RP Thread: New Eden

Those with an eye to notice such things would have seen Quinn’s more rapid breathing and the thin film of sweat on his brow, but he acted as though threats of explosive death were utterly ordinary to him.

“Cartel, huh? Well, it takes all sorts to make a 'verse. Me? I’m something of an opportunist. All the fighting round here means a lot of valuable stuff gets left adrift, forgotten, waiting to be recovered. Sometimes it’s junk, sometimes it’s a whole ship. I basically just sweep up the battlefields in preparation for the next wave.”

A round of double Imperial Navy Rum and lime was offered by Quinn, who ordered an extra one for himself. “The artefact I’m selling to this nice young man here, but I think you’re the kind of man who might be in the market for something else. Information, perhaps? You really should ask about that ship I’ve got for sale; I’m certain it’s just right for you.”

“I am a military strategist for the Dogs of War. I also do some welding and electronics engineering a s a side job. Quinn, really all I wanted was the phase 4 salvage with the weapon and scrap. This is my final offer; 2.3 million for the whole lot.”

Just as Jasan was about to say something, Efefay’s FedCom went off. Before he sat down he put a timer on the FedCom to ring so it could go off at the right time to pressure Jasan into giving him the deal he want.

“Hello this is Efefay,” as he spoke into the FedCom. “Yes. Yes. So you got some alien tech you want to show me. I’ll check it out later. Oh you say you will sell it for cheap. Oh alright just wait a sec. I got to finish this discussion. Bye then.”

“Ah! So I was right! An information broker, and a mercenary!” Beroya’s tone betrayed his obvious pleasure at having guessed correctly. “Sorry, but I’m a fan of the old Sherlock Holmes digitals. Can’t help myself.”

 

Beroya placed the Ale to the side and sampled the Imperial brew experimentally before deciding he liked it.

 

“Efefay can have his run of the lot. I’m mainly interested in information. You see, my crew and I are hard up for some income. It’s been quite some time since… legitimate business dealings were available. Now, I’ve heard rumors of the Frontier and riches to be had, but I’ve no idea where to start. I figured you would be able to shed some light on this subject.”

 

He turned toward Efefay, eyeing the sweetrolls.

 

“Mind if I snag one of those? They look delicious.”

“Of course you can have some. I don’t mind,” Efefay said. He gave a friendly smile to Beroya. He no longer had competition. “So about the goods?”

“Alright, it’s a deal,” Quinn said to Efefay with only a little reluctance.

 

Turning back to the matter of information, he added to Beroya, “Are you hunting iridium like the rest of them? Bigger and meaner than you have a head start in that area, though if you’ve got the balls and the guns you can just steal from them instead of putting in the leg work. Dangerous career move, but fun if you enjoy that kind of thing.”

Efefay opened up a trade application and gestured Quinn to key in his information to legalize and document the trade. Efefay then left the bar to over see the physical transaction of materials from Jasan’s cargohold to his own storage crates. After that, he entered silently back into the bar and walked over to Ariphes and the leather jacket man who were still drinking.

Efefay said, “Hello Miss Kobold. Mind if sit next to you?”

Ariphes was sitting on a bar stool, her coffee abandoned for something much stronger. “Here’s to stupid career moves,” she said to the man in the leather jacket, before draining the shot glass.

 

“Hello Miss Kobold. Mind if I sit next to you?” The voice made her jump. It was the young handsome man from before. Efefay, was it? She couldn’t remember.

 

She slammed the shot glass down on the counter in irritation, refusing to look in his direction. “What do you want? Nobody calls me ‘Miss Kobold’ unless they’re trying to get a date. And I don’t date. So if you’re going to ask, you’d better shove off, because I’m in a right foul mood from Mishra’s little stunt.”

 

Her deep green eyes hit Efefay with a cold stare, daring him to say something stupid.

 

__________________________

 

Back at the table booth, Beroya was listening intently to Quinn.

 

The privateer shook his head slowly, betraying a deep weariness of spirit. “No, Mr. Quinn, you’ve got me wrong. I’m not looking for Iridium. My crew and I have been from one corner of the Federation to the other; plundering, salvaging,… killing.” He paused to let that last part sink in. “But for all the wealth we gained, we could never seem to make it last. Living on the run gets expensive like that. No, what I am looking for is one last big paycheck for me and my crew so we can disappear. What I want, Mr. Quinn, is to retire in peace.”

While the government man was still in the toilet, all the leather jacket man had to watch, was the scene unfolding at Quinn and Efefays transaction. The grenade itself did get his attention, however he seemed not to particullary move. After the tension disappeared, he started drinking his Oldoaks.

 

When Ariphes toasted him, he smiled, took a sip together with her, however it was hard to say where exactly he looked, because of the protection glasses he still hadnt taken off. Judging by their size and shape however, it might had its own electronical functions, and at closer look it might have looked as if it was welding glasses, which were upgraded. Possibly some augmented reality device, one would think, so nothing special for a pilot.

 

Then his eyes fell on Efefay, as he approached Ariphes, so he decided, not to answer her toast, and tried to avoid direct eye contact with the scene, focusing on rotating his whiskey glass on the bar and looking at the light broken in the brownish color of the drink.

Or maybe he was also listening and glimpsing what happened next between the two.

Efefay put a small, black box on the bar counter and opened it. Green mist spilled over and then promptly went back in and then settled into a dense, almost water-like, green glowing ball. He ordered the ball, consciously using implants, to separate into grain sized group then to attach themselves on Ariphes’ body and work on all tense spots. She immediately relaxed. Then the green mist was ordered, with a quiet whistle, back into the box.

“Actually I was. I was going to ask if you wanted to, I don’t know. Maybe watch a viddy, shoot some pool or play some Lynx Pass on the card table. We just ate and drank after all.”

“But for all the wealth we gained, we could never seem to make it last. Living on the run gets expensive like that. No, what I am looking for is one last big paycheck for me and my crew so we can disappear. What I want, Mr. Quinn, is to retire in peace.”

With a sigh that was equal parts mirth and pity, Quinn replied, “Men like you - like us - don’t retire in peace. I tried. Believe me, I tried. Spent my youth flying Hercules for the Constantin Defense Squadrons, got an offer to run scout duties for an expeditionary fleet, and by various ways and means found myself with a job in the Felony Warden station as a pathfinder, border guard and convoy guard. They offered me a job, a dangerous one, but I took it on the ground that I’d be able to give up and settle down. Had it all planned out too; Wardens gave me a station rank and I’d spend the rest of my days in a nice, quiet office organising the paperwork for my replacements.”

His eyes turned back to the idling holo and focused on the Blackwood Artefact, then on the silent shape of the Jericho Tackler. “But there’s always one more prize,” he said. “The Empire’s promise of safe borders collapsed in a tide of violence and I ran like hell. I found some familiar faces and they helped me out of a bind, so now I’m paying them back by running cargo. Only now I’m the one in the cargo ship, not the recon on point. I figured if I could just find the right haul, maybe an intact Hunter or some mint-condition piece of Precursor tech, I could do it all over again. Make my riches, pay my debts, buy me and mine a ticket to anywhere and give it all up.”

His metallic gaze returned to Beroya. “It won’t be enough. I can point you in the right direction, give you a few little hints as to where to look. Hell, if you found something big and flashy enough I might even bring some heat to help you claim it, but it won’t be enough to retire on. Nothing ever is.”

 

He tapped a few keys on the holo and brought the Tackler up into full view. In a low voice, like a boy at a camp fire trying to scare a younger sibling, he recounted the tale of its discovery. “Now this ship is perhaps the biggest prize I’ve come across in a long time. I found it adrift on my way back from a Tech Clan trade. A single Raid Fighter, undamaged and unpowered, floating in the open void. We got in close and I went over on a tether, managed to get the cockpit open and what did I find? The pilot, right where he should be, but stone dead. Not a mark on his body, no sign of foul play or suicide or anything like that. We checked him over head to toe and as far as we could tell he just died, like something just reached over and turned off his heart, lungs, neuro-electrical activity… everything. Same with the ship. Everything was sapped of power, of life. Never seen anything that could do that. But here’s the fascinating thing; the Black Box survived. We didn’t access it, but we checked it was functional and it had a full three days of flight log. So whatever killed it could well be on that recorder.”

For a brief moment there was a hungry look in the scavenger’s eyes. “It’s a madman’s venture, of course, but damn if it’s not tempting.”

The green pellets from Efefay’s mysterious box converged on Ariphes’ skin before she had a chance to react. Cold fury surged into her eyes, but just as she was about to deck the presumptuous man, a strange sensation of peace and well-being invaded her senses. The liquid was cool and seemed to absorb all of the tension from her muscles, making her body return to a state of relative calm. Or maybe that was just the alcohol kicking in? She couldn’t be certain.

 

Then, Efefay gave a quiet whistle, and the odd telekinetic liquid withdrew to the box. “Actually I was. I was going to ask if you wanted to, I don’t know. Maybe watch a viddy, shoot some pool or play some Lynx Pass on the card table. We just ate and drank after all.” Efefay closed the box lid before returning it to his pocket.

 

Ariphes rolled her shoulders and stretched. “Efefay, you are a charming young man, so don’t take this the wrong way. I’m a pirate. In my line of work, you don’t simply pick up a boyfriend or a lover and expect it to last. Tomorrow, I will be gone from this station. Three days from now, I could be killed in a dogfight. There is no telling where I will be or what I will be doing. But you can be certain it will be dangerous, and probably illegal. Now, if you want a game of cards, I can give you that. But a relationship? That’d jinx the entire crew.”

 

She picked up a deck of cards from the bartender and headed for one of the card tables. “Oh, and don’t ever use that psygoo stuff on me again without my permission. If you do, I will crack your skull open.”

 

 

__________________________________________________

 

Beroya was listening to Quinn’s recount of finding the derelict Jericho fighter. Despite his valiant effort, a shiver ran up his spine and his face visibly paled.

 

“Quinn, I know I can’t tell you what to do with your property; but you need to button that ship back up and cast it into the depths of space where you found it. I’m a superstitious man, it’s true. But I’ll be blood-boiled if that ship of yours isn’t cursed.”

 

Jasan seemed about to interject, but the privateer captain continued.

 

“Three months back my crew found a Cutter on the boarder of Fed space. Just floatin’ out there. No power, no damage, and the pilot dead as a door-nail. Well, we thought it was our lucky day, so we hauled the thing into the hold and started to part it out.” Beroya paused to steady his hands, which had begun to shake.

 

“Now mind you, I had a couple of drinks that day, and I wasn’t sure I was seeing thing right. But all of a sudden, the dead pilot sits up ramrod straight and starts screamin’ bloody murder sayin’ his insides are burning and beating himself against the cockpit glass. Before we could get to him, he’d snapped his own neck on the canopy. A few seconds later, his skin started to turn black. We dumped that ship faster than an armed nuke, and blew it to pieces with a coil mortar just to be sure.”

 

The privateer’s voice became almost a whisper. “So what I’m saying, Mr. Quinn, is that it’s too convenient. Two ships, both from Jericho, found in the same manner? It ain’t natural. Mark my words, if you start messing with that ship you will unleash something evil on all of us.”

“Oh, and don’t ever use that psygoo stuff on me again without my permission. If you do, I will crack your skull open.”

 

“Hey no problem. You just seemed a little tense is all. I found it hanging on the wreckage of a precursor ship. It was splattered on a piece of scrap. I tried fiddling with it and it seemed it only responded first to electronic signal and then only to a vocal pattern. Do you know how to play Lynx Pass?”

Ariphes halted mid-step toward the poker tables. “Did you say you got that stuff off a precursor ship? Do you even know what it’s for? Did you think to see if maybe using this stuff on a person would cause side effects or if it was even safe?” She stared in disbelief at the attractive young man, feeling violated.

“Don’t worry about it,” Efefay said, “I’ve done it to myself lots of times. On headaches, backaches. You name it. It’s like biological nanodrones. I’m actually thinking of reproducing them and selling them en mass. I need to know the conditions on which they reproduce though. I wouldn’t just use it willy-nilly. I’d get sued.”

Ariphes shook her head, a ridiculous smile spreading across her lips. “You, sir, are crazy. Possibly more crazy than Mishra. Alright, show me this game… what did you call it? Lynx Pass?”

 

She perched herself on a chair at the nearest poker table, and fixed her green eyes on Efefay. When she wasn’t threatening others with death, she was quite the attractive young lady. Her medium-length red hair obscured the piercing on her forehead, and a white tattoo of unknown origin graced her cheek just under her right eye. Small freckles dotted the bridge of her nose.

 

“Well, what are you waiting for? I won’t learn this game until you teach it to me.”

Efefay stared at Ariphes for a few moments taking in her features. He had a thing for redheads.

“Well, what are you waiting for? I won’t learn this game until you teach it to me,” she said. Efefay stretched over to the nearest pool table and grabbed a cube of cue chalk. He then drew a 9 by 9 grid with 5 rectangles jutting out symmetrically. He shaded those in and the rectangles adjacent. Efefay removed the jokers in the deck and dealed the rest out evenly. After that he gave one joker to Ariphes and kept one for himself. He started to explain the rules.

“The jokers are the Lynxes. Remember that ok? The objective is to get four regular cards and your Lynx into the five shaded rectangles that stick out. We take turns placing cards facedown on the grid whereever we want except for the shaded areas. You following me?” Efefay asked Ariphes. She nodded.

“If an enemy card is adjacent to your Lynx, it becomes face up. So when you place the cards you want to do it so I can’t place any of mine near your Lynx. You want to try to sneak your Lynx into my shaded area.” He heard a stifled giggle from across the table. He smiled at Ariphes and prompted the card laying. He could easily tell where she placed her Lynx because she had made an obvious box around an empty space then placed her Lynx in the middle without her staggering her cards.

“You still want to keep your Lynx away as we enter play,” said Efefay, “so try to guard it as inconspicuously as possible. You can only move one card at a time at a maximum of two spaces. You can capture another card only by using the second space.” He gave an example. He moved one of his cards on space forward and one to the left where one of Ariphes’ cards was laying. He then took the card away from play and then reversed what he did because, after all, it was an example.

“Any questions?” Efefay asked.

The privateer’s voice became almost a whisper. “So what I’m saying, Mr. Quinn, is that it’s too convenient. Two ships, both from Jericho, found in the same manner? It ain’t natural. Mark my words, if you start messing with that ship you will unleash something evil on all of us.”

“That is what we in the business call an ‘occupational hazard’. Sooner or later, someone’s going to mess with something they can’t contain; the best we can do is be forewarned and forearmed.”

Quinn deactivated the holo and replaced it with a near identical model. This one loaded up with an Imperial Aquila, followed swiftly by a message that the device was Legion property and it was very, very illegal to access anything therein. Then it crashed, rebooted, and replaced the angry propaganda with a custom UI of Sector 1337’s known jump lanes. Quinn pointed to the edge of Jericho space; a quiet little sector that held nothing of importance. “Here is where my supplier claims to have found the Blackwood crate. That much you get for free. If you’re willing to cut a deal, I can be a little more specific. This kind of info I’d be looking for more than credits; I’d want iridium, Precursor tech and Biomorph systems. I expect you to find all three and more, but getting them and getting out alive will be the tricky part. You aren’t the first people I’ve sent on this little venture. Come back, and even after my cut you’ll be rolling in credits. Maybe not enough to retire on, but certainly enough to set you up for bigger and better prizes down the line.”

Beroya Kaine bit into another sweetroll, the flaky outer-layer giving way to subtle hints of berry and orange underneath. His superstitious fear had been temporarily eased by the promise of great wealth. “Alright Mr. Quinn, I think the crew of the Soldier’s Fortune is game for a little expeditionary looting. Provided you can grant me one request.” The pastry was sticking to the roof of his mouth as he talked, so he took a large gulp of the Imperial brew, gagging as the two flavors fought eachother. “Ach! Oh… don’t ever do that. Those two items were never meant to go together. Plllleeeeech!”

 

Jasan stared without emotion as Imperial liquor dribbled off the privateer’s beard and onto his jacket. Pulling himself back together, Beroya began wiping himself off with an old oil rag. “What I require from you, Mr. Quinn, is an emissary from your crew who will come along on my ship as a sign of good-faith. To be fair, I can lend you a member of my crew as you will, no doubt, be down a member. If that condition can be met, we can ship out as early as oh-nine-hundred tomorrow.”

 

_________________________________________

 

Ariphes was completely lost. The game was like a mixture of checkers, chess, and five-card poker.

 

“Ah… so… hmmmm.” Her brain was pounding from the liquor and being forced to think. “So if I strike one of your cards with one of mine, we both show, and the higher value card wins? And the Lynx card is the weakest, but has the ability to expose other cards? Wait, this is similar to Stratego! I love that game!”

Ariphes wasn’t getting the concept of the game.

“Sorry I wasn’t clear. Ariphes there are only 2 values. A regular card and a Lynx card. Everything is faced down so the opponent doesn’t know which card is the Lynx. The Lynx is disguised in the mass of the other cards. Once it is adjacent to an enemy card, the Lynx becomes face up and now the opponent can attack it easier. Without you Lynx you can’t win so you want to try to protect it and keep it hidden,” Efefay explained, “The other cards are there to take hits for the Lynx although you still need four left over plus the Lynx to win. When you are attacking a card it doesn’t matter which number is on either one. You simply capture the enemy card, whiling keeping your card faced down, and remove the enemy card from play.”

Efefay took out the black box again and willed the green fluid to pick up and move the cards so as to better explain the game to Ariphes. With a whistled he called it back into the box.

Finishing his second drink and eyeing the bar with thirsty eyes, Quinn gave a thoughtful nod as the conditions were laid out.

“Seems reasonable. I have just the guy in mind, a man named Elijah. He will accompany you and act in a purely advisory role. I’ve got fighters I could send, but thinking on it his native knowledge might help get you in and out alive.”

Passwords were entered, and Quinn checked the bar before placing a few empty glasses carefully around the table to obscure the holodisplay as he converted the image onto a flat, table-level display. In secretive tones he explained, “your target lies within the Crimson Haze, a region of Jericho space that is as lawless as it gets. Cybers run most of it, and what they don’t control is ruled by the Enclave. One of my apostate friends mentioned that someone was buying up a lot of cloaking technology, and not long after a large asteroid upped and vanished. Nobody would have noticed, where it not close to a smuggling route popular with people traffickers. Then the crazies start upping patrols in the area and the whole corridor’s a no-go zone. The final piece of the puzzle was the targeting of transport ships known or suspected to be carrying Precursor related toys.”

He paused to clean his teeth with a finger nail. “Cloaking systems that big will take a huge amount of power to run. Of course, they’re also a lot easier to overcome; once you get to more-or-less the right place a few standard issue micro-locators, or even a suitably big EM surge will collapse the cloak. From there you’ll have to improvise, but when it’s over I’ve got backup on hand to get you and the loot out and safe. I’ve enlisted the support of a local pirate band. Rough lads, but trustworthy. They won’t go in head-on, they don’t have the firepower, but if you can clear an assault corridor and keep the local ships at bay they can translate into system with a Carrier and begin a full-scale boarding action. That’s also your ticket out. Mess it up and the Carrier will bolt, leaving you to fend for yourselves.”

 

Quinn’s eyes turned to the card tutorial in progress, and a concerned expression formed on his face. “I do not like that thing he’s toting around. It’s… unsettling. I get the feeling it’s going to end badly for that lad.”