INT – DAY – Officer’s mess
Helton, Lag, Harbin, Allonia, Bipasha, Kaushik, Kaminski, Sar, Stenson, and Quinn sit at the table, having dinner. Sandwiches and finger-food. They all look a bit tired and drained.
Helton: I think that canceling R&R on Capella, and having the parts shipped to us, would be the more discreet choice.
Lag: (ironically) NOW you’re worried about discreet?
Helton: Well, I don’t seem to do subtle very well, but it seems wisest NOT to stay in the same system right now.
Harbin: True. Virtually nothing but a small moon for a million kilometers, and you STILL manage to crash us into no less than THREE other craft.
Helton: Just stick’n to what I know, I guess.
Bipasha: (only half joking) Best not to mention it to anyone. It might make getting insured more difficult.
Kaushik: The next insurance policy you buy should include weapons – you ARE, after all, nominally a privateer. Should start acting like one for real, rather than expect to keep on taking ships on accident. Risks would seem more manageable. We were lucky those guys were so incompetent, thinking that their badges and names made them invincible.
Helton: Many ports don’t allow armed ships.
Harbin: An unarmed warship is about as useless as grav-tanks at a Bar-B-Que.
Lag: THIS one’s done alright, but he’s right – worth looking into. Not many custom ship weapons shops on New Texas, though. Might as well see what you can find, if we are going to be there anyway.
Sar: As long as you get the galley fixed soon – cooking on only two burners complicates things.
She waves her sandwich to emphasize her point.
Allonia: Can we get them at New Texas? Along with the rest of the supplies we wanted?
Stenson: Doubt it. I had wondered why those things had such unusual specs when we repaired them originally. I have to cross check more systems that don’t usually work together. Might find something useful for fixing the damage that shaking caused – LOTS of systems are even MORE marginal than they were before. As long as we are gentle with them, they’ll be OK, but we REALLY need some downtime now.
Lag: We can hide the interceptor in deep space somewhere –
Helton: -and cache the cargo in zero-grav orbital transfer dock, land light-
Bipasha snorts and shakes her head at the word
Helton: -lightER, and get supplies and repairs – take a breather for a few days.
Lag: Got a few contacts there that would be good to touch bases with, too.
Quinn: Do they have real cowboys there? I want to see some REAL cows!
Kaminski: Real cows, real cowboys. REAL bar-b-que. Nice folks, if they think you’re a good sort. Did my Komenagen there. Should be fun.
Helton: OK, stash the ship and cargo, hit the Alvarez farm for a visit and get the local low-down, line up a stack of supplies, check for defensive systems, take a short break. Sounds like a plan. Any other priorities I’ve forgotten?
Everyone sort of nods agreement, or at least doesn’t make any objections. Helton nods, and the decision is final.
Fade to black
EXT – Day – high orbit above New Texas
Spread below is a beautiful planet, a mix of tans, small blue-green seas, lush green expanses, and a good scattering of white clouds. Clearly a successful terraforming project. Above, an orbiting space dock with a number of mid-sized ships attached at all sorts of angles. Nestled in among them, looking small, dirty, insignificant, and crude, is Tajemnica. She pulls away, slowly and carefully, just barely glowing, then angles down, toward the planet below, and gradually accelerates away from the station, heading for one of the many tan patches.
EXT – Day – high above the Alvarez Farm.
Spread out below are miles of scattered forest patches, tilled fields of dirt, fields filled with growing plants, fallow land, and wild savanna. A modest farm is in the near view, with a half dozen buildings scattered about, a house with a nice view on a low ridge-top, and various others scattered between it and a small valley and draw below. Barns, storage silos, large sheltered landing field near a set of four storage silos and barns, mostly grass with concrete pads here and there. Camera view follows Tajemnica as she glides easily in, and carefully comes to a rest on a set of concrete landing pads, landing legs slowly compressing, as if gingerly testing the footing, and figuring it was OK. Barefoot kids and dogs run around excitedly at the sight of visitors, and MR ALVAREZ (30s, slender & wiry, slightly graying black hair and mustache, Hispanic) stands quietly next to the door of the barn. The loading ramp slowly and carefully lowers down, and the bottom flip-out ramp piece folds out and into place.
Helton, Stenson, Jorge Alvarez, Bipasha, and Allonia walk down the ramp together. At the sight of Jorge, Mr Alvarez breaks into a huge smile, and opens his arms. Near the bottom, Jorge walks much faster toward him, and they embrace, brothers too long apart.
Mr Alvarez: Too long! It’s been too long! Home to stay?
Jorge Alvarez: No, sorry, not this time. Victor, this is Chief Henery Stenson, the man that hired me-
Mr Alvarez: Glad to meet you. I trust he’s working hard?
As he introduces each person, Mr Alvarez extends his hand and shaken theirs firmly, bowing slightly to each of the ladies, as he greets them, a proper gentleman.
Jorge Alvarez: -and Helton Strom, the ship owner and captain I told you about-
Mr Alvarez: So good of you come all this way to bring him to our doorstep!
Jorge Alvarez: Bipasha, the business manager-
Mr Alvarez: Lovely to meet you. We have some EXCELLENT products that you had inquired about to inspect.
Jorge Alvarez: -and Allonia, magician with all things domestic aboard ship-
Mr Alvarez: Wonderful to meet you, he has said so many nice things about you in his messages!
Jorge Alvarez: -And the rest of the crew and people will be along shortly, I’m sure.
Mr Alvarez: No hurry, no hurry! Please, come with me and have a drink, and tell me ALL about your adventures…
He waves them up toward the house. Suddenly Quinn comes taring down the ramp, heading for a couple of kids about his age standing over near the corner of the barn. Mr Alvarez looks at him run by with a bit of surprise on his face.
Allonia: He’s with me. Well, us. Terribly shy, as you can tell.
Quinn: (excited, to the kids) Can you show me the cows?
The kids just sort of look at him, the adults break out laughing.
Mr Alvarez: No cows here, I’m afraid. Only small critters. Go on, show him around! We’ll be at the house.
The kids run off together, and the rest head together up the hill toward the house.
Ramp, a little later in the day
Kaminski comes down, dressed in shorts, tee-shirt, five-finger running shoes, and with a light carbine slung over his shoulder. He stretches, takes a deep lung-full of fresh air, flexes a bit (and he’s got some SERIOUS muscles to flex) then takes off on a cross-country fun-run.
EXT – Day – barn yard
Quinn and three of the Alvarez kids are having a ball chasing chickens around the yard, just being kids. All are QUITE dirty.
EXT – Evening – house veranda
The low sun casts its slightly reddish light across the men and Bipasha as they sit in chairs on the veranda, talking and sipping various glasses of iced beverages. Through the open door and windows, Allonia, and a couple of other ladies are chatting and laughing. It’s all very relaxed and domestic looking. In the near distance, a flier with official-looking markings on it angles in toward the barn. Mr Alvarez frowns.
Helton: Expecting anyone?
Mr Alvarez: (shaking his head) No, and certainly not anything official. Likely Nerona.
Mr Alvarez: Government inspector, and general pain in the ass. Young man that fancies himself a suave big shot, and God’s gift to women. Son of a major food processor buyer. He’s got a hard-on for my eldest, and isn’t taking NO for an answer, but hasn’t quite done anything too far over the line. Having him disappear at my place could be awkward, if you know what I mean.
They all nod understanding.
Lag: Not if we don’t have too. But… (shrugs) Mr Alvarez, back on the subject of your lentil crop – which field do you plan on plowing next?
Same veranda, slightly lower sun.
Kaushik: (OC, through Harbin’s wrist com) Who’s on duty as S3 right now? Got a government non-S2 ‘tude wanting to deal with an S9 about an issue that the S1 would normally cover for our S4, and asking about S8. A percentage big enough that maybe S3 should handle it.
The look at one another.
Harbin: (into com unit) Wait one.
Mr Alvarez: Uh, what did he just say?
Helton: I thought an S3 was in charge of operations?
Lag: It also stands for something else. He said he’s got an semi-official idiot with an attitude asking for a large percentage of whatever is going on, too big to just pay and shrug off, and he is asking nosy questions, so he asking if we should just “Shoot, Shovel, Shut up.” How about we let him introduce himself, and see if he’s smart enough to see the light.
Harbin: (into com unit) Send him up. Be ready to jam or listen to any outgoing signals.
Same veranda, sun a bit lower in the sky. Drinks and positions have shuffled a bit. A young man in casual clothes is walking up the path toward them. As he approaches them, they watch silently, faces blank.
Nerona: I was dropping by to see Maria. Can you tell her I’m here?
Mr Alvarez: (tightly controlled basic politeness) She’s not home.
Nerona: (with a slight superior sneer) So, are you going to introduce me to your friends, here? More dirt farmers, like the rest of your… friends? (he catches sight of Bipasha, sitting somewhat behind Helton) And an import? I DEFINITELY need to meet them.
Lag: (politely curious) That flier has government markings. Are you here on business?
Nerona: (frostily) No. I’m here to see Maria. Who’s asking?
Lag: Ah. Just using the official craft out of personal convenience. (nods in apparent understanding)
Nerona’s face darkens a bit.
Nerona: Is that your cargo ship down there?
Helton: I’m sure it belongs to someone. We’re just friends of the Alvarez family, visiting.
Just then Allonia walks out the door with Mrs Alvarez, holding a pitcher of iced lemonade, laughing at something said inside, and dressed a very attractive sort of ordinary.
Nerona’s eyes bug out a bit, and he can’t help but say something.
Nerona: Oh, MY. And who is THIS vision of womanhood?
Allonia sees him and stops, surprised and not quite sure what’s going down. Mrs Alvarez gets a dark look. The men don’t move a muscle, except Kaminski, who stands slightly and turns his chair around and leans forward into it’s back, a bright smile on his face.
Kaminski: Oh, now THIS I would PAY to watch!
Nerona takes his stare off Allonia and looks at him with a puzzled expression.
Kaminski: (brightly) The last guy who got out of line with HER was dead three times before he hit the ground, and THAT broke his neck pretty badly. All I got to do was clean up the mess, file the paperwork, and dispose of the body. Watching a professional like her at work would be a RARE treat.
Nerona’s face pales a bit, and his mouth works a bit but it seems to be suddenly dry, and no words come out. Kaminski smiles at him, then back at Allonia, who looks a bit embarrassed, and the Alvarez’s, who look surprised. Finally, Nerona gets a bit of his official bluster back and gets some words out.
Nerona: And you are?
Kaminski: Kaminski. CORPORAL Kaminski.
Kaminski sticks out his hand, and Nerona sticks out his automatically. Kaminski gives him a brief but VERY firm handshake, and Nernoa winces at it. He loses his bluster for a moment, then gets it back.
Nerona: I know all the police around here, and I think you are rather out of your jurisdiction, CORPORAL. What jurisdiction are you from?
Nerona flips out a badge from a pocket and clips it on his belt, standing taller, as he says this.
Kaminski: Six sixty-sixth Retribution Battalion… Plataean Space Marines. Blood redistribution specialist.
He gives another cheery smile. Nerona pales again.
Kaminski: Yeah, last time was a mess. Even impressed the First Sergeant, here.
Nerona: (looking and sounding like he DIDN’T like the sound of having a space marine on his ass) First Sergeant?
Harbin: (flatly) I said “good group.”
Kaminski: Oh, right, it was the Colonel who said “impressive.”
Nerona: (liking the sound less and less) Colonel?
Lag: (mater-of-factly) Killing a man that efficiently with his own weapons WAS impressive. Good knife-work, too. I’m sure she was sharing tips with the Alvarez ladies.
Mrs Alvarez gives Allonia a look of favorable surprise. Allonia shrugs, slightly embarrassed.
Nerona looks back and forth between them, looking like he’s not sure if he should be scared, impressed, is being put on, or should just be be leaving.
Helton: The Alvarez family are friends of ours. Thought we’d drop in, make sure everything was OK. Maybe spend a few days, take in some bar-b-que, see the sights, swap recipes for lentil cookies. The usual.
Stenson: The captain there was most generous to drop in here like this.
Nerona: (sounding like he REALLY doesn’t like the company he’s faced with) Captain?
Helton: It was the least I could do for the Chief and his team.
Nerona: (realizing he might just be WAY out of his league) Chief? And team?
Alvarez: So, weren’t you just about to leave?
Nerona: Uh, well, if, uh, Maria isn’t here, then, um, yeah, I guess I should be going.
Mr Alvarez: And next time, call first. It’s polite.
Nerona, looking a bit flustered and embarrassed, turns and beats a hasty retreat down the path toward the barn. They watch him leave. As he gets a ways away, Lag speaks, then closes his eyes to wait and see what fate will do.
Lag: There are times for a peaceful tone, negotiation, and discretion, when dealing with people. Then again, there are times you need to get all shooty with ‘em. Now, we see if he can take a hint, or if he’s incorrigible.
In the distance down the hill they can see him start to talk into his com unit. Suddenly, all of their personal comm units start sounding off quietly with what he’s saying, as if they are all using a walkie-talkies on the same open frequency.
Nerona: (OC, through coms) This is Nerona. We got some strange doings. Definitely something that needs to be checked out. Smuggling, gun-running, sedition, SOMETHING. I’m SURE we can find SOMETHING to take them down with, or at least lock ‘em up for a while. Talk to you tomorrow after I check out a few things. Out here.
Lag sighs, and everyone has a pained, resigned, or worried look.
Lag: Mr Alvarez, we should call it an evening, knowing you need to plow a field bright and early tomorrow. Corporal, I trust you saw the backhoe? Chief, see what you can do about helping set the autopilot for the inspector on his flier, perhaps north toward the sea? Helton, if you can determine how much of that message got out, and how it came through our comms, that would be good to know. Allonia, if you could help Helton, I’d be happy to help Bipasha and the ladies with the cleanup here for a little while.
Lag nods to Kaminski, who nods back and takes off running at an angle down the hill. Mr and Mrs Alvarez have expressions of mixed uncertainty, fear, and pleasure at the situation.
Lag: Sad. But people like that very rarely change. They want power and control without responsibility or restraint. Pleasure, without work. I believe we can honestly say that we saw him walk away from the house in fine shape, heading for his flier talking about needing to check something out, and that we then saw his flier leave, heading north?
Mr Alvarez leans back, looking more relaxed.
Mr Alvarez: Jorge, I think you’ve been hired by good people… It’s been a while since we’ve had a good formal bar-b-que; not a lot to celebrate. (turning to Lag and Helton) I think you may just find a number of people quite willing to do business with you next week if we decide we need one. And, I think we do.
Fade to black.