Black Night

To Be Continued.....

Black Night is currently on Hiatus: I had decided that my next GM slot, commencing April 2013, WOULD definately be Black Night. Unfortunately personal circumstances have intervened, and I am currently running online games only-my weekly visits to the Harrogate Club have temporarily (I hope) been suspended.

While I am unable to attend the club I will be running ‘Star Bright’: a parallel game with a different group of characters in the same ‘game world’, following their separate adventures. Check my profile to find the OP page for this.

9th May 2158
Descisions, Descisions.

Back at Barbarella’s Rock, and it’s just before I turn in . Maria, Sylvie and Laura went out on their own this evening- I didn’t fancy it and Dmitri is looking up an old acquaintance who is apparently in Port. Vincent hasn’t ventured far from the ship.

I have business to sort out and need to make some decisions. My next ship payment is due in about three weeks and I need to sell my goods and turn some cash, and with a two week transit time I don’t want to hang about here.

The four tons of machine spares are pretty valuable and if I sold them at rock-bottom price I would still be selling them for maybe 300K-enough to give me payment security for 2-3 months. They would actually fetch a good price here in the asteroid belt, but given that they’re hijacked it wouldn’t be a good idea to sell them here.

They should turn a good profit on Jupiter, Venus, Mars, Earth or Mercury; Venus is the most tempting because I know a broker there- Two Legs Tomi in Diamond Head, who owes me a favour or two and should be able to find me a good buyer without too many questions being asked.

Venus is probably Maria’s last choice of destination-she comes from Venus and has no ambition to go back there. Visiting at some stage is probably unavoidable however as it’s such a good place to sell our goods.

Before we hit port at Barbarella I wired Max Schelling, a local broker , to see if there’s anything available I might buy up.

He has some aluminium sheet available but it’s a bit overpriced at Cr 6,250 per ton. A much better bargain is some processed steel-he has 50T available at only Cr 4, 250 per ton: I should get a good price for that on Mercury, or maybe Jupiter. If I can scrape enough money he also has 2T of Wide Spectrum antibios at Cr 95,000 per ton: I can get a good price for them anywhere, but if I can find a buyer on Luna to undercut the Earth market I might make a killing. Decisions, descisions.

I should also check with Sowerby Shipping to see if there are any cargo’s that need moving from here-it all helps to fill up the hold space. The notice boards in the bars too. Anyway, we’ll see.

3rd May 2158
Goodbye to The Factory

The delivery is complete. Our shot into the Queen Anne damaged a few tons of parts but fortunately these were of a generic kind we were mostly able to replace at Barbarella. At any rate, LFC can start the refitting in earnest-the Deal has apparently gone through now. Hiro will file the salvage claim after a suitable period of time has elapsed.

Jenna has left for Barbarella-no doubt we will see her on our return. LFC have also delivered more modules and there are about a dozen staff based at the Rig now.

Our contract is complete now, pretty much to the day. Let’s go see if there is anything the brokers at Barbarella have been able to find for us before we leave the belt.

26th April 2158

Five days later we arrived at Barbarella; it would be an additional 4 days to the Factory but I wanted to recharge life support and give everyone a couple of days break. Barbarella was-less corporate than Solaris. It was also a rather more ramshackle affair, but somewhat larger, and definitely more interesting. The official population is approaching 2K, and this was where the new LFC Offices were to be based-unoccupied as yet.

Contacting Hiro I understood that Jenna Marcuro had arrived at the Rig along with Desna Greer and the initial work teams with some more gear. The Sprite would be ferrying her here to Barbarella within the next week or so with another member of staff. Hazeera’s offices were also based here.

We spent two days in port and I had a few words with a couple of the brokers. My plan is to drop the cargo off at the rig and then return here and possibly pick up some trade goods. After that who knows? Any of the inner worlds will make a good market for the 4 tons of machine parts burning a hole in the hold.

21st April 2158
An Old Trick

We emerged from the asteroid field near the 2km rock called Hubert’s Folly, which has a navigational beacon on it. As we reset course Maria reported that a vessel had emerged from shadow and was on a converging course at a distance of 30 km. An old pirate trick.

“She’s firing!” she yelled, and a few seconds later a salvo of rail gun darts pummelled into the Bleriot. We fealt the impact but fortunately the integrity of the ship held-Thank God for the Russian Mafia and their ship armour.
“Action Stations!” I yelled, and people tumbled from whatever they were doing to the turrets and consoles. Our speeds were identical but the nature and attitude of our converging courses gave us some possibility for manoeuvre. Dmitri managed to line up a shot which punctured the hull integrity, and their firing missed-possibly due to Maria messing with their targeting sensors. They turned and started to pull away, and we fired a couple of warning shots.

“We don’t want to harm you. Stand too Queen Anne”-we had ID’ed their transponder codes. We have you outgunned and we have more crew. Stand too I say!”

I put Laura in the Pilots couch and I went down to the M Drive in case we needed a temporary boost to the Bleriot’s manoeuvre speed.

“We’ve got their first shot recorded” said Vincent, “Technically they’re guilty of Piracy.”

“We want our cargo back. Return this and you won’t be harmed. Try to run and we’ll shoot.” I must have sounded convincing because they responded.

“There may have been a mix-up at the spaceport, but legally this cargo now belongs to us. Stealing it from us would constitute an Act of Piracy.”- this was the Captain, Mr. Klempp.

“Your unprovoked attack on us is recorded on both our logs” I responded, “ And as we weren’t expecting it we hadn’t depressurised or donned Vacc Suits. You could easily have depressurised our ship and killed us all. I’m quite happy to call the authorities on that basis. I’ll give you 5 minutes to discuss it. Run and we fire.”

They clicked off. They called back.

“Fine, take it.”

They slowed down and we matched airlocks and sent a docking tube across. Laura and Maria tooled up and headed for their bridge. The others manoeuvred their cargo from their access ramp and into ours, with the help of the cargo drones we’d hired at Solaris, and cargo thrusters units. The process took about 5 hours.

They weren’t happy but what could they do? We put them in a corner and instructed the security Drone to shoot anyone who moved. Laura and Maria would probably have done so anyway. As a parthian shot Laura sprayed their comms unit with smg fire. She’s like that.

17th April 2158
Taken for A Ride

I got a call from Jonathon first thing to say the cargo had arrived. I went down to the adjacent cafe for breakfast: Vincent and Sylvie were there.

“What happened?” I asked her.

“Nothing. That bitch Aurora she was rude: I help her with the facelift when I smash her face into the sink. I’m sure the plastic surgeon he is no stranger to her.” She replied. “She drops this.”” She tossed a hand data pad to Vincent, who immediately started playing with it.

“Hmm personal info, routes, next destination. She’s the Astrogator I think.” he muttered. “Boring crap.”

We dropped it into the lost and found and went to check the cargo loading; the ‘Queen Anne’ had already left.

The cargo handlers seemed to have it already in hand, but I wanted it arranged in a certain way and watched them. It was then that I noticed the container door for the big Gas Exchange Unit had been tampered with.

“Hang on” I said. I checked it and opened the container. No Mass Gas Exchange Unit- just a box filled with iron slag. With Vincent and Sylvie I checked some of the other containers.

“10 tons of used wellingtons here. Assorted colours” said Vincent.

“Owwr!” said Sylvie, her face wrinkled with disgust. “It is the used nappies I think.”

We’d been had. I rang Jonathon, who promised to be there within the hour. We checked the other crates-all crap.

Jonathon turned up all smiles. “I understand there’s been some sort of minor hitch. Maas accepts no liability for any mistake of these dock contractors of course.”

“Well I haven’t signed for this load and I’m not going to. This isn’t what you’ve contractually agreed with LFC; none of this stuff is on the list. I need it off my ship and I want to know what you’re going to do about getting me the real stuff.” I smiled genially.

“Hm, give me an hour to check what’s happened.” He went off to the hanger and I could see him making calls. The cargo drones started to unload again.

Half an hour later he came back over. “There appears to have been some sort of mixup. Don’t ask me why.” He said. “All the containers destined for your ship were loaded onto the Queen Anne at 1 am this morning, shortly after the Gas Unit arrived. They left at 6 am. I’ve no idea how this happened but I will certainly investigate.”

“The Queen Anne? We had an altercation in the bar last night with their crew. They might have been distracting us I suppose.” I replied.

“They must have worked fast to arrange something like this”, commented Jonathon. “Anyway the good news is you’ll be insured. The bad news is that it may take us several months to ship in replacements for all this stuff again.”

I rang Hiro, who indicated that such a long delay would cause extreme difficulties with LFC’s Plan.

“The good news is that we think we know where the Queen Anne is heading. We could try to intercept. Make me an offer.” I added.

He made one. He also indicated that arranging a scam like the one which had occurred would have required more than a couple of hours planning: palms must have been greased in advance.

We roused the other crew and made ready; the Queen Anne’s apparent destination was to an asteroid about 5 days into the Chlaer Radical on M Drive; with some fancy astrogation cutting a debris field we might be able to shave some time off their lead. With instructions for Jonathon to contact us we set off about noon.

16th April 2158
A Quiet Drink

Waiting around with nothing to do is ok for a few days I suppose. We spent the evening in one of the bars which service the 1000-odd population of Solaris, ‘The Empty Cat.’

Laura and Dmitri were playing an interesting version of speed chess. Whenever someone lost a piece they had to drink a shot of whisky (Laura) or vodka (Dmitri). After half an hour they were on their second game and both virtually comatose.

On the table next to ours were four people in the ship fatigues of ‘The Queen Anne’. Their leader was an interesting character, who had undergone massive cybernetic reconstruction down one side of his face, right arm, shoulder and torso. I imagine the damage he must have sustained would have been so severe that regeneration therapy simply couldn’t cope. It all made him appear pretty fierce. Also interesting was the attractive blonde woman speaking with a long Texan drawl-she was drawing more than a few looks from around the room.

“I’m not sure which of them is more fake-her or the cyborg” I heard Maria mutter. I shushed her and she continued to get rapidly drunk.

They seemed friendly enough though, and the woman (Aurora she was called) asked if they could join us. The cyborg was the Captain-one Viktor Klempp, and he is quite an interesting character. He has been around the asteroid belt for quite a while, and their ship is a prospecting vessel with specialised sensory and remote mining equipment.

The drink flowed. We got drunker. Maria, Laura and Dmitri were out of it, and Vincent was looking decidedly happy. I wasn’t too bad-an advantage of being 6’ 2” I suppose, and Sylvie is one of those people with a cast-iron constitution. Then things turned decidedly odd.

“So what’s the real deal with Maas and LFC? A bit odd don’t you think that a Maas Rig will be moved into free mining territory to mine areas it would normally be legally excluded from. Quite a good scam I should think.” said Viktor.

I said I wasn’t sure what he was talking about but he continued, “Quite a few of the Free Companies aren’t happy at what LFC s doing. ‘This is just a front. Maas is forbidden from exploiting the Free Radicals; given the price Lothrain’s negotiated for this mining rig, it seems to us that Maas is playing an angle. They get one of their rigs into Free Radical belt and start to cream the profits using LFC as its agent. That cuts-down opportunities for us. So, what’s the story?’

It seemed to me that they’d already made up their minds, and I surmised that some of them were spoiling for a fight. I did my best to calm things down, and I could see that to my left Sylvie had palmed that little stick she keeps in her top pocket.

Fortunately I managed to calm them down a bit, but I had no illusions that our luck would hold. “Look boys we’re just contractors-happy enough to have managed to get a mortgage on one of LFC’s surplus ships. We’ve got a 3 month contract running around for them which is due to expire in a couple of weeks. Have another drink and we’ll calm down.”

We ordered the drinks, and then hauled the other three up, one each. I made our excuses and we left, but I could see that they were still glowering.

Out in the lobby Laura made a lurch and Sylvie propelled her towards the ladies. Good luck with that I thought-vomit and microgravity are not a pretty combination. As we waited near the exit Aurora walked in and entered the Ladies without seeing us.

I went and listened and got a few odd looks. It was even more embarrassing when Aurora opened the door and walked out: her hands were covering her face which was pouring with blood. Sylvie carried Laura out and we left, somewhat hurredly.

14th April 2158
A Minor Glitch

Solaris is quite large for an asteroid habitat. It is situated in a 10km diameter asteroid with facilities burrowed mainly inside the body of the rock, though there a few additional landing facilities on the surface. We entered through the large rectangular bay however past sealed hanger doors, into what seemed to be quite a busy shipping and loading area.

Besides the Louis Bleriot there were two Maas Supply vessals-the ‘Wishful Thinking’ and ‘Steve Ditko’, and a 200 tonner called the ‘Queen Anne’, belonging to another Free Company, probably under contract to Maas-the Hezeera Free Company.

Also in the bay was ‘The Sprite’. I went back and informed our two pilot passengers Julia and Elspeth. Briefly disentangling their tongues from one another’s throats they acknowledged that they’d heard me. I’m sure they’ll be very happy together.

On the dockside we were approached by a blonde haired man with his hair tied back in a ponytail and a fake tan. He wore the slate-grey uniform of a Maas employee.

“ Mr. Johansson? A pleasure to meet you. I’m Jonathon Kherr-External Partner Liaison-I’ll be assisting you while you’re here.”

After the pleasantries were over he put the boot in.

“There’s been a very minor glitch I’m afraid. One of the parts you ordered-The Gas Exchange Unit- has been delayed slightly. It will be a little while before it arrives, 2 or 3 days at most. I’ve taken the liberty of arranging accommodations at our own expense. Till then just take it easy for a couple of days: I can contact you when I have an update.”

Fair enough. We were all getting a bit space happy anyway. We left the unloading of the cargo with the Dock Chief and went to our rooms to settle in. We said goodbye to our two passengers but I’m not sure they noticed.

30th March 2158
To Solaris

After a last night on shore we came up to the ship again, and shortly we’ll be entering transit. Sylvie seems to have overcome most of her fears now, and said that she would be ok with being the final one to enter a grav couch.

I have to say today Vincent is acting a bit odd. I seem to recall through the haze of last night that there was some news item about someone on Mars getting shot, which he kept cycling the news channels in the restaurant to find out more about. None of my business I suppose.

25th March 2158
Many Partings

Today Vincent and I met Hiro, with Derik, to wrap up the details of the survey. The report had helped considerably in negotiating down the final price, and the whole legal process was now being wrapped up.

Derik shook our hands as he left: we would be parting company for the present. He was off on a bit of leave, before being sent back to the Factory; I gather his time will be pretty much spent there for the next year or so, though he would remain based on Mars- I fact I knew he was happier with as he had expressed specific reservations about living permanently in the Asteroid belt. Despite his eccentricity I had gotten quite accustomed to his cynicism and acute remarks, and so I suppose I will miss him. An odd man.

Hiro explained what he wanted us to do next. LFC have procured office space on Barbarella Habitat, an asteroid base lying near the edge of the Chlaer Radical. LFC’s Finance Officer Jenna Marcuro would be moving there to oversee operations, and Ops Manager Desna Greer would be directing the refurbishment of the Rig itself.

Refitting of the Rig required some components manufactured directly by Maas, and we were to travel to Solaris Habitat-another base, where Mucho Maas have their main area facilities. We were then to take these to the Factory, which was of course located in Maas territory within the Majhestic Cluster-this would probably take us an additional week using M drive only. We were also to transport two Pilot Crew to Solaris, where they were to collect ‘The Sprite’, a Fast Orbiter which LFC has purchased to service the Factory locally within the asteroid belt. We would also be dropping off some standard supplies, which we could put in storage for eventual transfer to the Rig.

Once we had dropped off the Parts at the Rig the time limit of our three month contract would pretty much be reached: in other words there was no need for us to come directly back to Mars if we didn’t want too. I don’t want to-the stuff in out hold is probably too hot to sell here (or in the belt), and so we will need to sell it elsewhere-to one of the other inner worlds maybe.

As a short term contractor Vincent’s business with LFC was concluded also , and he seemed at a bit of a loose end. I knew he had been trapped on Mars for a while so I offered him a placement on the Bleriot for now-his skills could be useful. We shook hands on it.


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