Episode 125. Highgate

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Present: Terri, Maer, Bobby, Jay and Tony
Air Date: 09 Jun 2009

Tuesday, 04 Jul 2519
Memphis, Osiris
02:47 hrs, local time

During our stay on the dirt several things happen.

1. Jake comes across Blue Sun goons planting something on the stabilizer of our ship. He had mounted a camera outside our ship when we made landfall and filmed them doing it and when they get away, he pulls the damned thing off the Gift. When we come back from the Gibbons estate he straightway tells us what he found, shows us the device and the film he made.

Thanks, Jake.

Of course, the next morning over breakfast, Nika asks him flat out what he’s getting out of our arrangement with all this: it’s obvious to her that he’s more than just a cameraman. He’s already admitted that he’s a former Browncoat, an engineer, and he is handy in that capacity….but now we are so paranoid that everyone looks like a spy and we want to know what side he’s spying on. Not that we couch it in those terms, no, but the thought is circulating through Nika and Rina’s head.

Jake says he was a POW on Pelorum during the War and that he got released when General Amnesty was issued.

As for the tracker we've pulled off our ship, Rina takes it to a mail courier ship a few berths over and plants it on the hull. Let Blue Sun track a mail truck for a while--it should be a good enough decoy to allow us to escape.

2. Rick succeeded in growing some plants with stronger paralytic properties for trank purposes. And he promptly tests a small dose on himself. The dose is so strong it puts him in a coma. He’s lucky. He wakes up after 4 hours. He tries to breed a second generation off this batch, going for even more strength but the experiment fails. Back to the drawing board, but we now have 4 doses of highly effective coma-inducing paralytic extract. Good on ya, Rick!

3. We ponder the significance of the dates surrounding Zarathustra. She disappeared around May 2506, just before the War started. Miranda was taken out by the Pax the next year, in 2507. Is there a connection or is it just coincidence?

Friday, 07 Jul 2519
Kuiper II Class, Summer’s Gift
Parking Orbit, Londinium
14:30 hrs, ship’s time

We pull stakes and get into parking orbit around Londinium two days later, there to pick up our cargo in space. The area’s crowded, like Chicago’s O’Hare Airport of Old Earth. And we’re sitting there, bemoaning our place in the queue when the alarm goes out to all ships to clear the way---INCOMING!

A Blue Sun cargo ship, the Tokyo Maru, is screaming through the gathered ships like a cat scattering a flock of pigeons. Ships jet off left and right and some brush each other—or outright collide—in their panic to get out of the way. Nika’s on pilot’s duty and she waits a few seconds more to see her way clear….and the damned cargo ship is heading right for us. There’s no more time. She puts the Gift on an anti-collision course and tells everyone to hang on to something. Rina was shipwatching against the bridge windows when the All-Hail came through and at the first sign of trouble she ran aft for the engine room. Now she’s ready to give Nika everything the engines have got if need be.

Nika manages to get us out of the maelstrom with only a few bumps and dings---but those bumps and dings are enough to keep Rina pretty damned busy. For one thing, our grav converter has collapsed and though she jiggered a patch on it, maneuvering while in pulse has been compromised. There are no internal integrity issues, though, and she hopes she can repair it all the way back to normal once she’s in range of some decent parts.

We get our cargo—140 tons of security gear bound for Highgate. It will take us 28 days to get there—4 weeks of shipboard downtime.

En route, the emotional issue between Nika and Christian comes to a full-on boil in front of everyone at the breakfast table. Nika claims Christian accused her of being a selfish bitch using Arden for her own selfish ends, the way any common whore would. Which is a perfect case of Pot-Kettle in her mind. Christian protests. Rina is instantly angry at the insult to Nika and is distracted from planting her boot up Christian’s ass by Rick’s inquiry about the shower cameras Jake has reputedly installed in the crew heads. Rina’s out of there like a scalded cat to rip the cameras out, and Rick gets kudos for distracting the engineer on a fool’s errand.

Friday, 04 Aug 2519
Lorngard, Highgate
Blue Sun (Qing Long) system
09:58 hrs, local time

We get to Highgate and land at its capital city and spaceport of Lorngard. As spaceports go, it’s not much but it’s got fuel and it has supplies we can purchase—including weapons like grenades. Christian goes to purchase provisions and weapons to replace those lost in the Osiris action. Nika and Christian go to the Archives to look up more information on Zarathustra.

They find the office deserted and Arden picks the lock on the sole file cabinet. Nika stands watch outside the office door and it isn’t long before they are discovered by the Archives officer. He holds them both at gun point and when Nika refuses to back down or give up her gun, the officer shoots her in the leg. Arden patches her up and then bribes the officer to give him the information he needs on Zarathustra. From him we find out that Zarathustra was a colony ship bound for Miranda and it was followed a few months later by another ship, Prometheus. Prometheus did not go on to Miranda but instead offloaded it’s cargo at a naval installation some 50 kliks away from Lorngard, and then apparently left. We bribe the official some more and he gives us the general directions to the installation.

We get back to Summer’s Gift and agree that when our grenades order comes in two days hence, we’ll make a shuttle flight out to the installation and see what we can find. Perhaps clues to Zarathustra can be found there, or the fate of Arden’s crèche mates or even Arden himself.

The grenades come in, we load for bear, and we head out.

The naval installation is surrounded by scrubland and hurricane fence, and consists of four Quonset huts and a few landing pads. Not at all promising looking. But not at all inhabited either. No one hails us or warns us off, or tries to shoot us down. It looks deserted.

We land and look for the one storage facility that’s locked, just as the Archive official told us. We find it—and it’s locked with a keypad that has a booby trapped key. The #1 is rigged to prick the finger that touches it and looking at it closely we see it’s a super fine medical pipette. A blood sampler? Knowing that this may involve Arden’s crèche, Arden’s finger is the most logical choice to do the pressing. The finger’s applied, the sample taken and the lock pops open.

The door unseals with a puff of compressed air. Over the door we see something that looks like an air conditioning unit attached by wires to the med-lock. It’s not an AC unit. Examining it from our position on the ground, we surmise that had we had anyone else’s finger on the button, we would have been doused with something nasty. A chemical agent, perhaps. We can pretty much figure out which agent, given our proximity to Miranda.

Oh, great!

We turn away and start investigating the interior of the warehouse. Inside is over a decade’s worth of dust. It covers several cargo containers. There are no markings beyond the standard Biohazard symbol of the interlaced crescents.

We carefully open one and find inside gear to outfit a squad with armor and mesh, guns and grenades. The other containers contain the balance of the gear: missiles and mountable launchers. M-60 style guns with mountable tripods. EMP devices, explosives….the works.

And the piece de resistance: 12 barrels of G-32 Paxilon Hydroclorate. The stuff that killed Miranda is sitting in a dozen barrels in an abandoned warehouse with a med-tech lock, sited in the back country of Highgate, three worlds over from Miranda itself.

And just whose special ops squad was all this stuff meant for, anyway, and what happened to them that they didn’t get their stuff?

The complete list of weapons and gear is:

2 100 lb missile launchers (d6)
4 500 lb missiles (short range)
4 100 lb kinetic warheads
2 100 lb explosive warheads

2 100 lb EMP warheads
2 100 lb cannister warheads
2 20 lb (1 ton) cannons (d2)
2000 rounds of kinetic ammunition (ROF 3 for burst @ -2 steps, Full Auto=100 rounds, opponent makes average defense roll)

4 light machine guns (d2Vx10 vs personnel) 1000 rounds ammo
10 assault rifles (d8) 400 rounds of ammo
20 concussion grenades (4d6B)
20 frag grenades (5d6W)

10 plate vests
10 suits, mesh
10 squad helmets

20 nootropics
20 stimulants

Map of Pala on Miranda
Neutrino Detector

Looking around some more fails to turn up anything more. We stop and consider what we’ve found.

It’s clear that someone intended to outfit a group to go to Miranda, or some similarly hostile place, and have them either survive the conditions or maybe recreate the conditions of Miranda elsewhere. Why else would the Pax be here with the weapons? Blue Sun would never be stupid enough to put evidence that can damn it to the equivalent of the electric chair unless that evidence was supposed to be disposed of by using it.

And we decide that we might as well be the ones doing the using—at least, the weapons and the armor. There is no way we can get everything useful in the shuttle, but there’s no reason why we can’t fly the Gift out here and load her up ourselves.

Nika flies the shuttle back, docks it to the Gift, rents a fork lift and flies back to the naval installation. We load everything we’ve found onto our ship and fly to another part of the world to mount those guns to the Gift. We put one on either side, in an empty container belowdecks. Given the configuration of the container doors, we’ll have to turn broadside to our target to fire the guns, but considering where we’ll be going, having the guns is pretty much a given, no matter what we must do to fire them.

That done, we burn atmo out of there for Haven. We know Haven has unused mineshafts, and we stash the Pax there. There is no way in God’s green Verse that we’re going to cart that shit around for a second longer than we have to. We take careful note of which shaft was used and its location…and we record that information on our ship: written on the underside of a lower shelf in a cabinet of the med bay.

Nika fired off a message to the Harbinger, asking them to check in with us. They send back a message:


And there’s nothing more. Rina looks for any hidden info in the message’s wave profile and finds nothing but the fact that it had been sent at an incredibly low baud per second rate, about 8 bps, making it incredibly slow. She surmises it was done in order to let it travel undetected to its intended destination. Why? Is Harbinger under surveillance? Is the crew held captive somewhere? Or are they free but lying low and loathe to give away their position?

You could go crazy with the what-ifs. One thing is certain. All the clues are pointing us to Miranda and we gather to discuss our options. We’ve got the weapons and armament from the secret cache. We have the means to protect ourselves with deadly force if we need it. We may not be as fast as Harbinger, but we’re armed for bear. If we scrounge for metal on Haven, we could even rig up single-use armor plating for our ship.

After we take stock, we’re agreed. We agree to chart a course for Miranda and hope that the answers we seek are there.

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