…where rumors say peace has broken out.
Not content to simply buy as much of the rejuvenation drugs as she could, Maeve O’Reilly set out to corner the rejuv supply.
“Alright boys,” she told the bridge crew, “lets give it a lash on this rejuv market.” She wanted the drug’s supply chain to promise to sell her more rejuvenation products than local production could supply. “And since Cyteen is the only place that it’s produced, that means the O’Reillys will have the market cornered.”
No easy task, which was why Maeve wanted to try it.
She expected a new market to be opening up for rejuv: Earth, perhaps the most lucrative market ever.
Two things had long prevented rejuvenation drugs from being sold on Earth: The Hinder Stars, a string abandoned star systems that strung between the Mother Planet and Pell; and the War, a conflict between the Earth Fleet based at Pell and the Union Fleet based at Cyteen.
Maeve knew something the markets didn’t. One of those things was about to go away. The war was almost done.
“In fact,” she thought to herself, “it’s probably already over.”
For Maeve had been invited by Captain Patrick O’Reilly to take part in negotiations with the supreme commander of Union’s Fleet, Ariane Emory. As the mover and shaker behind Union’s Council of Nine, Emory was one of the main reasons why the war was even fought. She sought Union’s dominance in the Beyond.
With Captain Patrick helping her, she was able to ignore the risk of complications from the market-maker who was aware of her efforts to corner the market. The side effects of those transaction distract from the grain and chemical markets.
“Precursor chemicals that are crucial to making rejuv.” Selling those would also also give her the resources – monetary, anyway – to buy rejuv. “Alright boys, lets give it a lash on this rejuv market.”
Dandin O’Reilly was hacking the markets with his Communications Array.
“With some success.” Not a lot, but his attempt to spread rumors on the local ’net did help some with Maeves effort to corner the rejuv. “Mainly with the power of the Communications Array. Nobody expects those dishes on the outside of Dublin to be active during dock.”
Except Maeve, who was watching the rumor mills assiduously.
“On the tear Dandin, sound move,” the chief cargo officer told him. “After this, lets have a few gargles. Alex and Kieran say its jammers down there.”
Dandin was already setting up a deal for an early departure. He told the data hub they would be collecting mail for Mariner.
Kieran O’Reilly decided that his usual dive bar just wasn’t going to cut it.
“It’s a fancy place for me this leave,” he told Alex, the commanding officer on their watch. Which was actually not really a watch, since they were both Unposted crew. “We’re Command Track so we should be looking for an upscale bar with stationers looking for a good time with some real spacers.”
As they waited in the crowded space where everyone who had station leave was piled up, Alex eyed him warily.
Kieran knew what that meant: His CO would be tagging along on the expensive strip of bars and sleepovers he was headed for.
Alex was OK. A good time, even. Just as bored as Kieran was with being Unposted, so he was willing to take chances when partying. Chances like hanging out with Kieran, the wild man of the Command Track.
The reason? They were bored with their roles as the two oldest crew among the ranks of the Unposted.
“What we get for going for Command Track,” Alex told him, quoting his mother once again. “Only one gets to be The Old Man.” As cool and powerful as Captain sounded, there were only 16 posted slots on the Command Track. As opposed to over 250 in Cargo.
“All the more reason to do a little bragging,” he told Alex, after he had a couple of stiff drinks in him. Soon he was telling the whole room their captain had been invited to talk to Ariane Emory herself.
Alex O’Reilly was glad he followed Kieran to the expensive restaurant he had chosen.
“Jeez, the captain is here.”
Kieran was bragging a lot.
“Unfortunately, he’s bragging about Dublin business.” Alex’s executive officer was not known for discretion when he was drinking. “That’s why I followed him, after all.”
Glad that Kieran slept through the meeting with Ariane Emory, he tried to steer the bragging to Kieran’s fighting abilities and sexual prowess.
“Hey, remember than time on Mariner, when you….” he began.
The next thing he remembered was waking up in a sleepover with two burly cargo handlers.
“And a hangover.”
Wait a minute. He did remember something else from the fancy bar. Maeve had been there. Working on her PADD.
“Musta been there to take advantage of the captain’s fancy dinner party.” To manipulate the market through the other captains Captain Patrick had invited.
And their communications officer had been there as well. Probably hacking the local computers. Alex knew Dandin liked to help out when Maeve was trying to do some market manipulation.
“Looked like Maeve was having better success than her erstwhile help.”
Captain Patrick O’Reilly was trying to ignore the hubbub the Unposteds were creating over by the bar. At his very private table he was hosting several of the most important captains currently in port. He felt this was important work, hosting dinner parties to improve the reputation of Dublin Again.
“And it’s working.” He could see several of the most influential captains were here. Neihart from Finity’s End. Chin from Little Bear.
And they didn’t know that Dublin would soon be headed over the line. Where he hoped to pick up even more influence.
“In the Merchanter’s Alliance.” Which might prove to become the third great power in the Beyond. “After the Earth Fleet and Union.”
He heard Dandin talkintg about suppressing a complication that had arisen.
“I hope that has something to do with the ruckus at the bar.” He saw Kieran was arm-wresting a stevedore at a table in the darker section of the cocktail lounge. “Glad the other captains can’t see his shamrock.”
Turned out that Dandin was helping Maeve spread rumors at the dinner party.
“Something about the rejuv market.”
Which Maeve seemed to be happy with.
“A grand auld stretch,” she called Dandin’s effort.
Maeve herself was tied into her market computers back on the ship, using her PADD. She had all the money she needed now, having sold the chemicals and grain.
The captain was wishing she had spent a little more effort manipulating the grain markets before she jumped into rejuv.
“The grain market on Cyteen is notoriously tricky,” he told another captain. “The planet produces some of the grain they need. My cargo chief thought bringing in feed grains for the livestock they are trying to get started as part of their terraforming effort.”
From the smile on Maeve’s face, he was guessing she had been right. Again.
“Here let me introduce her to you.”
Walking over to Maeve, he introduced Captain Reinhart. Who was was definitely impressed.
“So, I finally get to meet the famous Maeve O’Reilly,” Reinhart said. “I heard you were selling grain.”
“Selling rejuv, right now,” Maeve told him. “Got a tip the war is heating up, so my rejuv may soon be worthless.”
Patrick could see others were listening in. Some even pulled out their PADDs.
“Thinking they’re talking to their own cargo officers.” Not that there was any truth to Maeve’s rumors.
“All hands in the club,” Maeve told Dandin. “It’s a deadly buzz down here.”
He saw Dandin wander out of the restaurant.
“Probably didn’t like their version of apple pie.”
“Came from a plastic bag labeled ‘Fruit Pie’,” somebody observed.
“Dandin can be picky about his apples.”
Then he heard Hamish over the comm, “Maeve, what’s the story? Rejuv apples? Ya out of yer head?”
“I’d prefer that than getting a shot in the ass,” came the retort from Dandin. As always, the comms officer was monitoring communications.
“Are you having notions?” Maeve shot back. “I need everyone who’s able to buy Rejuv stock.”
“We may not be back here for decades….” Dandin mused. “Ya know, Rejuv stock might not be a bad idea. Just think of the value after reinvesting the dividends for a quarter century!”
Captain Patrick decided he was going to have to explain to his communications officer how station taxes were designed to make sure absentee-owner spacers couldn’t take advantage of compound interest.
“A lot of Merchanters tried to take advantage of that in the early years.” Couldn’t ever be sure, however, if the stock exchange you invested in would still be around the next time you came through. “Especially when the owners of the stock exchange could be light-years away on your money.”
Jaeger was apparently out trying to buy rejuv from a corner pharmacy. He reported that the pharmacist told him the drugs were in short supply.
“Maybe someone’s trying to corner the market.”
“Do not take rejuv if you are allergic to rejuv,” Hamish advised.
Maeve told him it was harder than he thought for 145-year-old men to impress people with their dance moves. She also said Dandin was helping her with the markets
“Hamish, you want to get on this Market Computer for me?” he heard her ask. “I’m out of my head with these screens.”
“Sure, Maybe,” the chief engineer replied over the comm. “Happy to help, like. If it’s just numbers, I’d imagine I’m good for it.”
Next thing he knew Maeve told him Hamish was providing her an advantage in the markets. He still wondered if she understood how much of the available drugs she was buying.
Hamish may have created some complications as well, but as a parental figure he was able to paper over it.
“As long as we’re all working together as a big, happy family,” he told Maeve, “we should be fine.” Just don’t expect me to do it again or these other captains will get suspicious.
He saw the text come in from Hamish: “Well, here’s some numbers crunched, Maeve. Easier than my yoke of a project. I’m in state up here.”
After helping Maeve with the other captains, he sent a message to Hamish about his project.
“Something about making jumps a little easier on the body, as I recall.”
His chief engineer reported an actual breakthrough on the project.
“Not what I was hoping for,” Hamish reported. “Everything I do to reduce the strain of jump sickness comes with greater risk of jump failure.”
“Failure?” he texted back. “As in being stuck forever in hyperspace?”
“As in being stuck forever in jumpspace,” the engineer confirmed.
Dandin reported the local apple market was trickier than he expected.
“For a space station orbit a planet, anyways.”
“Even a planet being terraformed?” he asked.
“Even a planet being terraformed,” the communications officer confirmed.
Patrick was glad he was helping Maeve use her sharp tong at the dinner party.
“Didn’t take long for the two of us to convince the other captains to order their cargo officers to stop trading in the ‘volatile’ rejuv markets,” he told Maeve.
She admitted she hadn’t cornered the market.
“But we do have all the drugs for rejuvenation therapy that are available.”
“So nobody was willing to sell you drugs they don’t have,” he consoled her, “and couldn’t find.”
Dandin was already collecting data cargo commission jobs when they returned to the ship the next morning.
Hamish O’Reilly was ready to help the helmsman push it past the red line for the jump itself.
“Unfortunately, I tried to push it a little too far.”
He had to settle for the usual help he gave Jaeger in feathering the vanes for the pulse drive.
“That worked way better.” Because it was less daring. “At least we had no complications.” Complications were bad when you tried to push the safety tolerances.
Captain Patrick even lent a hand with the feathering adjustments. And Hamish felt his neck flush with embarrassment.
“Probably noticed my gimmicking the operating margins.”
Jaeger O’Reilly heard the comm officer talking to Medical: “Prepare for Jump. Please make sure that protein packs are supplied,….”
and a double for Hamish, if you please."
Glad he didn’t have to listen to their response, the helmsman knew the youngers responsible for restocking the jump tranqs and snacks were very diligent about their duties. Nobody knew the importance of jump stocks better than those training for Medical.
“They’re the ones who clean up when someone gets sick.”
“No complications lining up jump,” he reported. The helmsman knew the jump to Mariner was tricky. “But we’re a big ship, capable of deep dives into jumpspace.” And Jaeger knew they were running light. His calculations took into account the exact weight of the ship. “And drugs are expensive but light.”
Maeve had spent all their money on rejuvenation drugs. Which should bring a good price on the other side of the line.
“Oh Stop the Lights,” the cargo officer was talking back to Dandin. “Its just another spacejump.”
“Bring me a shot of whisky instead,” Hamish was playing along, even if the joke was on him. “It’ll see me right.”
Jaeger had Mariner lined up in his sights.
“I think he was slagging you, Hamish,” Maeve’s laughter rang out. “He’s a real gasman.”
“I’m just scarlet for last jump.” Hamish was always willing to go along with the joke.
“Hey now!” came the comm officer’s reply. “I only get gassy when I haven’t had my daily apple.”
“You should be scarlet for the shipyard for making the ship.”
“I’m scarlet for you, Maeve. You wrecked old bag.”
At least Jaeger was getting help from the captain. The cargo officer was usually no help in jump prep, but she was distracting his chief engineer.
“Who are you calling wrecked?” Maeve shot back. “You shoulda seen Alex and Kieran last night, they could do with a great bit of drying out.”
Jaeger keyed in the final coordinates for the jump to Mariner.
“I’m getting a lot of proverbial fist-shaking from the system.” Dandin was apparently monitoring the in-system communications from Cyteen. “I think they all finally figured out what we just did.”
“The head on them” came from Engineering. “Feckin’ eejits.”
“Let em shake themselves silly. I’m just ragin’ that we couldn’t have cornered the market before buying out the planet.” Maybe Maeve was mad. “Eejits they were, but kin they be. If the captain don’t eat their head off, I will.”
Jaeger didn’t think the captain’s diplomacy would be helped any if the other captains could hear these three bragging. He hoped Hamish would be more use at Mariner.
“And on the other side of the line.”
“You know, I’m thinking we should only sell a bit of this cargo at Pell.” He knew Dandin was speculating far outside his areas of expertise. “I bet the real demand will be in Sol.”
“The feckin’ apples?” He could tell Hamish was confused. “On Sol?”
“Right, I bet the apple market us up to 90 on Sol.” Maeve was playing along.
“Everybody’s ragin’ for apples on Sol. Deadly popular, those apples.”
Jaeger was hoping the captain would take this as a joke. The war was over, but the Hinder Stars had been shut down for centuries.
“Decades by my own internal clock.” The helmsman could remember visiting them, before Earth had stopped funding its fleet. Before the Earth Company fleet had turned pirate. “Just privateers, back then.” Of course, they still called themselves privateers. “Even still call themselves Earth Company.” Up until recently they called themselves the defenders of Pell.
They called the tribute they took from Pell “taxes,” too.
“Nah, but I hear Sol is where they originally came from,” Dandin admitted. “What I wouldn’t give to try one straight from the homeworld.” Dandin’s apples came from the orchards of Cyteen. Which was part of the terraforming project there.
“Speaking of, you better cop to an apple, Dandin,” the chief engineer said over the comm. “Give me a shot of that.”
“There’s a whole ton of them in the larder,” the comms chief shot back. “You want one? Talk to the cook!”
He announced they were going into jump.
“Everybody take your tranqs.”
His own drugs were starting to take effect, so he slammed them into jumpspace.
“Has Mariner always had that batty of a sun?” Maeve wanted to know.
Of course, it had. For a very long time. Jaeger knew K-class stars had been around almost as long as the class Ms.
“Which are as old as the Milky Way.” Our galaxy. The helmsman also knew others didn’t know as much about astronomy as he did. “Maeve didn’t have to be able to identify a class-K from jumpspace and pull us out near enough to survive.” But not too close. Burning up was not a good way to go.
That was why he always tried to bring them out of hyperspace well away from the star he was aiming for. In Mariner’s case it was a bright orange class K. Easy to look at, so Maeve could see all its roiling energies.
G-class stars like Cyteen’s actually poured out more energy and seethed with stronger storms. Which made them harder to look at. And Maeve couldn’t tell how “batty” they were.
Hamish was jumpsick again, along with Jaeger himself. Which was a shame, he like to count on Hamish for help with system entry when he was feeling the stress of jump. The chief engineer was the one who understood pulse drives better than anyone.
He felt Hamish feathering the vanes and performed the first braking pulse.
The captain was watching the security boards, and Dandin was listening to the news.
“The secret’s out,” the comms officer announced. “Rumor’s all over Mariner. Peace has been declared, and Union is no longer at war with Pell.”
All that from the jump-range buoy, Jaeger was thinking. I guess Emory wasn’t lying.