The crew finish securing the tower and the Monk’s data core, but notice that the weather is getting increasingly bad. With a large particle storm brewing, the crew load the wounded miners, the loot from the bandits, the data core, and a small filing cabinet onto Mada Xuan’s grav sled. The tower is completely compromised (read: shot full of holes) so the only nearby cover is the hidden hanger several km away.
They begin driving towards the hanger, but just as they start out Ranso notices a ship flying overhead. It launches a missile strike in the direction of the hanger and vanishes into the growing storm. Realizing they have nowhere else to go, the crew continues on to the hanger, hoping that enough of it is left to provide shelter.
After arriving at the hanger, they find the crew quarters in-tact, but the hanger section is buried under rock. Finch tears up as he realizes that the hopper full of missiles may be lost, especially given how much profit they got for the last batch.
With the storm getting worse, the crew and wounded miners hole up in the crew quarters of the hanger to wait it out. Finch opens up the filing cabinet, and discovers a small strongbox in the top drawer. Ranso opens it, and discovers a small black sphere in some packing foam inside. Claudia checks it for wireless signals, and everyone generally pokes and prods it, but to no avail. After ribbing Claudia about her lack of success, Claudia angrily suggests that Ranso should try and see how well he does with it. Attempting to frustrate Claudia further, Ranso picks up the sphere and pretends to think at it. To his alarm, it starts to glow red and emit low levels of radiation.
While alarming, the sphere’s behavior does not change other than glowing and emitting mostly harmless radiation levels. The PCs try a few more things, like exposing it to the low level of radiation from Mada Xuan’s sled, but the sphere’s behavior does not change. With no other real option, the crew put it back in the strongbox which at least shields them from the radiation and hope it doesn’t get worse. Alarmingly for Ranso, his nanites appear to be disrupted by his interaction with the sphere, and go offline. When he queries his diagnostic computer he gets nonsense answers at first, until it reboots and goes into a very low level diagnostic.
Finally the storm abates, and Finch and Claudia venture outside to see what the collapsed section of the hanger looks like. The large hanger doors are blown open and the inside of the hanger is buried in rock. The debris pile is smaller than expected, though, and there is no sign of wreckage from the hopper.
The wounded miners are in need of immediate medical attention, so the crew gets the sled rolling again and returns to Tortuga downport. On arrival, they drop the miners off with Dr. Zebo and head over to the landing field to check on the Mafdet. They are met at the airlock by Sheriff Thoon, who says he shot a pair of bandits that were nosing around the Mafdet while the PCs were away. The crew check the ship and find nothing amiss, other than some blood stains on the exterior. Distressingly for Ranso, his nanites are still offline, and the computer is still running a diagnostic.
Claudia stays behind at the Mafdet with the Monk’s data core, hoping to use the Mafdet’s computers to make a copy of the encrypted data in it so she can look at it later. Meanwhile Finch and Ranso return the sled to Mada Xuan and sell off most of their loot for a tidy profit.
The crew spend the night at the downport at Muldoon’s hostel. The hostel is empty except for the PCs. Muldoon explains that business has been very slow due to few ships showing up lately. Apparently pirates operating on the edge of the system of choked off most commerce in the system, and the Port-aux-Paix station and Tortuga Downport are in dire financial straights. Given that the hostel is empty, Ranso rents out the entire place for the night, both as a good-faith gesture to Muldoon, and to keep the place secure overnight. Muldoon locks the place down and the PCs have a mostly uneventful night.
The exception is Finch, who opens up the strongbox containing the sphere to check on it. He discovers that the sphere is no longer glowing or emitting radiation, and he touches it to see if it is still warm. Instead the sphere appears to be freezing cold and he gets minor frostbite on his hand! He quickly closes the box back up and leaves the sphere alone for the rest of the evening.
The next day, Claudia has managed to copy the data core to the Mafdet’s computers. To Ranso’s relief, his diagnostic computer has finished whatever it was doing and his nanites appear to have returned to normal.
The crew launch the ship and head up to Port-aux-Paix to return the core to the Monks and claim their reward. On arrival at Port-aux-Paix, they find the Absconder has been well protected by station security while the PCs were away, with an armed guard in front of its docking port 24/7.
On arrival, they are told that Dockmaster Plinth would like to meet with them at their earliest convenience. However, first the PCs ask about the Monks so they can deliver the data core and claim their reward. The guard at the airlock, however, says that the monks left the station about two days ago, figuring they were headed for Nassau station on one of the last ships to try to leave the system. He mentioned they seemed to be in a big hurry to leave.
Perturbed, the PCs return the data core to the Absconder, and meet with Plinth. Plinth explains the situation is fairly dire, with the pirates essentially driving off all commerce from out system and destroying two of the Port’s gas freighters. The final freighter has to make a necessary run to Nassau station to make a shipment, or the Port will go bankrupt. Plinth wants the PCs to make sure the freighter gets out of the system safely, and has something that will help them do it.
Leading them to a secluded hanger bay, Plinth shows the PCs a large flak cannon hidden in storage. He explains that the Port-aux-Paix management managed to get their hands on several of these guns in the past, and that he wants to give this one to the Mafdet in return for the PCs help eliminating the pirates. The cannon is a rapid-fire twin-barreled 50mm railgun with anti-ship flak ammunition, which will be quite a nasty surprise for the pirates. The Mafdet was originally designed to carry a similar gun, so the mounting and power hookups are already in place.
The crew rests up while the Port-aux-Paix yard workers install the gun. FInch checks the local message boards, and finds a mail packet waiting for the PCs, but with a COD charge of $5000 credits! After some hemming and hawing the PCs curiosity gets the better of them and they pay the charge. They receive a data dump from Port-aux-Paix’s security cameras showing the Monks in a fist fight with a single man in the mess hall of the station. The data dump also has short video clips and stills of the man stalking the monks for several days prior to the confrontation in the mess hall.
There is no audio to the video, but Finch looks around for some software that can perform lip reading from the video feed. He finds a yard worker that specializes in dubious software and illicit substances, getting a package deal from the man of five ampules of a Nebayan drug as well as the lip reading software.
On applying the software, the crew discover that the stranger was yelling at the monks about how they stole his life savings, and conned his wife into giving them thousands of credits. It becomes apparent to the group that the Monks were involved in some form of financial scam, and now at least one person has tracked them down. This may have led to their haste to depart the station, but it seemed small potatoes compared to the Monk’s run-ins with the bandits, so their rapid departure was odd.
To clear up any of these mysteries, travel needed to be opened back up again between Tortuga and Nassau. The PCs, with their new cannon equipped on the Mafdet, departed on their mission to escort the last gas freighter out of the system.
After two weeks of uneventful cruising with the freighter, the Mafdet detected a series of small drive flares directly ahead of them on their course. The heat sources were quickly resolved to be missiles that had been left in wait on the path out of the system. The missiles locked on to the freighter and burned right for it.
Ranso quickly engaged the missiles with the Mafdet’s laser, managing to destroy five of the eight. The last three bared in on the freighter and Claudia managed to slew around and engage at the last second with the new flak cannon. The hail of flak shells burst at point-blank range and just barely took out the last three missiles before they could impact the freighter.
Suspecting more trouble ahead, Ranso performed a long-range active scan, only to detect a ship at extreme range on a course ahead of them. Not really expecting to connect at such a distance, Ranso nonetheless fired a full burst from the flak cannon at the unknown ship, hoping to warn it off, or at least draw its attention off the freighter.
The unidentified ship held its course, not expecting the Mafdet to be able to reach it at such an extreme range. However, in a total fluke one of the flak shells managed to wing the ship despite the distance. The shot connected dead center with the ship, tearing open its cargo hold and hanger bays. With the sudden shock of such damage, the ship quickly lit its engines and ran for it. The Mafdet did not pursue, choosing to stay with and protect the freighter in case there was any additional trouble.
As the Mafdet and its ward continued out of the system, they came across the spilled cargo from the damaged ship. To none of the crew’s surprise it turned out to be more missiles and general supplies. From the wreckage, Ranso realized that the ship was the same one that engaged them in Tortuga’s atmosphere months ago, and that he had managed to shoot them in exactly the same location again. The Mafdet and freighter slowed while the freighter crew helped the Mafdet collect the missiles before continuing on their way.
The Mafdet, with numerous valuable missiles attached and stowed internally and externally, saw the freighter off safely into hyperspace.
Rick Robinson’s First Law of Space Combat: “An object impacting 3 km/sec delivers kinetic energy equal to its mass in TNT”