I find them interesting.
Summer: Take some. Study them. Perhaps you can do good with them. (Turning to Christian) I will come down with you. To take care of my father's body.
When they get back to the ship, Christian tells Nika the news.
Christian: We found Fairweather's heir….and she's a Buddhist monk who's taken a vow of poverty.
Nika: Are you saying…?
Christian: The ship is ours.
We do a quick incorporation of ourselves. One-fifth share of ownership and profits is assigned to each of us with the remaining fifth banked as the ship's fund. We sign the paperwork, dry the ink and take legal possession of the ship. Nika fires off a message to Potemkin: if he wants to fight us for the ship, he can damn well bring it.
In memory of Fairweather's daughter and of her injunction to use our good fortune to the furtherance of others', we rename the MakeMake: Summer's Gift .
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