The crew returned to the Downport with the badly wounded Dr. Zebo to report in to Sheriff Thoon. On arriving, they managed to stabilize Zebo’s leg wounds, but the Dr. was unconscious. Given his injuries, Thoon recommended the crew take him up to the clinic on Port-aux-Paix and let Plinth deal with him. Before they could depart in the Mafdet, however, the crew discovered their captain in an awkward situation.
The last thing Rence remembered was returning to the Mafdet when the rest of the crew decided to stay at Muldoon’s hostel. Rence was still a bit paranoid from his encounter with Jeannie Santos and wanted to keep an eye on his ship. The next thing he knew, Rence was in Tammins’ bar, in a t-shirt and underwear with no pants or shoes. The bar was locked up for the morning and Tammins walked in from the stock room to discover Rence face down at a table. The bar had been locked up and there was no way Rence should have been able to enter.
Semi-clothed, Rence quickly realized he had no space suit, and thus no way to get back to the Mafdet parked on the landing field in Tortuga’s thin atmosphere and cold. He made his way to Muldoon’s hostel and hooked up with the rest of the crew, who were collecting their belongings and preparing to take Zebo to the Mafdet.
Claudia suited up and went over to the Mafdet to check on the ship, noting there was no activity in the door logs since Rence came back to the ship last night. Confusingly, Rence’s suit was in the locker by the airlock in the Mafdet, leaving everyone at a loss to explain how Rence managed to get off the Mafdet in the first place. Claudia then returned to the Downport with Rence’s suit so he could get back to the ship.
With appropriate attire, the crew got Dr. Zebo aboard the Mafdet and flew up to Port-aux-Paix. They delivered Zebo to the medical clinic on the station, and Rence asked if he could be scanned for any implants or anomalies that might explain his bizarre ‘sleepwalking’ incident. Other than evidence of a recent moderate radiation dose, there was no particular symptoms to explain Rence’s experience. The clinic doctor gave Rence some radiation treatment drugs, and mentioned hearing of a similar experience told to him by one of the dockyard workers, named ‘Red’, several months ago.
Rence went down to the cargo bay to talk with Red, only to get a strange tale of the man suddenly finding himself in Tammins’ bar, but from Port-aux-Paix rather than the landing field. Red claimed he only remembered returning to his cabin after a work shift, and then suddenly finding himself in Tammins’ bar. He brushed the whole thing off as an outlandish prank or heavy drinking, and said he hadn’t paid much mind to the incident. Like Rence though, he did have a significant dose of radiation that had left his skin somewhat scarred.
As Rence finished his discussion, Red said he had something important to give him. He handed Rence an envelope, saying that he received it in the mail just half an hour ago with instructions to give it to the next person to ask about the strange apparent teleportation incident. Opening the envelope, Rence found a plastic printout from ‘Fed’ with a set of navigational coordinates and an invoice for $20k credits.
Rence met back up with the rest of the crew and showed them the coordinates and invoice. Ranso reminded the rest of the crew of their encounter with the strange entity calling itself ‘Fed’ several months ago, that offered its services as an information broker. Looking at the coordinates, Claudia realized that it led to a star system two jumps away from Nassau, so going there would take at least several months. Given the time investment, and the possibility of pirate unrest in the system, the crew decided to stay in Tortuga for the time being and keep an eye on things locally.
While talking over the situation with Plinth, the crew learned that a ship from the Bahmani Sultanate was going to dock in several days. Given the apparent wealth and strength of the Sultanate, Finch thought it might be worthwhile to open trading contacts to acquire additional ammunition for the Mafdet’s gun, as well as small arms and other military hardware for fighting the pirates.
The crew took a few days of relaxation, with Claudia working on the Monk’s data core, and Finch and Ranso trying to work out what steps to take next against the pirates. True to form, Rence spent his time wooing one of the more attractive female dockyard workers, and made a new intimate friend.
With her recent insight on the Core’s encryption, Claudia finally unlocked the contents of the data storage device and discovered exobytes worth of sensor logs from the last five years, around the same time the Tortuga mining corporation took over Port-aux-Paix and started operating in the system. The data trove was vast, and Claudia spent considerable time just writing a search algorithm to sift through the data. The algorithm finally isolated the drive signatures of ship activity out near the edge of the system. Claudia realized that ships had been coming into space near Tortuga for the last three years. The ships had always been careful to enter in the shadow of either the sun, the gas giant, or the moon to avoid detection by Port-aux-Paix’s sensors. The ships traveled close to the Tortuga gas giant each time, leading Claudia to realize their must be an additional base of operations on the moon of Ambergris.
Meanwhile, the Sultanate ship, Abu Zaid, finally docked at the station. Finch made sure to loiter around the trade office when the ship’s captain, Salf Mussaf, came in to barter basic supplies for fuel. From what he overheard, Mussaf was giving Plinth fairly generous terms in return for the fuel, figuring Mussaf was taking a minor hit to help make sure the struggling Tortuga Gas Mining Corporation would stay afloat.
As Mussaf left the office, Finch caught his eye in the office. The Abu Zaid had been the ship to escort the Mafdet and Absconder out of the Kalika system when they appeared suddenly after their pan-galactic voyage. Mussaf recognized FInch and asked how things were going. Finch made some small talk and got caught up on the news, then inquired about the Sultanate’s ability to sell ammunition and arms for combating the pirates. Salf said that such things were restricted by the core worlds, but that the might be able to ask on Finch’s behalf to see if anything could be done.
Finch also asked about the mysterious coordinates found in Rence’s envelope from Fed. Saif explained that the system in question was called ‘Ivy’ by the locals. It contained a gas giant with a poor gas blend mostly unsuitable for mining, but also had a rocky world with moderate atmosphere that a corporation was attempting to terraform for farming. He said it would be a long-term project taking perhaps 100 years or more, but that the locals claimed the world would be fit for large-scale farming eventually. The corporation running things was called GreenGrow, and the Sultanate had agreed to let the company operate in the otherwise worthless system without interference.
The crew met up again to compare notes, and were alarmed about Claudia’s findings about the unusual ship visits to Ambergris. Given the base they found earlier on Indigo, it was possible there was a second facility right under their noses. The crew prepped the Mafdet and took the short voyage around the gas giant to take a look.
Arriving at Ambergris, the Mafdet began a series of orbits to survey the moon for hints of a facility or landing area. On a low pass, Ranso happened to catch a hint of mass with the ship’s sensors, detecting a substantial metallic deposit underneath a large crater. Claudia, after checking with Rence, tried to land the Mafdet in the middle of the crater only to see the crater floor collapse under the force of the Mafdet’s engines. A quick piloting adjustment compensated for the bad footing, and Claudia managed to set the ship down on the crater’s edge.
The crew locked and loaded, and headed out on foot to investigate the bottom of the crater. The hole blown open by the Mafdet’s engines seemed to indicate a large ship or facility under the surface of the crater. On the way to investigate the large hole, the ground gave way under Ranso’s feet, and the crew found themselves in a large heat venting shaft.
Thankfully the shaft was inactive, and the crew worked their way down into the facility, cutting through vents and accessing a maintenance access way. They arrived in a large room with a fusion reactor on standby. On investigation, the reactor seemed to be completely depleted of fuel, and the control systems didn’t seem to connect to anything else. The crew then found a door leading to another section and moved on.
While the ship or facility seemed to be mostly in vacuum, the crew found a massive cargo bay or hanger that was still partly pressurized. They managed to enter and seal the door behind themselves, keeping the air in the area. Looking around in the gloom, they realized they were in the middle of a huge weapons depot, with racks of missiles and weapons crates all around them.
After opening a few crates, the crew managed to acquire some Gyrocs, and found hundred of the ‘Liberty Armaments’ assault rifles they had encountered before in the hands of the pirates. Before they could properly loot the place though, Claudia ran into a trip wire, triggering a missile warhead to detonate. This set off a chain of explosions and shrapnel that began to fly around the bay.
The crew ducked and covered amidst the explosions, narrowly avoiding serious injury as chains of explosions started working their way though the bay. A section of ceiling caved in, narrowly missing crushing Claudia, but revealing an exit to the surface. Meanwhile, further across the bay, Rence tried to make his way to another door, but was cut down by flying shrapnel. Claudia, Ranso, and Finch escaped through the ceiling opening to the surface, only to realize Rence was still in harms way.
Claudia dove back in to the depot, using her enhanced time sense to avoid explosions, narrowly avoiding harm until she arrived at the unconcious Rence’s side. Luckily in the very low gravity of Ambergris, Claudia was strong enough to drag Rence back to the opening, and Ranso hauled him up with a line as Claudia climbed back up.
Meanwhile, Finch checked around on the surface and discovered a hidden hatchway, but unfortunately could not find a way to open it, figuring the mechanism must be inside. Once Ranso hauled Rence back up and Claudia made her way to the surface, the crew realized it was time to leave.
Exploding shrapnel burst out of the ground as the crew rushed back to the Mafdet. The crew quickly boarded and took off, worried the whole area might cave in and/or explode. Back in low orbit, Ranso turned the ship’s gun on the crater, figuring he should make sure to totally destroy the arms cache so the pirates couldn’t salvage anything from it. After firing a burst from the cannon, something strange began to happen.
The ground around the crater began to swirl, and much of the ejected shrapnel and scrap from the exploding depot was suddenly drawn back inwards. A strong gravitic pull suddenly emanated from the crater, and Claudia performed a full burn to break the Mafdet free. As the crew watched behind the ship, the entire surface around the crater imploded and subsided, creating a new, much larger crater. Working out the math, Claudia realized that, at least briefly, a force of approximately 1000G had suddenly emanated from the depot.
Confused and disquieted by the events, the crew began to speculate as to what could possibly be going on with all these strange events. Again referring to the sensor data from the Monk’s core, Claudia tried to search for any unusual gravitic events. To her surprise she found dozens of anomalous events like they just experienced, but occurring deep under the surface of Tortuga’s gas giant. Given the gas giant’s already strong gravity at that depth, only the Monk’s sensor array would have been able to detect it.
Claudia also correlated the gravity events with the strange visits from pirate ships, leading the crew to somehow conclude that the ships sneaking in and out of the Tortuga system were somehow involved in strange experiments. Why they might be doing this, and what it was all meant to achieve, was still a mystery.