Serenity: Those Who Stare into the Black....
Game 04: Gathering Elements
Thursday, 21 Sep 2519
In orbit over Greenleaf
Red Sun (Zhu Que) system
0000hrs, local time
We are held in Greenleaf airspace awaiting boarding for inspection and background checks.
The Alliance announces Greenleaf and its environs to be under a Level Orange Alert.
Whatever the hell that means.
We contact our client on the ground and attempt to get some more information on what’s going on and all he can tell us is that the Dock Inspector must clear our cargo before we can off-lade.
Soon after we end that conversation, Verity gets a wave: Expect the Inspector to arrive in the next 30 minutes for inspection and scanning. Have the Captain waiting at the airlock with the cargo manifest ready.
Inspector Radcliff comes aboard with 7 men equipped with scanning equipment. And guns. Radcliff splits his men off into two-man teams to tackle various areas of the ship. Two are sent to the bridge where Verity waits. Two others are dispatched with Oksana to investigate the crew deck (including their quarters). And the other two go with the Inspector to investigate the Engine Room with Xiu.
Some things are discovered: the first class accommodations have little hidey holes for the guests. Nothing is in them and the accommodations pass. The Jacuzzi in the Captain’s quarters raises eyebrows and exclamations of envy. The safe in the Captain’s quarters is also discovered and opened, revealing a lot of Alliance credits and a fair amount of platinum. Stone says it’s for transactions where the credit isn’t legal tender and he expects to be doing a lot of business soon. He’s allowed to keep the money. Verity has had the time to hide her pro-Independent banners and mementoes, so her quarters turn up nothing. The Captain is grilled on the existence of “unofficial” holding spaces on the deck plans, but Stone is able to come up with a plausible explanation for them. They are inspected and they are completely empty. No evidence of wrongdoing here. The secret door and passage to the Engine Room from the hold is found. Stone manages to convince the Inspector that this development is new to him. The cargo and the hold passes inspection. Two are doing an outside scan of the ship’s hull and though there are a few anomalies, they check out clean.
Verity flirts with one of the inspectors while on the bridge. He flirts back: meet him for drinks at a nearby bar, The Rusty Gimbal, later? His partner orders him to check something aft of the bridge. Once the flirt leaves, the other guy gives Verity some advice: don’t go near that bar and don’t go drinking with the man—he’s rough on womenfolk. Verity assures him she has no intention of going out with the guy, as she doesn’t lean that way.
In the engine room, Xiu has to explain the modifications she’s made to Space Otter. The Inspector knows his stuff, even more than our own engineer. Xiu manages the technobabble glibly, despite the Inspector’s pointed questions. We pass inspection.
The faked records we made up for Xiu seem to be holding up, too. The Inspector calls his crew to him and they exit, clearing us to land on Greenleaf.
It’s chaos in the air as an untold number of ships hover aloft, waiting their turn to be inspected and cleared. It’s pretty crowded in Greenleaf’s sky but Verity weaves through the metal logjam with no trouble. More than ever, she proves her crackerjack abilities as a pilot.
Once settled we call our client to tell him we’re open for business, his cargo is waiting for him, and our client assures us that there is nothing in the cargo that will get us in trouble.
He waves back a little while later telling us when they’re going to pick that shipment up.
Meanwhile, we’re already looking to land our next job.
We find several. Two are on-planet runs, there is one going to Harvest and one going to Triumph. They all have bids on them and it looks like we might have come too late to the party. We look into the Harvest job, anyway.
It’s a large cargo of farming equipment—combines, tractors and the like. The tonnage is too large for our ship to hold on its own … but we could manage to split the tonnage with another ship and crew, splitting the take for the job. Both crews find work and both crews get paid.
We send out feelers and we get a response: Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds of Serenity indicates he’s interested. We look into his reputation. It’s solid and of course, his street cred in certain circles is running high these days, thanks to the Miranda Wave. He tells us he can take on two of the combines and we can take the other three. The rest of the cargo can be shoehorned into both ships around the bigger cargo. He asks for a 50/50 split.
We agree to the terms and shake hands on the deal. It’s pretty sweet, no matter how you split it: 1,500 credits, split 50/50, for only two days hard burn.
We put in our combined bid and we win it.
Xiu gets fired up to mod our engines to deliver a 48 hour hard burn without meltdown and yet achieving fuel efficiency.
Oksana has been appointed the ship’s steward on top of her doctor’s duties and she goes out to rustle up passengers. She updates the message board at our berth, advertising first class accommodations at general passage prices, due for departure in two days (23rd Sep). That should net us a few passengers.
She’s successful. She makes two bookings. She gets a wave from a man looking to take his wife and two kids to Harvest where they will meet family. The other passenger booking is done face to face: A ranch hand has work waiting for him on Harvest if he can just get to it.
Meanwhile, the two crews mingle, scoping each others’ ships and crews out, as they trade stories and news.
River and Kaylee come aboard to visit our engineer.
The second Xiu sees River, Xiu has a traumatic flashback from her Academy days:
River is strapped to a chair and getting an advanced head package as Xiu watches. In a flash, River breaks free of her restraints, eviscerates the attending physician with a scalpel, and then sits calmly back down in her chair and ties the restraints back on herself.
Xiu manages to avoid a PTSD episode and offers to show River the amphibian engine. River looks at Xiu closely and asks:
“Where you present when I had a disagreement with Dr. Hatfield?”
“Ye-esssss,” Xiu answers.
And then River and Xiu talk colors. Xiu says she hates blue, but it looks good on some people. The talk falls into seasonal color palettes and then River smiles and says she’s going to see the bridge. River leaves. Xiu goes on to show Kaylee all the parts and pieces of the engine room. Kaylee notices something in Xiu’s expression and asks Xiu if she’s okay.
None better, is the answer.
And at that, all brakes are off and the two young women suck out all the oxy in the room as they fly off into engine-babble land. Allyne Stone watches off to the side for a moment and when River leaves for the bridge, he takes his leave of Xiu turns and goes off to follow River.
He doesn’t see River on the way, which is odd, because there is only one public route to the bridge without access to the private ladders in the pilot’s and captain’s quarters. He thought River would be in the foredeck corridor or in the elevator waiting for him but no, no sign of the girl until he walks onto the bridge itself. River has somehow made it to the bridge and is currently talking with Verity.
Verity and River flirt and there’s a hint that they might actually get up to something later. But flirting is flirting and it may lead to nothing.
Allyne Stone quizzes Xiu as to what she’s doing with the engines. She gives Allyne a list of parts she’s going to need to get that hard burn mod put in.
Meanwhile, Oksana is over on Serenity talking shop with the ship’s doctor, Simon Tam. Tam describes a patient’s symptoms, she glances at the records readout and manages to understand more than Tam suspects. Oksana recognizes some similarities between his patient and Xiu. She’d encountered a drug during the war that high ranking Alliance officers were given, Polypropylhydrocortane-3. It helped them to recover from PTSD and other emotional/mental trauma. It bonds to affected neurons connected to scarring. It also causes regeneration of nerve tissue. It is made in limited quantities in the Core and is prohibitively expensive at 15 thousand credits a dose.
On a hunch she returns to Space Otter to whip up a drug cocktail as a substitute for the more expensive drug. It’s a combination of adrenal blockers (Nix-Ephrine and Adrenol) neuro-blockers (Delcynor) and she explains the dosage. While not as strong as the PPHC-3, it may yet give Simon Tam’s patient relief, who is currently being dosed with Dopamine inhibitors. When Simon asks Oksana why she’s helping him—after all, she doesn’t know his patient and is under no obligation to treat her—Oksana tells him that she’d seen a lot of traumatized women and girls during the war. They all had a certain look in their eye and a set of symptoms that matched the patient he was caring for. PTSD, nightmares, and such. She couldn’t help all the women she’d found during the war but perhaps she could help this one patient. Simon thanks her for the medicine and admits he’s uncomfortable in discussing the matter further. Oksana gets the hint and bows out, leaving behind some medical journals for him to read.
The day ends on the crews agreeing to meet for dinner together before they depart for Harvest with the cargo.