Episode 104. Part 1

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Present: Mary,Terri, Bobby, Jay
Air Date: 23 Dec 2008

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Monday, 04 Jul 2518
Lucifer’s Landing, Orphan
Angel, Kalidasa (Xuan Yu) System
20:30 hrs, local time

We’re now the legal owners of the ship and the language of the paperwork says we also have free reign to take what we want of Jamison Fairweather’s property in addition to the ship. Fortuitous turn for us. We decide to take along the receptionist robot and the desk she plugs into. It has a Cortex ‘box built right in—what’s not to like? We also take along Fairweather’s coffee maker.


Christian: Do we really want to get three days out into the Black and find out our coffee maker is broken?
Rina: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it but goddamn, yeah, stock plenty of spares.

In that vein, Rina scavs the property for spares for our ship. The ones she finds are fairly old, but she’s used to that. She picks it over for what she can use and we take it all with us. Also, we secured a cargo of ten tons of reasonably high quality marijuana to take to the good but bored-to-death workers of Beaumonde. Technically, this cargo is legal, in the sense it’s a licensed product. However, we don’t have a license to transport it. In addition to illegally transporting legal cargo, it will take a few days for the title transfer of the ship to reach the central authorities for processing. Let’s just hope the Potemkins are paid up on their parking tickets. If we can avoid getting pulled over by the cops, we should be fine. If we did get pulled, we’d only face a fine instead of a firing squad, but still it would be best to avoid any legal entanglements.

On the plus side of the equation, we do have the marijuana.

Christian: The good news is: our payment is we’re gonna keep a ton of it…which we can do anything we want with. Which, of course, we’ll sell it.
Rina: Great, because I don’t smoke. It’s bad for the lungs.

Assuming we all live long enough to die of lung cancer…

Rina: Well, I’m willing to take a shot at it.

We load the marijuana into its own cargo container and the receptionist ’bot’s desk in another container. To protect the ’bot from damage during transport, we strap her into one of the unused stateroom beds. Nice and cushy and dignified.

We take off for Beaumonde directly from Lucifer's Landing, to save on port fees and costs Jibril Spaceport would charge us. Besides, we don’t need to do any shopping or restocking of supplies. We’d done that already the day before upon arrival.

Our plan is to get to Beaumonde and drop off the EMPs first. Get them off our ship, the sooner, the better. We spin up the engines on Summer’s Gift, take off, burn atmo and blow this pop stand.

Next stop: Beaumonde.

Wednesday, 06 Jul 2518
Kuiper II Class Ship Summer's Gift
En route to Beaumonde
Kalidassa System
09:30 hrs, ships time

It’s a three day trip to Beaumonde and it looks to be a fairly quiet journey. We’ve got no passengers to worry about or coddle. We’ve no mutinous crew to subdue. No suspicious Captains to tip-toe around. We’re also eating better. Jibril had decent supplies to pick from and we’re eating canned food now. Thank God. Tuna fish. Chili. Soup. Peaches. Pasta. Something resembling real food. Meat. After days and days of the protein paste, it’s a welcome change of pace. Rina’s spirits, at least, improve.

Two days into the trip we stumble upon a distress signal, on repeater. It’s from the Jian Seng, an Adelaide-class transport ship, weighing in at 1400 tons, and it’s out of Verbena. The time stamp on the signal puts it at a couple of weeks old. We triangulate its position and reckon it’s only a little off the beaten path. We have enough fuel to go to the Jian Seng and return to our flight path and make it to Beaumonde.

We go investigate.

An hour later, we pick up the ship on our sensors and as we approach, we see that the ship has been picked over a bit. There are hull plates missing, there are antennae arrays missing, places where parts—like engines—that should be there are now bare. The effect is like finding a nice car on blocks in a bad neighborhood, a victim of stripping.

We are all on the bridge and just staring at it.

Christian: I’m going to hazard a guess that we are not the first to respond to this distress signal.
Arden: Looks that way.

Both of the Jian Seng’s shuttles are gone.

Arden: Scan for life signs.
Christian: There’s not going to be any.

Nika runs the scan.

Nika: There’s power on board the ship. Which is interesting.
Christian: That is interesting. You would think that if they’re going to bother to take everything off the…the deck plating off the ship, they’d take the engine parts they can use for—
Rina: —power—
Christian: —spare engine parts.

As we draw nearer, we can clearly see that the stripping job was done fairly hastily. Blow torches have left their mark, the cuts have ragged edges. Nothing carefully disassembled here.

Christian: What do you think? Do you think someone started scavenging it and then an Alliance patrol passed close enough that they got worried about it, and took off?
Rina: (quietly) I think whatever’s wrong the ship was done to it by the parties that stripped her in a hurry.
Arden: Is there any sort of weapon damage? Or battle-like stuff?
Nika: Doesn’t look like it.
Rina: Oh come on. It’s a transport ship. It’s not gonna have arms, anyway.
Christian: Yeah, but the pirates that attacked it might.
Arden: Trace its course backward, where did it come from?
Nika: Well it looks like it—
Christian: Can we track it? By this point, it’s been floating a while.
Nika: Let me do a scan.
Arden: (To Christian) Momentum.
Christian: (To Arden) Depends. If people been playing with it.
Nika: Huh. I’m picking up another signal. Faint. Might be one of the shuttles.
Christian: Hm.
Arden: And….how far away?
Christian: If the ship broke down, they would have escaped in the shuttles. Does this kind [of ship] have escape pods? Or just shuttles?
Nika: Just the shuttles.
Christian: How long would the shuttle be able to survive?
Nika: Well, they couldn’t make it to Beaumonde from here.
Christian: Obviously. How long would a shuttle be able to have air? Not three weeks?
Nika: No. Not three weeks.

Rina sighs, shaking her head. No one on those shuttles is likely still alive.

We refocus our attention on the ship in front of us.

Arden: Is it possible to scan for life signs?
Nika: I’m not seeing any heat traces, but I’m seeing some unusual cold traces, though. This thing might have a cold storage unit that might still be in operation.
Christian: Could it have been transporting…slabs of beef, for all we know?
Rina: Oh, please, God. Let it be beef.
Nika: Well, these were made for transporting livestock.
Christian: How far away is the shuttle?
Arden: If it is a shuttle.
Christian: If it is a shuttle. How far away?
Arden: That other another signature, how far away is it?
Nika: The other signature….About an hour away.
Rina: (sobering) What direction is the heading? Towards Beaumonde?
Nika: Roughly. But not…not exactly.
Arden: If the shuttle left here at its maximum speed, when would it have left here?
Nika: About the same time as that signal.
Arden: Three weeks? Okay…
Nika: They would until they’d burned all their fuel. They wouldn’t have enough for three weeks. They’d have about thirty hours.

Anyone on that shuttle is as good as dead. Do we go for the shuttle? Or not?

Rina: (nodding at Nika) It’s the Captain’s call.
Nika: I’m not the—
Arden: We don’t have a Captain.
Rina: Driver’s call, then.
Arden: I say we go to the ship and…
Christian: No…it’s not an emergency situation.
Arden: That we know of.
Christian: (to Rina) We all have a say. I say we check out the shuttle first, then come back.
Arden: Sure.
Rina: (Resigned) Whatever. I’ll go along with you guys.
Nika: All right.

We change our course and go for the shuttle.

As we follow the shuttle’s signal, Nika catches something on the scanners.

Nika: Whoa. I’m getting something else here.
Christian: Another signal?
Nika: Not a signal. Something on the proximity [scanner].

We see a shuttle, a different one from the one we’re tracking. It’s not in very good shape. It’s been abused. Weapons damage. Like someone’s taken an axe to it. Ripped up a bit.

Rina: (squinting out the bridge windows) Bladed weapons?

Hard to say.

Rina: (getting a bad feeling about this….) Aw, Christ. All right….
Arden: Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.
Christian: Could it be that perhaps that that ship was attacked and the people tried to escape on the shuttle? And didn’t make it very far?
Arden: Is this where the signal’s coming from?
Nika: No.
Christian: Then this would be shuttle number one—
Rina: —out of two. Do you want to investigate this one on the way, too? We could scan it first.
Nika: There’s no life signs.
Rina: Okay, I say we go on to the other shuttle.
Christian: I agree. We can pick this one up on the way back.
Rina: (muttering) Hell, I need to get a camera.

We move away from the torn-up shuttle and continue to the other shuttle, the source of the faint signal. We eventually come across it. It’s adrift and gently spinning. It seems to be in good condition, unlike its twin. The one odd thing about it is the hatch is open.


Rina: Scan it for life signs first.
Nika: Nothing. There’s no airlock.
Arden: Can we pull the shuttle into a—
Christian: Can you open a hatch like that from the outside when you’re in space?
Arden: Whether it’s designed to or not, I’m sure you can.
Christian: Without damaging it, is what I’m saying. Does it look like it’s damaged?

We look. Doesn’t look like it is.

Christian: (to Rina) I’m asking the person who knows things about ships and mechanics.
Rina: (grimacing) There’s always a way.
Christian: (waving his fingers at her) Go and find out.

Jay: Find out from the GM. Don’t just assume. This is an important clue, because if they’re insane enough to open up the hatch from the inside, something’s wrong. I’m not going on that ship because or else, because I’m going to be “The Naked Now”.
Maer: (pained grimace) Ew! Oh, God. Okay. Yeah.
Jay: I’ve never seen someone have that bad a reaction to a Star Trek episode before.
Steve: Is this the Next Generation one? Or the original series?
Jay: Well, the Next Generation was much more fun.
Maer: Yeah, but it was so much more cheesy.
Steve: “Are you fully functional?”
Maer: (Laughs) Ha! …God….
Jay: I’m sure it’s a requirement.
Maer: (getting a grip) All righty…uhhmm…

Rina takes a closer look.

Generally speaking, if you’re on the inside of the shuttle and you don’t want somebody else to come in, it’s very easy to lock them out. It is technically possible to leave the hatch unlocked and then they could get in, but nobody would leave their shuttles unlocked. There’d be alarms and warnings about it. If the hatch was opened from the outside while locked, it’s not possible to open it without damage unless it was specifically designed for that purpose, using special keys that ship builders have for that sort of thing.

That answers that question. It was opened from the inside.

We scan the area for debris or anything else that could tell us what happened. Like a body.

Nothing. A body that’s been in the cold of space for three weeks would have no heat signature.

Christian: Well, if we go out there in spacesuits, we’re unlikely to catch anything. Even if it wasn’t a bug, the vacuum of space would probably would have killed it off by now. If it didn’t…well, you know…there are aliens and we’re just screwed.
Nika: (rolling her eyes) There are no aliens.
Christian: I had to say. A shuttle could be useful to us.
Nika: It’s a standard shuttle and it looks like it’s in good condition. Other than exposure to vacuum.
Rina: I suppose I could rig up a way to secure it to our ship if we want it.

We do want. We actually have a hatch over the midships lounge (upper deck, central corridor, where the heads are) for shuttle access. The Potemkins just never bothered getting one or had decided not to use it on the most recent trip out.

Rina: (relieved) Great. I don’t have to jerry-rig a collar-match.
Christian: We have two suits.
Arden: (backing off) I have no ability with suits.
Christian: (to Rina) You’d have to be one of the people to go anyway.

Nika bows out, because somebody’s got to stay at the wheel to make a fast getaway if we need it.

Arden: I suppose I can go since I’m the doctor. In case there’s anybody hurt or we need an evaluation of a body or something. (off Christian’s look)—what?
Christian: The second part made much more sense than the first part. Okay, well…
Arden: Unless you want to seduce the shuttle, you can go.

Christian says nothing.

Arden: That’s what I thought.
Christian: I’m perfectly willing to go.
Rina: All right. Then let’s get going.

Arden and Rina to suit up to float over. Nika does her best to keep the ship as close as possible. Despite his lack of zero-g experience, Arden hits on the idea of grabbing onto the side of the shuttle to match its spin and letting it carry us into the open hatch.

Christian: (to Rina) I’d say take a weapon, but you should probably take a knife. You already have a knife, so you should probably secure it to the outside of your suit.
Rina: Yes. (sheesh!) I’ve done this before.
Christian: I don’t know that you have.

Rina rolls her eyes and gets going. She and Arden manage to exit the ship, hold to each other as they make the leap across the gap, and pull into the shuttle.

It’s quite clean. There’s no sign of fighting or anything like it. The batteries are heavily drained but there’s still some emergency power, enough to close up the shuttle and stabilize the interior. Which we do, first thing.

Christian checks our suit comms, asking if we can still hear him.

Christian: Communications check.
Rina: You’re comin’ in five by five. It’s okay.
Christian: Good. Just want to make sure…

Now that we’ve got the shuttle stabilized inside and we can still communicate with the rest of the crew, we look everything over carefully. Basically, the shuttle’s in perfect condition. It’s even got the name Jian Seng on it, leaving no doubt as to its origins.

Going through the lockers and storage spaces of the shuttle, nothing unusual crops up. It’s not very personalized. It’s got tie-downs and strapping and a huge rear hatch, leaving us to believe it was used to transport fairly large animals or cargo. The passenger seating of the shuttle are fully foldable into the deck, as they in this instance are.

Rina finds something wrapped around the pilot’s throttle a necklace. It’s a locket on a chain, the chain wrapped around the stick. She carefully pries the locket open with the blade of her knife and inspects the inside. There is a picture of a woman on one side and on the other, a picture of a stylized woman—Greek-looking. The only inscription is “MS”. Rina carefully unwraps the necklace from the stick, cursing about her lack of camera for recording the artifact in situ, and stashes the find in one of her outer pockets.

We report our findings and get the shuttle stabilized for docking. Wonder of wonders, we actually pull it off and dock her to Summer’s Gift. When she’s secured, we hook her up with the ship’s power. While Nika flies us back to the Jian Seng, Arden gets busy booting up the shuttle’s log. Beyond the usual navigational stuff there is only one other entry, a voice message:

Man: (panting)…Oh, God…They’re coming. Whatever happened on the other shuttle…(getting a grip) It won’t happen to us. Goodbye, Minerva. I love you.


We stand in shock. Arden cuts off the log. We breathe.


Christian: Whatever happened on the other shuttle was so terrifying that he’d rather kill himself.
Arden: “Won’t happen to us”?
Christian: “MS” and…(gestures at the silent log).
Arden: (going over it) Whatever happened on the other shuttle “won’t happen to us…”.
Rina: So…we’ve got at least two people we might want to look for.
Christian: Not without more information. But we should be able to find out something about the ship, be able to find a crew manifest.

Arden checks out the navigational coordinates from the shuttle’s logs. The coordinates weren’t in good shape, actually. Apparently, the shuttle blasted away from the ship as fast as it could, such that one would assume the inhabitants were hoping to angle across one of the other shipping lanes. But it wasn’t a very good plot and they didn’t make it.

By now, we’ve drawn even with the first shuttle we’d encountered. We look again at the damaged wreck.

Christian: The shuttle of the damned.
Arden: (correcting Christian) Ruined.
Rina: It doesn’t have Medusa painted on its side, now, does it?

Nobody gets the reference and she shuts up.

Christian: I’d say ‘trojan’ and ‘horse’.
Arden: (stepping back from the window) I’ve done my duty. You can do a turn.
Rina: Chris, do you want to go?

It looks as if the tears in the shuttle’s hull have been pulled open with a can opener.

Rina: (to Christian) You wanna ride shotgun this time?
Christian: Sure.

Rina refills her suit’s oxy before she goes. Just in case.

It doesn’t take us long to get aboard the other shuttle. Unlike the first one boarded, it’s not spinning. As we float over, we notice that some of the damage looks literally as if someone took a “jaws of life” jack and opened up the shuttle with it. The warping of the metal makes it clear. When we get even closer, we see that one of the shuttle’s windows is liberally splattered with blood on the inside.

Dear God.

Rina: Oh, this is going to be messy.

We’ll have to get inside carefully, to avoid ripping our suits on the ragged edges of the hull breaches. Or we could burn through the shuttle hatch using the sticky Rina carried over with her. She runs a line of gel around the hatch lock, sets it to burn and we give it some room. The gel does its magic. Rina retrieves the sticky and we pull the hatch open.

Once inside we immediately find three or four bodies.

Rina: Damn.

Based on the carnage inside, the victims were brutally killed with hand-to-hand weapons…like knives and… Entrails and organs festoon the interior like grisly tinsel.

Christian: Well, I guess I can understand why he’d want to go out into space than have this happen to him.
Rina: (forestalling further comment from Christian) I have a pretty good idea what happened to these people. Is there anything on the logs, any telemetry, anything so we can get an idea of their heading…?

She goes over to the shuttle’s controls to hunt for evidence and finds out that the consoles are pretty much like the poor souls in the shuttle: ripped up and in pieces. By hammers and axes if she’s read the signs right. Nothing is functioning on this shuttle. If there were logs, they are now nothing but scrap metal and silicon confetti.

Rina: They destroyed what they couldn’t take….

Rina sighs, then starts looking for anything the victims might have taken from the Jian Seng.

Rina: …Bags, a toothbrush, a diary. Anything…

Anything to get a clue as to what happened. Anything to keep her from looking at the human remains smeared on the walls.

There are some effects. We glean the names of the victims from them.


We find a doctor’s bag. It’s in pretty poor shape but the tools inside are possibly usable. We leave it where it lies. We take only what IDs we’ve found for the authorities, if we should run into them, to send to the next of kin.

We engage our suit comms, tell the others on our ship what we’ve found and Christian says a Buddhist prayer for the departed souls. Meanwhile Rina notices on the way out that there’s some evidence that the shuttle was held by a magnetic clamp at one point, the sort that attaches a boarding chamber between two ships….allowing unsuited invaders to attack their targets while in space. She passes this lovely bit of news on.

The picture of what happened is getting clearer by the minute. Once back on the Gift, we strip out of our suits and discuss it.

Rina: Is everybody getting this? Dollars to donuts, bucks to bao, it was Reavers. Or people making it look like it was Reavers. Enough is known about the Reaver methodology, anyway, that anybody could fake it.
Nika: But this isn’t faked.
Rina: What I mean is: fake being Reavers—
Nika: Let’s just get out of here.
Christian: I would like to think that—
Rina: (off Nika’s comment) Yeah. You think?
Christian: (continuing) –that people who aren’t insane, couldn’t fake this brutality. But I know that’s not true. Let’s go. I say—
Rina: We mark their positions, give up the names to the authorities so they can alert next of kin.
Christian: I don’t think we need to stop at the other ship, not the main ship.
Arden: Why? It didn’t have battle damage on it.
Rina: Yeah….and it was scavved.
Christian: (sighing) Even if we were to find something, I don’t think it would be…..Let’s just go. We got something of value out of this tragedy. Let’s go to let these people’s family know what happ—
Arden: We still don’t know what happened.
Rina: (quietly) Do we really need to know?
Arden: (emphatically) I do.
Christian: (off Arden’s remark) Very very very very insane very bad men came and did some very bad things for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
Arden: I heard no proper nouns in there, so you don’t know either.

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