Episode 201: Crossroads, Part 3

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Christian: Well, can I just say: Holy Crap.
Nika: I take a couple weeks vacation and the world goes to hell.
Christian: Literally.
Nika: (undertone) …Oh, my God….
Arden: It’s not really that surprising.
Christian: How are you not surprised at a breakout of an unknown disease that’s Quarantined the system?
Arden: Becaue it’s the Alliance that did it.
Nika: Okay, just as a hypothetical, if we’re going to try to run the blockade, I’m not sure the Gift is in any shape to do that. (to Rina) If we’re gonna try this, you gotta make sure she’s not gonna tear apart.
Arden: What are the requirements of running a blockade?
Christian: Not getting hit by a—
Arden: (annoyed) I got that.
Rina: You need fast and maneuverable and can turn on a dime….and our ship can’t do that.

However, the powers that be can’t blockade the ENTIRE system. They can’t enclose the system with a power net. There will be holes for ships like ours to slip through. We just have to find them. The trade routes for Georgia and White Sun are the surest routes out of Blue Sun and likely to be the most scrutinized and policed so those aren’t our first choice. Given the elliptic of Blue Sun is 90 degrees to the greater ecliptic, the arc that faces the uncharted out-system Black may be less policed than the obvious ports of call…but the trade off would be lack of fuel stations. You’d need a big gas tank to cover the distance needed to leave and then double back once outside of the Feds’ sensor range.

There is the problem of food and fuel for the longer trip. Decatur will supply us with the food and the fuel, but we may have to sacrifice a few of our cargo containers for fuel pods. Which would be a fair trade off—there would be no point in having the cargo capacity of the containers if we hadn’t the fuel capacity to deliver them. As for Decatur and her crew….

Christian: If we’re blockade running for them? They’ll supply us.
Nika: And bear in mind, they’re well funded. Which means maybe we can make a contract to make these runs for them.
Arden: Then I’d like to stand in line for insurance fraud to get a Longbow.

The others laugh and Rina swats Arden for that one.

Christian: The gentleman is a …let me put it this way: If he came to the Core, the Priestesses of the Temple would be the ones that he contracted with.
Nika: Oh my.

Now that’s pretty high up there, in nosebleed country.

Rina: So he has more money than God?
Christian: Well, not more money than God, obviously.
Arden: But he’s in the Top Ten.
Christian: But chances are likely that most of our fuel comes from him.
Rick: So why doesn’t he just pay to have food and supplies shipped in to him?

After all, we remember he has that moon somewhere to serve as his distribution center. He uses it for that purpose for his fuel business already. How hard can it be to route food and med supplies along with the fuel?

Nika: It’s not a matter of money. He said he couldn’t find anybody willing to run the blockades.
Christian: Actually, he didn’t say that but that they’re always looking for more.

So, are we in the blockade running business or not? Nika insists we need to get Brian to the better medical facilities on Osiris. While Decatur has the facilities Brian needs right now, he is going to need better PT and rehab than Decatur has. We have to run the blockade to get to Osiris. And there’s another wrinkle in the landscape…

Rina: Sooner or later the PDF is gonna be gunned for.
Christian: If this ends, the Alliance is going to see the PDF as a challenge to their authority.
Rina: Exactly.
Rick: Yeah, but they might be able to get the Independent to rally behind them.
Rina: Okay, which bureaucracy ever—ever—willingly gave up power it got for itself after it’s used to having it?
Rick: Then what you’re saying is that’s what the Independents are—?
Rina: No. What I’m saying is the PDF is letting the Alliance off the hook for doing its duty but once the Alliance decides the PDF is outlived its usefulness, regardless who’s manning those PDF ships, the Alliance is going to gun for them. Because they cannot stand as a challenge to their authority.
Rick: But what I’m saying is the PDF can turn to the side of the Independents for—
Christian: They already have. but we don’t know how militant they are. They could be of the change-from-within variety. The man is very rich and very influential within the Alliance.

We get hailed from our airlock. It’s Shyla and Harry. The access is locked and they need to come in.

Nika: Did we lock the door?
Rina: Are you kidding? You’ve got me on the crew. Of course we locked the frikkin’ door.
Nika: My suggestion here would be that since we know we to have to run the blockade at least once, let’s talk to him about what he wants. See if we can make a contract based on that.
Rina: I’ve got no problem with that.
Christian: I’ll go let them in.

Christian returns with Shyla and Harry and as they settle in, he says to Shyla:

Christian: Let me guess: he’s going to give you a ship and you’re going to run the blockade for him.
Shyla: Yes, he is going to give me a ship. The question is: do you want to join me on my ship or…? You’re all obviously skilled people. We’d be happy to have you. Or if you’d prefer… (gestures at the Gift) It’s up to you. (a beat) But I will let you know that what Mr. You has suggested and I’ve known him for some time—he is one of the ‘others’ I spoke of—
Christian: He is a faction.
Shyla: While the Quarantine is obviously a pressing humanitarian issue, the purpose of us having this Longbow is not to enforce the Quarantine. It is to declare independence.
Christian: And he’s taking advantage of the Quarantine to build up his fleet without Alliance interference.
Rina: Aw, shit….
Shyla: They are doing this, yes, and I have decided to join them.
Arden: I am not changing my name to Patrick Henry.
Shyla: I don’t know if you caught that, the name of Decatur.
Rina: (getting it now) Ahh…Ancient history…
Shyla: Decatur was the Captain who captured the Intrepid from the Barbary Pirates back in the—
Rina: War of 1812.
Shyla: Yes.
Christian: Here’s the thing: everyone has a say in what they want to do.
Shyla: I understand if you want to stay on your ship. I understand if you want to get out of Blue Sun as fast as you can. There’s no shame in that.
Nika: (stung) You know better than that.
Shyla: You know what? Part of me would want to go with you, but this is yet another time the Alliance has shut the door and I’m not going to—I’ve been asked to help and I think I can help.

And there it is, Nika’s flaw—her friend and former Captain has effectively issued a challenge and Nika by nature cannot back down from a challenge thrown. Should she take the challenge or back down?

Christian: How violent is this going to get if his plans come to fruition?
Shyla: It could get bad.
Christian: Is he planning open insurrection? I mean, he’s assembling a fleet of warships. Well, at least two.
Shyla: From what You has told me, once we have control of Blue Sun and whle the alliance has no interest in it, the difficulty in taking it back may be something we can negotiate at the time.
Christian: Because Blue Sun is the least valuable.
Shyla: We’re the least valuable, the least populated, we’re not a major consumer of goods at this stage. If it could be a haven for malcontents, we would hae to deal with them instead of the Alliance, but it’s possible that they would be willing to cede.

Making an entire system a penal colony?

Christian: I’m not trying to besmirch anyone but I’m going to point out that at this point in time, Mr. You just became one of the best people to benefit from this virus and this disease. I just want to point that out.
Rina: Following the money.
Christian: He has the resources. I’m just saying that is a possibility that you should weigh in when you make your decision. We can’t always automatically assume the Alliance and Blue Sun are the bad guys.

So how trustworthy is Mr. You? Christian asks Harry what she thinks of him.

Harry: I’ve encountered him before and he seems to be … ambitious…and not an idealist at all, but it strikes me that the reason that the Browncoats failed was because they were more idealistic than they were ambitious. And had there been more ambitious leaders, there may have been greater success. So you may be right. Would it surprise me if he’d somehow engineered the panic? Not necessarily. They haven’t told us how many people are infected, so it may be that no one’s infected and this is a mere panic. But if he did that, the question is what will the results be after a few years? Would it be another dictatorship?
Christian: Are you saying that it’s possible that the potential for mass murder is outweighed by the potential good that might be created? I realize that revolution and government are built on the backs and sacrifice of other people.
Rina: I’m hoping those other people are not us.
Christian: But it’s a possibility. We all have to make our decision but I don’t think we need to make it right now. We should take a night to sleep on it.
Arden: I’m fully in favor of an independent Blue Sun.
Christian: Mm-hm. I am not against the concept.
Arden: I am against the concept of me picking up a gun and going to fight for that.
Christian: That may not be necessarily true for me.
Arden: That may not be necessarily true for everyone.
Nika: The question is does that negate the possibility of serving aboard a ship that is doing such?
Arden: No.
Christian: and in addition, if this disease is real, it may be your skills may be more beneficial in a laboratory on a planet.
Arden: Possibly, but that’s not where I want to be.
Christian: I know. I’m just pointing it out.
Shyla: There are people suffering right now. There is no shortage of places where people can be helpful. No shortage.
Nika: I will point out another thing before the rest of us scatter to think or talk about our options with the others: up to this point we have not had a Captain.
Christian: This is true.
Nika: That is not the way the other ship runs.
Shyla: Also true.
Arden: And the point being?
Shyla: I don’t run things by consensus.
Christian: You have to be able to follow orders.
Nika: If you disagree with an order, it waits until you go to the Captain’s office and you have a conversation. Otherwise you follow the order. Period.
Shyla: Well, not the minute you have a problem with it…
Nika: That is not what I said. I did not say one and then the other. I said that you do and then you go talk.
Arden: (to Nika) I thought that you were our Captain.
Christian: No, but we did agree that in combat emergencies you were in charge.
Shyla: Well…
Nika: Do you want Brian kept here in Blue Sun?
Christian: He is your crew member.
Shyla: I’ll be able to keep him. And keep track of him.
Nika: I’m not sure I’m comfortable with keeping him in Blue Sun.

Harry merely smiles and Christian gets it.

Christian: The Longbow.
Rina: What about it?
Christian: They’re giving it to Shyla.
Arden: The Longbow?!
Christian: Yup.

Shyla says nothing, and that’s answer enough for Nika.

Nika: (with a weak laugh) Okay, that makes me just a hair more comfortable.
Arden: Wow.
Rina: Congratulations. (tight grin) Nice car.

At which point, everyone laughs.

Nika: (sobering) What’s the complement of a freakin’ Longbow?
Shyla: 230.
Arden: Wow.
Nika: Are you insane?
Rina: (eyeroll) She can delegate.
Arden: She had better be able to delegate.
Nika: You’re going to be the pilot an aircraft carrier?
Rick: She didn’t say she was going to be the pilot.
Christian: Remember, this thing has fighters.
Rina: And she can project her sphere of influence from it.
Nika: (impatient whine) Now that just turns me on….! I have got to leave this conversation.

And she gets up and leaves the table.

Christian: You better hurry, Arden.

Shyla being given the Longbow and her offering us places on it opens up a whole slew of tempting options. A kick-ass med bay for Arden. A top of the line engine room for Rina to explore….

Rina: Oh god, I am soooo tempted.
Christian: She didn’t offer you the position of chief engineer.
Rick: She could let you be in maintenance.
Rina: True, but still…. (she points aft toward Decatur)

Top of the Line! Engines!

Nika's pacing up and down the lounge and comes back to the table.

Nika: I want to lay out here too that if we choose to take this, I want the Gift parked too, where we can get to it.
Christian: Right. We don’t want to sell it. We want to be able to go back to it.
Nika: Give us a day to think about it, okay?
Rina: (breathes) Oh my God….
Shyla: We could tow your ship.
Christian: I think that would just slow you down.
Shyla: (grinning) You think a thousand tons against a million will matter?
Rina: Hell, they probably have a docking bay big enough for us to park the Gift in a back corner. The Gift is only about 40 feet tall and a couple hundred feet long.
Shyla: The Longbow is a twenty-two hundred feet long and seven hundred feet wide.
Christian: So, who wants to join the military?
Nika: I hate to break it to you but I sorta did that from the start.
Christian: I realize that. And then you left, too. Now it’s your choice: are you going to go with them? You want to, and you want to stay here too. But you want to. And let me say this: no one should feel under obligation to stay aboard this ship.
Nika: I wanna go but if we can’t make a consensus, I won’t.
Rina: (even quieter now) Oh, God…
Christian: If there’s going to be fighting there’s going to be a heavy need for a doctor. And a good engineer. And very likely someone who can lead ground missions.
Arden: And a counselor.
Christian: I see very little point in my role—
Arden: Have you ever been on a deep space mission, then?
Christian: This isn’t exactly going out to explore the unknown.
Rina: No, but we are going to be stuck in a tin can for days at a time. People are gonna go stir crazy.
Christian: So….I’m the cruise director?

That cuts the tension and we laugh.

Christian: I’d lose my License.
Nika: Why? Right now, you’re just a citizen under Quarantine.
Christian: Because this is eventually going to turn into a rebellion.
Nika: And you’re stuck in the middle. That’s all you ever have to be.
Christian: If I were aboard that ship, I would lose my License. But who knows? If Blue Sun does get its independence, they might be able to establish a satellite Guild.
Nika: My god, you could even be a Priest.
Christian: No. Only women can be Priestesses and only women can run Houses.

To keep power over women’s bodies out of the hands of men, ever the founding principle of the Guild.

Arden: You could start a new Guild.
Christian: No thank you.
Arden: Wasn’t saying you had to, just saying you could.
Christian: No.
Rina: And you’d probably be damned good at it, but I understand.

Speculations on Christian’s career aside, going with Decatur and Shyla would change everything.


Nika: Yeah. No shit.
Rina: Okay, say we don’t go and we take off on the Gift. Where are we going?
Christian: we have the choice of continuing along the way we have been, picking up jobs and having our merry adventures…
Nika: Or we run the blockade. On a fairly regular basis.
Rina: I was about to suggest. She’s going to need a guy on the outside.
Nika: We’d be the scout on the outside. Bringing supplies in and out, messages in and out, information in and out.
Rina: (firmly) That suits me fine.
Arden: That suits me fine.
Rick: I have no desire to be on the Longbow. One: in the previous war, I was with the Alliance, so there’s a good chance that they will let me do anything. Two: I don’t want to be a part of killing people on a regular basis. I mean, you kill people on a regular basis—
Shyla: Not professionally.
Rick: But I don’t want that to be my sole role.

Arden: Well, when you’re in the army, they’re sorta paying you to do it. Christian: That’s only going to happen if she runs the blockade. (to Shyla) Are you going to run the blockade with your ship then?
Nika: No, the Decatur will never run the blockade. She’s too big.
Rina: (agreeing) No. They need her here.
Christian: My guess is they’ll do policing missions and perhaps be involved in tracking down leads on the disease and they’re going to send a flag ship to check it out.
Rina: I would much rather be mobile. I would rather be small when the enemy’s big. I’d rather be mobile when the enemy’s slow. I’d rather slip in underneath the wire—
Christian: What you want is to trade this ship in for something faster.
Rina: No. Let me finish. I would rather people look at us and say, based on the ship we’ve got, “There is no fucking way they can be involved. The ship’s too slow.” And let us go on our merry.
Christian: I don’t deny that’s going to be the case, but I understand what you’re saying.
Rina: I would rather be underestimated and left unmolested.
Arden: (to Christian) Then you can be Ben Franklin and be an Ambassador. Blue Sun’s first Ambassasor.
Christian: He did have a lot of sex.

Rina sighs and rolls her eyes. Shyla leaves us to discuss it as a crew, taking Harry with her.

And we hash out exactly what we’re going to do. We decide to decline the offer of crewing on the Decatur in favor of staying aboard the Gift. However, we cannot come to a unanimous decision on what we’ll be doing once aboard. Will we run the blockade carrying humanitarian and medical supplies, or will we also carry intel for Decatur on occasion? Or weapons? Rick and Arden refuse running weapons, anything of a nuclear or biological or chemical in nature. So, no weapons. Furthermore, Christian is of the opinion that intel is as dangerous as a gun and should we make a run with even intel, he won’t go. Nika offers to do the run without us, because there is no way she’ll refuse Shyla the run if the woman personally asks Nika to do it. Doing the run without the Gift should put Christian in the clear, no? Christian refuses to go along with that option because by his lights knowing what she’s about to do is the same as being guilty of doing it himself.

We end up going round and round on this one sticking point and after half an hour of this, Nika calls it quits.

Nika: Okay. I need a bottom line here! Because that sounds to me that we’re going our separate ways. That is perfectly acceptable to me. I can sign on board the Decatur. That would be fine.
Christian: I am saying if it is more than humanitarian supplies I cannot in good conscience be a part of it.
Rina: So we’ll drop you off somewhere.
Nika: That’s fine. If such a run ever comes up, I can the run on my own.
Arden: I want a definition of what ‘more than humanitarian supplies’ means. Because it means different things to different people.
Nika: I think we’re going to have to take it on a case by case basis.
Christian: Military intelligence would certainly qualify.
Nika: It’s really going to depend on what’s asked of us, I think. And I think that just like before, we take it on a case by case basis, and we talk about it.
Arden: I have no problem with that.
Rina: Neither do I.
Nika: (to Christian) Is that acceptable?

Christian thinks it over.

Christian: I don’t know.

Arden: Is it acceptable for right now? Christian: I don’t know. I’ll let you know in the morning.
Nika: Okay. Fair enough.

And we adjourn.

Come morning, we take up the matter again with Shyla. We tell her that we’ll decide to take on missions only after we understand what they are and that we reserve the right to discuss it as crew before taking off. Nika is perfectly fine in delivering an ultimatum to Shyla—Shyla has to tell Nika what the job entails before she accepts or declines it. We will not run nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

Shyla counters that it’s not very likely she’d ask us to make a run like that, given the type of ship we have. Nika counters if Shyla hadn’t crashed Harbinger—or had hired Go, who crashed Harbinger—they wouldn’t be having this conversation. Indeed, there would be little reason to have the debate at all, since Harbinger would be the top choice for those controversial runs and Nika would be piloting her.

Shyla’s view is we don’t need to change the way we do business at all. As the crew of Summer’s Gift, we aren’t at war and we aren’t firing on vessels. Nika swears if it did come to war, she’s coming home to Shyla on Decatur. Besides, there is plenty for everyone to do and fight against without war added to the mix. There are pirates and bandits preying on innocent people. There are people hoarding supplies and resources like food and fuel. Shyla and Decatur has to stop both the pirates and the hoarders. Shyla isn’t discounting the possibility of a shooting war if the Alliance shows up to take them down and the PDF has enough to fight back, but no one who went through the war is willing to thrown themselves against Roman odds. Not again. And certainly not if means bringing the wrath of the Alliance down on the people of Blue Sun.

Christian suggests laying a big mine field around Blue Sun as a deterrent and Shyla confirms the Alliance has been bringing in mine-laying ships to do just that. Which Shyla thinks is to Blue Sun and the PDF’s advantage—the mines slows the Alliance down as much as it does them. She also says that if we wanted to make money and didn’t much care how, there are people willing to pay any price we ask to get them out of Blue Sun, and if there is a revolution to come, there may be even more wanting to leave.

It’s Shyla’s opinion, however, that the coming war is going to be a Cold, rather than a Hot, one. That there will be a long standoff, gaps in the blockade to exploit. The folk in Blue Sun are able to support themselves, just. But because Blue Sun has an aging fleet, their military personnel are aging as well and the system in general has suffered some recent heavy losses, there’s good reason to believe that their hearts aren’t into fighting a war.

Right now, there is no central authority and You is not the President. To say that he is funding this entire enterprise is to be not entirely true. His operatives were able to get Decatur through legal sleight-of-hand, but they weren’t secret agents. The incidence of the disease aboard Decatur made swapping out the Alliance crew for a PDF one fairly easy. Even so, Shyla’s stand on the whole business of the Blue Sun’s bid for independence is: if someone wants to use her ship, they will have to give her a powerfully convincing argument to do so. And she suggests we adopt the same stance with regard to our own ship as well, no matter if financial desperation or patriotism motivates us.

As for You, over the years he’s gained a virtual monopoly of the fuel stations in Blue Sun and through extra-legal means he’s taken most of those over at the moment. In order to fuel their own ships, the Alliance has to send fuel ships alongside any ships they fly to Blue Sun. Blue Sun is far enough from the Core that even the big Alliance ships cannot fly there and back without needing to refuel. Therefore it would require quite a bit of effort to retain an Alliance battle fleet at Blue Sun.

Thus briefed of the bigger picture, Nika tells Shyla that we as a crew are fully behind the idea of a free Blue Sun and are willing to do at least some kinds of runs she may require of us if she needs our help. Some on our crew refuse to run weapons of any kind. As for who gives us the runs, we’ll be running those Shyla gives us and pretty much no one else.

Christian finally agrees to throw his lot in with us.

Christian: I think this entire situation bears a strong resemblance to the ten blind men and the elephant.
Rina: If you ask me, what matters is who’s got the elephant gun.
Christian: You’re going to trust a blind man with a gun?
Rina: Who says the blind man is the one who has it?
Christian: Because there’s only the ten blind men and the elephant!

Rina’s not convinced of that, but lets it slide. Nika brings up the last point for discussion. Being that we no longer need to take Brian to the Core, and we’d want him elsewhere so we can get to him if this entire thing goes south, does Decatur have the rehab facilities he needs? Shyla answers ‘yes’ and there is a surgeon she knows who may be able to help him.

That decided, is there any need for us to run to Osiris at all, or should we stick around and do jobs at this end of the Verse? Other than needing to return to Osiris for Christian’s mandated yearly physical in March, we have no need to go Coreward in the immediate future. In the meantime we have cargo to offload in the form of the cars and mules we’d salvaged off Miranda. Nika wants to go to Boros to check on her sister, make sure everything on the ranch is doing well. We can sell our cargo on Boros, the mules especially would be a coveted commodity with the ranchers and farmers there.

And just like that, we’ve decided our course and picked our side in the coming conflict: we’ll go our way independent of either side, and take on humanitarian runs to the beleaguered folk of Blue Sun, with Shyla being our contact on the inside. She has means to contact us if she needs us. Before we leave, Arden wants to coordinate with Decatur’s medical staff over the disease and get a list of supplies they most need so we may try to pick it up on the return trip. To help us with our future runs to and from Blue Sun, we get a fuel pod from Shyla and add it to the Gift. It requires us to shift two of the cars off our ship to make room. We give them to Shyla in exchange for the fuel pod. Perhaps she can find a use for them. If nothing else she can sell them.

For now we’ll go visit Nala, sell our cargo, maybe take our ease dirtside a few days. We get our fuel pod installed, get our ship fully fuels and say goodbye to Decatur and Blue Sun.

Next stop: Boros.

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