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Old 04-02-2013, 07:04 AM   #21
Join Date: Jan 2013
Default Session 1b: Acknowledgement and task request

Session 1b: Acknowledgement and task request

“Please pardon the suboptimal choice of a meeting place. Did everybody familiarise themselves with the file I sent you?” It should be noted that according to the companion, only The Guinean received a copy. Kirov-Kirov . . . the only one left in near-perfect health, and yet the one to so foolishly lose it, due to your own greed, enthusiasm, carelessness and overconfidence. However, it would be more dangerous not to defy him: the probability that TSA would detect the station again was rising from about five to about fifty percent . . . - stop, not the time for a display of a hitch . . . let’s see what they have to say.

As expected, The Guinean was the first to answer: “Yes, though the specifics of the job you’re offering are rather unclear as of now.”

Beregovoy paused, not wanting to argue, but eventually told the truth: “Actually, I didn’t get one.”

After that, all doubts vanished - it only took two opinions to get a truthful answer.

And still, Daiki characteristically avoided giving a direct negative answer.

“Tell me about yourselves”

Yes, definitely not the best way to start a day, but there were oranges appearing on the horizon. Stop . . .

Alex paused, and mentally ordered himself to calm down. Strangely, it did help. On the other hand, The Guinean wasn’t helping any: “I was assuming that you gathered us with a clear picture in mind. What is it that you are interested in?”

Alex extended his hand, palm downward - in a non-verbal display of being the one in charge of the dialog, the one asking questions. “That’s enough, Richard. I know all I need about you. I have no reason to doubt you, unlike the others.”

“Then - is that a hint that you’re doubting my personal secretary?” asked Richard spot-on.

. . . He wouldn’t understand; there’s no point trying to tell him. How can one not doubt a creature, that by all accounts should be human, and yet lacks precisely one trait - the one that is most characteristic of all of humanity?


He didn’t seem convinced.

Everyone else presented themselves with no arguments and no displays of doubt. Kitsos couldn’t hide his confusion.

“I don’t . . . ” damn, what how do I pronounce this word? need another one! quick!

“. . . think I will have difficulty clarifying the situation . . .”

. . . the AI companion started dispensing tips and taking over control. And an iron will was the only thing giving a semblance of control over a situation without the controller.

When Alex ‘reappeared’ once again, there was no time to read the logs. All he could do was continue from mid-sentence.

“. . . And so, we managed to gain control over a forsaken TSA station. Would anyone of you consider it a difficult task to spent about two weeks there, organising massive repairs? This will provide us a platform for further activity.”

The Guinean was about to speak, but Daiki intejected: “May I ask one thing . . . what’s the gravity there?”

Without losing a beat, The Guinean spoke his mind. "Two weeks? The starting price is twenty thousand. Though it might as well be the final price too. Do you already envision clearly-defined duties for each of us?"

Alex softly replied to Richard first: “There are several difficulties. One them being that the local population is fluent in none of the languages known to humanity,” he paused and nodded towards Kitsos.

Richard was patiently silent, yet he obviously had something left to say.

“There are also deranged and paranoid AIs aboard,” Alex gestured towards Igor to indicate the relevance, “and overall terrible state of disrepair.”

Igor nodded, “Will do our best!”

Suddenly, Alex looked towards Daiki, “Zero.”

The Duncanite sighed in relief and contently bowed.

Laskaris acknowledged an earlier moment of attention with a delayed question: “Alex, this station - is it merely forgotten, or is it in such a state of disrepair that any work spent fixing it will be at a net loss?”

He paused, then added with a hint of a smile, “Or did the local population gesture to you its unwillingness to let you in?”

At this point, Cherry took a deep breath. She was constantly shifting weight from one leg to another with a mix of amusement and nervousness. If asked directly, she wouldn’t be able to find the words to politely and non-irritatingly express her comments on the situation; on the other hand, she wasn’t exactly searching either - after all, being a pretty, silent background involved some skill too. Alex seemed content with such a setup, and she could see that.

Caine seemed puzzled: “So you’re basically hiring RC Interfaces in order to get a linguist? After all, our major specialities fall within the fields of law and negotiations.”

Frolov turned towards Kitsos. “These are one and the same. If it was merely a matter of gestures, it wouldn’t be a presence such the well-coordinated and focused team.” His voice expressed irony, but the sudden garbling of word choice and sentence structure was unsettling.

The AI companion immediately gave its owner a short signal to indicate an incorrect phrase - but it was no longer important. For the owner, it was like a gravitic slingshot in a system of five or more relevant bodies - performed not so much based on cold equations, but through intuition and talent. The right wave - way - drawn in the mind’s eye was seen as the one and only true path, no matter what the machines say.

After some consideration, Caine continued his line of thought. “Large-scale propaganda and social bridge-building falls slightly outside our primary specialisation, but I keep getting pulled into such cases anyway, so I’ll take one more. And I do believe” he nodded towards Cherry with an expression of respect that seemed almost incompatible with being treated as a mere possession, “that Ms. Hunter will at least partially ease the linguistic and cultural difficulties of such a . . . peculiar contact.”

Frolov felt himself losing control of the situation again. “You see, the thing is, they are deeply opposed to foreign presence . . . It is your job . . . to convince them.” The AI companion intercepted the sentence, trying to conceal the transition with a joke. “I suppose I could just recycle all of them, but this wouldn’t be very rational.” Nobody laughed. Nobody noticed the intent of the sentence. And worst of all, after coming back to his senses and checking the log, Alex was the least amused of those present.

After a short uneasy pause, The Guinean asked what sounded like a genuine, if slightly sarcastic, question. "So . . . in fact it is they who might be the ones recycling us?"

Igor joined in on the ghastly topic. “Wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of that. But seriously, what sorts of resources do they have?”

Caine couldn’t leave the failed joke alone, quietly muttering. “Oh well, the demanded salary has just been raised by the value of two shells and one upload." He looked at Igor with a hint of a smile.

“Well, so far the natives’ opinion is the one I see as the most reasonable. Maybe we shouldn’t visit their station?” asked Kitsos

Simultaneously, the AR connections and the wall-screen in the hanger started streaming a video. At first, an external view of the station. A circle of ‘tin cans’ - repurposed fuel tanks with a clumsily attached EM turret. There were two airlocks at the sides. All the cans showed signs of wear and damage, which wasn’t particularly reassuring for a future centre of operations.

Next, the video went through a montage of various internal recordings. Empty living bunks. A mixture of active and disabled cybershells in the corridors. An empty and badly lit hangar. An infrared scan mapped into pseudocolours, showing signs of sources of warmth somewhere inside the stations.

In defiance to both common sense and the very thin atmosphere of the station, the controllers of those shells communicated by audio - by voice. And they did not sound particularly sane or properly functioning. Somebody obviously called the camera operator by name, asking if the Chinese were dead, and how long would it take for help to arrive.

The next part of the video cut to a display of the natives. Lithe, supple, winged green lizards. Focused and definitely sapient - connecting to terminals, typing commands. The audio relayed the clicks of their speech, which sounded unusual even compared to the !Kung language. There were no less than five of them.

“Wow!” exclaimed Igor.

Daiki merely shook his head in surprise.

Caine slightly masked his reaction by admitting, “Apparently this is not the video I was given.” It seemed that he wasn’t worried about lizards as much as about something he saw earlier in the video.

Alex spoke up, softly. “This is wrong. And it can be corrected. And then we can proceed . . . with . . . another . . . assignment.”

We? The spirit of pain was smiling, showing off its claws, then proceeded to start slowly cutting small pieces off Alex’s skull. You won’t be proceeding with anything. You no longer exist, remember.

The AI companion intercepted the dialog. Meanwhile, Alex mentally replied to the spirit. Go away. I’ll finish this project, no matter how hard you try to steal my time.

Last edited by Clancy; 06-10-2013 at 03:58 PM.
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Old 04-02-2013, 07:05 AM   #22
Join Date: Jan 2013
Default Session 1c: Revealing

Session 1c: Revealing

“So who made these creatures for the TSA, and why don’t they use a more common language?” asked the Duncanite.

“We couldn’t manage to take any samples without damaging . . . this. I absolutely do not want to harm anyone of them.”

Igor tried to guess just how dangerous the assignment was, but figured it’s better to ask. “So how, umm, convincing were their propositions for you to leave their station? With what weapons?”

“Actually, none. It seems they are incapable or not trained to use human weapons. But I do suspect that without supervision, they will eventually bring the base to a completely non-functional state. I’d prefer contact to be established before any attempts to get into the base.”

Everyone seemed to be contemplating just how to react to such statements. Laskaris was the first to break the silence. “Let’s get this clear. You want no harm done to the lizards? Or did you mean the AIs? Or perhaps even the Chinese?”

All of them,” softly yet firmly replied Frolov. “I know how it feels to be the last of your kind. I know what loneliness feels like. I haven’t seen anything like them.”

Caine seemed to to contemplate something for a few seconds, then said, “Alright, let’s enumerate the objectives of the current assignment. You’re taking us to the station. We dock with it . . . and? Ms. Hunter and I start practicing Xenoanthropology as applied to an artificial-alien synthetic culture? And in the meantime, the technicians of our team proceed with repair, trying to dodge the natives’ protests?”

Laskaris immediately added to the list of questions, “Right, Alex, assuming they are sapient - and that they didn’t ruin the station throughout the years - what is wrong about giving them the tools and the illustrated manuals to keep it up? Who are we trying to save them from? Aside from time itself, that is.”

Komatsu jumped in too. “I’m afraid Alexey-san has reasons to worry about time.”

Caine barely visibly focused his attention on Daiki’s mixture of accents and suffixes, then glanced at Cherry seeking confirmation.

Frolov nodded. The AI marked the time left until complete oblivion: with 80% probability, it would take less than 7 days. 30% that it would take less than 3. “I’m almost out of time. I can’t even meaningfully upload myself - radiation damage. I don’t want our work to gain a legacy on our territory. You will try to convince them to contact you. As soon as contact is established, the cat’s head will be on the other side of the wall. And definitely, this sin,” he said with disgust, “is to be washed away. Things should be in their proper state.”

Daiki seemed to agree, “Of course the inhabitants should be fairly compensated.”

Igor proceeded to speak very carefully, pondering every word, and trying to evoke a proper response. “This case . . . we’re up for it. Would you share more details?”

And a response there was, though not as enthusiastic as desired. “Actually, I originally envisioned the case to have totally different constraints. It sounded like a job at optimising and leading a team of under-trained repairmen. But this . . .” He seemed like he was about to shake his head, but didn’t.

Alex turned to Igor. “Alas, for now all data is only being given to Mr. Caine. He’s the only one I can fully trust at this moment.”

Understandably, Igor wasn’t happy. “It’s called being kept in the dark. Not that I mind. But one should call things by their true names.”

And Richard seemed just as unhappy as the Russian. “I am thankful for the display of trust in me personally, but by it you are also putting me into an embarrassing situation.”

“I give you permission to grant access to this information to whoever you deem appropriate.

Igor calmed down. “That’s much better.”

. . . But Richard didn’t. “This is precisely the thing that makes it embarrassing. For me, making such decisions regarding people’s trustworthiness is a routine part of a job. But you carefully picked the team whose trustworthiness you’re offering me to reevaluate. That means either it’s yet another test, or you’re actually paying for my time doing this part of the job as a necessary component of the investigation. Is that indeed my first objective? What do you really want?”

. . . at this point Alex realised that he can’t find a plausible counter-argument - and doesn’t want to. Asking the AI for assistance gave no results either - it just waited silently. Any possible replies, except for one, risked alienating the team and resulting in a refusal to cooperate, which would lead to a total failure of the project. And there was no way to even slightly deflect the question, to slightly slow down the hand of destiny. He merely wanted to delay informing the legacy of the opposing force, which had clearly superhuman ability . . .

To provide safety without showing the horrors of the outer world to the public - this is what Kirov was doing.

He wants the truth? He will get the truth!

“You convinced me. There is indeed no time left for games.”

The wall-screen started showing another video. Almost silently. It took a few seconds to attract the team’s attention.

It was a recording most likely taken from an AI companion of some Tennin: Trojans, deliveries of mined minerals towards Titan, the trip back, waiting periods between flights . . . upon returning for the third or fourth time, the pilot finds the home station completely scorched. From what can be gathered, it was a focused attack by assorted EM radiation, powerful enough to destroy everything, leaving only chunks of melted metal.

The same sort of event occurs to three different pilots. Two in 98, one in 99. And each time, there was no clue whatsoever regarding where the attacker came from and where it went. The weapon in question was sufficient guarantee against leaving witnesses or black boxes.

“I need to know WHY. Who was angered by our activity, and why WE were left alive . . .”

Igor let out a long whistle.

“. . . And I need to make sure that this will never happen to anyone, ever again.”

Caine interrupted, “And this what I did receive. Confusion, anyone?”

“Are you saying that the little dragons have anything to do with it?” asked Daiki.

“No, but the station can be used as a staging platform for a more serious expedition. And a source of respectable income, which we, alas, are lacking.”

“Then why this base?” asked Igor. “Look at all the Chinese on Mars!”

“Same reason why I picked you. Because we can’t afford to be picky, and because we’re almost dead by now.”

Well, that definitely wasn’t very reassuring. And yet Igor nodded. “Yes, understood.”

Daiki considered the steps taken further: “In what sort of way is the repair of this station going to provide money? Does it contain something valuable aside from the little dragons?”

“First, this in itself is a habitable space. Second, it is personal space. Third, it contains valuable historical data and records by the authors of the project. Fourth, we can rent out part of it. Fifth, this is a place for stationing the trusted personnel for the planned expedition.”

Igor shrugged. “Pardon me.”

Caine still looked worried. “Don’t get me wrong. I am interested in the case. It’s actually interesting, for good or ill. And I’m ready to join the project for the listed period and payment. But if it turns out into a combat mission, my losses will number in hundreds of thousands.”

“The risk of actual full-scale combat is near-zero.” Frolov let out a deep sigh. “I can offer you an extra fifteen thousand as a matter of insurance against it. You’ll pay it back if the problem doesn’t occur.”

The Guinean seemed sceptical.

“Do you have any data on the station’s history, logs?” asked Kitsos, almost as if talking to someone else. “Such as what are they eating all this time, after all? Or was everything lost? How did you get those inside records, Alex? How did you get inside? Did you take over the hardware that was already in? Who was the camera operator?”

“No, our access is limited by the airlock. It’s an impenetrable wall past that.”

Daiki was a bit puzzled. “Do you mean that literally, or merely that the airlock is non-functional?”

“Metaphorically. We couldn’t establish a meaningful contact - neither with the AIs, nor with the ‘dragons’. They address us, but they don’t hear us.” Alex straightened his spine. Even non-empaths could see through his façade, feeling the full graveness of his words. “And the operator was human. My brother.”

He silently initiated a transfer of an archive containing the history of Y-56. In short, it was assembled ad-hoc by TSA sympathisers, and eventually written off as space junk occupying a licensed orbit, but neither disposed of nor claimed by the license owner. Supposedly, it wasn’t inhabited at that point.

Everyone fell into silence, looking over the data. Only Kitsos commented, quietly, almost as if only for himself. “Well, we sure look like benevolent conquistadors.”

Last edited by Clancy; 06-10-2013 at 03:59 PM.
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Old 04-19-2013, 03:23 PM   #23
Join Date: Jan 2013
Default Session 2a: The Gift

Session 2a: The Gift

Frolov was preparing to dismiss everyone and leave the hangar, but Richard spoke up.

“A couple more things before we make the decision. Firstly, if we’re allowed to call things by their true names . . . if you don’t expect to live for more than a week . . . who’s signing the contract? I mean, your plans seem to concern something set months in the future. And secondly, the proceedings involving recognition of being in control of the station will involve some political and judicial manoeuvres; it would be optimal to attain some heavy backing for this purpose. Is that already arranged, or should I start pulling strings to bring in my own?”

Alex gazed heavily at the team with his golden eyes. “There is no long-term contract. After the completion of your work, and the death of the last of us, you will inherit the station.”

The hangar went silent. Daiki’s face was expressionless. Cherry was visibly shocked, trying to figure what the catch could be. Richard looked concerned, with hints of recognition and confidence dawning upon his face after a brief consideration. Not being able to ensure his agenda judicially, Alex was trying to play the guilt/sense of duty card on the team...

“What to do with it after that is for you to decide. I merely hope that you’ll show a bit of gratitude for such a gift, and will not immediately forget the things I’ve shown you.”

Kitsos was the first to reply. “Why? Why do you suddenly trust us so much? Gave out so much information without having us agree first? So much of a hurry?”

Caine disapprovingly glanced at the Greek for asking about a hurry, but Alex actually granted the answer.

“None of us will survive for more than a couple of months. There’s no sense in going for long-term contracts and monetary rewards. Mister Caine... deserves trust.”

...And was also trying to appeal to Richard’s personal sense of honour.

Cherry raised a hand, asking for attention, like a pupil in an old-school classroom. “I apologise, Alex, but GEO objects don’t just get lost like that. And of course they don’t stormed like that either. Yes, GEO doesn’t get many vacuum-cleaners, but still. And this ‘inheritance’... what are you carefully not mentioning?”

The words were serious, but her tone was soft, friendly, almost cute. And yet Alex seemed unsettled by the very idea of having to directly interact with her at all. “The only complication involves the inhabitants of the station. I wouldn’t want anything to happen to them. But soon my wishes will no longer matter to this world. I must leave you to your decisions. We’ll talk again in twelve hours.”

Everybody said their goodbyes, and the team proceeded to check out the shuttle they were being provided for the job, situated in the hangar. There was a NAI pilot built in, but Daiki was dead-set on occupying the first seat and checking out something about the craft. Caine didn’t seem to pay the shuttle much attention, being more focused on the nuances of the contract draft that Alex sent him. “How about we sit down somewhere, read the files, discuss the plan?”

Daiki was too occupied re-checking the shuttle’s characteristics and design. A few moments, and realisation dawned upon his face. “HAY!!!”

Caine’s eyes went wide in surprise. Not at the shuttle’s 2G engine powered by metallic hydrogen, but at the fact that Daiki’s shout revealed a distinctly non-Japanese accent. But maybe he just misheard. “Alright. Why? Is it supposed to be a high-end military groundside shuttle or something?”

Daiki calmed down. “Good shuttle, but a bit much for an hop between orbits.”

“Exactly. But, you play the cards you’re dealt. So how about going somewhere more private and discussing all this?”

“Sure, why not.”

Last edited by Clancy; 06-10-2013 at 03:59 PM.
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Old 04-19-2013, 03:25 PM   #24
Join Date: Jan 2013
Default Session 2b: Teambuilding

Session 2b: Teambuilding

The team spent a bit more time in the hangar, examining the equipment provided, the flight plan presets, then moved on to Richard’s home office. Cherry saw everyone to their seats, seemingly paying Daiki just a little bit extra of attention.

“So, esteemed prospective colleagues, we have a few issues to tackle. Anybody willing to be the first one to talk?” Caine looked over the room, and seeing that nobody showed initiative, continued. “First, whether we want to put any trust in the deal at all. For now, I see both pros and cons. Second, the fact that we’ll need some big fish to hide behind if we actually intend to have a chance at keeping the station in our hands.”

Kitsos politely interrupted, “Richard, under such a... shield... are you implying some... factions... capable of solving the issues relating the ownership of this station?”

“In a way. I mean that there are many corporations and states that are likely to contest our claims. Some are on my side, and will provide a bit of their legal and political heavy artillery in exchange for an opportunity to use a bit of ‘our’ station’s space for their purposes. Not forever. But I’m getting ahead of myself - things will need some time for negotiation.”

Cherry did her best to comment without grabbing the spotlight: “I wouldn’t quite trust all of this. He’s telling the truth, but omits something which is obvious only for him.”

Kitsos pondered a bit. “So, our client... Do you think that perhaps given the brain damage, his speech disorder is not the only thing that’s wrong about his mind?”

Daiki had a line of thinking of his own. “The engine... one does not just install a HEDM onto a shuttle on a whim.” Indeed, it’s been less than a half-decade since they’ve become available at all.

Richard called everyone back to attention. “Still, we should get back to the primary issues. Do we have any concrete reasons why us working for Alex is either completely unacceptable or extremely desired? Or is everyone here generally ready to accept such an odd job?”

“Think so,” said Igor.

Daiki merely nodded.

“Well, regarding trust, I do like Alex, and I can sort of understand his motivation regarding the station and its inhabitants. But I don’t quite understand his video. There’s non-obvious stuff hidden in there that can range from random paranoia to some sort of data that he may not disclose - which does not necessarily mean he doesn’t want to disclose it. I do think that the work with restoring the station does seem interesting and acceptable,” said Kitsos.

“So the preference is hanging between a ‘Yes’ and a wish to delay the decision for more than 12 hours, in order to obtain more data?”

“I think he might not appreciate requests for more data without knowing our decision,” said Daiki, “Perhaps we should at the very least write down a list of questions we need answers to. Alas, this won’t solve the problem regarding questions we don’t know to ask,” said Kitsos.

“Yes, alas, we currently do not know the questions we should be asking,” agreed Igor. “We might as well start our preparations. We’ll make the final decisions later.”

“And are willing to act in accordance with the client’s interest, and are looking forward to signing his contract if all goes well. Is that correct?” asked Caine.

“Overall, it is.”

Daiki smiled. “I suppose there’s no need to give an oath with a formal severing of a finger.”

Caine raised an eyebrow, and tried not to smile too much. “Why, is there some fault of yours that would make it necessary?”

Igor frowned. “Then again, if it suddenly turns out that we’ve been under-informed by the client regarding something so significant that it casts doubt on his trustworthiness - we’re retaining our freedom to act as we see fit.”

“Of course.”

Kitsos was a bit sceptical. “Act? Right now, the most we can do is get there and look around, then say what we’ll need for the job. But yes, I’m generally inclined to sign up for it.”

“Well then, this is reason enough to raise another, third, question. Between us. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The second question is whether we accept or deny the fact that there will people trying to contest our ownership of the station, and that a small group like us needs some external support. If the fact is accepted as true, I’ll start doing my part securing such a support.”

“Who would provide such support and how much will it cost us? And how compatible would it be with Alex-san’s plans?” asked Daiki. Caine slightly cringed at the intertwine of a Japanese suffix into a sentence otherwise consisting of perfectly fluent English. Followed by possessive, no less. He made a mental note to later ask Cherry how possessives work in Japanese.

“Let’s just say I can handle it on my own without affecting the team’s ability to perform its primary mission.”

“I’d rather talk it over with Frolov.”

“As far as I see, Frolov delegated such decisions to me, which hints at the third question. But let’s finish with the second one before we get to it.”

“And perhaps those supporters will be in opposition to some of those present here.”

“All right, I’ll talk it over with Frolov just in case. But let’s figure what we want first. The two relevant factions are Biotech Euphrates - with whom I have a warm familial relationship, and some of whose representatives I know to be willing to trade favours - and certain people in the PRA - with whom I have an equally warm but not as familial relationship, and who will be willing to provide a bit of ‘statist’ political weight in exchange for claiming they have an extra star in the sky.”

Daiki looked at Richard in silent approval.

Cherry once again tried to comment without attracting too much attention. “I suppose we’ll have no trouble finding a buyer for it if we need one. But I’m wondering about having a home of our own up there.”

Igor, on the other hand, was a bit shocked. “Home? There?”

Caine tried not to make hasty decisions either way. “Oh, I’m not even saying we should necessarily sell it immediately. A long-time rent will be almost as good for my friends as an outright purchase.”

“Well, the holes in the station’s hull are nothing compared to a ‘hole’ in an orbit; it’s still in semi-working condition as-is, and it comes with a license for the GEO spot to whoever makes it fully operational again,” commented Kitsos. “What was the third big question?”

“All right, third question. Mister Frolov behaves as if I’m already assigned as the group’s coordinator, without asking your opinion. The way I see it, my position can be contested - while we’re still in the stage of preparations - if somebody else is willing to take it and considers himself appropriate for it. If so, I would like to hear it now.”

“I’m not opposed to you being the coordinator,” said Igor coldly. “On one condition: you don’t hide anything from us, as long as it concerns our job.”

“I will not hide anything. But I’m saying this solely in the context of the current operation. Whether our further paths cross again or depart from each other, I’m not reporting anything to you anymore,” Caine smiled, then looked at Cherry. “Ms Hunter, could you please bring us some tea and cookies? We’re almost done with the primary questions, but there’s a lot of smaller details left to discuss.”

With a quiet nod, she got up and left the room.

“Something to ask Alex directly - does he give us carte blanche regarding any actions in case of unforeseen events? Will he be unhappy about it? Will he provide any advice in the process?” listed Kitsos.

“Well, we’ll just have to wait for the next meeting and ask him.”

“Sound idea. Definitely added to the list of stuff to ask him,” said Igor. Daiki nodded in agreement too.

Cherry returned to the room with a tray, with magnetically secured cups, a teapot and a cookie box on it. “Thank you,” nodded Caine.

Of the five cups, four were white, one was beige, and she set aside the latter for herself, then proceeded to pour the tea for the guests. The trick required a steady hand in Lunar-equivalent gravity, but she was good at it. At least it was possible to use a cup on these levels of the station, even if it took some getting used to.

“Thanks,” said Lascaris, and carefully took a small sip from the cup, then turned to Caine. “Actually I’m wondering who will be the direct leader of the operation.”

“Well, Mr. Frolov seems to constantly be implying that he wants to delegate direct decision-making to me, and stay in the distance on his own.”

“Well, I’d agree to either, but I just want a clear answer. To avoid disorganised actions as a team.”

“Well then, this will be easy to handle. For now, we should take a closer look at the data, at the contract, the intelligence. Meeting’s not over - it’s just the beginning.”
Caine proceeded to analyze the service agreement draft that Alex gave, outlining the important nuances to the prospective colleagues. Cherry just sat quietly, a bit away from most of the team. The room was two thankyou’s short

Last edited by Clancy; 06-10-2013 at 04:00 PM.
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Old 05-20-2013, 01:18 PM   #25
Join Date: Jan 2013
Default Session 3a: Managing the risks

Session 3a: Managing the risks

For the last half-hour or so, the room was silent. Everyone was focused on their interfaces - reviewing the case, making arrangements for the departure, and doing other net research. Caine was the first to speak up:

“Gentlemen. I took the time to go over the text of the draft version of the contract offered by Frolov, and I must say that it didn’t look pleasant. Notably, it had tricky clauses lasting as long as five years. I’ve tidied it up and explicitly pushing to change a few things in our favour. Let’s see if they’re willing to accept that.”

Kitsos was occupied searching the web for any public data regarding the client. “Anyone got any interesting data on Frolov?” he turned to Caine, “Or maybe even data from your channels?”

“No, just focused on the agreement itself. Yep. Frolov’s infomorph representative indicates that the new conditions are acceptable - to the point that we and they can officially sign it on the next meeting. For those who weren’t paying attention: there was a five-year clause threatening a fine in the millions if we get into any confrontations with the TSA,” he said, trying to keep a straight face at the over-the-topness of the hypothetical situation, then shared the document with his prospective colleagues.

Daiki was paying little attention - he was busy going over the shuttle’s specs. Then he realised what he just heard. “Was that another test, or did they really want to include such a clause?”

“Well, it does seem that he has an agenda that would be harmed by such a development of events, so the unwillingness to let us get into such a conflict seemed genuine. What I didn’t like is the way he tried to achieve it. After encountering such an approach, I definitely would only sign even the new text strictly on the behalf of RC Interfaces - never on my own. Just in case.”

“Running away from responsibility, hiding behind front companies, is ultimately unproductive. What did Frolov say about his real objectives and his ability to facilitate their achievement?” commented Daiki.

Caine frowned. “RCI is no front company.” He wasn’t so much offended as puzzled. Yes, RCI was a one-person corp, but it was quite established, and there was nothing shady about it at all.

Meanwhile, Kitsos shared some of his finds on Frolov’s team. Regular Duncanite pilots, members of a vaguely defined group (not even a corp!) of He-3 miners and satellite explorers. “Richard, what would happen if we invoke section 11.6 of the current version immediately before performing the actions outlined in 11.3?”

“That’s a funny little loophole. Are you seriously offering to do anything like it?” asked Caine. He had a hard time believing that this friendly-looking young man was genuinely considering - or even had a reason! - for an attack on Frolov’s team immediately after terminating a contract. And of course open hostilities had a host of other problems associated with it.

“In that case the consequences will hit us, not the company,” said Daiki. He was pretty much spot-on.

“No, I’m asking just in case we need to back out of all this,” answered the Greek.

“You know, if the issue reaches open hostilities,” said Caine, very much doubting such a possibility, “then contracts will be the least of our worries. And if it doesn’t, well, things aren’t all that bad. Just keep in mind that under some conditions fraud is legally considered equivalent to open hostilities.”

Kitsos nodded in agreement.

“What about any complaints from third parties?” asked Komatsu.

“Did you already find any? Third parties, that is. Because the station is legally recognized as abandoned and neutral. But yes, I started pulling some Euphrates and PRA strings specifically to prepare for the possibility of encountering other good-natured conquistadors. If all else fails, we’ll just point a finger at a bigger fish and let them handle it.” Of course, doing that would reduce any benefits the team would derive from the station, but Caine didn’t mind.

“I don’t know whether there are any, but the question is what do we do if they show up? Frolov & Co. have a history of their own, and might have enemies.”

“Well, keep the sensors sweeping, and track all space objects approaching us, for one.”

Kitsos was pensive. “Let’s say we accidentally shine a powerful laser towards a nearby comsat. Who’s responsible for it and gets to face the consequences?”

“Oh, that. Depends on whose fault it is. As far as I’m concerned, if no persons get hurt and the act was performed as part of the job, a purely administrative penalty would fall onto RCI. There are, of course, various nuances and matters of proofs that get more complicated.”

“Firstly, not everyone has a company acting as a buffer. Second, maybe somebody won’t be satisfied with getting some ‘RCI’, when they know they can go for the warm bodies instead,” noted Komatsu.

“If it’s a matter of administrative responsibility, there’s the corporate veil for them to worry about. If it’s criminal, the contract won’t matter. Or are you implying thugs coming after our heads? If so, we’re talking about hiding behind the bigger fish once again.”

“Perhaps you can contact any specialists familiar with the mentality of people such as Frolov, to avoid any misunderstandings about the contract’s meaning? They’re Duncanites, their understanding of law differs from the European one.”

Cherry shows subtle note disapproval at Komatsu’s words. Slightly smiling, Caine replies, “Duncanites live most of their lives by contract law. Wouldn’t you say so?” he looked at the Tennin teen. “Of course, I’ll double-check everything written down. I suppose Frolov’s lawyers are doing that as we speak. The important thing is how the judges Aegis Group see the agreement”

“Consult them.”

On the inside, Richard was getting slightly annoyed. Of course he would consult the appropriate specialists. He knew full well that he was much less proficient as a lawyer than as a negotiator.

“Also, how are the rewards shared within the team?” asked Daiki.

“And another question then: How is the responsibility shared between us in case of a breach?” added Laskaris.

“That is precisely the question I wanted to discuss. Are you interested in entering the agreement personally, or as subcontractors of RCI?”

“Good question. What are the differences?”

Richard visibly shifted to a softer, friendlier attitude.

“The main benefit of a subcontract is the chance to avoid getting into an agreement that comes with significant fines in case of a renege. As soon as Frolov transfers the salaries, they are immediately transferred to you in the full sum - off-planet taxes are so low that I don’t need to worry about inefficiencies. But other details need to be negotiated between us. What do you consider important?”

“How about the fine nuance of being the devisees of the station?”

Strictly speaking, this was no longer so. Under the new contract, the station was to be transferred directly as soon as the assignment was complete.

“Well, tell me, honestly, what do you think is a fair share in a situation where RCI takes all of the liabilities onto itself?”

“I think the client is just interested in his long-term goals, not extorting unlucky repairmen for money.”

Of course, the problem was that Frolov’s long-term goals looked rather fuzzy. And yet Richard nodded, silently watching as Cherry left the room for more tea and snacks.

“So I’d prefer an agreement that we honestly perform the work, and they agree to the outcome. If we’re not suitable, there’s a lot of other people orbiting the planet. That would be fair.”

Once again, Richard was becoming annoyed on the inside, but didn’t let that detract him. “I see you have a personal preference about the agreement with Frolov. I will not try to dissuade you.”

“Mr. Caine, what percentage of liabilities would you take away from me on conditions of a subcontract, given that yesterday we knew neither each other nor of the station in question,” asked Kitsos.

“That depends on what percentage of the station you want to receive.”

“Mr. Caine, in case of successful completion of the assignment, I would like a single room to live in on the station, plus a small percentage of the income the station brings - if it brings any. I was expecting a single-assignment job, but Frolov expressed the sudden generosity regarding the station when we all met.”

Yes, Frolov certainly did look unusually generous with this idea.

“Alright, that brings us to the question: when and how are the rewards distributed?” asked Daiki.

“When is obvious. As soon as they are transferred by the client. Can’t do it before that, and there’s no point in waiting after.”

“And as for how much? Since it is unclear what would be fair, I’m proposing to divide it equally. Or are there any other offers?”

Laskaris voiced his opinion. “Let’s think about it: assuming things go pear-shaped and we have to pay reparations. How long would I have to drudge to pay out my share? Even fifty grand would be too much to pay at a time, let alone the higher sums. Hmm?”

Caine looked at Kitsos. “So, that seems to indicate that you’d rather completely avoid the risk at the cost of almost completely giving up your share of the station. Is that correct?”

Last edited by Clancy; 06-10-2013 at 04:00 PM.
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Old 05-20-2013, 01:19 PM   #26
Join Date: Jan 2013
Default Session 3b: Common math

Session 3b: Common math

Meanwhile, the news network informed that none other than Frolov has been hospitalized, with suspicions of some sort of poisoning. At the moment, only Daiki seemed to pay the it any attention, until Cherry came back with more snacks and tea, then opened the bulletin on a local terminal for everyone to see.

“As long as you can call a job involving repairs of a totally unexplored, infested space station risk-free? Yes.”

Caine smiled sardonically. “You shouldn’t make jokes like that. When I mentioned ghosting and buying shells, I was pretty serious.”

“You know,” commented the Duncanite, “At this rate, seems like the case might be closed whether we want it or not. How many hands do you need to clap?”

Kitsos looked at the terminal, then back at Caine. “How about one percent, plus the cabin to live in, and full protection from liability?”

“Sounds good. If your actions unintentionally lead to a breach of contract, your liability is taken by RCI instead. However, in case of deliberate sabotage, you are liable to RCI and me. Either way, the client has no direct power over you. Deal?”

“All right. But I’d like to take a look over the precise wording. We’ll sign everything once we meet Alex again, right? Between RCI and us,” he paused, looked at Daiki, then corrected, “or perhaps between me and RCI.”

Caine nodded. “We can go over the variants. Ms. Hunter, please prepare the appropriate boilerplates and see what needs adjusting.”

She complied with a friendly smile. Apparently, she was already doing it as the co-workers talked. It took seconds to complete the first draft. Laskaris’ adjusted share of the station was approximated at 5% due to the inclusion of the alleged cabin; 45% went to RCI/Caine, and the remaining half was split among the other two team mates.

“Caine, how much would RCI take for representing my interests? Or would that count as participation?” asked Daiki.

He called me Cain? No. “Since you’ve just dropped the formalities anyway, just call me Richard. As a subcontractor, you get the opportunity to get rid of 5% of the liability per 4% of the station given up, but no less than 5%. Your choice whether you want that - no need to hurry.”

The room fell silent once again, with everyone returning their attention to their interfaces and thoughts. After a while, Cherry sent a silent message about having something to say.

“Yes, Ms. Hunter, please speak,” said Richard. The formal wording clashed somewhat with a more casual manner in which it was said.

“Just a few considerations before we proceed with the actual work. We should consider added redundancies in life support. Having a less memorable transport or at least engine would be nice. However, refitting the engine would probably be a complication. A preliminary reconnaissance of the spot in question would be nice - either by our own resources, or by buying someone else’s recon data.”
Richard nodded. He was waiting for Daiki and Igor to make the final choice about the possible subcontract. He was also contemplating his concerns about the fact that the team was already splitting the skin of a bear they didn’t kill yet. And nobody had an idea what second assignment Alex was going to offer in case if they did. Nor why would it require them to have a station, nor what the dangers and rewards of it may be.

Last edited by Clancy; 06-10-2013 at 04:01 PM.
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Old 05-20-2013, 01:50 PM   #27
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Default Re: After Action Report: the Eggshell Campaign

Originally Posted by Owen Smith View Post
It seems to be taking forever to discuss how the PCs are even going to approach the first scenario. I'd have been bored long before this point if I were playing.
Wasn't half of Europe On Mars about diplomatic bureaucracy?
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Old 05-20-2013, 02:00 PM   #28
Join Date: Jan 2013
Default Re: After Action Report: the Eggshell Campaign

This thing is played mostly by players and their ideas. But, you're right, after that long and boring contract discussion I had asked Vicky to contain his juristic mania, what surely had been done.
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Old 05-20-2013, 02:06 PM   #29
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Default Re: After Action Report: the Eggshell Campaign

Originally Posted by Clancy View Post
This thing is played mostly by players and their ideas. But, you're right, after that long and boring contract discussion I had asked Vicky to contain his juristic mania, what surely had been done.
I've seen GMs screw players over loopholes in contracts or Great Wish wordings fair and square. Too bad the perk for always having bulletproof wording is considered cinematic. (And yes, we actually have those 11 paragraphs written down, as well as liability and reward percentages.)

And now that I think of it, the amount of happenings in the recent sessions sure is higher than in the early ones.
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Old 05-20-2013, 02:27 PM   #30
Join Date: Dec 2010
Default Re: After Action Report: the Eggshell Campaign

Frankly, I find the negotiations fascinating. In particular, I am curious about the assumed value of offset risk, especially for contracts of unknown character. Then again, this might be why I continually play face characters... I tried to set up an LLC in a high fantasy game once. I think I was the only one excited about the prospect.
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actual play, after-action report

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