Mexallon Falling

by Callista Dalmore

BREAKING NEWS: Sansha Nation blocade in Ongund disrupts communications; Republic forces mobilize
HEK – A CONCORD spokesperson has confirmed that communication relays were hit some hours ago in a well-coordinated attack designed to isolate the Ongund system from the adjacent systems.  They assume that, as has been seen in other Sansha Nation sieges throughout New Eden, this is a precursor attack to a full scale incursion into Minmatar Republic space.  Calls have gone out urging all non-military personnel to avoid the Ongund system so as to free up gate traffic lanes for military use.
More>> 

He woke up to the falling price of mexallon.

The commodities market hung in space in front of him, column upon column of prices, numbers and trend arrows.  He cursed the day he had the bioluminescent retinal display package installed and doubly cursed the fact that he’d forgotten to turn off its wake-up call last night.  He acknowledged receiving the report and tried to come to grips with the pulsar of a headache beating between his ears.

“F-ing mexallon…ugh…”, he rolled in the queen bed and tried to get some moisture into his sandpaper mouth.  He was rewarded instead with a loud clacking sound.

The two shapes, buried beneath the synthsilk sheets next to him, stirred.  From the nearest came a petite annoyed yawn. “You sound like an old man when you do that, Johnny,” she teased in her Gallente accent as she pulled the sheet down from her doll-like face.  The other just groaned and rolled towards the other side of the bed, flipping one of the numerous pillows over his head.

“Well if I’m ‘Johnny’, I must be in Jita”, he thought as he finally found the courage to open his eyes.  When the room stopped spinning, he swung his legs over the side of the bed and squinted around at the clothes and bottles and other entertainment products strewn about the dimly lit luxury Détante Suites hotel room.

“Some party last night eh, uhhh…” he began, looking back at the girl in his bed.  “Étoile,” she said, filling in his blank and then, continued, without skipping a beat, “oh, oui, my Johnny really knows how to throw a party, doesn’t he Max?” she pushed the other from under the sheets.  “Do you still want to party, Johnny?” She started to pull the sheet down.

He shook his head slowly; nope, partying was definitely off the to-do list for now.  Gingerly, he got up and hobbled around in search of the in-room pharma-kit, or mini-bar; either would do right now.

As he searched, last night’s debauchery came back to him little by little.  It had all started with a call from Nicky who had been setting up their new regional office in Hek.  Apparently the whole system was a-buzz about the fact that those sorry Sansha Nation mistfits were staging an incursion in Ongund!  In frikken Ongund!  How many jumps from Hek? Three! Three measly jumps from where he’d not but a week ago opened up a new office!  Three jumps away from where he’d just delivered the opening inventory for that office.  Three jumps away from a freighter hold worth of mil-spec armor plates, shield hardners, light-med-heavy artillery, light-med-heavy autocannons, missle launchers, afterburners, damage controls!  He’d even managed to pack in a squadron worth of those Rifter-class frigates they liked so much around there!

His market research team had predicted an average turnover rate of 45 to 60 days, but now, with this incursion going on, he’d sell out in a week!  Luck had truly been gushing her lady-parts for him.

Well, when in Jita, when you have isk, partying got quickly out of hand.  He’d hit the strip and started blowing isk. The news lit up the social networks and soon a growing posse of party girls, entertainment experts and socialites had him hopping from hottest club to hottest club.  He looked back at the naked couple in the bed.  Damned if he remembered who they were.  Ahhh, good times.

He finally found the pharma-kit under a bathrobe monogrammed with the hotel’s initials, put it on and started rummaging through the kit.

A soft knock came from the door.

“Wake up service,” said a timid female voice from the other side of the suite’s reinforced front door.

Johnny popped two gelcaps and, realizing he’d never get them down past the desert residing in his mouth, grabbed the nearest unfinished bottle.  Wincing as the vodka flared down his throat, he made his way towards the door.

The soft knock was repeated, just a little more firmly this time.  After managing nothing but a breathy wheeze, he managed to croak, “Ok, ok, hold on, I’m coming.” Leaning up against the door, he activated its SecSafe display.

Onscreen a pretty girl expertly holding a large tray on her shoulder was waiting in the hall.  AR overlays confirmed her as a hotel employee (Christine DuVallon) that she’d been a valued member of the Détente Suites’ hospitality staff for four years now and was certified to perform the following services.  As he scanned the list of services he noted that there were several that he must have already paid for from the couple in the bed.  The overlay went on to list the contents of the tray (baguette, foie gras, jams, soycaf and some intersystem news chips)  when the call had been placed to confirm this service (03:34 AM, apparently) as well as elapsed time since the tray had left the kitchen.

“Gotta hand it to the Gallente”, he thought as flashes of some of last night’s ‘services’ came back to mind.  He let her in.

“Put it over there”, he indicated with a wave at the already heavily bottle-laden table next to the wallvid.  “Just make some room”, he added when she paused uncertainly in front of the table.  Then without even a look back, she reached down with her free arm and swept the table clean sending the dozen or so bottles and as many glasses flying into the wall.  Shattered and discarded alcohol spread like blossoming nova and then bounced down onto the floor in a terrific crash.

Daintily, she placed the tray down on the table and turned to face Johnny.

“Whores,” she stated, “out.”

Terrified, Étoile and Max jumped up and scrambled for their things.

“You,” she said to Johnny, “stay.” Raising her right hand he could see it held some device he couldn’t identify.  She levelled it menacingly just south of his belt.

“Look, there is no need for that so early, if you would just…” but she cut him off.

“Shut up.  You two; out.  Now!”

Étoile had managed slip into last night’s dress and Max just took the sheet he`d been under.  Both scurried out of the room.  The door closed behind them with a soft hiss.

She motioned him over to one of the chairs and nodded for him to sit.  Flipping a trigger on the device, a panel opened and curled back over her hand revealing a wide angled lens.  Light began to shine out of it, quickly coalescing into the shape of a tattooed-faced man in some regional military uniform which Johnny didn’t recognize.

In spite of scare he’d just had from the girl’s theatrics, his first thought was that it was just too f-ing early to deal with Minmatar.  But, noting the trouble this one must have gone through to get past Détente’s usually flawless security; he concluded that this Minmatar was either rich or extremely well connected.

Both were good for business.

Johnny cleared his throat and sat a little straighter. “Good morning to you good ser, I hope you have a profitable reason for not contacting me through my office?  You may be interested to know that we’ve recently expanded into Metropolis with offices in Nakugard, Eygfe and just last week in Hek…”

The hologram scowled deeply and got straight to the point. “Your prices in the Hek marketplace, they will be increased…”

Johnny, used to haggling, launched automatically into it, “Look here, ser, the price I set may seem high to you but I, uh, did you say ‘increase’?”

Seemingly unperturbed by Johnny’s interruption, the holographic image continued, “The markup shall be 14% across all your product lines.  We shall then purchase your entire inventory.”

Incredulous, Johnny sighed, “You must be joking.”

“I assure you, I am not.  There is however, one restriction.”

Ah, here it is.  Too-good-to-be-true deals always had a catch.  The merchandise was probably to be delivered to one of the lawless systems like Hagildur or Hakisalk or even better, Ongund.  Or they could only pay on a payment plan.  Or…

“Payment will be in standard volumes of refined minerals,” finished the hologram.

Johnny’s eyebrow rose. “That’s it?”

“That is the deal.”

“Why in minerals?”

“We have greater confidence trading in raw materials than in currency.”

Which Johnny immediately translated to, ‘we want it off the books’.

“Why have ‘Christine’ here, break into my room?  This seems like a pretty standard contract.”

“This opportunity is extremely time-sensitive, we tried to reach you yesterday but you were…indisposed,” said the figure.

Well that was true, although it bothered him that they knew that.  Not that he’d hidden it, just that they knew where to find him.

His mind rushing, Johnny asked “I would need to see standard form contract so that my lawyers can review it.  I would need to know where I should send my specialists to verify the mineral quantity and quality.  I will need to speak to my associates to obtain their permission to pursue this.”

“The contract is already in your possession,” the hologram indicated the breakfast tray.  “Your colleague in Hek has already been contacted and will be able to verify the minerals immediately.  However, as I mentioned, this is extremely time sensitive.  You may have the time between now and when the minerals in Hek have been verified which should take approximately thirty minutes.”  The hologram suddenly disappeared.

The girl flipped the cover back over the lens and walked over to the living room and sat on the couch.  From over her shoulder she said, “Thirty minutes, Johnny.”

He walked over to the tray, and took the news chips.  Sure enough one contained a standard form contract containing essentially an exact replica of his current Hek inventory.  How had they gotten this?  Ship scan of the freighter, perhaps?  But then how did they link it to me?  Yes, these customers were very well connected.  He then examined the types and quantities of the minerals he’d be receiving:  mostly tritanium, to be expected, a fair amount of isogen and noxium, a bunch of mexallon and then some lesser quantities of the rarer elements, zyndrine, some megacyte.  When he let the system calculate the values of his inventory and the minerals converted to Jita equivalent, sure enough, 14.02%.

It’s still too good to be true.

Where was the catch?  There had to be a catch. Think! He started the playback of his conversation with the hologram on his retinal display.  There had to be something.  As it played he sent off research requests for the various items which could identify his would be partner, the tattoo, the uniform, voice print as well as his messenger.

His comm rang.  It was Nicky.  Who was frantic. “Johnny? Johnny, you there?”

“Yes Nicky, hello.  Calm down. ” said Johnny.

“Johnny? Ok. Well ,ah, a bunch of f-ing muscle jobs just barged into the office telling me that you had some urgent task for me and that I should stay put or they would make me stay put.  Johnny, what the hell, man?”

“Nicky! It’s ok.  Just shut the hell up right now and listen.  Ok, you’re going to take the scanning equipment from the secure storage eight and go with these men.  Verify that the contents of what they show you comes out to this.” He sent the list of minerals from the contract. “Go now and be quick about it, I’ll explain later. Ok?”

Nicky looked around the room and then back at Johnny and answered a feeble, “Yeah, ok, I’m on it.  It’s just, I mean, really, did they have to literally twist my arm?”

“I’ll explain later,” repeated Johnny and closed the connection.

As the vidcall closed, his search request responses started coming back; nothing from the face and the tattoo was a pretty standard Minmatar design.  The most interesting piece was that the uniform belonged to a division of Republic ground troops and his guest was apparently ranked Division General, as indicated by the three planets on his shoulder.  Yep.  There it is.

Clearly with the Sansha threat right in their face they are trying to secure as much gear as they could.  And since their liquidity is probably at an all-time low, they’d rather pay directly in materials rather than getting screwed selling it to the market and then screwed again buying from it.  This way, they only get screwed once and at their price.

Nice.

Now, knowing that, do I push for more?

Of course.

His comm rang again and, as expected, the minerals checked out to the last trit. Johnny thanked him and cleared the line.

Getting back up from the couch, Christine flicked the holo projector back open and the uniformed figure slowly came into view.

“Everything is to your liking?” said the general, more of a statement than a question.

“Yes, all my verifications of the proposed offer have been checked but at this point I should point out that since the material you wish to purchase is already in Hek and making your delivery date immediate whereas the minerals, which are also in Hek forces me to transport them to the appropriate market, my associates suggested that a price of 19.7% would cover those costs.”

The general’s face remained impassive.  After a moment’s thought, he replied, “17.15% but I would also add that, at that rate, we would purchase like items as you have in your current inventory as well as any item on the following list for the next four days.

Ka…

Wait for it…

Ching.

Throwing caution out the airlock, Johnny replies, “If you can make it 17.85 we have a deal.”

“Then we have a deal, Mr. Johnny.  I will have the mineral amounts adjusted accordingly.”

“Thank you, how should I call you, ser?” asked Johnny.

“You may reach us through the contact information my associate will provide to you.” The screen went blank.

“That’s not what I…” started Johnny before the screen closed, “…meant.”

The girl reached into her pocket and drew forth a single use comm set and transmitted the contact info as well as the General’s shopping list.

Smiling, she says, “Enjoy your breakfast, Mr. Johnny” and walked out.

Suddenly, Johnny realised he was famished.


Bei system falls to Sansha Nation; Gallente federation nervous about the fate of Colelie
COLELIE – Fighting as intensified in the embattled Minmatar system of Bei.  Multiple sorties spear headed by joint Gallente-Minmatar and increasingly, mercenary forces, have had some results but today they were forced to retreat into nearby systems.  Bei has thus been the latest casualty in what some are calling the stongest Sansha Nation incursion to date.
More>>

“I don’t care if you have to get down there and build them yourself, Vince, fill that order by end of day or you can kiss your bonus and pretty much all future business from me, a-bye-bye.  What?  You kiss your mother with that mouth?  Whatever, Vince, just make it happen.”

Johnny had been on comms now for practically 17 hours straight.  As soon as the messenger had left his room, he’d recognized the isk making machine he’d been presented with and wasted no time in making sure he got every last cent out of it.  The room had been cleaned up the previous day but the piles of bottles were slowly being replaced by discarded cups of soycaf and stacks of Quafe cans.  Some room service trays also lay discarded on various surfaces throughout the suite.  The stale smell of drying food and cold caf permeated the room.

Not having an office in Jita meant he’d had to set up shop in the suite so he’d paid to maximize the bandwidth to his room had a proper comms relay installed.  He’d since been using every last bit of it, calling contacts and running market schemes to amass the materials for another shipment to the General.  He checked his projected earnings.  Yep, still through the roof.

His strategy had been simple, charter the biggest freighter he could, grab everything on the list within his 17%  margin from here in Jita to Hek.and sell it all once there.  Bring the minerals back to Jita.  If he timed it right he could probably do it twice so he reserved another freighter to depart in two days time. Two days was tight but a proper pilot could do it, including all the stops it would do along the way.

Which was the other part of the strategy; to complement the Jita bought material, he was also working all systems five jumps local to the Jita-Hek route his freighter was following.  That way he was able to funnel all the way down.  He’d set up several call automatons to take care of the branch feeding and was currently working all the way at the end, on Hek local.  There he’d been pulling strings and calling in favors.  His outstanding contracts were nearing his licensed maximum.  His account balance was dipping to depths he hadn’t seen in years.

But his luck seemed truly bottomless. Obviously he wasn’t the only one who wanted in on the profits wars generated.  The markets were just filling up as the lure of easy isk brought everyone to the table.   Speculators decided to clear out their hangars.   Industrialists kicked their factories into high gear.  Salvagers, some legit, most less-so, brought their refurbished (“But factory tested and 100% certified!”) equipment in from the deepest reaches of cold hard vacuum. And as each of these sources brought their wares to market they brought them closer and closer to where the demand was.  Hek was flooded with gear and inevitably, even though the demand was high, the supply kept the prices low and even falling.

Soon, Johnny had abandoned the feeder routes along the way and just concentrated on the market in Hek.  Nicky could just keep up with the orders being filled and routing everything to their corporate hangars.

“No, Nicky, I really don’t care.  Had they come off a bus-load of frikken SOE nuns, I wouldn’t care.  No load the plates in the armor crates and I don’t want to hear anymore of this shit.  It’s a fucking war Nicky and if we’re selling Republic gear back to them then great, we double our take. No, I gotta go.  Don`t forget to pay the deck crew, yeah.  No, give ‘em all the bonus.  Yes, all of them.  Ok. Ok. No, gotta go. Ok, bye.”

He rubbed his eyes. Another call came in. He shook two reds out of their bottle and washed them down with a now flat Quafe. He took the call, “Hey big D!  How you doing?  Yeah I am playing hard this time.  Yeah, I know.  You get that load of ammo you were yapping about?  Excellent! Yes, yes. It`s all in the contract, yep.  What?  Ah no, no, I`m not in the market for refugees.  What the hell do you think I am?  Oh.  Ah.  How much?  No way.  Ok, yeah, I know this Amarrian.  Yeah.  Ok, what was the price?  Knock off five points and I’m in. Yeah.  No, no thank you!”

They did make habitation modules for freighters now didn’t they?

Minmatar Republic facing siege in Ongund; death toll rising

MOLDEN HEATH – The Tribal Assembly has released a press statement in regards to the escalating conflict in Ongund.  Republic forces have engaged in ground and space combat operations with the Sansha Nation.   Despite their combined efforts  Bei and Eust and Evuldgenzo, all adjacent systems to Ongund, have fallen.   They also report that surveillance has confirmed the rumors that several installations have appeared around Eust V, home to some 350 million citizens.  They believe that these installations are True Creation research centers suspected to be chiefly responsible for the re-cloning and implantation of abducted planetside civilians.
More>>

“Yeah it arrived, they are off loading it now,” continued Nickey.

“Ok, excellent.  And the payment is all there?” asked Johnny.

“Yeah, all of it.  I’ve actually got the offloading crew to start loading that right away so we can reduce the time we can send her back your way.” said Nickey, but continued, “Those mercs you got arrived and are overseeing the whole thing and I gotta say, I am glad you did, there have been all kinds of Republic military goons around the station.  There’s talk that they’ve started shaking the smaller players down.  It’s getting  crazy scary around here.

“Good, yeah, I figured, if they were that desperate with the deal they gave me they’d be exploring other options at the same time. Now, don’t you worry, these guys are excellent.  They handled security for a friend of mine when all that nonsense in Jita was happening” reassured Johnny.

That seemed to mollify Nicky a little. “Yeah, well, good ’cause apparently the fighting has intensified and that it isn’t going well. They are really hurting for gear.”

Music to my ears thought Johnny.

“Well they are about to get nine hundred cubic meters of it so that should help them, no?”

“Yeah, I guess,” agreed Nickey.

“Ok, hold in there Nickey, you hear me?  You see the bonus I put in your account?  Good.  Ok, gotta go, the General has offered to extend his deal another four days.  As soon as those materials sell we’ll be doing it all again!” Johnny beamed.

Heavy losses in Ongund; Republic pleads for equipment
HEK – Reports have started surfacing that in spite of the Minmatar Republic’s war coffers and local industy, critical supplies have been running low.  Aside from such staples as food and medicine, shortages have been reported for military equipment such as combat ships and weapons.  Core Complexion and Freedom extension have both issued statements that new equipment was being manufactured as quickly as possible. 
more>>

The materials did sell.

And they did do it again.

Twice.

Eust, Bei liberated, celebrations 
MOLDEN HEATH – After weeks of what some are calling ‘The conversion war’, hope has come to the besieged Minmatar Republic.  Sansha Nation forces were finally repulsed from Eust and Bei after having sustained heavy losses.  In one battle, the Sansha Flagship ‘We are one’ was destroyed when a flotilla composed almost entirely of mercenary capsuleers engaged it near the Freedom Extension Storage facility orbiting the seventh planet of the Bei system.
more>>

“Hello Mr. General, Ser, It`s Johnny, this is my second message, if I don`t hear from you I am going to assume that our arrangement has ended and that you will contact me if you need to.” Smiling he added, “and as much as I found Christine charming; please just call next time.  Ok, thank you.  Good bye.”

Johnny hung up and looked around the hotel room that had become his home for the past month.  It looked terrific since he’d paid for regular cleaning and were on their best behaviour as his largess in tipping became known.

The war had finally wound down a couple of days ago after Minmatar calls for help were answered by Gallente forces. He figured that was the death knoll of his gravy train and so wasn`t surprised when Mr. General, as he`d started calling him, hadn`t returned his calls.

He called up his balance sheet and marvelled at it as if it were a masterpiece.

Victory, but questions remain
ONGUND – It has been two weeks now that the last of the Sansha forces invading the Ongund system have been destroyed but now analysts have begun reporting their findings and several hard questions remain to be answered.  According to one internal Republic Military investigative team, the main question remains, “Where was the equipment?”

It has been well documented that republic forces, after sustaining heavy losses in the the opening days of the war with the Sansha Nation, had great difficulty reequipping.  Shortages of all kinds were felt and all this in spite of, now that shipping manifests from the war have been released, indications that there should have been sufficient, and in the words of one military aide, ‘copius numbers of frigate, and cruiser sized ships as well as all the necessary systems to make them operation ready.’

This man, Nicky Garrult, [picture] is now wanted for questioning by Republic authorities.  It has been alleged that he personally received vast quantities of military equipment in the Boundless Creation station in Hek but that none of that equipment ever made it to the front lines. Instead it had been shipped to several planet-based reprocessing facilities which, at the time had been under Sancha control.  Furthermore, recently obtained documents show that he also shipped large amounts of minerals out of Hek to such systems as Botane and Jita. 

If charged with aiding the enemy, he might face the death penalty.
More>>

He switched off the vid in his opulently furnished Détente Suites room and shook his head.

“Don, darling, come back to bed, it’s cold without you.”

He looked at the pretty girl tousled up in the red synthsilk sheets and thought, “If I’m Don, this must be Dodixie.”

Now, how was mexallon doing.


 

Pod and Planet Fiction Contest YC115 Entry 
Category: Eight Thousand Suns in New Eden

“3rd Prize”

POD and Planet 3rd Prize A17a3
Where the magic happens