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Wired*Nun 30th of August, 2008 03:32

An Excess of Interest (Main Thread)
For the day or two before landfall, time seems suspended in a warm cocoon, like the feeling of being snowed in to a cabin on New Years. No matter that that metaphor is lost on some of the crew; everyone has their equivalents. Summer vacation, perhaps, that feeling that nothing can happen now, but something is waiting to happen then.

The run from Pesephone to Beaumonde is four days. Greta joins the rest in the eternal job of ship maintenance. On the day of landing, Hiram does something a little different. He gathers them all in the lounge.

Usually he handles all the ship business himself. Sometimes the crew pitches in to load, unload or deliver at one of the outer worlds or undeveloped moons, but on Beaumonde, the longshoremen's union has a lock on anything larger than a duffel bag. But it's not loading duties that he talks about.

"This run's gonna be pretty routine. But y'all are crew now, an' crew need to larn summat about ship's business. So, here's the docket. Greta, you'll be 'companyin' me to sell them surplus machine tools we picked up on Persephone. I'll be dickerin' but feel free to whisper what you think of in mah ear. Also feel free to charm them with yer feminine wiles if'n you can. Whatever gets the job done, dong ma?"

"Earl, you gonna come along as pertection, 'cause I gotta handle some cash this time. I know you's a gentle soul, but you gonna have ta look right fierce when you're out an about with us, unnerstan? Bring along a nice piece of pipe to swing. Best to scare off trouble, and if anyone give it, you gotta give some back. You okay with that? Just try not to kill anyone that don't need killin. Don't need no Alliance trouble."

"Sam, you're goin' heeled. Anybody gets the bulge on me, you do what you gotta. You think you can shoot a man if you have to? 'Cause after we get paid for the cargo, I gotta make a payment on them fine engine parts that kept us in the air, and it ain't no bank I'm dealin' with, get me?"

"Arthur, Doc, I'd appreciate it if'n you stayed handy in case we need. Take a comm if ya gotta go ashore. If'n anyone gets that hankerin', don't go alone, and one of you stays aboard ship locked in at all times."

"Any questions?"

Candleman 30th of August, 2008 07:36

Arthur shakes his head, good arm folded into the bad one.

"Nah, jus' stay 'ere and crank 'er up quick if yah come back with uglies. I can remembeh tha'."

Fulmen 30th of August, 2008 14:57


Originally Posted by Wired*Nun (Post 324467)
"Sam, you're goin' heeled. Anybody gets the bulge on me, you do what you gotta. You think you can shoot a man if you have to? 'Cause after we get paid for the cargo, I gotta make a payment on them fine engine parts that kept us in the air, and it ain't no bank I'm dealin' with, get me?"

"Any questions?"

Sam keeps things short and sweet. He can handle the assignment and see no need to make things difficult. "Yeah, I got one question. Pistol or Shotgun? S'pose I can take both as well if that is more to yur likin'"

Wired*Nun 30th of August, 2008 21:58

"Carryin' what more than a pistol's unlawful in town, so if'n you kin keep it unseen, bring it. Ah kin handle to local law 'bout that if'n you get tagged."

Left-Handed Bandit 31st of August, 2008 09:52

Will listens to the conversation with interest. His role was clear: pray they don't get hurt and be ready to work if they do.

"What if we need to come and get you? Is that possible where the deal is going down?"

TreyKincaide 31st of August, 2008 13:50

Earl looks crestfallen, "I's don' like being ugly ta people." His demeanor hardens and without meaning to the gentle giant grows intimidating, "But nobody's gonna hurt Boss or my friends.


Left-Handed Bandit 1st of September, 2008 02:17

Will sympathizes with the big man; he doesn't need to be able to look into men's souls to know that being a "tough" is against -- no, more than that -- almost diametrically opposed to Earl's nature.

He takes a step to stand just to Earl's right and puts a comforting hand on his shoulder. "I don't think you need to try to be something you're not," the Black Friar says quietly. "Just focus on the fact that it's your job to protect the captain, Greta and Sam, and to be there to make the other fellas think twice about starting something. Can you do that, Earl?"

Wired*Nun 1st of September, 2008 03:29

Hiram runs his palm along his stubbled jaw. "Yeah," he says musingly in response to Will's question. "Possible. Ya mean like with the big mule? We'll take one crate for a sample in the pony, an' the local's gonna pick up and deliver the rest 'sumin we got a deal. We'll go over the location on the big display...but if'n summat does go down, best we can do is be on foot then all pile into the pony. It'll hold four in a pinch, hit fifty k's on a straight. More'n enough in the city. Kin ya drive a hover mule?"

TreyKincaide 1st of September, 2008 22:07

Earl nods slowly and repeats, "Nobody's gonna hurt my friends."

He smiles sadly at the friar, "You und'rstand. Boss under'stand too. People expect me ta be mean jes' cause I'm big. Always has. I's had ta hurt mean folks afore, but I's feel like it hurts me more. Never like it none. If'n' that ever change, then mebbe I's become a mean man meself."

Left-Handed Bandit 2nd of September, 2008 02:35


Originally Posted by Wired*Nun (Post 324576)
"...Kin ya drive a hover mule?"

"I'm no expert, but I've driven hovercraft before," Will replies. "Not in combat, though. Well, not well in combat..."

The Black Friar's mind drifts back to some harrowing days during the war, Will trying to dodge enemy artillery in a hover mule in an attempt to reach an ambulance that had gone off the road several miles from his mobile surgical hospital.

When it had become clear that the Alliance had locked onto the mule, Will and a fellow surgeon bailed out and took cover as the mule was blasted to bits. They somehow reached the ambulance that afternoon and were able to stabilize several soldiers as the medics and driver were able to right the vehicle and get it running.

It was one small victory against that river of blood...


Originally Posted by TreyKincaide
If'n' that ever change, then mebbe I's become a mean man meself."

"Earl, I doubt your heart will ever let you become a 'mean man,'" he offers with a pat on the other's shoulder.

Wired*Nun 2nd of September, 2008 10:23

"All right, then keep 'er warmed up and ready, just in case. Cain't hurt. Sam, let's land her and git to work."

Setting down should be a routine task, but this time, things don't go smooth. A stray bit of shear at the last minute drops the left-front strut onto the pad first. Sam can feel it overstress, and there comes a loud pop before he gets it leveled and down. Hiram shoots him an angry look. "Gorram it, boy..." He doesn't continue, throwing his beer can into the bin. "Let's take a look. Arthur!"

Outside, they see the fitting of the shock absorber crumpled, and a couple of the bolts sheared off. Disgustedly, he glares at Sam. "Good thing you ain't got no pay coming, or you'd be losin' some of it. You better hope the new girl got some palaverin' skills an' we get a good price for the load. Arthur, there's yer first order o' business. Get the money you need from the old lady. We gotta get started."

They load the sample case on the pony mule, and Greta, Hiram, Sam and Earl pile in. Hiram makes sure they're armed as specified.

Out on the pads, it's warm and busy. Hiram has Sam drive - "So's you can get the layout," he says. They make their way slowly through the chaos, then exit the docks area down one of the many surface streets, into industrial traffic. Big rigs, small trucks, and cargo carriers push freight, big and small, through and past industrial concerns and warehouses.

About a mile later, Hiram directs them into a nondescript alley and up to a loading ramp. "Hop out, be alert. Shouldn't be no trouble, but what yer ready for less likely to come."

Candleman 2nd of September, 2008 12:05

Arthur looks over the shock absorber while the rest of the crew drives into the crowd. It looks to him like the shock absorber itself isn't damaged, just the plating covering it, but he won't know until he gets the twisted metal off. The damaged plating is bad enough, though; without it, the shock absorber won't make it through re-entry.

He gets his toolbox from the engine room and hides his shotgun in his coat in the crook of his bad arm. Before he heads outside, he sticks his head in the infirmary door to let Brother Will know what he's up to.

"Oy, I'll be fixen' up the shocks. Imma close 'er up, though, while I work, so holler if ya need meh." He shows the doctor his radio. "Shouldn't be too long."

He gets outside and closes up the airlock, not forgetting to bring a ladder. He eyes the crowd as they surge past and around, then sets up the ladder and starts cutting the crumpled up metal away.

TreyKincaide 3rd of September, 2008 03:22

Earl hops out happy to be out of the cramped mule. Although, he didn't have to scrunch up in the front like the last time, it was still distressing.

He lugs the big pipe over one should, does his best to put on his not nice face, and looks up and down the alleyway.

Fulmen 3rd of September, 2008 05:44

Sam parks the mule and hops out as instructed. He checks his pistol (he decided to leave the shotgun behind) to make sure everything looks good and then gets ready to follow Hiram.

Left-Handed Bandit 3rd of September, 2008 09:55

"All right, Arthur. I'll probably help you better by staying out of the way, anyway," Will responds good naturedly. "If you need anything, just let me know."

Will goes to the infirmary to check the readiness of the room one final time before finding his way up to the crew deck to see if he can find Mrs. Price. He wants to discuss with her some possible changes to Mr. Price's diet that may help alleviate some of his symptoms...

Wired*Nun 3rd of September, 2008 22:49

Hiram bangs on the personnel door next to the drive-in. A small window opens for a moment, then the cargo door rolls up. A portly fellow in coveralls with a shock of salt-and-pepper hair waves them in, saying, "Good to see you again, Hiram."

Hiram nods at Sam, saying, "Bring her in, son."

Once everyone's inside and the door is shut, Hiram introduces. "Relax, folks. This here's Dietmar Solvang. Friend of mine from way back. Tool and die man. Some of my crew - Sam Collison, Earl Henry, Greta Falsafi."

Dietmar cocks his head at Hiram. "Crew, huh? You never had much crew before. And no need for muscle here, Hiram. What's the story?"

"You're givin' me cash - lotta cash - and I aim to get it where it's goin'. Also, they need seasonin'. An' I want you to know 'em so's I can send 'em in my place if'n I need to."

Dietmar looks a bit uncomfortable, sighing. "Boss is gonna be cranky. He's always cranky anything changes, you know that."

Hiram smiles. "When's he not? But I got two things goin' for me. One, these is the best merchandise you seen in a while. Two...Greta'll sweeten him up a li'l."

Dietmar takes a closer look at Greta. "That's a fine line, there. He don't like to be played with."

"Never you mind, Dee. You just take a look at the merchandise."

Hiram signals Earl to open the case. Inside, packed in cutout foam, gleam complex, angled, sharp metal alloys. Earl and Greta can't make heads of them, but they do look high-quality. Sam can tell that they are dies for cutting and high-tolerance shaping, good enough for the fineness needed in precision machinery - like race engines, perhaps. No way to tell exactly what would be manufactured.

"And here's the kicker - they're blank. All ready to take a number. Untraceable. You do have numbers, don't you?"

Dietmar licks his lips like a hungry man at a buffet. "Yeah. I got numbers."

"All right, then." He looks at his chrono. "Shelton be here in ten, then?"

"Yeah," replies Dietmar. "Di-rec-ly."

"Got coffee then?"

"Sure. Over there." They all stroll across the small, near-empty warehouse to a counter, where stands a battered urn and some condiments, a mismatch of mugs. Huram fills up one, then tips a bit of old spice into his from a flask. Dietmar heads the other way, into a glassed-in office. They can see him pick up the comm.

samirah 4th of September, 2008 00:22


Will goes to the infirmary to check the readiness of the room one final time before finding his way up to the crew deck to see if he can find Mrs. Price.

Yusheng sits at a small desk in the Captain's quarters meticulously poring over the accounting and inventory books, making sure everything is in order. Her face looks grim as she sees the reality of their current financial situation. "I hope this deal goes well," she thinks to herself, "We need the money."

She hears the buzzer and opens the door to see Will standing in the corridor.

Redirect -

LynMars 4th of September, 2008 14:25

Greta has mostly been quiet, nodding assuredly to Hiram on the bridge when he ran down the plan for the job. She stands with her hands loosely clasped behind her back, looking calm and relaxed on the surface.

Once they leave the ship and show up to the warehouse where they hop out of the mule, Greta is taking in the surroundings and the measure of the man who greets them.

Dietmar takes a closer look at Greta. "That's a fine line, there. He don't like to be played with."
The blond smiles reassuringly as Hiram and Dietmar make their exchange.

"I assure you, Mr. Solvang, I don't 'play.' We're here to do business, after all, even if new faces do take some initial getting used to." She says pleasantly.

Greta also avails herself of the coffee, managing to not wrinkle her nose at what comes out of the pot. She does it mainly to have something in hand and have the appearance of ease more than she really needs the caffeine at the moment.

Wired*Nun 6th of September, 2008 01:56

Hiram gulps his doctored coffee enthusiastically, and checks to make sure the other three have their eyes open and are paying attention to the layout - exits, cover, and so on.

Dietmar gets off the comm and come back over to the group. "He's on schedule." He drifts back over to the merchandise, handling pieces of metal lovingly.

"Dietmar's gonna give it a good rec. The trick is gonna be to let him push it, and hold out for a little extra. You chime in when you're ready. Be pleasant. Shelton likes pleasant. Like to be magnanimous, play the big shot."

It isn't long before Shelton arrives. A limousine drives in the cargo door, which shuts behind. Out steps a large, corpulent man of perhaps fifty, well-dressed in the style of business. He has a bodyguard with him, who keeps a close eye on Earl. He seems to be impressed with the size of the man, and regard him as the main threat, if there is one.

Shelton greets Dietmar, then they call Hiram over to sit down in the office. Hiram brings Greta along. He introduces himself as Rickhard Shelton, Esquire. There's still petty aristocracy on most of the worlds of the Verse, though most of it is meaningless beyond the cachet. Greta knows "Esquire" is the lowest level, equivalent to an untitled knighthood. Usually it just indicates substantial land-ownership going back to colonization times.

Introductions around, they get down to dickering. Dietmar gives a high recommendation to the merchandise. It takes an hour or more, but at the end, they get a price settled at 2600 credits, about 200 more than Hiram had said was his target. He doesn't seem pleased, though that's probably just about not letting the other guys know. (Greta gets 1 plot point for successful action)

Shelton counts out hard coin rather than bills, and slides the rather large sum of money over. Greta is surprised, both by the coin, and by the apparent trust between the two men. The transaction is obviously only quasi-legal - she's fuzzy on the laws but they are at least probably evading taxes, possibly smuggling controlled items.

Hiram divides them money into two equal sums. One amount he puts in a cheap drawstring bag, which he puts in his pocket. The other he slides into a leather purse, which he slides securely into his vest, buttoning it tight. "Next time, might just be Greta here talkin', hope that's all right."

Shelton smiles a pleasant smile at Hiram and Greta, a politician's smile. "Of course. She's certainly easier on the eyes than you are, mister Price. Of course, that's why you brought her? I look forward to it."

Outside, the bodyguard parks himself by the door, keeping an eye on the others, who are left to hang around their mule, drink coffee, and pass the time.

Business concluded, they leave the sample case, giving Earl something to lift, at least for a moment. Hiram hands Earl the drawstring bag. "Put that deep in your pocket, Earl. Don't let anyone take it, don't give it to anyone less'n I say so, hear?"

They exit out the cargo doors and down the ramp, then wend their way through the streets for some distance, going around to the other, seedier side of the docks.

TreyKincaide 6th of September, 2008 02:56

"Yess'm Boss. Nobody's gonna take it. No's they h'ain't." He squirrels the money away in his pocket. "You's have my word on that."

He smiles and hops in the mule.

Wired*Nun 6th of September, 2008 03:03

They arrive at a brick building along a street of mixed flop-houses, bars and small businesses. It's not quite a slum, but almost. "Sam, watch the mule. Come runnin if there's a ruckus inside. Should be okay in daylight."

Indeed, nothing about the neighborhood looks more threatening than a group of neighborhood punks good-naturedly harrassing a streetwalker.

Hiram leads them into a bar, heading to a door in the back. Earl gets some looks from the patrons, between respect, fear and, in a couple cases, interest, from both men and women. Greta just gets the interest.

Hiram raps on the red-painted metal door. A grilled window opens for a moment, then the door. A bearded, dark-skinned fellow ushers them into the back. Some muscle sits around and watches the vid. They check weapons and look more alert when they see Earl come through the door with his pipe, but nobody says anything more about it.

They are shown through another door into a room that looks like it's used for card games - felt-covered table, dry bar on the wall. A couple of the thugs follow them in, to stand behind them with weapons handy.

Inside sits a man wearing a ruffled shirt, a bolo tie and a black western hat. "Captain Price," he drawls. He has a spread of cards in front of him, though it's no obvious game anyone recognizes.

"Texas," replies Hiram. Greta remembers from her studies that Texas was one of the nation-states on Earth-That-Was, known for its independent-minded citizens and longhorn cattle.

"You came here last time you didn't have a posse," the man says in an affected drawl.

"Some a my crew. Carryin' cash around, makes me feel better to have backup."

"I imagine. What you got for me?" He deals some more cards out into the spread, then starts gathering them together.

"Thirteen hunnerd. Leaves eleven." Hiram draws out the leather wallet, slides the coin out onto the table in front of Texas. The man pushes the mostly-ordered deck aside to deftly stack the coins in front of him by denomination, as if stacking poker chips.

"Thirteen hundred was correct. Unfortunately, Bunratty wants it all. Said the next time you came in, you have to square us." He looks up sympathetically from under the hat. Greta thnks he might be at least half-sincere. "Said he needs it right away. Twenty-six."

The tension in the room rises a notch, and Hiram's jaw starts working. "Twenty-four. He say why?"

"Said somebody came 'round asking about all y'all...the Folly, you, the crew...not Alliance, but somebody with enough cred to make Bunratty nervous. I imagine the other two hundred is to keep everyone from answerin' those questions. Which ain't been answered yet, if you get my drift."

Hiram looks like he's going to blow a gasket. "We been doin' business for a long time, Tex. Now you stretch me over a barrel?"

"That's you and me, Hiram. Bunratty, he's more...objective. I convinced him not to sell you out. If you need a little air, I can float you a few hundred myself...but it ain't my call."

Hiram chews on this with an angry look for a moment more, then gestures to Earl. "Gimme that bag, Earl."

Hiram tosses the cloth bag on the table, picking up his leather purse and slipping it into his vest. "Just happen to have that much. Mebbe I heard about all this. Mebbe I was hopin' you coulda done me right." He glares at the gambler, who shrugs.

"Sorry. Gotta play the hands we're dealt."

"Fine. We're square now. Be not seein' ya." He spits on the floor between.

"Come on," Hiram barks at the other two, turning to give the two thugs a look that could melt steel. They step out of his way, let the crew of Folly pass.

"Wasn't nothin' personal, Hiram!" Texas calls as they leave.

Outside, they rejoin Sam and the mule. "Drive," growls Hiram savagely as he gets in. "Back to the ship."


Arthur cuts off the crumpled allow plating to expose the innards of the shock-absorbing strut. Deep inside the articulated piece, he sees a bent axle-bearing. It's going to be a bitch to tear down, a bitch to get to, and he has to get a new part if Hiram wants it faster than two days. That's what it would take for him to rebuild it himself.

When the mule drives up, he's got it mostly disassembled, and is getting ready to remove the damaged part.

"How's it going, Art?" Hiram asks. He looks unhappy, and trying not to show it.

Candleman 6th of September, 2008 04:05

Arthur half-turns to see the group arrive, not wanting to fall off the ladder. He motions to the plating on the ground around him.

"We got a bent axle-bearin', Captin. Bad news is we gotta replace i' if yeh wanna survive landin'. Good news is it's no more'n a few hundred, or I can rebuild it if you've got the time."

As he speaks, he makes his way down the ladder, so he comes to a stop in front of Hiram and the group. He doesn't want to ask how business went, even though he can't really tell how angry Hiram is.

Wired*Nun 6th of September, 2008 05:19

Hiram looks it up and down, at a loss. Finally, with a beaten expression on his face, he says, "Leave it. Take a break. Bring everything inside, drop it on the cargo deck. We gotta have a town meetin'. Y'all help. I gotta talk to the old lady. Gather up in the lounge."

He goes inside, looking around for Yusheng.

Candleman 6th of September, 2008 05:45

Arthur looks a tad surprised, but shrugs and tosses his toolbox into the cargo bay. He picks up a chunk of sheared metal.

"What happened?" he asks, to the group at large.

samirah 6th of September, 2008 06:23

Yusheng is in the garden, with Nan Ching attending her. She sees his expression.

"Something is wrong, honorable husband?" she asks formally.

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