Our Cast of Players:
- Alexei Makarov (Ian): Human Expert – Technician/Adventurer, level 1.
- Christian (Craig): Human Psychic – Adventurer/Psychic Researcher, level 1.
- Hilton “Hiltie” Jones (Max): Human Expert – Biotech Crew/Pilot, level 1.
- Jonah Priest (Alan): Human Warrior – Security Crew/Ground Forces, level 1.
- Lazarus Morgenstern (Dave): Human Expert – Noble/Adventurer, level 1.
- Munroe (Ricky): Human Warrior – Soldier/Merc, level 1.
With the fresh cash from your latest sales of artifacts to Marius burning a hole in your pockets, Hiltie heads straight down to The Locker. He has had his eye on purchasing a survey scanner for quite some time and he is hopeful that is the sort of equipment that can be come by here. He finds Roland Lomax in his office next to the secure storage area. The cargo chief looks at ease in the heart of his domain, surrounded by crates and cases of all different kinds of supplies and consumables, and greets Hiltie in his Scottish burr.
He is certain that he has a survey scanner here somewhere and starts to search for it. Of one thing he is absolutely certain, the price will be Cr300. While doing so, he engages Hiltie in conversation. He wonders if, as a newcomer, Hiltie has picked up on any grumblings from the miners. Hiltie is non-committal, saying he hasn’t really been on board long enough to get to know anyone well, so Lomax explains that the bank always seems to be demanding more novium production and Director Dutta, whom he describes as an overbearing autocrat, is driving the miners hard to make the quota. He is concerned for their welfare as tensions are starting to rise. Some of the transient workers left on the last transport ship but some of those born and raised on Brightside are beginning to murmur about what life might be like without Dutta as Director.
Lomax shrugs. He admits he doesn’t have a solution to the problem but he has long had unanswered questions about the circumstances in which Dutta came to the post of Director fifty years ago. Moreover, he has come across your type of “security consultants” before and knows that you can be dangerous and unpredictable. He hates unknown quantities and wonders what your response might be should matters come to a head while you are staying at Brightside.
Hiltie is non-committal again, saying your only interest is in authenticating your share certificate when the bank auditor arrives. Lomax gives Hiltie a “thanks for nothing” look and, with a flourish, retrieves a survey scanner from a packing crate and dumps it on his cluttered desk. Hiltie hands over the Cr300 and the transaction is done. He is keen to get away from the uncomfortable situation as soon as possible, and makes his excuses.
Now in possession of the long anticipated survey scanner, Hiltie retreats to the shared bunk room that is doubling up as your field headquarters here on Brightside, and retrieves the packet of white powder from the depths of his toolbox. Hands trembling at the thought of the wealth within your grasp should this turn out to be spectrox, he feeds a sample into the collection tray of the scanner and fires it up.
The analysis process takes about two minutes and the results are displayed on a small built-in screen. It is a mixture of simple mineral salts, with particularly high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus, plus one or two other trace elements such as magnesium and selenium. Hiltie’s heart sinks and he concludes that it is just the sort of nutritional supplement a plant would need were it otherwise relying on photosynthesis alone. To the Ushans, it is probably a highly nutritious food source.
Swallowing his disappointment, he decides to head down from the transients’ quarters on Highdeck to the medical clinic on Middeck to see how Priest is doing. Dr Indrani and a male nurse are on duty and the good news is that Priest has responded well to the surgery to remove the bullet fired into him by the Chittik using Lazarus’ revolver. He is expected to make a full recovery and all things being well should be in a position to be discharged after another night’s stay.
With little else to do, Hiltie offers to assist Dr Indrani and she is happy to accept his offer, welcome for the presence of another medical professional and the more stimulating conversations that result from that. Most of the cases she and her staff have to deal with are routine – minor injuries and screening for STDs are the clinic’s bread and butter work, but occasionally more serious accidents or excessive radiation exposure occurs in the refinery when the miners are careless. Severe injuries and deaths do happen but are mercifully rare. She has the feeling that incidents caused by carelessness have been on the increase recently and puts it down to the longer shifts that the Director has instituted as a temporary measure to meet the bank’s novium production quota for this quarter. She understands and supports his position – it’s in no one’s interest if the bank shuts the station down – and it is strictly a temporary measure as the Beast’s activity has been at a record 50 year low recently.
Hiltie assesses the facilities and estimates that the clinic has medical bays sufficient to keep ten patients under close observation. Another ten cold sleep pods could be used to freeze
victims until space becomes available in the medical bays. The clinic has standard medical supplies and equipment commensurate with post-Scream levels of technology. Dr Indrani tells him that other than a couple of first aiders she is the only medically qualified professional aboard, having spent eight years as a field medic in a merc unit, but she is training two of the prostitutes from the Clouds and Rain (which it turns out she owns) as nurses with a view to them obtaining certification.
At the end of the shift she thanks Hiltie for making the time more bearable and tells him that as she is now off duty he can call her Suyin. Hiltie eyes her up, guessing she is of Indian sub-continent origin – she is a buxom woman in her early thirties, of dark complexion with dark almond shaped eyes and straight black hair – and suggests they take some dinner together. She tosses her head back and laughs, “why not? Although I’ll tell you now, I’m not on the menu”. Hiltie laughs in return and the pair make their way to the Heavenly Hash cafeteria on Highdeck.
Suyin chooses a selection of grilled vegetables with pasta and an appetising looking sauce, and Hiltie follows her recommendation. She tells him that the cafeteria is run by a good friend of hers, a man called Joshua Yang, who she describes as a Neo-Vegan barbecue enthusiast. She reckons he does wonders with the tank-grown meat substitutes produced by the hydroponic bay but the limited range of foodstuffs grown in the hydro bay always leads to grumbling from the miners but their complaints about the food are desultory and more in the line of prerogative rather than actuality.
She points out a cooker and a couple of microwaves that are kept available for those who want
to make their own meals and occasionally, she says, Joshua has events which see a few other budding station cooks sell their services to the other personnel. With a trace of irony and some amusement, she tells Hiltie that the one thing Joshua won’t tolerate is the use of the kitchen for cooking real meat, egg, or dairy products, and doing so has gotten more than one adventurous cook permanently banished. She says she has heard of one or two illicit pop up “restaurants” run sporadically out of peoples’ quarters, when Roland Lomax has managed to get hold of some meat, so that the miners can get a real cheeseburger. Joshua’s always
complaining to Livingston Roy about these get togethers, but she suspects the security chief is amenable to a little beef-based bribery to look the other way.
At the mention of Lomax, Hiltie is reminded of his conversation earlier on in the day and he asks Suyin what she thinks of the cargo chief. She looks slightly annoyed and explains that he has been banned from the Clouds and Rain for his unsavoury tastes and abhorrent attitude to what she calls her boys and girls. The least she has to do with him the better. She tells Hiltie that although the increase in accidents is regrettable she is a supporter of the tough measures the director has had to put in place this quarter and that the miners are always quick to forget the good times. She suspects Lomax is enjoying his role as supplier of illicit materials a little too much and that it may even extend off-station as he seems to be making a lot of trips to the artists’ colony at Empty Graves at the moment.
Hiltie takes the cue and drops the point, and the pair enjoy the rest of their dinner in pleasant conversation. At the end of the meal, they part ways, Suyin off to check in at the Clouds and Rain, and Hiltie back to the transients’ quarters. On arrival, he finds the rest of you already asleep on the bunks, apart from Munroe who is sitting in the glow from the Ushan everlight, cleaning, stripping, and reassembling the weapons you retrieved from the Bronze Tomb. He looks up at Hiltie as he enters and grunts. The last thing Hiltie sees as he drift off to sleep is Munroe’s upturned face half illuminated by the everlight, as he blows gently on the freshly oiled slide from one of the semi-automatic pistols.
The following morning, you are all awakened by Priest entering the room. Some of you, Lazarus and Munroe especially, are less pleased to see him up and about than the others, but they take some comfort from the fact that he is still strapped up and armed with a bottle of prescription pain killers. Hiltie relates the events of yesterday, bringing you all up to speed with the conversations and meetings he has had.
Munroe is keen that you keep yourselves distant from the local politics but you have much time on your hands and little to do. Inspired by Hiltie, Christian seeks out Dr Indrani at the clinic and offers his help as well, however he has no medical training that she would recognise and she gives him short shrift – she has no space for novice psychic healers on her watch.
Priest, never a man of inaction, doses himself up on his pain killers and makes an appointment to see Director Dutta with a view to securing some short term casual labour. Still well disposed towards you because of your assistance in surveying the ice asteroid, so vital to the continued existence of Brightside Station, Dutta is happy to give Priest 10 minutes out of his day but before Priest can even enquire about employment Dutta tells him that he has been told that members of your group have been spending a lot of time with Roland Lomax. He tells Priest straight out that he doesn’t trust the man and regrets giving him a more or less free hand in running his side of the station. He tolerates him as he is good as his job but he suspects he is stirring up trouble among the miners. Priest plays is dumb and says he is just a pleb, and the director changes tack immediately. He arranges some manual labour in the refinery for Priest at the princely sum of Cr12 for a day’s work.
He gives Priest a chit to take down to the refinery and present to the shift manager. He does so and is immediately assigned to a detail manhandling emptied novium retrieval drones back into their storage racks. After one trip, Priest takes an extra dose of pain killers, grimaces and soldiers on with the task. It is back breaking but otherwise undemanding work and he is relieved and pleased at the end of the 10 hour shift to retire to your bunk room.
To be continued…