Episode 207: Flashpoints

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Present: Maer, Terri, Jay and Tony
Air Date: 08 Sep 2009

Friday, 01 Mar 2520
Lorngaard, Highgate
Blue Sun (Qing Long) system
10:30 hrs, local time

The crew finds itself stuck on Highgate for a bit. We decide that we need to retrieve Lem from the tent hospital, and set about figuring out how. We debate several options both violent and not violent. We decide to try the direct route first, and simply ask. We head to the hospital and using his Companion Guild Status, Christian gets an audience with the chief doctor, and finds him more agreeable than some others. He agrees to look into helping them get Lem but warns that the quarantine is still in effect. Christian helps softens the man with an offer of the ship's 5 tons of medical supplies.

A call to Lorngaard brings a repair truck with enough fuel to get Summer's Gift to the starport. Once there the crew looks into getting cargo or passengers help pay their way out of the system. In addition the crew needs to get the ship spaceworthy. Lacking a diagnostic system on the ship, we are forced to pay for the local mechanics to repair the ship.

We get the bill for our repairs. It’s close to 1200 credits. It hurts but we pay it. We hire on the repair crews, arrange for payment and receive another unwelcome surprise: the crews won’t work on the Gift as long as Rina’s aboard. Her reputation for being a hard ass mechanic has preceded her all the way from the Halo and nothing will suit the repair crew but her absence for the duration. Rina’s insulted and appalled…but bows to the inevitable, hands over her repairs list and makes herself scarce. Nika takes her to a bar to keep her out of trouble and starts plying vodka on the Russian engineer. After a few shots, the shock and insult is dulled enough that Rina can stomach strangers putting their hands on her baby. She doesn’t like it, mind, but she’ll manage.

Christian makes a few inquiries and discovers he can fast track the adoption procedures if he goes through the Magistrate. As luck, or Karma, would have it, the Magistrate is none other than the Archivist Arden and Nika ran afoul of six months back in August and he is reluctant to let Christian adopt the boy without providing a mother. Since the Magistrate is going to remember Nika pulling a gun on him, the only other woman on the crew who could stand in as the boy’s adoptive mother is Rina. Christian finds her in the bar and asks her if she’ll do it. Rina says yes. Christian says she’ll have to clean up first.

And by cleaning up, he’s not talking just the engine grease. He works his magic and decks her out in some of her filched Miranda finery and when he goes before the Magistrate again, it’s with a demure and skirted Rina in tow. Christian warned her beforehand to be nice and sincere and Rina delivers: she was one of the crew convinced that leaving the boy behind in the hands of strangers would be nothing but betrayal of the worst kind and she has no trouble saying so in front of the Magistrate. The Magistrate accepts the adoption petition and Lem is officially and legally Christian and Rina’s son.

A Registered Companion and an unmarried Ship’s Engineer—parents. Ain’t that a hoot?

The hospital releases Lem into Christian and Rina’s care and they take him straightaway to Arden for safekeeping and further observation. Lem is now showing more severe signs of the disease’s progression. Nothing violent or dangerous as yet, but it’s clear that his memory and other brain functions are going. It’s only a matter of time now, and the end is coming into focus. But Lem won’t die alone, frightened and amongst strangers. It’s small comfort, but it’s better than nothing.

As we wait for the repairs to finish, Christian goes to a cargo-broker and arranges for passengers to White Sun. The broker takes his cut but even so, we end up with a fair amount of pay up front from our five passengers.

One is a high-level executive of You-Go, a Ms. Chin Chei Wei, and she will be traveling in her own custom container unit, complete with her Sikh bodyguard, Balamanah Nahasamadela (addressed as Bala by Ms. Chin). We shift Rick’s arboretum container to the lower deck and install hers off our passenger lounge when it arrives. She shows up nicely and conservatively turned out in Core-side Sino fashion, as befitting her Chinese ancestry. Her bodyguard is a muscular and taciturn six-foot-five Sikh, and very protective of her.

Our other passengers are two young twenty-something men newly mustered out of the Alliance Navy, by name of Mike Carmen and Paul Forrest, who will be paying for second class passage; and a first class passenger by name of Pierre DuChamps, in corporate mid-level management.

The repairs take ten days to make the Gift spaceworthy. We decide to invest in another fuel pod to boost our range and have that added to the bill. Once installed, we fill our ships tanks to full, and when we lift off it’s with 820 hours of fuel. The morning of March eleventh dawns and we take off. Our course is set for White Sun. Once there, we will make our way to Red Sun and hopefully, help for Lem.

Saturday, 16 Mar 2520
Kuiper II Class, Summer’s Gift
En route to White Sun
09:25 hrs, ship’s time

Nika had Rina yank the Gift’s nav pinger when we lifted off, the better to run the blockade around Blue Sun. As a result, we dare not link up to the Cortex until we are past Sampson Array, about 12-14 days out from Highgate. We have cards for our passengers’ amusement, but thanks to the decon at Sho-Je Downs we’d lost all our entertainment and music chips, board games and paperbacks. We’d had little opportunity since then to replace them. To make up for the diversions lost to us, Christian steps up and performs nightly on his musical instruments, sings and regales our passengers with stories. So the time passes til the morning of the fifth day out, when we pick up a Cortex signal emanating from Ms. Chin’s container.

Christian goes to the woman’s door and after verbally wrangling with her bodyguard to gain an audience with Chin Chei Wei, he tells her to go silent via the waves. Chin is contrite and agrees to the order and Christian leaves under the disproving eye of Bala.

Chin and her bodyguard aren’t’ the only passengers who offer potential trouble. Mike Carmen and Paul Forrest are pleasant enough but come off as a touch twitchy. Given what we know going on in Blue Sun, they could be deserters and not actually mustered out. It makes no-nevermind to us. As far as we know, they’re legal passengers, paying their passage with legal tender. More than that, we’re not responsible for, right? Privately, Rina sympathizes if they do turn out to be deserters, but then she’s got reason. Which she keeps to herself. No amount of sympathy will induce her to share confidences with these two. She’s twitchy for her own reasons and the very next day illustrates why.

Chin Chei Wei sneaks out from under her bodyguard’s watchful eye early the next morning and goes down to the crew gym to do a little weightlifting. At least, that’s what we piece together afterward. All we know is we’re at breakfast when she runs screaming from the gym, in disheveled condition and quite upset, with Mike Carmen still inside sporting no shirt and visible scratches across his chest.

Bala is absolutely livid and it’s a close thing keeping him from executing Mike Carmen on the spot. Not that Rina’s that far behind Bala. Cooler heads prevail and Nika and Christian manage to get Mike to tell us what happened. It seems Shin had arrived first to the gym and Mike was just being helpful spotting her on the weight bench. Everything was fine until she lost control of the barbell during a bench press and she panicked when he tried to lift the bar off her, seeing his efforts to help as inappropriate groping.

On hearing that, Bala nearly kills the man. Again we manage to restrain him. Shifting her focus to include both Bala and Carmen, Rina stands off to the side with her gun drawn behind her back. Just in case she has to shoot either one of them to keep the peace. Or for the satisfaction of shooting a would-be rapist if that’s what the Gift’s acting-captain decides. In matters like this, a Captain’s word is law in the Black, Nika is our agreed-upon Captain, and so Rina waits to see what Nika says.

In the end, Nika decides that it cannot be proved conclusively either way—the matter is too much a he-said/she-said situation. To make amends for the scene, Shin assures us that she’ll confine herself to her container. At her prompting, Bala apologizes for his exuberance in pursuit of his duties and we extend him ours for what happened on our vessel. When Chin retreats to her container and shuts the door on all of us, Bala’s demeanor hardens and he marches into the galley to make his charge her breakfast, exiting when it’s done.

As for Mike Carmen, under Nika’s orders, he goes nowhere by himself. Furthermore, he and the others are not allowed below decks, and no one uses the gym without crew escort outside of the hours which we’ll now post. Matter settled, we settle to Christian’s excellent breakfast.

Table talk turns sour, however, when Pierre DuChamps makes some pointed remarks about turning in Carmen and Forrest as traitors and deserters, or at least threaten to, in order to keep them in line. After all, traitors and deserters are cowards anyway, he asserts, and are easily bulled by threats to their liberty. Rina looks askance, saying that DuChamps seems to know an awful lot about traitors and deserters. DuChamps says he was in the War and that he’s just saying there’s nothing honorable in a deserter. Rina takes exception to that, countering that it takes one to know one. DuChamps demands that she call him a traitor and a deserter to his face, and Rina’s right there with him saying she already did.

Tempers run hot and Christian intervenes, telling Rina not to antagonize the passengers. Nika steps in as Captain, telling DuChamps that while he’s free as a passenger to take his meals in the common area or his quarters, he’s not free to instigate confrontations with crew or passsengers. DuChamps subsides, muttering he’s not instigating anything, only offering suggestions. Rina mutters threats of jiggering DuChamps’ thermostat to make his quarters uncomfortable and Christian nixes that idea hard. Rina accuses Christian of siding with the men, saying they always hang together. Christian counters that she’s accused him of being too girly to be a real man, so which is it? Rina snorts back saying how the hell should she know—Christian’s the changeable sort!

And so it goes. When the coast is clear, Nika takes Jake aside and asks him to make sure the cameras in the passenger lounge are filming 24/7 for security surveillance. It’s going to be a long trip to White Sun. It remains to be seen if we arrive with our passengers and our sanity intact.

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