Aftermath & Purgatorio Port
shuddered as he watched Ellsworth’s tarp wrapped body be unloaded from
the airlock of the cart they used to come to the Port, Sheriff Dunne
who accompanied the body on the journey to the Port quickly signed the
transfer forms turning it over to the Port Coroners office for autopsy
the young man hadn‘t like travelling with a dead body either but Orin
Travis claimed as a friend of the deceased he couldn’t preside over the
inquest so both body and comp downloads of everyone who had been in the
cistern were being given to Purgatorio Port to sort out. It
wasn’t the trip with the body that made him shudder as it was unloaded,
it was the fact travelling with the body reinforced the cold feeling
that had permeated his mind since he let Ellsworth go to his death in
the cistern, he knew it would pass it was merely due to the fact he had
never foreseen a death and let it happen before. He wasn’t an
innocent mining was one of the rougher strata of Federation society and
during the war it had become even more dangerous as Crystal became a
prime commodity on the black market as Allcon got desperate for
supplies, mine raids and piracy became a fact of life and often it
wasn’t any of the Empires at war doing the raiding but mercenaries
hired by the owners of the mines themselves to hijack shipments
destined for the Federation so they could to sell to Allcon for a
higher price while still being able to play victim of theft to the
Philip had been forced to take his first life at nineteen and as the War progressed that number had increased, the last death had been just before the war ended and was the real reason he returned to Finance, during that last raid he had so many precog flashes showing his own death to be inevitable he had blindly followed the first one that showed a chance of surviving in doing so he had been cornered, disarmed and dizzy from the blood loss from the knife buried in his shoulder that made him drop his reaper, a blow to the head produced blackness when he next woke he was being stripped, his mind being battered by the man intending to rape him, the man’s sick pleasure as he anticipated the act and the graphic mental pictures of what he intended to do to Philip afterwards before he killed him were horrifying as the man started unbuckling his own belt Philip had in blind panic instinctively reached out to the Generator Crystal in the engine near by as well as the sheets of Data waiting for transport and sent a battering ram of TK throwing his attacker into a wall, he had heard the man‘s neck snap as he passed out from Psi Exhaustion, blood loss and the rest of the damage he had taken, he had woken in the mine infirmary a week later and used the attack as a reason to leave the mines.
Philip mentally sighed at the memory, he was long recovered from that attack the crèche phycologist had for a year after his return put him back together, intellectually he knew killing the man with TK was no different from using a reaper or gun but for some reason using his Psi gifts to kill another human even in self defence left him feeling shaky and with Ellsworth he didn’t even have self defence to salve his conscious, it had been an execution. Turning away from the body he sighed knowing his mind was already assimilating the action, the Warrior mindset was both a blessing and a curse in it’s pragmatic ability to recover from doing things it considered necessary, already his mind was bouncing back with disgusting ease from killing a man telling him it wasn’t as if he had let an innocent die, Ellsworth had earned his death hundreds if not thousands of times over during his life and the man was already on the Atwater execution list for those deeds, he had merely jumped the gun by a few months. It helped that his Psi had recovered almost the instant Ellsworth died as if something greater than himself had approved of the action, as if it was something that had to be done.
Philip grimaced, it still didn’t change the fact he had let Ellsworth die long before they had planed for and in doing so had probably set in action a future he wasn’t a strong enough precog to see, every ESM precog had learnt that the hard way, nothing was fated if you could see it you had a chance of changing it or not, as the case may be. There were many theories about precognition one of which was that Psi Precog’s were a Psi manifestation of the Human Probability Gestalt their function in the great gestalt was to search out future problems and warn ahead so the gestalt could find solutions and courses of action before they became problems this had the added benefit of giving precog’s the ability to foresee future dangers to themselves as well. The main theory about the Oracles and the one Philip himself favoured as it explained why the Oracles voice changed and often spoke as if merely relaying a message from someone greater, this theory had the Oracles as the main precog processing terminals of humanity they didn’t actually see the future themselves but tapped into the combined power of all the precog’s available in the human gestalt they spewed out a condensed warning or advise from the gestalt as a whole, they were cryptic as the Oracles were just mouth pieces of the Great Precog Gestalt, they could be likened to a Shift screen display of a computer except they spoke not displayed the results, this theory also explained how five year olds suddenly sprouted cryptic warnings that stated ‘Destiny says’ or ‘Apollo says‘, five year olds haven’t a clue who those old God’s were but the Gestalt does and remembers the names given to the Precog Gestalt’s of old and to a five year old the name of a friend who tells you things to relay is very important as then they aren‘t frightening.
Looking up from his introspection or brooding as Glindala would call it, as their cart was joined by the Ghost cart belonging to Tanner, he nodded a greeting as the two Ghosts who were piloting it joined them, letting Dunne’s enthusiastic greeting occupy them as he brought his thoughts to the present once more, once the greetings were over they left the coroner office and headed to a different part of the old Port Chamber being used by the port‘s law enforcement offices, Purgatorio Port while smaller than it’s siblings was still massive, Corridor ships were big enough to cap a mountain as they were doing in Four Corners, Purgatorio Port from above only showed a stretch of desert overed in the round hulls arranged in a geometric pattern, between the old hulls you could see water from the massive wells that held the water supply for each section of the massive port. The port itself was mainly underground carved out of solid rock deep into the desert each corridor ship dome with their giant airlocks big enough for a barge to access covered a section of the port called a chamber and was filled with parking bays, offices, warehouses, shops and apartments around a access well, a barge or cart would enter through the dome airlocks and go down until they reached the level they wanted and park in a landing bay or freight dock for each section. Purgatorio was a small port but it could still house a population of a quarter of a million people come winter when Hades closed down. Since the advent of Crystal-Ceramic hulls throughout the corridors of man this had been the normal way a port was made as the domes from the old hulls could cap the chambers on any planet and any atmosphere including vacuum. The outer hulls of the old ships also made perfect beds to attach the Plasma solar panels to augmented the few Warp Crystal Arrays that kept the Port in power all year long.
Once the data work was done at the Coroner’s office the four of them went to the Port Law offices and Court house in the same Chamber as the Coroner’s office. At the Court offices they turned over a the sealed carton of comp-net downloads, memories from every person who had been in the cistern, while this was being downloaded into both the police computer system and the court house system as a added safety measure Tanner and Standish made a second download of their memory of the events leading up to the actual death, this second download witnessed by a Port official to add validity to the one Travis witnessed back in Four Corners, the two Ghost had met them at the Port Law Chamber because they had used their own cart to come to the Port and made a stop at the Chamber housing the Medical company that created the anti-toxin so they could sell the Yaglizard toxin sacks from the cistern. Once all the downloads were copied to the court storage under the coroner case file number and Ellsworth’s name and receipts were given to Sheriff Dunne for the evidence they could leave. If they were lucky that should be the end of it, especially as the original carton of downloads also included a download of each and every argument Ellsworth had with the four men they hired as guards about the danger of turning of most of the lights on the breaks and Ellsworth‘s repeated ignoring of that objection, the danger of his actions was highlighted with the very real actual memories of the native lizards showing up each time Ellsworth pulled that bone-headed action that finally got him killed.
Returning to the carts parked in the visitor parking bay of the Chamber of the Port housing the government of Hades they moved the two carts to another Chamber of the Port entering another hull dome and parking in the bays set aside for the Crystal Dawn offices and facilities. Crystal Dawn’s planet-side headquarters use to take up this entire Chamber but now it was reduced to less than a small fraction of what it use to need, Crystal Dawn’s active claims were now off world and they only needed a small office and accommodation for the asteroid miners on the monthly visits to the whorehouses between shift rotations. Fortunately even a tenth of a Dome Chamber was massive as it contained one of the big docks for the freight barges, work rooms, six VIP bedrooms, and twenty more normal bedrooms to house the visiting miners from the asteroid claims. It also had three apartments to house Crystal Dawn’s Port Rep and his two person staff as each had an apartment for themselves and their families, the rest of the area was made up of the main public reception area, the general offices, boardroom and communication centre. These days Crystal Dawn covered the cost of the section they kept by renting out the rest of the Port Chamber they made.
The only bad thing about building the port this way was the maze of corridors and specially constructed tunnels between the Chambers made traversing the port impossible without a map which was why computerised shift maps were placed at each junction the shift screen constantly updated from a master controller that kept track of where the companies and housing for the permanent inhabitants where located in the maze and could plot routes from that location if a destination was imputed, a transport tunnel using a system similar to the computer controlled magnetic mining tracks with specially built passenger skiff trains wove throughout the Port Chambers in a transport system that didn’t rely on barges and carts. Giant shopping malls for the big Port could be found clustered around the Chamber skiff passenger train stops.
Settling the men from Four Corners into the VIP accommodation after parking the carts in the Crystal Dawn‘s airlock parking bay, Philip Atwater went directly to the boardroom and activated the secure communication system and started a report to the main branch of Crystal Dawn back in Federation space, given the time delay over the distance even with the hyper warp junction relays actual real time conversations were impossible, it was more a ‘you send a report’ then ‘wait for a reply’ deal, with many hours between replies or if decisions were to be made sometimes days passed before a reply came back.
Philip sat down and reported Ellsworth’s death and the fact it would probably be a simple inquest as there didn’t seem to be any foul play, he gave them the file number so they could follow up the case along with the notification that the inquest was scheduled for eight am the day after next. Adding the rider that it had been Ellsworth’s own penny-credit pinching that caused his death giving a detailed account of the end result of his constantly turning of the lights. Next he gave another detailed report of all they had done to recoup Crystal Dawn’s reputation, emphatically stressing some of the findings had been shocking such as massive Generator rips left uncovered on a habitable planet, the report on Matralca Moss eating Crystal Mould and his private recommendation that it be seeded off world on any suspect Crystal Dawn properties immediately if not sooner and also be grown in the new mining Corridor as a safety measure to help lower the mould in the mines.
Pausing the report he called up his research into Matralca Moss from all the botanical and homesteading databanks on maintaining the Dis-Pater native and added it to the report as an attachment, that information would be needed if they transplanted it of Dis-Pater into the new Mining Corridor. Next he attached copies of the laboratory reports confirming the Dis-Pater native Moss did in fact eat the mould along with the mould readings in the open cut generator rips where the moss grew and fed on it compared to the areas where it had gone dormant. The final report he sent contained his additional research on any Matralca Moss experimentation presently in use or in development. He had been surprised to find someone was actually experimenting with using Matralca Moss for anything but animal grazing and winter fodder but it hadn’t taken him long to find a research and development company called Candela R&D, this small but effective research and development company was deep into applied Matralca Moss use for ship sewage systems, from the reports they were already at the testing and pre-order stage for the new sewage system they had designed for the larger space ships and space stations and were rumoured to now be working on planetary sewage plants which might be harder given the Moss‘s tendency to go dormant in winter, even so for closed environments the reports looked very promising, he added this information with the recommendation of ordering such systems for the asteroid docks in the new Mining Corridor and talking to them about the feasibility of the same system being used in a closed mine.
He had hesitated to send that information given the tendency of the big conglomerates to strong arm the smaller companies but further investigation had turned up the fact Candela R&D was in fact a subsidiary company of Lanthorn Corp the main stockholder in Tartarus Conglomerate and the Parent Corporation that operated Wildfire Shipping the most reliable freight company in the Independent Corridors, if that wasn‘t enough the large Corporation was in the process of setting up a ship repair and modification space dock in Tartarus System which for some reason they were calling Will-o’-the-Wisp Industries. Lanthorn Corporation was one of the more interesting business he had ever researched over the years it seemed to be entirely family owned but tracking down which families actually owned it was impossible they did business under the openly admitted pseudonym of Lanthorn, which was an archaic name for a lantern from when they were made from animal horns, according to his dictionary. They seemed to be keeping the light designation for all their subsidiaries, Wildfire Shipping, Will-o’-the-Wisp Industries and Candela R&D all were named for light sources even if they were obscure in come cases just like Lanthorn . It made the name Atwater seem pretty bland in compassion but then most of the corporate families operated under a legal alias these days the cutthroat world of big business wasn’t above kidnapping and blackmail and after the Simpson massacre forty-five years ago most of the more paranoid corporations and companies operating that way had tightened their security and became even more shadowy as they operated behind a smoke screen to protect their family the greatest asset that type of company had.
Atwater Corporation itself operated like that and while few ‘Atwater’s’ were blood related the Crèche had made them siblings and created a family much stronger than blood, Atwater was the family he acknowledged and gave his love and allegiance to, his birth surname Braithwaite was just something leftover from the parents who disowned him at twelve when he was diagnosed with the onset of Teenage ESM triggered by puberty and he ended up in a state run boy’s home under the false name of Philip Smith, his parents had known full well he was unlikely to receive the care he needed in such a place and he would die within a few months but sent him anyway as he was no longer a viable ‘Heir’ to their fortune and name, he hadn’t had to look far to find out the public explanation for his disappearance, Anthony Philip Braithwaite IV had died at the age of twelve from a tragic skiing accident, a year later they announced the birth of Albert Peter Braithwaite III the soul surviving ‘Heir’ to the Braithwaite Banking Conglomerate, ‘Philip’ had no doubt what so ever Albert had that pesky ESM genetic defect engineered out of him before being implanted into his mother. While being discarded like a piece of flawed Milk Crystal had been devastating to Anthony his teenage self, at thirty-four Philip admitted it was probably the best thing that ever happened to him. Philip definitely preferred being an Atwater to a Braithwaite because as an Atwater he had mothers who loved him in Mom-Martha and Mom-Gwendolyn and a ton of siblings and nieces and nephews to make his life complete he actually felt sorry for his brother Albert who because he was normal had no escape from the life he endured as a child, he also had another thing to feel sorry for the ESM genes were completely adapted from the Psi genes in humans so by getting rid of those pesky ESM genes they also got rid of the coveted Psi they had been breeding for, Albert was practically a null on the Psi scale and the Braithwaite’s now had to start their breeding program from scratch.
Not wanting to think of that anymore he turned his mind back to Matralca Moss and the corporation that was experimenting with it. Thinking on all the information he found he decided the most noticeable thing about the Lanthorn family that owned and created Lanthorn Corporation seventy years ago after running Wildfire Shipping as a small Independent Freight company for a decade before that until they finally incorporated under the name Lanthorn was that they were methodical and thought in generations not immediate profit, their main drawback was a tendency to stretch themselves thin occasionally by investing in long term projects as they had at the moment with their heavy investment in the off planet Senata company ‘Senterra’ that pioneered the adaptation of Senata being grown of Dis-Pater, an investment only just starting to pay of as Philip well knew, Atwater was also a strong investor in Senterra. Given their dearth of ready investment credits he could see why Will-o’-the-Wisp Industries the new ship repair division was taking so long to set up, Lanthorn was being their usual methodical self and was just laying the ground work for the new company at the moment, it was one of the nice things about being a completely family owned and operated business with no outside investors hounding you for immediate profit you didn’t have to rush. The slow methodical growth of the infrastructure of Will-o’-the-Wisp Industries showed that generational planing only a family corporation had, even so within days of incorporation as a viable company under Lanthorn, Will-o’-the-Wisp had squatter claimed the old abandoned Crystallum Mining Claims throughout Redemption Corridor including their recycle facility on Deuce the second moon of Dis-Pater with a view to supplying the raw materials for their future space repair dock. Although according to the Financial Forum’s estimates it would take six months to a year or to get the recycle centre and foundries on Deuce up and running again as Crystallum had gutted most of their holdings before they abandoned them. All in All Lanthorn Corp along with its partners in Tartarus Corporation seemed big enough and solid enough to hold it’s own with one of the big Conglomerates like Crystal Dawn especially as they were all family corporations that didn’t sell their stock on the open market and as his precog didn‘t object he had ended up including the R&D search as well but not his research on Lanthorn Corp deciding Crystal Dawn could discover that for themselves, it would serve them right if they didn’t do their own research and hit a brick wall or got gouged thinking Candela R&D were a penny-credit company instead of a division of a Multi Corporation Conglomerate.
He closed the report by saying until a new overseer of the shutdown and reclamation of the old mine to meet abandoned claim status arrived he was following Ellsworth’s notes and timescale for the shutdown and Atwater Financial would be contacting them to negotiate the addition to his employment contract to cover such work until he was relieved of that duty, he added a rider to that suggesting that if Crystal Dawn could not find someone in their own ranks willing to take over Ellsworth‘s retirement deal, they might find someone in the ranks of Tartarus Conglomerate to complete the deal as one of their Corporations had already taken over the Crystallum Claims in Redemption. Reading that over, he nodded to himself that sounded right, he wasn’t suppose to know Ellsworth had no intention of setting down in Redemption that whole retirement thing was a cover for Ellsworth who had not only been a major investor in Crystal Dawn but one of the ten most sort after and highest paid Conglomerate Trouble-shooters and assassins in Federation Space, Ellsworth had been sent to Tartarus to supervise the shutdown for only one thing to make sure Crystal Dawn didn‘t get blacklisted for their actions on Dis-Pater.
He added an attachment showing all Ellsworth‘s actions and the plans he found on his computer. For good measure he added the paperwork showing the change of the old mine to environmental claim by the Dis-Pater government Ellsworth let slip through behind his back and Ellsworth‘s plan once he found out about the new claim designation to unload it onto four AMM‘s he encountered living in the area as a homestead so Crystal Dawn could meet the criteria covering Abandoned Claims. Then he added the caretakers Ellsworth chose were at present baulking at taking it over because of the high winds limiting transport half the Dis-Pater year so they would take a lot more convincing.
After sending of the report Atwater started a much longer report to his crèche sister Glindala at Atwater Corporation explaining exactly what he had found during the Audit of Crystal Dawn so it could be used to bankrupt the conglomerate as planed and why he let the precog vision showing Ellsworth’s death play out. Adding that he hoped he hadn’t upset too many of the possible visions by jumping the gun on their revenge as Ellsworth had already been planning new death contracts, the Warrior in him decided it was best to take him out before those deaths could be set in motion. A download of the telepathic scan from Ellsworth showing the faces and names of the rest of Ellsworth’s hidden lobby group was added to the message along with a request for Atwater’s financial department to negotiate an addition to his Audit contract with Crystal Dawn for the extra work he was being forced to undertake due to Ellsworth’s death. He also attached all of his research on Matralca Moss and Lanthorn Corp to Glindala to add to their research department as it might come in handy in future in managing Atwater‘s stock portfolio. Once he was finished to his satisfaction he encrypted it with the Atwater private encryption code and sent it off, knowing his sister would sort it all out and send the Crystal Dawn Environmental Disaster Information to the Mining and Crystal Guild who were paying Atwater Corporation for a independent report on Crystal Dawn to confirm the complaints about dangerous practices while in Tartarus. The state they had left the Hades Claim on Dis-Pater was the final death Kell for Crystal Dawn even the advent of the Matralca Moss limiting the Environmental Disaster they left behind would not be enough to save them this time, as the Dis-Pater native Moss had been pure serendipity that limited the consequences of their greed it hadn’t been a planned action at all. All his jobs done for the moment he finally sort out his own bed as he couldn’t do anything more until he got replies back.
After breakfast they discussed what to do next since Tanner and Standish had to stay in the Port area until the inquest was over tomorrow but Sheriff Dunne was needed back in Four Corners, after some argument it was decided Tanner and Standish would be flown back by Atwater after the Inquest the next day and Dunne would use the Ghost cart to go home with the resin supplies so Larabee and Wilmington could begin the roof repairs on the cart, that way the town also had use of the cart in emergencies while they were gone but first they had to do some shopping for the Crystal Resin and Optic Fibre matt and if they had time check on the heating element order for the Ovens as both factories were close to the port. With that plan in mind Tanner, Standish and Dunne took off in their cart for the morning to visit the factories they needed, Philip had the Crystal Dawn‘s Port rep give them a referral to the Crystal Resin factory after he found out they had formed and registered themselves as a company as the registration number would entitle them to a business discount. The two Ghosts would be dropped back at the Crystal Dawn airlock about lunch time while Dunne would continue on to Four Corners with the supplies they bought.
After the Four Corner’s Lawmen had gone about their business, Philip moved down to the boardroom and started on the Crystal Dawn’s books in comfort, the nice thing about being back in Tartarus again was he could order Senata food products for his meals and Senata Coffee for his breaks without being looked at strangely or relying on the shipments from home to pad out his Senata food supplies when he was on assignment, there was a reason the crèche and the Atwater‘s main office moved to the first viable Senata planet in the old Empire when Senata began to grow off Dis-Pater even if the harvests wasn’t profitable during the adaptation the other products readily available to those living on a Senata planet made their food bills much cheaper as the Senata food no longer had to be imported from Dis-Pater, Philip himself had medium level Environmental Syndrome Mutation, which was why he was one of the few surviving EMS from his generation he hadn’t turned EMS until his teens so didn’t have the problems of childhood EMS he was also very lucky he had been able to tolerate just enough food and medicine to survive to adulthood, in that respect he was one of the lucky ones as nine out of ten EMS babies born failed to reach the age of ten and six out ten teenage EMS sufferers died before they were twenty, the discovery of Senata was the only reason so many of the younger kids under their care born in the last twenty-five years were still alive, any ESM sufferer improved in health and had no allergic reactions to Senata in any form, the high profit oil that was turned into a multi drug line depending on the season was just a bonus as far as Atwater were concerned, their main interest were the food products for to EMS they were vital because now almost every ESM child at Atwater Crèche had a chance of reaching adulthood since the discovery of Senata.
With a pot of Autumn Blue at hand Philip settled into working on his primary job of Auditor getting deep into the work needed on the Crystal Dawn’s shutdown ledger he had to check Ellsworth’s evaluation of whether or not the recycle of the tractor and cutters was worth pursuing or palming them off on the four AMM to sweeten the homestead deal was the better option, as Ellsworth had already arranged for them to be brought to Dis-Pater checking the calculations was a priority.
He wasn’t to surprised Ellsworth’s calculations turned out to be mostly correct, he may not have liked the man but the bastard did know the mining business. He still went through the list with a fine tooth comb and made new columns in the ledger showing his own evaluation of the equipment next to Ellsworth’s, as usual his precog ability homed in on the numbers flashing him exactly what those auctions would really gain from the sale if the item when they were entered into them, most of the time Ellsworth‘s evaluation were correct when his precog didn’t match he marked the item for further study. Once he was finished the basic evaluation he went back an evaluated how many suspect items there were and grimaced, he found too many for his reputation to survive as a tough auditor if he let them slip by. That meant he had to do this the tedious way and find ways to confirm what his precog had already told him, to that end he spent the next half hour programming a intricate computerised search using the equipment models from the ledger to search the last hundred equipment auctions on Dis-Pater and set it running, it should bring back at least some of the information he needed to validate his precog decisions while that was running he took a break and got some more Senata coffee and worked on other sections of the ledger until the search was complete, it would be murder to do the audit and Ellsworth‘s job at the same time, he hoped Crystal Dawn didn‘t drag their feet over that appointment.
When the computer signalled the completion of the auction search he went back to the evaluation of the equipment lockers, the auction results had given him real data to back up his precog which let him consign another ten cutters and six tractors to the recycle list leaving only one or two precog flashes he couldn’t justify following, saving the auction search lists with the real sale prices to the ledger research section he decided the precog’s he couldn’t justify had to be left to bomb at the auctions as there was no viable justification for adding them to the list, at least now his reputation would survive just one or two auction bombing out with the research and adjustments he made to Ellsworth’s original list to back his work up. Next he moved on to the actual recycle calculations of the new list working out the credits they would get from the recycle place then subtracting the cost in time, energy and man power it would take to get them to the out-system plant to get that money, then subtracting that total from the recycle money, wincing at the low amount they would recoup even with the extra items, he could see why Ellsworth had been contemplating dumping them in a rip illegally. Originally there had been thirteen cutters and nine tractor and the recoup salvage from recycle came to only five credits adding another ten cutters and six tractors brought the individual recoup salvage money up to a quarter credit a item but he could see Ellsworth’s reasoning, nine and a half credits wasn‘t really worth the cost of taking them out-system.
Entering that final total into the ledger he grimaced he would definitely have to see if Tanner and Standish wanted them for the recycle cost given their tech skill they could probably dismantle them and make a few working models capable of being reconditioned for their own use, it would probably be the only way Wilmington would be able to start up his geode business any time soon and a few tractors would be useful in the wood mill they intended to make, also depending on their tech skill they might even be able to convert some of the cutters to harvesters for the mill as well. With that in mind he sent the updated recycle list to the asteroid station as he remembered Ellsworth had ordered the miners to bring the equipment on the recycle list with them on their next shift rotation, with the new list they could add the extra sixteen items to their cargo and the Ghost tech‘s could inspect them and make a decision, Philip had no idea if the Ghost techs would even consider them worth shelling out the nine and a half credits, if not they would have to be sent to the recycle centre instead. Philip was not destroying his and Atwater‘s reputation by doing something illegal like dumping them like Ellsworth intended before he thought of using them in this fashion.
After that was done he spent the next few hours in contact with the mining teams at the Crystal Dawn, getting the reports on the work, the good news was they had started the draining of the freight tunnels as Ellsworth ordered before his death it would be a few days before they were ready to be surveyed for a structural report. The mountain was also draining at a good pace and they were following the water level down opening any closed rooms to let the water out they estimated that water would be gone from the mountain soon as well and they could begin the survey on how sound that side of the mountain was after being filled with water for months and if it would take additional methods to dry the internal structure of the mountain out in the places the crystal rips didn‘t protect the rock. Philip frowned if they needed to rent the oven rods it would probably only take a few days at most to dry the non Crystal parts of the mountain most of the rooms and corridors in the mountain had been made from old Data rips and the remaining Crystal would have acted like a glass water tank keeping the water from sinking into the mountain. If they were lucky it would only be the sections carved from rock they would have to worry about the top rips were already bone dry as they had been mainly lined with Crystal left behind during the ripping.
Other than logging the rip valleys to activate the areas where the Matralca Moss had gone dormant to get the Crystal Mould back down to safe levels in those areas, completing the reconstruct of the lakebeds and water system, finding caretakers for the environmental claim was the only pressing problem Crystal Dawn’s Board would be worried about and his precog was basically telling him if the wind problem could be solved the four men would be very happy taking it over, so that really depended on the freight tunnels. The state of the Town wouldn’t really worry the board; Crystal Dawn Conglomerate was all about the profit the fate of the town didn’t worry them at all. Although thinking about it he might get some help past the secondary audit they would do now he actually involved himself in the shutdown to this extent if he played the Public Relation point of view, he’d seen the dire straights the people of Four Corners were in due to the rain and lack of shelter and while Ellsworth and the Board had been quite happy to leave them to rot letting them work their butts to the bone trying to get shelter over their heads, Philip couldn’t help wondering if there was anything else he could do without setting off Crystal Dawn’s board and ruin Atwater’s reputation.
Frowning he tapped into his comp-net and replayed Ellsworth’s comments to Travis on what he could and couldn’t do looking for a loophole that wouldn’t blow the budget:
“Orin, I’ve told you and told you but you just aren‘t listening, I can’t get that type of expenditure past the damn board of directors, just ask Atwater here if you don’t believe me.” Ellsworth had snapped. “Ask for something I can do and justify on the audit, but I’m warning you, if I have to get stuff approved outside my operating budget, it won’t happen.”
The next conversation that stood out was when Tanner asked exactly what Ellsworth could do for the town:
“Only what I have been doing I’m afraid. I’m listing this under cleanup in the Redemption books, I‘ll hand over. I can get away with a damn lot that way, as long as it stays within my operating budget and I don’t get creative using it for anything they consider big or outrageous.” had been Ellsworth’s reply.
Philip frowned in puzzlement, ‘Inside the operating budget‘ he could understand but ‘what would the Crystal Dawn board consider big or outrageous?’ That really did leave a lot of leeway considering a big mine like Crystal Dawn routinely did some outrageous things, like cutting up and gutting an old corridor ship to dome an old volcano outrageous, a non mining corporation like Atwater that was financial based not mining based would consider that an unholy expense as they would have to hire the ships and the cutters to do that job even if the hull was free but Ellsworth hadn’t even blinked when he decided to do that and the budget hadn’t even blipped at the expense as mines do that sort of thing out of petty cash because the equipment needed was already at hand so shifting and cutting up hulls from a dumpsite was a petty cash expense for a mine and they did it all the time.
Switching over to his writing pad a ten by twelve Shift Crystal drawing screen with small data memory crystal attached and a special stylus to write on it with, he began making notes on exactly what Four Corners needed to survive.
Thinking on it carefully he realised the priority was shelter not buildings, ‘shelter‘ wasn‘t the same as buildings, they could build at their own pace if they didn’t have to deal with the weather, it was a great pity he couldn’t just dump an old gutted Corridor ship from the dump site and dome over the town like they were doing for the volcano as that would protect them from the weather while they built unfortunately the spherical nature of the ships were against their use, the landing field was big and you might fit one if you cut it in half to sit on the solid rock base under the silt the town was built on it but it wouldn‘t really be that practical as he had the impression some of the town might be moving into the mountain, the livery into the old hanger and the healer into the infirmary and probably some of the other shops might end up inside the mountain as well he couldn’t blame them as it would cut down on the building they would need to do before winter, a corridor ship dome would exclude them from the influx of customers it also wouldn‘t cover all the landing field which would limit expansion, again the sperical nature of the ships was a problem. So if he eliminated the corridor ships to dome the area due to their shape what did that leave him as building blocks for a town, barges and shuttles would be perfect you could stack them as high as you liked and their rectangular shapes make perfect buildings unfortunately the dumps of Dis-Pater did too big a turn over in the barges and shuttles they always had people looking at them for homesteads which was one of the reasons Ellsworth was happy to give them away, he objected to paying the dump fee when he knew the dump would make money on the hulks unlike the corridor ships they were happy to get rid of any way they could they sold the smaller ships as buildings, same with the carts and lifeboats sent to the dumps the engineers at the dumps made their money converting usable carts and lifeboats to solar arrays and tractors and sold them as freight wagons and stages so finding enough of even the smaller ships to build a town with was an impossible idea.
It was quite disappointing the dumps usually only had Corridor ship hulls in abundance if they were in the Federation he would have known why they were missing, in the other Corridors the Federation were hoarding them for the mass dump of undesirables into the Independent Corridors, the Federation Space dock was working non stop on hull repairs for those old hulks and installing basic environmental systems, the only other thing the docks were working on were Warp Ferries to taxi those hulks through the Warp Junction into the independents. He hadn’t expected the Independent dumps to be equally as void of usable ships he had thought the Federation more subtle than that, what little they had found in the dumps were the ones already stripped of usable parts like airlocks by the mines before being dumped that was why it had taken them so long to find a suitable ship hull to cover the volcano they needed an intact hull with a barge size airlock still in place just like a port chamber did and meeting that criteria had been impossible with what had been left in the dumps. Thankfully just before they went into the cistern the new structural engineer thought of a compromise, for which they had all been thankful as every time it rained they had to temporary seal up the freight tunnel and the lower rooms of the volcano so they didn’t flood again. The solution turned out to be quite simple they had to repair and adapt one of the already salvaged hulls, to that end they had found a half hull intact but for the removal of some small airlocks and gutted it of all the internal structure leaving a dome with enough support to endure a heavy build up of snow during winter and sealed it into place, they had cut sections from another hulls and sealed it over all but one airlock hole with Crystal resin and optic fibre matt, that final airlock hole was waiting for the mountain to drain, then they would remove the big barge airlock on the old mine maintenance hanger and seal it into the volcano dome hull where the smaller airlock had been because as the engineer pointed out in a liveable atmosphere that ground level airlock wasn’t really needed anymore, the town could build a wall with smaller doors to make the hanger easier to use as a livery.
Noise at the door to the boardroom made him look up to find Tanner and Standish had come back, frowning he glanced at the Dis-Pater clock on the wall, he was surprised to find it was midday already so called down for lunch, while they waited he passed them his note pad with his thoughts on the town.
Ezra frowned, “You are right about the shape of the big ships making it useless for the town itself but a section of hull would be a godsend to create a dome roof for the wood mill.” he said passing it back so Philip could make note of that.
“I hadn’t thought of that, it would certainly speed up the creation of the mill,“ Philip mused making notes to obtain the fulls needed from the dumps, given that they needed to start logging soon before the winds picked up and would soon have a great mass of uprooted trees to get rid of, helping that along would also be helpful to complete this project. “We can leave enough rooms to use as office space and gut the rest, a big opening on two sides to bring the trees in one end and the cut wood out the other into a smaller dome to cover the milled wood from the weather.” he said making a quick drawing of the simple factory complex that could be made from parts of a old corridor ship.
Vin took it and looked at the drawing nodding, “That should work we would just have to find a place to put it as it can‘t be on the landing area that’s reserved for town use according to the town charter. A section of hull would work for the brick and tile factory as well, it’s in that old Crystal rip just past the milk dump we set up there, not only because it had the rip we could use for drying but the area for a few miles is clay, perfect for pottery when wet if we add a dome over that tiny rip they cut to get at the crystal it would solve the weather problem we’s having at the moment and we could work out where to put the ovens afterwards last I heard from Josiah they’s still making the bricks for the ovens as the rain has been a problem.” mused Vin borrowing the stylus and making his own quick drawing, if we shallow dome that valley we don’t have to use as many bricks as we can cut the ovens into the valley walls and use the bricks for the lining and the openings not the actual building of the ovens.” he said handing it back to Philip when he finished who again made a few notes of his own.
“Hulls are getting hard to find so you might have to repair them with crystal resin but we can certainly shift them into position, Unfortunately this doesn’t solve the main problem which is rebuilding the town.” Philip complained.
Vin frowned at that, “ Ya right about doming it not working, the area the town covers is the wrong shape for spheres, so enclosing the town wont work on the other hand I heard Mrs. Potter and some of the other ladies yakking their heads of about how since they were rebuilding the town anyway why couldn’t they build someway to get around town during blizzard season this winter if possible, when ya think about it that wouldn’t take much we‘d have to be able to close in the boardwalks for winter and put some tunnels under the streets so people could get around when the winds and snow shut down the town.”
Ezra frowned at that but reluctantly nodded, “It would have to wait until we get a cutter and tractor for Mr. Wilmington’s geode business, as we would have to dig up the street for the winter walkways, the cutter would also help creating the cellars, the hard part would be making them solid enough to not cave in from all the traffic on the street above the tunnels most of the year.”
“Wasn’t planing to dig by hand Ez,” snorted Vin, “I was thinking of heading to a dump once we got a cutter and tractor and bring back some of ’em corridor ship guts people ripped out the old ships whenever they wanted domes like the mine did on the volcano, the one thing the dumps aren’t short of are all the rooms and passage ways from inside a ship, plus a lot of ship staircases are still there as the mines usually carve stairs not take ‘em from ships, it’s the lifts they usually salvage and I‘ve even seen some of ‘em left at the dumps now the planet mines are closed. Given all that with a cutter and tractor we could make short work of burying ship passageways under the street with stairs either side to reach the boardwalks and the town could move about in winter easy as pie.” Vin said simply.
“I’ll talk to the mining engineer and see if he thinks the Crystal-ceramic of the internal walls would be strong enough to stay intact under all the dirt with the constant weight of heavy freight and stages travelling over them.” said Atwater making a note of that it sounded like a good idea to help movement in winter. “But that still doesn’t give any help towards speeding up the town being rebuilt.” he warned coming back to the real problem.
Vin shrugged reaching for the pot a Senata coffee in the centre of the table and pouring himself and Ezra some, “Ain’t sure iften it can be sped up to tell the truth, framin’ the buildings will take the longest, walls and roofs should be easy once the tiles are ready, same with the walls when we get the wood mill up and runnin’, so’s the insulation and wiring’ that’s all easy as pie once we have the materials but without strong frames the buildings won’t survive long under the winds and heavy snow of a Dis-Pater winter and the frames need a proper builder and blueprints to make solid as ya can‘t just hammer some beams together and fill in the walls and hope it stands up to the winds and snow, that‘s why Dis-Pater likes it‘s ports they’s all underground and the old hulls are super strong, they many not look pretty but they‘s stronger than steel and won’t rust like metal they’ll still be in use centuries from now iften they‘s looked after.”
Atwater grimaced building wasn’t his forte either he was an engine person, “I may be able to help with the cutter and tractor problem before his death Ellsworth intended to offer you the recycle list for the same cost we would get from the out system recycle plant, they are just frames of course no Crystal at all and for us to recondition them for resale wouldn’t be cost effective but for your own use it would be a different matter especially as you are probably skilled enough to make at least a few working models out of the ones we are offering.”
“How many?” asked Ezra suddenly very interested.
“Twenty-three cutters and fifteen tractors all old models, the miners coming down for he shift change should be bring them here for you to look at tomorrow, you won’t be able to pick and choose I’m afraid it would be all or nothing, if nothing they’ll be sent of the recycle plant to make that worth while I‘ll need to send as much as possible.” Atwater said apologetically
Vin sighed, “How much we looking at iften we decide we want ‘em after we given a look over?”
“Nine and a half credits that exactly what they would fetch at the recycle plant after we deduct the transport costs.” he explained.
“We’ll give ‘em a good going over even iften we can make one or two out of ’em we’d be saving money compared to the auctions.” Vin said thoughtfully.
“Indeed I am in agreement, if we can make even a few cutters and a few tractors from the remains it would probably be worth those credits even in our strained financial state, given that a good tractor and cutter would cost us at least twenty credits each at auction on a good day, on the other hand that price would also include the Crystal and be guaranteed to be in working condition.” mused Ezra.
“Power ain’t a problem Ez, it’s Data we‘s having problems with, ya can’t run a tractor or a mining cutter with anything less than third grade.”
“True I see your point we have plenty of Plasma and plenty of Power shards and since Ghost’s such as ourselves and our fellow AMM compatriots will be the only people who will be using whatever we create we can cheat and power them by Ghost Plasma Arrays without disobeying the Crystal Guild injunction on their use only by AMM sufferers, that would leave the only real expense the Data Crystal for the control boards for the moment or borrow a number of Crystals from data readers and make a multi bridge to simulate the larger Crystal.”
Vin snorted, “Josiah and Chris will have a fit iften ya suggest that, ya know they’s always readin’ and ya ain’t much better, we’ll think a something else we always do, iften we‘s real lucky the government will get onto the banks to refund the melted credits soon and we can use that.”
Ezra snorted at that something was definitely going on with the Conglomerate that owned the majority share in most of the banks in Redemption he had a nasty feeling Braithwaite were preparing to embezzle everything under their care just before they pulled out ahead of the Junction closure by the Federation, it was a theory he had passed along to Dayfad O’Neill to check out as if they did that, they would bankrupt the Independents while pulling of a crime they would never be charged with as they would be in the Federation and the victims would be left in the Independents with no way to report it.
“As you can see Mr. Atwater while fiscal concerns are present we shall work something out as Mr. Tanner so eloquently pointed out we always do find a solution. The town’s problems I fear will not be so easily solved, finding a qualified builder we can afford is a quandary given the financial state the town was left in after the fires and floods, we have been concentrating on obtaining the building materials before we tackle that particular problem, I sincerely doubt any of the townspeople honestly believe we can complete the town before winter which is why the barges and carts Mr. Ellsworth said we can have will be so important as will the room to be found in the mountain behind Four Corners, the closer we get to winter the more important any type of shelter will become.”
Philip frowned, “I see, yet they are still acting like it will be built before winter?”
“They don’t want to admit the situation is that dire, as a lot of the business will go bankrupt especially the hotels as winter is the most stable and profitable time for such ventures, the planet practically shuts down for those nine months the itinerant workers and salespeople settling into a town and paying top rent.” Ezra said with a sigh. A noise at the door claimed his attention. “I do believe our repast has made it’s appearance, we had best proceed with our before meal ablutions while they set the table.” he decided.
When the three men returned from the rest room they moved to the area of the boardroom table where the meal had been set up, over lunch the discussion continued, Philip getting a better idea of the financial state of the town and the problems facing them. As well as some of the more interesting backstabbing they anticipated when it came time to build.
Philip laughed, “So you anticipate the Hotels will be fighting tooth an nail to have their buildings go up first?”
“Ain’t no doubt about that at all,” snorted Vin. “They’s already stated the arguments to get that happening, iften I hear ‘em say one more time that they have to be built first as the hotels can hold more people than a shop I’s willing to shoot ‘em.”
Ezra laughed, “Although the horrified disbelieving looks when Mr. Larabee pointed out at the last town meeting that if that eventuated, they would not be able to charge the town’s people rent as the sacrifice of their own accommodation for the hotels would be the payment for the winter was delightful.”
Vin chuckled at the memory, “One thing ya can say about old Chris he’s got a way with him when it comes to getting his point across, they almost shit a brick at the way he was casually checking his gun when he said that.”
“They were most discomfited when that motion was carried.” agreed Ezra his own amusement plain from the dimples he was showing.
“Chris is a sneaky bastard, from what he was whispering in my ear towards the end of the meetin’ he‘s figuring the Hotel’s are gonna be looking for an out on that no rent thing for winter, they make a pile a credits each winter which is why they’s not struggling to find credits to live on, even the ones totally burnt out in the fires. His plan once we got the building materials ready is to offer ’em another deal, they pay for the town builder and they negotiate the rent iften the rest of the town ain’t built come winter. He figures they’ll take it, they want the winter rent money a builder is penny-credit to what they’ll lose iften they don’t have the rooms ready for rent once Hades closes down for winter.” Vin said with a smirk.
Ezra laughed that sounded like one of Christopher Larabee’s plans the man was an excellent strategist it was not just the mans forceful personality that made him the leader of the Seven. “Oh Lordy, they will be so desperate by them they will jump at the offer.” he said between laughter breaths. “Does he intend for them to pay for the architect as well?” he asked curiously.
Vin shrugged, “I’s thinking he wants to find one who does both and make it a bulk deal.”
Philip nodded distracted by the financial puzzle, while Larabee‘s plan would be effective it would lead to bad blood between the townspeople and the hotel proprietors, his mind set out to find another solution without him even trying, “Has Judge Travis managed to retain the impending County Seat designation for Four Corners or has another town in his Circuit won it due to your difficulties?” he asked distracted.
“We’s getting it, as long as we’s completely rebuilt by Spring and that includes the Court House and School we’s suppose to have had built by then.” Vin said with a grimace.
“Indeed,” sighed Ezra. “That was the qualifier the other Towns vying for the position insisted we meet for us to retain the coveted designation, as long as we meet our old expansion deadline from before the fires we will still be declared the County Seat in the Spring. While many towns objected to our being given the chance to still receive the coveted designation, none of them could successfully deny the fact we are the most centrally located town with the most connivent transport that can reach the entire circuit area, we had also become the town with the most diverse business range, there could be no denying Four Corners became the natural County Seat once the outlaw element was contained by the Seven of us.”
Philip frowned thoughtfully as they continued to eat, finally he said, “I think you are looking at your assets wrong, as a county seat a business in Four Corners is a coveted place, the town would be better of using that as a bargaining tool.”
Vin looked thoughtful.
“A bargaining tool in what fashion Mr. Atwater?” Ezra said wanting better clarification.
“Offer a builder-architect business, land and the building materials to create their own home and office in Four Corners as payment for his services to the town, with both the brick and tile factory, the wood mill and the geode bathroom fixtures they would be centrally located near the building suppliers and have central access to the entire County Court Circuit for conducting business even if Four Corners does not become the county seat for the areas around you, it would still be a strategic location for such a business.” offered Philip, to him it seemed the simplest solution of how to pay for such services.
“I see what ya getting at, we don’t pay the builder in credits but with the ability to make their own home and business and at the same time give a ‘em incentive to do the work as fast as possible as they benefit by getting’ their own home for the winter which saves ‘em a heap a credits iften they’s payin’ rent now and iften the County Seat expansion deadline is met in Spring their buddin’ business gets more prosperous as well.” mused Vin nodding in understanding. “I’s thinking that deal wouldn’t tempt an established business but someone just startin’ out whose willin’ to grow with the town.”
“That would solve one of the towns major hold ups concerning the rebuild.” mused Ezra in admiration. “I can see why you have an outstanding reputation in Financial circles Mr. Atwater.” Ezra hesitated but continued resolutely. “If you do not mind my saying so Mr. Atwater your private and public faces are quite different and I get the impression Gordon Ellsworth never saw your private face, why have you graced us with such trust?”
Philip sighed and both of them could see how tired the man looked, “As you said, I have a reputation in the Financial world, ask anyone and they will tell you I am cold, methodical and all business no matter how congenial I am, I’m also considered contract incorruptible which is a vitally important reputation for a independent contract auditor to have, the reputation as a cold fish wasn’t really anything I could avoid given I am a High Psion Empath and Telepath unless I lock my shields down tight my erratic talents can be overwhelmed, as most people except nulls have some Psion empathy as a holdover of babyhood, when I lock my shields tight my mind doesn’t radiate the warmth of a active mind and even the lowest of the Psi talents liken that to trying to touch a block of ice.”
The two Ghost nodded at that as Psicon they had more layers to their shields so had much more protection for their minds despite their higher Psi because of that they rarely engaged their main mind shield unless to repel an attack as Atwater said when a main mind shield locked down you radiated cold to another Psi, Psicon’s had enough shields to be able to show a tiny fraction of their mind on the surface of their secondary shield for Psi communication, Psion’s had a lot more of their mind behind the main shield so when they interact with other Psi but it was still a very intimate act for them, their secondary shield was around their main mind and sub conscious, it sounded like the erratic nature of Philip talents caused him to have trouble maintaining that against other minds which was why in public he kept his main mind shield in place.
Ezra nodded in understanding, “The people you encounter do not feel the warmth they feel from other people and have mistaken that for your personality instead of your shields.”
Philip nodded, “Being in Finance and a contract Auditor hasn’t helped, as I said, I have a reputation of being all business and a cold fish despite my seeming congeniality, I have found it helpful when dealing with murderous bigots like Gordon Ellsworth, these days while I still give the impression of coldness I can reflet their own emotional splash against my main shielded back adjusting it just enough to make them think it’s from me, I am less likely to get a knife in my gut while they think I am like them just constrained by my contract.”
Vin narrowed his eyes at the Auditor, “That ain’t a Psion talent, ya must have a extra surface shield like Psicon’s which lets ya filter other minds and refect the emotions back as ya want. Iften ya a telepath as well ya must be getting a hell of a lot a information when ya do that.”
Philip nodded impressed they worked that out so easily.
“That is incredibly dangerous as a Psion those inner shields of yours must be incredibly fragile compared to a true Psicon, I am surprised your personality hasn’t crumbled under such assaults?” Ezra said intrigued.
Vin snorted, “Ain’t ya felt the res, Ez? He’s a Warrior, we twist and adapt better than the herd we guard, since he don’t feel insane, he tempered into a sword not shattered like crystal, parts his personality’s probably as fragile as hell but in the places that count I’s betting he‘s stronger than tempered steel, he’s actually pretty comfortable to be around, my shields don‘t sync with him but they don‘t clash and repel him either. Reminds me of Bucklin’s shield’s more an a bit that’s probably why I’s findin’ him comfortable company so did Chris, Cowboy ain’t felt like shooting him once, which has to be a first, he‘s even wanted to shoot both me and Bucklin occasionally down in that cistern and he loves us.” he mused sorting out exactly what Chris felt around Atwater, when he worked it out he chuckled, making Ezra raise a eyebrow enquiring what was so amusing. “Chris is more likely to bed him than shoot him.” he admitted with a chuckle, making Philip blush scarlet but Vin noticed with interest that he didn‘t actually look shocked at the idea.
Ezra‘s jaw dropped, “And what would be the reaction of Mr. Wilmington be to that?” he asked curiously. “I got the impression both of them do not mind female lovers but have been exclusive when it came to males.”
Vin snorted, “Ez, Bucklin’s reaction to finding out about the twin bond was, ‘Twin’s are fun’, they’s not about to stray on their lonesome with another man but I’s thinking now that he and Bucklin have stabilised their mating bond Chris is gonna be thinking, what the heck and go with Bucklin’s idea of fidelity and they’s gonna be quite happy to have a threesome occasionally iften of course they’s both attracted to the same man, simply because sharing someone like that ain’t cheating as far as Bucklin’s concerned it’s sharing, plus Cowboy’s enough of a Slut even iften he don’t act on his desires often to adapt his morality to Bucklin’s.” the twin bond with Chris gave him a real good idea of how Chris thought and just how complicated and adaptive Chris’ morals on that subject were, he tended to adjust to his partners expectation, it was an alien mindset to a Battle Psicon like Vin who rarely indulged in sex at all despite his sensual nature due to the deadly nature of his Psi shields and wouldn‘t even contemplate having sex with someone he wasn‘t at least emotionally involved with, Charlotte had been the fastest he had ever let himself be bedded and in hindsight that had been mainly her idea.
“Lordy!” groaned Ezra making Vin laugh outright because Ezra’s reaction was only partly to the revelation about their friends morals, most of it was to Philip‘s reaction to the idea of a threesome with Bucklin and Chris, it was pretty obvious to a Psi as strong as Vin and Ezra that the Auditor was equal parts attracted to the idea as he was wanting to run. Vin smirked as he decided he was definitely going to have to show that emotional burst he got from Philip to Chris next time their twin bond was within sending range, he’d leave it up to Chris if he acted on it or not but as far as he was concerned some time spent as a Chris and Bucklin filling would do the worn out Auditor wonders and heal a lot of the damage dealing with a bigoted mind like Ellsworth had to have caused the sensitive Psion, it had certainly done him a world of good back on MesaTex when Maeve the married daughter of his old Jewellery master and her husband Alonzo made him one exhausted filling for their sandwich that whole month before he went after Eli Joe. With luck it would also give Bucklin someone to baby for a while because Chris was about ready to shoot him to stop the molly coddling and JD weren’t much better he was so frazzled over the wedding so he wasn’t in the mood to deal with a fussing Bucklin either.
Getting his amusement at that thought under control he changed the subject, “When’s Maude due to arrive on Dis-Pater, since you ain‘t been spanked, she must have contacted Uncle Dayfad?”
“Thursday and she has already made an appointment with your Uncle for the Friday to negotiate our Bonding Contract after she interrogates me and rips me to shreds,” Ezra grumbled. “I am warning you now, I refuse to be anywhere near the actual contract negotiations for our Bonding Alliance, I shall be lucky to survive the lambasting over my actions concerning Standish Cluster the day before, your Uncle Dayfad and my Mother are to much alike for my peace of mind, they will dissect every point of the Armageddon Bonding Contract including the fine print and attempt to manoeuvre to the dominant position in the pending Marriage Alliance at every turn, I have no intention of being a visual target when they inevitably get frustrated by their inability to get the best of each other.“
“That was why I’s asking when she’s due, I’s intending to skedaddle up into the rip valleys with ya, along with Chris and Bucklin to shear the Moss-Deer while they battle it out,” Vin said sagely in full agreement. “The rest of the Ship Cluster will laugh at us skedaddling like that until they walk in on the negotiation, then they’ll tear us to strips for not warning ‘em to skedaddle their own self away from the Titan battle we’ve set of.” Ezra chuckled relaxing, appreciating Vin’s sneaky side, perfectly willing to endure more time in the Valleys to be far from that particular negotiation, the menial labour of Moss-Deer shearing and dealing with Zaglizard’s and Torcat’s was much safer.
Philip had been following this in confusion, while he did know the basics of Ghost Ship and Cluster formation as his crèche schooling had a rundown of most of the factions in the Corridors of Man, some of the terms were new as even after a century the Ghost Legion was still very much a mystery. He was pleased his empathy was spot on about the two Ghost being more than friends and that it was moving towards a marriage but the term Armageddon Bonding Contract didn’t sound good. Frowning and more than a little worried at the implications, he demanded, “Armageddon Bonding Contract, that sounds incredibly bad! What exactly are you two doing that requires something as ominous sounding as that?”
It was the two Ghost’s turn to blush and Vin said simply, “We’s started the Battle Psicon Courting Ritual which wouldn’t be to bad, just hard making our shields sync but we’s also Warrior mindset, Warrior Battle Psicon’s don’t usually mate with each other because due to our shields and trainin’ we’s to dangerous to each other, iften we go deeper than surface linking we got a real chance of destroying our minds trying for the full bonding sync needed for sex.”
Philip paled, “You have got to be joking?” He wasn’t quite sure what they were talking about other than the Warrior Mindset, as that was a recognised mindset written about in most Psi Phycology books, Philip himself had been classified as a Warrior as Tanner said, the crèche phycologist had a theory that Philip’s mind formed into the Warrior mindset in self defence, as the solidary nature of a Warrior was the only way he managed to form even the fragile personality he had as a child in the face of the constant Psi intrusion into his mind, it was also the reason he had some of the strongest outer shield in the crèche whenever he used it at full strength but that had been training.
“I can assure you we are not joking, if we were sane we would be putting as many Corridors as possible between us but as we undoubtedly proved these last few months sanity is not one of our aspects. The last Warrior Battle Psicon’s to attempt to mate was one hundred and fifty years ago on the Journey and they died of it, because this is so dangerous Ghost Marriage Law has what it calls a Armageddon Contract for such a situation which will cover both our survival and our destruction, when we enter the second stage of the Courtship we will by Ghost Law be legally bonded and our DNA can be mixed to create viable embryos which will be used to ensure our families survival if we destroy each other or will be brought to term at our leisure if we survive as a bonded couple, either way the contract ensures both Standish and Tanner Clusters have Legal Blood Heirs, whether we survive or not.” Ezra said solemnly.
“Marriage or death!” Philip said with a sigh both envious of the love and commitment they showed and horrified that the Ghost’s had marriage bonds that dangerous. “That has to be either the most romantic or insane choice in the universe.”
“As Ez said, we admit we must be insane to do this but separation ain‘t really a choice for us either, we was long past the running stage by the time we even realised we’s courting, our minds are already committed, running from the bond is just a slower death as we’ll probably fade away yearning for contact with each other’s mind, at least this way, live or die we’s together!” Vin said and Philip could tell it was a statement of fact that had no counter arguments.
“I hope you survive!” he said simply before deciding to change the subject as it was getting awkward. “I‘ shall be going over the Crystal Dawn books all afternoon but you two are free until the inquest tomorrow what do you intend to do for the rest of the afternoon?”
“Thought we’d have a look see around the Port, it’s big enough to pass the time I reckon. Ez is wanting to have a look see at the new fashions and I’s wanted to head for the jewellery shops to get some new ideas for wedding stuff, JD want‘s a Empire bonding cuff cause his Ma had one and he grew up with ‘em but Casey’s Federation descent and wants a ring.” shrugged Vin in between sips of his after lunch Autumn Blue.. “Borrowed Miz. Mary’s picture taker so they can take a looksee together and make a decision on style and extras they’s wanting.”
“I fully intend to capture images of any clothing designs that take my fancy as we amble throughout the Malls so rest assured we shall be gainfully occupied for the afternoon without you having to stop work and play host.” Ezra said amused dimples and gold filling in full display making Vin laugh.
Eventually lunch was over and the two Ghost departed to explore the Port Malls and Philip tiredly went back to the Crystal Dawn books.