White Scopes

When Ezra saw Emerson, she couldn't stop herself from rushing up the landing ramp to him and pulling him into a hug. Then came a kiss, Holiday pulling her a bit closer but reserving himself nevertheless. Still, it had felt like a lifetime since she'd last seen him, even though it had only been a couple days. She only stopped when she noticed Hammond was standing nearby. He didn't seem bothered though.

In fact, he looked determined.

"With that out of the way, let's discuss what we need to do." Hammond pulled out a holo-projector from his pocked and set it on the table in the galley. "Reports are coming in from the satellite that Golden Peak's gone dark. No signals of any kind have been coming in or out for the better part of a day now. And I believe it has something to do with that strange creature we ran into at the mines...

"I learned that there are certain cave systems that run throughout the region that all link to the mines in Golden Peak, and one linked right to the mines where we found that thing. I want to look into this quickly before the other megacorps catch wind and try to lock the place down. The way things got swept under the rug last time has me worried. And the fact that The Jericho Council turned a blind eye to my requests to further investigate the matter are troubling. And the Dragoon have been called in to look into this matter as well, but I want to get there first... before evidence can be swept under the rug. Hammond Industries will always maintain integrity, and if something is going on here on Jericho it's my duty to reveal it.

"However, there's some in the Dragoon we can trust." He glanced to Ezra. "I got informed by an individual known as Whisper who told me that the person behind this blackout is a Crimson Kingdom scientist known as Lanstrom. Apparently, she's the manufacturer of The Queen's simulants and the chemist who develops their drugs. Word has it she's gone rogue. Evidently, there is one among the Dragoon who has been successful at hunting The Queen's upper echelon..."

Emerson leaned back against the starboard ramp piston. He had heard of the Crimson Kingdom and of simulants. Outrageously dangerous, they were banned within the first decade of their creation. Anyone found with a simulant, fully fledged or not, was standing on grounds to be shot, spaced, and erased from existence. And not necessarily in that order either.

Lanstrom, he never heard of and probably would never have if not for today. Still, he paid attention.

"Jhonen Cross..." Ezra muttered. She nodded. "I've heard of him. He and his team took out The Wendigo and his pack a few weeks back. It's been the talk of The Eyrie for some time now. You think he'll head there too?"

Hammond nodded. "I asked this Whisper fella to try and get in touch with Cross to let him know we're interested in looking into this with him. However, we can't wait, we need to go to Golden Peak now. There's a blizzard coming in will prevent ships and dragons from venturing in for some time. And if there's something there that will expose what that thing in the mine was, if this Lanstrom person is responsible... we need to stop her. I've told Cross to meet us at Golden Peak if he is able..."

"We should wait." Ezra said. "I've heard of Lanstrom. She's not someone to trifle with. She built a simulant army for The Queen, no doubt she has plenty of protection. This is dangerous, Hammond. I don't recommend we go in alone."

"And if we wait for this blizzard to clear there could be more of those things rampaging across Jericho." Hammond said. "Do you want to take that chance?"

Ezra shrugged. "I don't know... This could go very badly, Hammond."

"We won't be going in unprepared..." Hammond said. He looked to Emerson with a smirk. "We will have more than just a shotgun and one rifle with dragonsbane rounds..."

The men looked to the stockpile of crates that had been loaded into the ship behind Emerson. It was enough weaponry to conquer a small moon. A lot of it from Hammond Inc's own weapons division. The best the company had to offer.

Ezra smirked. "Okay... that's a start..."

"Still not worth a Mercury bill of we go in like Mfinda. What, are we looking for copies of that bullshit?

Hammond looked to Emerson. "I know we're going into an unknown situation, with a blizzard that will no doubt keep us there for some time. It's a risk, but I won't wait. I don't think we can afford to. If Cross has any sense he'll be heading there with his people soon too. With them we may be able nip this problem in the bud before it becomes one...

"So get the ship ready... we've got a long flight ahead of us..."

Emerson wanted to point out that they had barely recovered from that first encounter. But the new weapons, both shipboard and personal, definitely edged out their ability to blast what they did not like back into the void. He also wanted to point out the dangers of flying into a blizzard. The look of his boss said that argument would be dismissed.

With a sigh, he nodded. "Aye aye, boss. Well, best get settled."

~~

The ship had taken off and had made it sixty-thousand feet easily. And sure enough, the view of the ground showed the snow front already blasting in. In the cockpit, Emerson was watching the air traffic. Hammond was right, there was no radio chatter in the area whatsoever.

Hammond himself was back in the commons while Ezra watched over him. That did not last long as he heard football's on the deck behind him. "Hey," Ezra greeted.

"Hey, " he greeted back with a lean backwards. He was surprised to find her right there with a kiss, just a quick one that he smiled after.

"So, what are we looking at?" She asked.

"Currently... A lot of snow, both radio and visual. Could've sworn I picked up a thermal signature but it was intermittent at best," he said, touching the controls. The descent would be gentle at first but would probably give him hell once they hit the lower altitudes. "A whole lot of nothin' down there."

"You said it was a rough place... Have you actually read up on Golden Peak?" Ezra questioned while looking at the screens.

"I did on our way here, a lot has changed since I made cargo runs there. Corps have turned it into a nice place from the sound of it, " the pilot said with a sigh. "Used to be barely an E rated lowport there."

Ezra had no idea what he just said and told him as much. "E rate? Lowport?"

"Yeah," he answered, the curvature of the world slowly straightening to the horizon. "Lowport is what Jericho Actual is: a starport on the ground. All ports are rated by the Central Systems in terms of services. 'A' is the top, the best. 'B' is second best and so forth. 'E', on the other hand, is basically an open field with a beacon that says 'Land Here'. Kinda funny to see miles and miles of open land and then these cargo runners just clustered around the beacon. You'd think they'd have a brain cell to use. "

"So, what is the rating of JL?" Ezra asked, seeing him just bubble up as he explained all of that. It was rather cute to watch him talk and explain the trade.

"Definitely an 'A'," Holiday answered. "Fuel refinery, repair crews, even sub-ten thousand ton yards. Hammond has one of them, you ever been to the restricted part of the building?" A shake of her head answered him. "Where do you think they store all their ship tech--?"

His board lit up as the craft rumbled through the sky. The clouds ahead flashed in snow thunder, the craft keeping its flight. He glanced over to Ezra as Sebastian came in. "Okay, we must be hitting the trailing edge. I'm going to ease us in. You might want to strap in," he said, nodding to Hammond as he finished.

The sticks were in his hands and the wall of white that greeted them was impressive. It was as the trader ship slipped into the storm that he felt it. At first, he put them with the wind as he shedded altitude. He did not want to land right smack into a building and kept an eye on his scopes. Of course, most of them were useless in the storm but thankfully they were close enough for the radar to cut through it.

The ship shook violently twice as he started to turn starboard, looping down and around the mountains. The wind picked up and he had to hold the sticks at angle just to fly straight. Thankfully though, the scopes showed just barely enough of a mountain peak with thin beams of light poking out of the snow.

"Hang on," he said. Then he dropped the ship. They only felt the slight acceleration of it as the rest had been dampened by the gravity plates. But it still had Sebastian, seated in astrogation, give an uncomfortable look that he barely caught. Emerson smiled a bit before suddenly yanking the controls. An icy peak jitter out to meet them, spot lights visible cones now in the belligerent wind and precipitation.

"Fuck!" Came the curse as the ship nosed up and the throttle was shoved forward. Of course, he forgot that he no longer had to slam the throttle to make it go forward or back. The unexpected speed surprised even Holiday as he veered off from the near-collision. He circled back around, running a scan even as he realized he could not do everything at once. He had to focus on them not crunching into ice and rock but he had to find that port or at least a place to land. The wind was being one hell of a devil to fight.

"Boss, Ezra, someone... Run an active radar," he said. "And don't bitch at me that the scopes are dead, just find me a patch. We should be close to one or two. "

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