Today should be the day! At three o’ clock I am meeting with Hiro Lothrain of the Lothrain Free Company to settle purchase of the Louis Bleriot; what with arranging the mortgage, the break imposed by the holiday period and the internal complications within LFC this whole thing has been a nightmare in arranging. I have been up into orbit to view the ship however and she is not in bad condition for a 20 year old vessel. The only problems are with the sensor suite; while I can probably get them to function in a rudimentary sense the sooner I can afford to replace them the better. The vessel also has two hard points but these have not been fitted with weaponry: if I intend to visit the Kuiper belt, or maybe even the Asteroid Belt, I will need to think about acquiring some Rail guns or Missile Launchers. Other than that she is fairly shipshape, and for each crewman there should be an individual stateroom which is important in avoiding driving one another crazy. I’ve put together a list of minor supplies we’ll need to make it home, and once the deal is set I’ll put everything in motion.
A strange afternoon. I was looking out the view platform overlooking Mariner City drinking a coffee: I was a bit nervous-waiting for my appointment, but I like that viewing spot. The smells of the Chinese and Korean Food vendors nearby in the Little Asia market send all sorts of strange aromas through the air before they’re snatched away by conditioning system, and add a bit of spice and a whiff of something exotic to the standard colony prefabricated blandness.
As I was looking I was tapped on the elbow. When I looked round, and then down, there was a small and neat oriental woman-very pretty- who introduced herself as Laura Chen. It was a bit odd but she seemed to have heard that I was acquiring a ship and she wanted a placement. I got the feeling she was interviewing me to see if I was an appropriate enough employer to merit the use of her talents. Her qualifications seemed useful enough-I will need a good Astrogator and backup Pilots are always useful, but I have to admit there is something very strange about her. Probably I am just terrible at reading women. Maria was standing ordering at a nearby coffee stall, and she came over when she noticed the conversation. I don’t think she managed to get much more out of her but Laura did accept a drink – two drinks in fact- in the twenty minutes left before my appointment. Hmm.
The LFC offices were of reasonable quality but didn’t appear to be particularly staff heavy: I got the impression of a small tightly knit firm. After negotiating a fearsome PA I was introduced to Hiro Lothrain (CEO)-I’d not met him face to face before, and his two principal business associates Jenna Marcuro (Finance XO) and Desna Greer (Operations Manager). Hiro was late 40s/ early 50s-grey hair in fashionable ponytail and expensive suit; Jenna your early 40s attractive Corporate type and Desna-well, built like a Martian Outhouse, with looks to match. I got the feeling she had been slipped some doped meat before the meeting and tied on a leash.
There was a But regarding the ship purchase; there always is.
Hiro explained that LFC originated and grew as a Mars Mining Company, but several years ago had realised that they needed to diversify off world to survive. To this end they have acquired an obsolete Mining Platform situated in the Mhajestic Cluster of the Asteroid belt, which they have purchased from Mucho Maas. This deal has been in the offing for some years, but the disasters associated with the Phobos incident last year (which of course lost them their Phobos outpost) meant that LFC have had to do some emergency downsizing to refocus their operations. This has included the sale of the Louis Bleriot in their revised business model, and it would seem that there are actually some tax advantages to them in reducing their fleet as quickly as possible.
However they still need, from a day to day point of view, an additional ship-at least for the near future. Thus if they sell me the Bleriot they gain their revised tax advantages, but offer me a short term contract to serve their interests for the near future and everybody wins. They have offered a three month retainer contract if I go through with the purchase, which will effectively sort out my ship payments for the first quarter of the year-a good deal.
Their first task is to take their Chief Engineer-one Derik Xeren to the new rig to conduct a survey with a view to relocation of the rig and necessary refurbishment. Unfortunately he’s gone missing on his annual inspection tour of LFC’s Martian Outback facilities, and is now a week overdue. Without Derik, everything is in abeyance, and so he has asked me, and my crew if they are willing, for a CR 3000 fee to go and collect him in case he’s had some sort of accident.
Hiro offered me a guide for this- a Martian Colonist called Sylvie Gerard: she seems quite likeable and is a former employee of the MMC-the Mars Medical Corps which is a sort of Flying (or driving) Doctor Service which serves both the Mars Orbital Facilities and the Martian Outback. She has apparently operated in both capacities and is a qualified Paramedic and Nurse; more to the point her outback patch was approximately the area we are heading for- which is the LFC Miryam Mining Outpost situated near the Candor Chasma.
Also introduced was one Vincent Blake- some sort of IT specialist who has been contracted to assist with the Mining Rig survey. He is at a loose end till we start so he has agreed to accompany us to search for Derik. He seems a likeable enough chap.