Episode 113. Part 1

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Present: Mary, Terri, Bobby and Jay
Air Date: 10 Mar 2009

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Thursday, 10 Nov 2518
Kore, Eavesdown Docks
Eavesdown, Persephone
White Sun (Bai Hu) System
13:27 hrs, local time

Our newly purchased med-bay equipment arrives. In the end, we decide against a full-sized slide-in module, choosing instead to buy all the individual equipment pieces that go with it and install them separately: a diagnostic bed, cabinets, computer monitors, scanners, etc. The works. That way we won’t actually have to cut out the bulkheads to make room for the module walls and we can keep the existing plumbing and bathroom that came with the ship. Which would let us keep the bathtub. Plus, it was cheaper and more flexible. We pay the equipment supplier and Rina sets about installing everything to Arden’s satisfaction. Between the new med-bay and Dr. Taylor’s monitors and such, Rina’s pretty busy for the next day and a half.

Friday, 11 Nov 2518
15:30 hrs, local time

We are off to Verbena, there being nothing keeping us any longer on Persephone. Omar came through for us with the drugs, netting us 200. The orangutans and the gorillas are settling in nicely. Dr. Taylor and her Assistant, Cesar, are taking care of them with little bother to the rest of us. The girls are still with us—and no doubt grateful to be reunited—and for the moment life seems good: we’ve got cargo, we’ve got money, we’ve got someplace to go.

So we go. Next stop: Verbena’s moon, Lassek, nineteen days away.

Rina got a good look at the cargo as it was being loaded and Cesar’s warning not to look the animals in the eye has thoroughly hinked her. She’s not going anywhere near them, thank you very much, and doesn’t give a damn what anybody thinks of her attitude. She’s polite to the Doctor and her assistant, but nothing can convince her to go willingly into the container with the apes, nossir.

The first night out, Nika calls a crew meeting after the passengers retire to their quarters. Nika, Rina, Mike, Christian, and Arden grab coffee and a seat at the table. There’s the general ribbing and letting off steam at the end of a long day, and Christian plays his guitar throughout, but eventually we get down to business: where do we go from here?

Christian mentions it may be in our best interests to keep the car rather than sell it. We’ll be kissing dirt on a fairly regular basis and in need of a vehicle when doing business. After all, it’s easier to park a car downtown than a shuttle and that could come in real handy. To say nothing of the armoring and the bullet-proofing, especially in our line of work.

Arden: And what line of work are we in?
Nika: Exactly. Since we are all sitting around the dinner table, let’s have this discussion about what line of work we’re actually in.
Arden: I’m assuming our line of business so far has been survival.
Nika: Pretty much, but we’re in the position right now to have a little bit of space to play with and figure out what we’re doing.

Also, it’s official: Mike’s part of our crew.

Nika: For the entirety of the rest of the time he’s on this vessel, he’s considered crew.
Christian: Even better, he’s like unpaid crew because he’s not getting crew shares….not that we’re getting crew shares. And we’ve never negotiated a salary.
Rina: Don’t worry. I’ll share.
Christian: Really?

And it’s not Mike’s share Christian’s interested in, but something else. Arden gets it first and groans.

Rina: What?
Nika: Back to the crew meeting at the table…
Rina: (eyeroll) Get your mind out of the gutter, my God….
Christian: (archly) A Companion’s place is not the gutter.
Arden: So, are we basically going to be running cargo all over the place, or…?
Nika: Well, we’ve has some options so far—
Arden: Bees and apes.
Nika: And it has been pointed out to me, that some of the things we have done have had the potential to be good opportunities for us depending on what it is we actually want to accomplish.

She and Mike trade a look. Nika continues.

Christian: Can we all agree that we’re not in the overthrowing-Empires business?
Arden: It’s not really an Empire.
Christian: There’s only one Empire.
Arden: It’s not really an Empire.
Christian: It’s not like we have any other governments. Literally, we have no other government.
Rina: There’s something wrong with that.

This doesn’t discount all the home-grown parliaments and governments on the individual worlds beyond the Core, and some are actually powerful enough to keep things interesting for the Core, but none are as big or as powerful as the Alliance. Oh sure, there’s lip service paid to self-determination on the Rim, but the reality falls short of the party line of brotherhood and harmony. As long as everyone does what the Core dictates, there are no problems. The set-up is rather like the old East India Company from before the Exodus, actually, with the Alliance in the British position and the outlying worlds’ governments acting like all the little rajahs and kings that could, if left to their own devices, make trouble for England but yet are not powerful enough to do so on their own, isolated on their worlds as they are.

To keep the potential troublemakers further focused away from making a target of the Core, the Alliance has established capitals for each system and a systems parliament filled with representatives from each world in the system. The individual worlds are appointed governors from the Core or have elected officials running the governments with a Core governmental overlay…further embroiling political ambitions in the local level and drawing attention away from the Core. Keep them fighting each other in the back of beyond, and they’ll be too busy to come in and storm the castle at the heart of the empire…right?

So far, the tactic seems to be working in the Core’s favor.

Nika: All right, guys, this is all a very interesting digression, but—crew meeting.
Arden: We can agree on the fact that we are not going to try to overthrow the Alliance.
Christian: (clarifying) We are not in the business of overthrowing the Alliance. We are not part of any group dedicated to that.
Arden: However, if it comes down to the Alliance versus us, I’m fighting for us.
Christian: Of course.
Nika: I think there’d be a small caveat in there: While we may not be in the business of overthrowing the Alliance itself, we may certainly be in the business of …
Arden: Helping those who are?
Nika: Occasionally being a thorn in their side.
Arden: That depends on the thorn.
Nika: That depends on the situation.
Christian: (To Arden) For instance, I expect that eventually we’ll be dealing with the older you.

Meaning Swordsman.

Nika: And Mike’s situation.
Mike: I can’t 100% get behind the no-overthrowing-the-Alliance, but I don’t think of my being here as permanent.

And as for pursuing the sorts of activities Mike’s alluding to…

Nika: What few we have at this juncture I don’t see being any more successful, and actually far less successful, than we were the last time. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to say ‘Oh, no, the Alliance is right’ about almost anything.
Christian: But they are right about some things.
Nika: But I would say that should it come our way, we have to determine which battles we’re going to be willing to fight and which ones we not.
Christian: We’re not part of, officially or unofficially, any organized or unorganized attempt to fight the government. That is not our purpose. That being said, should a job come our way that we can all agree on that doesn’t involve killing or blowing up factories and innocents, I’m not necessarily against that.
Mike: Yeah. No more of those.
Nika: I can get behind that argument.
Christian: I would say our job—our prime directive, if you will—is to keep this ship flying and ourselves fed.
Nika: That’s been pretty much our job up to this point. We’ve been flying together up to this point out of necessity more than anything else. Happenstance and necessity.
Arden: I have nowhere else to go.

True. We all got thrown together in the mutiny business, regardless of our personal preferences, and have been treading water ever since. Nika’s right: now is the time to step back and reassess what we’re all doing here and why.

Christian: Does anyone want to go anywhere else?
Arden: I’m going wherever the ship is going.
Christian: I realize we all own stakes in this ship and that ties us together, but does anyone want to not own their stake in the ship and go someplace else?

Ironic it would be Christian to voice that question first, since he’s stated that he’d be first off the Gift in two separate incidences already. But he’s still here.

Nika: Not at this time.
Christian: Okay. I’m not horribly interested in making money. I’m not adverse to it, but I’ve been rich and it’s not a huge deal. For me. Now that may be different for you. But what I’m saying is I’m not interested in growing us into a business or a fleet that owns multiple ships and stuff like that.
Rina: The paperwork’s a bitch.
Nika: Yeah, I’m not too interested in that either.
Christian: So. Obviously being a…what do you call it? Free-trader?
Arden: Tramp Freighter.
Nika: (grinning) It’s called being independent. Doing our own thing.

We can all get behind that. Arden opines he’d like to have us earn enough money so we can make our ship a little more….sturdy? The damage we took from escaping the Reavers hasn’t faded yet. Rina gets behind this idea 100%.

Hauling cargo will net us money, but only enough to cover our expenses. We need to expand our options if we’re to net anything approaching a profit. We’re not seeing ourselves as being actual criminals, though God knows, crime can pay and pay handsomely, nor are we specifically looking to find crime jobs….even though they seem to find us, despite. At the same time, looking for jobs that are neither cargo or passengers isn’t out of the question either.

Christian: (to Nika) What would you like? Since you asked the question.
Nika: What I can tell you about the way that I’ve flown in the past—especially if you’re talking about just the one ship that’s not affiliated with anybody—I’ve done courier work, which is a relatively lucrative if you find the right things, but you have to be very careful about picking those kinds of runs.
Christian: Are we really fast enough for that kind of work. Generally, that needs a fast ship.
Nika: Depends on what they want sent, and how they want it sent. There are certainly things that will be sent on a ship that’s a little slower to keep it under the radar.
Arden: Such as that electronic equipment we’d hauled.

For Massoukis and Nguyen. Yeah. Electronic equipment.

Nika: Ships like the Harbinger are in business as couriers, specifically, because they are fast ships. They’re fast runners. But there were any number of things we turned down that we knew went later on slower ships, just because somebody said “The timeframe wasn’t so important as the fact that nobody’s going to pay attention to the fact that it’s you who is landing.”
Christian: I thought the Harbinger was, first and foremost, part of the Resistance.
Arden: Once upon a time.
Nika: That was back during the War.
Christian: Obviously the War didn’t end for some people.

Which might be said for one, possibly two people sitting at this very table, and only they know for certain who they are and how true that statement is.

Nika: Well…. (stops).
Christian: I got the impression that they were still part of that group. I apologize if I was wrong.
Nika: We still did some things after the War. I flew with them for almost eight years, three of them during the war and almost five years after the war. We did things and took jobs after that—like this crew—because we had to eat. But yes, we took other things, too.
Arden: That’s fine with me.
Nika: That crew is not full of Dust Devils. At all. They are not Dust Devils, so while they take jobs that, similar to our situation, that may be questionable, or may be not quite on the up and up for whoever, those are the kinds of jobs that pay. So we need to decide if we’re willing to take the jobs that pay well and not ask too many questions, and do we want to be in the middle of what may come with that? I mean, look what just happened with the factory and …

She doesn’t finish the sentence, since we’re all pretty much familiar with the rest of it.

Nika: (continuing) Or should we take these runs on a case by case basis and ask questions then. And if so, where do we see ourselves in three to five years?
Arden: Well, I wouldn’t mind seeing the informational barrier between the Rim and the Core come down. Too much is held in secret by the Core while the Rim suffers for it. I’d like to see that barrier come down.
Christian: So you do want to work against the government.
Arden: That’s not working against the government—
Rina: That’s just working against the economic model that’s stifling the outside worlds.
Christian: Which is being imposed by…?
Rina: (waving it off) Details….
Nika: Okay, so…now that we’ve taken a step sideways….so, you wish to disseminate information among the outer Rim worlds?
Arden: I think we should take jobs on a case by case basis.

Didn’t Nika just say that?

Christian: I am not opposed to disseminating information to make life on the Rim a better place.
Nika: Not that I’ve got a clue as to how we could be doing that, but still…not opposed.
Christian: (to Arden) Sure, you can take information of the latest medical advances and give it to the people on the Rim, but without the resources to build the facilities they would need, or the resources to educate them in the skills they would need, it’s not going to do them a whole lot of good.
Arden: I disagree. For instance, let’s suppose the Miranda Wave was true?
Christian: I’m going to go out on a limb and say they developed a chemical that makes people passive.

Grim laughter breaks out around the table. Oh, really? You think? Is it remotely possible that the Alliance developed a drug that made the population of an entire planet so passive they’d starved to death for lack of motivation? Or had developed a drug that made you willing to do anything anyone ordered or answer anything asked? Really?

Christian: (jokingly) It’s not like we know anybody that’s been pacified by these chemicals, or that we’ve nearly been killed trying to save this person, but….
Arden: (fed up) I think I’m going to get the latest chapter of Cochrane’s e-book and read it. See ya.
Christian: Really? Tell us how the warp theory is going, later? And how good ol’ Zephram is.
Arden: My point was…The Alliance is going to suppress that information. I think we should do whatever we can to make sure that information is not suppressed.
Christian: I think that at this point, enough people have recorded it that they can’t effectively suppress the information. Nika: Whether people believe it or not is another question altogether.

Good point.

Rina: I’m expecting to find parodies of the Miranda Wave on BluTube any day now.
Nika: Me? I’m expecting them to think we’re the preacher in the courtyard.

At their end of the table, Arden and Christian continue.

Arden: Well, if we come across evidence that makes people believe it…?
Christian: Do you want to take what we’ve learned and disseminate it? Because we’ve learned quite a bit. I’m sure you could probably work out things like, information the cure…?
Arden: Kinda, sorta….not really.
Christian: Some works, and you can work on learning more about the cure. And we have samples of the drug. If you want to work towards getting that information out, more power to you and I am glad to support you.
Rina: I can get behind that, too.
Christian: And it’s quite possible right now that besides whoever sent out the Miranda Wave in the first place, we might very well have more information on this than anyone else and, you know, the people who made this drug in the first place.
Arden: And there’s also the potential pothole in the road up ahead that’s called Potemkin. He’s going to show up again.

And the topic changes yet again, to listing who our enemies and allies are. On the enemies side of the ledger we have Potemkin, Swordsman, and because of Mike, possibly the whole damn Alliance. Mike’s face wasn’t on the 10 Most Wanted List at the post office, which is a mercy. Swordsman may or may not be actively out to get us, since we also have his brother Arden aboard. Potemkin…now he may or may not have been bluffing when he said he had people everywhere. But power perceived is power achieved, and at the moment we’re not sure how far Potemkin’s power stretches. Likewise is Nguyen. Rina’s all for putting him firmly in the minus column, but Mike disagrees, stating that the man may not be as inimical as we think. Certainly snubbing the Colonel would be risky, since it would lead the man to think we meant him ill. Mike recommends we drop the man a line to say everything’s cool between us, to stay in his good graces. No sense in burning our bridges til we have to. Thus our enemies list is at once probable and improbable. We’ll just have to keep our eyes open to see which way it goes.

On the allies side of the ledger we can list Omar Tennison, through Rina. We can list Mike as a proven ally—he’s already pulled our fat out of the fire twice. The crew of the Harbinger is also an ally, if at long distance at the moment and Nika’s already vouched for her sister on Boros. There’s Summer Fairweather on Angel, and she may help us in the near future by taking in Miss Hilde Tolson and Emma Vail. Christian vouches for his parents, Manuel and Delilah Edge, Retired Companions. Mind, Christian is reluctant to call on them on a regular basis, because it’s lowering to call home to Momma when you stub your toe. But Christian would also avoid bringing trouble to his parents’ doorstep if possible: they are retired and no longer wield the influence they once had. Arden reminds us of Malcolm Reynold’s promise to help us in our greatest hour of need…and Christian reminds us that the man isn’t who he says he is. Christian explains it this way.

Christian: He’s not Malcolm Reynolds.
Arden: Whatever. It’s the name he gave us.
Christian: I realize that. He’s not Malcolm Reynolds. I’ve seen Malcolm Reynolds and that’s not him. (A beat) I finally remembered how I knew the name.
Nika: You told me you’d run into him before but you didn’t tell me it wasn’t him.
Christian: I didn’t realize it at the time. The name sounded familiar but I was so messed up on painkillers that I really didn’t think about it.
Arden: Either way, he’s still an asset.
Nika: He’s an operator. I’m not sure that’s an asset.
Arden: He said he owed us a favor.
Rina: ‘When we need him, turn around, he’ll be there’. He believes he’s indebted to us. We can use that to our advantage.
Nika: To a limited extent.

Basically, Malcolm had shown up at the Heart of Gold brothel when Christian had been staying there. The real Malcolm Reynolds is captain of a freighter, a Firefly named…’peaceful’ or something like that. He’s Caucasian, sandy haired, somewhat handsome, and wore a brown coat. He’d been called to Heart of Gold to help with a local problem and Christian remembers all this mostly because Reynolds had a Companion with his crew. A Companion Christian actually recognized by her reputation: Inara Serra.

Seeing her with the freighter crew blew Christian away. It was rather like finding out the person next in line to be the Pope was traveling around the ‘Verse in a beat-up rust bucket. When Christian was still in Training, Inara Serra was known as the person most likely to be the next High Priestess of the Guild. And yet—there she was, traveling with a tramp freighter crew. As for why she was on a Firefly, Christian has no idea. He avoided her as much as possible to avoid being seen and recognized.

Nika: (dragging back to the topic) Okay, then. In any case, he lied to us.
Christian: About who he is, yes. He is an asset but he’s an asset to be handled lightly.
Nika: Well, that, and he’s not really an asset because it’s not something we can ever really call on.

After all, it’s not like he left us his number or forwarding address. We’re just supposed to turn around someday and based on the situation he’ll be there? Not what you could call reliable. But still, onto the list of possible allies he goes.

Christian: I wish I wasn’t completely out of it when I met him, so I could have read him. But…anyway, then I could get my ass kicked and told not to visit his intentions, but that’s a completely different story….


And these lists of ours don’t take into account the people known by our enemies and allies. The connections don’t stop at one remove, but continue on beyond reckoning. There’s no knowing or accounting for all of them. So, friends of friends or enemies aren’t people we can really consider. We may want to establish some more solid contacts in terms of employment with our friends, however. Especially if we’re going to be hauling cargo full-time—we’ll need to establish a reputation in the business, one that encourages people to hire us over the competition. In fact, we may want to look for an agent to represent us. At least someone with connections, like a fixer, who could direct business toward us. Omar on Persephone, for instance, might be able to send business our way. Whoever we use, we can expect forking over a percentage of our profit to them for their services. We can also expect to offset that loss somewhat by the rise in profits we’d make, since just about all the really lucrative jobs are arranged via agents and fixers.

Rina: Why don’t we deal with what’s in front of us first? We deliver the cargo to Verbena. We drop off the girls with Summer. I don’t want to have a repeat of what just happened with Emma every single time we kiss dirt.
Mike: I’d like to make an observation as an outsider. The times you’ve tried to avoid trouble have been more or less successful than the times you’ve actually avoided trouble. Avoiding taking on passengers, for example. But I suspect trouble is going to find you one way or another.

It’s almost like we’ve got this big neon sign over our heads: Aim Karmic Missiles Here!

Point of fact, we’d never really tried avoiding trouble in the form of passengers til we took on Mike and the girls, and then it was for the obvious reason of trying to keep their existence a secret til we could get them where they needed to go.

Nika: The only issue I have about dodging trouble versus asking for it is…let’s not run around begging for it. As far as dodging it? Honestly, I think we draw more attention by doing something like that than by doing what we gotta do.

Everyone agrees and the meeting concludes. We return to our duties and prepare for take off come morning.

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