The Charon Courier Corporation

Posted on Sat Jan 13th, 2024 @ 1:33pm by Commanding Officer Mickey Serendipity & Executive Officer Kenneth McTigue & Comm Tech Wulf Edevane

Mission: What We Did On Our Euopan Vacation
Location: New Far Svalbard, Europa, Jovian luna system
Timeline: December 2380, six months after the events of the previous plot.

"25 for a regular?" Mickey asked.

"25 unadjusted UN Dollars for the small. The regular is 40, if you want I can break that down into Martian kroner or palladium by weight, or the precious metal of your choice," the Barista said in a voice devoid of genuine or even simulated human emotion. Behind them, the printer was rapidly assembling a carafe and cups out of a complex hydrocarbon mix that almost looked like clay but was fully recyclable. Probably fed a credit back to the coffee shop every time one of their cups was turned into mushrooms.

"Is the coffee that good?" Mickey asked.

"It's the best grown in the belt. Each plant is cared for and kept at perfect pH and nutrient levels to provide a perfect dark roast," the barista said again in a voice that seemed to subconsciously ask for the sweet release of death.

"Ah huh," he said and waved his hand terminal over the pay point. "Three regulars then. Do I get an escort back to my table with my riches?"

That didn't get a response. He sighed and left the line, his terminal chirping with the receipt of the credit transfer and an assurance that his purchase would be delivered to his table within a 10-minute window. The coffee shop, styled in a faux Martian style with a gritty russet polymer coating over the ice walls to make it look like real Mars basalt, was ideal for a number of things. Supposedly good coffee that wasn't just chemically synthesised, free low latency net access with every purchase, and soundproofing so that the conversational hub-bub was kept to a minimum.

"I swear the price goes up with every Jovian year," Mickey grumbled as he settled into the comfy chair in the booth he, Ken and Wulf were occupying towards the back. "So, coffee will be here shortly. You two discussing how the new people are fitting into our little group?"

It smelt great in here, caffeinated beverage wise, so Wulf had relaxed back into his chair and wondered if Mickey would consider shouting them a confectionary addition to the particularly expensive drinks he was currently in process of purchasing.

"Kinda," Wulf responded first. "I was thinking a brownie or maybe a caramel slice would go real nicely with our coffee." The grin was broad and unapologetic as he leant forward to rest his arms on the table. "But, Ken was just saying how much he loves having Emma, Delphi and Dani in the mix. You two being slightly more solvent and all." He cast his gaze in the direction of the barista for a second or two and spoke before turning his visual attention back to Captain and XO. "Definitely a brownie... You two want one?"

"I'll take a slice of apple pie." Ken replied, trying hard to ignore the fact that the mere sliver of pie would cost just shy of seventy dollars. "As for the new crew... I wish we got a little more choice in who we've taken on. Then again, I wish I was still just the wrench monkey, that Soto was still alive, and that the Earth and Mars weren't shooting at one another."

Ken grimaced a little, just simple discomfort at it all. "Time will need to tell if these people will gel into a crew for me. At least I'll get a proper chance to see if Delphi is as good at maintenance as she is at patchwork."

"Spit in one hand, wish in the other," Mickey said, settling down into his own chair. "The crew is what we have when we needed them, if we'd waited around for the people we wanted well I'd still be piloting the 'Tross and I'm pretty sure the repair bill for the ship would have a few extra zeroes."

Mickey settled himself more fully in his chair.

"As for more solvent, personally my accounts are pretty humble. Unlike Ken here, I don't have a UNN pension. So you and me Wulf, we're more alike than you think. And on that point, I'd like to put forward a piece of business. The 'Tross is not a democracy, we've been working together to a common goal but eventually paths will diverge on which way to go. Now the owner, myself and Ken, we can settle that hash pretty well, but we don't always share the same mind set on things. Whereas in the pre-Eros days..."

Mickey took a moment to be silent, and like the others his thoughts drifted to their former captain.

"Well. Traditionally the 'Tross has been under the leadership of a triumvirate. In the past that was Soto, myself and Ken. Equal partners with the majority share in the Charon Courier Company held between us. That way if a choice is heated, there is always a tiebreaker. In the heat of the moment, I'm the Captain, but in matters that involve the ship jobs and finances...well. I was thinking it was time we go back to that way of doing things," Mickey said.

With the attentive aural focus of someone clearly invested in both older men's words, Wulf had temporarily forgotten about cake and focused on Mickey Serendipity. Which, as he had known since that first interview way back on a familiar rock, wasn't the man's real name. His connections and skillset might (or might not) have been able to unravel that particular mystery, but either way would remain forever unknown as Wulf simply didn't need to know. What mattered when it came to both Mickey and Ken was who they really were, not what names they chose to give themselves. And who they were had kept him alive when all about them were dying or being murdered by various factions and larger players than any of them here. When Wulf had been face to face with Soto's death, Mickey had been there. When all the minor bumps and major disasters of the last few years had crashed and wailed and imploded, Ken had been there. That was more than Wulf could say about pretty much anyone else in his life.

His life, however, had come with some perks. The tech mentally crossed his fingers and tried to look nonchalant.

"Did you have anyone in mind?" Wulf asked two of the most important people he knew. Just in case he'd misread the room.

It happened. Fairly often.

"Well, here's where things get interesting." Ken answered as he smiled and accepted the coffees they had ordered. "Thank you love." he said to the young waitress before turning back to the table. "Things get interesting. We've had a few offers for the third share. One is from Yonkers. She came to us a few weeks back saying she wanted to buy into the company. Then there's a certain multi billionaire playboy philanthropist angel investor who wants to buy in and is offering about fifty times the actual value." Ken sipped his coffee, enjoying the taste. "Now I wanted to take up the anonymous bid. But Mickey pointed out that the tax burden on us would probably break my little jarhead brain. He then suggested we take up Yonkers' offer, but I could not imagine ever seeing a Martian marine as my equal. They are ungrateful little cretins that should have never even tasted independence." He winked at Wulf as his overly dramatic tone shifted back.

"So we put our heads together and had a think. And we came to a possible solution." He eyed Wulf again, but this time entirely seriously. "How about we see if you would like to be partners in this little venture."

"It would mean you had a stake in every risk and success we had," Mickey said, glossing over the more earthy description Ken had put out there. "The others do as well, but they're crew. This would put you on the hull as a part owner, meaning you'd always have a place in the universe that was your own."

Wulf leant back in his chair and sat silent for a moment. Never mind the coffee or the cake, he simply needed to absorb all this conversational data, process it and then hopefully say something coherent as a response. Because, while he'd been essentially an itinerant when he'd first signed on with these two, this was the dream. One he hadn't ever truly considered achieving with any form of success. He'd been okay with being the butt of the jokes, the useless one on the ship until something went bump with the comms, the printer needed updating or the software and ads needed updating/removing. He'd been okay with drifing and pulling a simple wage until the universe shifted on an epic scale and everything around him became suddenly way more important. He had a home, technically, Titan would take him back if he charged back in there and asked for it. But this - freedom in the truest sense and in great company - this was what he really wanted. He never thought an offer this big would come from two people he respected so much or a place he thought of as true home. It took time for that to really sink in.

So, once the moment was real, once the offer truly stood there waiting for him to reply to them, Wulf grinned. That big dumb Christmas-morning kinda grin. He stood up, stretched his hands to the ceiling and bounced in his boots, and then, serious expression taking over his face, responded.

"Mickey's right," said Wulf, his tone even and austere now as he remained standing and placed both his palms on the table. "Anonymous isn't the way to go. And you definitely need to take into account both the tax bracket and the message you're sending out into the universe with care and consideration. There's a way to keep the Tross the Tross without sounding off every tax-officer's alarm each time we hit port. And as an equal partner, I could absolutely ensure we hit the right financial notes, depending on our mood." He took his terminal from his pocket and pulled up an account, one of the real ones not his petty cash cover story, and let both men see the bottom line. "How much of that buys me in?" Wulf asked, as unpretentiously as he could manage. Because if they wanted a billionaire playboy philanthropist, well he could match that, but he also didn't want to look like a dick to his friends.

Mickey looked over the figure.

"Well..." Mickey said, teasing the words out through his teeth. It was a number, to be sure, and not one he had excepted to see. "...that really depends. Because, is it your money or is it...your money? I know how family can be, how it can get the hooks in in a million different ways. So you need to be sure that what you are willing to commit to includes alerting folks back Saturn way you're back on the radar."

"You know we'll have your back either way. But there isn't much we can do when your family comes at us with all their might." Ken added seriously before cracking a joke. "We couldn't afford that many torpedoes."

Ah Titan, that home he'd left behind to find himself, under the 'helpful' and 'trusting' tutelage of his elder sister. Yes, Mickey was correct on this count - Saturn way would potentially notice a financial resurgence - and to that Wulf gave the Tross' Captain a silent nod of deference.

"Ths is my money," Wulf then responded, truthfully and with a respectful level of volume. "If we need to break into 'my' money then I ain't against it, but - agreed - we'd be lighting a few fuses, and not all of them back on Titan. But for the record, this particular funding is entirely legal and above board. Royalties, hard-earned," he grinned at that second adjective, "well, earned, by me. It's mine. I wouldn't offer it up if it wasn't. Cos, y'know, I like you guys - all three of us - alive and breathing in-and-out unaided. Flying the friendly skies. So yeah, I'm in. If you're really serious on the having my back either way that is."

"Equal partners is really the plan here?" The comtech asked, still coming to terms with being officially invited to the Tross Club.

"Equal partners is really the plan here." Ken echoed. "Mick and I need a third to keep it all square. You've intimated that you want to be part of this. We've already spoken to our Corpo Lawyer back on Luna. Contract's written up, escrow account set up. You'll need your own corpo law guy to check it over, I'm not accepting a blind signature here." From his hand terminal Ken swiped the legal package and bank routing info over to Wulf's. "All above board and legit. More so than either one of you two's identity data."

"I don't know what you are talking about," Mickey said with a smile a Cheshire cat would have been proud of. He held up a hand as a server, a flesh and blood person, came to the table with their second round of drinks and snacks. Once they'd gone, leaving behind shockingly good-smelling coffee, Mickey picked up where he left off. "But I agree with Ken, take a day to think about it, and get someone to go over the contract we provide. We're honest folks, but it's a good habit to double-check these things."

Wulf nodded, listening to every word as he swiped the incoming legal package from Ken and pinged it straight on (wrapped in significant data protections) to exactly the person Ken was suggesting. There were some throwbacks to wealthy Titan society and his prior criminal involvements that would significantly benefit him in these kind of situations. Trust. Connections. Trusted connections. Few and far between, hard won and held onto with bold and efficient tenacity. No chances taken. He felt that pang of anxiety at pushing back into his 'real' identity, but pushed it down hard. Real was relative, and honestly this life on the Tross felt far more real.

He looked up from double-checking Zee had policing that transmission and its respondant under control to see Mickey's shit-eating grin. Infectious and rare, that dumb happiness brought a dark shine to Wulf's own gaze as he traded gazes with both the Tross' current co-owners. He felt... proud, honoured and certain... he felt, part of something bigger than himself and he felt invested in a way that meant more than he'd ever thought money would buy him. Wulf took a gentle sip of his coffee, followed up with a bite of his chosen cake and breathed softly before he spoke out loud. The soft ping of Zee's confirmation settled any fleeting tendrils of concern and smiled a silent wry smile before he spoke.

"Checks in progress," Wulf said then. "By better financial minds than mine." Another bite of the caramel chocolate brownie ensued. "But y'know, the royalities alone off some of the evasively addictive ad threads buried in corp software and their 'removal', should keep us ticking along in Tross repairs and upgrades. Sooo, money worries shouldn't be part of our day to day problem, partners," he added, looking to Ken and Mickey with a strangely comfortable sense of belonging now. "This is really real, right?" He had to triple check, though he didn't need an answer this time to push on to add, with a bright grin. "This is really real. We own a ship. We OWN A SHIP!" Enthusiasm personified, not shouting. He stood up, did a lazy pirouette and sat back down. "We own a ship...." Just sounded so good, he couldn't quite stop saying that.

"You wanna tell him that we've owned the ship for years now, or should I?" Ken mock whispered to Mickey as he observed the absurdity that was youthful enthusiasm.

"I mean I would but it seems a little redundant after you'd said it," Mickey said as he took a sip of his coffee.

A slight blush picked up on Wulf's cheeks as he bit back one thought that had nearly been spoken aloud. It didn't matter that his origin story had brought with it the suggestion of owning far more luxurious items than mere cargo ships, what mattered was the here and now and the sheer solidity of this moment. He belonged. He had an equal share. And, for all their faults and ways, and for all his own, he really liked these guys.

"So?" Wulf asked, picking up the crumbs of his brownie now as he regarded Mickey and Ken with intrigue. "Does this mean I can learn to fly the Tross?" Worth a shot.

Two voices, in the same almost bored inflection, answered. "No."