Episode 307: Cassandra Lockdown

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Air Date: 16 Feb 2010
Present: Maer, Terri, Andy, Bobby, and Tony

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Tuesday, 05 Nov 2520
Lorngaard, Highgate
Blue Sun (Qing Long) system
1000hrs, local time

We lift off Highgate on the 5th with three jobs—count’em, three!—on our roster:

  • 111 tons construction materials to New Canaan, paid up front.
  • 49 tons of housing materials for a Companion House and one 1st Class passenger, Indira Mabruta (professional chef) to New Canaan, paid up front.
  • 2 2nd Class passengers to Meridian, paid on delivery.

With the cash up front in hand, we’re now able to fuel up to full and buy food for everyone aboard for the duration of the trip.

Thank God.

Wednesday, 06 Nov 2520
Spaceport, New Canaan'
Blue Sun (Qing Long) system
1200hrs, local time

The trip to New Canaan takes 26 hours, a relatively short run. We kiss dirt on the 6th, offload our cargo and our lovely chef passenger, both of which are bound to the Companion House. We look for cargo and lade on 66 tons of raw materials bound for Meridian with payment waiting for us upon return to New Canaan. It takes us two extra days to get the job and everything stowed, so take off toward midday on the 8th.

Saturday, 09 Nov 2520
Kuiper II Class, Summer’s Gift
In Orbit over Muir
Blue Sun (Qing Long) system
0500hrs, ship’s time

Our next stop is Muir, a mere 17 hours away. We reach orbit around Muir and help Faria load the shuttle with seven days’ worth of food for two, and stand by as Faria leads a drugged and hooded Escobar aboard it. We wish Faria Godspeed and the Shepherd takes off.

Next stop, Meridian, 14 hours away.

Saturday, 09 Nov 2520
Meridian Orbit Queue, Meridian
Blue Sun (Qing Long) system
1900hrs, ship’s time

We arrive in Meridian’s airspace and take our place in the orbital queue. Traffic has increased for Meridian as Blue Sun system rebuilds its commerce in the wake of the Alliance’s Quarantine. As we wait and draw closer to our approach window, we look out at the other ships and see something big in the distance. It resolves into the PDF Decatur as we draw closer and it looks like she’s in dry dock for modifications. The framework for what appears to be a very big radar dish is getting mounted to her hull.

Sunday, 10 Nov 2520
Meridian City Spaceport, Meridian
0800hrs, local time

We shake-and-bake to the surface of Meridian as the clock ticks past midnight into the morning of the 10th. Groundside, it’s daylight when we kiss dirt. Welcome to the joys of local time, y’all.

Things are certainly different from our last visit to Meridian. The spaceport is far busier and as a result we’re actually parked in an overflow facility. Because it’s not the central port, the waste and fuel removal and restocking is carried out via truck instead of hose lines. There are also no power lines run out to the overflow facility, so if we want power, we’ll have to keep our engines running. We cowboy up and get to work. We say goodbye to our two passengers, off load our cargo of raw materials, and fill up our fuel tanks and our pantry.

Joshua turns right around to look for jobs and/or cargo for our return to New Canaan and Rina rides shotgun. The cargo that Joshua arranges for us is Meridian’s main stock in trade: lumber. 100 tons. We have no luck finding passengers interested in going to New Canaan or elsewhere and with our second class passengers let off, we gain the 2nd class passenger container to stow our cargo in.

We find out from the port facility crews that there is radio-based local cortex feed available, payable by the Gigabyte. It’s mostly connected to just Meridian and her moons. There is also a connection with the moons off Fury and also a line to New Canaan. The speed is at-light, not as fast as the Qupie Dipoles but it’s better than nothing. But still it’s better than nothing.

Joshua asks about the huge influx of people. The ground crew tells us that people who were frightened off by the TSE are coming back. There are new people who’ve come from the Core, frightened by the unrest and the bombings there and hope to find a life away from the fighting.

We thank them and the ground crew do what they can for us. We check our message boxes for any news that managed to make it through. Rick gets a picture file of yellow bananas with a large hairy black tarantula crawling across them. It has us scratching our heads over it. What does the tarantula mean? Escobar? A tarantula class ship? Someone or something we know? No. Sometimes a picture of bananas and a tarantula is just a picture of bananas and a tarantula.

Decatur is in orbit overhead and they’ve been sending Nika emails about coming up to see them. Nika tells them as soon as her cargo business is concluded dirtside. Joshua tells Nika if she wants to go topside and visit her friends there, she’s good to go. You sure? she asks. Yeah, we’re good. In fact Nika could have gone the minute we’d landed, Joshua tells her. Nika tells him not to nag her. No, he’s not. Yes, he is. No, he’s not; if Nika wanted to see her family on Decatur, he could have flown her topside and dropped her off. This surprises Nika—to the best of her knowledge he doesn’t know how to fly.

Has he watched her enough to pick up the skill, she asks. Joshua says it takes ten minutes and he’s got it. Has he watched her land? He doesn’t have to watch her land if he already knows how to pilot. That’s good to know, she says. Let’s use that skill for a while. And meanwhile, she says, Joshua’s going to learn how to really do it—not ‘fake it’ from borrowing.

Cool beans.

Arden has that message from Valerie from Pericles Station to meet her on Meridian, she has information for him. Now that he’s on Meridian, he looks her up. Sure enough, she’s listed as Chief Physician of Meridian City Free Clinic and Chief Medical Advisor to MP Gibbons.

Member of Parliament Gibbons. Remember him? He was the honorable gentleman who used his political clout to spring Rick and Arden free of Blue Sun’s clutches on Osiris, back when they were both kidnapped in an attempt to see Valerie.

Arden looks into Gibbons and finds out the MP has an office in Meridian City. In fact, the man is on a political campaign at the moment, touring Meridian to familiarize himself with his assigned constituency and taking part in the MCZ local democratic voting process. In fact he’s running simultaneously for two offices—his Parliamentary UAP position and also for a position as the local MCZ voice. The MCZ doesn’t have a president or similar office, just a voice in the electoral scene. The planetary government is a participatory democracy with no head, but with people appointed to executive positions, and Gibbons has already accepted several of them.

Duly caught up on Gibbons, we debate if we need to get in touch with Gibbons. We decide to make an appointment to see him the next day on the 11th. Meanwhile, Arden attempts to contact Valerie and unfortunately his calls go unanswered. He finds out that she’s not in her office and he leaves a message.

Monday, 11 Nov 2520

By the next day, we’ve flushed our ship’s systems and offloaded our cargo. Now we’re just waiting to load on outgoing cargo and fuel. We set about making our visits.

We visit Gibbons at the appointed time. On the way over, we get a good look at Meridian City along the way. It’s become a frontier boom town since our last encounter with it. Buildings hastily constructed and in the process of being built are everywhere, as are merchants selling settlers all manner of goods, including handy-dandy settler’s “kits”, reputed to be everything a settler needs to tame the wilderness of Meridian. Meridian is a town that is overrun with immigrants from other planets, all looking to homestead beyond the settled regions. Land is free on Meridian, all you need is to go out and stake your claim.

But homesteading on the Rim is not without its dangers. We spot a sign that says “18 days since the last Reaver Attack”, with the numbers on hang cards, to add or subtract as needed. We suspect that the length of time since the last attack is due in most part to the Decatur’s presence above. And given the state of the repairs and construction on her, she’s likely to be here for some time to come.

We arrive at Gibbons’s office and he’s glad to see us. He actually remembers our names: Arden, Nika, Rick, Marina, Christian….although Christian looks different…? Joshua admits he’s not Christian and introduces himself. Nika explains that Christian elected to stay dirtside to run our office, now that we are Morningstar Enterprises. Gibbons tells us he’s been here a month and it’s different than it’s been in the Core. He tells us that the Wu Bah and the MTs have formed their own militias. He’s rather impressed with Blue Sun’s ability to haul up by bootstraps and form their own government and military to cover the lack from the Alliance. What brings us here?

Valerie’s message and of course, we were in the neighborhood. Oh yes, she said that Arden had contacted her. Gibbons says sheepishly that she’s somewhat annoyed with Arden assuming she wanted to talk to him.

Huh? She sent us a message, not the other way around. Rina draws breath to protest and Nika shushes her before she can get two words out. Joshua states that does seem a little odd, that our messages got crossed. Gibbons apologizes for any inconvenience it caused us. Nika brushes it off—we were delivering cargo already, no worries. So how’s Meridan working for Gibbons?

He admits with the lack of clear majority there’s not a lot of voting going on, but he suspects that things will settle down and the majorities will make themselves heard.

In the middle of this the door to the office opens.

It’s Gibbons’s executive assistant, saying there’s an important Cortex message that he must look at. Gibbons goes to his desk before we can politely withdraw and taps a button on his databook and a little holographic privacy screen hovers around it. He reads silently.

On a hunch, Joshua does a surface read of the man. Joshua gets the thoughts of:




::Don’t know how to do this::

Gibbons looks up from the screen.

Gibbons: I’m going to have to end this meeting. There’s been a terrorist attack back on Londinium. The Parliamentary Building had been bombed. They’re still not sure what the casualty figures are. This got out on a high speed courier out of there, but it’s still five days old. Or six days ago, actually. Well, yes….(blows out a big breath)

The MP is visibly upset and off kilter. It’s time we made a polite exit.

Nika: (softly) It was very nice to meet you.
Gibbons: Yes. I wish it were under better circumstances…I hope you….Good luck. there’ll be a special statement later, I’ll need to craft it.

We thank the man and we leave.

Normally there are 400 MPs in parliament. With the Parliament suspended, there are likely fewer MPs in attendance and perhaps the bombing didn’t kill very many people.

The next person on our visit list is Valerie. Her message silence is puzzling. Why did she send a message to Arden to see her if she doesn’t want to be seen? Did the message actually come from her? Arden decides to go back to the ship to check Valerie‘s message before going to see her.

As we walk back through the city’s open air market, the reaction of the people on the street is a combination of loyalist shock over the incident and Independent victory. The news of what’s happened starts filtering through the crowd and in the nature of word-of-mouth news, it gets garbled and corrected.

The whole planet was nuked!
—No, there was an explosion at the Parliament building.

They killed everyone in Parliament!
—No, only hundreds of people were killed.

The official report called it a cowardly bombing and both the Wu Bah and the MTs were quick to declare themselves unaffiliated with the parties responsible for the terrorist act and that they condemn such action. Accusations fly between the two parties and fingers are pointed. The news, such as it is, gives the impression that the media is looking for someone to tell them what happened.

And with the Cortex down, the old reliable feeds and methods of tracking down and disseminating the story are no longer there, leaving it up to the listener and the reader to come to their own conclusions. Or their own speculations. Further word comes down the pipeline that this event changes nothing, the Alliance will go on. In fact, the Navy is going to step up its security.

It is also interesting to note that the bombing of Parliament happened on November 5th, traditionally known as Guy Fawkes Day to those of Anglo-British descent.

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I see no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

In fact, some headlines are claiming this the work of a New Guy Fawkes, now successful after 700 years. Make of that what you will.

Once back at the ship, Arden carefully inspects the message he received from Valerie. It looks legit. The message routing string attached to it shows its origination point is the clinic on Meridian. The clinic is a little distance away from Gibbons’ offices in a different neighborhood. Meridian City is fairly large as frontier towns go, about 3000 people, but it’s not big enough to have much variation in neighborhoods as there would be on a more populous world and unlike the other clinic Valerie worked in, this one seems to be in a pretty safe environment. As safe as Meridian City can be, anyway.

Arden and Joshua decide to go over to the clinic. Nika discourages Rina from going along, who grouses back at the putative Captain.

Rina: You know they’re gonna talk smack about us the minute they get outa earshot.
Joshua: I hate to inform you of this, but we don’t have to be out of earshot to talk smack.
Rina: (laughs) If I have my gun in my hand, oh yes you do.

The two men leave unmolested by anything harsher than that parting jibe and they make their way to Valerie’s clinic.

On our way over to the Gift, we passed several ships and one of them, a medium sized ship, is loading cargo of fresh fruit. Including bananas. Rick goes back to investigate after Joshua and Arden leave, thinking to discover if this cargo ship has any connection to the mysterious message he’d received. Looking at the bananas, Rick can see they’re in micro-stasis containers, the sort that guarantees freshness for 200 AUs or somesuch. It’s obvious the fruit has come far and it’s just as obvious that they have a little distance to go still. Where are they going? No telling without getting nosy.

So Rick gets a little nosy and one of the men loading asks him warily if he’s here to protest freeze-sealed fruit making their way to Blue Sun. Oh no, Rick assures him. But if they had any lobsters, he might pick at that. OH, well, good thing we’ve got no lobster, but yes, we have bananas.

Even so, the man starts looking for camera and activists and such and starts calling through his comm for instructions.

Stamped onto the packaging is Blue Sun’s logo, just like 50% or more of anything getting shipped across the Verse, and Rick finds out from the man that the cargo is getting shipped topside to one of the big ships. Oh, to the Decatur then? Well, he can’t say, really. Rick thanks the man and goes back to the Gift.

Meanwhile, Joshua and Arden take up a position outside Valerie’s clinic and meet her as she leaves. It’s around 1800hrs and she looks like she’s done for the day. The months since we’d last seen her show she’s changed but little—her hair’s been bobbed to a shorter style, but other than that, she’s recognizable as Dr. Valerie Sampson of Osiris.

She seems confident and walks with a purpose. Arden starts following her, and Joshua brings up the rear. She goes two blocks away and enters a public parking lot and stops at a mule. Arden approaches her before she can drive away. He calls her name as she pulls open the driver’s door.

Arden: Valerie. I’ve been trying to catch up with you.

Valerie turns around and looks at him, not at all welcoming.

Valerie: What do you want, Arden?
Arden: I’m ….not sure. You were trying to contact me. I was just returning the favor.

Valerie reaches into her purse and pulls out an inhaler, sucks down a hit before continuing.

Valerie: You say that I tried to contact you?
Arden: I received a message. About two weeks ago.
Valerie: Why would I contact you? You ruined my life. I was Chief of Neurosurgery at Memphis City Hospital on Osiris. And now look where I am. My husband is gone. I’m on a backwater planet that doesn’t even have proper sewage. Why would I want to talk to you?

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Part 2
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Back to the previous episode: Blowing the Whistle | Forward to: Part 2 | Jump to: With Friends Like These
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Back to Season Two: Hitting Our Stride
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