Episode 506: Mortal/Coils

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This episode brought to you by our genius GM, Steve. Thanks, Steve! You da man!--Maer

Air Date: 15 Feb 2011
Present: Kim, Maer, Terri, Andy, and Bobby

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Thursday, 02 Mar 2522
Resurrection Starport
Verbena, Georgia (Xuan Wu) system
1100 hrs, local time

Equinox didn't spend long on Paquin because the Hospitality Officers (deputized gang members) seem to paying the ship an inordinate amount of attention.

Two weeks to Kalidasa - to the moon Ramha in orbit of the gas giant of Heaven.

The ship lands near the vast ship graveyard of decommissioned hulks. They drop off the cargo, and claim their pay.

From there it is a short hop to Verbena, a lush tropical world. They land in Resurrection, on the Northern continent. The town looks as though it has seen better days. There are empty hulks of buildings and factories standing abandoned after some brief boom and decline. They see to performing the monthly maintenance. They put off doing repairs until they get to a better starport. Joshua distributes the crew 24 credits pay from their recent jobs. Their passengers leave, without much fanfare, and while not inclined to pay any extra, they do say that if the ship is around in a couple of weeks they might want a ride out.

After a few hours of work on the ship, the crew boards the shuttle to visit Renton, one of the locations in the Green Book. Beggar stays behind to keep an eye on the ship. They approach Renton and receive a communication from the town.

Tower: "Unknown shuttle please identify yourself."
Nika: "Renton tower, this is the shuttle Langiappe, seeking landing clearance."
Tower: "State your business."
The crew looks around at each other uncertain what to say.
Joshua: "Information gathering?"
Arden: "We're tourists!"
Joshua: "Which is also an acceptable answer."
Nika: "We're just… locking around." Pause "Tourists."
Tower: "Uhh. Tourists?… one moment."
Joshua: "Helping the local economy."
Tower: "We're feeding you a holding pattern."
Nika: "Okay. Do they have anything of interest here?"

As they approach they can see that it is a smallish logging town. Probably not many visitors to a place like this without a good reason to be here.

Tower: "Land at transponder two, Do Not Leave your vessel."
Joshua: "Alright by me."
Kiera: "We might steal their logs."
Arden: "I hear their bark is worse than their bite here."

Kiera groans at the pun, and looks daggers at Arden.

Kiera: "I've I could unstrap you'd be dead."

Nika, her new eyes fully healed by now, sets Langiappe down gently on the hammered berm. A few moments later four men in what passes for security uniforms out here bearing shotguns approach the shuttle. They move into a staggered formation to get lines of sight on the shuttle. One of them approaches and bangs on the hatch of the shuttle.

Joshua opens the door.

The hatch opens to reveal a suspicious looking man.

Guard: "Alright, so you're, er tourists you say."
Joshua: "Really, we're looking to gather some information. To put an injustice right. I guess. "
Guard: "Two of you, no weapons." He gestures with his shotgun.

Nika climbs down from the cockpit, unbuckles her holster and stows her weapon in the shuttle's gun locker. She and Joshua exit the shuttle and are thoroughly frisked by the guards. Then they follow two guard across the muddle landing strip. To what looks like a little office building.

Back on the shuttle Rina turns to Kiera.

Rina: "So you think they've given themselves for arrest?
Kiera: "Oh I expect their mining fungus by now." Referring to the crew visit to the logging camp on Meridian.

Joshua and Nika are led to a small security room, and they are told to sit and wait. A little while later a guy comes in, he looks like middle aged, middle management type.

Manager: "You guys got indent cards?"

The two crew mates reflect on the many circumstances where their stuff has been stolen, burnt, dumping in toxic waste (or worse) and hold their hands our empty.

Nika: "Noo…"
Joshua: "Can't say that we do."

The manager doesn't seem surprised or bothered by this confession.

Manager: "So you are looking for some information?"
Joshua: "Yes, actually. There was/are a bunch of rat bastards, known as the Jing Jing Bei…" He pauses to see if the man recognizes the name "The Alliance used them as sort of security forces around the Rim. This would have been several years ago. And we came into the knowledge that they were keeping their power among the local people by occasionally taking young girls and selling them out as sex slaves. And I got it in my head that… that.. we need to make that right. And the source I got says that there was either somebody dropped off here, or taken from here."
Manager: "We might have some archived stuff from before we took over security. It might be a little while before we can get hold of that.
Joshua: "How long is a little while? Just trying to get an idea."
Manager: "Well, we got to get a computer specialist off his other detail. They're all out do ing some geo-mapping. So.. could be a couple days before anything. I'm afraid Renton doesn't have a whole lot in the way of services for tourists. We're a pretty tight operation here. And, with the insurgency down in the Central continent, we're trying to keep things under wraps here.
Joshua: "I can't say I know anything about any insurgency."
Manager: "Buncha Browncoats trying to take advantage of the destabilization in the Core. We're doing our best to keep things business as usual. You won't find anybody here sympathetic to that kinda stuff."
Joshua: (Nodding) "Sure."
Manager: "Not since what they did a few years ago."
Joshua: "Wait, what did they do a few years ago? We're tourists, not local people."
Nika: "We haven't even been in Kalidasa in a number of years."
Manager: "There was a rejuvenation effort by the Alliance back in the big city, Resurrection. They were gonna build this big factory assembling mules, the supplementary parts and all that. Some Browncoat terrorist blew the sucker up, killed a couple dozen people, might have been more."
Joshua: "That sounds pretty bad."
Manager: "If you've been to Resurrection, you know it hasn't gotten much better since then, it's been years."
Joshua: "It didn't look to be in a happy state."
Manager: "Apparently, they're still a bunch of them Browncoats down in the Central continent mucking things up for people elsewhere. So we are on alert, because they've been disrupting industry and trade."
Nika: "So, you said it would just require looking at some computer records. We have a guy with some computer skills on our shuttle. If you wouldn't mind lepton him take a look. "
Manager: "We're not going to let some stranger come look at our computer systems. With a war going on?"
Nika: "Okay.."
Joshua: "So at least Charleen, does that name ring a bell?"
Manager: "That one of the ladies..?"
Joshua: "Yes. That's one of the names. Some of these people were taken, but others we dropped off."
Manager: "How long ago was this?"
Joshua: "Would have been five to ten years ago."
Manager: "We just got here two years ago. We have some old records around here somewhere. But since we bring in most of our own gear, we'd have to convert the other format."
Joshua: "If there is anything we can do to facilitate this…to make it go quicker"
Nika: "Without getting in your way, of course. Or are their any ol'timers we can talk to?"
Manager: "Old people?"
Nika: "People who were here from before you got here." Sensing some hesitation on his part, she adds "We're not here to stir up any trouble."
Manager: "Listen, I'm not much of a political person. I'm a business man. But, we have to be particularly careful with people coming in trying to spread ideas around."
Nika: "Just about the girl."
Manager: "You say."
Nika: "You're welcome to come along."
Manager: "Then that's MY time. I am not being unreasonable about this."
Joshua: "No, you aren't. I don't think you are being unreasonable at all."
Manager: "You came in, unannounced, no Wave telling us your plans, backing up your story, or even letting us know you were showing up. You're lucky we didn't shoot you down."
Joshua: "We appreciate you didn't. I know your time is valuable. Your computer guy's time is valuable. I'm certainly willing to put some credits up that you could use to get things moving. If that would help to facilitate this, bring in some old timers, that sort of thing."

The man's face seems to light up a little at the mention of credits.

Manager: "Well…with that old drive, since it's at least five years old, we were just going to scrap it. I suppose I could sell it to you… And you could scrap it."
Joshua: "That certainly seems reasonable to me. How much is an old drive run?"
Manager: "Maybe uh… two.. two hundred?"
Nika: "For a scrap drive? That's a little high don't ya think?"
Manager: "Well, there's proprietary information on that drive. Locations of nursery grounds, soil records, all sorts of stuff competitors could take advantage of, were it to get out. Not to mention, schematics of all the buildings here. If it fell in the hands of the rebels down in the Central, that could be very unfortunate.

Joshua fixes his gaze and opens his mind to the man's thoughts, trying to get a read on his price.

Joshua: "If you are worried about information getting out. We've got the computer skills where we could wipe it clean in front of you. And then take it off your hands for maybe sixty credits. That way you know its secure, wiped clean, no chance of it getting out. No worries on your part."
Manager: "The problem is we don't have the equipment for that. So we'd have to be trusting you not to be scanning it while you are wiping it. Let's say 75 for the risk."
Joshua: "That seems reasonable. I think we can manage that."

Joshua pays the man. He agrees to hand over the drive, but they aren't going to let them into town to talk to people, or bring them to the logging facility. Before they leave the manager pulls them aside.

Manager: "Just to mention, you fly around in military surplus like that in these parts, and you are asking for someone to shoot you down, or steal your ship."
Joshua: "Much appreciated, we'll keep that in mind. Not begin military ourselves it isn't something we think about"
Manager: "These people barely qualify. But some of them were probably in the war. I recommend you avoid the Central continent. They're not really in the cities, but they control much of the countryside."
Nika: "What are the actually doing down there?"
Manager: "They're building up forces, launching attacks on the North."
Nika: "Is this strictly a Browncoat versus Alliance thing? Let me rephrase myself as the Alliance is having the problems its having. Is it a Browncoats versus everybody else kind of thing?
Manager: "As I said, I'm not much one for politics. But up here in the North, people would like the Alliance to come back and get their stuff rebuilt and settled. Down in the Central Continent, not so much. Down in the Southern continent they don't seem to care one way or t'other. Anyhows, there aren't enough of them to make any difference whichever side they might choose."
Joshua: "Appreciate it. We'll be sure to steer clear of any military fly zones."
Manager: "People might not be that specific. They might not give you warning. We've got some decent sensors here, so we could detect your presence before you were a threat. But out there, they might not know until they see you coming, and start shooting from hand held weapons."
Nika: "It's that bad?"
Manager: "If you were to fly over a rebel encampment, they don't know whether you are a government troop shuttle coming in to land soldiers."
Nika: "Fair enough."
Joshua: "We'll get out of your hair. Your time is valuable."
Nika: "Much obliged for the help sir."

They get up to leave the establishment.

Manager: "Take a bag of mail with you?"
Joshua: "Sure thing."

They take the sack of mail, and head back to the shuttle and settle in.

Arden: "Whatcha find?"
Joshua: "We got a computer drive, we'd like you to scan when you get a chance."
Kieara: "Does it have information about the girls?"
Joshua: "I don't know. Maybe. Probably not, but it's about the best we were going to get."
Nika: "They weren't going to let us go to town. Apparently, this world has a little intercontinental war brewing. They don't trust no one."
Joshua: "We should go, we don't want to linger here."
Rina: "Why? Did you piss'em off?"
Joshua: "No they just seem a little twitchy."
Kiera: "What's this about a war?"
Nika: "Apparently the Browncoats are getting a bit ornery down in the Central continent."
Joshua: "Which of my cities are in the central continent?… Ah, two, Del Marin, and Lochmyre."
Rina: "You don't think it's Nguyen's goons stirring things up?"
Nika: "Well, seems the fact that some plant got blown up got brought up. I didn't want to ask too many questions and look that interested. Because we've sorted gotten into the of middle of those sorts of things before."
Kiera: "Y'all haven't been here before have you?"
Nika: "It weren't us this time."
Arden: "Let's not talk about that, please!"
Kiera: "Just give me a list of places that nobody wants to see your face, so I can make my plans?"
Arden: "Be easier to give you the places where we are welcome."
Joshua: "Welcome aboard!"
Kiera: "Why did I ever come aboard?"
Joshua: "And there are probably places we don't even know about."
Rina: "I think we are still welcome on Sihnon."
Kiera: "We aren't banned from the Companion planet, good!"
Nika: "We used to travel with a Companion." Changing the subjects "So where is our next stop on this planet?"
Joshua: "Potterville, it is on the North continent. not far."
Nika: "Maybe we should call ahead."

The next stop is Pottersville, another lumber town, but this one is bigger, and seems to have a life somewhat independent of the mill. It sports a large enough landing field to land Equinox, but landing there is limited to cargo vehicles transporting wood. Unfortunately, there are no small cargos waiting there.

In the meantime, Arden scans the drive, searches for relevant names, and discovers that a Charlene Chen, age 14, who was removed for security reasons. Then another note say that three years later, both parents are marked 'dead in fire.' Rina questions whether it was really a fire, or if that was just the official explanation. No pictures or other evidence was there, which was a little odd. There was some other information there, but it would be a full time job to piece it together and find out to whom they could talk. They decide to hold off on further pursuits of Ms. Chen, and focus on Pottersville.

Joshua: "I want to move on."
Arden: "So you two are going alone?" (Referring to Rina)
Joshua: "Why does it matter?"
Arden: "Just for my information."
Joshua: "I see no reason we can't all go. At least this other place there is a chance we can all get off the ship"

Beggar is happy to stay behind again.

Beggar: "I like to visit the towns we visit, and its less intimidating for the locals for me to walk down the street without a big group of armed combatants."

The next day the crew, minus Beggar, takes Langiappe out to Pottersville. Pottersville is a town that was built with much promise, wide avenues, pretty houses, well thought out density. But, the industry that was to support that growth, never materialized. And while the lumber mill is extensive, it is not enough to support a large city. So the town remains underdeveloped and in decline. Wandering through the town, they see that pretty much the entire town (and much of the planet Verbena itself) is employed, directly or indirectly, by Interstellar Hardwoods. While not technically a company owned town, but it is effectively one. The sheriff is independent, but he one guy with a gun, whereas the company maintains many well trained, and well armed security forces.

They decide to first visit the sheriff, they have nothing to hide, and no reason to think the law would oppose them.

Joshua and Kiera go to see the Sheriff.

Nika, Arden and Rina go to one of the local watering holes.

At the Sheriff's office, the sheriff looks up.

Sheriff: "Howdy strangers, can I help you?"
Joshua: "Howdy sir. Name's Joshua. I'm looking for information. I stumbled into something wrong, something that needs to be fixed. People getting kidnapped.And I'm trying to find them.."
Sheriff: "Kidnapped!?"
Joshua: "I want to get them back to where they belong."
The sheriff doesn't look incredibly surprised by this claim, but despite this he says.
Sheriff: "I think I would have heard if someone were kidnapped, or was brought here being kidnapped, it's a pretty small town."
Joshua: "It would have been five years ago, thereabouts."
Sheriff: "Five years ago you say?"
Joshua: "Five or ten."
Sheriff: "You're trying to track something down from five or ten years ago?"
Joshua: "It isn't about getting justice or revenge, it's just trying to find the girls that were taken. These girls were fourteen, thirteen years old. Sold into stuff that nobody should have to experience. Especially not in their formative years. "
Sheriff: "Listen Mr… Joshua is it? What did you say your name was?"
Joshua: "Joshua."
Sheriff: "Mostly I deal with a few drunken brawls, we don't have those fancy city crimes like kidnapping or serial killers. I think you'll probably be disappointed wandering around here asking. I don't think anyone will be able to help you."
Kiera: "Is there any chance maybe somebody ran away?"
Sheriff: "Ran away here? Why would anyone come here?"
Kiera: "No, maybe they were brought here, then ran away, thinking they were going to a bigger city or something."
Sheriff: "I reckon young folk have run away."
Kiera: "Young girls often do silly things."
Sheriff: "Is there someone in particular you are looking for?"
Joshua: "Lanie, a girl named Lanie?"
Sheriff: "A girl names Lanie. Hmmm. just got kidnapped, or ran away."
Joshua: "Does the name Jing Jing Bei ring a bell with you?"
Sheriff: "Jing Jing Bei. Uhhh…Nope don't remember a Jing Jing Bei, my Chinese ain't great, what is that?"

Joshua senses that it isn't something at the top of his mind.

Joshua: "Well We're just looking for information, but you're probably right, this is probably a dead end."
Sheriff: "Here's what I am going to tell you. There are people here who don't want to be here. And they might have run away. And I've got to say, more power to 'em. If they found what they were looking for. Now when you talk about kidnapping, I think we'd know about that, we are a pretty close knit town. Most everybody works at the mill, their security is tight. It's not like somebody there could do something and just walk away. Now, some kid, I mean it could happen, but we got a pretty good record. And, like your shuttle coming in, is a pretty unusual event, people take notice when it ain't the regular corporate transports showing up, at their regular times. You said five or ten years ago?" They nod. "I don't know as much about back then, I wasn't sheriff. But I can't imagine it was all that different."
Kiera: "Who was sheriff before you sir?"
Sheriff: "Walton was his name. I was a deputy right before he died, he was just old. But I suppose if something happened he might have known about it. There are a couple Chinese girls in town, I don't think eithers named Jing Jing."
Joshua: "We're looking for someone named "Lanie", Jing Jing Bei, is just a group involved."
Sheriff: "Not familiar with them. I do think you should be cautious wandering around making accusations about kidnapping and such. Or given people the idea that somehow their kids didn't just run away, jump a train to the big city. Telling them their kids were kidnapped, that is putting real dread into their lives."
Joshua: "We've no interest with spreading fear or raising people's hopes where there ain't no chances. We'll stick around town for a bit, spend a little money. Then we'll take off, and be out of your hair.
Sheriff: "This is probably wise."
Kiera: "Any place to eat in this town?"
Sheriff: "There are a couple bars, the grill, neither's much good. I don't know where your from or what you're used to."
Kiera: "Food."
Joshua: "When you're aboard a ship, just getting something different can mean a lot."
Sheriff: "So are you some kind of detective hired by someone or something?"
Joshua: "No we're not working for anyone. We just… Not enough people trying to do right in this 'Verse. The fact you think it strange is reason enough to do it. There ain't enough people doing it."
Sheriff: "And because of that. It makes you a bit suspicious."
Joshua: "I appreciate that. I really do. "
Kiera: "I wouldn't worry about Joshua. I've never met a more goodly man than Joshua. He is as innocent and a newborn babe."
Sheriff: "My job is to keep the peace. You can piss me off all you want if you were to. You wouldn't even notice it. But if you start angering the Mill Security, or the populace, or the Baron you'd be in some trouble."
Kiera: "Like a noble Baron?"
Sheriff: "We were founded by nobility."
Kiera: "You still have a Baron?"
Sheriff: "Well, we just call him that. I don't think he has a crown or anything."
Kiera: "Oh that's kinda neat. That's a little bit of trivia I need to right down in my diary."
Sheriff: " I don't know if the Baron would appreciate being some kind of curiosity missy."
Kiera: "Oh I would't go gawk. That's just interesting."
Sheriff: "For the record, I'm going to say you should stay away from him."
Kiera: "For the record, I say we shall."
Joshua: "Wow. Yeah trust me. I don't want to piss anybody off. Than you for your time Sheriff! "

As they walk out, Joshua whispers to Kiera.

Joshua: "Was there a big flashing red light, go to the mill?"
Kiera: "I don't know, I was paying too much attention to "they might have been sold to the baron" I don't know which flashing light I was supposed to be paying attention to."

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