Log:Array Consortium: Blast Processing

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Blast Processing

Location: Black Peak Deuterium Mining Colony, Kalarba
Participants: Mandl

After a wave of Consortium attacks against Mathall holdings, an explosion rocks the deuterium mining colony on Kalarba that Adhar uses to help pay for the Consortium's expenses. Adhar dispatches Mandl, expert miner and demolitionist - as well as simply a very intelligent and inquisitive Bith - to investigate the situation, and to find if the explosion was simply an accident, or something more sinister.

Kalarba is a bit away, but not so far that you can't get there within the night - the Liquid Diet is swift in the hyperspace dimesnion, but you still have time to go over your data - the bombing report, as transmitted to Adhar. From your point of view, it is not good. Somehow, something exploded in the fields routing deuterium-rich heavy water filtered from the ocean, detonating under a service staion. Thirty people have been killed, all of them mine workers, and twenty-two are wounded to degrees ranging anywhere from near death to flesh wounds. It's not a good situation - the Kalarban government is investigating, and if it proves an accident so soon into the establishment of the mining colony it will mean the end of it entirely.

Mandl settles in, dialing up a cup of caff. First priority: preclude sabotage. Was this a particularly vital spot? Is the service-station continually manned? Twenty-four hour shifts? Mandl flicks through pics or holos of the destruction, attempting to judge the type and power of explosion -- what caused all this carnage? Was it intentional?

You just don't know enough about the Bith-designed mining technology involved to say what could or could not be explosive - it was obscure when it was new, even for the Bith, and that was several centuries ago. But it as far as you can tell, it doesn't make sense that there /would/ be an explosion; heavy water isn't explosive, nor is raw deuterium unless fused, and that would have been a great deal worse than what you see in the report. If anything, you'd almost swear it was a proton charge, or a series thereof - especially where the explosion took place, right in a seismically fragile area of the island. It just...collapsed inward, taking the station with it. Interesting. Horrible, yes, but interesting.

The alarm on the navicomputer sounds, and you find yourself back in realspace, where Kalarba is...a place of panic. Ships are everywhere, apparently streaming out of the vast, urbanized moon of the planet known as Hosk Station; your insertion point very nearly has you colliding with a bulk transport, but your hand is quick enough to steer you clear. Entering Kalarban space, you're given suspicious treatment by the planetary security forces, though your credentials as a representative of the mining company allows you through with little other than a few heavy scans as you go in.

As you fly over the island to land, you can see the extent of the destruction: true to the data sent to you, a crater has opened up in the middle of the pipe field, some hundred feet across, taking with it not just the service station but a massive section of piping coming in from the various stations feeding seawater in to the refinery complex. Just from sighting this, you can tell that production must be cut at least in half.

As you land on one of the rockcrete pads set up along the flinty shore of the island ahead of the sprawling blocks of prefab structures that make up the colony, you see a number of people in plain gray company coveralls awaiting your arrival. Well, looks like they rolled out, uh, the red carpet. Such as it is.

Mandl disembarks, taking J98B and LR5H with it. It instructs J9 in Bith: "Obey no orders but my own unless your programming demands it -- I need your special senses attuned to anything outside the ordinary. Please relay identical instructions to LR5H in Binary. If he needs to make use of my comlink, his observations will appear also in Bith."

The droid nods, chattering communication going on between the two of them in binary as you disembark the ship. The two humans there look...well, not necessarily angry, but definitely stern as you arrive. One of them, the taller, squarer man with sandy hair, steps forward to nod at you.

"You must be Mandl," he says. "I'm Kallas Norrer, the administrator of this facility. This is my deputy, Salla Sann." A slim woman with a scarred face, her dark hair in a rough shag, merely nods.

Kallas gestures to the field behind him. "It's good to see you here so quickly - it means a lot to everyone. We got a hell of a mess out here, as you no doubt saw coming in."

Mandl nods. "Mandl is not corporate stooge -- this was a joint venture with Mandl's closest compatriot. Personal stakes very high. Are the families of those whose bodies have been recovered notified? How fare the wounded? How many missing still?" Mandl's pace is leisurely enough that the 'droids can keep up, and should the administrator or deputy want to interject, time is given.

This gives the two miners a bit of a surprise, based on the looks they give each other. Kallas is the first to follow, answering your questions as he goes.

"Well," he says, "The families have been advised, and the rolls suggest we have everyone accounted for. The dead are in the custody of the government, and are being examined, and the injured are being treated, but.but with the...well, we're all pretty scared out here, sir. We don't know what's going on, just that, well, is it true that the Senate is gone? The fleet? Hosnian, everything?"

Mandl's shoulders slump. "Much of the galaxy saw that... detonation. Mandl included. We are all scared, Administrator, but Mandl is here to restore order and dispense justice. To make safe and calm, this part of the galaxy."

This seems to be exactly what the Administrator needs to hear. He relaxes somewhat, and when he speaks again the tension in his voice relaxes also. "Well," he says, "I am surely glad to hear that, sir. Uh, Salla, will you tell him what we know?"

Salla Sann steps up on the other side of you, while the droids trail slightly behind. "Sir," she says in a horrible rasp that suggests the scarring down her throat is as internal as it is external, "We can't account for this at all. Have you read the report? Everything we've found is there." She eyes the Administrator across the way, eyes tightening as if to goad.

Kallas shrinks a bit before his deputy, and clears his throat. "Well, all but one thing. And if you're here to set things right, well...I want to help with that. Even if it means my neck."

Mandl lifts eyes to meet Kallas'. "If you have more to add, there is no bad time."

"Well." Kallas looks distinctly uncomfortable as he looks between you and Salla. "I've had...a visitor lately."

"A woman," says Salla Sann."

"Well, yes." Kallas clears his throat. "A woman."

"A /Echani/ woman."

The uncomfortable look turns into a frown. "Now I don't know what that has to do with--"

Salla looks to you. "She was here on the day," she says. "And we didn't find any dead Echani in the wreckage."

Mandl considers. "You say 'lately,' as in... more than once? Recently?"

"Well," Kallas fumbles, "I mean...that is..."

"Tell him, chief." Salla's tongue cracks like a whip, and Kallas winces as if struck.

"We've been...entertaining each other, sir. That's all. She's wanted to see what I do here."

Mandl gestures to the half-working crater. Still smoking, no doubt, wreck and ruin aplenty. "If she set the... charge... Mandl suspects did this, Mandl has no doubt she loses no sleep." Mandl beckons the 'droids. "I have need of your sensors, my friends -- we are walking alone and undisturbed to the Administrator's quarters."

The five of you approach the crater, which is a smooth, glassy wound in the world. LR5H lets out a low trill of surprise as you come to the edge of the crater, and looking down into it, you are struck by that smoothness. This is not an accident. There is no randomness to it, and nothing here should go up with such control as this - but what was used, you just don't know. There's just...the void, and sabotage.

Over the next six hours, you and the droids pour over weeks of holocamera footage in the depths of the mine's administration building - for the longest time, it seems as though nothing would come from it; there's just a mind-numbing flow of workers. Indeed, it seems an incredibly safe technology, this mining process that Adhar has selected - hardly commercially viable in a vast industrial sense, but the workers need sit behind consoles and regulate the flow of seawater, check repulsor-filters, that sort of thing. The processor itself is basically one big electrolyzer, separating the deuterium from the heavy water and flushing that, too, out of the pipeworks.

Hour four, however, begins to bear fruit. LR5H is the first to see something, whistling excitedly as he calls up a battery of time-indexes over the last two months in which a willowy woman in a miner's overalls is seen prowling the mining complex late at night - coming out of the administration center, where Kallus and Salla San have apartments along with dormitories for on-site workers. From her shock of white hair, she is obviously Echani, and there is no Echani on the rolls. This must be Kallus's 'guest'.

Over the next two hours, you are able to synthesize more video, and the combination of images demonstrate a very worrying pattern: not only does this woman have free access to the fields, she also seems to be accessing places where only top personnel should be able to - cross-referencing the access records with these time indices demonstrate that she is using the administrator's identicard. No, not the real identicard, but from the data skeins you're able to extract, it is instead a very clever forgery. Four times does she come out from a place that you cannot quite see, as the holocameras do not have high-resolution night vision sensors. One short clip, however, shows her sashaying down an accessway along the pipes with an extra bit of junk in her proverbial trunk - a belt across her back has a number of what look to the untrained eye to be simple metal cylinders, but what you recognize from the details - especially the plungers - to be high-yield baradium charges. Mining equipment, for only the heaviest and hardest of materials, each one is as powerful as the warhead of a proton missile's warhead.

That explains how the explosion happened. But what about the building itself? J9 solves that, having remarkably sharp eyes for such an outwardly droopy droid; he points out what appears to be a shuddering in a pipe later that night which travels into the ground near the building. Calling up the plans of the base, it is clear that the building has a maintenance hatch leading into that pipe which would allow workers to clear blockages.

So. That's how it was done. Game, set, match.

But what to do now?

Mandl *ssslorches* gratefully on something with more nutritional value than a cup of sub-par caff. Probably a retort pouch of green... dinner. Bith mouths are weird. With the 'droids safely at their stations and doors locked, it finally loosens the buckles on its armor and dials Adhar, presumably on the 'Bandit's Castle.'

And so you do reach him. The captain is in his usual uniform, sitting behind his desk, gunbelt and coat hung up behind him - somewhere along the like he's grown a heavy vibrosaber to wear about, gilded and such as you'd imagine because that's his style, and a heavily modified Imperial E-11 rifle, its stock folded under itself, which looks like the runt of a litter of turbolasers. Good lord.

"Mandl," says Adhar, tired in one moment and then sober and clear-eyed as your image manifests. "What have you discovered?"

Mandl sets down the... beverage. Probably algae of some godforsaken kind. "Mandl has discovered sabotage, Captain. Mandl stresses the investigation is not entirely complete -- interviews and inspection-of-parts may provide ... wrinkles? But Mandl's knowledge of explosives lets us know what was done, how and when -- an unidentified Echani appears to have romanced our Administrator long enough to fake access-codes and set baradium charges beneath a supply-station. Mandl would be thoroughly unsurprised if she were your would-be assassin, or working in tandem. Transmitting facial reconstruction from holotape footage ... now. Mandl recommends a thorough look at her background and criminal record before we proceed."

The look on Adhar's face when he hears this is new - it's flat, masklike, as though suddenly some kind of glitch in the holocomm projector erased all the tension in his face. He stares at you through the light-years, and the result is utterly disquieting, if not outright scary. "I understand," he says, his voice very calm now, very quiet. "Thank you, Mandl. I want you to tell the Administrator to call me, please. I have to have a talk with him."

Mandl paws the melon. "Mandl did mean to mention-- as it occured to your large-brained comrade, too, it may not be wise to lay all his underlings' deaths at his feet-- this minute. As Mandl said, more work is to be done. Perhaps she romanced multiple beings and he was merely the lonely one? I wish to stall until Mandl can calculate the probability this man, however culpable he may be, will not immediately kill himself? Should we allow that?"

"You misunderstand me," Adhar says in that voice of his, this one that's as cold and airless as the dark side of a dead moon. "I don't intend to punish him. But I do want details on this woman. I am simply angry, and I do not wish to present that anger in the way it truly wishes to be. I am attempting to control myself." The Jedi do that, it's said. But that's through peace. This ain't peace, it's just restraint.

Mandl nods. "... also the 'droids were instrumental. Mandl recommends commendations, bonuses, additional... paid leave... ? Mandl has never had to compensate them beyond the agreed amount, but wishes their contributions known and recognized however Adhar feels is appropriate."

"It will be done." He pauses for a long moment. "Thank you, Mandl. Find Kallas for me, please. And his deputy. Tell them I want to speak with them immediately."

And that's it. The captain's image disappears, the clay mask of his face searing only for a moment as an afterimage.