…Has a Request for Dublin Again
Jaeger O’Reilly was mildly annoyed when he heard Maeve babbling over the com as they were about to come out of jumpspace.
“I’m fecking gargled on trancs.”
“Yeah, and I’ll bet you were gargled when you bought those feed grains on Fargone, too.” Cyteen produced grain as well. "Just not enough for their consumption.
He knew he shouldn’t be thinking about the risky trades their Chief Cargo Officer was so fond of. He had to get them out of Jump.
Concentrating his swimming vision on the computer screen – currently set up as Helm – Jaeger saw the familiar signature of Cyteen star coming up fast. Lining up on the stellar signature, he slammed them out of hyperspace.
As the real world coalesced around them, his real stomach lurched.
“No food or liquids for three days in jumpspace does bad things to a body,” he noted. “Better get some electrolytes into the system.”
His exit from Jump had been smooth enough that few members of the crew would be sick. Still, he was glad his cast-iron stomach took it so smoothly. He reached for the squeeze bottle of juice next to his console.
Over the comm he heard someone retching in Engineering.
“Probably Hamish again. I wish he’d use more Scope before Jump.”
The captain also had some trouble with jump sickness, Jaeger heard him munching on an energy bar. As usual, the rest of the bridge crew provided some much needed support to that chair.
“That was a grand kip!” Maeve’s voice rang out. As usual he had a hard time telling how serious she was. “Fair play on the helm there, Jaeger.” He decided to play along.
“Thanks Maeve. But it’s nothing for a helmsman as gifted as I.”
The comm in his left ear – tuned as usual to the below-decks chatter from the Division Chief – seemed to indicate Hamish was going to need some medical attention. Captain Patrick was fairing better.
He did pulsed the drive vanes once and brought the ship’s velocity down to about two-thirds light.
“Even without Hamish’s magic.”
By then, however, Hamish had his stomach under control. And was feather the jump vanes for maximum efficiency as a Pulse Drive.
“Invented it, after all.”
“Stop the lights,” Maeve was still editorializing on his Helm duties. “The Caoilte drive has always given us a smooth landing.”
She and Hamish were always pushing to name the Pulse Drive after some obscure Irish privateer. Jaeger didn’t think it would ever catch on.
“Pirates aren’t too popular these days.” What with the war and all.
Maeve, of course, thought of herself as a different kind of pirate.
“And Hamish doesn’t hesitate to encourage her.”
Maer Lynn O’Reilly figured they oughta head over to Engineering. Much as they would prefer to do some reading on side projects.
“Sounds like Hamish could use some medical attention.”
“Ship ID broadcast,” came over the comm.
“Mr. Drake, scan for possible threats.” From the captain.
“Automated ID sent,” Dandin reported.
“Ship’s speed at normal inner-system cruising level.” That was Jaeger.
When they got to Engineering, their first worked wonders on Hamish’s stomach.
“Less sure about his head.”
“En route to Cyteen Station,” Jaeger announced over comm.
As they returned to the Science section, sounds of crew getting out of the bunks they spent Jump in could be heard. Showers were turning on and off. Dublin Again was getting ready for a wild shore leave in port.
So was Maer Lyn.
They didn’t get the chance. Captain Patrick ordered some of the bridge crew and all of the Division Chiefs to go with him down to the surface of Cyteen.
“The surface?” they asked the captain. Maeve was busy with her trading computers making deals to sell the exotic metals before news got out about how much they were bringing to the station.
When she wasn’t listening to whispers from Hamish and giggling.
The captain explained the reason for their meeting on the surface. “I expect they are trying to get us discombobulated.”
“Spacers are notoriously put out by their first view of an horizon,” they admitted.
And, indeed, when they got their feet on the “ground,” they all found it hard to deal with a horizon that disappeared down, instead of curving upward.
“Like a ship or a station.” The way it ought.
“The planetary authorities are known as the Council of Nine,” the captain explained. “They’ve requested a meeting with us.”
The Captain Patrick turned to Maer Lynn and Hamish.
“That’s why I asked the two of you to come along. Cyteen’s government and its power are based on their scientific and technical superiority. They have the most advance science – especially psychology and tape training – in the area known to humans.”
“Even better than Earth itself,” they pointed out.
“Their government,” the captain continued, “reflects this. Scientists run the show. We’ll probably be meeting with scientists today, even if they introduce themselves as government officials.”
Captain Patrick O’Reilly announced their arrival in the system in his usual stentorian tones. His voice echoing through the ship, he told everyone to be on their best behavior.
“My Executive Officer will be in charge.” As usual. He didn’t need to say that.
She had put in a special request when he told her he was not taking Drake or Jaeger down with him. She had a pair of unposted crew from the Command Track who were chafing under the delay they had experienced getting posted to sitting crew.
“They know the reasons,” she told him. “They just get tired of working the simulations and shadow bridge. I think you should take them along. I’ve instructed the to keep quiet and observe how diplomacy works.”
He agreed to take them. And she agreed to keep an eye on Drake.
Before they left the ship to board a Union shuttle down to the planet, he heard Hamish over the comm.
“What’s the craic, Maeve? Anything arseways up there?”
Of course, the Chief Cargo officer was deep in her Trading Programs. Patrick saw she was studying the grain markets, which could be tricky on planets that produced a lot of grain themselves, even if they relied on feed grain imports for their meat production.
His helmsman set them down on the dock at Cyteen Station as smoothly as he had expected.
“Docked at Cyteen Station, you may disembark,” Dandin announced when he gave the Comm Officer the high sign.
Maeve asked Hamish how he felt about metal.
“In general like?”
“Or in specific.”
“I prefer hard rock,” Dandin interjected.
“I did ma Academy thesis on the resonant qualities of crystaline alloyed meshes. So, I’m rather keen on it.”
He announced the names of of the people going down to the surface, which included the two chatterboxes.
“Exotic metals, you think you could…” Maeve started before interrupting herself. “Nevermind, looks like you might be coming with us.”
“Right, time to crack on.” Hamish sounded a little disappointed.
Well, everyone would be disappointed to miss the shore leave on Cyteen Station.
Jaeger was looking over Maeve’s shoulder as she tried to sell some exotic metals.
“Jing Maeve, that’s pure dead brilliant!”
Patrick thought that sounded like they made a good profit on their exotic metals.
“The deal I have set up for us is up to 90,” the Cargo Officer announced
In fact, she was still working the programs on her PADD as they assembled in the conference room.
The preliminary discussions were handled by two members of the council, who seemed to be smirking at them. The Ariane Emory strode into the room. The other council members sprang to their feet.
“And stopped smirking,” he noted to himself.
He knew Ariane Emory was the real power on the council. And he had hardly expected her to be here. Emory seldom met with ship crews.
“Even those from ships as important as Dublin.” It was looking like one of their unposted crew was a little wobbly on his feet. “Probably the first time he’s ever been on a planet.”
He was proud, however, how they all kept their composure when the most powerful human this side of Earth itself walked into the room.
Drake O’Reilly had his Security Computers set up to show his the potential danger of every ship in the Cyteen System.
“At least the ones the buoy reported to our computers.” The Chief Security Officer didn’t trust anyone. “Least of all, an automated buoy.”
When they entered the system from jumpspace, the biggest icon on his board was a Union military vessel which the buoy showed as just arriving from Russell’s Star – “Or Mariner,” he had noted since they both used the same jump range. Not only was it big and dangerous, it was traveling as fast as they were.
“Near light speed.”
If it hadn’t bring it’s speed down soon, it could be in their vicinity before he would even see it on scan.
“Not that I expected them to do that.” The military craft was cutting its speed almost as fast as Jaeger was cutting theirs. He knew a high velocity made attacks possible that neither ship was likely to have any good reason to actually execute.
As soon as he had a scanner reading from the other vessels, his security screen reflected that.
Also for the other high-speed ships showing from the other jump ranges. By the time Dublin Again got to Cyteen, those ships also showed how much they had slowed.
Dandin O’Reilly knew he could sense the emotions of most people.
“I might even be able to communicate non-verbally with an expert psychologist like this.” He could do so with other empaths – as well as crewmates with whom he was extremely familiar, which included most of the bridge crew in the room.
He sensed Maer Lynn trying to promise to stop complicating the conversation.
“Right before they nodded off.”
Ariane Emory’s fame and fortune didn’t worry him much. Still, he wondered one thing.
“How sure is she about her claim of ending the war?”
He was certainly sensing no doubt from Maeve.
“She’s already planning how to exploit the markets at Downbelow Station, the space station orbiting Downbelow.” A fertile planet, also known as Pell. Of course, Downbelow Station was known as Deep Space One.
“On Earth. Out here no one calls it that.” Dandin knew it as the closest station to the Hinder Stars. And Earth.
“I have sent diplomats to accept the treaty the Alliance has offered,” Emory told them. He was sensing no doubt in her words. “They have offered to allow Union traders free access to their markets.”
He was wondering what Union would get out of telling them this.
“Certainly hasn’t been broadcast widely to the Merchant traders,” he mused.
“This Merchanter Alliance on the other side of the line is shaping up to be a major player in the Beyond,” Emory told them. “Union has a strong interest in getting good, honest Union Merchanters into the group. They are offering membership to any Merchant who visits them at Pell.”
Captain Patrick was asking her the question they were all wondering about.
“What exactly do we get out of this Alliance?” Dandin could see why Emory wanted it. The captain was demanding answers.
Maeve wanted money to act as Union’s agent. Or spy.
Dandin figured it was in Union’s best interest to get people they knew – like the O’Reillys – into this new power structure. He could tell she was under no illusions that Dublin was as loyal as a military vessel manned by her programmed clones.
“But she’s sure we’re more loyal than a Pell-based Merchanter who’s been fighting her for a dozen years.” Emory could not be naive enough to believe a treaty would change that.
Hamish O’Reilly could see the negotiations were a little out of hand.
“Our captain seems a bit upset at this lady’s brusque demeanor,” he thought to himself. Speaking calmly, he cut through Emory’s domination of the conversation.
That gave Captain Patrick an advantage: the chance to issue a daring gambit for a bit more respect. Which the captain did.
Emory glanced at Hamish and smiled. Friendly. The captain had turned her friendly, even if she maintained her brusque demeanor
“Hmm. Complication.” She was smiling at Hamish himself. Almost as if she appreciated his tactics.
Maeve O’Reilly saw Emory looking at Hamish with a newfound respect.
“The manipulator respects his skill,” she told herself as Emory wrote something on a piece of paper. “As a fellow manipulator.”
Hamish was mumbling.
All Maeve understood was “…politic. Gobshite.”
When Emory refused her suggestion they could be bribed, the Chief Cargo Officer suggested espionage. And Emory smiled. Again.
Emory asked the others to leave, inviting Maeve and Hamish to stay behind. Hamish glanced at Maeve out of the corner of his eye.
Emory folded a piece of paper and handed it to Hamish.
Maeve was able to see a name on the paper before she folded it. “Josh Talley.” And a codephrase.
“Does the Union have agents in the Alliance?” Maeve wanted to use the advantage provided by Hamish’s calming gambit. And she saw that Emory like to dominate – and control – the conversation.
“It’s well known that I have the ability to train agents for that kind of role.” Agents who might not even know they were agents, if rumors were true. “I do have superior tape-training capabilities for my clones.” With the ability to be perfect moles, according to what Maeve had heard.
“Yes, and you did just come through a war with the Alliance.”
“Which is why I desire to have people I can trust on the inside of the Alliance,” Emory told them as she ushered her and Hamish out to the shuttle where the captain and the others.
Captain Patrick seemed to have a strong interest in keeping control of the situation.
“He would have more control if he delegated more.”
Dandin was equally dedicated. To the Security situation, by what Maeve could tell.
Alex O’Reilly had held his tongue all the way through the meeting, His curiosity got the better of him when they were no longer under the watchful eyes of Union authorities.
“I don’t get it,” he told the captain. “We gave her everything she wanted. What did we get in return?”
The others nodded in seeming agreement.