SF Episode 3

GURPS Star Frontiers

Episode 3: Grunt Work

Scheherazade Arabi
Zade was not happy with her current assignment. She was on Kdikit in Madderly’s Star system, researching a story about Dobson Security Vehicles, a subsidiary of Trans-Travel, and the reports that they have been making and distributing sub-par axle bearings on their latest model of Assault Explorer, an all terrain, armored vehicle. MercCo, has had several serious accidents in their training facility outside of Buckerton on Kdikit recently, and Zade is supposed to speak to someone in person about the situation. Her current project is for Wheel, Track and Hover, a vehicles publication put out by Price Publishing, a subsidiary of StarPlay.

Her next assignment, interviewing a Disc Blitz athlete, Eusser Rogonz, at some sporting event on Clarion, sounds even more exciting. These are NOT the stories she wants to uncover, not the information she wants to spread to the people of the Frontier. But it is a pay day. Unfortunately her research grant is not enough to support her day to day life, as spartan as it is, and she needs the commissions she gets from her freelance reporting.

Zade sighed.  Axle bearings?  Really?  She’d hated it when Arglbargl, her Dralasite contact at the news bureau, went male.  When she’d first started taking freelance work to supplement her research grant, Arglbargl was female, and they’d had a grand time finding interesting people to interview, to tell their stories.  She smiled as she remembered some of their “girls nights.”  She thought she might still have some of the perfume that Arglbargl had given her as a birthday present.  Exquisite, very nuanced fragrance.  Definitely only for special occasions.

Now though, Arglbargl was all business.  She wouldn’t have even gotten the interview with the Disc Blitz star if “his maleness” wasn’t suddenly an avid Disc Blitz fanatic.  Ah well, first things first.  Axle bearings and Yazirian tanks.  Er, armored vehicles.  

She’d been on Kdikit for almost a week.  She’d started as she always did, just talking to people.  She’d found the bars where the folks from MercCo hung out, and the ones where the bluecollars from DSV’s assembly floor went for their ‘on-the-way-home beers.’  Eventually, she’d worked her way to a name - someone that might be able to tell her something substantive.  Alan Parsons - his project was the quality assurance step of the assembly line.  If anyone could tell her what was going wrong, he’d be a good place to start.

All of her research pointed to the local factory. All the other factories she had visited, all the other DSV and clients she had spoken to never had a problem with any of the components. It was here. This facility is where a new SFX Smooth-Bore Axle sub-housing assembly was prototyped. And it just so happens that here, on Kdikit is where the problem was. Now if she could only get this Alan Parsons fellow to sit down and talk to her. She was able to get his schedule for the day from a nice young lady in his office. She rode out to DSV building XVII to look for the man. He was scheduled to be doing some site safety overview that morning and was going to be at that building for several hours. Upon arrival, she tipped the driver of the private transport and asked him to stick around for an hour or so. The lanky Yazarian smiled and nodded, noting that his tip was more than enough to cover the cost of him sitting and waiting for an hour.

She hopped out, straightened her outfit and hiked up to the gated entrance. A lone guard sat sleepily in the guard house. She easily noted multiple security cameras nearby, covering the guard station and several angles of the entrance.

“Oh, yea, hey there, Miss. What can I do fer ya?” he calls out as she approaches.

Gorest Fump, Warehouse Cop
She checks her HUD glasses, makes sure they’re recording, then turns and smiles at the fellow.  “Good morning!  I’m Zade Arabi, here to see Mister Parsons.”  She hopes that the name alone will get her in - guards usually have instructions on how to deal with reporters, instructions that include “don’t be very helpful.”   “So, is he here for the tour yet?”  She knew that he wasn’t likely to have arrived - the schedule her “friend” had shared said that it started at 10 am, and it was not yet 9:45.  Time to be fashionably early, but not so early as to appear to be loitering.

“Uh, no ma’am, Mister Parsons ain’t arrived yet.   What was your name agin?”  He started looking around at papers on his desk, so to distract him she stepped in.  “Zade Arabi - pleased to meet you.  Call me Zade.”  She extends a delicate hand, “And you are?”

He turns away from his search and shakes her hand.  “Uh, my name is Fump, Gorest Fump, ma’am.”  

Gorest seems to be a simple man, an honest man, who does his job to the best of his abilities.

She flashes a bigger smile at the young man.  “Well, Gorest, what do you like best about working here for DSV?”

He starts to speak, but glances up as a nice hovercar glides to a stop outside the guard post.  “Excuse me, ma’am, er, Zade, I think that might be Mister Parsons now!”

The hovercar pulls up to the checkpoint and Gorest hurries out to check them in. The window lowers and Zade sees her target, Alan Parsons, is the driver. She can hear the guard speaking to Parsons and then sees Parsons look over his shoulder at Zade. An exasperated look crosses his face, then he grimaces and nods his head. He leans his head out and calls out to Zade. “Allright, come on, get in. Lets get this over with.”

Gorest steps back then turns to Zade smiling and nodding his head toward the vehicle. As she approaches she can hear the passenger door unlock. She opens the door and hops in.

Parsons engages the drive and the hovercar slides forward silently into the industrial compound.

“So, Miss Arabi, I presume? Reporter right? What can I do for you?” he asks, only glancing slightly at her as he drives through the industrial compound, keeping his eyes on the road.

Immediately Zade feels that this man is on the defensive and that he is uncomfortable with her being here at all though he keeps up a smiling face.

She takes a deep breath.  “First things first, Mister Parsons.  I am recording this, so that I can make sure that I do you and this interview justice.  I also want you to know that I appreciate your taking time to talk to me today.  You did not have to do this, and I recognize that.”

She turns to look at the gentleman, “You are a senior manager in Quality Assurance, and
Mr. Parsons works on important projects
have been for seven years.  Your division has, until recently, had a spotless record with regards to quality and safety.  You know what that tells me?”  He raises an eyebrow but doesn’t speak.  “That tells me that you care about the right of things.  You have a masters in Engineering from one of the top universities in this neck of the Frontier.   You could do any job on the manufacturing side of this business.  But you choose to make sure that everybody else is doing their jobs and doing them right.”

“So Mister Parsons, Alan - may I call you Alan?  Alan, you wouldn’t have let me in this car unless you had something to say.  Why don’t you tell me what you have to tell me, and show me what you can.  I’ll keep you in the loop on where it leads.”  She leans back, using her body language to give him the room to speak.

“Hmm,” Parsons mutters, “Ok. So it’s like this. We make good parts. We ship good parts. I have not looked at the data, but I believe that any malfunction of our parts in this manner was due to user error.” It sounds like a company line to Zade.

Parsons pulls the hover up next to one of the buildings. “I’ve gotta go get some work done. If you have more questions,” he pauses and sighs briefly, “and I’m sure you do, your type always does, then you’re more than welcome to tag along.” He notes Zade’s nod of affirmation. “I thought so. Just be careful. Don’t want any visitors getting hurt while touring the facility with the Safety Manager. That would make a horrible headline, don’cha think?” He forces a weak smile and chuckles.

Zade smiles.  “Yes, I’m sure I will have more questions.  I like to tell stories, and sometimes the little items make the story richer, don’t you think?”  He nods, distracted.  “For example, what can you tell me about you?  I can guess, but your personal view of the truth is more interesting.  Feel free to talk as we walk.  This is all good material.”

Parsons wanders about the building, checking various terminals and machines that are manufacturing various items and objects. There appear to be no other people in the  building, just computer controlled robotic machines doing all the work.  Zade followed him throughout the building, asking him questions and clarifications about the topic at hand. He answered all of her questions with clear and concise answers, though he was not paying his full attention to her as he was focusing his attentions on his inspection route.

After a while, the loud sound of a warehouse door opening and closing cut through the low hum of the industrial factory sounds. A puzzled look crossed Parson’s face and he said, “Wait right here, there isn’t supposed to be anyone accessing this building today but me. I’ll be right back,” and he scurries off toward the front of the building.

“As if,” mutters Zade, as she waits for two seconds, then follows Parsons.  Her nose for a story is telling her that ‘things that aren’t supposed to be’ are where stories get the most interesting.  She checks to make sure her holdout laser was handy but out of sight, and that she’s still recording.  The game is afoot!

Zade attempts to follow Parsons through the building, but quickly loses him amid the machinery, stacks of  parts and other obstacles. She recalls seeing 2 sets of warehouse doors near the front of the building, takes a chance on which one is the right set and begins heading that way, allowing her eidetic memory lead her through the confusing layout of this unfamiliar industrial building.

After a few minutes, she realizes that she choose right as she can hear some voices talking up ahead. She slows down and approaches as quietly as she can, trying not to make a sound. She takes up a position behind some nearby plasti-crates and peers through a gap between them. She can see Parsons talking with a group of 2 or 3 Humans, though her field of vision is severely limited from this angle.

The men are not wearing any sort of company uniforms or badges or insignia, though then again, all Parsons was wearing was an ID badge clipped to his sleeve, so that is not too telling. She can’t quite hear what they are saying, but it is clear that Parsons’ is not happy. He is shaking his arms and pointing back to the open warehouse door, past which is parked a hover truck backed up to the doors and its doors open, revealing an empty cargo area. A Dralasite lounges inside the truck.

Then, a loud barking voice shouts out, “Enough, Parsons. We do this now!” and a tall, gangly Yazarian steps into view, he slams his balled fist into Parsons stomach, bending the man over in pain. As the Yaz hits Parsons, the other men, as if by instinct,  pull concealed sidearms and take up ready positions. The Yazarian says something to them and points at several pallets of plasti-crates nearby. The men re-holster their weapons and begin moving toward the pallets, meaning to load them onto the waiting truck.

Just then, Zade hears some noise behind her and turns to see a Human stalking through the building, about 5 yards away, carrying some sort of pistol. He sees Zade and calls out, “Hey, boss, we have company!”

“Oh shit,” thinks Zade.  She turns and runs back the way she came, out of the warehouse, back towards the guard with the gun.  

As she flees, she hears the quiet hiss-pop sound of a gauss gun firing and the sounds of countless little shards embedding into nearby crates and boxes.

She tries to raise the police on her comm as she runs, dodging in and out of boxes and crates.  Whether it was trying to dial on the run, bad reception at this remote location, or the bad guys scrambling her signal, all Zade hears is “Thank you for calling Domino’s.  Will this be take-out or delivery?”  She cuts the connection and focuses on getting away.

Zade hears several shouting men behind her as she bursts out the nearest door of the warehouse. The brightness of daylight momentarily stuns her, but she presses on. She was not able to come out the door she came in, but she is near to where Parsons parked his car. She can see it about 20 yards away, another 10 yards past the car is where the hover truck is backed up to the open warehouse door. She cannot see the security shed from here, it is a little too far away and past some other buildings. She sees no one else in the immediate vicinity, but can hear running footsteps and shouts behind her coming out of the warehouse.

Zade’s thoughts flick back and forth from safety to story.  She wants to see what’s going on, but these were nasty guys.  Well, she thinks, “I’m better at talking than running anyways.”  She waits until the bad guys come out the door, then holds up her hands.  “Okay, okay, you got me.  I’ll go quietly!”

Who the hell are you?
The approaching Human keeps his gauss pistol trained on her as she approaches. He mumbles something into his communicator and listens intently to the reply. He grimaces and tells her to turn around as he pushes the barrel of the pistol into the small of her back. “Who the hell are you?” he asks.

Zade smiles, tentatively.  “I’m Alison Krause, Mister Parson’s new executive assistant.  Please don’t hurt me.”  She bites her lower lip.  “Um, what’’s your name?”

He pushes her forward, back toward where the hover truck was parked. “Shut up. Just don’t say anything.” She can feel the end of his gun move away from her back and he just leads her with his hand on her shoulder. She hears him holster the gun and hit his comm. “Yea, it’s Blass. I got her. She’s Parson’s secretary or something. I’m bringing her over,” he says quietly to his wrist, though plenty loud enough that Zade can hear him clearly at this close distance.

Zade starts walking towards the hover truck, trying to memorize details even as she recorded the scene.  They could always notice her glasses were more than just for looks, after all.  She glances back behind her regularly, trying to get a read on “Blass.”  All she gets is the impression of calm efficiency, maybe combined with more than a touch of ruthlessness.  She gulps.

Blass leads her back toward the open warehouse door then tightens his grip on her shoulder, “Wait, stop. Were staying out here.” He moves past her to stand between her and the open doorway about 3 yards away. Behind him, Zade can see several of the other men moving pallets of crates into the back of the truck with a grav-jack.  

As Blass moves past her, Zade tries to look past him at the crates being moved.  She zooms in, trying to learn anything she can of whatever the target of this operation is.  She also looks for Mister Parsons, trying to see if he’s okay.  Finally, she logs details of the truck itself to assist the authorities if they ever show up.

From her position, she cannot see into the warehouse and only catches a brief glimpse of the crates as they pass the small space between truck and building. The crates appear to be unmarked, but there are a lot of them. The truck is also fairly non-descript. There are no visible markings or identification marks anywhere to be seen. If there are license tags, she cannot see them from this angle.

After a few minutes of watching the truck being loaded, she sees Blass put his hand up to his ear, as if listening to something in his comm. She sees him stiffen then begin to reach for the weapon holstered at his hip as he starts to turn toward her. She is fairly sure it is about to get ugly.

Not knowing what else to do, Zade jumps and grabs on to the arm reaching for the gun.

"Hey, what the..." Blass mutters and tries to yank his arm away. Zade’s grip was good and he is unable to pull away from the much smaller woman. It’s not all about brute strength, she thought to herself.

Twisting her hands around his wrist, Zade tried to push him to the ground, just the way she learned in judo class.  With her height, it was easy to keep her hips low - they caught him mid-thigh, and she steps in.  Perfect!  He slams hard into the ground.  With a grunt, the wind is knocked out of him and his pistol falls from his hand.  

Zade pounces on the gun and then grabs Blass’s goggles off his face.  He squints in the bright sunshine.  “Don’t try anything.  Please.”  Holding the goggles up to her head, she tries to listen in while she holds the gun on him with her other hand.

“Now, just roll over, face down.”

Blass breathes heavy and he rolls over, never quite looking Zade in the eyes. Through the tiny speaker incorporated into his goggles Zade hears a voice asking “What the hell is going on? Where are you and that girl? I told you to bring her in here. Parsons says she’s some sort of reporter.”

Not knowing what else to do, Zade starts backing away from the prone merc, looking around for a place to hide.  Parsons was still alive, so that was good.  She tries her comm again.  “Come on, come on.  Connect, dammit!”

“Buckerton Emergency Systems,” crackles a voice back over the comm. “What is the nature of your emergency?” As Zade backs away, she sees several places she could hide. The open door back into the warehouse that she initially ran out of, she could run to the far end of the building, she could jump into the cab of the truck and try to drive it away (she could hear the quiet hum of its anti-grav field generators running), Parson’s car sat parked just a few yards behind her, she could dash across the service road to the building across the way and there was also an attached ladder leading to the roof over by Parson’s car.

Zade starts talking even as she dithers about what to do.  “Hello?  Yes, my name is Zade Arabi, and I’m at the Dobson Security Vehicles factory on Old Spaceport Road.  There’s a robbery in progress, and they’ve taken the Director of Special Projects prisoner.  They shot at me, but I got away.  I managed to get the gun away from the guy who chased me, and he’s cooperating for the moment, but I don’t know what to do!  I’m uploading the video of events to you now.  Please!  I don’t know what to do!”

“We will contact Dobson Security and dispatch a patrol immediately. We have your coordinates. Are you in a safe location?” the dispatcher asks. She has moved away from the prone Blass but is still out in the open looking around. She then hears some shouts from inside the warehouse and sees Blass crane his neck around, trying to see Zade again. She knows she has to do something here or it’s going to get real hairy real quick.

She chews her lip for a moment and then starts sprinting to the ladder.  If I’m on the roof, they’ll know where I am, but I won’t be able to stop them, so they’ll leave alone.  She hears a grunt behind her, and hopes that her head start will be enough to get up the ladder before Blass can catch up to her.  Maybe he’ll go tell his boss the cops are coming, so they’ll leave.  

Zade clambers up the ladder as quick as she can. Sparing a look over her shoulder, she sees Blass getting up and several of the others rushing outside to his side. “Where is she!” barks the Yazarian. Blass sheepishly points up ahead. One of the men sees her climbing up the ladder. He pulls his weapon and fires, just as Zade pulls her self over the edge of the roof. She hears the pop as the supersonic needles ricochet off the duracrete building. Down below, she hears some more shouting and clearly hears the Yazarian order someone to climb up “After her!”

Zade sticks her arm over the top of the ladder and quickly squeezes off a few shots, blind.  Then she draws back before they can shoot her arm.  She shouts, “I’ve called the cops - they’re on their way!”

Zade scrambles back from the edge as she hears someone scaling up the ladder. The shouting below stops. Then one of the men lunges up over the edge of the roof, gun in hand, looking for Zade. “Put the gun down before you get hurt,” he yells at her as he raises his gun hand, finger on the trigger. A flash of murderous rage flares up in her mind as she sees his calm, expressionless face.

Not sure if the rage she senses is his or her own, she throws caution to the wind and, taking the weapon in both hands, fires again for all she is worth!

One of the sharp projectiles hits the man square in his upper arm, ripping through the sleeve of his jacket and embedding itself into his arm. With a cry of pain, he drops the gun he is holding and winces, nearly losing his grip on the ladder, but he manages to hold on. He hops up over the ledge at the edge of the roof and takes a step toward Zade, reaching under his jacket and pulling out a long, black bladed knife.

Down below, Zade hears what sounds like the hover truck pulling away from the warehouse.  The knife-bearing man hesitates for a moment, then turns and looks over his shoulder to see what’s going on.

When the thug turns, Zade breaks away and runs across the rooftop, shouting over her shoulder.  “The cops are on the way, and it sounds like your friends are leaving!  Whatcha gonna do?”  She gets a bit of distance between him and her and turns again, taking aim with the gauss pistol.

The man cusses under his breath, shakes his head and starts moving toward her, “Put the gun down, missy, nobody needs to get hurt.” He winces a bit as he says this last, looking down at the wound in his arm. He then throws up his arms and rushes at her, quickly closing the gap.

She tries her best sneer, “Says the man who brings a knife to a gun fight,” and she snaps off three more shots.

The approaching thug attempts to dodge and weave as he moves forward, but it is not enough to evade the path of the supersonic gauss needles. Only one of Zade’s shots is on target, though, and it hits him square in the torso.

He grunts again and stops, looking down at his chest. He lowers the knife and puts his hands out to his sides, “Ok, lady. I’m not gonna hurt you.” He begins backing up toward the ladder. “I’m just gonna back up slow and climb back down. I’m done. Don’t shoot.”

Zade doesn’t change her aim a whit, keeping it trained on the wounded Human.  “Hello, dispatch, you still there?”  The Buckerton agent responds immediately.  “You’d better hurry - it sounds like the truck is getting ready to leave.  I wounded one of them, but he’s leaving and I am not going to pursue.  Once they’re clear, I’m going to go check on Mister Parsons.  What is your ETA?”

The man puts his knife back under his jacket and clambers over the edge of the roof, disappearing from sight. Zade can hear him climbing down the access ladder and then land on the gravel parking area below.

In her ear, the police dispatch responds, “We have been unable to reach security at your location. We have a unit en route. ETA within 5 minutes. Do not engage. Try to get yourself to a safe location and wait for the authorities, ma’am,” he says in a quiet, calm voice.

Down below, Zade can hear some raised voices, but cannot make out what is being said.

Oh, poor Gorest.  I hope he’s okay.  Zade looks around on the ground, finds Blass’s goggles and raises them to her ear.  Carefully she slides up to peek over the edge of the rooftop, ready to duck back.  

Looking over the edge, she sees Parson’s vehicle back up then speed away. She sees nobody else around and no voices come from the warehouse. The truck is long gone.

Zade throws a leg over the edge of the roof and climbs down the ladder.  Once on the ground she puts the gauss pistol in her purse and takes out a slim laser pistol, obviously designed to stay hidden until needed.  She makes her way to the warehouse doors and peeks in.

Zade sees that there is no one left in the warehouse, not even Parsons. The stacks of crates are gone, no doubt loaded onto the truck. Within a few minutes, she can hear the sirens of approaching police unit. Walking toward the front of the facility, she sees Gorest at the gate, standing and waiting for the approaching police vehicle.

“Gorest?  Are you okay?  Who were those guys in the truck?  Did they leave with Mister Parsons?”  Zade’s mind is whirling, trying to figure out what was going on.  Did they take Parsons hostage?  Was he working with them?  What were they taking?  And how would stealing something affect the quality of the bearings for the DSV Armored Explorers?  Hmmm, curiouser and curiouser...

“What? Truck? Parsons, I saw him leave here just a few minutes ago. He seemed like he was in a hurry. Didn’t get to ask him where you were. But I didn’t see no truck. Blasted security cams around the yard have been acting up all morning. Now the cops are on their way here. Hey, where’d ya get that laser from?” he seems considerably upset when he sees her holding her laser pistol.

Zade hastily puts the laser away and smiles at Gorest.  “I’m sorry that there were problems with your security system today - that must make your job harder.  Are there other entrances to the facility that those cameras cover?”

“And don’t worry about Mister Parsons.  I had a cab wait for me outside.”

“Now, the police will be here soon.  There were problems while Mister Parsons and I were inside.  I think the bad guys came in through the back way.  I’m so glad you weren’t hurt.” And she squeezes his arm.  “I imagine they’ll want to talk with me, since I called it in.  Do you mind if I wait here?”

Within moments, the police arrive on the scene. They question everyone involved. Apparently an unmanned side gate had been left open and the truck had been able to enter and leave by that gate. None of the other guards on duty had seen anything out of the ordinary. Very little security footage was available due to the problems with the cameras. The officers ask all the standard questions and ask to see Zade’s data cube with the footage she captured on it.

Zade happily gives them a copy of the footage from her glasses, digitally stamped with her copyright.  She responds to all the questions they ask as accurately as she can, using the recording and her excellent memory to full effect.  As she talks with the interviewing officer, she will try to garner from him any thoughts, theories, or external connections he might be considering.  She will turn over Blass’s goggles at the appropriate part of her story, suggesting that they might find others using the same protocols as a possible avenue of investigation.

Unfortunately, Zade gets nothing very useful from the authorities. They are there responding to an emergency call, they will probably not be the ones involved in the investigation and there is no one really important or ranking on the scene. They seem genuinely concerned with her safety and the severity of the crime, but seeing as the perpetrators have fled the scene and there are no further leads, they thank her for her time and cooperation. Blass’s goggles seem to be of fairly common variety and no longer function with any connectivity when not in range of his comm/comp. The police take them and tell Zade they will contact her if they need anything further. They gather up any further evidence and then head out on their way.

After the police leave, Gorest motions her over to the guard station. “Ma’am, Ms. Arabi, our head of security is on his way here, he wants to talk to you, would you be able to wait for him?”

Zade smiles, “Of course, Gorest, I’d be happy to.  What is his name, please?”

Gorest nods, “That would be Mr. Chak’Zikt. He’s a Vrusk. Been here for years. All business, of course, he’s a Vrusk, and they’re all business, right?” Gorest replies.  

Zade laughs and nods her head.  “You got that right!”

While she waits, she alternates between chatting with Gorest about all sorts of things, including how often the camera system goes wonky, and using her glasses to learn anything about DSV’s head of security.  Unfortunately, and to no small surprise, beings like Mister Chak’Zikt make a point of being difficult to research, and her cursory investigations did little to prepare her for her chat with him.

It took some time for Chak’Zkit to arrive, and that made Zade start to think about the cab she had sitting out front. She wondered what the meter was at by now.

Zade headed over to her car as she checked the time.  The driver rolled down the window as she approached.  “How you doing?” she asked.  “Well, ma’am, it’s your credits - I don’t have to be back at the garage for several more hours.  Taking the time to check my portfolio, if that’s okay with you.”  Zade nodded “Hm?  Yea, that’s okay.  I guess I have someone else to talk to before we can head back - shouldn’t be too much longer.”

Eventually, a nicely appointed aircar arrived, escorted by another, apparently armed and armored aircar, arrived. A small security detail exited the vehicles and escorted a very well dressed Vrusk into the security office. These security guards were considerably different in appearance and demeanor to Gorest and the other facility guards. These guys were seasoned pros and carried fairly heavy weaponry.

Chak’Zkit introduced himself and led Zade to a small room in the interior of the guard station. “Thank you, Ms. Zade, for your time. I am sorry for any inconvenience this has caused you. I am sure your time is valuable to you. I am also sorry for what happened today, and that your life was in danger. I have read your statement to the police and viewed the footage that you managed to capture. Now, the reason you were here in the first place is that you are doing a review, or writing some sort of article on our Assault Explorer, is that correct?” He is all business and Zade has a challenging time getting a read from him, she always struggled with Vrusk.

Zade clears her throat.  “Yes, Mister Chak’Zkit, I work for Wheel, Track, and Hover and was looking into the accidents at the MercCo training facilities here and there seemed to be a connection to the axle bearings.  That led me to Mister Parsons and this plant.  I really was just looking for backstory on the product stream - I had no idea that things would get this exciting.”

“Well, I’m not so sure how much I’ll be able to help you with that. My job focus is company security, not product performance. Mr. Parson’s would have been the right person to speak to about that. But I’m curious. Your name was not listed anywhere on Parson’s itinerary.  Your name is not listed anywhere on the company’s media liaison list. What do you know of Mr. Parsons? What led you to him, in the first place, if I may ask,” the Vrusk queries.

Zade smiles, “Fair enough - I’m not one place long enough to get on a media liaison list.  So, how did I get in here?  As I said, I had determined that this was a probable source of the axle bearings used by the Armored Vehicles at MercCo’s training facility.  I did my research and found that Mister Parsons was doing an inspection here today, and as that he is a QA Manager and he was checking out the plant to which I had traced the problem of questionable quality, I took a chance and caught a cab out here.  Mister Parsons was kind enough to let me tag along and interview him.”  She paused. “I have that on cube, if you’d care to see it.”  

The Vrusk watches the recording of the initial part of the tour then the interruption by the truck full of criminals. He hmm’s and makes some strange clicking noises as we watches. When the vid is over, he folds his three long spindly fingers together and closes his eyes for a moment. “Ok,” he begins, opening his eyes, “Fair enough, since this has involved you, I suppose that I will share. We have been monitoring Mr. Parsons for some time. We had reason to believe that he was involved in some illicit dealings recently, but had been unable to determine what they were, and, more importantly, if they involved the company. Your vid sheds some light on the subject, though still not completely. If you would be so kind, would you join me in the warehouse where this incident transpired?” He gets up to leave the room, waiting by the door to allow Zade to leave first.

Zade considers the Vrusk’s words. Usually, she finds Vrusk fairly hard to read, but in this case, she feels that he is being honest with her.

Zade leads the way back to the point where in the tour she and Parsons had heard the activity in the warehouse.  “He seemed surprised that there was someone else here.  I’m sure if he were up to something, he would have never brought me along.  Although the Yazirian did seem to know him.  Is it possible he was being coerced?”  From there she retraces the path to where she saw the interaction between Parsons and the Yaz.

The Vrusk looks around and takes some notes on a datapad, his long, spindly fingers moving quickly over the surface of the device. He motions toward a large pile of what appear to be parts laying on a nearby table and on the surrounding floor. “Were these here earlier? These are the parts that your journalism is focused on, the axle bearing housings. See?” He holds up one of the shiny, cylindrical parts and shakes it. She can hear the metal balls moving around inside.

“Something is wrong here, though. The transport spacers have all been removed. I
The faulty part?
am not a technician, but I know our products well. These parts should have been packaged with a transport spacer that keeps it aligned during shipping. And where are the crates that these parts came in? There should have been a whole pallet of plasti-crates for them to be shipped in.” He moves around the room again, taking a few more notes.

“Ms. Arabi, thank you for your time. I apologize for detaining you for so long. If there is anything else you need from me, please do not hesitate to contact my office.” He nods his head to her and crosses his mandibles, a Vrusk smile and gives her his contact information.

Zade thanks Mister Chak’Zkit, realizing that the interview is over.  She scans the area one last time and makes her way back out of the facility.  She stops and says good-bye to Gorest, asks about the frequency of security camera problems, which he says has been happening often lately, and makes her way to the hired car.  As she approaches she can hear the muffled sounds of singing.  She peeks through the driver’s window to see him in full-on aria.  She knocks, and the Yazirian startles, then quickly shuts off the sound system and hops out to open her door.  She smiles to herself, then asks, “An opera fan, are we?  Are there many good Yazirian pieces?”  The driver grins, and launches into a very impassioned monologue on the merits of the various clans and their differing musical traditions.  Zade sits back and listens to another being’s story.

In the back of her mind, though, she kept trying to answer all her questions.  What went out in the boxes that the axle bearing housings should have been in.  And spacers?  What got shipped that needed all the transport spacers?  Could the housing getting shipped without spacers be why they were mis-performing for MercCo?  She’d have to find a techie to consult.  Hmmm...  Would any of the MercCo or DSV staff she’d met during her “research” fit the bill?


This is the introduction of the 2nd character in the story. The two characters do not know each other, though they are destined to meet sooner or later, thanks to Mirko's client, Eusser Rogonz, being Zade's next assignment. Zade is definitely not a fighter, as we find out in this Episode, though she seemed to get herself into a pretty scary situation!

My text in bold (+Jason Woollard)
+Arne Jamtgaard is normal text.

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