|Author||Steven Mohan Jr.|
|First published||8 February 2008|
|Era||Civil War era|
|Timeline||3—22 June 3065|
|“||In the Periphery perception defines reality. The true nature of things, be they men or rocks, are not defined but rather revealed, and those who survive are masters at defining other peoples’ perceptions.||”|
Randolph Steiner-Hill is a man with a problem. The black sheep of his family and so distantly related to the important bits of House Steiner that he'd need a stepladder and telescope to see them, indiscretions whilst studying at Tharkad University led to him being cast adrift from the family, and to him founding his own company - Alexandria Enterprises. A chance meeting with a smuggler who'd used an undistinguished Periphery world as a watering stop leads to what could be a huge find for Randolph - the remains of a three hundred-year old camp amidst the jungles of the planet that can only have been left behind by the forces of General Aleksandr Kerensky as they journeyed away from the Inner Sphere on the Exodus, based on images of the site and of the leg of an Atlas visible at the edge of the clearing. Randolph is so convinced that this will be his big break that he's bribed the smuggler with 10,000 kroner to keep quiet about his discover - and the crew of the smuggler's ship another 20,000 kroner to keep them quiet too. He's hired a cryptohistorian, top of the line excavation equipment, alerted the royal court on Tharkad to prepare for the announcement of a major archaeological discovery of great historical importance and gone to the site in person. The problem? The discovery of a wrecked Anubis at the site indicates that it's far from the site of historical significance Randolph had gambled on.
Attempting to recoup his losses, Randolph loads the DropShip Librarian with the only thing he can find that might have any resale value - some local berries identified by his cryptohistorian, and which taste amazing. Randolph decides to name them Ambrosia, in an attempt to cash in on rumors that a fruit found in the Periphery and known as "Ambrosia" contains the secret of eternal life, and sets off for the big commercial markets at Lübeck aboard the JumpShip Lighthouse to sell them.
When the JumpShip Bonnie Lass misjumps into the Lübeck system, it narrowly avoids destroying the Lighthouse along with itself, but the Lighthouse has her jump sail destroyed during the near-collision. Left with no choice but to offload the berries quickly, Randolph falls afoul of the Lübeck bureaucracy. All traders wishing to trade on Lübeck have to go through clearance on the next world out in the system, named Quarantine. Anyone wanting to bring in untested biological material needs to jump through even more hoops than someone simply hoping to trade, and unlike the Hanseatic League traders or those independents who regularly trade in Lübeck, Randolph doesn't know anything about how the bureaucracy works, or who to bribe to smooth the journey, leaving him and his companions - Monika Eckhert, fellow MechWarrior, and Candy Starr, cryptohistorian by way of the Magistracy of Canopus - languishing in Quarantine City, attempting to work out how they might possibly be able to sell the cargo of berries.
Randolph is approached by "Big Willi" Tritten, local businessman of the violent and criminal persuasion, with an offer that Randolph can't refuse. Big Willi wants the berries, Big Willi can get the berries into the city, and Big Willi isn't taking no for an answer, despite being warned by Randolph that the berries aren't the mythical Ambrosia of legend. Reluctantly conceding to hand over the cargo, Randolph arranges to meet Big Willi the next day, but while being carried home by Monika and Candy while roaringly drunk that evening, he's accosted by Joshua Hawker, a member of the Clan Diamond Shark Watch. Joshua also wants the berries - and not to sell, but to destroy, because the idea of something that provides eternal life and health is an anathema to the Clan ideal of immortality through genetic contribution and succession. Hawker's bid is simple; Randolph can hand over the berries, and in exchange, he gets to live. Again, Randolph finds himself with no option but to agree, and with yet another problem.
The trade with Big Willi is due to go ahead on the 22nd of June, at the Librarian's holding berth outside Quarantine City, and an anonymous truck arrives under the command of one of Big Willi's employees, a walking wall of muscle and limited imagination known as Edgar. As Edgar is supervising the loading of the berries onto his lorry, an unmarked grey Shadow Cat jumps into the area, intent on destroying the truck and its cargo, despite being intercepted and engaged by Monika and her Jenner. The Shadow Cat ignores the Jenner, destroys the truck and leaves, leaving Randolph to point out to Edgar that he warned him about interest from the Diamond Sharks, but Edgar hadn't believed him.
Edgar duly blames Randolph for the loss, not realising that his conversations with Randolph had been recorded; Randolph shows the recording to Big Willi when he arrives, resulting in Big Willi taking possession of the few surviving berries and a data chip detailing the location of the source world for the berries and returning to Quarantine City with the berries in his car and Edgar in his trunk. Big Willi is already making plans to have Randolph killed to protect the location of the world when he falls foul of an inspection by the Customs and Import officials, who've been tipped off that he's attempting to move unsanctioned biological samples into the city without having them tested first.
Having betrayed Big Willi to the Hanseatic authorities in exchange for a replacement jump sail, Randolph and his companions are finally free to leave Lübeck in pursuit of future profits...
JumpShips and DropShips
- Merchant-class JumpShip Lighthouse
- Bonnie Lass, JumpShip of unknown class
- Union-class DropShip Librarian