A Wing and a Prayer
Roy reestablishes a course to Beylix as fast as “Freedom’s Flight” can safely handle. The leaking coolant leaves a shimmering trail across the black, but it shouldn’t cause any major problems before you can patch the hole and top her off in port. The broken coil won’t let you go hard enough to need coolant anyway.
The more pressing concern is the front bay door. With the outer door torn off, the airlock is open to the black. You’re not losing a lot of air but it’ll need to be sealed off to keep it from worsening. Someone will also need to do a spacewalk to tell just how bad it is before you hit atmo. United Reclamation runs Beylix and they could easily repair your ship in orbit, for a price.
Eight hours before you get to Beylix, Jet picks up a distress call. “…requesting assistance…came outta nowhere…tried to run…” The signal is weak but it’s coming from a ship not far from your path. Too far to identify it though. Altering your course would add a couple of hours to your trip, so it’s up to you if you go or not.
This scene has two parts. Decide who is attempting to check out the damage (more than 1 of you can go) and how to seal the leaky airlock. You should have time to do that before you pick up the distress call. Then let me know if you’re continuing on or changing course.
- Knives: “I probably have something that will fix the door. But whoever goes outside needs to tell me what they find.” I will get my cutting torch out and start scrounging for some metal to use on the door.
- Rip: “I ain’t a fan of being in a space suit, but if I got to go out I’ll suck it up. Had some EVA work on the Rascal Puff.”
- Jet: To Rip: “I’ll give you a hand.”
- GM: Rip and Jet grab a couple of vacuum suits and prep themselves for a walk. The main airlock is mostly gone but the smaller auxiliary ports on the ship’s sides still work. Once outside it’s easy to assess the damage. With Knives patching the door, you should be able to break atmo if Roy brings her in upside down.That way the top of the ship could take most of the force.
The damage to the engine is mostly superficial. The engine’s shielding took most of the impact and will have to be replaced, but there’s little structural or component damage.
When you get back inside, Jet picks up the distress call coming from an unknown ship near your current position. It’s up to you how you respond.
- Rip: “Oh, juh jen sh guh kawie luh duh jean Jan… Jet see if you can clean that signal up and get us a visual on that ship. Roy, point us in that signal’s general direction.”
- Roy: “OK, here we go. I won’t lie though, I’m feelin’ antsy about this…..”
- GM: As you approach the ship in distress, Jet is able to get a long-range image of it.
Roy readjusts the course a few degrees towards the source of the distress call. He’s heard the stories about this side of the ‘Verse. Whole settlements disappearin’ off worlds with none left alive. What bodies that remain have been raped and chewed on. Vessels out here report ghost ships that shouldn’t be flying; cobbled together from spare parts and giving off lethal doses of radiation. Reavers they call ‘em.
As you close in on the call, Jet is able to pick up a sensor image of the distressed ship. She’s drifting at an odd angle and the damage is clearly visible even from this far. There’s a large hole torn through her side that would have sucked the air out of her in a matter of seconds. The automated distress call is still repeating but the comm line is just broadcasting static as if someone left the mic keyed on.
There’s no sign of another ship in the area. Out here, ships sometimes hit free floating pieces of debris from one of the thousands of wrecks in the black. This region is a notorious hunting ground for independent salvagers and United Reclamation, so the beacon will be drawing more attention soon. As it stands right now, though, salvage rights are all yours. Until someone bigger shows up to dispute them, that is.
- Rip: “I think 2 teams of 2. Knives and Jamven for cover, and Roy and myself. Crash I need you ready to take any survivors who god forbid are holed over there, Jet keep her warm and ready to get out of here if things go south… any objections?”
- Roy: “OK, let me get my tools together. Think we can strip any parts off ’er?”
- Knives: I’ll head up to the bridge to get a look at the picture of the ship that is in distress. “Wo Bu Shin Wo Dah Yan Jing thats the ‘Hong Long!’ Looks like Reavers got ‘em. Roy just grab whatever you think we can sell. We need to hurry in case they come back. I’ll see if I can find a compression coil that will fit our ship.”
- Rip: “Reavers… Jet, once we are aboard and have made a quick run through for survivors, take the ’Freedom’s Flight’ back toward the flight lane we were on. Stay close enough we can read you but far enough way if the Reavers come back, you can bug out. They generally won’t come back to a ship they have ravaged. But just in case. It’s a trick we pulled on the ‘Puff’ a few times. We’ll call when we are done.”
- Jet: “Always the bait, never the monster. Try not to die down there.” I grin. “Though, I could use a new ship…”
- Rip: I give Jet a wry look. “Crash, keep Jet awake so he don’t forget to come back.”
Jet takes the helm while Roy suits up for a walk across the Black. As he closes the last few kilometers to the wrecked ship he starts turning “Freedom’s Flight” to match the other’s off-kilter flight path. The familiar lines of the “Hong Long” become clear as you close in. Whatever crippled her is no less than they deserved after trying to do the same to you a scant few hours past.
With the main cargo lock nearly torn off there’s no way to dock the two ships. Rip and Roy get in the port airlock to make the first crossing. Rip has to hold a tether and float across to the fresh hole blasted in the “Hong Long’s” belly. When Jet gives the all clear, Rip opens the outer hatch and kicks off towards the hole. Roy steadies the line between them, ready to pull Rip back should he miss. Rip grabs the twisted shards of the hull to stop his momentum and loops his tether to a bulkhead in the open cargo bay.
After Roy ties his end to the outer hatch, he pulls himself across next. Jamven watches Knives cross on their turn then unties the line and is pulled across last. Jet flies back towards the spacelane leaving the others to their task. There’s still no sign of activity on the sensors so they should be able to carry out their work uninterrupted. But he’ll be keeping a sharp eye out for trouble just in case they need a quick exit.
The long, narrow cargo bay is empty. Its contents have long since floated away through the hole. At the front of the hold is a stair leading to the upper deck. A narrow hallway runs the length of the top level from the engine room at the back to the common area at the front. The crew quarters flank the hall with all their doors closed. The cockpit is down a ladder off the common area. Drakken ships like this one carry no shuttles or escape pods. So far there’s no sign of the crew but there’s no way they could still be alive onboard this Joo Fuen Chse.
- GM: I didn’t put it in the post because I didn’t think about it, but Hong Long’s gravitic drive is still running although not at full power. Gravity is about half normal. You can walk on the ground, but it takes a bit to get used to the low weight.
- Rip: “Roy, let’s head up to the crew quarters and the cockpit.”
- Roy: To Rip: “You think all the bodies got blasted out the airlock?”
- Knives: “I’ll head up to the engine room to get their compression coil. Jamven, cover me!”
- Jamven: “Can do.” I’ll follow her through and keep an eye out for anything suspicious.
With no air to transmit sound, the “Hong Long” is silent as the grave. Signs of violence are everywhere in the common area as Rip leads Roy towards the cockpit. A ship this size should have at least 3 crew and can support up to 8, but so far there’s no still no trace of them. Food and plates are strewn about the small dining room. Rip counts enough place settings for 4 people.
The hall to the engine room is dark, lit only by the flickering lights coming from the reactor that is still futilely trying to keep spinning. Knives can feel the vibrations running through the deck like the dying breath of a wounded animal. She checks the radiation monitor on her wrist and figures the levels are low enough that the suits will block most of it for at least ten minutes, maybe more.
As they pass the quarters along the hall, Jamven takes the chance to check inside each of them. Spartan accomodations and very few personal items are in each room. The bedding is shredded and drawers are pulled out with their contents spilled across the floor. There is no sign of blood, but one of the rooms has scorch marks consistent with a laser burn along one wall.
Rip and Roy climb down into the cockpit and begin looking for valuable components. Knives quickly locates the compression coil and starts prying it free. As she’s kneeling beside the engine, a black streak appears on her vacuum suit’s visor and starts to run slowly down the glass. She reaches out her arm to wipe it off and a large drop splashes on the back of her hand. Looking up, she finds the source of the drops and solves the mystery of the missing crew. Trussed up on the ceiling with their skin torn and flayed, two corpses stare at her with dead eyes.
- Jamven: I follow Knives’ gaze to the ceiling, upon the sight I ready my weapon just in case. “Well, I’ve seen worse but that’s definitely not good. Seems to me that whoever or whatever did this wanted to leave a message, which looks a lot like what I’ve heard of Reavers. We should probably be getting out of here right quick.”
"Seems like they expected us to drop by as well." I’ll scope out the area for anything out of place.
- GM: To Jamven: The darkened walls of the engine room are marked with blood spray. It looks like these two were cut on in here.
- Jamven: I run my finger over the spray on one wall and try to guess how fresh the spray is.
- GM: I checked the science on this and the blood would be completely dry because of the vacuum. All the moisture rapidly evaporates off. (I’m not sure how it dripped on Knives. Shoulda checked that first.) But the only thing you can tell for sure is the two bodies were cut on before all the air got sucked out.
- Rip: I assume Roy and I have found no crew. “Roy, can you find the id transponder? Never know when it might come in handy.”
- GM: To Rip: There’s no sign of crew in the cramped bridge. There’s a single seat for a pilot and much of the navigation is automated. Those systems will definitely be worth something. The screens display the last course heading and a tactical readout on an unknown ship.
- Knives: “Wo Bu Shin Wo Dah Yan Jing! If they are still bleeding, that hull must’ve just happened before we got here. Jamven, if you can cut them down I may be able to tell who these guys are. Knowing Reavers, they might have taken the other two crew members hostage, set a bomb to go off after they left, or set a trap for the next ship to come along. Or all three.”
- Jamven: “You got it.” I hurry to cut the corpses down from the ceiling.
- Roy: I’m just gonna pry the instrument panel open for that tranponder. No need to be subtle now.
Pulling panels from the console, Roy loads a bag with anything and everything that looks halfway resellable. The ID transponder and automated nav systems ought to come in handy. Rip quickly memorizes the tactical information on the unknown ship and feels a memory tugging at the back of his brain.
As Jamven cuts the corpses’ bindings and lets them drop to the deck, Knives recalls the dead men as two of Vern Taylor’s crew. But the bounty hunter himself is nowhere to be found. Jamven says a few words he heard a Shepherd say once that sounded nice. Maybe it’ll help the spirits rest a little easier. It’s bad luck to leave a body defiled like that and there’s no need to tempt fate.
After a brief moment of silence for the recently departed, Knives finishes prying loose the compression coil she’s been envying for so long now. As she lifts it free, the reactor slows to a stop and powers down. The vibrations in the deck are suddenly still as the artificial gravity loses its grip on you. Making your way back to the cargo bay will be considerably more difficult now.
Grabbing every shiny thing not bolted down, Jamven and Knives push their way up the hall back towards the lower deck. The loss of gravity catches Rip and Roy by surprise. The weightlessness and cramped spaces in the cockpit flash Rip’s memory back to the time he spent drifting in the black and his sanity loses its grip on him as well. (He’s stunned for 2 rounds or 10 seconds of game time.)
The unexpected loss of gravity and Rip’s cognizance aren’t the only surprises greeting Roy as he turns from his salvage work to leave the ship. A small airlock hatch behind the cockpit slides open and a large figure in an EVA suit pulls himself in. He looks just as surprised as you are as he notices you and reaches for the gun slung under his arm.
- Roy: I put my hand up, but i don’t drop my bag. Even if i had brought my gun, it isn’t set up to be fired sans atmo.
- GM: To Roy: I was wondering if you’d catch that. Looking at the other guy’s gun it isn’t able to fire either. He’s bluffing.
- Roy: Then I’ll just play along until Rip shakes the cobwebs out, or this guy tells me what he wants.
- Rip: As the gravity let’s me go, so does my sanity. As I drift limply in space I franticly try and regain control of myself. Fighting through the haze of my psychosis, I try and make out the change in events that just transpired.
The stranger stares at Roy for a long moment as they size each other up. Slowly, the intruder lowers his rifle and motions towards the radio clipped to his belt indicating the numbers displayed there. Roy takes his meaning and switches his channel over to match the frequency.
“I thought you were a Cheong Bao Ho Tze Reaver come back to finish what you started. I’m Vern Taylor and this is my ship. Who the Ai Yah Tien Ah are you?” asks the large man in the EVA suit as he closes the airlock door behind him. Motioning to Rip , he says “Something wrong with your friend there?”
Rip’s haze begins to clear as Vern and Roy are talking. He can’t make out what’s being said, but he realizes quickly that he doesn’t recognize the man in the EVA suit. And he wasn’t on this ship a few minutes ago.
Jamven and Knives meanwhile make their way down to the breached cargo bay. They find it to be empty with no sign of Rip or Roy. Knives takes a moment to assess the damage to the ship when something strikes her as odd. The metal is all buckled outward around the hole. Whatever caused it came from inside the ship. As she studies the twisted bulkheads, a powerful light fills the bay… A ship.
- Rip: As I begin to focus on the new comer in the distance I here a voice. “Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert…” again the unknown code echoes through my head. I fight harder to regain control of myself, hoping Roy doesn’t need me for the next few seconds.
- Jamven: I draw whatever weapon (if any) I have that will work in this environment. “Knives, any idea who that is?”
- GM: To Jamven: Normal guns won ‘t work without air, but I’m sure you have a knife. With the bright light, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to make out the ship but it seems to be just scanning the Hong Long. It has not seen you or Knives yet.
- Roy: To Vern: “I’m Roy, and this fella is Rip; we’re just doin’ some salvaging on what we thought was a scuttled ship. We’ve been hit too, and could use some spare parts. And Rip over there just has these spells or somethin’, he’ll come around on his own in a minute or two…………I think.”
- GM: To Roy: Vern grins at you sheepishly. “Yeah, sorry about leaving you on the drift like that. It was nothing personal, just didn’t need the competition. Looks like I’m outta business now, though. If I let you have the parts you need we could just call it even. Take me to Beylix and I’ll owe you one.”
As Vern Taylor waits for an answer, Roy and Rip notice the lights from the unknown ship. Sudden realization dawns on Rip with an unmistakable feeling of deja vu. He not only thinks he’s lived this moment before, but he knows that he has. The first time around, the “Rascal Puff” found him floating alone through the black with no name and no past. Now there’s no way he could forget the lines of Jack Paper’s highly modified Bernard class salvage and rescue vessel. It’s an ugly ship but it’s always a welcome sightas it patrols the ‘verse pulling in the survivors of Reaver attacks and other misfortunes.
Jet, meanwhile has noticed the “Rascal Puff” and has made his way back to the derelict vessel to investigate and intervene, if necessary. When he sees the salvage ship, Crash calls them on the comm and explains the situation. Jack Paper is a young man in his late twenties with close cropped black hair and a friendly demeanor. As Crash recounts the tale, Jack listens with interest especially when the name Rip van Winkle comes up. Jack suggests that his friend who owns an orbitial repair bay near Beylix would do right by you to fix your main airlock. He further suggests that he could escort you there personally if you’d like. Two sets of eyes are always better when there’s Reavers about.
- Jamven: I put away the knife I had drawn in relief and remember something Rip said when we met. To Rip: “Isn’t that the ship that picked you up all that time ago?”
I turn to the others. “I’m not sure how you all feel about letting the guy who nearly killed us for the sake of a bounty hitch a ride, but I’d personally feel better if we didn’t leave him here to die in the black. I’ve killed a few people myself for money and a roof over my head, but at least I was quick about it.”
- Knives: I am fine with Vern coming on board, but I’ll keep my eye on him. I’ve worked with Vern before and I know better than to trust him.
- Rip: To Vern: “These here parts are a partial payment on the trouble you caused us, if you plan on hitching a ride you best come up with another form of payment.”
To Jack: “Ain’t you a sight for sore eyes,” I fill Jack in on the events of the last few days. “If you’re willing to gives us a shoulder to lean on we’d sure appreciate it.”
- GM: As Vern To Rip: “What else can I give? I’m in no position to make a deal. All I have is already yours for the taking. I have naught but my word. And I’m afraid it’s worth precious little.”
As Jack To Rip: “Beylix ain’t far and we’re in need of a port anyhow. We’ll tow this heap in with us and see what she’ll fetch. Oughta at least cover the cost of your repairs.”
“That Vern Taylor is worse than Reavers. At least with them you know where you stand. He’d leave you on the drift if the fates were reversed. Wouldn’t think twice about it. Though I reckon he’s a mite humbler without his ‘red dragon.’”
- Rip: To Vern “As you probably know, I got a lot a birds sayin’ ta leave you adrift. My guts telling me you alive will be better for me than you dead. You say your word ain’t worth much, change it. Ill see you safe t’ Beylix, you give me your word and a handshake. You’ll be ready to repay us and I’ll call it square. But trust me Vern, you go skipping out on us, or getting in our way, I won’t kill you fast.” (I’ll use intimidatin’ manner, +2 step to willpower. So I think its a d12 + d2)