Echoes in Darkness

What's Mined is Mine (pt 4)

Planetfall At Last!

After a brief re-fueling stop at a BIG station halfway through our trip, our vessel finally arrives at Gath. As a matter of corporate policy to prevent any “unauthorized” technology transfers from occurring, the ship docks at an orbiting supply station rather than landing on the surface. Only sub-light shuttles are allowed to land on the surface. The corporate security group and the internal audit group leave ahead of us, each group leaving on a separate shuttle. We leave with Chuck Finley on a smaller shuttle,taking with us all our possessions (including our large pack of mining equipment), heading to the primary spaceport on the planet.

When we arrive at the spaceport, we end up with two surprises… Firstly, the two previously-launched shuttles do not appear to have landed at the spaceport. Secondly, there is no one waiting at the landing pad to greet us. We haul ourselves and our gear over to the spaceport’s main admin building. As we enter the building we notice that the building has separate accommodations for the native Gath. We identify ourselves to the receptionist, who gives us directions to the main BIG corporate complex, located about 30 minutes away. The receptionist also requisitions a van for us. The group drives to the BIG offices, gaining our first view of the distinctive Gath architecture along the way.

We arrive at the mining offices, and immediately head to the offices of Jason Thumbrill, mining foreman. Unfortunately, Jeff Molchaniye’s assessment of Jason seems to be correct, in that Jason is deeply prejudiced against the native population, and not particularly motivated to actually solve problems, which severely limits his ability to give information (or to do his job). However, we do get some useful information from Jason:

The mining operations consist of a large primary mine, a secondary mine nearly as large, and multiple tertiary mines. BIG mines primarily scordite, but also mines purite and titanium. Lower tech materials are given to the Gath for use in their industries. At the time that the first incident happened, a shaft was being drilled between the lower levels of the primary and secondary mines to act as an emergency evacuation point in the event of a mine collapse.

According to Jason, there are a couple hundred native miners in the primary mining site. The dispute with the native miners seem to be of a religious nature. The miners have designated the primary mine a “holy site” that humans aren’t allowed to enter. This unprecedented bout of religious fervor has spread to the other mines, so now no mines are in production. The secondary mine is also blocked by the miners, though the tertiary mines are not actually blocked off. Jason mentions that the individual who assassinated the previous Gath president is now the president.

There are under 2 dozen human mining personnel on the planet, leaving BIG at a distinct numeric disadvantage when dealing with the revolt. Jason mentions in passing, however, that a human miner, Brad Johnson, is actually with the native miners. Brad also has the distinction of being the only BIG employee to volunteer for a second shift on Gath, making him indeed a Person of Interest™.

Jason ends the interview by giving us a data dump of area maps and personnel records for BIG’s Gath facilities. We see Jason’s secretary about living accommodations. While there, Hat asks to have the access codes to Johnson’s quarters. When the secretary pulls the codes, she discovers that his codes have been used within the last few days, despite the fact that Johnson is still supposed to be stuck in the mines. Leslie also give us access to several of BIG’s camera feeds, and gives us the contact information for Greg, the head of BIG’s security department on Gath.

We head to the BIG apartment complex, which is only a couple of blocks away. While on the way there, we discuss Jason’s comments about the natives with Chuck. Chuck points out that Jason’s ability to assess the native situation is limited by his prejudice for the natives. This is especially true in the case of the Gath, as their culture is based around interpersonal engagement. Chuck is confused by Jason’s comments about the new Gath religion, as what we think of as “religion” is completely unheard of in Gath culture. Gath culture is normally extremely pragmatic, with the driving force being efficiency improvements. Chuck is fairly certain that some kind of external (i.e. offworld) factor must be involved.

Once we get to the apartment, the group splits up. Chuck heads to a local food establishment to pick up on the native news. The rest of the group heads to Johnson’s apartment, located in a lower floor of the same apartment complex. We enter the apartment to find that it has been ransacked, and is in a general condition of disarray. The group sweeps the room. Ravanis finds a data card plugged into the card slot of the TV. The media center that the TV is plugged into has been the destroyed, but the TV itself is intact. Since Johnson probably won’t be coming back any time soon, Hat “appropriates” the TV for our use, and carries it back up to our room. Ravanis and Xavier attempt to read the data on the chips using their handcomps, but are stymied by the password protection on the chip. Hat, meanwhile tries to trace the cable line that the destroyed media center fed into. Hat switches tasks with Xavier and tries to break the protection on the data chip, but is unsuccessful. Xavier manages to trace the cable line to a hidden compartment inside one of the walls in Johnson’s apartment. Within the compartment, Xavier finds a desktop computer that appears to have a transmission antenna on it. Xavier carries the computer back up to the team’s apartment. The team take a look at the computer. Hat suggests that we plug the data chip we recovers into the computer, using the TV as a monitor to view the output. The computer does start interpreting the output, displaying it as a repeating sequence of scrolling text in a character format none of us understand.

Chuck returns from his trip into the city. He informs us that the unrest in the mines isn’t spreading into the general population in any way he can perceive. Chuck doesn’t recognize the language that the scrolling text is in.

At this point, Ravanis, Xavier, and Hat begin separate investigations, based on all of the assets and information available to the team. Xavier reviews the security camera feeds from the primary mining site. He sees a large number of natives in the compound, primarily guarding the main entrance to the mineshaft itself. Xavier notices that there doesn’t appear to by a large amount of activity. The natives are guarding the mine, but do not seem to actually be doing anything with the mine. Unfortunately, Xavier’s camera angles are limited, and he can’t get a look at the ventilation shafts to determine if we could access the mine covertly through them.

Hat contacts Frank Delgato in orbit on the Svyezhyeye Myaso to get his expertise in deciphering the data stream on the desktop computer. Frank guides Hat on how to capture the data stream to Hat’s handcomp. Hat then sends Frank the data stream, which Frank promises to take a look at.

Ravanis begins reviewing the personnel records that Jason provided. He starts with Brad Johnson’s record. Ravanis discovers a number of inconsistencies in Johnson’s records that indicate that the identity of “Brad Johnson” is fake. We now have no idea of who is actually down in the mine. Ravanis discovers that Leslie’s record also contains irregularities, but before he can investigate further, Hat, attempting to assist, manages to delete Leslie’s record entirely. Ravanis does take a look at Jason’s record. There aren’t any irregularities in the record, which depicts the textbook portrait of a failed corporate executive. A series of social gaffs (including a history of sexual harassment HR complaints) have exiled this soul to Gath, seemingly permanently.

At this point, the team moves to finish the tasks they plan on completing before the end of the day. Xavier heads off to meet with Greg, in order to advise Greg of the results of our investigation, as well as get Greg’s input on the situation as a whole. Ravanis, Hat, and Chuck head out to the primary mine, 30 minutes away via vehicle, to recon the mine prior to attempting to talk to the miners directly the following day.

Xavier gets in to see Greg, and starts exchanging information with him. Greg reveals that there were supposed to be camera feeds from inside the mines, but Greg has lost all of these feeds since the trouble began, and the site’s internal wireless network appears to be down. Greg is moderately surprised to find out that an Internal Audit team is on-planet, but notes that there hasn’t been a proper audit of the Gath facility in years, so the deployment of an audit team isn’t completely out of left field. Greg sends an inquiry off to a friend on the orbiting BIG station to try and determine where the Internal Audit team actually landed. Greg wants to see the hidden computer, so he and Xavier head back to the team’s apartment. On the way there, Greg reveals that the previous president’s assassination seemed to be motivated by the terms with BIG on the mine leases. Xavier and Greg also discuss the actions (or lack thereof) that the native miners have taken since gaining control of the mines. It is at this point that something occurs to Greg. He checks the camera feeds Xavier set up at the apartment, and realizes that the footage shown is of a noon-time scene, despite the fact that the current time is late-afternoon, getting on towards evening. Greg investigates farther back in the historical camera archives, and realizes that the feeds have been looping for multiple weeks. Xavier immediately tries to contact the rest of the time, realizing that the team now has no idea what is actually going on in the mine.

Meanwhile, Ravanis, Hat, and Chuck have arrived at the mines. They first recon the exterior gates and fences via their vehicles, noting that the miners appears to be patrolling all along the fence line. The group then parks the van about a kilometer away in the nearby woods, and then move about a kilometer to a hill where Hat can view most of the compound with his night-vision-equipped binoculars. On their way up the hill, Ravanis receives the call from Xavier. Despite the danger of the situation, the team decides to proceed up the hill and recon the situation briefly before returning to town. Upon reaching the hill Hat scans the compound. He notes that the exterior human building have no lights on, and the landing pad is without lights as well. The landing pad is not empty. The shuttle carrying James Biercroft‘s security detachment in on the pad. Hat can’t see any members of the security team, but he can see some kinds of recent stains on the tarmac around the shuttle. It is at this point that Hat realizes that the miners are armed, and they seem to be armed with modern human rifles!

Deciding that discretion is the better part of valor, the team decides to head back to the van. While making their way through the now-dark woods, both Ravanis and Hat become away that something is following them. Increasing their pace as fast as they can without tripping, Chuck, Hat, and Ravanis make it back to the van, and immediately drive off, planning to take a circuitous route around the mining facility before heading back. As they drive off, the rear window is shattered as someone fires on the van. The shots barely miss Ravanis, who is driving the van.

Chuck, Ravanis, and Hat make it back to the apartment complex. Ravanis examines the back of the van, which has obviously been shot by a modern weapon. Ravanis believes that a gauss rifle caused the damage. The team immediately informs Greg of the situation and asks that he let the orbital station know that they should not allow the captured shuttle to dock, should it attempt to. The team decides that they must assume that the corporate security team has either been killed or captured. Their next step is to find the internal audit team, which is now the only force capable of stopping the native miners, should the miners decide to attack the BIG residential facility directly.

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