“Only thing you’re gonna find in New Melbourne is fish and fish related activities. Unless you got an overwhelming urge to gut sturgeon — and who hasn’t, occasionally”
― Mal, to Inara, in “Objects in Space”
Over ninety-seven percent of New Melbourne is covered by ocean. There are islands of various sizes around the world, but no land mass large enough to be classified as a continent. It was therefore chosen as a place to test out terraforming techniques for such water-heavy worlds. New terraforming rigs were developed and thousands upon thousands of species of marine life were cultivated in different regions. One particularly successful effort was the creation of the Great Kelp Forest, an ecosystem which covers nearly five million square kilometers and is still growing.
The planet is known today for its fishing-oriented economy and for its massive water processing plants. Some of the islands are large enough to support farming or ranching, and this is where most communities are established. Each island has developed its own culture, shaped by the climate and the kind of fishing and other resources available in that area. Monterey sits on the edge of the Great Kelp Forest and is almost completely surrounded by it, making it the primary site for kelp harvesting and for diving expeditions. The port of New Melbourne is laid back but also hard working, and its island is known to have some of the best surfing in the ‘verse. The planet is a frequent layover point between the Core and other worlds in the Red Sun system. — SerenityMUSH
Inbound- silk linen cloth. linen shirts, gems processed foodstuffs, medical raw materials, icewine, brandy ,embroidered silk, neographene
‘Diamond Molly, sir?’
‘That’s the name your brother gave me.’
‘And what do we know about her/‘
‘River and the kids searched the Cortex. She’s got a respectable front anyways. Imports all sorts of luxury goods. Sells only wholesale but River got a peek at one of her client accounts and their client accounts.’
‘A peek? When did she learn to hack the Cortex?’
‘Not rightly sure, but she is a ruttin genius and she had a sleepover, the one with the waist length blue hair, back on Muir? Think he was a Cortex designer. Reckon she picked ‘im clean. He looks a little dazed at breakfast.’
‘They always do, sir.’
Mal had spoke with Diamond Molly’s office manager so when the and Jayne arrived at a brightly painted industrial park with samples of the icewine and brandy on the mule, they were quickly ushered into a small conference room in the lowrise orange office building.
A slight girl, barely into her teens, was setting out small glasses, crackers, sweet cakes, and fruit. She started as they entered.
‘It’s okay, Pippa, Molly won’t be here for a few more minutes, finish up.’
The girl signed softly and laid out fine cotton napkins, then plugged in a kettle, filling an elegant silver teapot with tealeaves and setting out Londinium style teacups with saucers, along with milk, sugar , cream and lemon.
She look around, nodded to herself in satisfaction and slipped out the door. The manager indicated chairs around a laminated bamboo table. The three men sat in silence.
The teenager opened a different door. ‘Diamond Molly,’ she murmured as the men rose.
‘YoSaffBridge!’ exclaimed Mal.’Or is it Freda or Melissa?/ Are you Diamond Molly too?’
‘Hi, hubs,’ breathed Saffron, bending into him as if she expects a kiss. Mal rapidly stepped back, bumping into his chair. The manager looked confused.
‘No problem, Outerbridge,’ Saffron said. ‘The captain and I have known each other for ages. And Jayne , how nice to see you again.’
Jayne licked his lips.
‘Please, gentlemen, be seated.,’ said Saffron., completely in control of the situation. ‘I bought the name Diamond Molly when I took over the company.’
Mal opened his mouth, ready to ask what had happened to the original Molly, but remember he was here to get paid and ‘Molly’ had made the most profitable offer.
‘We left you on Hera what? two year ago? with your husband.’
‘Ex, Mal, but still a friend, just like us.’
Mal reminded himself about getting paid and grunted. Jayne was staring a Saffron’s impressive bosom and grinning. Mal kicked his ankle surreptisiously under the table.
‘You’ll want to taste the icewine?’
‘Of course. I have a reputation here for providing only the best quality.’
At Mal’s nod, Jayne unscrewed the cap of the slender bottle, pouring small servings for all four. They sipped and Saffron nodded.
‘That’s the stuff, all right. Did you bring all the wine bottled and labelled?’
‘Yes, of course. Duty paid and everything.’
‘Some suppliers will provide casks and labels of so we can bottle ourselves.’
‘That would be cheaper to transport, but how would the customer know what he was buying?’
‘As I say, I have a reputation. Also it allows me to use a fancier bottle for the discriminating buyer.’
Jayne snorted. ’Same stuff, higher price.’
Saffron glanced sideways at him. ‘Selling the sizzle.’ She smiled and Jayne gulped down the rest of the wine in his cup.
‘We do have another product. We’ve got good paperwork, but it wasn’t bottled on site.’
Saffron looked interested.
‘The same grower makes a brandy he thinks could give New Canaan a run for its money. And with the trouble on New Canaan, there will be a shortage in that market.’
‘They was a bad quake there. Kaylee and the kids got caught in it.’ Mal’s blue eyes darkened at the memory.
‘Your kids, Mal? Are you a widower now?’
Mal gave her a black look. ‘No thank you for your concern.’
‘There hasn’t been anything on the casts about an earthquake on New Canaan.’
‘A quake on a world still being terraformed ain’t really news. But it for sure happened. Might mean New Canaan brandy will be hard to come by for a few years while the farmers and winemakers rebuild.’
‘And you have a substitute?’
‘From St Albans. They’s only one maker but he does the icewine so there’s your selling point. ‘ Mal nodded to Jayne, who pulled a thermos out of his bag.
‘Just casks. The paperwork is a little sketchy, but we got it tested for purity and have signed documentation. High proof too. ‘
Saffron rang a tiny bell, summoning the teenage servant.
‘Another set of glasses, balloons.’
The little maid scurried off, returning with larger glasses.
‘Balloons, Pippa,’ said Saffron, sharply.
The girl looked terrified. ‘I… don’t..’
‘These are fine,’ said Mal.
Saffron’s ruby lips thinned. ‘All right. But you, ‘ addressing the girl,’ will have a lesson tonight.’ The girl gulped.
Mal was regretting his choice of customer.
Jayne poured a sample the St Albans brandy for each of them, his own slightly larger than the others.
’There’s a ginger bouquet,’ remarked the office manager.’Unusual.’
‘You’ll taste smoke too, ‘Mal replied, having been coached by Farrell Smith.’ And honey and roses, as an aftertaste.’
‘It’s right tasty,’ said Jayne.’Reminds me of hot nights with hotter women.’
Saffron crossed her legs, exposing her pale thighs to the merc. He grinned wider and finished his brandy in a gulp.
‘Jayne, you should make a good thing like this last,’ said Saffron.’I know you can do that.’She poured him another generous portion.
Mal noticed the byplay but decided ignoring it was the best strategy. Diamond Molly had made the best offer by far.
‘We’ve settled on the icewine already, so what are you thinking about the brandy?’
‘It’s got no background. I’ll have to set up a publicity campaign to get the best price. Those don’t come cheap. And you say there won’t be more?’
‘St Albans is headed into their winter orbit. They ain’t gonna have much in the way of crops for a good six year. Then there’s the lag for aging. Easy a dozen years to the next batch.’
‘But then six years when they can produce, if I want to play a long game. I have to keep a scarce product in the public eye for over a decade. Expensive.’
‘I can give you a contact info for the distillery. Cut your cost by during direct.’
‘Mal, I know who the distiller is. The same as makes the icewine, obviously. and his name is on those bottles. Name your figure.’
Mal had planned to double his expected price as a first offer to Diamond Molly, but he was dealing with Saffron, for whom double-dealing was as easy as breathing, and had decided to triple his first price. Now he named quadruple his expected payment and Saffron countered with a quarter of that, what he originally had intended to accept.
He hid his amusement and they spent some time going back an forth on price, quantity and exclusivity. At last they settled just under the tripled price for the entire shipment of brandy.
‘One other thing, ‘ said Mal.’ I’ve take a fancy to yer girl there. Throw in her contract and we got a deal.’
Saffron laughed.’ You like them young, do you, hubs? She’s barely fifteen. She’s not bed broke either. She cries a lot, no technique at all. And she’s an awful maid, quite stupid really.’
The girl was looking terrified.
‘All right, I’ll transfer the icewine payment to your bank and pay the brandy in federal fiat. Outerbridge will prepare the labour contract sale. Pippa, get your things and meet Mr. Outerbridge in this office.’
The girl, openly weeping, ran from the room.
Saffron rose gracefully from the table, running her hand along Jayne’s thigh and over his cock as she did.
‘Nice to do business with your again, hubby. Three times I’ve put a good profit in your hands now. Maybe next time I’ll be the lucky one. ‘ She swayed out of the room.
‘Let’s go, Jayne.’
‘Gimmee a minute, Mal? I gotta adjust a few things.’
Outerbridge was very efficient about payment and within twenty minutes, they were in the mule, with the trembling girl, who clutched a shabby backpack.
Mal frowned at her, and she started to cry again.
‘How ya gonna explain this one ta Kaylee, Mal? She ain’t gonna appreciate you bedding her.’
‘Not leaving her with that bitch. Scared little thing.’
‘Kin I have her then?’
‘She’s a human person, Jayne. We’ve spoke about this afore.’
‘Whatcha gonna do about her then?’
‘Well, she can help with the kids and the cooking for the time being. You done yer schooling, girl?’
“I wrote my Four, master.’
‘Not master, captain. How old are you?’
‘Not sure, ma… captain. Bout fourteen.’
‘You shoulda done yer Six by now.’
None of my owners were payin for school, captain.’
‘I got sold on when I was bout ten. Nobody wanted me when daddy died.’
‘I thought we was just buying out your contract.’
‘No mas… captain. I’m enslaved.’
The men exchanged looks.
‘Huh,’ said Mal.
‘Want to explain the child, sir?’
‘Working on what to tell Kaylee first.’
Kaylee was happy to have a new face on board. Relieved, Mal commed Pippa’s papers to the Labour Board and manumitted her, paying from Perse’ bank account.
‘There’s yer freedom papers fresh from the printer. You can get the tattoo updated any time by showin those.’
Pippa took the thin rice paper sheets. ‘What do I do now, Captain Reynolds?’
‘Well, whatever you want. You’re free.’
Pippa started to cry. ‘What’s the matter, lil girl?’
‘A spoonful of sugar leads to diabetes.’ said River.
“Look, we’re going to be leaving at the beginning of the week. You can stay on board til then. Guess you better start looking for work. What can you do?’
’Saffron…Molly had you serving drinks. You could try restaurants, bars too.’
‘I was just starting on that. I … really don’t know how.’
‘Were you a chambermaid?’ asked Kaylee. ‘Makin beds, sweeping, vacuuming?’
‘The housekeeper didn’t want me on cleaning any more. Madame Molly took me off that cause I was so bad at it. She said she had to remake her bed after I got my hands on it.’
‘I haven’t worked in a factory. Do you need qualifications?’
Jayne said,’ For a lotta factory work, yeah. But mostly they train you.’
Pippa started crying again.
River was the only crew member who had no planetside responsibilities, so she volunteered to take the teenager around to the Labour Bureau and check out job postings.
At the end of the day, the two girls had no success. ’There were a few openings. One said waitress but we were told she’d be spreading for the customers too. The other two gave her a written application and she couldn’t fill it in.’
Emma went with Zoe to her appointment at the Mercer’s Hall the next day, leaving Kaylee, who was going to an auction with Mal, short of child care. She asked Pippa to give the kids lunch , change the baby as needed and remind her to use the potty, and to take out some ingredients for dinner, since Pippa , weeping, told them she didn’t know how to cook.
‘Lunch is just heating up some of the soup in the chillybox and making sandwiches.’
But when she returned Beege had removed her own full diaper and was playing bare bottomed and alone in the cargo bay. Pippa had cut herself making sandwiches and Derry was locked in his bunk.
‘He was naughty so I slapped him and he ran into his bunk and I locked it.’
She had forgotten to take anything out for dinner. Mal sent her to her cabin to keep her from the wrath of Kaylee.
’So useless around the house, pert close to illiterate, can’t be trusted with children. What are we going to do with her?’
‘Don’t have to do nuthin,’ said Jayne. ‘You bought her and freed her. She’s cost us money.’
‘Yeah, we took her from something she knew and understood. We got responsibilities.’
‘Shoulda sold her to a house. The young ones kin make good coin, buy herself free in no time and she’d have a skill.’
Mal looked at him blue-eyed.
‘Yeah, yeah.’ said Jayne.’Coulda , shoulda, woulda. Too late now.’
‘We don’t mess with slavery, ‘ growled Mal.
‘If she stays here alone, she’ll be back in bondage in two shakes, sir. Either she’ll sell her contract of she’ll get grabbed. And slavers ain’t too picky about gentle care of their stock. ‘
‘She needs a mamma,’ said Kaylee. ‘Someone to teach her. She ain’t had no parents since she was ten.’
‘Are you sayin we should keep her?’ asked Mal.
‘I’m not wanting anyone on board who slaps my kid,’ said Kaylee.
‘So where do you reckon we’d find her some parents?’
’My Ma says she’s a mite lonely since Mattie passed,’ said Jayne.
‘It’s near on a week out of our way, but yeah, wave yer ma and ask if she would take her on.’