Episode 115. Part 1

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Present: Mary, Terri, Bobby, Jay and Tony
Air Date: 31 Mar 2009

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Thursday, 01 Dec 2518
Kuiper II Class, Summer’s Gift
En route to Angel
Kalidasa (Xuan Wu) System
16:30 hrs, ship's time

It’s only 6AU or so to Angel from Verbena’s orbit, and going on pulse we make good time, a couple of hours. It burns more fuel, but it’s faster.

Rick Allen continues to settle in, stowing his gear and setting up the terrariums for his pigmy alligators. Until their homes are set up, they will stay in the bathtub off med bay. Arden is a bit put out by this.

Arden: Why are there alligators in the bathtub?
Rina: They’re his pets. (Off Arden’s look) Hey, it could’ve been worse. It could’ve been ferrets.
Christian: Don’t look at me. I was outvoted.
Arden: I’d rather have ferrets. Ferrets won’t eat you. Alligators will.
Rick: They’re pigmy alligators.
Arden: Then they’ll eat you slowly.
Rick: They like protein paste. They’re fine.
Rina: Yeah, they’re almost vegetarian.
Arden: But—but why are they in the med bay’s bathtub?
Christian: Because it’s the only bathtub on the ship.
Rick: Their terrariums aren’t set up yet.
Arden: They’re not set up yet?
Nika: (Soothingly) We’re workin’ on that part.

Arden resigns himself to having reptiles in close quarters to his new med bay…and tells Rick that he expects to see the naturalist in the self-same med bay for a complete physical.

Arden: We need to know your allergies, get your blood work and so on. So that in case there’s an emergency, we can handle it.
Rick: Okay.
Rina: (To Rick) Yes, we’re like this all the time.

During the short hop to Angel, Arden and Rick take care of that detail. Rick also shows Arden his own medical supplies: inoculation packs and the like. Arden bought more supplies while in New Kinshasa, but anything extra is welcome. Our inoculation packs had been running low since we use them every time we go off-ship, and at the moment we’ve got seven souls aboard. Eight, now that we’ve got Rick. That’s a lotta shots.

Rick passes his physical with flying colors, and he has no allergies—healthy as a horse.

Thursday, 01 Dec 2518
Lucifer’s Landing
Orphan, Angel
Kalidassa (Xuan Wu) System
13:07 hrs, local time

The huge impact crater of Lucifer’s Landing is our landmark and beacon—visible from space, it’s not hard to find. We land in the same gravel yard we’d visited before, settle and shut everything down. The 200-meter high cliffs are still laced with scaffolding and festooned in cannabis and orchids. Simultaneously verdant and industrial, it’s an oddly pleasant sight.

Christian suggests we hit the town on the crater’s rim first. We acquired ownership of the Gift fair and square, but one can never out rule Potemkin making trouble for us. We decide to go back to the Cliff Divers bar and ask if anyone’s been after us. Forewarned is forearmed. Rick asks who Potemkin is and we fill him in. It takes a few minutes. Christian sums up by telling Rick how we’d come here and found the proper owner of the ship. The owner is a Buddhist monk and she gave us the ship on the promise that we would do our best to do good with it. (See Episode 3. Summer's Gift )

Rina: And so here we are, playing Good Samaritan. Dropping off two homeless wayward girls into her care.

The girls step off-ship with us and look around at Lucifer’s Landing in dismay.

Christian: I realize this isn’t quite what you’re used to, but it is definitely someplace they will not look for you.
Miss Tolson: Does anyone live here? It looks like a ghost town.
Christian: A very small community lives here. Or at least they used to. It has been a few months [since we’d been here last]. We are going to have to walk, so you’ll want to wear your comfortable shoes.

Arden, Christian, and the girls make up the landing party. Christian tells Rick that Summer breeds rare orchids. Intrigued, Rick says he’ll go along. Nika, Mike, and Rina elect to stay aboard to guard the ship.

And so we split up, and the landing party leaves.

We visit Summer first. The cliff path is steep and the height dizzying. We make it down to Summer’s mineshaft in one piece. We knock on what passes for a door to her abode and call out: hello. After a moment, she appears and Christian bows with a respectful namaste. Arden quickly explains why we’re here and the girls tell Summer their story.

Summer: I cannot condone leaving your family this way. Family responsibilities are important. Obviously, safety is paramount. I do not believe the mines are an appropriate place to live but there may be empty housing up in the town above that would be more suitable.
Christian: Of course, I didn’t think they’d be living here with you.
Arden: But we thought you’d be able to put in a good word for them, tell them who to trust, not to trust.
Christian: Keep an eye on them…
Summer: (Considering it) Hmm.
Christian: They could use spiritual counseling.
Summer: Well, they are welcome here at any time. I’m not sure how much my word means to the people above but I can speak with them if there is any concern.
Christian: I think technically you still own property up there.

Specifically, her father’s business building and fenced in yard at Fairweather Flyers, Inc. As a Buddhist nun taking vows of poverty, however, Summer waves it aside. Summer assumed we’d taken care of the property transfer the last time we were here and we had, part-way. We were able to take the ship, being a transportable asset, but an actual brick and mortar facility? No way could we take that with us, so we’d left it. We’ll have to go through the records at the assayer’s office to be certain of the actual ownership of the building.

Arden remarks if Summer is still owner of it, the girls already have a place to stay if they wished. Summer agrees, stating she worries not what happens to the building or if anyone lives in it.

Matter resolved.

Christian: I’ll check on that and see if there’s anything you needed while we’re there.
Arden: Or would you like to visit us for dinner, perhaps?
Christian: True. If you’d like, you can come to dinner.
Summer: Very well. I will join you. You will tell me what you’ve done with your ship.
Christian: Excellent. Yes.

Business concluded, Christian introduces Rick Allen to her. Rick has been looking at Summer’s garden the while and is particularly interested in her orchids. It may be a consequence of the particular quirks of Angel’s ecosystem, but they are a variety he’s never seen before.

Rick: These orchids that you have are incredible. How long have you been growing orchids?
Summer: Since I’ve returned to Angel I have grown them. They are... quiet creatures.
Rick: I’ve never seen an orchid like this before and I actually have some on the ship. I like them quite a bit. Have you done anything special with your orchids? I’ve never seen this variety before.
Arden: Orchidus triffidis?

Christian gives Arden an elegant and discreet swat! for the smart-ass comment.

Summer: I suspect perhaps some of the minerals that were contained in the meteorite that landed here may be exotic and responsible for some of the unusual growth.
Rick: That’s really interesting.
Summer: If you would like to have a cutting?
Rick: (delighted) That would be great. I have some orchids I grew on Lassek if you’d like to trade.

An exchange is quickly arranged. We leave, and Rick stays behind to talk plants with Summer. We agree to call him at sunset so as to come back up for dinner.

We take the girls into town to Cliff Divers and introduce them to the Sheriff/Bartender Earl Messner. The joint is jumping: in addition to Messner, there’s another person there. We don’t recognize him from our previous visit months ago, but it’s entirely possible that even as small as the town is, we’d managed not to see everyone.

Messner: Well, you guys look familiar. Weren’t you here a few months ago?
Christian: Yes, about five months ago. (Monday, 04 Jul 2518, to be exact.)

Messner seems surprised we’re back and Christian explains the situation with the girls and that they need a place somewhere friendly and quiet and out of the way to live.

Messner: Should I be wearin’ my bartender badge or my sheriff badge?
Christian: Your community leader badge.
Messner:' I’d like to talk to the young ladies in private and we’ll see about settling them.
Christian: Of course.
Arden: Do you want me to watch the bar for you?
Messner: That’s okay, I’ll just take them out to the verandah.
Christian: So, how are things?
Messner: Funny you should say that. There was some guy askin’ after your ship, a while back.
Christian: Of course.
Messner: We’ll worry about it when I get back.

Christian and Arden watches as the Sheriff leads the two girls to the rear verandah cantilevered over the cliff’s edge and we can see them through the wide doorway. Arden leans over to Christian.

Arden: I’ve got this bump. Right here. (points) It’s itching. Bad.

Meaning: Trouble’s coming.

Looks like Rina’s twitchiness has rubbed off on him.

Christian looks over the other person in the bar. An older gentleman in a wheelchair, a double-amputee, and obviously a veteran of the War. He has saddlebags mounted to his chair, filled with tools, and his grease-stained clothes and hands mark him as a tradesman. Christian helps himself to the bar and pours a drink for himself and Arden, slaps some money on the bar to pay for them, and crosses the floor to join the tradesman.

Christian: Anything for you, sir?
Man: No, I’m okay. So….you’re delivering settlers to god-forsaken parts of the Rim, are ya?
Arden: (sitting down) I wouldn’t call it God-forsaken.
Man: Really? It’s pretty much forsaken by everybody else.
Christian: There’s a church down the road.
Arden: God loves all things. No part of the universe is forsaken by Him.
Christian: And if I wasn’t a Buddhist, I’d believe you.
Man: (grinning) Cheers! That’s a good attitude you got there, son. Drink up!
'Christian: I’m Christian, he’s Arden.
Arden: I’m Christian, he’s Buddhist.

And who’s on first? The old man laughs, getting the joke.

Man: Folks around here call me ‘Muleskinner’.
Arden: Because….you skin mules?
Christian: Because he repairs them.

Oh, right. The grease. The tools. B’Duh.

Muleskinner: That’s about right.

And Muleskinner goes on to explain the origin of the name.

Arden: So, how did you wend up here in this God-loved ball of dirt?
Muleskinner: Well, how did I end up here? I was lured here by the vast wealth that a mine can produce and the need for hovermule repairs, since you really can’t operate well in this area without hovermules.
Arden: I’ll bet with the alkali dust they break down a lot.
Christian: And when the miners moved out, the hovermules moved with them.
Muleskinner: Most’a them. There’s still a few of ’em in town. In fact, probably the best-runnin’ hovermules there are. Thanks to me.
Christian: I’m sure there are. It may be a small clientele, but if you’re the only man in town who can fix everything…

The old man admits he’s doing all right for himself and Arden excuses himself to hit the can. Once out of sight, he comms Rina and asks her if we still need a mule.

Rina: I would love a mule.
Arden: There’s a man here in the saloon who says he has some mules—he hasn’t said if he’s selling them, but he’s a fixer-tinker type of guy that you might want to talk to.
Rina: I’ll scrounge up some money.
Arden: Oh, I’m sure it’ll come out of the ship’s fund, but what I’m saying is I’d like you to come down and talk to him.
Rina: I’m on my way.

Back inside, Christian continues pumping Muleskinner for information.

Christian: What is the population here?
Muleskinner: Well….(thinks) It varies. I reckon somewhere between twelve and a hunnert.
Christian: Depending on when crops are in season?
Muleskinner: When crops’re in season or somebody finds a new vein’a ore…usually closer to around a hunnerd.
'Christian: What would you say the biggest need is? Obviously a community has to be self-sustaining, but…
'Muleskinner: The biggest need? Well…the people here are usually happy when the ships come in because it usually means we’re getting some manufactured goods, cuz we don’t get a whole lotta those out here.
Christian: Unfortunately we can’t offer that, but thinking more of setting up two young ladies without—.
Muleskinner: There’s always need for companionship.
Christian: No. That’s out of the question, I’m afraid. It’s beyond their skill set.
Muleskinner: Say that again?
Christian: It’s beyond their skill set.

And you can see the old man trying to figure how lying on your back and spreadin’ is beyond anyone’s skill set. Before they can go any further down this conversational path, however, Arden returns to say Rina is coming down to talk shop.

Arden: If you have a few moments.
Christian: She’s our ship’s mechanic.
Muleskinner: Sure.

Meanwhile, back at Summer’s mine, the woman gives Rick a good long measuring look. Rick waits. Then:

Summer: So. What is it that you’re looking for?
Rick: That’s a good question. I’m….looking for adventure and to try and understand the natural world more.
Summer: Most wise people would say that looking for adventure is a foolish thing to do. For adventure rarely comes without a cost. What is it that you think you need from adventure?
Rick: It seems like everywhere where I’ve been to try and understand more about the natural world, adventure just seems to follow so it becomes, you kow, hand-in-hand. Trying to understand all the interesting environments out here on the Rim and along the way if I can learn a little bit more about some of the animal life and the plant life… and use that to tell others throughout the systems about what’s going on here on the Rim…

Rick trails off and Summer replies thoughtfully.

Summer: I do not know you, so I do not wish to seem impertinent. You might claim this, but I have found in that those who seek adventure are missing something that they think the adventure will produce for them. The thrill of facing death…it often cloaks something dark. You would perhaps be better meditating and thinking about the darkness rather than trying to hide it with your…thrills.

A beat.

Summer: The companions that you have chosen have…It seems from what they have told me, they have good hearts but from when I saw them last it seemed that they were…shall I say…also looking for something and not sure what it is.
Rick: I definitely understand what you say about those who seek adventure have something—there’s something else to what they’re really looking for. And maybe it’s best that my path has crossed with my current group of adv—with my group. Because along the way we might be able to help each other with our journeys.
Summer: Perhaps they will. You should keep an eye out that you don’t take down too many misses with you.
Rick: That’s definitely not the kind of adventure that I’m interested in. Actually—
Summer: Sadly, that seems to be what all adventurers end up doing.
Rick: Yes. I try…I try my best to not harm those—or harm them in the long term. Typically, actually, not refrain from violence but try to render those who need to be stopped unconscious with a medicinal plant extract that I make myself for tranquilizer darts.
Summer: And has this worked for you? Is there less violence in your life because of this? Fewer people killed?
Rick: Yes. Not less violence. But fewer people killed.
Summer: I will leave you with this until dinner: You can count the apples in a tree, but you cannot count the trees in an apple.
Rick: Thank you. I will think about this some more and I will look forward to seeing you at dinner.

Summer bows and turns and goes back inside, leaving Rick standing in the dooryard.

Rick pulls himself together and goes topside to check out the town. The bar isn’t hard to find—it’s the only one in town. On the way, he manages to find mining terminals where the hover sleds would dump their ore. The main terminal has some sign of access and activity. However, nowadays it’s mostly centered around the lockers for folks to stow their gear when they go down into the crater. There are also a general store, the bar/restaurant/sheriff office, a place called Muleskinner’s—a garage that apparently specializes in repairing mules, and a few residential buildings.

A couple of the houses look as if they’re sort of kept up, but are padlocked. Perhaps they are used only when the miners aren’t mining. And a few look like they’re lived in year round, if the gardens in the yards are any indication.

It’s a sleepy desert small-town, mostly filled with empty but with some hardy souls still lingering and making a go of it.

Rick enters Cliff Divers and brushes off the dust of his long walk.

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