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Futuristic Starsector C-2

Mitheral

"Growf!"
(OOC: I went ahead and rolled randomly. Came up with the first asteroid - the largest one.)

Keiko’s stomach had been in knots ever since the decision was made to investigate the largest asteroid. It was going to take a long time to cover a surface that big, drill samples, and analyze them. Spotting a good substrate was one thing. Taking samples and analyzing them was another. Only she and Jagga were really qualified for that part of the job. She mentally kicked herself for not hiring an extra geologist or two. Kenny, for all his qualifications and good intentions, lacked the skills. He could walk right past a deposit.

3036 man hours in six hour shifts to cover the whole surface of a 1518 meter diameter asteroid. 506 shifts at 2 shifts per day - 253 man days. Two fully qualified miners meant up to four months. Of course, that was if they just had the most miserable rotten luck possible. And odds were that it would go a lot faster. Maybe more like 3 to 6 weeks? She really didn’t want to be here that long without producing SOMEthing. Basic overhead still had to be covered - insurance, maintenance, life support, and crew pay. Really crew pay was the least of her worries. That was cheap compared to insuring her ship.

This then was a gamble. Of all of her crew only Kenny seemed to truly see through her. Well, odds were the others did too. But he was the one willing to call her out on it. She could only hope she sounded more confident than she felt.

Soon they were breaking out the Scooters to get to work.

*******

By the fifth day they struck pay dirt. It was a sign of a real find. Keiko and Jagga confirmed that the substrate rock was of the type that could be rich in gems. The two most uncommon and lucrative finds in asteroid mining were collapsium and gems. Collapsium has one use - battlearmor for starships and was reserved for government use. Such a find always brought questions. It would almost guarantee a military presence just to keep it out of the hands of pirates. The other rare find was gems.

It was Kenny who reported that he thought he had found signs of a deposit - and something even more odd. He was detecting a faint thermal source inside the asteroid. But Jagga pointed out that radioactives could do that. If so, then Kenny needed to back off and let him approach with HIS suit. Jagga’s suit was made for high radiation environments.

They slowly tracked the thermal source to a crevasse. The readings were so strange. But once they got really close Keiko’s laughter started to play over their comms.

“It’s a geode! I think this was a high pressure gas pocket under the mantle of the planetoid. It must have been fractured and allowed the gas to escape into vacuum. But if I am right there may be a tiny cavelet of diamonds in there. By itself it isn’t a motherload. But it will pay for the time we’ve spent if I am right. Jagga I think your suit will be too big to fit. I can fit though.”

“Let Mr Torrents,” Jagga spoke up. “Just a look inside.”

The disembodied voice of James came over the comms. “Yes, let the space aliens sate their voracious appetites with him. That’s what he gets for eating all the salmon sushi.”

Keiko tried not to laugh. But for once even Jagga chuckled. Keiko responded. “James, that was wrong, Bad James. Baaad James. But I take your meaning. “Kenny, if you would.”

(It really doesn’t matter who pokes their head in.)

The “space geode” was a pocket about 3 meters across. The walls were speckled with glittering gems here and there. Diamonds? But that discovery paled compared to the real one. It was the motionless human form in space armor stuck to one wall and coiled into a fetal curl and wrapped in silvery black wings. It matched the description of a mythological Void Angel. It was in hibernation.
 

Vibe_Lad

I'd be so happy...
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The scanner readings we're odd enough to warrant a thorough crew check.
Something about it seemed off, but that was to be expected.

Keiko only really taught Kenny the readings for the usual deposits that can be found. Not a.... Heat signature?

Both Keiko and Jagga came over in a hurry. Didn't take them long.

Boss lady was pleased about the find, and Jagga didn't find anything wrong about it.
The laugh ringing trough his helmet was evidence enough that his lessons paid off.

Pride in his accomplished went just as quickly as it came once James entered the chat with his usual bullshit.

Looking down the crewice, both his helmet lights illuminated the dark interior to find rock.... Rock. Oh and some more rocks.

"Yeah, go fuck yourself James. If a creepy crawlie makes monster babies out of me, I don't know how but I'll make sure to eat you first."

Following Jaggas prompt, Kenny went in first.
He slid down a short way and crouched slightly, the passage was roomy but in width more than height.

"I'm in. If some bullshit impregnates me in here. I'm giving birth in James room."

Walls glowed of some thick rocky material. Kenny tried to scrape some off, but they didn't budge. Although when shined, it refracted the light. Making a disco out of the crevice.

He followed signs of a heat signature until stumbling upon.... A fetal positioned humanoid?

It must be a humanoid, no human can survive in this environment.

Kenny would have mistaken this for a statue, if it was anywhere else but a lone asteroid. This was weird. Really weird.

"Uh.... Report in. No creepy crawlies..."

He took a moment to see whats infront of him. It wore some sort of plating which he didn't recognize.

Brushing off the debris scattered on the plating, Kenny didn't notice any markers or symbols.

Knocking on it didn't produce any sound.

He tried to find a face, but it was covered in a matching mask which didn't reassemble any other service mask hes ever seen.

Kenny tried to pry it off, first with his hands. Then with a metal bar.
But nothing worked.

"Jesus fucking Christ guys... I.... I dunno what I'm looking at."
 

Mitheral

"Growf!"
Keiko frowned inside her suit. Kenny wasn’t screaming about space aliens trying to devour him. She glanced over to Jagga and signaled. “Let me have a look. I take it there’s room?” She made some gestures to Jagga who nodded back and activated a laser comm unit. It was, of course locked onto the ship. Then she followed Kenny into the hole.

One look and she had a very good idea what she was looking at. She gestured to Kenny to turn his comms down as low as they would go. Even she hadn’t been prepared for this. She had expected some sort of unusual mineral. She couldn’t help but stare.

“Penumbra,” she half whispered. It was a codeword she had set up as a security procedure to minimize comms in the possible event of a claim jumper or pirate. In short they turned comms down, which would be relayed via a secured laser comm unit on a scooter. Lasers were line of sight, but about as secure as possible. Umbra would have meant radio silence, silent running, or something along those lines.

“Let’s get this sample back to the ship and analyze it. Discuss later.” Her tone was tense, suggesting nervousness.

The Void Angel had collected a number of gems in a sample bag that were clutched tightly against her body. But her body wasn’t frozen. Rigor hadn’t set in. But her body temp was just above freezing - warm by space standards. The outside of her suit and wings was as cold as space. The very fact that Kenny had even detected her was a miracle.

******

The trip back to the ship didn’t take long. But it was quiet, no one really talking any more than necessary. Once back in a regular atmosphere where they could remove helmets and speak freely Keiko called Ania.

“We have a patient. I think she’s alive. I hope she is anyway. I’ll explain when we get this settled. She could survive out there for about a week, or more depending on supplies and her wings. She recycles with an efficiency like you wouldn’t believe. But even she has limits. I am betting she realized she couldn’t survive any longer without air and placed herself in hibernation mode. She’s ancient.

“Mom, have you ever seen one of these?” Keiko asked.

“Yes, but I thought they were just stories.”

Keiko shook her head. “She’s a Void Angel. I assume you have all heard of bioroids? Biological androids. Bioroids are bioengineered humanoid beings, created through biofabricators. Unlike parahumans and the like, bioroids use a radically different genetic code that has been streamlined for easy engineering, using "slots" or "chunks" of artificial chromosomes. Bioroids tend to mature fast and are usually sterile. Technologically, bioroids are one step beyond embryo-based cloning, as their entire genetic code and growth pattern can be closely monitored.

“The legality of bioroids is still a debated topic. Regardless how they came into being they are people. Today they tend to be the property of the government, big corporations or pets for the very, very rich.

“Before bioroids there were Pantropic Parahumans. Bioengineered embryo based clones. Judging by her gear - she was probably originally military, probably created to scout for minefields. When militaries became obsolete she was retasked, stripped of her obsolete and outdated military hardware. I think she came with the first or second wave of colonists in this star system. Remember, this was a boom region back then. She must have been separated from her ship. The only way I can see that happening would be a pirate attack. The fact that they never came back for her probably means they didn’t make it.”

*****

In the Sick Bay the Void Angel had begun to respond to the presence of life support, coming out of hibernation on her own.
 
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Vibe_Lad

I'd be so happy...
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An air of tension filled the already cramped space, it was dense enough to cut with a knife. Hearing the code word, Kenny switched his frequency to local almost immediately.

It was hard to gauge Keikos facial expression when she was turned to him. But this find wasn't rock, that much he knew. And he was wise enough to not ask, but do in these circumstances.

Even with the lowered gravity, the suited mistery figure was surprisingly hard to move, requiring light cutting of the surroundings to unjam the figure from its improvised tomb.

With Jaggas help, the figure was mounted and fastened tightly to Kenny's EVA.

Without hesitation, the motor was turned on and the group returned back to the ship.

******************

Primordial black nothingness. A void.
But not death.
The fluids of the amygdala held the last remnants of what can only be named: instinct.

It's not empty, nor dead. It's simply waiting. Biding it's time. Not expending valuable energy.

There are no thoughts in this place. There is no desire. There are no emotions nor perception. It simply is. And it strives to continue to be.

After so, so long. There is movement.
The darkness fluctuates, it is no longer nothing.

A flash, a signal.

And faint light.

*************

Anias pocket flashlight flashed onto the black scalera enveloping the white iris.

Both eyes responded to stimuly by widening and then just as suddenly narrowing.

Most of the crew was either doing something else or are listening to Keiko and her mother discussing the newfound subject.

Vital monitors detected bradycardia with sudden spikes of arrhythmia. The nutrient fluids that have been pumped into the subject is causing neuron activity to gradually light up.

Ania snapped her fingers to get Keikos attention and pointed towards the MRI screen.

"It's alive. They made these things to last.
The neural tissue is largely preserved, brain fluid doesn't match the ones regular humans have.

Whatever this is, it's been asleep for a long time. The brain is adjusting to nutrient and oxygen intake. Miraculously... Or anomalously... No brain damage detected.

I can't know what it's brain is made off without an autopsy.

A normal human whitstands brain damage after minutes of brain inactivity.... Even seconds.

This Droid, as you put it. Needs oxygen for the brain to function, but not for preservation. "

The heart monitor gradually stabilized into what can be considered normal heart rhythm, 50-70 BPM, nothing more. Which was odd.

"It's hybernating. Everything I have it is being reused and stored. I don't know where.
I tried to get a blood sample, but it's giving me red blood cells with oxygen one time, next time with no oxygen in intervals of ten minutes.

It won't be waking up for some time. I am a human medic, not a Droid one. It's not what I signed up for. "


Checking the restraints one more time, Ania made sure to be as tight as possible without cutting off circulation.

"I don't know if it's functional. Nor if it will wake up. The brain closely resembles and functions like a human one.

We've been feeding the B2 vitamin and steroids to try and encourage neuron protective layer regeneration and liver functionality.

I don't know how it'll act if it does wake up. The restraints are in case of fight or flight. "

Turning to Keiko, Ania concluded.

" This is all I can do for now. You can go.
I'll let you know if anything changes. "
 

Mitheral

"Growf!"
As soon as the airlock was closed and the air pressure began to rise toward normal levels, Angel’s autonomic reflexes that sealed her orifices to keep her oxygen levels internalized began to relax. Her body desparately craved oxygen. Pressure meant air - at least in theory. Of course, even that would take time. Her body had allowed her internal temperature to drop to very near her freezing point - which was a few degrees colder than a normal human body. To survive this her body had released a nanotech cryoprotectant and salts.

The cryonic technique alone would have extended her lifespan by a factor of about 40+ years. But it was also combined with her ability to enter a hibernation state. Decades had passed. Centuries? When discovered she looked almost dead. No detectable pulse of lung activity. And yet her brain still functions. It was in something resembling a comatose state. The one fact that didn’t fit was that her muscles weren’t stiff. No rigor mortis.

By the time her body had reached the Sick Bay her body temperature was rising quickly. The bright lights helped as her wings aborbed it and transduced it into energy - heat. Then came the IV’s. Electrolytes that her body craved. Vitamins. They had finally come back for her.

Restraints? Unnecessary. But she didn’t question them. She was a little concerned. Did they mean to reclaim her parts? Was she obsolete? To be recycled? Or perhaps to be retasked ... again? So long as it was adrift in the sea of stars it didn’t matter.

Slowly her eyes fluttered open and she glanced around.

“공허 천사 일곱 보고 (pronounced gongheo cheonsa ilgob bogo).” (in Korean)

She started looking around at the Sick Bay. Nothing in it looked familiar. The conclusion was simple enough. This was not her ship. She knew it had been a very, very long time. This was probably not a pirate ship either. Perhaps a salvage vessel? One thing was certain; no one from her previous ship was still alive. If pirates hadn’t finished them, time would have been more than sufficient.

She tried again in Mandarin, then Farsi. Then she looked Ania up and down and tried Russian.

“Angel Pustoty sem’ soobshchayet?”
(Void Angel 7 reporting. She will try English next.)
 

Vibe_Lad

I'd be so happy...
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The rearranging of table side medical instruments was interrupted by shifting coming from the examination table.

Turning around to see what's happening, Ania was startled to notice that the patient was fully awake and looked conscious.

As the figure attempted to speak tongue unknown to her, activity was detected on the MRI: both frontal lobes we're shinning like Christmas trees.
The activity indicated consciousness.

Was that Asian?
Confused, Ania approached the table until she was about an arms length and in eye view of the subject.
She pushed a button that slightly elevated the patient so their gaze can meet on the same eye level.

Activating her comms, Ania tuned to a private channel to Keiko. As she didn't want a crowd in the examination room.

"Keiko. The cyborg is talking and observing her surroundings, come qui-"

But her thoughts were interrupted by Russian. Fluent Russian.

".... Just come in ASAP. It's communicating. You don't wanna miss this."

Walking to a spot directly adjecent to the subject. Ania was moving her head with purpose. Both white irises followed her without involuntary twitching or abnormalities.

"Aнгел 7, ты хочешь навредить нам?

Кому ты отчитываешься?
У вас есть экипаж?

Как ты себя чувствуешь?"

She asked with a caucious air of uncertainty enveloping her speech. Keeping her finger close to the door controls.
 

Mitheral

"Growf!"
Russian. The doctor spoke Russian.

The first question came as a surprise. Why would she try to hurt them? Conclusion: the doctor was a civilian and must have detected the old military wet wear.

“I am a civilian.”

The second question was just as confusing. But the third brought matters into focus.

“You. This ship has command. Them. I was separated from my ship during an emergency. Probably hostiles. But I have no details. I was prospecting; then I was alone in the sea of stars. They never returned. I was eventually forced to enter hibernation to conserve resources. My wings were damaged. If I hadn’t been very lucky, I would be dead.

“I am very dehydrated. Oxygen reserves are returning to normal.”

******

From her end, all Keiko heard was a lot of talking in foreign languages. Notably all were Asian. That might very well be a confirmation of her suspicions. Many of the more militarily organized pirates back in the day - perhaps even to this day - were from the Consortium. The Consortium was based on megacorporations and organized crime such as Yakuza, Tong, and Bratva - profit at the expense of freedom and civil rights. In the early days of the Exodus the Consortium was one of two many enemies of the Hegemony. (The other was the Pure Earthers.) The Consortium often acted as a shadow government, mixing their business with illegal activities.

Today, of course, the Consortium’s power was broken. At least everyone hoped it was. They were still the main reason that the IPA maintained a fleet with a military capability.

********

Keiko entered the Sick Bay cautiously - not so much afraid of anything, just not bursting into the room and startling anyone. Calmly she spoke. “I am Keiko. By any chance do you also speak English?

Angel nodded. “I do.”

Keiko nodded back. “Then you should know that you are a guest aboard this ship. So long as you behave, you are welcome here. Do you know how long you have been asleep?”

(Actually, I don’t know the timeline of the setting, so … skipping the answer. Not especially necessary.)

Now Keiko had a decision to make. The restraints. “You will behave?”

Angel nodded. “I obey.”

Keiko frowned. “I suppose that will have to do for now. Doctor, I think we can let her up. Angel, for now I will leave you in Ania’s care. Doctor, once she’s recovered to your satisfaction, we can assign her to a room.” Then she furled her eyebrows. “Angel, how were you treated by your last crew? Did they regard you as an equal - or property?”

“Angel was a company asset. If I had reported my find they would have been pleased. The find showed promise.”

Keiko nodded. “No claim was ever made. I do not believe your ship and crew survived. And the ownership of a human being is a highly questionable practice. I am going to consider you a free agent. But before I can consider you as a crewmember, I would have to discuss it with them. Their contract limits me from hiring new employees as part of the mining crew without their approval.”

(And that discussion will come up next. If you want to start it, say over dinner, feel free.)
 

Vibe_Lad

I'd be so happy...
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Ania's brows furrowed curiously at the unnaturally lucid speech Angel was producing.
A civilian in a military grade suit. Poached off of a corpse... or stolen out of a locker.
MRI scans showed neurons firing consistently on all fronts, it was fully awake and negotiating in such a short amount of time.

After loosening the cuffs and lowering the table into a horizontal position, Ania verbally instructed Angel to sit upright.

"Please. Watch out and don't pull on the inserted feeding tubes."
Ania didn't let the cyborg out of her line of sight while getting a cup of water. Observing it closely.

Angel sat upright.
No cables we're tugged on, it was docile. Calm.
It did not physically reach out to both of them, not even once.

Reluctantly, but carefully, she handed Angel the cup, which it grasped with no signs of shaking nor desperate aggression.
Angel drank the whole 0.5L cup of water in one gulp, immediately asking for another one, which Ania provided once again and yielded the same behavior to repeat.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
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Roy Jenkings
I know you stole the tablet

You stole the tablet, I just did a count and one was missing.
I'm still catching you online, you we're messaging someone on this outside of company time.

I need to log this tablet.
I will flag it as "missing"
under one condition:

Provide me 1200C for the new tablet and the hairs I lost trying to find you.
In a week, questions will be asked about the tablet. I don't want to have to flag you as a thief in your official record.

Pay here: 2222420000520521113

Don't act stupid with me. You think you're the first person to swap company stuff? Well, I don't tolerate this type of behavior.
Please don't abuse my trust. Kenny Torrents.

-Roy Jenkings
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A slight buzz of the PDA's message notification was softened by the black bodysuit underneath denim overalls. Kenny didn't hear a thing.
As a matter of fact, he was brewing two cuppa joes for the boys to celebrate the big find. And a black tea for Jagga.

Opening the kitchen drawers, he grabbed a sturdy plastic platter and put the red, blu and yellow cups on it.
It took a bit of time to navigate towards the cockpit of the ship, but eventually he made it there without a hitch.
Auto doors opened automatically, letting Ken trough.

"Jaaaames, my man. You gonna need this for later, one teaspoon of brown sugar."

Placing the right palm of his hand under the platter, the available left hand was used to gently serve the red cup on a hud of a console.

"Where's big man? I prepped something for him too but I can't find him."
 

Mitheral

"Growf!"
James grinned. “Probably trying to study Angel’s body - err wings and implants. Doc has to run a full baseline diagnostic once her vitals have stabilized. Jagga is going to run the diagnostics on the implants. I get the imprssion her implants are far beyond their service dates. That they are so functional is pretty lucky. Hiding in that cave was pretty smart.

“If the samples that Angel had are indicative of the asteroid's wealth, it is a well above average find. The gems are above average quality. Just depends on how rich the find is. We’d be talking about months of work to mine them and reduce the ore. And we still have two other rocks to look at. We should probably look the other two over first before we stake claims.

“I know Keiko wants to add Angel to the crew. Adding her would mean reducing the time to locate a find by a considerable percentage. But that tends to be a fraction of the time needed to mine and process the ore. If we make a rich find - and I mean really rich - then even 2% could cost us millions. On the other hand, if we DO make a find like that then who cares really? Technically this gem find could be contested.”

James started chuckling again. “Sorry about the space alien joke.” He did NOT sound sorry. “Seriously though. Good job. If I didn’t know better I’d say nerves of steel. Other than being offered up to space aliens as fodder, how are you enjoying things so far?”

Keiko’s voice crackled over the intercom. “Boys and girls, conference in the Lounge. James, activate the inflatable pilot. He used less air than you. Mom made cupcakes for the celebration.”

James mouthed a silent ouch and grinned. “Cupcakes? On our way.” He flipped a few switches and put his sunglasses on. Then he grabbed his coffee and took a few sips.

*********

Kekio made her pitch - as James had predicted. She threw in some numbers. “I know I indicated much more common average finds like silver when I projected a bonus. With a bonus like that the effect would be nominal. I think I can safely say that this first find is going to exceed that by a very, very wide margin. In fact, it may even be safer to sell the claim than mine it ourselves. But I want to wait until we check the other two rocks first.

“Now then, before we move on to the other matter, Mom made some cupcakes to celebrate. She sort of personalized them,” Keiko started laughing.

Her mother tried, unsuccessfully, to look innocent. “Kenny, would you help me hand these out … please.” She gave him the sweetest smile and winked. Something about this told Kenny that a joke was involved. The cupcakes had been packaged in sample cases. “Careful … no tripping and smearing them in faces - yet. Ania is first. You can open them and show everyone when you get yours.”

Ania’s was shaped like a heart with writing on each side that read: “Heal Thee.”
Jagga’s looked like a mountain and read: “Like A Rock.”
Keiko’s was also a heart and read: “Heart of Gold.”
Angel’s was shaped like a diamond, with a caveat: “Best Friend”.
James was saved for last. He had good reason to be apprehensive. His was shaped like a butt. On the cheeks were the words: “Kiss This!”

James took one look and started laughing. “So … whose is this supposed to represent?”

Jagga laughed. “Well, it ain’t a chocolate cake.”

Kenny’s was a simple round one with the word HERO on it.

After the laughs were over Kekio got down to the last order of business. This was about Angel joining the crew. She explained the new numbers if Angel did join. But the upside was being able to field two pairs of miners. It was a matter of safety. And it would help that Angel was experienced and skilled. If the crew agreed to add her, she would be included in the bonus percentages for the gems.

Jagga just nodded.

James also nodded. But as usual he wasn’t silent. “Conservatively, an average gem find is worth about 5 MCR after taxes. That’s 500,000 C apiece without her. It’s about 400,000 without. 100k is a lot of money. But 400k is still several times my pay. Having a third fully qualified prospector - Keiko said it. Safer, faster. Jagga, what was it you were telling me earlier? Her wings alone could scrub someone else’s O2 in an emergency? I don’t mind sacrificing a little profit for safety. We were already concerned about the small size of our crew.”
 

Vibe_Lad

I'd be so happy...
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Hearing James answer, Kenny looked at the closed auto doors in silent contemplation before shrugging nonchalantly.

"Whatever... I'm not about to go looking for him. He may give me a task or something."

Putting the serving trey down on a wider console hud, he took the blue cup and lounged in the co-pilot seat. The comfort Kenny felt was hard to describe by words alone, but he wasn't getting up anytime soon.

Sipping on his lukewarm bevarage, Kenny was killing time and listened passively to James while staring off into space.
On the mention of the payloads worth, he couldn't help but dawn a self satisfied smirk, unconsciously revealing his brown, white and yellow teeth in full display.

"Yeah well, finally glad those prospecting lessons paid off. The beauty of it is that if I miss an ore. I won't know it. If I find an ore, I'm cool. It's like poaching for immobile animals.... But animals are rocks. You know what I mean.

You we're joking but I wasn't. If you jinx me and I actually get aliens inside me. Those aliens will be inside your room next.
Unless I get shoved into deep space and my corpse gradually gets cut up by debris.... "

Thinking about the actual possibility of space parasites genuinely creeped Kenny out, so he decided to indulge in the other question instead after taking a good sip out of his cup.

"Foods good."

He said half jokingly, letting out a genuine chuckle.

"Love the cookin', and the 'meat' only really gives me gas. Although it's probably the spices fault. I'll get used to it eventually, thank God the whole ship is ventilated.

Crews good. Pays good.
Maybe it won't be as good if we get that thing we found up and running. But I'm in this for the bonuses. Who knows? This whole thing is a gamble.

Here's the thing though, it's a gamble but with good odds. Keiko made sure of that. "

Taking another short sip, he continued.

"Won't see me sucking her privates and kissing her ass. But she's a good boss. I mean it when I say this.
I guess good boss's are the perks of a private job. So I ain't complaining.

She nets money to my parents, she takes care of my needs and genuenly takes the job seriously. All in all, a prett-"

His answer was suddenly cut off by the intercom and promise of cupcakes.

As James was setting up the auto pilot, Kenny used the advantage to get trough the auto doors first.

"I don't know about you, but I'm getting my cupcake... And yours too."

With a cartoonish devilish laugh, the doors closed and muffled his laugh. Rendering them inaudible.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

Kenny reached the meet up spot, greeting Jagga, Keiko and her mother. Not long after Ania came in. And after a couple of minute James as well.

Kenny shot James a disappointed look, hinting that he hadn't got his cupcake yet.
He was really hoping to take his cupcake for ransom.

Suprised on just how quiet she it , he didn't even notice the pale figure sitting on the far left of the room until he looked directly at her.

The black scalera and white irises gave Kenny the creeps. It was hard to look in the eyes.
He stared at Angel for a good minute, unblinking. Without its suit, it looked feminine, with a deceptively frail disposition.
Not miner nor prospecting material on sight alone. But he knew better than to judge a book by its cover.
He was just hoping that Keiko wasn't hiring her as a charity case.

As Keikos mom asked Kenny to help, he obliged respectfully. Taking the boxes and handing them out to their respective owner.

As Ania got her cupcake, she thanked Keikos mom. Looking at it rather than eating it right away.
It was charming. Charming enough to provoke a grin. She almost felt sad that she had to eat it before it goes bad.... Or maybe not?
She pretended to eat, but in actuality the cake was safe in its box, she had plans for it.

Angel on the other hand did not look at the cake for long. She read the words on it and deemed them inconsequential.
Her blood sugar was still recovering, so she decided to eat it right away.

When Kenny got his cake though, he didn't eat it right away as well. His smile wide, he stared at the large "HERO" letters with pride.

"damn right I am."

He muttered to himself, silently cackling into his chin.
Taking off the first layer, he planned to spray down the cover and make it into a magnet for later.
The cupcake wasn't so lucky, it was gone within thirty seconds.

As Keiko laid down her plan, Kenny observed the room.
Ania was impartial.
James was on board.
Angel was... Unresponsive and stoic.
While Jagga was agreeing.

Reading the room, Kenny sighed, evaded eye contact and slouched in his chair with his hands crossed, reluctantantly raising his hand and saying

"Alright, why not."

He looked at Angel again, she was looking at him now. Both white irises piercing his soul. It wasn't normal.
 
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Mitheral

"Growf!"
It took another 4 days to track down, run assays on the samples, sufficiently to stake a claim on the first asteroid. Keiko smiled. She swore Jagga and Angel to silence. But she indicated that it was an excellent find, well above average.

“As badly as I want to stake the claim, if we do, the beacon will draw others in and they will almost certainly check out the other two rocks in this cluster. We have the extra manpower. I’d like to look at the smaller asteroid, then the medium sized one before we activate beacons and make for the nearest station. James, sharp eye for curious people.”

It took a week and a half - a very, very short time - to complete the surveys of the other two asteroids. The smallest asteroid had a deposit of iridium and the concentration of the ore was looking good. But it was the last find that really made them all pale.

Collapsium.

Collapsium was every asteroid miner’s dream - and nightmare. A collapsium find would without a doubt bring the interest of the government, pirates, and any miners hoping for scraps. Collapsium was the backbone of military grade battlearmor of starships.

When she got the final results of the ore concentrations and size of deposits Keiko began to run the numbers. When she was done she looked shell shocked, so much so that she ran her numbers by James.

James’ eyes widened. “Are these numbers right? If so, you realize that there will be more ore than will fit on the cargo hold. I guess we could put some in passenger berths and unused crew quarters. I still don’t think it will fit. You know, I always wanted my own gem studded iridium pilot’s seat.” He laughed. “Seriously, we’ll have to run at least part of the first run through reduction a second time. We are looking at a good two years. But the value … Yes, you have it right. Holy crap. But we have to stake the claims first.”

Keiko nodded. “There is no way the government won’t ask questions. There’s enough collapsium there for what?”

James grinned. “Well, let’s just say you could armor a small fleet of Nikes with that much. Yes, they will ask questions. They may offer to buy us out.”

“Or free escorts?” Keiko waggled her eyebrows.

James frowned. “They won’t like that. You should run the numbers by the crew. Fast smaller profit, or big payout over time, with the constant risk of pirates.”

*********

Keiko called everyone but James to the Lounge for another briefing. Jagga and Angel had been sent out to set the claim beacons and were just getting back. James was standing by in the cockpit, ready as soon as Angel and Jagga were back aboard and Keiko gave the word.

“Everyone settle into acceleration positions in case James needs to push us to 6 G’s. Kenny, Ania - Jagga already has a good idea of the quality of our finds. James double checked my numbers and is setting course. We have a decision to make. Let us just say that we vastly exceeded all of my expectations. I know I have been playing my cards close to my chest on the last asteroid. It was worth more than the other two combined. There is no way in Hell that the government won’t be asking questions. In one word, collapsium - every asteroid miner’s dream and nightmare. And this was a very rich find.

“All total there is more ore - even 95% reduced - than will fit in the cargo bay. It will have to be processed a second time. We are looking at two years.of mining work. But the profits after tax are over half a billion credits. Even after adding Angel you are all looking at a little over 10 MCR (megacredits) each. The problem is, we still need to stake the claims, mine it and get it to the station. Obstacles: claim jumpers - unlikely. But pirates are very possible. Also, we can expect to have the government looking over our shoulders constantly. And the area around us will probably turn into a boom region in which ‘accidents’ may occur.

“Option A. We stake the claim and mine it ourselves and take all the risks. Option B. We sell the claim. Either a percentage as it gets mined - or a smaller percentage of its estimated value.”
 

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