Third Expanse


Deliveries and other ruined things

Session Five – October
As wriiten by Archer

They had been divided into two groups. There were those that had decided to stay upon the Astraea’s Jewel, in order to look after the remaining cargo crates, and there were those that had traveled down to the surface in order to deliver the first of said cargo crates!

(Though said latter group’s first reaction, upon learning that the esteemed representative of the Yang Si restauranteur franchise would not be arriving for quite a few hours from the time that they made landfall on Rivendell, was not to unload their cargo at the platform and return to the ship in order to gather more crates so that when the representative did arrive, there would be more crates to haul away than just two, presuming that they did not manage to transfer the other crates down to their landing platform. Oh no, a practical action on the behalf of a ship crew! Perish the thought! No, their response was to go rent a buggy and leave behind their totally defenseless shuttle!)

Those that had remained aboard ship, however, had had to valiantly (and by valiantly I mean Leslie shot dudes in the leg or the dick when they tried to get on his ship, isn’t anyone getting action on his ride if he’s not!) defend the Astraea from takeover by pirates. Said defense had succeeded, though it seemed that after the first few, they had…chosen? The discretion being better than valor option of getting the fuck away from this dick-shooting maniac with a hand cannon, and retreated. Well, perhaps that was not quite right; they flew away from the Astraea, and they then blew themselves up. Not exactly par for the course when boarders get repelled. Usually that involves more “We’ll be back!” and vows of eternal vengeance against the defenders.

“Well, that was…different,” Archer stated as they watched the pirate vessel’s ruins drift around, the ship having destroyed itself. “Can you move us closer to the wreckage?” Leslie asked him. “The ship’s blown to shit, but there might be some stuff in there that is salvageable.”

“Yeah, no problem. I’m not a pilot, but I think I can program a course and fire the engines just enough to get us over there. We’ll need someone manning the cargo arms if there’s anything substantial to bring inside.” Archer headed over to the pilot’s chair to start the programming. He might not be a pilot, but tech was definitely in his house.

“What if we ran passes through the wreckage?” Leslie asked him. “Like a scoop through sand. Couldn’t we get things that way?”

“Definitely. But…and I think you’ll agree with me when you see this, I’ve spotted at least one thing there that we’ll need the cargo arms for. Have a look.” He pressed a button on the control chair and blew up part of the screen, enlarging it for everyone else.

Sadhva tilted her head as the screen’s resolution increased. “Is that what I think it is?”

“If by ‘what,’ you mean ‘a heavily damaged but quite possibly still operating spacefighter,’ you’d be right.” Archer answered.

“Does it still work?” Leslie asked, already counting the millions if not tens of millions of credits that it would be worth. “That, I can’t say. It looks pretty torn up, though. But the fact that it’s not totally disintegrated means that at least the hull held together. I’ll have a look at it when we get it into the cargo bay. It’s a tight fit, but when Xander and the rest come back with the shuttle, it should fit along with the rest of Yang Si’s crates.” Pressing another button, they proceeded towards the debris field, first to pick up the damaged fighter, and then to run their collection sweeps over the area. Sadhva, in the meantime, contacted both the merchant ships that she had easily persuaded to come to their aide, as well as the ground crew to inform them that everything was fine; boarders repelled.

Of course, those that had chosen to leave behind the shuttle, when they returned, had discovered that surprise surprise, someone had taken a key piece of the shuttle! It could still fly, but there was absolutely no chance of it getting off the planet! That was when, naturally, a shady character by the moniker of Sprite told them that there might be a replacement piece for them at her junkyard, just as long as one favor deserved another, right?

After all, what’s just a little corruption to make sure you get what you want?

After agreeing to help, and the repair of the shuttle, the ground crew flew to the alien ruins on Rivendell, dropping off Sprite, who promptly disappeared. Speaking of promptly disappearing, Aniah. It had occurred to our others on the ground that she had not been seen for some time…at least, not after she had borrowed the buggy and rode away from the spaceport with it. Then again, Aniah was a big (?) girl, she could probably handle herself.

At the alien ruins, Xander and Chitterie had the opportunity to run into one of the researchers there, who informed them that they were fine here in the public space, since the research team had already been over this entire structure with every last instrument that they had, and it had just raised more questions than answers.

Like the question of that weird mattress. Chitterie had first raised the question, which was then echoed by the research representative; they had both cut the mattress, but the material dissolved into dust in their hands…but then re-formed on the mattress when it was deposited there. Quite strange.

As for work, the errant ruin-hunting duo did manage to get a little more side-work; another outpost belonging to the researchers had gone quiet and not been heard from in the last few weeks. This was odd – they normally sent a weekly dispatch to the main post – but it was theorized that something might have simply gone wrong with their comms on the other end, but since they were asking, could they go over there and check it out pretty please? (Of course, came the answer of the man who would literally not turn down business, even if it was from his drug-dealing lout of a brother.)

It was around this time that they decided to get back to the landing platform, as the time was nearly up. Arriving there, the representatives of the Yang Si franchise were there, waiting for them. Xander attempted to introduce cordially, but Chitterie managed to beat him out with a traditional Xin Xia greeting, which caused one of those more hilarious cultural misunderstandings! (Well, it was hilarious in the fact that at least nobody got killed over it. Though Xander probably deserved it for acting like an idiot instead of an entrepreneur. You could have just transferred the cargo, Xander, but oh no…)

The crates were shipped down to the surface, the price of fifteen hundred units per crate paid by Yang Si’s representatives, and the Astraea’s first legitimate business transaction was closed! (Albeit errantly, as someone had forgotten that the price originally stated was a thousand units per crate, but hey, what’s an extra five thousand credits for knowing space Chinese, right?)

Back aboard ship, with full complement this time (Aniah had managed to show up sometime before the Early Riser took off from Rivendell for the final time), they started to pilot around the planet to engage in their side businesses: the research outpost, and that thing that was in Leslie’s hand. (That was absolutely totally not a dick.) Engaging the engines, they began to orbit, as it would take a few hours to reach the location.

“Rhysland. I need to speak to you.” That was Archer. The pilot nodded and followed him to the shuttle bay, where the captured fighter stood. “That was some impressive work, getting something like this.”

“Thank you. Now, I’ve had a look over the craft, and I can tell you that, while heavily damaged, it is still operable, and we can almost certainly get it repaired to its full working state. Whether or not we wish to keep it, sell it as it is now, or sell it when it is finally repaired in totality, that it another matter…”

The Vuri let his speech drift off, as if there was sentence that he was leaving unfinished. Xander decided to take him up on it.

“What do you think?”

“I believe…I believe that it is best we do not sell the ship. And I will show you why. Look here.” Archer indicated a place on the craft, where he had in his diagnostic discovered something. “What you see there is a CRuSh drive.”

“I thought you couldn’t make CRuSh drives for craft this size.”

“So did I. And yet, here there is one, aboard this captured ex-pirate fighter. Now, I will say this. I am not sure how the drive works with the fighter’s systems, but I can tell you that it is not integral, it will not prevent me from returning the fighter to full active status. As if it had just rolled off the assembly line, if you will.”

“A fighter with a CRuSh drive…scary thought.” Xander commented.

“Indeed. There are not many, if any at all, in Sagittarius that I would trust with this technology, with this knowledge. I have even chosen not to trust some aboard ship with the knowledge, so please, do not tell Captain Leslie.”

“You didn’t tell him, but you told me?”

“The money, women, song, it is all with him. I do not trust that he would keep the secret of this fighter quiet; he would probably play it up, try and use it as a selling point to gank more money out of the purchaser. You are not so much…enamored, for lack of a better word. You yourself just said it now – the idea of someone having a jump-capable fighter, or being able to produce one, there is something wrong with this picture. I can trust that you will keep survival and the best interest of the wider world in mind, even if it means compromising the best interest of the crew.”

“Of course. Anything else?”

“There is one other matter. A CRuSh drive jump takes eleven days, no matter what the distance. And yet, there are no life-support measures aboard this craft for that length of time. Food might be easily handled, as the typical person does not starve to death after a mere eleven days, but water…that is of concern. We have a ship that is not only thought impossible, but is highly impractical.”

“So what’s it used for?”

Around the other side of the planet, the Astraea finally locked itself into geosynchronous orbit with the landing site of the research outpost. With everyone aboard the shuttle this time, they headed down to the surface, finding the research camp not far away…and in that research camp? Bodies. Corpses.

Well, this job was off to a thrilling start! Or finish, rather, since they had technically determined what had happened to…at least some of the research team? (Normally, at this point Archer would start insisting that they decide tomorrow is another day and just get the hell out of here, but the thing in Leslie’s hand – no, the other thing you perverts – still required that they be here.) Proceeding inside the complex, the question of a…fog? Mist? Something definitely strange, though, was asked and…maybe kind of answered? At least enough to say ‘we’re going in, screw that spooky fog thing.’

Inside, it was discovered that…you know what? I’m just going to call it Leslie’s Job GPS from now on, so people stop making jokes! Leslie’s Job GPS lead them in the direction of where they needed to go. Mostly by pain inside his hand. (Must come from…no. I’m not going there, I’m the narrator!)

With the help of the Psychic Dynamic Duo, Archer and Xander, they managed to at least divine that this was a research outpost from an alien civilization, and the general construction of the post. What was more, it was clear that only psi-capable individuals were able to interact with the technology here.

Aniah managed to hack into a computer left behind by the research team, and unlocked a bunch of personal data logs detailing the work here. Apparently, something had gone…quite wrong. That was the bad news. The good news was that one of the research team had barricaded themselves in the complex and was hiding out in hopes of rescue – this was the initial person that the crew had been asked to find, the sister of a Draziri tech at the main ruins.

With the Psychic Dynamic Duo using their powers to operate the doors and elevators, it was clear that the team would need to proceed further inside…