Persephone – Eavesdown Docks.
The Orion Galaxyliner ships are huge, at least they used to be. Galaxyliners, once the 84 Cabin luxy jugganauts, came under fire politically after rattling to pieces a few too many times when jumping to lightspeed. Diligently, The Alliance decided that only the ships they build were ‘within acceptable safety parameters’, so we’re left with the pokey Spaceliners we see today.
Galaxyliners still have a special place in my heart. By today’s standard, they’re not shiny or quick and don’t represent the pinnacle of technology; but in some circles are still highly desirable. They are luxurious and allow for a comfortable experience of the otherwise hostile black. In days past, you could leave dust with your ticket and providing they have a full mess and fuel tank return 2 years later after a thorough tour of the ‘verse with the purr of the engines singing you to sleep each and every night. Orion, the now dismantled shipyard powerhouse, promised two things about their designs:
- The four engines balance the ship perfectly, making the transition to and from atmo seamless. These engines can talk to each other, like, literally. They have a computer that was made during that awkward in between era when machine learning algorithms were being fazed out and true AI came into play. They make it their personal mission to ensure there are ‘no more drink spills’ as the advert goes.
- The artificial gravity is indistinguishable from the gravity of habitable planets. Modelled on the gravity of ‘Earth-that-was’, Orion are reputed to offer an environment better than most passengers actual home planets.
Brutus is one such ship. Admittedly tactlessly named for a luxury space liner, it probably suits its name now. Brutus has been stripped back, sitting without its upholstery or entertainment amenities. Every cloud has a thick black metal lining though, Brutus was upgraded with an extra dense hull in an effort to save the ship from falling foul of its predecessors issues, namely falling apart when reaching lightspeed. This giant shell, a shell that is difficult to scan through, represents an opportunity limited only by your imagination.
Brutus can be yours for a reasonable offering or equivalent trade. Speak to the dealer directly for this particular piece. A small video screen flickered to black, leaving the reflection of two travellers, a beaming Captain, and her second in command.
“He can not know what he’s selling!” Tetra tries to say through a grin that has remained on her face since seeing Brutus. Tetra’s giddiness ran rather contrary to her usual demeanour of deliberate reserve. In her experience if you just take your time, a person will tell you more than they might have otherwise, but above this, her business required discretion.
“Captain Tetra, No. I’m not a fan. Sure, plenty would be, if you were on some kids show, battling the hero week after week with your crazy new schemes. But the name, I don’t know, just sounds cheesy”. Clay punctuated this statement with sideways glances to Tetra as he carried crates onto their new ship, assessing which of his jabs landed. He was disappointed when his boss replied without any acknowledgement of his teasing.
“Seriously? Do I need to spell this out for you? ‘Thick-er hu-ll’, means no Alliance sniffing. We can travel as we work, deliver on arrival, no outsourced delivery chargers. We’ll live where we work, work where we live, greater efficiency, greater profit.”
“Wanting to fly off into the black forever hinders your mouth not your hands. This won’t mean a thing if we’re seen idling along in a now defunct class of ship, we’re begging to be boarded” Clay was mocking Tetra’s sudden lyricism but he was acutely aware of the Alliance’s habit of inspecting newly loaded ships. If inspected, their cargo would provide a long list of paperwork for a recently promoted stain of a person, and they wouldn’t react well to having that much extra work.
Clay was surprised to be the one speaking rationally, but Tetra was the type to know everything there is to know about a narrow band of subjects. She talked only about what she knew, meaning that there was a consistent confidence in her position; all or nothing. Clay was the opposite. Clay often acted as a voice, not of reason as such, but of common sense. He flew from subject to subject, stopping only to receive a brief summary before his interest is attracted by something else. This provided him with a wealth of superficial, but not useless, knowledge. The two made a brilliant business pairing. Their expansion into the black was testament to that. Remembering this, Clay acquiesced.
“It isn’t gonna be easy to find a crew, Tet”
“Clay, we don’t need a crew, just passengers for now, earn us some float cash”
“Don’t know Tet, I can’t fly for shit. I definitely can’t and run deals with our buyers, they’re so gorram fickle. You ain’t bad with electronics but I doubt you can maintain a four engine Orion Galaxyliner whilst working on the product at the same time!”
“ ’ight, ‘ight. First port we hit we’ll screen for a crew. We have to start a new batch again anyway so it’d be convenient.”
“We need to find those that aren’t too Alliance friendly”
“We’ll hit the Outer Rings. It makes sense to recruit where we do business, keep it in the family so to speak”.
“Shiny, I’ll go find us some passengers, unless you’d rather me move the crates?”
“Talking to people I don’t know surrounded by the types at the Docks sounds more laborious that lifting all these boxes. You go have fun Tet, i’ll be the barker”
Tetra knew Clay was right, but expansion brought contention. What they did wasn’t strictly legal, and people were reluctant to be in questionable employment. In fact, it wasn’t even remotely legal. As humanity presence in the galaxy expanded, so did their attitudes; once upon a time a Registered Companion was degraded to the lowest ranks of society and branded a whore, now, the practice of prostitution is legitimized and is one of the most respected professions in the ‘verse. The same can’t be said for Tetra’s expertise. The debate of legalization has endured almost as long as the vice itself, and rightly so. It is relatively harmless. Relatively. That doesn’t mean it is harmless, just less harmful than other things. The argument is that it enables one to be content, an ‘everything is okay’ attitude, one that promotes lethargy and stagnation. This is combined with paranoia, crippling self-alienation that derives from not being able to trust anybody. Marijuana, (substitute your preferred slang term) regardless of the method of consumption, will eventually and undoubtedly have a negative effect. But, so does alcohol, cigarettes, not wearing coat in winter and suspending oneself thousands of meters above the ground in a metal shell. Yet they’re all legal. Regardless, it was in Tetra’s interests for the drug to be illegal, it prevents institutionalization and commercialization. If it’s illegal, it’s scarce, which makes it a sellers market.
At the moment, Tetra was the leading grower of a variety of strains. Quantity is left to the farmers with a spare crop warehouse, quality, was Tetra’s domain. Opting for the more scientific and acute manipulation of the plant, rather than the haphazard plant pot and drip feed methods, Tetra obsessively perfected hydroponic growing and gene engineering. Her equipment was now sterilized and packed in the crates on board Brutus. In a few hours, she can build rows of plants suspended above basins fed by multi-coloured tubes of water, soil enhancers, and other concoctions. Bulbs of alternating wavelengths fed the plants and provided massive amounts of heat. It is this incredible precision that meant that the only ship capable of sustaining plant growth was an Orion Galaxyliner. Tetra’s crops were unique, she’d introduce dyes, flavours, even combining with other substances to change the effects. Her plants glowed in an array of red, blue, gold and pink leafs, these fetched a premium.
With the last box on the ship, Tetra sat looking into the cargo hold and what would eventually become her new ‘office’. She could picture the set up now, the plants would be in rows, with a corridor down the center, allowing Tetra and Clay to walk up a down the full crop, working slowly but effectively to tend their product. The ship would pay for itself in the first shipment providing it didn’t rattle to pieces. The most costly part of her entire operation is heat dissipation systems. The Alliance ships were endowed with, amongst other systems, heat seeking scanners, which would have picked up the localized rise in temperature caused by her long light cycles and space’s insulating vacuum, but now, engine masking and dissipation ducts will keep everything nice and cool for free.
Clay was close, staying within sight of the ship so that he could use it during his promotional speech to attract passengers. After some unsuccessful attempts with a group of girls, an uptight man in a suit and folk band, Clay tried again with his next passer-by:
“Goin’ on a trip grandpa?” he asked eagerly; the grey man carried with him a trolley and a suitcase, he seemed lost but pleased about being so. In an effort to show off the ship, Clay moved in front of the man, he looked like he could pay. “Need safe passage?” a foolish question but Clay recovered quickly with “we’re cheap, we’re cheap, we’re clean, Brutus?” The rhetorical inflection was accompanied by pointing out the ship over ‘grandpa’s’ shoulder. “Best ship in the ‘verse. What’s your dest’ grandpa? C’mon, we’re hitting the Outer Rings”.
“Never married”, was the grandpa’s reply in an authorial tone that didn’t warrant much questioning, and he moved past Clay.
Still trying his luck Clay asked, “What?” to the grey grandpa’s ponytail.
“I’m not a grandpa”. He was uninterested from the outset. Clay recovered quickly from his refusal, and like any half-decent salesman, searched for his next target. A lot of people live in Eavesdown, society’s periphery, and most want to leave.
Clay returned to the ship with a family of four, an elderly man who carried a cloth backpack and two business men. They had all paid in advance, indicating their naivety and/or desperation, which allowed Tetra to fulfil her wish of immediate departure. Sat in a well-worn pilot chair, Tetra fiddled with a few switches and readjusted the controls multiple times, had he not known her, Clay would have mistaken this for nerves. She looked around with her brow burrowing its way to her nose.
“How do ya put the thing on” she half murmured to Clay.
“What thing?” he asked, now sharing in her confusion
“The gorram….thing, ya know erm”
“No, I don’t, what does it do?”
“It goes all round the ship. It is one of the few things great about these damn things, where is….” Tetra’s frantic button mashing provided fruitful as her expression altered suddenly. She found the right button and music flooded every rusted section of the ship. She had continued the track she last listened too, and subjected her passenger’s to the latter end of very loud jazz saxophone solo.
This drowned out the eruption of the four engines, as Brutus rose from the container littered docks and with its main sections rigidly horizontal, left Persephone’s atmosphere only moments later. The passengers were surprised to hear that they had even moved from the ground, never mind transitioned into the black, and with that Tetra was secure in her purchase. Once they reached the Outer Rings, the passengers would disembark, Clay could hunt his ideal crew, and Tetra could reconstruct her pride and joy. In just 3 months, the tiny seedlings she had in her cases would be worth thousands, she just had to keep it hidden.
Source: Joss Whedon’s Firefly