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Trade Windows : Chapter 2
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Smee



Joined: 16 Oct 2004
Posts: 5215
Location: UK

Posted: Sun Feb 01, 2009 11:59 pm    Post subject: Trade Windows : Chapter 2  

Chapter 2

"Unpack the Punisher. Something about the meeeting with Garat yesterday has put an itch between my shoulderblades that won't go away. I'll feel better with a bit of speed, and the ability to stick a missile up his backside if necessary."

Mart nodded and hurried off to the cockpit of his Bestower. From there he could open the vast cargo hold and have a dock crane lift out the smaller ship. Targh waited on the platform impatiently, still annoyed he'd overslept and now with tenfold the eagerness to be off the station and back in space.

A few seconds later Mart and the Docking Control agents had done their work and the Punisher was lowered down next to the cargoship, its golden hull gleaming in the internal lighting. Targh hurried inside.

A brief moment of darkness gave way to the soft blue glow of power circuits, and control interfaces lining the walls. Targh didn't wait for his eyes to adjust to the gloom, he just jogged down the familiar corridors guiding himself by memory. The soft hiss of an auto-door opening revealed the bridge and control centre for the ship.

Dominating the circular room, rather than banks of computer screens and interfaces, was the hollow egg-shaped pod becoming so much more common as Capsuleer pilot numbers increased. It was tall, about two meters, and the dark metalic base which mounted the pod securely to the deckplating beneath, was surrounded by a mass of cables connecting it to every part of the ship. Inside, the thick but clear skin revealed nothing, it was empty and had been for several months. Targh hadn't flown his Punisher for a while.

"Prepare for Pod Initialisation." Targh commanded the computer.

The only acknowledgement of the order was a brief beep, but almost immediately the cabling around the base took on the same blue glow as the power circuits on the rest of the ship. A hatch in the top was pulled out by an overhead lifting unit, and it lowered the attached harness down to ground level. Securing his belongings in a wall cubical, Targh quickly removed his loose fitting clothing, shivered and headed over to the harness. With practiced ease he fastened himself inside it. As the last saftey catch clicked into place the lifting unit immediately rose up, taking Targh with it, and gently lowered him inside the pod. With a hiss of sealing gases, the hatch on top shut and instantly pumps started filling it with a warm, oozing amber liquid. Targh ignored it, concerning himself instead with final checks of his harness. Satisfied, he leaned back, and relaxed. Finally he was home.

The liquid continued to rise, submerging Targh quickly in its sticky warmth. As it approached his neck, a head unit came down, sliding down over his face, and coming to rest on his shoulders. A mouthpiece, that would supply him with food, air and water for as long as he needed, slotted into place. A few moments later his head was submerged and Targh braced himself for final connection. His eyes blinked underneath the fluid, having no problem opening as they surveyed their new dark orange environment.

A mechanical jolt announced the incoming connectors, and Targh only winced slightly as the row of eight lengthy probes shot into the corresponding sockets along his spine. Near instantly his senses were overwhelmed by input. From the numb, nothingness of the pod, to being intimately aware of every single atom interacting with the surface of the ship. The complicated series of sensors throughout the ship fed their output directly into Targh, and he let out a gasp of pleasure as his vision became that of the multitude of visual sensors that covered the exterior as well as the interior of the Punisher.

Using his training to focus his mind through the mass of information, he accessed the ship's communication systems and quickly patched himself through to Mart's ship.

"Mart! I'm in the capsule and doing final checks."

"Roger that Targh. My crew are just locking the cargo hold down. Station control has us on undock-alert and we're free to leave."

"Go, I'll see you out there."

Unlike Mart, whom still flew manually with a normal crew, Targh hadn't balked at the future of ship piloting. Despite the massive expense, and hardships of training as a capsuleer, he'd passed with good grades and been genetically suited for the extensive implants. A lifelong dream had been realised some half dozen years earlier when he first entered a pod.

Targh switched to thruster control and began engine start up sequences, at the same time he ran his awareness over weaponry, electronics, shield generation and repair systems all at the speed of thought. The computer responded to his commands just as fast. Man and machine working together in perfect synchrony.

The nearby roar of engines announced the Bestower moving from it's dock. Targh winced and switched his view to watch it go. Mart always burnt too hard to get moving. Bringing his own engines online and taking telemetry from all camera angles, the Punisher followed, inching away from the dockside with barely a murmur. His mind processed the calculations with long years of practice, the engines being burnt on and off in a delicate ballet of control impossible from all but a capsuleer. With an internal smile, and a twitch of thought, Targh turned the frigate around on the spot, and headed to the mouth of the undocking tunnel. Moving the ship to a trained pilot took no more thought than walking. One foot in front of the other.

"Come on old man, get that beast out the way."

"Well it don't take a genius to know what's cheered you up! It's strange times when a man's only happy whilst naked in a giant egg!"

"Haha, you're just jealous."

"Jealous, my ass! T'aint natural."

"Can't judge what you haven't tried, my friend. Ready or not, I'm coming down."

"No, wait, I still be clearing the ..."

Targh cut him off, and with a whoop of joy he opened up full throttle on his engines and roared down the docking shoot. Magnetic bearings lining the walls flowed over his metallic 'skin' and he felt the extra acceleration. With a gargled yelp from Targh, the cresent-moon shaped craft shot out from the Station like a cork from a bottle, the extra speed given to help ships clear the entrance faster.

Directly in front of him the wallowing bulk of the Bestower was only a few hundred meters away. With a mental jerk, Targh cut the engines from the starboard side whilst firing thrusters from the port, and glided into a smooth right hand arc that sailed harmlessly past the cargo ship.

"You crazy fool!" The squark of the comm system came back. Targh just laughed.

"Come my friend, lets line you up with the cargo docking port. It's time we met this 'boss'."

~

It took a further twenty minutes to slowly maneuver the Bestower around the station to the other side. Whilst Mart finished connecting the loading clamp to the cargohold doors, Targh halted directly above, and established a connection with the station. A few minutes later he was patched through to the comm system on the otherside of the loading clamp.

"You do be late. Boss no be happy with you... gah!"

Garat's voice was cut off with the sound of a brief argument, muffled as if someone held a hand to the comm speaker. A few seconds later a new voice appeared.

"Mr D'yer, I assume!"

"You have the advantage over me, Sir. I'm afraid I don't know your name." Targh doubted this 'boss' would tell him, but it was worth trying.

"And I work hard to keep it that way. A man of my stature has his share of disagreements, and perhaps more than my share of enemies. I'm sure you understand."

"Entirely understandable, but let us not linger over pleasantries. Do you have the agreed shipment ready?"

"Indeed I do, Mr D'yer. And let me express how grateful I am to have this business. Clearly you too are a man of importance to have connections with clients willing to pay such prices."

Targh frowned. Everything over the last few weeks in setting up this deal had led him to see this boss as an arrogant fool with a paranoia complex. And one that saw Targh as a nobody he was dirtying himself by dealing with. Yet here he was, offering banter and compliments like lifelong friends. It didn't make sense.

A flash in his interface alerted him to a message from Mart. He was in place.

"My associate is docked. Let's get this underway."

"Immediately, Mr D'yer. I'll be in contact once complete."

The comm signal went quiet, and Targh frowned again. The itch between his shoulderblades had grown. On an impulse he checked the system scan. It was quiet, only a handful of ships were moving around anywhere in the 15AU scan radius.

A signal from the Bestower flashed, and Targh connected. Immediately Mart's voice could be heard.

"The first crates are coming in. My staff tell me everything looks in order."

"Good, good, keep me updated."

"You ok? You sound a bit... distracted."

"Just one of those gut feelings. I can't see anything wrong though. It's probably just a sensory ghost from being out the pod so long."

"Your feelings have been right in the past. Stay sharp."

"I will, my friend. Targh out."

~

Ok, we're in our ship, the cargo is being loaded and all appears to be fine. But Targh is twitchy about something. What, dear readers, is he going to do?

As we're still new into this world, I'll give you a few possibilities, but feel free to come up with your own ideas. If it's not feasible, I'll let you know.

- Ignore the feeling and just proceed

- Contact the boss again ... what would you say/ask that might help confirm/quell your fears?

- Try and hack into the space station's camera network, get a look at this boss and see if it gives any clues to validate the suspicions. (If you're caught hacking it will lead to any number of possible punishments depending on the mood of the station owner. A hefty fine, cargo confiscation, possibly lose docking rights at this station in the future.)

- Something else?
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scissorkitty



Joined: 04 Mar 2008
Posts: 789
Location: Escaping the Hair Lair

Posted: Mon Feb 02, 2009 8:08 am    Post subject:  

Ooo! Great chapter, Smee!

Hmm.. definitely that gut feeling should be trusted- I'm a huge believer in that kind of thing. If he's been right in the past, it's natural to trust his instincts this time around. Does the ship have any sort of hard-to-detect, detachable sensor-probe or something that Targh could send out on the sly to gather extra information? This would allow him to avoid pissing off the station owners, and may also provide him with extra "backup" when/ if it's needed. But I REALLY think it's going to be when, 'cause this definitely reeks on the fishy side.
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Crunchyfrog



Joined: 12 Dec 2006
Posts: 3998

Posted: Mon Feb 02, 2009 2:24 pm    Post subject:  

I think the 'itch' he has is that whatever's in those crates may not be what he expected. They're either empty, or full of something not very nice.

Targh is at one with his ship. I am making the assumption that machines can talk to machines in this universe. So I think that since Targh 'is' the Punisher, he will start communicating with the Bestower - machine to machine - to see if it can detect what's coming aboard, rather than worry Mart, its pilot. :)
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The Powers That Be



Joined: 19 May 2005
Posts: 545
Location: Santa Monica, CA

Posted: Mon Feb 02, 2009 4:13 pm    Post subject:  

Naw, it's just a sensory ghost. Everything will be just fine.

By the way, do we routinely take on cargo without seeing that we've received what we've been promised? When Mart says, "everything looks in order," have they confirmed that they're getting what they're supposed to?
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scissorkitty



Joined: 04 Mar 2008
Posts: 789
Location: Escaping the Hair Lair

Posted: Mon Feb 02, 2009 4:17 pm    Post subject:  

Good point, Powers! Mart may be slacking in his job there, if he's taking in all those boxes at face value. What if they've been shafted on the stock.. it looks like the right amount of parts, but it's easy enough to fill up empty space with junk that weighs the right amount.
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Smee



Joined: 16 Oct 2004
Posts: 5215
Location: UK

Posted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 12:15 am    Post subject:  

Sorry Skitty, the only probes that can be sent out are limited to tracking down other ships in a system, and other interesting places. For example, the scan he just did, revealed several ships within 15 AU range. But it won't give any indication as to where precisely they are.

If you wanted to find one of those ships, (and they were trying to hide) a variety of detailed probes, of varying resolution and range have to be used in concert to pinpoint them. And even then, it's a skilled task. Space is big, ships small.

~

Nice thinking Chrunchy, but not quite the case. It's more like every control of the ship, rather than being on control panels, is directly linked to his brain instead. The machine is no more sentient. If he wanted more information from Mart's ship he could scan it himself, or ask Mart for the details. However, a crewed ship like Mart's couldn't tell you any more about the cargo from just its sensors. It would need human intervention.

On a pod ship it is different. There are some cargobay drones that could be controlled into open the boxes and scanning them. What they'd learn though wouldn't likely be any more detailed. Possibly less so. The drones are mainly just designed for lifting/carrying of cargo into and out of the hold.

~

Mart runs this ship as Captain, with a normal human crew of about 40. About half of those are down in the cargo bays taking the cargo onboard. Mart himself will be on his bridge.

Quote: "everything looks in order,"

This will come from a supervisor ranked crew member down in the hold, and will have been passed to Mart from chip scans confirming quantities/item codes in the boxes. Hard to forge but not impossible by any means.

It can be an option for Targh to ask Mart to get one of the boxes opened and the mining lasers properly checked over. But if they get too enthusastic in their checking, then it could lead to damaging one of the lasers, in which case their delivery won't be complete.

Depending on the split of opinion I might make it a second poll... giving a variety of levels of cargo-checking. Open a box and have a brief look, have a thorough look in the boxes, and right down to, careful dismantling of a laser to see if there's anything suspect inside them. Clearly the more extreme the check, the more risk of damage to the stock, and the longer it'd take.

If you're all basically in agreement as to how much you want to check the stock then I'll incorporate it into the chapter without a poll.

But that still leaves Targh with nothing to do, so the main poll will continue. What is Targh going to do?

Some other things to possibly consider...

- Looking for the ship belonging to the 'boss'
- Docking, and meeting the 'boss' face to face. (Would require a shower, amber goo to be cleaned off ;) )
- Find out more about those other ships on the scan.
- Something else.

Few more days for thoughts.

Happy Playing :)
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D-Lotus



Joined: 21 Oct 2004
Posts: 4123
Location: Hollywood, USA

Posted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 4:57 pm    Post subject:  

Targh doesn't appear to be any petty smuggler. If he's been able to spend so much money in his training as a pilot, then it must mean that he wasn't always a smuggler, that he was once capable of affording to invest in his future. In fact, it says that becoming a pilot was his 'dream'- that doesn't sound like somebody who was a criminal from early on. Maybe he's somewhat of an idealist?

As for what Targh should do, I think he should contact the boss again and ask him something that might throw him off his guard. For example, ask him something specific about the merchandise and see if he can answer. If Targh is being swindled, then the Boss won't be able to respond spontaneously. This has to be a question that is so specific that only the most elaborate lie could conceal the truth.
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The Powers That Be



Joined: 19 May 2005
Posts: 545
Location: Santa Monica, CA

Posted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 7:58 pm    Post subject:  

D-Lotus wrote: Targh doesn't appear to be any petty smuggler. If he's been able to spend so much money in his training as a pilot, then it must mean that he wasn't always a smuggler, that he was once capable of affording to invest in his future. In fact, it says that becoming a pilot was his 'dream'- that doesn't sound like somebody who was a criminal from early on. Maybe he's somewhat of an idealist?

As for what Targh should do, I think he should contact the boss again and ask him something that might throw him off his guard. For example, ask him something specific about the merchandise and see if he can answer. If Targh is being swindled, then the Boss won't be able to respond spontaneously. This has to be a question that is so specific that only the most elaborate lie could conceal the truth.
:goodpost:

*bows down to the Master Storygamer*

That's what I'm voting for.
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The White Blacksmith



Joined: 02 Apr 2006
Posts: 2629

Posted: Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:57 am    Post subject:  

Who says he's a smuggler? This seems a legitimate purchase, though something is dodgy about it. How good is he at hacking? If he can hack the cameras well enough not to be detected, then he should do that. Otherwise, I F5 D.
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Smee



Joined: 16 Oct 2004
Posts: 5215
Location: UK

Posted: Thu Feb 05, 2009 2:04 pm    Post subject:  

Poll up tomorrow. Sleepy time now :)
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The Meaning Of Fear



Joined: 06 May 2006
Posts: 980
Location: In a deep, dark corner of the universe, plotting.

Posted: Sat Feb 07, 2009 7:35 pm    Post subject:  

Wow! I'm personally not a player of EVE online (Can't afford the monthly pay), but I have tried a week trial, which was pretty amazing. I'm surprised you managed to convert it so successfully into SG form.

How about adding some screenshots? Not exactly going to be a great addition to the story, but I think it might be nice to get a view of the ships-to-ship combat and other things going on.

Oh, and Capsuleers FTW. o-)
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Smee



Joined: 16 Oct 2004
Posts: 5215
Location: UK

Posted: Mon Feb 09, 2009 1:39 am    Post subject:  

Poll's up! :D

Note - toward the end is an option for more than one action, in which case I need you to post clearly which two/three you want.

Be aware of the possible consequences I've already detailed of some of the options. Where necessary I'll be rolling a dice to see if you suceed or fail, alternatively I might just be in a mood where I make everything fail. :-D

Vote carefully!

Happy Playing :)

EDIT:

Glad you're enjoying it Meany. Screenshots is an idea I've considered. But typically it doesn't turn out well. The combat in EvE seems good because you can see the ships moving, and hear the lasers/missiles firing etc, but on a screen shot it's just a predominately black screen with two small blobs and possibly some coloured lines denoting lasers lining between the two.

I may consider one of a space station, or some other area, but in general people's imaginations are better than any picture I can provide.
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scissorkitty



Joined: 04 Mar 2008
Posts: 789
Location: Escaping the Hair Lair

Posted: Mon Feb 09, 2009 8:00 am    Post subject:  

I vote for two options: inspect one of the lazers, and also, talk to the boss.. get whatever info you can, and hopefully- if the lazer is not up to spec- already have communication open with the boss and see what you can do from there. Plus,.. conversation is distracting so, if you need to make a quick getaway, at least you'll already have the Boss' attention elsewhere.
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Crunchyfrog



Joined: 12 Dec 2006
Posts: 3998

Posted: Mon Feb 09, 2009 8:55 am    Post subject:  

I voted for two options - Speak to the boss again and try and catchi him out, and have Mart inspect one of the lasers.

:tu:
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D-Lotus



Joined: 21 Oct 2004
Posts: 4123
Location: Hollywood, USA

Posted: Mon Feb 09, 2009 5:48 pm    Post subject:  

Same as Crunchy.
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scissorkitty



Joined: 04 Mar 2008
Posts: 789
Location: Escaping the Hair Lair

Posted: Tue Feb 10, 2009 7:17 am    Post subject:  

haa! Looks like we're all picking the same options!
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Smee



Joined: 16 Oct 2004
Posts: 5215
Location: UK

Posted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 12:39 am    Post subject:  

Another day or two on voting folks, get those last minute ones in.

Happy Playing :)
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Chinaren



Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 8791
Location: http://www.NeilHartleyBooks.com

Posted: Sun Feb 15, 2009 2:00 am    Post subject:  

I voted for 1, but I'd also like to vote for 4 and 5.
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Smee



Joined: 16 Oct 2004
Posts: 5215
Location: UK

Posted: Thu Feb 19, 2009 1:30 am    Post subject:  

A little later than planned (I've been ill offwork since last Friday :?) but poll closing time.

Adding up the multiple picks gives the following results :

- Camera hacking : 1
- Speak to 'Boss' again : 4
- Do nothing : 0
- Open cargo box for a look inside : 1
- Thoroughly examine one of the lasers : 5

So - as probably expected, we'll be trying to slip up the boss with another conversation, whilst we get Mart to examine one of the lasers (which will involve going through option 4).

Thanks for the votes folks, expect the chapter soon, and in the meantime, feel free to pop me on the favourites list, and/or vote for me in this month's SGoTM. ;)

Happy Writing :)
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DeadManWalking



Joined: 24 May 2006
Posts: 1005

Posted: Thu Feb 19, 2009 1:15 pm    Post subject:  

Remembered to read it just a bit too late to vote in the poll. *sigh*

Never played EvE online, but now i want to. :P

"Well it don't take a genius to know what's cheered you up! It's strange times when a man's only happy whilst naked in a giant egg!"

LOL

i do be F5ing Mart there.
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