On the 28 day trip back to the frontier, Ivy and Abi were not themselves. Abigail had become obsessed with the eggs and consistently recommended hiding the eggs, changing them, focused on protecting them from the evils of the empire. Ivy on the other hand wanted to touch them, be with them, and swore they were calling to her. Abi stopped eating and Ivy tried to sneak into the infirmary multiple times, always ending up injured or sick when Hart’s “stop gaps” caught up to her. Hart had a firm conversation with Abigail, explaining to her his priorities and insisting she take care of herself and she started behaving, under threat of being cut out of the research.
Ivy took more extreme methods and ended up being “Galed” more than once. After Hart threatened to Faraday cage the eggs, she capitulated and set up shop outside the infirmary, face pasted to the glass, periodically threatening Abi if she sensed thoughts of harming the eggs. The Captain would regularly bring food by and insist she shower and eat because she refused to leave her post, even sleeping on a bedroll on the floor to be near them.
During this downtime, Brian and Valis worked synthetics into Valis, giving her “skin” and allowing her to wear clothes. Combined with Clair’s mannerisms training, Valis turned into a polite, short-ish, brunette young woman, who took to wearing jumpsuits and being unobtrusive. She continued her self-improvement while working on ways to improve the quality of life on the ship.
A good portion of the crew was focused on examining the egg. They used ultrasound, microdrill core samples, and everything they could muster to determine the nature of the eggs and their contents (see The Space Hulk wiki). About halfway home they had run the course of the resources they had available on the ship and any more data could only be gleaned by more extensive analysis with the MRI, which wasn’t on the ship. They did determine that the inside of the egg contained what appeared to be a smaller egg and a hyper-thick protein suspension which Hart suspected to be a nutrient supplement. He and Abi believed that they could synthesize it and began working on doing so, in bulk, on the off chance that more would be needed to “hatch” the egg.
Back in Borderspace
Shylock had been quietly putting out feelers to find buyers for the Shan Yu artifacts. Piece by piece, he spread the queries out, using a couple of small items from the collection (2 small Buddhas, one Jade and the other Gold) to validate their authenticity, as anonymously as possible. Unfortunately, somehow or another, his name became attached to them anyway (Shylock suspected his handler for leaking the info), which resulted in the Tong climbing through his affairs and trying to kill him twice. Because his name was on the title for the “Not for Hire”, and he turned out not to be dead, that meant none of the crew was dead, which gave the Tong all the incentive they needed to ramp up their efforts again. The Cossa was less-than-happy with the added attention and worked to distance themselves from Shylock a bit while he worked through this issue (quickly, they insisted).
Shylock had had a couple of people interested in the items (several that were Tong aliases) but none of them were big enough fish to warrant the risk. Eventually he was contacted quietly by someone who wanted to meet with him privately, someone with VERY deep pockets and a reputation for fair and ruthless bargaining. They asked Shylock to set up the meeting place, and with his CiW “handler” in tow, he went to meet them in a safe, open place.
It turned out the person he was meeting was Delores Iskellion herself, COO, Co-Chairman, and majority owner of ITS (Iskellion Technology Solutions). With her was a thin, unobtrusive man who she introduced as Ernest Chu, her personal assistant. Delores expressed her interest in acquiring the entire collection, all pieces, and understood the value of the collection as being almost completely abstract, so talking in finite credits seemed pointless. She then proceeded to produce documentation that showed she was aware of who he was, where he’d been, who he’d interacted with, including the Capt and Crew (the old crew, with Marcus), and all of the various warrants and drama associated with that path. She wasn’t doing it as a threat, she was simply letting him know her bargaining position. What she did “threaten” with was that, if he decided not to sell the items to her and tried to continue to parse them off “in secret”, she’d make everything she knew public, including all of the items, and make it impossible to move the items anywhere without everyone knowing, which would bring everyone with nothing to lose down upon them in an avalanche of chaos. After everything settled out, Delores could then come in and clean up the mess. She didn’t want to have to do that, she felt it would make it harder and more expensive, but she made it clear she was going to get these items and didn’t care how messy it had to get to make it happen.
Delores’ offer consisted of a significant “finders fee” for Shylock, (along with a promotion within the Cossa, again indicating the influence she wielded), a new ship for the crew (one of her top-of-the-line), with service contracts, parts, and upgrades to be covered, and “other considerations” to be determined at a later date. Shylock agreed to approach the Capt with the offer and the conversation moved to other topics. Delores quietly informed Shylock that war was coming and that both sides were gearing up for it. The Alliance seemed to have new troops from Blue Sun and new strategies and felt confident they could take back what they lost.
Delores then pulled out a very thick file and set it on the table, with the name “Ivy” written on it. She explained that it was a fascinating read, and that it seems every major power in the ‘Verse wanted her dead, but very few details as to why. Shylock was reluctant to say anything to Delores kept telling him what she knew, then openly asked if he knew anything about “actives”. As evasively as possible, he gave her vague answers and suggested that, if they were to take this meeting with the Capt, she could learn more. He would neither confirm nor deny that she could meet Ivy, but Delores seemed very intent on meeting her. They adjourned the meeting with the agreement that Shylock would contact the Capt and then let Delores know.
Shylock dispatched a note to the Capt, telling her to avoid everyone, that she was hunted, and that they needed to meet face to face as quickly as possible.
Out in the Black
The Hephaestus and Calypso arrived at the asteroid without incident and the eggs were offloaded, along with Hart, Ivy, and Abigail. The Capt checked her mail and found the note from Shylock. She answered that they could meet out on the Frontier as soon as he could get out there. Shylock went to book passage, but as he attempted to book the 14 day passage on an inconspicuous liner, his phone rang. It was Administrator Chu, letting him know that there was a vessel standing by that could take him to Meridian in 4 days. Shylock reluctantly agreed, packed his bags, and with his handler trailing along he zipped out to the Frontier in style aboard a luxury yacht.
Hart set up shop on the asteroid and continued working with Abigail to synthesize the nutrient gel. The Capt and crew took the ship (leaving Ivy, Hart, and Abi on the rock) to Deadwood for provisions, fuel, and R&R. Upon landing, the Capt received a note that Shylock was en route to the Frontier and that they’d need to arrange to meet, in 4 days. She replied with a place on Highgate. The crew spent the evening on Deadwood, Mikki with her family, Grace with new friends, and Conner and the Captain enjoying a quiet dinner in a rustic restaurant, where he explained that the following day he needed to run some errands and would be out of touch for a week or more. Given the sensitive nature of what was going on, the Captain was OK with this and they spent the evening making sure each other knew how much the other would be missed.
The following morning, Conner and the Captain left Deadwood, going their separate ways, and Shylock “snuck” off of Meridian with his handler and booked obscure passage to Highgate, though he felt relatively sure he was followed. He and the Captain met in an Austin tavern on Highgate with Gale and the Shylock’s handler sitting nearby. Shylock and the Captain spoke vaguely about things while the handler made snide comments about Ivy being a monster that needed to be put down until the Captain slapped him off his chair, insulted. She stormed from the tavern, with Gale and Shylock following, and the handler indicated he’d “find his own way home”. As they left, Valis and Gale noted that there was a “cloaked” ship in orbit and that they were unable to penetrate its screens to determine its nature. The ship pulled out and headed towards the asteroid field, taking a circuitous route that made the half day journey take almost a week. During this time, the Captain filled Shylock in on everything, including the eggs and hulk.
At the asteroid, the crew offloaded everything vaguely controversial as well as Mikki (to have a pilot on the rock), then headed back into the field. Shylock sent a note to Delores, indicating where they should meet, and received a reply in 10 minutes, showing how close they were. He gave the coordinates where Shan Yu’s asteroid used to be and the ship headed that way, again taking a very circuitous route. Two days later they arrived at the point in space, where they were hailed. Once the Captain answered, a ship uncloaks (along with 2 frigates) and a shuttle was dispatched to the Hephaestus.
Delores came on board with 2 black-suited security guards and a thin, severe man that she introduced as Ernest Chu, her personal assistant. The group headed aft to settle into the lounge and begin negotiations.