Charon's Opus ::
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Posted on Mon Apr 6th, 2020 @ 9:11pm by Commanding Officer Mickey Serendipity & Medical Officer Alex Garcia & Executive Officer Kenneth McTigue & Passenger Kol Wescott-Fitzgerald & Comm Tech Wulf Edevane

Mission: Port In A Storm
Location: Metronome, Vallis Marineris, MCR

The city of Metronome had been settled by the big hotel chains and casino syndicates of Earth before the Martian Procolmation changed a number of flags on the Martian surface. But before the change in management, Marriot Hyatt had been one of the largest investors in the Marineris Valley City Project. Anchored to the top of the kilometres high canyon, and cantilevered over like hanging ivy, the Marriot-Hyatt Mars logo blazed brilliantly against the shadow clogged vertical city.

Other lesser hotel chains and entertainments lit up the hanging city, connected via connecting tunnels, vertical tram lines, and the constant buzzing of volantors flying on drone programming between airlock berths. This was the richest city on Mars relying not on the Martian Industrial Complex, but the tourist traffic and people wanting to let loose.

A partygoer from one of the clubs let out a whoop of joy, and draped a necklace of beads around Ken and then Allegra's necks. The Second Summer Break was in full swing, and half the co-eds of Hebe University were in town to celebrate a step closer to passing Upper university and becoming a productive Martian citizen.

Mickey had led them from the Valley Vac train station that had whisked them from Olympus Mons and the tether station to Metronome in 30 minutes. Not bad for a system running just shy of hypersonic speeds.

"Anyone see the Laughing Panda?" Mickey said, acting the part of ice breaker to the crowds. "Noodle shack. Could have sworn it was here last time."

Wulf walked backwards in the wake left by the rest of the team, his gaze hitting every new student female with bright interest. This? This was more like it. Definitely took his mind off all the other concerns floating about in the back of his mind, concerns temporarily put on hold for more primal enjoyments. Somewhere in there, he registered the fact that Mickey was asking a question, but the tech just grinned his big dumb grin, hit the prettier young ladies with his dark gaze and indulged in a little harmless voyeurism.

A wave of semi-lucid Co-ed's crashed against the party, and broke around them harmlessly: and there it was. The Laughing Panda, its holo coil sign out front flickering with age and floating dead pixels. But Mickey ignored it, instead he walked them up to a storefront beside it. To either side of the door's were holo prints of the Martian landscape as seen from the top of Metronome.

No Better View Than On The Way Down, read the marketing tag that flicked across the screen.

Stepping inside was like stepping into a combination extreme sports store and fetish wear emporium. Mannequin's stood in artful repose, wearing gayly coloured vacuum suits that looked like a comic version of powered armour. All of them had a thick convex chest plate that ran like a teardrop from the shoulders and head, down towards the knees. On of the suits, in powder blue, had most of the chest piece abraded down to the undersuit layer.

Two Upper University kids were in the shop, being sold on the shop's wears by the owner.

"Look, it's all math. You kids still do math up at Hebe U right? 3.7 m/s2, just under a third of a full G: that's Mars giving you a windfall. You jump, and you spend a glorious ten minutes falling all the way to the bottom of the Vallis, no better way to see the view on the way down. Then at the end, you hit the slope, WHAM! Chest armour takes the hit, and as the slope gradual, it acts as a brake. You come to a stop, and boy will you have bragging rights for the folks back in the dorms," the store owner turned to look at the group. "One-second folks, just selling...stores closing now kids, get out."

The two Uni kid's looked affronted, but one look from the store owner made then run out. He was dressed in what might pass for beach ware on a planet whose beaches had dried up aeons ago: baggy shorts, some hipster crocs, and a shirt's chromatophores changing from the red dunes of Mars, to an ocean wave crashing on over and over again. His long blonde hair was pulled back into a complicated ponytail braid, and his eyes true colour were hidden behind the flickering implant lenses no doubt hooked into the store's Host systems.

The door locked behind them with a series of thuds and hisses that any spacer would know were the pressure seals engaging: no one was getting out of there without the door code, or a vacuum rated warhead.

"Last time I saw you, Michael, there were words being said about you. Unkind words a friend wouldn't like to hear said about a friend," the Martian cliff jumper said, remaining still.

"Unkind but not untrue," Mickey said slowly. "Good to see you again John."

"Oh, oh its really you," John said, his face bursting into a smile as he stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Mickey. "Damn good to see you again!"

Ken was casually walking around the shop, seemingly looking at the merchandise as he made sure there wouldn't be any interesting surprises hiding. After finding nothing of interest Ken found himself a comfortable place just besides the door.

He paid close attention to the crazily dressed shopkeeper, and Wulf offered up friendly, amused smile. Felt kinda like home, in a weird fucked-up way, and the irony wasn't lost on him. The tech noted the older man's lenses and silently primed Zee via the terminal in his hand, just in case.

As the tension faded and Mickey was gifted a warm hug from the red sand dune-surfer, Wulf turned to look at Allegra and beamed a happy grin. This looked like it was gonna go well.

"How much for this one?" The tech asked, picking up the sleeve of a hot pink vacuum suit as he shifted his gaze from pilot to friend-of-the-bossman and then raised an eyebrow in Ken's direction.

"$15'000, that's MCR not UN my friend. You got a good eye, Kumara Bio-Tech suit liner, laminated ceramic chest armour, and of course full retinal scan optics for the faceplate," he said, stepping away from Mickey and gesturing to the suit. "Top of the line model, see has small cold gas thrusters along the arms and legs to help you guide the descent. There are drones near the slope that can catch you out of the air and guide you back, but the Martian Way you know."

"Redundant redundancy," Mickey said, tapping his finger tips into his palm. "Look, Johnny-"

"You're here for gear," Johnny said, lowering the arm of the cliff diver suit. He reached up and tapped his temples, the optic implants flickering with white light over his eyes. "I'm blind Mickey, but not that blind. Room system did a surface scan when you walked in. No guns, no knives, no chem's or mods safe some coffee. I don't think I've ever seen you not walking around with something. I got you covered."

He gestured to the back of the shop, and lead them into another room behind the first. Here there were cliff diver suits in various states of disassembly and repair.

"So...I mean I gotta ask, what brings you down the well to Mars?" Johnny asked, moving crates around at the back to make some space. "Things aren't exactly great for the Inner's right now, best to keep your heads down out in the Belt or the Outer Planets."

Wulf beamed with happiness for a moment, coveting a mental picture of the flamboyant suit descending the Vallis with a certain engineer inside. His step picked up some as they wandered through into a back room, but that carefree expression faded as the two old - friends? - got serious. The tech crashed back down to reality with a thump unaided by drones or Martian failsafes. They weren't here to cliff-jump.

"Wish we were here for some extreme sports," Wulf said, wistfully, then he scrunched up his face. "Fuel stop," the tech said, simply, and looked at each of the other three men in quick turn for guidance before he said anything else.

"Yeah and I sell rich kids some safe danger, I don't sell fuel pellets." Johnny looked at the group, eyes flicking over them until he settled and Kol and Ken. "You two...Earthers, ones a Marine and the other's reading like he's going through a checklist of corners and exits."

"Always" Kol confirmed calmly after smiling reassuringly in Wulf direction, "I'm freelance security, was lucky enough to hitch a ride with the 'Tross," Kol lied easily hoping Johnny wouldn't push the matter. He imagined law enforcement wouldn't be all too welcome here, "decided to stay on as long as Mickey needs me" he added with a nonchalant shrug.

Ken had already found another comfortable place to lounge, coincidentally again right next to the exit. "My mum did always say I stood out in a crowd. But I've not been with the corps for a long time now. I'm just a grease monkey."

"Not just grease. You got a bevvy of ester and polyglycols coming off you, two of which are unique to mech joint lubricant in UNMC Power Armour. Stuff gets in the pores, impregnates the skin cells. Stuff never washes off man, you and your whole detachment should be lining up for the mother of all class action lawsuits," Johnny said. "Like I said, room system gave you the once over. Full spec with low res magnetic field imager. Helps me see your fillings, and anything the unwashed might bring in. You'd be shocked what college kids looking to dive on Big Red are packing these days."

Johnny turned to the back wall, and without gesture or word it suddenly changed colour. instead of the sprayed down rockcrete that was used in most Martian architecture, this was a slatted metal wall that began to fold aside like a fan to reveal racks and crates of gear most certainly now for thrill-seekers.

"Fell off the same supply drone as most of this," Johnny said, stepped into the back room of the back room. He leant into an open crate, and pulled out a glossy black carbine with a narrow fan-shaped barrel. "Latest model out of Phobos Proprietary Systems, PPS 1080 deck broom: throttle control for the muzzle means the flechettes spread can be narrow or wide dispersal. 40 round capacity mag fed in through the stock. Rounds come in nonlethal piezoelectric shards, or coated in gene giggered snake venom that KO's the brain stem. PPC only supplies these puppies to their shipboard security crew, most of which work the indentured crew jigs for Vector Red. So taking them felt like a civic duty."

He tossed the deck broom to Ken without looking at him.

The rifle landed smartly in Ken's hands. He gave the shiny black plastic rifle a good once over, after checking that it wasn't loaded. "It's a nice bit of kit. The rounds proprietary or generic?" Ken ran the cycling mechanism, getting a feel for the bolt. "You got anything that's a bit less flashy too? Maybe something like a LSA Tec-21. Been a long time since I had one of those in my hands."

"Proprietary. But I can sell on the gene cultures so you can make more of the venom rounds on the fly," he turned to another crate, the lock mechanism clicking open as his hands went to it. He pulled out a grey sidearm, held it out butt first. "Not a Tec-21, but it is the MCRN sidearm of choice. B-12, double stacked magazine of 20 plastic ballistic capped rounds. Rounds are generic Near-Earth Inner System rounds. The NEIS standard is one of the few things the Martians held onto apart from the whisky and country music."

Ken stepped over and handed the rifle back and accepted the B-12. "Got the chance to shoot with one of these when I was in. That recoil action is a thing of beauty. I'll take this one for sure." Ken wasn't looking at Johnny, merely cooing at this the pistol.

"Anyone here have a preference?" Johnny asked.

Wulf took up Ken's vacated position by the doorway and simply stared wide-eyed into the hidden armoury. He spoke pretty much every human language in the System, but this one was utterly alien. Weaponry. Ammunition. He picked up on those generics with no clue what ninety-nine percent of the friendly jargon banter between Ken and Johnny meant. The tech didn't answer the question regarding personal preference, but opted to bide his time until he saw something he could point at and then hope to wheedle from the boss. "What's piezoelectric?" Wulf asked.

"Graphene battery. Uses the pressure of tightly bonded atoms to generate a current. Not enough to be useful for, say, an Epstein Drive. But battery backups, small scale microcircuits. Not to mention the power cells delivering enough volts to stun a man. You do not look the type for a deck broom," Johnny reached into the box of B-12's and came out with one for Wulf.

"Ah okay, cool. Sounds fun," Wulf noted out loud, and he gave a happy little nod to say he got the gist. His face fell as he was declared unsuitable for the shiny toy Ken was drooling over, but he raised his eyebrows in hope as Johnny presented him with the MCRN sidearm. Wulf's smile was tentative at first, his gaze immediately lighting on Mickey's the very second he took what he considered potential possession of said handgun. "Thanks!" the tech said, politely, and he proceeded to go through slow basic checks as previously taught by Ken.

"Can I get a look at one of those B-12s?" Kol asked hopefully. The UN standard issue he had stowed away on the Tross was just that, standard issue. Admittedly he hadn't had much use for firearms since being transferred to white-collar, but back in his major crimes days there'd been plenty of occasions to use his weapon. He eyed the unit Wulf held curiously wondering what the weight distribution was like. He had a feeling he'd be using one much more now he was sticking with the crew, made sense to upgrade.

Observing the wall, Ken's eyes locked on something very special. He sidled over and gave it a long once over as it hung on the wall. The dark grey paint was worn, but in Ken's eyes that only added to the beauty of it. The barrelshroud was still intact and uncracked, which was a fairly special in and of its own. But to see it outside of a UNMC armoury was just not heard of. What was hanging on the wall was a Orion Arms Incorperated M12 Enforcer carbine. Issued to UNMC special forces up to about ten years ago, when they were phased out in favour of the much maligned H&K G229 carbine. "Say Johnny... is the M12 for sale?" Ken asked in a tone a man uses when he is truly fallen in love.

"For a friend of Mickey's, its all yours," Johnny said, stepping out of the way to allow the Mechanic at his prize. As he did so, he knelt down, rearranging some of the smaller boxes, and pulled out a box the length of a man's forearm. Encased in polished black leather, like an expensive business case, it was embossed with a simple five-pointed star. He held it out to Mickey, one hand prised on its lid. "I held on to this. When you left, well I didn't buy the lie about not coming back afterwards."

Upon opening was a long-barrelled revolver made not of cheaply printed alloys but machine turned and computer modelled finery. Black gene tweaked shark skin coated the handle, and the angular cylinder fed into two barrels one atop the other. Two rows of ammunition lined the bottom of the case, one row being narrow ballistic rounds, whilst the lower row were three thumb-sized metal slugs.

"VacStar Tanto 12 mag pistol. Eight round 6mm ballistic capacity, with the secondary trigger firing one of three coil gun rounds. Like the ad says, if you strap on a VacStar you're making a statement about your personal security," Johnny said. "Oiled and charged."

Mickey looked at the gun, and then gently closed the lid on it.

"I'll take a B-12, a couple of mags," he stepped closer to Johnny, and whispered something in his ear. And then stepped past as the blind man with glowing eyes closed the lid on the hand cannon. A moment passed, and then the door at the front of the store chimed as someone tried to get in. "He's one of mine."

Johnny nodded, frowned for a moment, and the mechanical sound of the door opening clicked through the air.

"We're in the back Alex," Mickey called out, as he slid the B-12 into the back of his pants along with a few magazines into his pockets.

Alex heard the doors closing behind him, seals activating, and then heard a voice call out. He considered the words carefully, as he hadn't been expecting to meet a group, and hadn't been expecting to meet anyone in a closed storefront. With a shrug, he continued on, as it wasn't exactly likely he'd be able to get out through the entrance doors anyway. Stepping further back his eyes took in the rather interesting display in front of him. A group of people, all standing around in front of a very impressive array of weaponry.

As he walked up to them he came to attention, and placed his hands behind his back. "Is one of you Mickey?" he asked, his deep voice louder than he'd expected in the quiet room.

"Yo," Mickey said, raising his hand as he moved his jacket around to cover the pistol now riding with him. He extended a hand out to Alex, stepping between him and the rest of the crew. "So, yeah, this looks a little odd, doesn't it? Mickey Serendipity, XO of the courier ship Albatross."

Accepting the offered hand Alex returned the shake with a firm grip. "Nice to meet you, sir. Alex Garcia," he replied, looking the man directly in the eyes.

"You roll well with the punches that's for sure," he gripped the hand tightly and pumped it. "Pilot, Engineer, Comm Tech, Security. This is Alex Garcia, our potential new medic. I threw an ad down the gravity well when we were a day and a half out, honestly thought it would take longer to fill. We're currently preparing to go meet a potential grey market employer who might be able to hook us up with fuel pellets and O2."

He reached back, and Johnny placed a pistol in his hand. He then handed it, butt first to Alex.

"I'd be lying if I said it's not without danger, but as interviews go it has a nice pass/fail dynamic. Always thought that was easier," Mickey said.

Looking at the weapon in his hand Alex took note of the weight, the balance, and the quality. "Decent enough weapon," he said with an air of boredom at the mundanity of the gun as he tucked it into the waistband of his pants, "When do we leave?"

He was just as shocked to hear it come out of his mouth as he was guessing the other people were at hearing him say it. Normally there's no way in hell he'd have accepted something that sounded that shady, but it was either this or keep applying and getting turned down until he'd finished with every company on Mars. This sounded a hell of a lot less boring, and would at least pay well enough to give him a chance to bide his time, and figure out how the hell he was going to rebuild his reputation and get himself back into the career he'd built in the MCRN.

"We done shopping kids?" Mickey asked over his shoulder.

Wulf froze in position as the newcomer strode into their previously private meeting. He noted, with hyper sensitivity to the details, the fact that Mickey called this stranger by name. That he stepped protectively between old and new. That they shook hands. That the bossman handed Alex Garcia a weapon. Wulf's mouth opened and closed a few times as his brain tried to formulate a question out of the jangled mix of who, why, what...

Dark eyes met another set and Wulf searched for a reason to trust based on zero information and over the strong beating of his own heart.

"Captain," Wulf corrected, a good deal late to said conversation, as he looked from Alex to Mickey to Alex and back to Mickey again. The tech didn't openly question the clear authority here, nor did he answer the question that Mickey had left hanging in the air. Wulf stood still, simply letting a definite and overt concern colour his olive features.

"You're staring," Kol whispered from behind Wulf's shoulder before navigating around the shorter man, "Kol Wescott-Fitzgerald," he said to Alex once he was closer. Probably because he was the only unofficial member of the crew Kol was less concerned by their new medics demeanor, truth be told he was internally pleased not to be the new guy. He extended an hand, throwing a glance Mickey's way, "all done, Boss" he said with a curt nod. He'd also have been lying if he didn't admit to finding the newbie's demeanor refreshing. Whatever Wulf's reservations were Kol's introduction to the Tross' had been much more contentious.

Ken had pulled the M12 off the wall, and had it secured in an carry bag with three extra magazines and filling to avoid it clinking around. The B-12 ended in Ken's waistband hidden by his tshirt.

Ken looked at Mickey as he vouched for Alex, then turned to Alex and stepped over. Ken extended his hand and looked him straight in the eyes. "Ken, ship's engineer."

After shaking hands with another two of the ship's crew Alex relaxed slightly, though most would not likely have noticed a change. He was surprised at how well most of them were taking his arrival and the events that had occurred since he'd stepped up to them. Even he had not been expecting the man to place a weapon in his hand. He didn't even know him.

Stood by the doorway, Wulf allowed himself a guilty smile as Kol chastised quietly. He was staring. And, the tech reminded himself, Kol had been a stranger not too long ago. Pistol still openly and casually held down to his right side, Wulf stepped into the wider space of the sales room beyond the secret armoury. He looked back towards the gathering. "I'm Wulf," he said, quietly, following Ken's example to avoid last names. Dark eyes sought Alex's from under a lowered brow, trepidation still clouding the tech's expression. "Are you rich?" He asked outright.

Alex gave the other man a level stare. "If that information is ever relevant to you, I'll answer that question. For the time being, it's not," he replied.

"It's historically relevant," said a dead-pan Wulf. He drew a breath in to say more, then caught Mickey's gaze and swiftly changed his mind. Turning his attention back to Alex entirely, the comm tech maintained eye contact and offered a lopsided smile. "Marine?" He guessed.

"Not quite, no," Alex replied, not wanting to tell the man more than that until he felt he could trust him.

Wulf made his best thinking face and contemplated this potential newbie for a frown-filled second before asking yet another question. "Can you cook?"

"Wulf." Ken called in a sharp tone. "You can ask all the questions you want when we get back on the ship."

Noting the group milling about as if they were getting ready to leave Alex leaned over a bit closer to Wulf, giving him a slight quirk of the lips smile, "If you ever really want to find out whether I can cook or not, just let me know..." he said, letting his voice trail off.



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