Firefly season 2, p.1
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       Firefly Season 2, p.1

           Travis J I Corcoran
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Firefly Season 2
Firefly Season 2

  by Travis J I Corcoran and Clark Bianco

  Morlock Publishing

  Copyright © 2017

  All rights reserved. Except as permitted under U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

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  You're new to this whole thing? No, I run into newbs all the time - nature of the business - but you don't have that normal stupid look about you. No, don't congratulate yourself. I didn't say that you don't have a stupid look about you. I just said that you don't have that NORMAL stupid look about you.

  "Story"? No, I don't have time for -

  Actually, you know what? Most days I'd tell you to take a hike, but I've got to a danda to kill while I wait for my crew -

  "Danda"? You know what "fifteen minutes" is? OK. I've got fifteen minutes, so it's your lucky day, newb. Buy me a mead - yeah, beer, whatever - and I'll tell you a story.

  No, this isn't a FAQ. And don't be fooled by those thieves down on concourse B who'll claim to sell you one either. Everything you'll hear from them is merde - and they'll rip you off. You'll piece it together on your own, just like everyone else does, or you won't. Think of it as a right of passage. Or initiation.

  Fine, call it "hazing" if you want. It's a perk of being an old-timer.

  Now pass that stein over here.

  You know what, newb? This beer's not half bad. "Microbrew" you say? Never heard that term before - this isn't a Hellenic branch is it?

  Anyway, you've paid, and I've got a bit of time, so here's your story. Wait - you know what? This is a good story - a damned good one. Worth more than just a beer. Buy me a bowl of spiced yam sticks, why don't you? Yeah, fine, pretzels. Whatever they've got.

  * * *

  So there we were on the ship. My ship, the al-Din. Name's Persian, the operator's manual is written in Hino-Uraic, and I found some blueprints for a ventilation system upgrade stuffed in a storage locker once that had some sort of Viking-Celtic runes on them, so your guess is as good as mine. I'll tell you one thing, though: the wall at the back of bridge has "SPQR" and a wreath molded into it under about a dozen coats of paint, so you want my guess, it's from one of those Gracchi branches. Had someone tell me he recognized the ship and it was a "Sturnus" class, which I've never heard of before, but he was so drunk at the time I have no idea if he was pulling my leg or not.

  Anyway, there we were, on the approach, heading into a trading port. I'd say that it was a lot like this one, but that doesn't tell you much. They're ALL a lot like this one: a big warehouse, a lack of nosy neighbors, and a beacon is all you need. Sometimes the approaches to a port are quick - you go from full cruise to landing-and-lockdown in a danda - remember, newb, that's around fifteen minutes, but heads up: I'm gonna let you do the translations yourself from here on out. Anyway, sometimes the approaches are quick, but other times they're rough. All depends on the state of the aether.

  This was one of the rough ones.

  The ship was shaking bad, which makes it hard to see out the windows, what with the doppler shifting and the double images. Thing is, not being able to see out the windows really isn't a problem. Why? Because what are you going to see anyway? Buildings? Architecture isn't remotely as much of a clue as you'd think. You see an onion dome on a tower and you decide you're in a Green Tartar branch, and it turns out that you're just in some backwater Anglo Western Hemisphere Russian-Alaskan variant. Or you see big red banners with swastikas and you think it's one of those mellow Hindu republics, but -

  Oh, you had a version of that here? Yeah, pretty bad whenever it happens. All taken care of, though, right?

  OK, good. Now stop interrupting.

  So anyway, looking out the windows as you try to tune in the landing helps a lot less than you think. Radio is better. Of course, you can't know how it'll be formatted, so you need a multi-band receiver. Amplitude / frequency / phase modulation - all that. You can buy them at most ports, and you'd better have an artificer who knows how to work it, but the real trick isn't just about twiddling the knobs. It's knowing the secret. The secret? That's easy. Listen. News channels are best, talk radio is good, but even popular music can be a big help when you're trying to tell one beaconless port from another.

  Anyway, we're on the approach - no, ports don't have names. What would be the point? Every single one would be named "Home Port" and "New Freedom" or "Branch Trade Center", or some stupid shit. Meet enough people and you'll learn that they aren't that creative - the keep inventing the same things over and over and over. Crimes. Forms of government. Names. Better to just let the ports have random numbers. Roll fifty or a hundred dice and you've got a name for a port that's actually useful. You taking notes, kid? Because that's lesson number one: you find yourself at a port that's got a name and you know you're dealing with amateurs.

  Anyway, I'm getting off topic. So there we are, rough approach, working the radio, trying to get the beacon five by five in the sights, and the whole time we're looking out at these ghostly images of cities, ruins, forest, and farmland. But remember: between your eyes and ears, go with the ears every time. You know what? Call THAT lesson number one and renumber the one about ports having names.

  The landing is even rougher than the approach. It's four of us on the bridge. I'm Huck, the ship's kaiser. No, don't tell me your name - it doesn't matter. Because we'll never meet again, that's why. So I'm Huck, Oive's my riverman - you probably call that something like steersman or pilot. Johann-stepson-twice-Chang is the artificer, and Ginny Mae's my galfreitag. So the four of us are getting thrown around, but Oive manages to get the ship down and once the field is off everything looks good. The beacon's broadcasting the right number string, the lights are on in the warehouse, there are other ships already on the floor. It's possible we're in the wrong place - you can never be entirely sure - but it's promising. As soon as the drive is off we all pile out, because a Sturnus class - if that's what it is - is none too big and we want to stretch our legs after a few hours in there.

  So we pile out onto the concourse. Oh, here's rule number three: when you're on the concourse, never EVER walk outside of the yellow lines. Another ship can materialize and smear you out across so many branches that the only way your mom will ever kiss you again is if she meets your twin.

  So we're on the concourse and we push our way through the gadget merchants. Anti-cancer medicines, pocket calculators, eyeglasses that never pick up finger prints, good-luck charms, pills to keep you safe from fallout, energy pistols, jet packs - all that stuff.

  What's the point? That's what I say. When I was a newb like you I shipped out with a captain who traded gadgets. Technology is nothing but trouble. Say you manage to find something that no one else has - what the hell are you going to do with it ? And that's if it even works. A man says he's selling an anti-cancer med, and how do you know it's not a sugar pill? Or he's selling an energy pistol. Sure, there are real ones out there, but is the one he's selling the real deal - or does he just have a confederate who's in on the short con who can switch targets? The trading business is packed full of grifters, mark my words. That's rule number four. But let's say you do get a real life energy pistol or cancer med? What do you do with it? Find some place with good patent law - and then what? How do you reverse engineer it? Maybe it uses some sort of crystals or batteries that they don't have there. Before you know it you've got something that you thought was going to be a fast score, and you're out of the game fo
r ten years in some backwater Tzarist branch, trying to raise venture capital and convince material scientists who couldn't tell whale-bone from bakelite that you've got some breakthrough?

  No, screw that. Buy for a pfenning, sell for two. Make it quick, make it fast, make it easy.

  So my crew and I push past the gadget merchants and we head to where the action is - the real action. A bar, a lot like this one. The one we went to that one time was called Isham's Cross-Time Bar, but it seems then again, half of them are. Or, you know, something that boils down to the same.

  Actually, this is where I should back up a bit and tell you about two things.

  One, you can make your nut - fuel, food, and a bit more - doing catch-as-catch-can in this business, but the real scores are when you're doing a commission. Run into a fella who tells you to be on the lookout for something particular, and you write it down and keep your eye out. That's rule number - well, I don't know what number we're up to. But remember that. It might take you a while to find the target - years maybe - but when
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