While the rest of the crew was busy working with the ship, Valjean decided to hunt for information about AI software, as he has decided to create a fellow android. I decided to find myself some lucrative employment. I tracked down the Vernian weapon merchant that I bought my holdout pistol from a long time ago when he visited Dejima. He did not remember me, of course. I was able to get contact information for a Dreise Arkenstone. I sent my location to Valjean and set my commlink to deadman without other explanation, just in case.
Dreise told me that a city called was in a sudden tectonic instability zone and was being evacuated. Arkenstone had contracted Atlas to carry two massive boring machines of theirs to safety, but Atlas seemed to be ignoring them and shipping other goods. I was tasked with getting there, and solving the problem. My methods would not be questioned. The payment was a large sum of Arkenstone company scrip. I was also given the name of a contact there who could assist and issue permits and such, Phebas Arkenstone.
Meanwhile, Valjean had found a forum where some skilled programmers were debating how to skirt the Phobos Convention AI ban by using alternate programming techniques to create AI. One of them had mentioned a "Project Zimmerman" but the other dismissed it as a myth. Valjean couldn't find any information about such a project.
I called Valjean and offered to split the payment if he came along; in case of violence an armored android is a good friend to have, though I wasn't sure how willing he would be to start a fight. The trip there was boring, though technically more spacious than any trip we'd had. A full day on a 600 person passenger airship owned by Arkenstone, with only us and a handful of technicians there to keep the airship in order. Valjean managed to join their card game and befriend them. They knew only rumors of Arkenstone cargo delays.
Upon arrival, we went straight to the Atlas offices to find out what was going on. I pretended to be a businessman looking for immediate cargo transport out of the city. The secretary was not particularly helpful, and she couldn't reach her boss, William Atlas. Said he hadn't been seen in weeks. I guessed he'd skipped town at the first tremor and left his staff to deal with it; boss types have a habit of doing that sort of thing.
Next we went to the contact address to see what help we could get there. On the way there, we passed a street preacher raving madly about the impending doom and so on. A familiar sight to a Terran, though it was odd to see it here. He had a bigger crowd listening than I would have expected – I guess a visible doom will do that. Our address turned out to be the police station. Apparently Phebas was chief of police here, or at least of those who hadn't fled. A good contact to have, though she didn't have much to tell us. She was terribly overworked trying to hold things together, and complained that the street preacher could cause a panicked stampede any time. We offered to go see if we could deal with him. She told us to go ahead, though she didn't seem to expect much from us.
So we went and found the loon. Valjean thought that refuting his poorly-reasoned theology was a good thing to try. I started sneaking near him, personally. The theological debate, such as it was, was short. Around the improvised podium were various religious artworks whose theological accuracy I was ill-equipped to determine. One of these depicted what was clearly a New Eden android against a hellish background, implying some demonic nature. The preacher seemed to recognize Valjean as being similar, despite his new color, and kept alternating pointing to the picture and Valjean while raving about Satan or something. This was puzzling – while not exactly secret, New Edenite androids never left the planet, why would this random preacher have a picture of one, let alone consider it Satanic?
Well, since clearly the whole talking thing wasn't working, as I expected, I snuck behind his crate podium and tried to pull him back by the ankle and knock him out, making it look like an accidental fall. Somehow in his flailing about he looked down, and he dodged me. He then started screaming at me, though the crowd could not see me. This made them uncertain, but the madman ordered them to attack, and two strong looking dwarves came at Valjean. He decided to scare the crowd away before they could be convinced to attack, and pulled his massive saw from his back and revved it dramatically. This appeared to end the two's brief foray into theology, and as they broke and ran the panic spread, and soon the crowd dispersed.
The madman tried to run, still babbling incoherent accusations. I easily ran him down and tackled him, dragging him back behind the podium to interrogate him unseen, though my tackle was seen by a few. Valjean, with his saw still ominously idling, showed great faith in the inherent rationality of humanity by asking him who was paying him to incite a riot. He didn't seem to understand, confirming my opinion that he was simply nuts. I'd seen enough of his kind in the slums of Terra.
He accused Valjean of being from "Krakatoa", a keyword that Valjean had run into when investigating clandestine AI. We accompanied him to his home to find out what he knew. He showed us a frame from a security camera showing what looked like an older model of New Edenite android strapped to a cargo pallet. When asked where he got it, he babbled about divine revelation. With no more information forthcoming, I told him to cease his preaching for two days, hoping to stabilize things until we could get our cargo out. This seemed to be too much to ask, he lunged at me and I shot him. Well, we tried to be polite.
We returned to the police station and said only that when we attempted to talk the preacher down, he attacked us and was killed. This seemed to cause no problems except paperwork. She couldn't offer us much in exchange, but officially deputized us as Arkenstone enforcers. Now carrying badges, we went to the house of the Atlas boss, William, to find where he had gone. Inside were bullet holes, but aimed high as if to intimidate, and minor bloodstains. The truck and key were missing. I extracted a bullet from a wall and identified it as Syndicate ammunition.
Off to the Atlas facility again. Approaching it, we saw two Vernier guards patrolling our two boring machines, and further down, four Syndicate guards near some unmarked crates. I told Valjean that attempting to speak or negotiate with them was far too dangerous, and that "negotiating" from sniper range would be much more efficient. So we climbed the outdoor stairs of a 3-high portable and he boosted me up to the roof. Valjean said that we ought to warn the Arkenstone guards so they wouldn't attack us, and he did. They seemed puzzled by his vague explanation but knew better than to ask questions when being told to do nothing. Valjean got in position as close to the enemy as he could while remaining concealed behind another portable, and I fired.
The guard that was standing and alert was the obvious first target. As he fell, one of the three playing cards looked over and did a double-take. He bolted for cover and another ran the other way, towards Valjean. The first made it a few steps. The last flipped the table up and hid, obviously not thinking straight – that plastic table wouldn't stop a slingshot, and it didn't stop my bullet either. Not a headshot, but I wasn't keeping score.