Episode 217: Morningstar and Fallen Angels

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Present: Maer, Terri, Andy, Bobby, and Tony
Air Date: 24 Nov 2009

Sunday, 31 Jul 2520
Lucifer's Landing, Angel
Kalidasa (Xuan Wu) system

We spend four weeks on the dirt on Angel, staying at Lucifer’s Landing, loading our cargo of 50 tons of H2 fuel to Aesir.

It’s a sunny day and Rick is minding Lem. Lem is playing ball with the other children of the community and he’s been put in the outfield with the rest of the little kids, catching and chasing down flies. As Rick watches, the ball gets knocked clear beyond the outfield and Lem chases it. He follows it though the grass to the feet of a business suited woman. She smiles and reaches down. Her hands are blue. Before Rick can yell to Lem to run, she tosses Lem a blinking red metal ball.

Rick finds his voice.

“Lem! Ru—!”

The ball explodes.

Rick wakes up alone on the bridge of the Gift, 3 days en route to Aesir.

Saturday, 03 Aug 2520
02:30 hrs, ship’s time

It’s his turn on watch and before he can shake the last tendrils of nightmare off, BAM! something hits our ship. The consoles light up like the proverbial Christmas tree. A loud scraping sound from the outside reverberates through our hull, under the bridge and in a blink, our long range scanners and parallax array go dead.

Nika’s brought out of a sound sleep by the noise and she’s running to the bridge pulling on some pajama pants even before Rick can call for her over the comm. She takes over from Rick and drops the Gift out of pulse…and we find ourselves in a debris field. There is an intact ship on the edge of our short range scanners and there are automated distress signals pinging away out there. Nika starts steering us for the closest of the signals.

It’s not an impact free ride. We scrape against the debris or the debris scrapes against us. When we find the source of the first ping, we see it’s a 4-man life pod, the name Lenore blazoned on its hull. Rina and Rick don suits and go EVA to investigate. Rick looks through the window to see three people inside strapped to their chairs. Nika does a soft seal with the shuttle and we bring the survivors aboard. They’re shaken and scratched up and one has glass shards embedded in his arm. Arden renders the man medical aid. The injured man is Oriental, has a sister and is accompanied by a huge bear of a man. They tell us that they only had thirty minutes of air left and there’s still one more pod out there. We let the escape pod loose and search for the other pod.

Joshua greets the survivors aboard and asks them what happened.

The tale they tell us explains some of what we see floating outside. They are a salvage team, salvaging the remains of the big ship tumbling in pieces outside. Pirates came upon them and attacked them, ordering them to surrender their cargo, firing two missiles at them. One of the missiles took out their engines, the other breached their cargo bay. The salvage ships Captain issued the order to abandon ship and the crew escaped in the pods.

Rina and Rick stay outside, tethered to the ship as they inspect the damage done to the Gift’s hull.

We find it and seal up with the pod to rescue the people aboard. This time it’s two Anglo women accompanied by a tallish thin man clad in a pilot’s leather skullcap. Joshua reunites them with the rest of their crew and they are all relieved to find each other alive, even as they are dismayed to find their Captain isn’t among them.

Rina finds out that her tether isn’t long enough to allow her to look at the undercarriage of the bridge where our sensor array should be. By tethering Rick to the hull and tethering herself to Rick, she can play out the length just enough to eyeball the damage. And damage there is: nothing remains of our parallax array. It’s totally gone, wires sparking. Rina relays the good news to Nika on the bridge.


Tom is the survivor in the pilot’s skull cap and he is one nervous individual. He makes his way cautiously through the ship, asking if it’s safe to board, he can smell something wrong with our atmo. He seems apprehensive about being on a Kuiper II class ship, citing their tendency to break down and how this thing or that thing on it is unreliable…he goes on like this for some time and it’s just a good thing that Rina is still outside and unable to hear him dissing her baby.

One of the women who came with Tom is less annoying and fearful, being more bubbly and cheerful. She tells us she’s Mary Read, First Mate of Lenore, the salvage ship floating outside on the edge of our sensor range. The other woman with her is Annie Bonnie, ship’s engineer. The nervous chatterbox with them is Tom Bourne and we’ll have to forgive him, he’s always this twitchy . The other three crew from the first pod are their resident giant and Bosun John “Cooper” Fenwick and an oriental brother/sister team, Fei Li Kahn and Fei Wu Ling, deck hand and medic, respectively.

Nika flies the Gift to Lenore at the other end of the debris field at the rescuees’ urging and Rick and Rina don suits again to go investigate. The rescued crew hope to find their beloved Captain. Their ship is a Raven class salvager, lending credence to the rescuees’ account of what had happened. Annie Bonnie and Rina inspect the ship and find no sign of the Captain.

Meanwhile, Cooper finagles food and drink out of Joshua. Tom mutters about fluorine poisoning.

On Lenore, Annie inspects the damage to the hull and says that she could probably patch it up, no problem. The breach is only about a foot or so wide. The hit on the engines, however is a different story. they are offline, with parts fused solid. There is no way Lenore will fly out on her own power.

We search for the Captain of Lenore, at Mary Read’s insistence, and come up empty handed. The Captain is nowhere to be found, dead or alive, and we report this with regret. There’s nothing for it. The rescuees will have to ship out to Aesir with us. Nika asks Mary Read, now Acting-Captain of Lenore’s crew if we can have Lenore’s parallax array as payment of their passage to Aesir.

Mary agrees.

Nika tells Rina and Annie to get the array out. And she relays permission for the survivors to gather their belongings off Lenore and take them aboard. They do so and Cooper makes several trips, bringing back big sacks and bags full of bulky items, including one that tinkles and clacks like a bunch of glass bottles. Booze? Cooper hits the galley next, sharing the raw protein stores from Lenore. Nothing texturized, thank goodness. Joshua assigns Mary Read the portside stateroom and the rest of the crew quarters in the second class container.

Watching carefully, Joshua observes that there seems to be a rivalry between the friendly and easy-going Mary vs. the more grim and grounded Annie Bonnie. Whenever Annie pushes for command, Mary redirects. Joshua also sees that the Fei siblings are uneasy about something, that Tom is paranoid, and Cooper is…well, Cooper. He’s big, somewhat uncouth, and irrepressible. The Lenore’s crew are upset about the uncertain fate of their Captain and when the talk grows unguarded, Mary exhorts them to remember the Kingston. The crew clams up.

We carry on.

Later, Tom disparages the Gift. Joshua warns him of Rina’s temper. Tom asks to see the bridge and Nika escorts him there. He susses out our modifications and starts speculating on what we can do with the ship using them.

Joshua pulls Nika aside to say we need to go on half rations unless we can supplement our stores from Lenore’s pantry. It’s mostly raw protein paste—but it’s untextured—and we can go easy on the food.

Rina and Nika get that array going. It seems to be fine, but without a baseline reading we can’t be sure.

We get the long range scanners up. Yay! Now we can see better what’s out there.

Nika lays down the simple rules of our ship to our rescuees/passengers: no one goes outside the passenger area without a member of the Gift’s crew as escort. Everyone agrees and we fly on.

We start getting to know each other.

Rick chats up Mary and Annie, trying to make friends…or make out…and they sound him out in turn.

The Feis spend their time mostly away from the others, working out in the crew lounge below decks, working out. The Feis are incredibly limber, Joshua notices as he chaperones them below decks, doing Tai Chi, doing odd exercises that they pull off with amazing grace and suppleness. …which make sense when they tell us they used to be gymnasts in the Sihnon Games. In short, Olympian athletes. The pressure to succeed, however, and their failure to bring home the medal made it impossible for them to find work in their chosen profession. They were looking for work on the Rim and the Lenore was looking to hire. The Captain of Lenore was agreeable to allow them to work for their passage to the Rim. It seemed a beneficial arrangement all around.

Joshua asks Nika about the Kingston. There’s nothing on the Cortex about it. Nika tells Joshua not to tell Rina about what he’s found, or rather NOT found, since the engineer’s twitchy enough with all the strangers. The last thing we need is Rina going off on another conspiracy rant and making EVERYBODY paranoid.

Mary approaches us and asks us not to report the rescue. The Lenore was involved in ‘unofficial’ work when they were ambushed by the pirates. She also admits that Mary Read is not her real name. Rina comments that it’s ironic that they took historic pirate names for their aliases only to be hit by pirates themselves.

Nika gets us out of the debris felid for what we believe to be our course for Aesir. With no baseline to check the parallax array against, we could be off-course and not know it. We fly on despite.

Rick uses his charm and gets a little more info out of Mary. Mary’s father was the Captain of Lenore and Mary was his First Mate. Annie was Second Mate and it seems overall the crew was tight. Everyone had been together for quite some time and the women pass on some insights about others on their crew. Cooper, for instance, is fine so long as you give him some slack to smoke and drink. The Fei siblings are tightly bound together. Mary’s father was the glue that made them a crew. While they talk, Rick can sense that Mary’s coming to grips with the situation and starting to make connections in her head, but out of respect for her recent loss, he doesn’t grill her on it.

Too bad he didn’t.

Monday, 05 Aug 2520
En Route to Aesir
07:00 hrs, ship’s time

Joshua is setting up for breakfast when he notices the Lenore crew gathering into Mary’s assigned quarters. They’re in there for 30 minutes. Joshua tells Nika and Nika orders the crew to arm up and conceal carry. Rina’s already got that covered, thank you. Joshua knocks on Mary’s door when we’re done, saying breakfast is ready.

Cooper comes out first, asks what’s on the menu. We all sit down to eat. Joshua keeps an eye on everyone. Nika checks the bridge constantly, taking her plate with her. Tom rides shotgun.

The Feis ask to be taken to the gym when they finish eating. Joshua escorts them down.

Cooper remains at the table, talking to Arden about pastimes on our ship. What do we do for entertainment around here. Cooper talks Arden into a game of cards, or would, if he had a pack of cards on him. Rina takes a seat next to Arden and pulls a deck from her own pockets. Cooper looks her up and down speculatively and suggests that there are some games with cards that would be interesting to play…intimating rather broadly that strip poker tops the list. Rina flat out refuses to play, saying she’s just there to give Arden moral support.

On the bridge, Tom notices we’re off course and tells Nika about it. She declines his offer to fix it. He insists, getting rather OCD about it. He admits he used to be a Navy fighter pilot before the stress got to him and he was reassigned to something else. Which goes a long way to explain his irritatingly obsessive personality. Tom insists there’s a vibration going through the ship, about 1 kilogram to port. Can’t Nika feel it? Nika tells him to settle down and shut up, she’s flying here.

Elsewhere, Rick chats up Mary. They talk. He asks her what her plans are. She’s not sure. Without a ship, she’s not certain she can keep the crew together. She lacks the charisma. Rick asks her if she’s got a ship’s fund, storing credits away for a rainy day. Mary admits she has one, but not here. Could she hire us, though? To take us where she’s got her fund stashed? After the Gift’s current run? Rick asks where. Mary hedges, saying we’d have to break quarantine.

Blue Sun.


Rick says he thinks it can be arranged.

Meanwhile Joshua’s hanging out in the gym with the Feis. They seem nice but they’re uncomfortable and nervous. Joshua doesn’t think it’s him but like they’re expecting something to happen. Joshua tells them as the ship’s steward, he’s here to see to their comfort. How can he help them. Fei Wu Ling says her brother is concerned he can’t protect her honor. Joshua says there’s no reason to fear.

Up in the lounge, Arden’s quite handily winning at poker. Annie asks Cooper if he knows whether Tom brought aboard their databooks from Lenore. Cooper, deep in a hand, says he doesn’t know. Annie goes to the 2nd class cabins to check. Arden wins the hand.

Rick continues talking to Mary. He asks her about Lenore’s crew. What about Annie? he asks.

Annie came aboard the Raven (the other ship in Lenore’s hold) a little before Mary’s father died. She’s a pretty good engineer, keeps the boat afloat, and she was closer to the Captain than the others.

Rick: So…where in BS are you going?
Mary:We’ll need some latitude about that.
Rick: Why?
Mary: We have a cache in the Blue Sun system, but to get to it we’ll have to take control of the ship for the last leg.
Rick: I don’t see us relinquishing control. Hell no.
Mary: What if Tom piloted? We just don’t want you seeing where we’re going.
Rick: That might be doable.
Mary: I like you. And your crew. Cooper’s getting antsy.

Cooper is also losing miserably at the moment to Arden. He’s disgruntled and Arden offers the winnings back. Which, of course, only makes things worse. Cooper tells Arden to keep them while he can….and deals another hand

Elsewhere, Tom is very interested in our ship’s capabilities, buttonholing Nika while she’s in the pilot’s chair. Nika deflects him as best she can. Tom doesn’t insist when Nika warns him to quit digging.

Nika: You’re startin’ to sound like a pirate.
Tom: You should correct our course, why aren’t you correcting it. We’re wasting fuel…what if you had a heart attack and—
Nika: If that happens you can bring the others in. What kind of ships did you fly in the Navy?
Tom: Fighters. Some stuff. You know, if you disable the safeties, you can make a ship do amazing stuff….

Ohhhhh, it’s going to be a long ride to Aesir.

Rick and Mary continue to talk as they take care of Rick’s plants and fish.

Rick: Is it Miranda? Will we be going into Reaver territory?
Mary: I can’t say, but it’s not Miranda.
Rick: Hey, we’ve handled Reavers before.

It’s a bit of braggadocio typical of Rick, possibly meant to impress and reassure Mary. Mary asks to be taken back to the lounge and Rick escorts her. Seeing Cooper, she asks where Annie is and when she’s told ‘quarters’ Mary joins her there.

On the bridge, Nika realizes that Tom wasn’t simply rambling crazy-talk at her, we really are off course. She adjusts it and keeps on flying. Rick, now that he’s free of Mary, arrives on the bridge to talk to Nika and Tom, apparently not comfortable in the now-crowded bridge, leaves the two of them alone.

Back in the lounge, Arden’s got the bulk of the winnings and having learned the game sufficiently, he thanks Cooper for the lesson and leaves for med bay to catch up on his reading. That leaves just Cooper and Rina at the table. Cooper looks at Rina speculatively.

Cooper: (slyly) Well…..looks like it’s just you and me.
Rina: (steely) No. It’s just you.

She gets up and leaves for her machine shop.

On the bridge, Rick waits until the Tom’s out of earshot before telling Nika what he’s learned from Mary about the money cache. Nika doesn’t like it. Rick admits it could be a ploy to take our ship.

Nika: If we turn them down, will they attack?
Rick: But if they do, we can kill them.
Nika: Let’s put all the cards on the table. Gather everyone, see if they’re willing to talk.
Rick: They might. They downgraded to having someone in the engine room and bridge and the crucial areas to just having a pilot.
Nika: Seems reasonable. Ask your crew if they’re willing to talk.

Rick goes aft to fetch Rina, and fills in Arden when the doctor pokes his head out. Arden isn’t confident having anyone else doing the driving. Rick gets Rina and explains the situation as Nika calls a crew meeting in the bridge corridor. Arden stays behind in med bay. Once the rest of us are gathered behind closed doors and hear the plan, we weigh in.

Rina’s dead set against it. We ask Joshua if he got anything off the Fei siblings. All Joshua can confirm is they’re nervous. Brother Fei is the protector of the Sister, but now that he’s injured, not so much. Nika tells Joshua to read Mary and if the feel is good, we’ll have a full meeting with them.

We exit the bridge to see all the Lenore crew aiming their weapons for our door.


We duck back into the bridge corridor and take cover behind the door.

Mary: Come out.
Nika:What the hell—?!
Mary: Sometimes we can’t be certain of others’ trustworthiness.

As a show we mean them no harm, Joshua and Rick agree to step out….and do.

Mary: We voted to chat with you about where we’re going.
Nika: We did, too.
Mary: You come out.
Nika: No thanks. You’re not looking too trustworthy.

As long as Rina and Nika are behind the door, they can control flying the ship. However, that leaves Annie with full access to engineering. Rick, meanwhile is reading them the riot act: we saved them, we fed them, put them up in accommodations, and this is how they repay us? Ungrateful, is what they are.

Nika: Just tell us where we’re going. I have no issue taking you to Blue Sun. Let’s start there.

And as Nika calls this out, Joshua gets a read on Mary. He senses she’s holding the leash on a wild dog and her control is tenuous. He doesn’t think it’s her plan to do this.

Mary: Let’s drop your friend off and say your goodbyes. Then go.
Nika: How about I sit on the bridge blindfolded?

Since they’re unwilling to have us know the location and we’re not willing to give up the bridge entirely.

Mary: Well….okay.
Rick: How about you lock up guns? We don’t go around armed while we’re aboard.

He doesn’t mention Rina’s tendency to keep her gun. Mary reconsiders the agreement so far and backpedals.

Mary: Well, not really. Consider us hiring your ship for rhe duration.
Nika: If you’re chartering the ship, we can arrange to fly the last leg. Or we can drop you off in Red Sun.
Mary: (grudgingly) No. we’re the bad guys and well….we do this for a living.
Cooper: We’ve had ‘guests’ before and were returned fine.
Rick: We can do this reasonably, but what insurance do we get that we’ll get our ship back? We don’t have a captain, we do things democratically and won’t kowtow to one person. But we’ve already agreed to take you to Blue Sun and have your pilot on the bridge. All we want is to go to Red Sun, drop off our friend, see him buried, have a wake. Load up with fuel and cargo to get us to Blue Sun. After all, we knew you’d try something—your meeting in your room was pretty obvious.
Nika: All we want out of this is pay for running the blockade, supplies and fuel.


Mary: We’ll escort you. You escort us.
Nika: Fine. Store your weapons. Like the crew.
Mary: No.

Stand-off again.

Nika: (to Rick) Your call.
Rick: I say we do it.
Mary: Why don’t you gentlemen come forward?

Cooper and Annie escort Rick and Joshua closer to their side.

Nika: Until we get to Aesir, we’ll agree to your terms. If we can’t come to terms, you get gone on Aesir.
Mary: Fine.

Nika turns a steely eye on Rina beside her. She knows what’s going through her engineers head.

Nika: (deadly serious) Don’t do it.

From outside the door, Rick’s voice comes through loud and clear that he’s sleeping with Annie, and Rina stands down.

After that, it’s all over but for the frisking.

Annie pats Rick down and removes his knives. She escorts Rick and Joshua to one of the 2nd class staterooms and guards them there. Mary holds down the bridge corridor while Tom and Fei Li Khan escort Nika into the bridge proper. She lets them pat her down there while Fei Wu Ling escorts Rina to Engineering.

Wu Ling says she has to frisk Rina. Rina stonily forestalls the action by slapping her gun, clips and knife into the other woman’s hands. Rina’s allowed to keep her Leatherman, her mini torch and her lighter, those being legitimate tools of her trade and essential to keeping the engines maintained. Wu Ling puts the weapons aside and holds onto Rina’s hands a moment, turning the palms up and fingering them lightly.

Wu Ling: These are calluses from working with machines….

She turns Rina’s hands over, knuckles up, and draws a fingertip across them.

Wu Ling: …And these are calluses from killing people.

She looks at Rina dead on.

Wu Ling: Do anything to the doors, we’ll break your fingers.

She leaves Rina standing in the engine room and locks her in.

Meanwhile, Mary is talking to Arden in med bay. He has to come out, she says. Arden refuses. He turns his back on her and marches over to his equipment. Mary swings at him. Arden uses a martial arts move to try to throw her to the deck. Instead, he finds himself on the deck, stunned, in the corridor. Apparently Mary knows martial arts, too. He holds his hand for help getting up. She refuses it and steps back. Arden gets up on his own and walks back into med bay in defiance.

Mary pulls her gun on him.

Mary: Am I going to have to shoot you?
Arden: (resolute) I’m staying here and working.

Mary calls in Fei Li Khan from the bridge to escort Arden out. Nika yells over the comm to stop being a stubborn ass. Lik Khan arrives and pins Arden with a look.

Li Khan: Don’t make me break your fingers. My Captain says to.
Nika: Arden, I’m giving you a direct order to go.
Arden: You’re not my captain.
Nika: Then we’re all dead.

This sinks in.

Arden: Fine. Can I take my databook with me?
Mary: Yes.
Arden: Fine.

He grabs his book and chips, and leaves under escort. As last ditch resistances go, it wasn’t even a speed bump on the road to being taken over by pirates. And so we fly on to Aesir, with a dead crew member in the walk-in freezer and us in the klink.

And thus unfolds our maiden voyage for Morningstar. God willing it won’t be our final one.

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