BREAKING NEWS: Sansha Nation blocade in Ongund disrupts communications; Republic forces mobilizeHEK – 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.
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.
Now, knowing that, do I push for more?
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.
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.continues here in part 2