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 Outside - Business and Credibility

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PostSubject: Outside - Business and Credibility   August 13th 2010, 8:18 am

Outside - Story Fifteen
Business and Credibility

Part One

[Scene from camera inside Diamond’s apartment. There is really little in this room. A number of pictures on a table are about the only personal items that can be seen. Clover is getting out of a chair in front of a computer monitor while pointing at the screen.]

Clover: Okay, Diamond. All of the video files are here. Move them into this box and you will be given options on how to edit them. You can use this word processor to write your script, or you can use this program to simply record with the text file being generated from it later. It depends on your style.

Diamond: I normally just put together the video, then talk.

Clover: Right. I know you have done this before. Good luck.

Diamond: Thanks, Clover.

[Sound of someone moving away, then Diamond sighs as he takes a seat in the chair.]

Diamond: Okay, let me get this done.

[End of this video feed.]

Hey, this is Diamond. I know all of you get interested in our work scanning new star systems. I really don’t see what is so entertaining about it. I do the things, and they are the most boring work. Well, okay, they aren’t that bad. I mean, we get all involved in it. It is so boring simply flying back and forth. I and most of my associates however slowly get caught up in the process as the information begins to come together. By the end of the scans I find myself highly charged with what is going on instead of worn out by days of flying straight lines through space.

This was actually a system that we had bought mining rights for on our last voyage. Luckily, the problems with space travel have caused mining rights to not have a clearly stated time limit. They can be challenged, and the courts have ruled that if someone has no designs to visit then the mining rights fail – even if the mining rights had just been bought. As soon as we announced that we were coming back in, our mining rights became open to competition. Thor had to quickly file his intent to come back out, complete with a new itinerary. Those stars that he could not place on his new flight plan we lost the rights to, and the new stars we had to petition to gain those rights.

I don’t care how lucky people claim Clover to be, we can find worthless star systems just like anyone else. We really did not do that hot on our first mission. If it wasn’t for the oxygen scrubber, our bonuses would not have been that big. The money for this mission was starting out solid, but we were due for a bust. None of had any hopes as we entered this system. Clover did have his computers running, but the conversations from him just did not have the enthusiasm that he usually tried to show as we found things.

“Yep, I told you. It’s a comet.”

I replied, “No tail.”

“Let me see.” I assumed that Clover was doing something with his computer. “Within the year it should be close enough for a tail.”

The voice of Thor asked, “What is the chemical composition of that comet?”

“Chemical analysis coming to you. Nothing that I see worth reading out loud.”

“Hey, did you program your computer to even give a beep should it encounter an alien civilization?”

“You ask that question every time, Thor, and it is the same answer: yes I did, because you keep asking the same question every time.”

The voice of Felix asked, “What were the odds that this system would have intelligent life?”

“Not high,” Clover answered. “Still, with the sun being past its prime some are allowing that it might have had life at some time in the past.”

I responded, “So, here we are looking.” I then saw something through my window, and asked, “Hey, Indigo, are you finding anything?”

“Something seems to be along my flight path. It is not a planet, but it is rather tight formation of rocks.”

“Yeah, that is what I think I am seeing out my window.”

Clover said, “You aren’t supposed to look out your windows, Diamond.”

“Well, there ain’t nothing on my monitors to look at. Are you finding anything interesting, Indigo?”

“I don’t do any analysis. Clover, Felix, and Black Dove handles the data. I just do my job and gather it.”

“So, they are just rocks?”

“Tight formation. They look natural however. No indication of a habitation.”

Clover asked, “You can do a spectral scan?”

“Yes, just a second.”

I saw Indigo fire her lasers at the rocks. Each one had a part of their surface go gaseous, and the energy of the laser supplied the light for the computers to pick up a reading. After just a short time the two were discussing the elements the test revealed. It quickly turned into geek talk about aqueous crystals and how they lost their color when the water was removed. I never much cared about chemistry, so turned down the volume as I continued my job.

I never got married. I wish that I had. I wish that I had gotten rich as well, but I never accomplished that either. I get a lady occasionally. I get a paycheck occasionally. Neither is lasting.

My whole life has been one temporary job after another. I always wanted the best, but never saw a path to getting that. I am dependable. I have a good resume and good references. Yes, I drank. Yes, I gambled. Neither however became a problem, except that I was always broke. Like I said, an employer could depend upon me showing up for work and doing my job. If he worried about what I did when not on the clock, he was infringing upon my rights. No disciplinary remarks were ever made when an employer terminated my employment, but my stint aboard the Menlo Park has been my longest time employed.

Thor knew who I was when I came to him looking for work. He likes to drink as well. Thor tends not to gamble, at least not at the usual games. He can be seduced into taking wagers. Anyway, he knew who I was, and agreed that I had the experience without any black marks. He thus hired me.

I feel certain that it was not his intent to have me balancing the scale for Clover, but that is how many see it. Clover is rich, and I am not. Clover is young, which I am not. Truthfully, I found it strange that me and Clover got along, but the young man came from the Amish who gave respect to their elders. He thus originally accepted me and what advice I had simply because I was older. I saw in his eyes surprise that I could relate to modern music, movies, and technology, and found him appreciating having someone old that he could actually speak with. After dealing with the Amish for a few years, he was glad to meet an elder that was a part of his world. I thus found the young man seeking me out for conversations, and we came to form a type of friendship.

As I maneuvered my boat to begin another straight-line pass through the solar system, I found myself surprised to hear Clover’s voice. “DAMN! DIAMOND! Did you turn the volume down again!”

I put the volume back to normal as I said, “Yeah, sorry, Clover. What do you want?”

“Castle was telling you that once we finish these scans, he is going to begin doing the upgrades to your boat.”

“Well, if he wouldn’t mumble, I might have heard him.”

The voice of Indigo said, “You mean, if he would scream like Clover did.”

“You say it your way, and I will say it mine.”

The voice of Castle said, “I have already looked at your boat a couple of times. The parts should change out with little problem. Clover says that you are going to have to learn his style of boards, but that it is past time for you to upgrade your computer system anyway.”

“He cannot simply upload my programs into his system?”

Clover returned, “No, Diamond. You are running fours, and my software is all based on fives. You are getting my old programs before I modified things for my new A5 system.”

“Will they work with my engine?”

“Castle fed the specs to me, and everything checked out on simulations.”

“You are not going to force me to use Old Tommy?”

I heard laughter as Clover returned, “I believe that you are the only one who could fly Old Tommy.”

Old Tommy was our spare boat. Thor began his career as a construction worker building spaceships. Old Tommy was part of a trade-in. Thor acquired it just as Felix and Indigo got their boats – surplus sale. Being connected to the military, our veteran pilots were able to claim the best at a low price. Being connected to the construction company, Thor managed to get Old Tommy for very little money. By the time he got it working, a vector became released that enabled him to go to a star that had been difficult to get to. It was with the profit from that excursion that he built the Menlo Park. He and Rachel used her boat for their private travel, but our captain still had his first boat. If a pilot is put out of commission, Black Dove does the duty. If a pilot has a boat that is out of commission, they get to use Old Tommy.

Many stories have been told about how Thor came up with the name of his ship. Most fail to take into account Old Tommy. The boat is actually named Thomas Edison. Knowing that, the name Menlo Park for the ship does not seem so strange.

Castle replied to my comment. “It takes a few days for the data from our scans to be correlated and reported, then wait for any bidding. I should easily have you fixed up in that amount of time.”

I wasn’t worried about Castle. That man did know how to dismantle and rebuild space vessels. Clover knew about computers, but he also worked to decode the vast amount of data provided by our sensors. While Rachel tended to become dominant during the bidding process for our systems, our young pilot would be right there further manipulating the data to give her any edge for making money. I mentioned that I was worried about Clover, then listened to his reply.

“You will be getting the boards I just removed, and the programs used. Everything should thus be completely tested. A few changes specific to your boat, but I expect the largest problem will simply be teaching you the boards.”

I felt like giving the young man some trouble about his confidence, but then I saw something. It might sound like I goof off, but I do stay watching the monitors. I thus caught a flash of light. One must understand that we are out in space. There are a multitude of lights, but they are all far away. Even the local sun was many millions of kilometers from my position. What one sees are thus basically fixed points of light without any of the effects one might gain due to an atmosphere or simply lights being close. I kept myself from speaking as I had a monitor replay what I might have seen. Looking at the replay from a camera, I found the event, then sent it to Clover to see if it would trouble him.

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PostSubject: Part Two   August 18th 2010, 8:00 am

Outside - Story Fifteen
Business and Credibility

Part Two

The young man did make a quick statement of acknowledgement in reply to the message packet that I sent him, but otherwise stayed quiet. I actually expected him to talk to others. Technically, he did, just not with his mouth. I found our female captain speaking about the pictures.

“We were talking about crystals. That light could be from another light source, like the nearby sun, coming through some crystals.”

“I believe,” Clover countered, “that we were discussing the differences in aqueous compounds and non-aqueous compounds. Many crystals are not formed without water.”

“The term, ‘aqueous,’ simply means that they have water in their structure. They don’t need an aqueous environment.”

“I think they do.”

Instead of arguing with the young man, which Rachel would do, she instead made a wise decision. “Watson, aren’t you finishing your run?”

“That I am.”

“I am sending you a position. Go look for whatever made a certain light effect.”

The voice of Thor came over the speaker. “Be alert, Watson. We could have another outlaw base.”

I was not used to the voice of Doug, so it puzzled me for a moment as he said, “If it is natural, I however want to duplicate that shot with a better camera.”

Considering that our aged photographer was not actually a member of the crew, I asked, “How many people did you send my picture to, Clover?”

“It has your ID, Diamond. Still, all scans are recorded by the Menlo Park, and Doug does have access to view our camera footage. That was done to hopefully gain us a little more money.” After a short pause, the young pilot added, “I am feeling bad, Diamond. I am supposed to be the lucky one.”

“I keep telling you, Clover, that Lady Luck is fickle.” Wondering if I had gained triple-sevens or simply a couple of cherries, I sent out the question, “What are you finding, Watson?”

“Just coming into position, Diamond. My computer is saying that whatever created that beam should be in orbit. If it is, I should have it soon.”

“You can tell that just from my footage?”

The voice of Clover answered, “Yes, he can. Once I get my old boards in your old boat, you will be able to do that as well.”

“That sounds like one of those seldom used features I will never think to use when I need it.”

“You will be surprised what a tactical readout can tell you, Diamond.”

Before I could return a comment, Watson said, “Found it. Another strange grouping. I am going to do a full imaging of this.”

Suddenly, the voice of Watson blurted out an exclamation. By the time we were asking what had happened, Felix made a surprised sound. Both men spoke of seeing a bright beam of light like that I saw.

It was Doug that said, “I would like to have a shot of that with a camera just close enough to recognize Watson’s boat.”

Clover returned, “I am finishing my run. I can go get the picture for you.”

Watson said, “I cannot promise that it will happen… WHOA! Come on, Clover. Let’s get this recorded.”

Truthfully, following an object in orbit was easy and hard. The hard part was that it followed a curving path, and our Kert fields tended to lock on distant objects making local movements to be in straight lines. If the object was large enough to register with whatever forces activated our Kert fields, then it was easy as the object became stationary to our flight path. We did have thrusters for local movement, but preferred conserving fuel. I watched as Clover showed off the abilities of his craft to come to a position, then efficiently move to the point that would give Doug the picture he desired.

Suddenly a number of shouts went out. I did not have a monitor showing a signal from one of Clover’s cameras, but it seemed that most of my colleagues did. I simply had a tactical of local traffic, so knew that success had been achieved by watching the blip that was Clover’s boat move off as I listened to the voices.

Doug said, “How many cameras do you have active, Clover?”

“They’re cheap, and even cheaper when you order them by the case. I believe – eight were in position.”

“Eight cameras, all at high resolution and at a rather fast frame rate – I believe that I will be a while simply trying to decide which image to use.”

The voice of Rachel said, “While you are doing that, we need to see if we can come up with any explanation for these odd groupings of asteroids.”

Felix replied, “I believe that we are in the early stages of planet formation.”

“That is not true,” came an electronically voice I knew to be used by our saucer companions. “The star is orange, stating its age. This was once the home of the mighty Harveig people. They destroyed their planets in a frenzied war attempting to leave their solar system before the dying sun destroyed their ecosystem.”

Thor replied, “If that is true, then we will find remnants of civilization.”

Our aliens returned, “You are finding them. Their civilization was based on crystals.”

Watson replied, “Like Krypton, the home of Superman. The movies have Krypton mostly crystal.”

“Uh, yes, something like that.”

Thor said, “Clover, does your computer recognize crystalline intelligent life?”

Our young pilot returned, “Intelligent species will alter the world to their satisfaction. I thus believe that we will recognize it.”

The voice of the aliens said, “They advanced to work along with nature.”

“Yet, they had a frenzied war.”

I commented, “Maybe the supermen of this Krypton ran out of phone booths to change clothes in. They were all caught in their Clark Kent outfits, so died.” I then asked a serious question, “What about these crystals that we are detecting?”

“You know the process, Diamond. We do the scans, then directly investigate and take samples of anything that shows interest. Let us finish the scans.”

“You do know that this step of the process is boring?”

“I bet you change your opinion very quickly once we find the remains of those phone booths.”

A chorus of voices spoke their agreement. Me, I stayed silent. Mankind might not have reached out to any noticeable fraction of stars in our galaxy, much less the universe, but the odds were still there that we should have found signs of life. Stars that we once felt were high candidates for life were found to be lacking. Only our oxygen scrubber had been found, and it was not where most people would have looked. If Clover did not have these high detail scans to refer to, even his lucky self might have missed them. I thus hushed and returned to the work.

Wondering about what we were finding, I had a monitor bring up what results I could access. It was not that the information was private. We worked with radio to keep others from seeing our data until we could appraise the value of our discovery, but the signal was clear to anyone close enough to pick it up. A number among the crew made their best money from buying and selling stock before others knew what could result from the information soon to be released. It sometimes was considered to be a better option to release certain pieces of information to specific companies, and let them pay us to keep certain facts private. My problem was that I ran an old computer system, so my programs were not able to translate the amount of data being generated. I however did not need in-depth reports to form a basic opinion.

I said, “This was probably an interesting system at one time.”

Felix returned, “Yes, but no sign of life. Some of the compounds are slightly unusual, but nothing that demands life. That does not rule out another oxygen scrubber however.”

Clover replied, “Well, I would say that it does rule it out that it still lives. These remains do imply planets with atmospheres. When they were destroyed, by whatever process…”

The voice of our aliens said, “We told you that they had a war.”

“By whatever process, I am certain that whatever life existed died.”

Black Dove now said, “What I am seeing looks like money to me.”

The voice of our aliens blurted out, “We will buy it.” After a chorus of disbelief, the voice said more. “This was once a proud home of a magnificent race of creatures. In order to give their remains dignity, we will buy the system.”

Black Dove exclaimed, “Like Hell!”

Clover returned, “I don’t care who buys it. If the aliens can out bid the chemical companies, as I am certain that is who Black Dove intends to tempt to purchase this place, then fine with me.”

“If they end up as high bidder, I am going to be mad. I am seeing some rather rare chemicals in these reports.”

The aliens said, “We have money. We can buy it.”

The voice of Thor came over the speaker. “I would suggest that you guys hold your money until we find a system with a good gas giant. You are probably hurting for fuel.”

“We trust that you will not charge much.”

Clover said, “Yes, I believe we will be a little nice, but we will charge. We are doing this for the money.”

“Which is why we are here. We want to give other intelligent beings a positive reflection of what life forms are present.”

While they were chattering, I was looking at the data, and finally formed a conclusion. “Darlene… hold it, Malcolm, aren’t you on duty.”

The voice of our daytime helmsperson said, “Roger.”

“I thought the nebulae we passed through was from a distant supernova.”

“It was. The sun here is only orange. It won’t expel its outer atmosphere for a million years or so. Hopefully, we can finish these scans and cash our checks before that happens.”

“We got a gas giant remnant here, so what caused it to lose its atmosphere?”

The aliens of course had to chime in with their belief. “We told you that there was a war.”

I ignored the aliens, and spoke to the one that would assure me a good paycheck. “Black Dove, isn’t a gas giant remnant on the list of top items companies desire?”

She replied, “You got it, Diamond. It is too early in the process to start marking things, but I believe that I see what you are referring to.”

“And the other things. When the gaseous atmosphere left, couldn’t the resulting cold from the vacuum of space cause the gases to condense into these accumulations of crystals?”

“Sounds like a theory, Diamond. Sounds like one we can play up to make the bidding go high.”

Again the aliens had to chime in. “We told you that there was a war.”

I replied, “Yes, and there is about to be a war, a bidding war. If you win it, I agree with Clover that there will be no hard feelings as I cash my check.”

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PostSubject: Part 3   August 23rd 2010, 7:50 am

Outside - Story Fifteen
Business and Credibility

Part Three

Like I said, the scans became more interesting as the process continued. My observation that we had a gas giant remnant did not lose its viability. However, the aliens’ statements of there being an ancient intelligent race did not gain support. The rocky bodies close to the sun were not big enough or of the right composition to have held an atmosphere. Even allowing for the expansion of the sun destroying the ecosystems of some planets, the fact was that they would not have been able to support life as we knew it. Still, I waited for our group meeting after performing the initial scans.

Clover’s new computers enabled him to basically perform his analyses in real time. On the last mission, we had a couple of days to rest while the computers compiled all the data. Now as I came out of the docking bay I heard Castle and Harley discussing some of the things that were found.

“Three for three, Diamond,” Castle said. “How did you recognize that hunk as being a gas giant remnant?”

“What makes you think that I don’t study the material that deals with my job?”

“What you talk about on your time off, and where you go when we hit Inside.”

I had to give the guy some credit for noticing something about me. “I don’t enjoy it, but I do study the material. I also don’t need to keep studying it. Once I got something, I got it.”

Harley said, “Except for money, hey – ain’t that right, Diamond?”

“Yeah, that’s right, and women.”

Castle said, “I thought you had Sandra.”

“She comes to me, but I don’t have her. Same as money. It comes to me, but I don’t really get to have it.”

“I don’t understand you, Diamond, but you made a good call this time. Have fun with the bonus.”

I thanked him, smiled at Harley, then left to return to my room. I stopped thinking to go back to Castle and ask him about updating some parts of my boat, then considered to get what rest I could. If they were already speaking of results, I figured new assignments would come soon.

“Hey, smart man.”

I stopped for that voice. Truthfully, I would stop for any female voice, but Sandra had been spending time with me. It was not anything unusual. She and Indigo would occasionally entertain me on the last mission. They were both ex-military, so have an attitude of considering all members of their company as worthy of sharing. Indigo and Felix have now set themselves as a pair, so that cut him off of to Sandra. Truthfully, she was older than he, so I was not surprised that he went with Indigo. I liked Sandra, and found myself hoping I would have her for the rest of the mission, but I put no bet on it I tend to lose my bets, but I stopped because I also tend to let my money ride.

“Even you heard about my conclusion, sweet lady?”

“Yes, because I overheard Thor give Terry a chewing out about what tests he would want done. Terry tried to claim that he did not have the equipment, but Thor let him know about a certain list of major desired discoveries, and how he had prepared to claim every one of them. He then told our chemist how he is supposed to know about all equipment relating to his job including what it was, where it was at, and how to use it. It was quite an experience to watch.”

I moved up to hold her as I said, “Sweet thing, I would enjoy taking you back to my room and listening to you speak about it in detail, but I am tired.”

“I got work to do anyway, Diamond. You know that I have to keep a watch on the intakes while in a new system.”

“Yes, well, I know that they will quickly be sending us out again. So, I need to get what rest I can. Glad to see that you cared enough to come to me, Sandra, but I would have gone to you.”

Her hands moved up to my face as she said, “Yes, you are a strong dependable man, Diamond. All you need is one solid win, and you might be surprised how popular you become. Clover was our media darling, but he is now married. Felix and Indigo are now becoming a couple. That leaves you, Malcolm, and Castle, and I believe that you have a much better reputation.”

“I am more than happy to place you at the top of my female list.”

“Some ladies would not consider that a compliment, but I could be stuck with far worse. Don’t you worry about me, Diamond. Get your sleep. Once we are back on a regular schedule, I won’t mind adjusting my schedule back to fit with yours.”

I did kiss her. To have a lady in my arms and not kiss her is a missed opportunity. I do appreciate Sandra, and tried to let her know that.

I showered, then hit my bed. I did not expect to get much sleep. The only benefit that I had was that I was not a mover and shaker of the crew. I was not the captain. I did not own any shares in any of the coming systems. Not having any importance, I usually got the sleep that kept me alert enough to make my work of quality.

I woke to the sound of my captain saying, “All right, Diamond. Meeting in my quarters as soon as everyone can get here.”

“Are you saying I am the last one?”

“No, but I believe that you are the only one sleeping. I believe the others are in the kitchen as Clover and my wife look at the data. I will just have to chase them down to my room.”

I got up wondering again why we have never put up a large monitor in the actual common room. Considering that flight assignments would be handed out, the meeting area in the room between the berthing halls would be the smartest place to gather. It did get used, but normally not for anything that dealt with our jobs. Considering that Harley has her office in that room, computer access would not be that hard to set up to place a large monitor to make the room usable for actual flight related discussions. It had never been done. I always suspected that Thor and Rachel wanted people gathering in family locations like their front room, the kitchen, or the bridge. They did not want a business feel to life in their ship, so had never put up a monitor to make the actual business area usable.

I ran into the others as I went to my captain’s room. They were in the hallway chatting about the information. They were moving in the proper direction, but not with any rush. Seeing me, they were quick to pause in order to bring me up to date.

Clover said, “I believe that you are right, Diamond, but damn if we can do anything about that mass. I was checking with the family business, and my techs there say that it would be next to impossible to build a gravity plate to make it safe to approach.”

“I thought it was the atmospheric pressure that kept us from going down into gas giants.”

Felix replied, “Yes, that is a good excuse, but we just heard the techs of Stirgam Enterprises say that they could not build one powerful enough to fight Jupiter or Saturn anyway.”

Clover added a fact, “Forty Gs is about the max. Those they build stronger are limited use devices, which blow out.”

That really did not sound like good news to me. “So, even though everyone is looking for this thing, no one can do anything about it.”

Felix again spoke. “Necessity is the mother of invention, Diamond. Now that they have it, they will be working on how to make use of it.”

Rachel came up behind the group and loudly said, “Move on into my quarters! We have bids already being made. Come on, let us go discuss how to push the numbers up.”

I moved the younger crew members on ahead as I faded back to say to our lady captain, “They were telling me that no one could get down to check what I marked as a gas giant remnant.”

“Clover’s fortune comes from his father discovering how to make devices that affects gravity. The ones Thor built into this ship will go up to twelve Gs. Those in most of your boats will do about the same. Clover has special ones in his boat, but even his aren’t rated for more than twenty.”

“That thing was registering thousands of Gs.”

“And most agree that the crystal asteroids we detected are accumulations of the atmosphere that once enveloped that sphere. Most of our assignments are going to work to support that theory.”

We had entered the room as Rachel said those words. I could tell that others were listening in. Feeling that the conversation was a good start to our meeting, I kept my voice at a normal speaking level as I asked my question.

“What could have blown the atmosphere away?”

Rachel let her eyes move about to others in the room as she answered, “If we could answer those questions, others might not bid or bid as high. We are not seeking the answers, only to intrigue others to pay to come here and search for the answers themselves.”

Clover activated the large monitor in our captain’s apartment, and a compiled image of the solar system scan was displayed as he spoke. “My theory is that what we are calling a gas giant remnant is really a gas giant that never formed. We really do not have the hydrogen in this system that tends to permeate the other systems or we see abundant in the rest of the universe. While we have a rocky mass great enough to have pulled a large atmosphere around it, we really do not have a large abundance of the lighter elements. I further propose that what crystals we are noting are recent in development. As the sun expanded, it actually warmed a large amount of water that is in the system and created the conditions for the crystals we are noting to have formed. All of this is conjecture, and basically formed to create some tension with Diamond’s stated theory to intrigue as many corporations as possible to bid.”

Watson said, “The words of our aliens have intrigued the military, so I am being told that even they will offer a bid on this system.”

Castle spoke in usual mumbling style. “They simply don’t want a rush of traffic in this direction considering that their ‘secret’ research facility is near this route.”

Rachel said, “I am going to play up everything to increase the value.”

I asked, “Well, what type of assignments do you have for us?”

“At the moment we simply need to verify the crystals we detected on our scans. Samples, samples, samples. As questions from prospective buyers come in, I will be handing out those assignments.”

Felix asked, “Any thought of using a missile to blow off a piece of our large mass?”

Clover said, “We are talking thousands of Gs, Felix. Just how powerful do you think our missiles are?”

“So, you thought about it?”

An alien voice came over the speaker. “This is a message for the captain of the Menlo Park.”

Our female boss replied, “This is Black Dove.”

“Cease any activity. We are agreeing to buy this system.”

“Like Hell. You are free to place your bids.”

“We will buy it as is.”

“I said, ‘LIKE HELL!’”

Alarms sounded in the room, and I could hear them through the ship as the alien voice replied, “Then we will act to stop any other activity.”

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PostSubject: Part 4   August 28th 2010, 7:59 am

Outside - Story Fifteen
Business and Credibility

Part Four

I am not a dramatic person. Maybe if I have had the successes of others, I would be more inclined to erupt into a show of emotions and actions. Losing however teaches you to be reserved in your actions. Watching your money disappear as you lay it on a table, then groaning as it becomes no longer your money, just does not promote gushes of excitement. I remember once jumping for joy when things did go in my favor, but now simply smiled remembering all the times that letting it ride meant simply watching a larger pile of wealth being taken. Some future media presentation of this event might have me jumping up and making my grand statement, but the truth is that I simply held my place as I calmly spoke.

“You know, most of us humans are smart enough not to allow our hot-headed youngsters have any control over our lives.”

A rather clear electronic voice spoke in return, “You allow Clover to have control.”

“That boy does still have hormones dominating his thoughts, but he isn’t hot-headed. He also listens. Your boys seem to be a little impulsive, and not so willing to confide in their elders before jumping into action.”

I heard a number of suggestive exclamations, but I could also hear the clearer electronic voice trying to restore some order. I saw a number look to me as they also listened to what was coming over our speakers. It became evident in the period that I was correct, those in the saucers were impulsive youths with only the guidance of maybe a couple of elders. Most of those aboard the Menlo Park were in their twenties, but they were all much more able to control themselves. We all waited for another response from our aliens.

“Who was that who just spoke?”

We heard another electronic voice identify me. “It was Diamond.”

“Diamond, the old man? Not the captain?”

“Yeah, Diamond.”

I spoke to make my own verification. “Yes, I am Diamond. You interrupted a pilot’s briefing where we were about to gain our assignments to do further checks on this system. I get better pay for these missions, as they are not a redundant duty and often involve slightly dangerous work near large bodies with some involving atmosphere. I don’t like the fact that you are stopping me from increasing my paycheck.”

One of the excitable electronic voices returned, “You get most of your final pay in bonuses.”

“Listen, jerk, you might be an idealistic asshole, but I am purely here for the money. Okay, my work might be only a part of my paycheck, but it is a part of my paycheck. Every credit I can make, well, I am out here to make as much money as I can. That means that I am going to run these missions, whether you want me to or not. All your threats are going to do is allow me to make combat pay a part of my paycheck as well. As they are done at a multiple of my regular pay, I look forward to those assignments.”

The clearer voice could be heard quieting down others aboard his ship, then he said, “Mister Diamond, I appreciate your words, but surely you cannot complain about making easy money. You can just relax, as what you have found is enough to gain a buyer for your system.”

Before I could reply, another voice said, “Menlo Park, this is Terrance Fredericks of Dow Chemicals. Run those missions. We are very interested in the initial scans, and the opening bid by these people is not even close to our lowest offering.”

I was quick to say, “Did you hear that saucer people? You are trying to cut me out of my bonus and my regular pay. Those are fighting words. As my captain is doing this for the money as well, don’t think he won’t give me the permission to make a combat run.”

Again we could hear curses and rash words electronically modified with the clearer voices, there had to be at least two, trying to calm the others. As this occurred, Thor activated a private communication with Sandra, then with our helm. The voices of our saucer people stopped as one made an exclamation as, I guess, he pointed at his own board.

The calmer electronic voice said, “That is unnecessary, Menlo Park.”

Our captain replied, “No, I don’t think so. Apologies to Diamond, but I am not going to authorize him to make combat pay. I am going to do this all myself.”

“Menlo Park, what if we said that we were worried that your coming missions would disrupt evidence of the civilization that was once here?”

“You boys are here, so watch us do our work. Don’t bother us, but simply watch. Why don’t you take pictures? That way, if there is any activity by us that you think is us attempting to hide or destroy things from a previous civilization, you will have records of it as evidence to accuse us.”

While other voices were heard in the background, the clearer voice said, “That is good advice, Menlo Park. Excuse us while we discuss certain facts with members of our crew.”

I truthfully would have preferred Thor handing out a set of missions right away. Clover and Rachel had enough points of interest to have simply done that. Yes, I believe it would have enticed one of the idiots aboard the saucers to make a rash move, but I would have enjoyed watching the retaliation. We instead did our usual thing of looking at the scan data and rating the list of potential interesting spots. It seems that a real discussion also occurred aboard the large saucer, as a rational voice broke into our meeting.

“Menlo Park, could you send us a list of what missions you plan on performing?”

It was Rachel that replied, “That is put out as a public transmission, as we want any that might be interested in the system to know what we consider important. Those that might have other ideas about our scan data, which is also broadcast, can then send in their own suggestions. This is it. We are here. To leave without answering as many basic questions as possible does not help our wealth of knowledge or our pocketbooks.”

“Thank you, Menlo Park. It seems that we have things to learn. Note that the Tornado and Vertex will be shadowing many of your missions. If they act with any aggression, they will be chastised by us on top of any retaliation on your part.”

I said, “Tell your boys that they can talk and ask questions. Just tell them to speak with a level head. Also, those electronic voices are slightly unnerving.”

“We have our own reasons for that, Menlo Park. Still, yes, I believe that we do need to learn to talk to each other.”

Rachel said, “Well, let us finish our meeting. Our mission roster will then be broadcast.”

Clover made certain that a fact was still on the table. “If you still want to participate in the bidding, go ahead.”

The clear electronic voice replied, “Depending on what is actually found, we might do that.”

Thor secured his transmission from being heard outside the ship, then spoke to Sandra and Malcolm. Our mechanic assured our captain that one of our more dangerous missiles was armed and ready in its launching tube. Malcolm confirmed that the blaster settings were at maximum, and that he would not hesitate to use the missile at an available aggressive, potential or active, target. After telling both to stay alert, Thor then locked his communication system on private before speaking to us.

“I don’t want any of you making the first move toward any of the saucers. I am ready to take them out, but we do it upon their actions. Is that understood?”

I replied, “Can I put it up for a vote for us to carry a missile?”

Felix said, “Indigo and I are flying military hardware. I don’t believe the saucers want to get into a firefight with us.”

Clover made his own appraisal of the odds. “Even you are flying better hardware than those saucers, Diamond.”

I said in return, “I was just asking.”

Rachel supplied an answer, “Let us not do it, Diamond. You heard Thor assure that this ship is ready for a fight. Let any aggression come from the Menlo Park. We have already been given permission to strand the saucers, but we do have a lot of eyes upon us. When things go down, let us have people cheering for us and not for these idiots.”

And that is the way I left it. Ran the first set of missions. As the bids started, some more missions were put on the board. I ran as many as I could. Right now we are waiting for final bids. Instead of doing my usual check of my boat, I am having Castle and Clover do their upgrades on my craft while I put together this report.

Oh, just for the record, no crystal phone booths have been found. Some substances were found that Terry claims to only be naturally occurring due to organisms. For these words to only come from our chemist does not give them much weight, except, I guess, with our aliens. They are still in the bidding as well.

Hold it.

[View of Diamond at his desk in front of the computer.]

Diamond: “Hey, saucer people. This is Diamond calling.”

An electronic voice: “This is the Zephyr.”

Diamond: “Ah, yes, I know that you have your own pocketbooks to trouble you, but I just realized that I want you to be the high bidder.”

Electronic voice: “And why is that?”

Diamond: “Because you won’t be aliens or strange saucer people anymore. You will be citizens of this solar system. You will have a place in this universe. It will give you a little credibility.”

Another electronic voice clearer in tone: “Thank you, Diamond. Truthfully, this system is becoming a little rich for us, but we will keep those words in mind. I believe however that you honestly simply consider us Insiders. Buying a system out here will make us Outsiders.”

Diamond: “That will still give you more respect with us.”

Clear electronic voice: “Like I said, we will keep that in mind.”

Diamond: “Thank you for listening. Diamond out.”

[Diamond turns to smile at the camera as he says, “Really, Diamond out.”]

_________________
Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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