Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Incomplete Conclusions

Scorpius 26, m0039, continued

The Marshals' rocket hopper arrives (allowing the E.U. team members the always curious sight of dust being kicked up - and instantly falling - in vacuum), and the two humans and one tech spider aboard deploy. They introduce themselves as Marshals Carstairs and Brown-Suarez and Excursion-Alpha-4. The Europeans feel obliged to observe what they do, and to leave messages on the subject with the local Emergency Response office for attention in the morning.

Jianwei takes the lead in talking to the newcomers, of course, but at this moment his feeling for legal niceties seems to be working better than his negotiation skills; within a few seconds, after quoting far too much legal jargon at Marshall Carstairs, he finds himself being routed through to Carstairs' LAI aide and generally being treated as a problematic legal entity. But anyway, there doesn't seem to be much to do here right now, so Florence goes back to bed, and Jianwei gets back into the rover at the same time to avoid inconvenience (as the vehicle doesn't have an airlock). Vajra, though, stays outside to watch the US tech spider going over what's left of the wheelform cybershell; with a little polite negotiation, he arranges to get a direct feed of technical data from the spider's work, albeit that much of it is encrypted. If the Marshals Service agrees to release that data later, all they have to provide is the encryption key.

The Marshals subsequently declare the intention to send their hopper back under autonomous control to fetch another forensics package; they're prepared to wait on site for as long as such things take. Jianwei points out that his own team maybe should take the package they brought out back to Nix Olympica - after all, much of the point of their being here is supposed to be to certify a chain of evidence as neutral observers, and the US authorities agree to that.

So the European team sets out homewards in the morning - albeit on the now-familiar route via the outstation with the medical facilities. Actually, they're slowed a little by some navigation problems - even when you've been over a route before, one rock still looks much like another - but they bowl along, especially once Florence has had her full set of high-sugar breakfast bars. They welcome Mahler and Melk aboard the rover from the treatment centre, and are soon on their way again. Perhaps a little too briskly, in fact - Florence puts the suspension under more stress than it's certified for at one point.

The team gets the two European tourists into their hotel without too much press attention, drop the forensics package at the Rescue Service offices, and head to a Chinese restaurant for dinner while awaiting the results of an initial analysis of the samples it has gathered - the Emergency Response people having agreed to share these as a courtesy. The results come through as they eat; it looks very likely that the airship's balloon was the subject of some quite precise nanotech-based sabotage. Indeed, by now, the US Marshals are releasing some initial statements which hint at the same conclusion.

Captain Ping comes in on a Web-based conference to discuss these results. It's clear that he is by now becoming downright irritated at the string of offers of help he's received from the Marshals. As usual, the US authorities are trying to muscle in on anything interesting that happens on Olympus Mons - asserting their actually non-existent right to a presence on the mountain and seeking to compromise the independence of the local authorities. The team suggests that Nix Olympica should go public with as much of their own data as possible, to demonstrate that they have an independent position here and stop the Marshals' investigation looking dominant. Jianwei has a thought at this point, and forwards a link to some of the published results to Kai Ssung-So, mostly as an exercise in provocation. Aunty's reading of the automated response that he receives suggests that Ssung-So has in fact left town by now. Presumably, he wasn't inclined to be on the receiving end of too much attention.

Anyway, the team head to their own hotel, getting there just as they receive a message from someone who identifies herself as "Darth Dalmatian". It seems that she is arriving in town at about 3 am, and she'd quite like to meet for breakfast. Jianwei agrees to that, and sends a note to Florence, asking her to come along too.

Scorpius 27, m0039

The team awakes first to a message from Kai Ssung-So, who is polite. "The American authorities seem determined to treat this as a hardware issue," he notes. "I fear that there may be an extended period of litigation before this matter is resolved..."

But the team - well, two of them - are more concerned for now with their breakfast in a pancake house, and then with the arrival of a familiar figure dressed in a pressure suit with a helmet that flares widely at the neck - and which has a surface design with a white background with black dots. "DD" contrives to order breakfast at the EU's expense, and chats about the airship crash. When Jianwei and Florence claim that they have no idea who may have been responsible for the software sabotage that was clearly a major contributory factor in the incident ("probably not the SIA..."), DD spends a few seconds staring hard at Florence. Evidently DD's nose for a story is proving better than Florence's rudimentary skill in lying. DD follows that exchange by commenting that the Americans - well, the SIA - are likely to try to pin such sabotage onto the Triads. Jianwei replies that she might want to look into that subject a little more.

The team then says that they seem to have finished their mission in Nix Olympica, although Florence is in fact going to be staying around for a few days, taking some leave time to do some climbing in the caldera. For her part, DD says that she will be staying in town for a while, to do a little more digging into this story. Jianwei decides to feed her a hint about recent problems on the local computer networks.

And so, after breakfast, Florence books herself a place on a tourist climbing party, attempting a distance from part-way up the slope to the top. She looks quite well set to out-climb some of the teleoperated shells which some tourists use for such expeditions...