Old Friends
Finch has some trouble with his past...

With Rense safe and sound, the crew pause to take stock of the situation. Claudia continues to use her system access to try to track down all the thugs involved in the situation. She also checks out bay 87 in more detail, which is where Soimah’s gear was supposed to have been taken. Rense and Mercury work on repairing the ship’s internal doors, while the rest of the crew head out for more investigating.

Finch, Ranso, and Claudia go to the bay, and discover it is a small shuttle dock. After some investigating, Claudia finds it hosts a regular weekly shuttle run from a refinery elsewhere in the system that typically hauls supplies. She also identifies a pair of dockyard workers who serviced the shuttle when it last arrived, Cyrus Bernett and Eli Simmons.

The crew go to question the two workers, but discover nothing of import and from his empathy sense Finch realizes they are not involved. Seemingly at a dead end, the crew decide to take a break and grab some lunch at the local Soylent shack. As they finished eating, a Nebayan worker approached Finch and said: “You have half of the key. We want it. Come to the Nebayan Trade Office.”

The crew returned to the Mafdet and Absconder, and mulled over the Nebayan’s offer. Not wanting to go unprepared, Claudia hacked in to the central security office and stole a permit form for carrying weapons aboard the station. Finch managed to edit the digital token to give Ranso clearance to carry a needler onto the station.

The crew also checked up on the progress of the bomb squad, and found they had finally removed the explosives from the clamps and swept the area for any other surprises. The Mafdet and Absconder were now safe.

Rense and Mercury finished repairs on the Mafdet and Absconder to make sure they could leave in a hurry if things went bad. With Ranso now armed, Finch, Ranso and Claudia felt safe enough to try visiting the Nebayan office to see what was what. The crew made their way across the commerce level and approached the Nebayan’s private section of the station.

Before crossing out of the common area, the crew were set upon by thugs dressed as workers but carrying gooper guns similar to the ones used by station security. After trying to warn them off with a few wounding shots, Ranso fully engaged with his needler. Ranso took down the attackers in front, while Finch fended off a surprise attack from the rear with his concealed blaster, gunning down the first attacker with a well-placed volley and scaring off the rest. With their opponents fled or down, the crew took stock of the situation. Opting for more subtlety than his blaster, Finch picked up a gooper gun while Claudia tried to figure out what was going on by hacking back into security.

To Claudia’s surprise, somebody was actively hacking the systems around her and trying to seal them into the area except for one door. Through the remaining open door Ranso heard a large group running towards the room. Finch and Ranso took up positions on either side of the door to meet the oncoming charge.

A group of people armed with various blunt instruments charged down the corridor towards Ranso and FInch. Over the din they could hear the mob screaming how much they were worth as they charged. Ranso opened fire in the tight corridor, inflicting savage wounds across the group with a spray of needles. Finch somewhat awkwardly opened up with the gooper gun, and between the sticky mess and hail of needles they dropped the small mob charging them.

To Ranso’s surprise, none of the charging mob was really deterred by his gunfire, and they charged right up to the end which he though lacked self-preservation instinct. The reason for the charge was quickly revealed, as a man wielding a large plasma cutter came charging behind the pack burning everything in his path.

Ignoring friend or foe, the fiend with the plasma cutter charged forward through the mess in the hallway, immolating everything and nearly catching Ranso and Finch in the flames. Ranso peppered him with needles, and Finch lit him on fire with a goober round ignited by the plasma, but he still kept coming. Finally, after over a dozen needle hits, and being on fire for several seconds, he finally dropped. The fire remained, however, and the room quickly began to fill with smoke.

Meanwhile Claudia had been sparing with the hacker that was attempting to lock them in the room. After a brief battle, Claudia managed to open one of the doors, only to find shipping containers hastily rammed up against it on a forklift. Ranso gave her a boost, and Claudia with her tiny stature managed to squeeze between the containers and reach the forklift, backing it away from the door and allowing Ranso and Finch to escape.

Seconds after leaving the room, the hydrogen tank on the plasma cutter exploded, blowing out the room and causing a breach. The crew braced, and Claudia managed to close the door back up behind them. The breach triggered the station’s emergency pressure doors, and the trio were trapped in the section. An advertising screen was located in the corridor, and to their surprise, pictures of all three of them with the figure $700,000,000 was posted underneath. Claudia quickly realized that this image was displayed across the station.

As they weren’t being shot at for the moment, Claudia tried to back trace who was causing them all this trouble. Her cyberspace search led her back to the very bakery the group had previously holed up in. The only clue she had was an external camera recording from about an hour previous, strangely showing a garbage can rolling into the bakery doorway. Realizing that eventually station security would be on scene to check on things, Claudia abandoned her attempts, called up some station schematics, and the crew found their escape via some maintenance corridors that allowed them to circumvent the pressure doors.

Somewhat singed, but relatively unharmed, the crew finally made their way to the Nebayan office. Finch wanted to confront them to see if they would be surprised about their arrival, hoping to reveal them as the instigators of the previous attack. On entering the office, they found a clerk waiting at the reception desk. He commented that the group was a bit late, and that he was out 50 credits on a bet that Finch wouldn’t show.

Finch sparred verbally with the clerk, hoping to gain some information, but the clerk seemed to know nothing of significance except that the crew had the cryptographic key. He offered to broker a deal, but Finch challenged him, saying that if the deal was serious then he wouldn’t be speaking with a low level clerk. The clerk told him that his superiors didn’t have time to deal with the likes of Finch, and that he was as far as it would go. Not trusting the situation, and offended by the Nebayan’s snub, Finch turned and left.

Madness Appears
Jazz hands take on a whole new meaning...

After shaking down the locals, the crew get a few leads and continue their investigation for the thieves who stole Soimah’s sensie console. They decide to hole up again in the abandoned store front to let Claudia do some more hacking.

As they pass a cafe, a patron notices them pass, and upon seeing Claudia, has a sudden premonition of impending pan-galactic doom. While he has no real details, he just knows Claudia is instrumental in some grand and terrible event to come. He tails the group for some time, although his amateurish attempts are easily spotted by Ranso.

The rest of the crew sneak into the abandoned store front through a back alley, while Ranso stays behind, waiting just around a corner. The tail turns the corner and runs right into him, and a wrestling contest ensued. After a few moments of struggling, a station security officer ‘happened’ to round the corner and loudly asked what was going on. The tail played drunk, and both he and Ranso managed to convince the officer that it was nothing he needed to worry about.

After the cop left, Ranso dragged the tail into the store and made him explain himself. He introduced himself as Rory Mercury, and with crazed eyes said he was sure that they were all entangled in some great event yet to come. While the crew were debating what to do about this stranger and his wild tale, Claudia noticed a group of suspicious persons forming up casually outside the bakery.

After a few minutes, they all grouped together, and a large man with heavy gauntlets stepped forward, calling for Finch. The crew stepped outside to meet the gang of thugs, except Rence and Claudia who slipped out the back way to try to get help.

The thugs began posturing, but Mercury and Finch managed to talk a good number into standing down and running away. Finally, realizing his support was quickly deteriorating, the lead thug charged forward. The crew engaged the thug, with Ranso again making good use of his shiv. Mercury joined the fray, and between his quick knife work and Ranso’s shiv they managed to cut him down.

During the fight, Ranso had dodged several swings from the gauntleted fists of the thug. The gauntlets sparked with power and Ranso’s implants reacted negatively to them. Curious about their effects, Mercury claimed them after the fight and with some fiddling figured out how to operate them.

Tracking the remaining thugs back to a seedy bar, the crew wandered in to get some answers. Claudia and Rense stayed outside, with Claudia disabling the local cameras to hide what was happening from security while Rense nominally watched her back.

After numerous threats, and Mercury singing some people with the gauntlets and acting like a rabid madman, the crew learned that they had been hired by a confidential contract to ‘get’ Finch. They didn’t know the identity of the person hiring them, and implied that the Nebayans were behind it. They also spilled the beans that Soimah’s gear was supposed to be brought to a particular bay (bay 87) at a particular time and that the thugs who originally stole it were long gone.

The interrogation was cut short, when Claudia looked up from her hacking and realized that Rence was gone. Looking back at the camera logs, she saw Rence wandering around the area, and pausing at the window of a lingerie shop. As he bent over for a closer look at something in one of the windows, hands reached out from a nearby alleyway and dragged him into the dark.

Claudia contacted the rest of the crew in the bar, and they quickly left to find out what had happened to Rense. With her access to the security system, Claudia was able to track Rense through the maintenance areas, and quickly realized they were headed back towards the Mafdet.

On returning to the ship, they discovered Rense’s kidnappers had forced him to let him into the ship, then taped him to the ceiling. They forced their way through several interior doors, beelining directly for the compartment Ranso had used to store the lockbox. They took the lockbox and left, touching nothing else on the ship.

On questioning the security personnel at the entry ramp to the docking area, they were told that Rense had come by with ‘some guys’ but the guards weren’t really sure who they were and seemed confused about the whole incident. Likewise, Rense seemed to have trouble remembering exactly what happened.

The crew return to space

After settling things with the Greengrow corporation personnel and ensuring there were no Punch or Judy clones left, the crew were left with the problem of getting off planet and back to their ships in orbit.

The Maasdai Mara class shuttle they had taken to the surface was damaged while attempting to overfly a dome, being hit amidships by a missile and forced to make a rough landing. The second Massdai shuttle had crashed into a building nose-first, damaging the nosecone. Meanwhile the mercenary’s ship, the Gilded Cage had a badly damaged wing.

Using parts from the two Maasdai shuttles, the crew and the Greengrow technical staff were able to splice the nosecone from the gut-shot shuttle onto the other, replacing the damaged nose. In return for the help from the locals in repairing the shuttle, the crew promise to take any messages to their next port of call so the Greengrow corporation could be apprised of events and the colony could be resupplied after the incident. The mercenaries also needed to contact their guild to request pickup, as the small shuttle was not big enough to carry all the mercs.

While the shuttle is being repaired, Claudia takes the time to examine Preditta’s implants in detail. The implants contain a cryptographic key for access to a bank account. She discovers that the key is half of a complete cryptographic access token, and according tot he implants the other half of the key is located elsewhere.

With additional probing, Claudia learns the key is hidden in the sensie editing gear of a colleague of Preditta, named Soimah Imah. According to Preditta’s information she was residing on Santo Domingo Station, in the Hispaniola frontier System.

With crossed fingers, the crew boarded the patchwork shuttle and launched. While the hull creaked alarmingly, the ship managed to hold together long enough to clear the atmosphere and reach orbit. The shuttle just managed to fit in the Absconder’s hanger bay with the removal (and external docking) of the Work Bee.

Once reunited with their ships, the crew set course for the Hispaniola system. On arrival, they discover that it is an active trading and resource hub, with frequent traffic. As they approach the station the crew transmits the mail they received from the mercs and the Greengrow employees left on Ivy.

After obtaining docking clearance, the crew park the Mafdet and Absconder in a large bay, and set out into the station to find Soimah. Station security is tight, forbidding most weaponry and any sort of pressure suit. The crew leave most of their gear onboard the Mafdet and proceed to the residential sector to find Soimah.

On arrival in Soimah’s residential block, the crew discover Soimah’s door forced open. Soimah is standing in the middle of the room and reacts with hostility to the crew’s sudden appearance. After they explain Preditta sent them, she rolls her eyes and exclaims that he was nothing but trouble.

The crew calm Soimah down and try to figure out what is going on. She explains that only a few minutes before they arrived, a pair of thugs broke into her apartment and stole her sensie console. Unfortnuately, this is the very piece of equipment that was supposed to be carrying the other half of the cryptographic key. Soimah proclaims that she had no idea it was stored in her gear, but that she wouldn’t put it past Preditta to pull that sort of stunt.

Station security finally arrives and questions everyone, files a report, and leaves. The general impression is they are mainly concerned about the integrity of the station and the larger businesses aboard the station rather than the individual inhabitants, so they are unlikely to put much effort into recovering the stolen gear.

The crew spend some time tracking down the thugs involved in stealing the equipment, with Claudia hacking into the security system and trying to follow back where the thieves went after swiping Soimah’s gear. The crew hole up in a abandoned storefront on the commercial level to have some piece and quiet while Claudia works.

Ranso has attempted to do some old-fashioned detective work and is checking with the locals to try to find out what the deal is. When he walks into a random cafe the attendant at the door shoves a duffel bag into his arms and tells him to get out quick. Bemused, Ranso quickly leaves, and seconds later sees dozens of station security personnel swoop down on the store. Ranso quickly leaves the area and returns to the bakery.

On investigating the bag, the crew find a medium-sized lock box with a military-grade locking system on it. The lock requires special hardware to even attempt to bypass, so the group has no way to open it for now. Finch goes out and makes some friends in low places, trying to find some local contacts to acquire the necessary lockpicking gear and to see if they can get any leads on where Soimah’s gear has been taken.

The crew have lunch in a particular Italian restaurant, and their waiter discretely discusses their situation. He agrees to help the crew return to their ship discretely with the lock box, as they cannot bring it back through security without arousing suspicion.

The crew meet a contact named Luigi in an empty hanger bay. He provides a space suit and oxygen tank for Ranso to walk outside the station to reach the docking bay holding the Mafdet and Absconder. By entering the ships from the outside he can bypass security.

Ranso reaches the ships, but while he walks along the Mafdet’s hull to reach an airlock, he encounters two suited people planting something on the docking clamps holding the Mafdet and Absconder together. A fight ensues, with Ranso making good use of his implanted shiv. He takes a hit from a bangstick (explosive slug on the end of a baton) and is saved by his ballistic armor, although his suit is badly damaged. Fortunately Ranso’s other enhancements kick in, allowing him to resist vacuum and lack of oxygen until he eliminates both of his attackers.

Realizing he shouldn’t try touching the explosives, and running out of stored blood oxygen, Ranso quickly cycles into the Mafdet, hiding the duffel bag in one of Finch’s smuggling compartments. After a quick check of the ship for any other attackers, Ranso finds nothing. Once he has recovered his stored blood oxygen, he heads back outside, works his way back to the other docking bay, and meets back up with the rest of the crew.

When Ranso comes back into the bay, the crew and Luigi see his suit is badly damaged, with a gaping hole in the chest. Ranso hands the suit back to Luigi, who takes it with only a raised eyebrow. Luigi says it will take some time to get the lockpicking equipment, so in the meantime the crew resume their search for the thieves.

Director's Cut
The Perils of Show-Business

With the pirate situation under control in the Tortuga system, and no new leads regarding the past strange happenings, the crew bury their curiosity for the moment and finally turn their attention to the tip they received from Fed:
The Occulus, personal yacht of Calan ‘Credits’ Preditta, has been spotted in a remote star system to which Fed provided the coordinates. The crew have been meaning to catch up with Preditta, as he owes them a fair bit of cash for their ‘recording’ deal. Ranso’s recording device is also full, which should be worth a fair bit to the director.

Previously, Finch discussed the details of the coordinates provided by Fed with the Bahmani ship captain Mussaf, who explained that it was a small star system called ‘Ivy’. The only notable planet being a small rockball currently being terraformed into a farming colony by GreenGrow Inc. According to Fed’s information, the Occulus was currently in a stable orbit some distance from the planet.

Worrying about the remoteness of the system, and fearing a possible trap, the crew bring both the Absconder and the Mafdet with them. On arrival in system, they discover the Occulus is docked to another ship. The crew prepare for a fight, but on intercept make contact with the unknown ship, finding it to be The Petty Drake.

The crew last encountered The Petty Drake at Pebble station where a dispute between the crew of the salvage ship and the Fairwinds asteroid clan was on the verge of erupting into violence. The Drake fled with a Fairwinds ship in pursuit.

Since then, captain ‘Drake’ had been lying low, trying to make back some of the money he lost in the Pebble incident. He came across the Occulus abandoned in the Ivy system and legally claimed it as salvage. GIven FInch and Rence’s attempts to smooth over the situation back at Pebble, Drake agrees to let the crew check out the Occulus to find out why it was abandoned.

On inspection, the crew finds that the ship showed damage from being boarded. A look at the security logs indicated that a paramilitary team boarded the Occulus and used non-lethal weapons to subdue the crew. As they cornered Preditta in his suite aboard the ship, however, Preditta’s bioroid actors, Punch and Judy, took action, disabling the computer systems and inflicting severe internal damage to the Occulus. In the attack they managed to badly wound the boarding team, and the team withdrew to their own ship after discovering Preditta already dead in his room.

Searching Preditta’s computer, Claudia discovers a message left for the crew. In this recording, Preditta explains he is probably dead, but has left the remainder of his fortune to the crew of the Mafdet if they deliver his data and implants to an aide at an undisclosed location. The details are in his implants. Unfortunately Preditta’s body is nowhere to be found, so the crew is at a loss.

Claudia checked the external sensor logs, and discovered the boarder’s ship, the Guilded Cage, had fled the Occulus with Preditta’s body and headed towards the planet Ivy for medical attention for their wounded crew.

Drake allowed the crew to take one of the Occulus’ atmospheric shuttles with them, docked to the Absconder (along with the Mafdet) to orbit around Ivy. The crew then took their shuttle down to the colony’s landing field.

As they approached the airstrip, the crew discovered the Guilded Cage with a damaged wing, and the Occulus’ other atmospheric shuttle, parked at the end of the landing field. The shuttle was nose-first in a building at the end of the airstrip, seemingly having crashed.
Upon landing, the crew were initially met with a hostile mob of GreenGrow bioroids and a security team who thought they were raiders or pirates. After defusing the situation, Finch and Rense explained that they were only there looking for Preditta.

The crew were led to the local infirmary by GreenGrow bioroid ‘Number 37’. In the injury ward, the captain of the Guilded Cage and his men, who were all badly wounded, lay recovering. From his hospital bed, the commander of the unit, Major Oka Grang, explained his team was hired by the Ulman Entertainment Licencing Group to arrest Preditta for breach of an exclusivity contract. On boarding the Occulus, however, his team was attacked by half a dozen copies of the actor bioroids (Punch and Judy) and barely managed to fight them off. On finding Preditta, it was discovered he was already murdered, either by his bodyguard Mr. Lynch or one of the Bioroids, in a fairly gruesome manner. To their dismay, they learn Preditta was decapitated and that the whereabouts of his head, and thus the implants, was unknown.

Regarding the initially hostile welcome and ship pile-up at the end of the runway, the local security chief, Tanisha Rosario, explained that a couple days after the Guilded Cage landed for medical assistance the atmospheric shuttle arrived and the bioroids onboard immediately attacked the surrounding area. They destroyed the port facilities in the building impacted by the shuttle, killed or wounded numerous workers and security personnel, and then holed up in agro-dome six with hostages. The remaining security forces had the dome under siege, but thus far the bioroids had rebuffed all attempts at negotiation.

Realizing it likely that the bioroids had Preditta’s head, Finch and Rence went to the dome to try to contact them. Meanwhile, Claudia and Ranso used the atmospheric shuttle they landed in to conduct a flyover of the transparent agro-dome to see what the situation was inside. To their surprise, they were attacked by a missile fired from the dome, and the shuttle was badly damaged, making a crash-landing back at the landing strip. Claudia and Ranso survived with only minor injuries, but the shuttle was crippled.

The crew again spoke with Major Grang, who revealed that the bioroids had raided the smallarms locker of his ship, which included a few man-portable surface-to-air missiles, as well as other guns. The bioroids seemed competent with the weapons, indicating they had access to combat programming.

The crew returned to agro-dome six and again attempted to talk with the bioroids via the intercom at the main door. After numerous attempts were all rebuffed or ignored, Ranso followed up on a hunch: Remembering ’Judy’s’ reaction to him after her ‘resurrection’ he announced his name and that he was coming for Judy. This got a reaction, as the door to the dome immediately opened, allowing the crew access.

The Mafdet crew cautiously entered the dome, seeing GreenGrow bioroids restrained against rows of bushes. As they entered, the bioroids began chanting Ranso Loughman’s name, and suddenly stood up and charged him with various agricultural implements and knives. The crew opened fire, immediately dropping several of the attackers. In a flash of inspiration, Finch pointed to one of the bodies, and in his best stage voice pronounced: “Ranso Loughman is dead! You’ve killed Ranso Loughman!”

The GreenGrow bioroids immediately stopped and dropped their weapons, becoming instantly passive. The crew told them to leave the dome through the open door, which they started doing. Once the bioroids were clear, the team advanced farther into the dome, finding Lynch tied up against a bush. The team was then ambushed from above and in front by various copies of Punch and Judy. After a fierce firefight, the crew managed to gun down all the Punch and Judy bioroids, and recovered a cryo-bag found to be containing Preditta’s head.

Why the bioroids killed Preditta and acted the way they did was still a mystery, but at least the crew of the Mafdet had Preditta’s head (and implants) to try to claim their reward. Now the question was how they were going to get off the planet and back to their ship(s) in orbit…

Well that imploded quickly...

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.

Hypocritic Oath
When doctors go bad

On returning from Nassau, the Absconder travels to the Pebble station in the Tortuga system to finally deliver a set of docking clamps. On arrival, they discover a number of ships from the Fairwinds clan surrounding the station, and the salvage ship ‘The Petty Drake’ docked at one of the station’s two pylons. The Fairwinds ships are comprised of a mining ship tender and half-a-dozen small workbee type support ships.

Alwan, the Pebble’s station master (and Rence’s recent flame) contacts the crew and explains that the Fairwinds Clanners claim that Drake and Co. salvaged one of their ships from within their own territory. Drake claims the ship was just outside the Fairwinds territorial boundary, while the Fairwinds group claims it was inside the boundary.

Both sides claim to have logs proving their point. The crew offers Claudia’s expertise to check the log files for any tampering to verify who is telling the truth. Alwan agrees and sends the files over to the Absconder for Claudia to examine.

After going over the files thoroughly, Claudia discovers that both are unedited, yet seem to tell the same story. With some additional digging, Claudia discovers that the Fairwinds’ log came from a navigational satellite that may have had a compromised positioning system. With the uncertainty in its true location, it could have reported an incorrect position relative to the Fairwinds’ official borders.

As Claudia is relaying this information, however, one of the Fairwinds’ workbee ships suddenly goes spinning out of control. In the resulting chaos, the Fairwinds Clanners almost attack the station. Rence and Finch manage to talk the groups down, relaying Claudia’s find to all parties. Just as the Fairwinders stand down, however, the Drake ignites its engines and rips free from Pebble station, damaging the remaining working set of docking clamps on the external pylons. The Fairwinds’ mining tender ship quickly moves to pursue, and both the Drake and the Fairwinds ship boost clear of the station at high acceleration.

The remaining Fairwinds work-bees manage to rescue the out-of-control ship and secure it, then move towards the Pebble’s hanger bay. Meanwhile, Ranso, Finch, and Claudia use the Absconder’s workbee to fly over to the hanger deck to make sure things stay civil, and arrange the delivery of the docking clamps as well as a refueling.

The remaining Fairwinds Clanners look ready to start a fight, but Finch manages to talk them down carefully, explaining that the PCs and crew of the Pebble have nothing to do with the situation, and it is all on Drake’s company. The Fairwinders accept his reasoning and stand down. Finch later mentions to Alwin that it was an easy negotiation, as without their mining tender the workbees had little life support or range, and would not have survived without the station.

After dropping off the clamps and refueling, the Absconder makes its way back in system and arrives at Port-aux-Paix. Plinth greets the party and mentions that Kalilee has been asking repeatedly about her labor robot that the crew had left aboard the Mafdet. He also shows them the repairs on the Mafdet. While adequate, the Mafdet’s military components made a complete repair impossible. The Mafdet will operate, but things like the front armor and some of the military-grade control components could not be acquired to bring the ship up to full spec.

While at Port-aux-Paix Finch manages to sell off all the ‘spec’ cargo he purchased at Nassau. The Port is a little short on cash, so Finch doesn’t turn the profit he was looking for, but at least gets enough money to justify the run and free up the Absconder’s limited cargo capacity.

The crew decide to worry about getting better parts for the Mafdet later, and for the moment head down to the Downport in the Mafdet to drop off Kalilee’s robot. The Mafdet lands just ahead of a storm and the crew manage to lock everything down and get into the Downport just before it hits. When they come out of the airlock, they hear from Sheriff Thoon that a couple weeks ago two of Kalilee’s miners managed to drive a crawler off a cliff in a dust storm, and that they were at Dr. Zebo’s clinic for extended treatment. They were just about healed up and should be able to take the robot back with them to the mining camp in a day or two if the PCs wanted to leave it with them.

The PCs get a room Muldoon’s hostel again and Claudia holes up in her room and thinks about how she could crack into the data store recovered from the Monk’s tower now that the monks have met a bad end. While Claudia thinks, Finch and Ranso hear that Mada Xuan has received a new load of scrap a couple weeks ago. Recalling that Mada was the one who managed to find the military-grade emitters for the Mafdet, Finch thinks it might be worthwhile to see if she has any other parts that might fully repair the ship.

At Mada Xuan’s they do indeed find a large load of fresh scrap, but it seems to be pieces of a simple mining vessel that wouldn’t have the advanced components required by the Mafdet. Finch also discovers that the scrap is from the load the Drake’s company brought in to the Pebble station that caused so much trouble. Believing it best to let sleeping dogs lie, Finch and Ranso head back to Muldoon’s hostel without saying anything.

On the way back to the hostel, Finch and Ranso hear that Dr. Zebo has had some problems with his two patients. He claims they suddenly trashed his clinic, grabbed a bunch of supplies and ran off. The facility isn’t large, but has lots of nooks and crannies so Thoon asks them to keep an eye out.

After getting a drink at Tabbin’s bar, Finch and Ranso observe two men being forcibly ejected at considerable velocity from Otika Thoon’s shop. The men slam into the wall and are knocked senseless. Ranso peeks in and sees Otika adjusting her dress and swearing. She says that the two men are the miners, and that they attempted to board their buggy (that Otika hadn’t finished repairing) and drive it out of the bay and into the storm still raging outside.

Sheriff Thoon shows up to haul the men off to the holding cells as Finch checks what supplies they tried to steal from Zebo’s clinic. He finds mostly typical frontier medicine but then comes across two ampules with Neebayan inventory stamps. While he isn’t sure what they are, Finch realizes that these are probably serious narcotics or worse and palms them. Finch and Ranso offer to return the goods to Zebo as a pretense to question him and find out exactly what is going on.

Back at Zebo’s clinic, Finch’s empathic sense reveals the doctor’s stream of lies when he tries to explain away the Neebayan ampules as well as the strange behavior of the miners. The PCs have long had suspicion that Zebo was up to no good, and suspected that he was the one that ratted Claudia out to the bounty-hunters that ambushed them on Port-aux-Paix several months ago.

FInch and Ranso go to the Sheriff’s office and report that the doctor was up to something. Finch worried that Zebo would be called upon to treat the wounded miners in the holding cell, and that he would try to harm them to cover his tracks. Finch turned over the Neebayan drug vials to Thoon and said that he suspected that some drug Zebo was dealing was at the heart of the problem. Thoon said that he would look into it, and keep Zebo away from the miners for the moment.

Finch and Ranso return to the hostel hoping to use Claudia’s communications data tap to catch who Zebo is communicating with. They find Claudia completely engrossed in breaking the quantum encryption on the Monks’ data cache. During Finch and Ranso’s excursion, Claudia had actually made some major progress on the data encryption, and while not completely defeating it, had some new strategies to try that may simplify unlocking the data.

After getting Claudia’s attention, Finch asks her to review the comm logs and see if Dr. Zebo attempted to contact anyone after his earlier shakedown. She finds a series of messages from him that were beamed out to seemingly random points in space. In a moment of inspiration, Claudia begins correlating all the messages with the pirate attacks that occurred recently in the system. She discovers that all the attacks occurred within a couple weeks of Zebo sending a message. The contents of the messages themselves seem to be pointless small talk, but probably contain a cypher or code word set that tipped the pirates off.

The PCs had a smoking gun linking Zebo to the pirates, but didn’t want to reveal that they had been tapping the Downport’s communications for the past half year. Instead Claudia did an anonymous data drop to the Sheriff and sat back to watch what he would do. The PCs were still suspicious that the Sheriff was somehow involved, and handing him the information privately would force his hand one way or the other.

Meanwhile the particle storm subsided and communications resumed from the Downport. Claudia’s algorithm captured a message from Dr. Zebo to Port-aux-Paix which appeared to be a list of medical supplies to be ordered. This was innocuous, as he would have to restock after the thefts at his clinic, but seemed suspicious. The PCs suspicions were confirmed when the Sheriff knocked on the door half-an-hour later, telling the PCs that Dr. Zebo had stolen a maintenance sled and took off across the plains.

Thoon offered the use of his grav sled to the PCs, and the party prepared to head off in pursuit. There was no sign of Rence, however, and he didn’t answer his comm. This had happened before whenever Rence got involved in skirt chasing, so the PCs left him behind and headed out armed and ready.

After a pursuit across a broad dustbowl, the PCs finally caught up with Zebo just as a shuttle landed ahead. The landing kicked up a dust cloud obscuring the scene until the PCs managed to drive closer with their sled. The doctor had abandoned his sled in the dust cloud and was running towards the shuttle on foot. A burst of Gauss Rifle fire from Ranso took the doctor’s legs out from under him, and Claudia drove the sled around between Zebo and the shuttle. Ranso provided covering fire while Finch jumped out and began hauling the now unconscious Zebo aboard the sled.

Several goons came out of the dust and opened fire, trading shots with Ranso and Claudia. While Ranso was hit, his armor absorbed the shot. Thoon’s sled was not as lucky, as a burst of bullets crippled one of the repulsor pods and caused it to skew violently. Acting quickly Claudia managed to cut power to the sled and set it down just as Finch followed Zebo into the sled.

By now, the dust was starting to settle, and Ranso recognized the shuttle as being of the type that the PCs encountered in the hidden hanger near the monk’s tower. He wasn’t sure if it was one of the ones that had been in the hanger, but it was certainly the same type.

After a further exchange of gunfire, the PCs managed to take out the goons, but the shuttle’s engines began to ignite. Not wanting to be caught in the hot exhaust from a torch drive, Claudia managed to get the sled temporarily balanced despite its damaged lift pod, and get everyone clear just as the shuttle lifted off. The PCs, with the unconscious Zebo in the back of the sled, headed back towards the Downport.

A passenger ship in scarlet
The PCs find the monks...

The Mafdet received moderate damage from its last skirmish, so the PCs leave it in dock at Port-aux-Paix for repair. With some downtime, the crew decide to take the Absconder to Nassau station for some shopping. The Absconder makes it to the edge of the Tortuga system and jumps to Nassau without incident. Upon reaching the station, the crew spend most of the time shopping, stocking up on supplies and equipment.

After loading up some supplies and the docking clamps owed to Pebble station, the Absconder prepares to leave. To Rence’s chagrin, his old rival and former owner of the Mafdet, Jeannie Santos is hanging around the docking bay with a few toughs. Jeannie wants to know what happened to the Mafdet and why Rence is running around in an old junk heap like the Absconder.

Rence deflects the questions, but is uneasy as the crew prepares to leave, suspecting Jeannie is up to something. His suspicions are confirmed as the crew gets accosted by a customs cutter as they are on the way out of the system. The crew initially begins a through inspection of the Absconder, claiming they received a tipoff of contraband. After some smooth words and greased palms, Finch manages to smooth things over and the Absconder continues on its way.

A few days of cruising later, the crew receives a message from Nassau control saying that a passenger ship has lost power near the Absconder’s position. The Absconder diverts course to investigate, and finds the passenger ship drifting idle in space. On boarding, they find the entire crew have been cut into small pieces. No clue remains to the attackers means or identities, except a single crewman who somehow managed to survive despite horrible wounds including a missing arm and leg.

The crew try to find what they can, and get some hints that the monks were among the dead. Given the crewman’s dire medical situation though, they undock and quickly head back towards Nassau station, meeting a medical ship halfway there and transferring the crewman aboard.

Thinking their business finally concluded, the crew attempt to leave Nassau again, but just as they are reaching the edge of the system, they are contacted by a Colonial Authority Patrol frigate. They again find themselves boarded, but this time a familiar figure comes through the airlock: Agent Cyanry.

Cyanry quizzes the crew on the recent goings on around Nassau and Tortuga, and explains he suspects there is more than meets the eye to the pirate activity in the region. He commends the PCs work in cleaning house in Tortuga, but cautions there is more going on than it seems. He promises to continue working on the problem from his end and sends the PCs on their way.

Mafdet's flaktastic adventure!
Some kind of zone of danger?

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”

We now resume our regularly scheduled programming.
I met a traveler from antique lands...

After a mind-twisting hyperspace jump of Brobdingnagian proportions, the Mafdet and the deep space tug (called the Rattletrap) slam back into normal space. Claudia tried to aim for Tortuga, but over vast distances precise aim was problematic. The crew were relieved to come out of hyperspace at all though, as if the Rattletrap’s hyperspace trajectory had not intersected with at least one gravity well, the ship might never have come out of hyperspace.

After a few moments to catch their bearings, the crew realized they were only a couple jumps away from Nassau station in a star system on the periphery that they had never been to before, or even heard of. Before the crew could do anything though, they detected several attack ships locking on to them and received an order to surrender and prepare to be boarded!

The attack ships claimed to be agents of the Bahmani Sultanate, and that the Mafdet and Rattletrap were trespassing in Bahmani space. The crew, being out of fuel and under the watch of many weapons, surrendered. Troops in very expensive powered combat armor boarded both ships and searched them, holding Claudia on the Rattletrap, and the rest of the crew on the Mafdet at gunpoint.

Claudia very carefully explained the navigational miracle they had just performed, and provided the data to prove it. The soldiers reported the information back to their ships, and after several hours a large cruiser arrived on the scene. The crew were invited to meet the captain, and an ‘honor guard’ of battlesuited troopers escorted the crew to the hanger bay of the new ship.

The captain introduces himself as Makdaw, and welcomes the crew aboard his ship, the Fakhir. He explains that the Sultanate runs a mining and resources concern in this sector, and that the PCs have bumbled into their mining operations. He is intrigued by the PCs story and data, and proclaims that they have probably jumped further than any human being has ever gone. He inquires how they ended up making the jump in the first place, and Finch is careful to leave out the details of Claudia’s kidnapping, instead proclaiming that the Mafdet just happened to run into the tug in a navigational error.

While Fakhir was dubious about their story, he did accept that the jump happened and remained impressed. He offered to assist the PCs by performing temporary repairs on their ships and offering them enough fuel to make it back to Nassau station. The crew, not wanting to wear out their welcome, quickly agreed.

After some temporary repairs, the Rattletrap and Mafdet were escorted out of the system in the company of an armed merchantman called the ‘Abu Zaid’. The ship escorted them through the jump and all the way to Nassau before taking its leave.

At Nassau, the crew pick up supplies, fuel, armor and ammo. Ranso is particularly happy to find some new ablative plates for his armor, since his were evaporated during the unfortunate ‘Finch used the Mafdet’s laser while high as a kite’ incident. They also recall that they inflicted a fair bit of damage to the Pebble’s docking clamps and order replacement parts. The parts won’t be in for at least a month or two, however, so the crew will have to return later.

Meanwhile, now that they have two ships, the crew decides it is time for the group to properly form a business. Rence forms a sole proprietorship and re-registers the Rattletrap as the ‘Absconder’. Meanwhile, Finch negotiates repairs for both ships, and manages to score a trio of drop pods that can be used to carry external cargo on the Absconder. He also purchases some food and medical supplies on spec that he figures he can sell for a profit back at Tortuga.

The crew jump back to Tortuga with their new ship and equipment, and return to Port-aux-Paix. They discover that the Monks have abandoned their tower on the moon and have come to Port-aux-Paix. The freighter that they were expecting (and the Mafdet was supposed to escort before its accidental pan-galactic hyperjump) never arrived. Without their supplies and extra help they were overrun by the local bandits, and barely managed to escape with their lives.

The monks said that a data core was left behind, buried under the tower, which was highly valuable to them. A substantial reward would be given if the Mafdet’s crew could manage to retrieve it from the bandits. Feeling a little bit sheepish about not making it for escort duty earlier, the crew accepts the request and head down to Tortuga to see what they can do. They leave the Absconder docked at Port-aux-Paix, and land the Mafdet at Tortuga Downport.

The crew find out that traffic in and out of the system is being plagued by pirates. Finch sells his food and medical supplies for a tidy profit as shipments in system are becoming scarce and business is hurting. The crew resolves to take care of the bandits at the tower in the hopes that the data core from the observatory will help them figure out where the pirates are operating. (also the reward!)

Finch borrows a grav sled from Mada Xuan, and the crew head out across the desert towards the Monk’s tower. As they drive along, they are ambushed ineffectually by another grav sled, which makes a run for it when a gyroc attack misses Mada Xuan’s sled. The crew then turn off the main road, not wanting to be ambushed again. They work their way around the upper plateau behind the tower, hoping to attack from better cover.

The crew parked the sled in the hills near the edge of the plateau, and Ranso and Claudia went forward on foot to recon the approach to the tower. As they went along the edge of the hills they noticed a suited figure enter a doorway built into the side of the hill. The crew gathered and went in, only to discover a hidden underground hanger bay.

Several pirates were in the bay, moving crates of weapons. Two ‘hopper’ cargo shuttles were also parked in the bay. Relying on the element of surprise, the crew attacked the unwary pirates. In the resulting gunfight, Rence and Ranso were both moderately injured, but in the end the pirates were eliminated. Finch and Ranso checked the bay, discovering a large stash of the ‘Freedom Arms’ assault rifles they had encountered before. They then turned their attention to the two parked hoppers.

The first hopper had 23 missiles stuffed aboard as cargo. Clearly the pirates were moving weaponry. On the second hopper they discovered four local miners bound and unconscious. When the miners came to, they explained they were isotope miners that worked on the surface of Tortuga (the moon). Their leader, Kalilee and her three best men were tracking a group of bandits who stole some equipment from their camp. Unfortunately the group were ambushed by the pirates and taken captive.

The miners rearmed and re-equipped themselves with weapons from the fallen pirates, and offered to assist the PCs in attacking the tower. After a strategy meeting, the group decided to crash the empty hopper into the valley right in front of the Monk’s tower. The crash would stir up enough dust and cause enough commotion out front that the group could sneak into the tower through the rear entrance and take it.

Claudia programmed the hopper to suffer a sudden engine failure as it took off, in an attempt to make the crash look like an accident to the bandits. Ranso headed out to try to get into position before the distraction, and the rest of the crew and the miners prepared to sally forth in Mada Xuan’s sled. The hopper launched and crashed in front of the tower, generating a huge dust storm. Ranso, not anticipating the degree of dust that would be generated, became lost and wandered around on the edge of the upper plateau for some time. Meanwhile the sled, driven by Claudia, managed to find its way to the tower and the group attacked sans Ranso.

After clearing out resistance in the airlock, the group realized that a well-equipped opponent was occupying the very top of the tower. He was holed up on the uppermost level with a sentry gun guarding the access hatch in the floor. After an exchange of gunfire to disable the turret, Claudia popped up the hatch just in time to have a pair of grenades hurled directly at her. She managed to parry the grenades and send them back into the room as she dropped back down the hatch.

Meanwhile, Ranso finally got his bearings and made his way to the tower. As he approached he saw gunfire from the broken dome on top of the tower, and realized his crewmates were engaging somebody in the top room. He used the low gravity to perform a high jump, and brought himself up to the level of the tower dome. He looked through a hole in the roof just in time to see Claudia deflect the grenades, and saw a figure scrambling to pick one back up. Ranso opened fire with his gauss rifle and wounded the figure, causing him to drop the grenade again just as it went off, destroying the top of the tower.

With the top exit and upper tower secure, Ranso joined the rest of the crew and the miners as they slowly worked their way down the tower, clearing each room. Finally they reached the lower level, where they met stiff opposition by bandits armed with the Monk’s own laser carbines. The miners attempted to charge in, but were cut down by a soldier in merc’s armor firing a full-on military laser rifle at them.

As the miners fell, Claudia used her rifle to take out the laser rifle while a hail of gunfire from the rest of the group cut down the soldier. After he fell, the crew worked their way in to the bay to take out the last of the resistance. A large mining robot was busy excavating in the middle of the room, and continued to do so even as the firefight raged around it. Just as the last bandit was dispatched, the robot pulled the Monk’s data core out of the ground, announced ‘task complete’ and shut down.

Selling both arms
A trip to the edge of the system goes a little too far...

The Mafdet returned to the site of their recent battle, and recovered three crude anti-ship missiles from the debris of the damaged pirate corsair. In addition to the missiles, several crates are recovered. The crates contain crude caseless assault rifles. Buy the quality of their build, Ranso realizes they were home-built and notices a ‘Freedom Arms’ logo stamped on each weapon. Nobody has heard of the company before but it seems somebody is creating budget weaponry that is getting into the hands of the pirates.

The Mafdet is suddenly hailed by a Patrol Frigate which had approached concealed in the gas giant’s upper layers. FInch, realizing the value of the missiles, hides them below the deck plates next to a power conduit to prevent them from being discovered. The Frigate docks with the Mafdet, but instead of an official inspection team, an agent and two security officers board. The agent identifies himself as Agent Cyanry of the Special Justice Group, and explains he is following up on some pirate activity originating out of the Tortuga system. He and his men search the ship, but don’t find the hidden missiles. The crew willingly show Cyanry the crates of assault rifles, which intrigues the agent. He confiscates the guns, but congratulates the crew on finding and turning in the weapons. He explains that he will try to use them to track down the weapons manufacturer supplying the pirates. He and his men then leave, the Frigate undocks, and the Mafdet proceeds back to Port-aux-Paix.

While resupplying, Finch receives a message from the Tower Monks who say a vital supply ship will be arriving in a few weeks, and request that the Mafdet escort it into the system. The crew take the job, and realize they could make some money on the way out to the edge of the system selling off their newly acquired armaments.

After making some arrangements ground-side with Mada Xuan, the crew finds a buyer for the missiles among one of the asteroid clans. The Mafdet travels to a refining station on the edge of the system, trailed by the Oculus as Pradeet continues to gather ‘footage’ of the crew for his film.

The Mafdet docks with the station, and the crew bring the missiles onboard and meet with their contact. As they are in the middle of the deal, two figures step from the shadows, announce they are agents of ‘The Galactic Patrol’ and open fire. A short gun battle ensues, with the PCs taking several hits, however the ammunition appears to be some sort of mild pyrotechnic round that inflicts minimal injury.

Regardless, the PCs return fire with much more lethal weaponry and quickly bring down their attackers. When Ranso checks on one of the downed figures, he recognizes ‘Judy’ the bioroid from Pradeet’s movie crew. Feeling betrayed by Pradeet, Ranso takes out his anger on the wounded Judy, executing her with a head shot.

Pradeet broadcasts to the crew, announcing that the scene is over and he has some excellent footage. He doesn’t even appear to be upset about Ranso killing his leading lady. He explains he paid off the crew of the station to help set up the scene and allow his actor bioroids to board the station and prepare the fake ambush. The miners still go through with the missile deal, however, and buy the three missiles for $100k credits, so Ranso’s rage is someone muted.

The crew then makes a supply run to The Pebble to pick up more fuel and supplies. On arrival, they find a salvage crew already in the docking bay, sorting out a large amount of scrap. The salvage crew’s captain introduces himself as Drake, owner, captain and sole proprietor of The Petty Drake salvage ship. He and his crew discovered the scattered wreckage of a ship on the edge of the system and brought it in to Pebble to sell. The Pebble is fairly busy for an outpost, and in addition to The Petty Drake, several other tugs and shuttles are docked to the station.

The Oculus arrives shortly thereafter, and Predeet goes about charming everyone aboard the station. This sticks in Rence’s craw, as Predeet’s charming especially extends to Alawan, the station commander, who Rence had been intimate with on his last visit. A romantic rivalry develops as Rence tries to woo back Alawan, but Predeet throws around a great deal of cash which makes him very popular with everyone but the Mafdet’s crew.

In the main hanger bay, Claudia and Finch investigate the wreckage the scrappers had been sorting. Claudia convinces Finch to make a deal for some navigational components she spots in the wreckage. She takes the components off to a corner of the bay and begins tinkering with them. She finds navigational logs for shipping routes for the asteroid clans. This data could be highly damaging and/or valuable so she memorizes the data then destroys the original hardware.

The crew does manage to enjoy some down time, and get along well with the employee’s of Drake’s company. They share a meal and talk shop. The scrappers tell about how they found the debris and they suspect it was a small freighter moving cargo from one asteroid facility to another. They are uncertain about how it came to be destroyed, and found no evidence of any crew.

A strange and awkward addition to the dinner party is Predeet’s leading actors, Punch and Judy. Judy appears none the worse for wear despite being executed at the hands of Ranso only a week earlier. Predeet offers up no explanation for this but the crew realizes he must have multiple copies of the bioroids on board the Oculus. While she shows no physical damage, Judy reacts to Ranso, and visibly flinches when she sees him and avoids him as much as possible. Pradeet explains that she has all the memories of ‘Judy’, and that he can re-format blank slate bioroids as needed to play her role.

The crew finishes up and prepares to leave, Rence being throughly disgusted by Alawan’s interest in Predeet (or at least his money). As the crew prepares to leave the station, they discover that Claudia is missing. They check the bay, and find Judy standing in the corner of the bay where Claudia was last seen. She spots Ranso, and immediately makes a run for it. Finch tries to block her, but she grabs his outstretched arm and vaults over it, dislocating his shoulder as she passes.

The crew immediately blame Pradeet for Claudia’s disappearance, figuring he has set up another ‘scene’ for his film. The rush to the Oculus’ airlock, and find a sign taped to the door saying: “Follow the tug!” The crew check with station control, and discover that a deep space salvage tug has just left the station (not Drake’s though).

They return to the Mafdet, but there seems to be trouble getting clearance to leave. Rather than wait, the crew engage the engines, ripping free of the station and tearing off a set of docking clamps. The Mafdet catches up to the tug and Ranso disables its engines with the tactical sensor array’s overcharged laser. The Mafdet moves to dock with the disabled tug, but the docking clamps from the Pebble are still stuck to the outside of the ship. Rence performs an EVA to pry the clamps loose, but comes under fire from someone shooting a laser rifle from the cover of the salvage tug.

Ranso grabs his rifle, charges out the airlock and hauls Rence back in by his tow line. He has trouble with the cable and they are nearly shot as he struggles to get Rence back in. Finally, Rence is back in the airlock and Ranso launches himself towards the tug, hoping to surprise whoever is shooting at them.

Meanwhile, on the bridge, Finch is watching over things. Still hurting from his dislocated shoulder, he has taken some ‘recreational pharmaceuticals’ to take the edge off the pain. He is quite giddy and thinks it would be a great idea to try to use the Mafdet’s laser to take care of the person shooting at them from the tug, but neglects to take Ranso’s presence into account. Finch opens fire, and while he does manage to hit the sniper, his spray of the area catches Ranso several times. Ranso only survives due to his beam ablative armor, but is still badly injured.

Rence makes it back to the bridge and relieves the giggling Finch from command. Seeing Ranso in dire straights, Rence charges the Mafdet forward, scooping Ranso up in the cargo hold and spearing the tug on the Mafdet’s nose. Suddenly space twists and turns, and everyone realizes that the tug was attempting to jump into hyperspace just as the Mafdet rammed it!

After a nauseating hyperspace jump, the crew come back to their senses. They are no longer in the Tortuga system, and appear to be near a rogue planet in the middle of nowhere. The crew has no time to verify their location, as the tug is now impaled on the end of the Mafdet. With Ranso badly hurt, it falls to the still giggling finch to lead the charge as the crew investigate the tug.

The tug is mostly empty, but Finch finally encounters a single figure in a space suit, barricaded behind a crate at a hallway junction. Finch fires a lucky shot, and catches the suited figure in the faceplate with his blaster, quickly dispatching them. The crew continue to search the vessel, and eventually find Claudia unconscious and taped up in a storage closet.

Ranso uses construction foam to seal up hole in the tug around the Mafdet’s nose, and the crew manages to re-pressurize the tug and perform a thorough search of the vessel. Ownership records indicate it was the property of a small mercenary firm, but no other details could be gleaned. It appeared there were only two crew aboard, one of which was almost vaporized by the Mafdet’s laser. Likewise, Finch’s lucky face shot left the other unrecognizable, and the crew had neither the time nor inclination to probe deeper as there was the looming question of exactly where in the universe they came out of hyperspace.

Claudia was revived and found to be unharmed. She observed the local star constellations, and after several hours of observation and navigational deduction, she realized that the Mafdet was all the way over on the next galactic arm due to the miss-jump! The crew made some stop-gap repairs and properly connected the Mafdet and the tug via docking clamps. Ranso patched the hole in the tug up with additional construction foam, and made it spaceworthy, at least for a little while.

The crew, looking for resources, decided to investigate the rogue planet that had pulled them out of hyperspace. After scanning the planet, it began to emit increasing amounts of energy. To their terror, the crew realized the entire planet was starting to move towards them and bathe the ship with high-energy emissions all across the electromagnetic spectrum. The energy was not immediately dangerous, but would eventually fry the ships!

The crew quickly outran the planet, which gave up its approach/attack/greeting? once they were far enough away. The rapid maneuver cost almost all the Mafdet and the tug’s fuel though, and the ships were stuck in deep space with almost no resources. The tug had a large salvage hyperdrive, so it was capable of entering hyperspace with salvage attached. This meant that the tug could at least pull the Mafdet into hyperspace with it, but there was the question of the route home. Going the ‘long way’ around down and up the galactic arm would take over a century, and the ships were nearly out of fuel anyway. Realizing they had no fuel to make multiple jumps, the crew had to go for broke and attempt the long jump across the void of intergalactic space to get home. The probability of a jump being successful over that distance was very small, but the crew had no other options left. Claudia aimed the ship as best as she could and crossing her fingers engaged the tug’s hyperdrive.