The Contact Team wander the Hub after their initial meeting with the oligarchs of the Hub. These merchant masters seem eager for a trade treaty with the Federation. They discuss what they know about the station and the people they are dealing with. It is clear they need to learn more.
Max Petrobras focuses on mapping and investigating the station. The others tag along. In a market area, they encounter a display of Sentient Snacks, small edible robots being sold to the local children. Intrigued, they purchase one.
Rochelle “Rho” Total and Steve Walmart break off to talk to the locals while Max continues to scan the station. Max is particularly intrigued by the composition of the warren nest of interconnected habitats and derelict ships that make up the old section of the Hub. Max finds one segment made from a repurposed prewar transport. Everything has been networked to the Central Administration system or Casy, the AI that is one of the Hub oligarchs. It tries to be helpful as Max navigates the mainly Space Gypsy constructed space station.
Rho leaves Steve at the bar and approaches a pair of Space Gypsies talking to an elderly oriental man. After making friends, she learns that the man’s name is Henry Wu, the clone of pre-war billionaire Henry Wu. He hails from New Beijing which apparently is full of such clones. He mentions that he has a cousin living in Ariadne, a nearby system dominated by radical feminists, including some cross sex clones of Henry Wu. Despite his odd background, rho is able to make friends with him and learns a bit about his “grand-children”.
Steve meanwhile orders a gin and tonic. Chatting with the bartender, Jack, he learns a bit about the powers that be. Aesir apparently is an exile or criminal from Midnight. Zhe has many contacts with the Mythweavers and the Ascension. Zhe facilitates information trade, which the basis for zher power.
The Reynolds clan led by Taiko Reynolds controls physical trade throughout the system. Taiko is over a 100 and isn’t likely to die anytime soon.
The last oligarch, Casy was once the property of Aesir but bought its freedom. With control of the Hub’s systems, Casy has the most physical power.
As he drinks his gin, a beautiful blond approaches him. He orders a second round for the both of them. Introducing herself as Ju Li, she easily seduces him. She orders them a third round but as Steve drinks it, he passes out.
Rho leaves her conversation to find Steve gone. When he fails to answer his communicator she calls the ship. The Ensign there confirms he hasn’t returned. She recalls seeing him with a blond and suspects trouble. Talking to the bartender, she confirms that he left with her. Glancing about she spots a service elevator that they likely used. Rho relays the information to Max who queries Casy as to Steve’s whereabouts. The AI pinpoints his location. The two hurry up to level 12 where Steve has been taken. The elevator up is slow however and the numerous doors slow them down.
Steve wakes to find himself on a bed with a blond haired man in a dark suit seated opposite him. CEO Atsu Samsung-Exogenisis introduces himself and explains that he was brought here for a private chat. The sinister suit warns Steve that the oligarchs of the Hub plan on breaching their contract with Samsung. He warns them not to get involved. He does make a passing mention to his ability to get Steve personnel such as Ju Li. Steve however stands up to him.
Shortly after Samsung leaves the others arrive and they discuss what happened. Retiring to the FSV Columbia, they do an examination of the Sentient Snack. The tiny person shaped food item cracks bad jokes and tries to entertainment. Dr. Albert Tzen-Babbage however finds it disgusting. He pins it down and does an examination. Steve rips off an arm and eats some of it, finding the flesh syrupy and sweet. Max and Babbage meanwhile locate its “brain”, a biodegradable CPU. Max analyzes the simple AI.
Later that evening they meet with the oligarchs in an opulent round room in the inner section of the Hub. Steve confronts them with Samsung’s information. Reynolds addresses it, explaining that the CEO provides their bioroid work and security force but has been jacking up prices whenever an opportunity arises. The Hub leaders want the Federation to cover their protection thus freeing them from his grip. They offer trade and information about the region. They want to keep their autonomy and freedom of trade (outside tariffs and restriction going into the Federation). In the end they make an initial agreement to work up a treaty for them to chose when their current contract with Samsung ends in 10 months. They plan to meet the next day.
Max decides to track down Samsung’s ship. Since she can’t find one docked at the station she sets the Columbia’s sensors to scan over night. She also configures their scanners to detect bioroids.. That morning she discovers two things. First there is a faint signature on the far side of the gas giant they are orbiting and second, the virus that infected the computers is back.
As Max tries to fight the virus, she finds that it is beaming data from the ship to a location in the Hub. Rho goes after that while Steve takes a shuttle to seek out Samsung.
At the location where the information is being sent, Rho finds a device hooked up to Hub’s systems. As she disconnects it, Ju Li attacks from the shadows. Rho easily dodges her attack, inflicting a nasty dent in the bioroid agent’s skull. Ju Li knocks her momentarily off balance but Rho recovers and defeats her. Her scanner is bloody but Ju Li won’t be threatening anyone anymore.
As Rho drags the corpse back to ship, Steve finds Samsung’s ship. The massive vessel also detect him so he hightails it. The Colombia may be able to easily handle it but the scout ship is very much outmatched.