Those Who Stare In The Black, Game 15: Interrupted Business
Wednesday, 25 Oct 2519
New Edinburgh Spaceport, New Edinburgh
Aberdeen, Kalidasa (Xuan Wu) system
Ebenezer Scrooge drives Oksana home to Space Otter. She's missing a shoe but otherwise returns in her original packaging. As a bookend to the previous evening, the Captain is there on the tarmac to see her safely aboard. There is a brief spate of greetings and appointments made between Scrooge with Stone and the doctor. Scrooge has to turn down breakfast with the crew, as he has a morning meeting scheduled elsewhere, but he will be available for dinner that night with the doctor. The business meeting with Stone is nailed for breakfast on the morrow, the 26th, at 0700 hours. Would that suit?
That suits the Captain fine. Hands are shaken on the deal. Goodbyes are made. Once the businessman drives off, the Captain eyes the doctor and asks if she needs to catch up on any sleep. She assures him she can assume her duties right away. They ride the lift up into the ship and nothing else is said about her night out.
At least, for the nonce.
(As the doctor anticipated, she is the target of some good-natured ribbing about her relationship with the enigmatic businessman. She doesn't explain herself or protest anything as the day wears on but lets the crew have their fun.)
Oksana changes quickly into her work duds and gets the breakfast orders from her crew. Verity is much better, recuperating quickly from the flu, but she's not interested in much. Xiu is awake and hungry, though, and Oksana makes up as much as the young woman can stomach. Oksana also finds that somehow the Captain has managed to overfill and flood out the coffee maker. She'd filled the basket and prepped it to brew before she'd left the night before, so that only flipping a switch was required to get that first pot going in the morning. Stone had unwittingly filled the machine as if from empty … with the messy results Oksana now has to clean up. Shrugging it off, she gets it squared away and takes the first fresh cup to Verity on the bridge.
Later that afternoon, a message comes in for Captain Allyne Stone: Hey, Stone. We've run into a little problem out here. Can you help? Wave me back when you get this.
It's Malcolm Reynolds, who we have been trying unsuccessfully to contact for some time now. Stone calls back as requested but there's no answer. Stone checks the routing string attached to the wave and tracks it back to Ghost but can't go back any farther than that.
Stone asks around and finds out that Ghost hasn't had traffic from Aberdeen or New Edinburgh for two days. Stone checks in with his contacts in the Merchants Guild and they confirm that there haasn't been traffic from Ghost for the past day and a half, but that it wasn't unusal. Perhaps there's a problem with the relay?
Looking up the information on Ghost, the entry reads: Ghost is tiny, barely populated (pop. 5000), with two stations. Light mining and Farming are its chief industries.
Well, that's nice but that doesn't really explain the radio silence. Looking closer at the routing string, Stone realizes that 12 hours Mal sent his message, the Ghost comms went down. The message we received was part of a message packet—similar to a bulk mailing packet from the ETW era.
Stone goes next to the local Red Sun office. Red Sun maintains licensing and registration for navigation buoy access to the Cortex. Without Red Sun's nav buoys or access to their signals via registered license, there is no reliable way to fly through the Black without getting lost. They are also involved with maintenance of the Cortex media relay network that keeps everyone across the Verse connected. If there would be anyone who knew what was happing to the signals traffic to and from Ghost, it should be they.
Their report: There are relay troubles out at Ghost. They have people working on it. Just head on out. It should be okay.
Stone thanks them and goes back to Otter, now convinced that their business on Aberdeen would have to wait. Ghost going offline so soon after Mal getting into trouble has hinked the Captain right up. He wants to find Mal and offer him the help asked for … or more, if the situation's changed. Oksana gets on the line to Ebenezer Scrooge. He's not available to take her call.
She leaves a message: We have business at Ghost but we are having trouble getting through. Can you shed light on the situation? Call me.
By midafternoon, Oksana's message gets a call-back: No, I haven't heard of what's happened to Ghost's comms. We should step up the meeting with the Captain to 8:30- 9PM, tonight.
Oksana relays this to the Captain and he agrees. She sends back confirmation and everyone gets to work prepping for the next few hours.
Oksana shops for supplies for a company dinner. Xiu gets the front ramp fixed. Stone looks for but fails to find work. Instead he manages to stock up on minor medical supplies to lay in for trade for beef stock or intel. Verity is still a touch under the weather and catches up on her reading. She's on the bridge with her feet up when she looks out the windows and sees Ebenezer Scrooge arrive. She relays this to the crew via all-ship and Xiu gets Stone to promise her he'll punch Scrooge if he uses the trigger phrase on her again.
Oksana escorts Scrooge to the crew lounge. If they both look a touch breathless when they arrive at the upper deck, no one mentions it.
Over dinner the meeting starts and Stone shares what he knows:
- 24 hours ago, Ghost goes offline. Red Sun confirms the relay went offline.
- We have anti-Fed friends out there saying they need our help
Ebenezer Scrooge shares what he's managed to piece together:
- The Alliance calling for maintenance in the area
- Relay corporations do the maintenance work, not the Alliance. This means Red Sun and their contractors are the maintenance providers.
- Maintenance normally takes the relays offline for 48-72 hours, after which they go online again
- As a result 6 relays went down and up in the past 2 weeks
- 1 relay in the Core at Sihnon has also been maintenance
- Sihnon was 1 of 2 in the Core affected
Scrooge reveals he owns two relays that he has shares in and he has his company's own spyware on those relays. From those he's managed to ascertain:
- There are no negative indicators with the maintenanced relays. They seem to be normal
- Some of the maintenance was scheduled, some wasn't
- The unscheduled one were near the scheduled ones
- No one knew Ghost was to go down
Stone asks for and gets a list of the maintenanced units. They were all at low-/non-populated planets with a relay point. The population numbers are at ≤ 10,000 -15,000. They are places with low trade numbers, too. There was no change in the trade volume as a result of the maintenance, even though there was some evidence of trade disruption during the downtime, and business resumed normally once everything went back up.
Malcolm Reynolds hails Space Otter in the middle of the meeting and Verity bounces it to Stone's comm. He sees who it's from and tells Verity he'll take it in his cabin. He excuses himself from the meeting and once he's safe from prying eyes and ears, he opens the channel.
Mal: Hey, Allyne. Get my message?
Stone: Yeah. Relay at Ghost is down.
Mal: Can't say much but there's a whole lotta Wash goin' on. Buncha stuff being aired out, put on the line, and we're havin' problems gettin' through. Know a good place to refuel? We're gettin' low. Not a lotta options at the moment.
Stone gives Mal the coordinates to a place he knows in an asteroid belt.
Mal: Nope. Can't make it. Ridin' on fumes. On course for Aberdeen. If we land, we better have fuel waitin'.
Stone: I can rendezvous with you and fuel you there.
Mal: I won't take charity. I'll pay. I just can't land for a couple of reasons.
Stone: I'm working with someone who might be able to help.
Mal: You trust him?
Stone: My doctor does, so I'm giving him a tertiary pass.
Mal: Can you meet us in the sky so we can light-fuel to make it somewhere?
Mal: Thanks. (sends co-ords)
Stone: We'll meet you. (sends options)
They end the call. Going by the co-ords, our rendezvous is a day out. To make Mal's schedule, we need to lift off in 12 hours. Stone returns to the interrupted meeting.
Stone: I've got a line on info. I need to fly out to get it.
Scrooge: Not a problem. We're a good fit. We're meshing on intel gathering. As such, I have some jobs I may need you to do—for money. We're not pursuing hostilities.
Scrooge pulls a data stick from an inner pocket and gives it to Stone.
Scrooge: As you asked, Captain, here is what I have on Xiu. There's not much on her Academy days. I'm sorry about that. But we were able to help another Academy student out.
Oksana: Man or woman?
Scrooge: Yes. We helped her brother out.
Stone: River. (a beat) I have another ship and crew I'd like to bring into our deal.
Scrooge: I'm willing if they can abide by my rules. Tell them to meet me at these coordinates. (passes coordinates over) They're for a place outside of town. Avoid the Feds.
Ebenezer Scrooge rises from the table.
Scrooge: I know you have work to do, so I'll take my leave. Goodbye, Captain. (shakes hands) Goodbye, Doctor. (nods)
Oksana: Do v'strichyeh.
Scrooge: And to you.
Oksana escorts the man off the ship. They take the elevator and it's only a few minutes before he's driving off. The doctor watches a moment and goes back aboard. Everyone rolls up their sleeves and gets back to work.
HOW TO SPEAK RUSSIAN
Do v'strichyeh = до встречи = doh-v'stryeech-yeh = (lit tr.) before meeting, (loose tr.) Until we meet again Sound clip