Charon's Opus ::

Second Hand Parts On Credit

Posted on Thu Mar 25th, 2021 @ 2:17am by Commanding Officer Mickey Serendipity & Executive Officer Kenneth McTigue & Passenger Delphi Jammer

Mission: Ring's Of Gold & Palladium
Location: SS Albatross, Calico Docks, Industrial Six, Rhea, Saturnian Confederacy Freeport
Timeline: Just after 'Lay Down Your Burdens'


Mickey checked to make sure Ken hadn't picked up anything that could be considered a weapon. A wrench. A plasma cutter. A diamond-tipped cutter. Heck, even a coffee cup might do in a pinch. Mickey did this because, deep down, if he heard the dockmaster say his favourite phrase one more time he might pick up some pocket lint and do something regrettable.

Later. Regrettable later. It would be oh so satisfying at the moment.

"Ah-yup. Just what I thought," Dockmaster Spaker said, reaching up and adjusting the wool cap over his head. He gestured to the patch Ken and Delphi had put down. "Inch more to the right and I betcha that would have gone right through your bottle. Ah-yup. Improper meteoroid spall liner will do that. That is what ya had put on the work order right?"

"Something like that. The United Nations is picking up the tab," the Tross's Co said.

"Ah-yup," Spaker said, rubbing his second chin. He was a heavyset man, New Foundlander he'd said, and his ample frame was perfect for the perpetually cool climes of the Rhea colonies. "Basic repairs and flight worthiness. This hull plate'll need to come off, need to machine and fit a new one. Patch just covers the hole, doesn't do diddle for pressure containment. Ah-yup."

Mickey found he had a stylus in his hand, the cheap wax rods used to mark on metal for dock work. He could feel it slowly becoming two as his thumb broke its neck in lieu of Spakers.

"Though, I am sure as sure that your two engineers here have already told you as much," Spaker said, nodding to them both.

In general Ken was happy he was out of the military. He enjoyed the freedom he had regained. This, however, was a time he would've loved to be back in uniform. To throw his weight around. But he couldn't, and so he wouldn't. "You've been going on about the shoddy work and the sub-standard parts for the last forty five minutes." The sub-sonic rumble of anger reverberated through the words. "What I need is an itemised workorder from you, so I can get started on the parts the UNN isn't paying you for." He glared down the heavy set man, "Can you do that, or are we going to continue talking for another forty five minutes?"

Delphi hung back while Ken did the talking with the dockmaster. She was well versed in the frustrating ordeal it was to get a ship repaired or resupplied properly at pretty much any station. She understood Ken's irritation, though did not like how he dealt with the dockmaster, she had her own methods of greasing the wheels of the supply chain and service queue.

But she was not the chief engineer, really she didn't know what she was in this group, so dealing with the dockmaster to get parts and get a repair crew wasn't her problem. But she was fine with standing there, arms crossed, looking imposing at her seven foot height. Though she really wanted to do was be over with this and go shopping for a new vac suit, maybe.

"Ah-" Spaker began to say, before noticing the black waxy mess that had been crushed in Mickey's fist. The tone of voice of the engineer had told him volumes, but that wax pencil was a nice epilogue to the story. He swallowed hard. "Ah, yes. Yes I can have my assistant work up an order. Replacement of the breached hull segments, as well as plumbing work for your attitude thrusters. Inner bulkhead spall liner replacement, as well as internal bulkhead work. As well as general labour and such. After that we can talk about any extra-"

"Great," Mickey said, and reached out with his free hand and tapped his terminal against the one protruding from the overall's chest pocket. "That's our contact info, as well as the bank routing for the UN tab. Anything big needs doing, you can message me for the high sign."

With that, Mickey turned, and gestured for Ken and Delphi to follow.

"Ah, you not wanting to stay?" Spaker asked him.

"I dunno," Mickey said and looked at Ken. "You want to stay, or do you want to come with me and talk to Delphi for a spell? Ship business."

Delphi fell into step with Mickey as they started to pull away from the dockmaster, she for sure did not want to hang around and supervise. If she stayed she was gonna to the repair work herself. She did pause and raise an eyebrow at Mickey's mention of having a talk.

Ken looked at Spaker, then back at Mickey, then back at Spaker. "I trust I don't have to supervise to get good quality work we were promised. And if it turns out I do, I will gladly come back and make sure it's done right." He then stepped away from Spaker without waiting for a reply, and joining the two crewmates. "What's up?" Ken asked, maybe more tense than he had a right to be.

"Basic repair work, hardly something we need to hang around for," Mickey explained. He walked to the deck ladder and climbed it to the airlock deck. There he grabbed a jacket from a locker, handing them out to Delphi and Ken. Plain white, with the stylised winged A symbol of the ship. "Besides, the longer I'm near that guy the more there is likely going to be a tragic accident. And as I recall, Rhea has at least one thing going it. Aquaculture, good fish."

Mickey looked at Delphi.

"You like fish? Good protein, excellent with wasabi," he shrugged. "Reckon we can find a place near the docks that serve good food, we sit, we talk, and discuss what's happening next with you and your pilot friend. We can do that here with dock workers milling around, or we can do it over tuna rolls and imitation saki."

The belter raised her eyebrows in surprise as she was handed the jacket with the ship's logo emblazened on it. "Mi never had real fish before" she said. "Just processed flavored mushrooms and protein" she said,slipping the jacket on over her well worn jumpsuit, then ran a hand through her electric blue hair, brushing it back, then glancing back at the passage to the compartments the dock crew was in and shook her head.

"I rather talk over da fish than here any day" she said with a nod.

"Well you're in luck, Rhea supplies 90% of the fish in the system. Before the 'Tross I spent a year here working the ponds. Good work, if somewhat lacking in travel and variety options," Mickey zipped up the jacket. And then it was out of the airlock, and into the work-a-day tunnels of Rhea's infamous Industrial Six colony.

Built into a glacier the size of a continent, if albeit a small one by terrestrial standards, the colony had been one of a string of support sites to aid in the building of the Titan dome arcologies. Once those were up and running, the various support contracts dried up, and now Industrial Six and Four were the only ones left standing as independent free ports.

The rest were divided up between Vector Red Merchantile, Terrafirmware and a few of the other megacorps that transacted business at the edge of civilised space.

Ships came to Industrial Six for water, repair, crew services and fish. And occasionally crime. Mostly crime. The Topal Crime Syndicate, as well as elements of the Triads and other Inner traditionalists, were known operators. And whilst they could not be said to be there to keep the peace, they did at least keep things civilised.

This was after all the Confederacy, not the wild spaceways of Ceres or Pallas Station.

Still, in the dock area, the trio of spacers found a stall seemingly hammered into the ice wall of one of the tunnel-like thoroughfares. Seats were set up along the stall, with a smart glass-fronted counter displaying a variety of fishy delicacies as well as a running news feed on silent.

Callisto 7 News Asks: Venus; Alien Landing Site, Or UNN Weapons Test?

Mickey gestured to the stools, and then to the server behind the counter.

"Qízhōng yǒu liǎng gè tèsè cài, hái yǒu yīgè jīnqiāngyú juǎn. Hái yǒu běndì píjiǔ.(1)" Mickey said to the server, who nodded and turned to make the order happen. "Local beer okay with you two? Rehydrated earth stock tends to have no flavour out this far."

"I can't remember the last time I had a proper pint." Ken replied, and a sharp pang of pain and loss rang through the marine. He clenched his fists and buried it all over again. There was but a moment of gnashing teeth before Ken relaxed his jaw. "Do they have shuhei sauce for the fish?"

"Family recipe," the stall vendor said in thickly accented English. "Hand to my father's grandfather when The Party men load him onto a shuttle in China to send him here. It has not changed in nearly a thousand years."

"And none of you went back?" Mickey asked, as he accepted a bottle of the local brew.

"Why would we return to a world that had evicted us? Even though the Peoples Republic of China is a memory in history, it's shadow remains out here in those who remember ancient sins," the vendor said with a nod.

"To ancient sins then," Mickey said as he unscrewed the cap from his beer.

"To the homes we cannot return to." Ken replied with uncapped bottle and then quickly took a pull.

Mickey waited a moment after taking a swig from his bottle, before putting it back own on the counter.

"So, Delphi, what are you thinking about now we're here and clear?" the captain of the Albatross asked. "Rhea's as good a place as any to find work, a flight down the well to one of the Belt stations, or Mars if you don't mind country music on tap. A good engineer could write their own ticket. Like Ken here. Good engineer, who took his forethought and invested wisely in the 'Tross along with me and Soto our old captain. Good engineers are hard to find, I was lucky Soto found Ken when he did."

Delphi had kept quiet all this time. She had little to contribute to the little conversation that had cropped up between Mickey and Ken. They were long time friends and she was a newcomer, a stranger to this group. So she sat in quiet, drank the drink she had been ordered, ate the food she had been ordered and tried to suppress the surprise and joy that came from the explosion of flavor *real* fish was.

The belter glanced back at the Captain and raised her eyebrows. "Too much Vector Red here" she said, "No safe
fo mi or Aisling to stick around this rock, even for a little while to get da funds for a ride outta this place, sabe" she said and raised a hand palm up in a belter shrug. "We probably get picked up by their goons da day after they find out we here"

Delphi really did want to find a way home, back to her people, her old crew, her family, but she had no cash and this was not the place to do it. The chance of getting grabbed by Vector Red was way too high here and the only friend she would be left with, assuming Aisling stayed here with her if Delphi did, was going to be equally wanted if it was learned the two of them had survived. She took a long sip from her drink, then set it down. "Why, you got somethin else?" she asked, her big violet eyes focusing on Mickey after a quick glance at Ken.

"Maybe," Mickey said as their meals were presented. Mickey got the tuna roll wrapped in green rice grown on Rhea. The other two meals were the house special, spiced curry with slivers of white fish meat intermingled with greens on the same lime coloured rice. The scent was sweet, with just a hint of sour to carry the day.

"Way I see it," Mickey said as he took a bottle of hot sauce from the counter and dabbed its contents onto the end of the tuna roll. "We've been flying since Mars on an ad-hoc basis. I've been running the ship like I'm the XO covering a vacation day for the `captain, and Ken here's been pulling double with the engine. But now we have a chance to breath, I think it's time we thought about rearranging the structure of the Tross. I slide up into the CO slot, Ken here becomes full-time XO....which leaves us a vacancy in engineering for a dedicated tool pusher. Ken, you want to chip in any time feel free."

Mickey picked up the tuna roll and took a bite of the deliciously caustic hot sauce laden meal.

Ken masticated away the fish, aiding it with a shot of local brew before he could reply. "What we're looking for is someone that knows their way around thrusters, wiring harnesses, filters, and the hygiene systems on the 'Tross. Someone who knows the expected levels a drive runs at. I can do the high-level maintenance on the Epstein, on the laser arrays, and the weapon systems. I've got the certs and training for all that. But with the XO job and new crew, I need someone who can keep the ship flying. The rest we can work out together."

Another swig of beer emptied the bottle. Ken turned to the man behind the counter. "Can you get me another?" Then he turned back to Delphi while setting his bottle down. "You need a job, we need a technician who can keep us flying. The crew earns a share of the profit, the size of which is determined on what we hash out here and seniority. The first contract would be until the next port, after that we either go our own ways or you join until we're sick and tired of each other."

"Pretty standard contract for us," Mickey chipped in.

Delphi listened to the proposal as she chewed on a bite of her food, then downed it with a mouthful of her drink. The food was good, very good, and the flavor of the fish so very intense compared to the fish flavored mushroom analog she was used to eating rather than the real thing.

She set her drink down and wiped her mouth with a napkin before she spoke. "As long as it get mi away from Vector red" she said in response to the offered contract. "Mi been rebuilding Epstein drives and propulsion systems since Mi was a kid. Can handle your drive" she said confidently. "Sabez everything else on da ship too." While she did not have a professional school education, she had almost 2 decades hands on practical experience working on starships, everything from basic electronics, to life support systems to ground up rebuilds on Epsteins. She had been aboard ships all her life and knew her stuff. While the Albatross might have some newer, fancier drive than any of the belter ships she had served aboard, the basics were all the same and she could tackle it no problem.

"Been engineer on many belter ship before Vector Red. Big ship, small ship, mi keep them all flying"

A final bite, followed by a final swig of beer emptied Ken's hands. Moments later a burp escaped, announcing the earther's satisfaction. "I will be honest about this. You'll be the first senior engineer we'll hire to run everything. Previous engineers were working under my supervision. The 'Tross is my home, and I'm saying that like a Belter would. That does mean I will be checking your work. I'll look over your shoulder, and I'll look when you're sleeping. Because it is my home, and I've put more blood, sweat, and tears into this ship than I could have imagined. Do good work, and I won't have a reason to continue checking, sasa?"

"Also worth noting the 'Tross is something of a mongrel. The hull, plumbing, electricals aren't all in agreement all the time. UN built the frame but stripped out the good stuff when they sold her. Fusion plant and engine cone are aftermarket add-ons. I think Wulf's got emulators buried in some of the hardware to make sure all the parts are speaking the same programming language to avoid conflicts," he sipped his beer. "Not to mention we'll want to go over the repairs done by Spaker and his crew."

Delphi set her drink down as Ken spoke and crossed her arms and frowned. She hated how this inner talked to her, down to her like she did not know what she was doing. She knew her stuff, she had been keeping ships flying since she was a kid. She took a breath before she replied.

"All belta ship cobbled together from what da inners leave behind, no problem keeping yours in da sky" she said. "Wanna check work, fine, but Mi know what Mi doing and na need anyone second guessing in da engine room. If want as engineer, tenye trust mi fo du da work." she said, eying both Ken and Mickey, then turning her eyes to Ken specifically. "To na Beltalowda, na try talk like one, inyalowda. To pochuye ke?"

"She has a point," Mickey said as he took a sip of his beer. "Your accent stinks."

"Of course it stinks. I'm an Earther. I can speak it half-decent, and understand it fine. But nobody would mistake me for a Belter for even a half second." Ken remarked as he emptied his beer. "So it's settled. You're with us for the next run at least. If your work is better than my accent you can stay after."

Delphi rolled her eyes at the XO's suggestion that he could speak and understand lang Belta as well. "Ya, mi pensa to kowl mowteng wamang deting keng lang belta sili to ever wanya du wowk ere da belte. Na tumang gonna ge talked tu, im mo pash da words.(2)" she said in full on heavily accented belter in response to that, then picked up her drink and took a long swallow, finishing it.

"Taki taki(3), we do this, but Mi pensa if da bar is mi work being better than tolowda speak belta, than Mi think Mi already proved that with mi fix on da thruster back in da fight and all da other work I du on da way here patching da ship is gut, ya?" she added with a smile.

"She's got you there," Mickey said. He then slid a plastic data chit to her. "UN's kind enough ti put us up in a capsule hotel in the hostel district. Chit's got info on it for room, food, the usual. Also a link to the private network our terminals ride on thanks to Wulf. Clean your self up, settle anything you need settling, and we wait out the repairs on the 'Torss in this workers paradise."

Delphi nodded, accepting the chit, plugging it into her hand terminal, looking at the info on it.

"Ko" she said, turning the terminal off and putting it and the chit away in a pocket. Mi need new vac suit" she asked. "Vector Red vac suit kaka felota. Na safe fo extended use in vacuum. Suits to have na made fo Belta"

"Yeah Vector Red tends to buy in bulk and buy cheaper than cheaper. A plastic survival balloon would have more functionality than one of their suits," Mickey said. "You can get a quote, but we have suits on the Tross. Gagarin Mk4's, not the top of the line but they work well enough. Haptic glove controls, eye directed HUD, the usual. If you can get a quote on a new suit, one that would befit an engineer, let us know. I'm sure Ken wouldn't mind an upgrade."

He took a sip of his beer.

"Pretty sure a few of the suits took dinks during the fight, could use replacing on the UN coin."

"Maybe we can find some Mk5's. They should be getting on the second-hand market by now, leaving military rotation." Ken suggested.

"I could send a message to the Jovian Union comm node. You remember Yaz, your military surplus tailor from Callisto. He might be able to get us a line locally on some," Mickey stated.

"New suit be nice. Towlowda inyalowda suits tumali... too small, na belta vac suit" she said and bit her lip. She had tried one of them on and while they were nice, much better than the one she had right now, they were not made for someone of her height. They were vac suites made for people from Earth or Mars with the proportions of people from Earth or Mars, where people were not seven feet tall like someone born and raised in low to zero g, like Delphi.

"Okay okay, Belter suit for Belter gotcha. Get a quote, and we'll look into getting one," Mickey said with all seriousness. He'd worn 'one zie fits all' space suits before, and they were either to big, to small, or just not that great. So he could respect someone asking for the right tool to do the right job.


(1)Mandarin: Two of the house specials, and a tuna roll. And beer, local.
(2)Lang Belta: Yeah, I think you all need someone that know language belter if you ever want to get work in the belt. No Earther gonna get talked too, it's more than the words.
(3)Thanks/Thank you