Imperium Date: 1116-007
The PCs are in a startown coffee shop on the world of Rana, an associate from his criminal days. She had sent a message upon hearing Ebek was in town, promising an opportunity for everybody to “make a lot of money”. Before Rana can get to the details, a bullet smacks into the center of the table and shatters Rorrik’s coffee mug., a shitty and smelly world in the literal shadow of the subsector capital of . They are meeting with a contact of Ebek’s named
Looking up, a lot of men wearing leather jackets with a crimson bird insignia on the back are gathered at the entrance to the shop. Their apparent leader, waving his still-smoking gun, yells something about being there for Rana. Before the gang can enter, the coffee barrista hits a control and a security gate drops down at the entrance. They immediately begin prying it open, while the barrista heads towards a door marked ‘Employees Only’.
The PCs (and Rana) follow the employee, hoping he’s headed for an exit. Unfortunately there’s nothing there but shelves of coffee supplies, as he had obviously hoped to barricade himself away from trouble. Coffee supplies… and a solid-looking ventilation duct helping to filter out Udigi’s tainted outside air. Rorrik casts around desperately for something to bust open the vent, but bags of coffee won’t do the job. Luckily Gaius has a universal key in the form of his trusty shotgun. With an ear-splitting blast he blows a hole in the vent big enough to fit a person through. Meanwhile, a screech of metal indicates the gang outside is slowly forcing open the security door.
The PCs all pull down their filter masks in preparation for a quick exit. Gaius grabs Rana’s metal suitcase as a shield and pushes himself through the jagged metal of the vent opening and inside, his armored jacket shielding him from some nasty cuts. Ebek boosts up Rana to follow and then takes third position. Rorrik plays rearguard, tipping over a few shelves of coffee to block the storage room door and buy a few precious extra seconds.
Squirming through the ducts, Gaius briefly gets stuck and kicks so wildly to free himself that he accidentally breaks Rana’s nose. Deciding to head in the direction of greater light, even though he can hear the sound of machinery, he gets to an exit to the outside… blocked by a large slow-turning fan. Wincing at the necessity, Gaius has Rana help push forward his trusty family sword and uses it to jam the fan in place. Good Aquilinus steel easily holds the strain of the mechanism, and Gaius kicks out the outer filter, leaving himself a clear path to the outside… and a one story drop to the ground below. Twisting to hang by his fingertips, he makes the drop, then assists Rana and Ebek in doing the same.
However as Rorrik clears the fan and retrieve’s Gaius’s blade, a dim figure appears in the vent behind him. One of the gang members is crawling after him, gun in hand. Despite the dimness of the light, the punk gets off a lucky shot that hits hard even through Rorrik’s armored clothing and knocks the wind out of his shattered constitution. He makes a fast uncontrolled descent, but luckily Ebek is on the ball and manages to catch him without further harm.
The PCs realize that they’re in an alley behind the store complex where the coffee shop was located. Ebek uses some street smarts to get a taxi cab quickly and tips the driver extra to not ask questions. In a few minutes they’re at the docking area where their ship is located and back on board the Eden Hawk a few minutes after that. Feeling secure with the airlock shut, they pause for Rorrik to bandage himself up, set Rana’s nose, and all of them to ask her some pointed questions.
Without much prodding, the story starts to come out. It begins some time ago, back during the War. The Triune Pax escort vessel, Gotland, vanished fifteen years ago when it made an emergency jump and unsafe in the middle of a battle. It was assumed that it had vanished forever, as generally happens with an emergency jump. However, a belter ship scavenging in the frozen far edge of thesystem recently received a signal that matches the ship’s transponder signal. Lacking the supplies to stay and investigate, he jumped out and tipped off the Organization in the Udigi system that a fat untouched salvage opportunity was out there (presumably for a finder’s fee, though Rana doesn’t know the details).
Meanwhile, Rana was having some issues with her employers. They were, “About to find out that I… wasn’t an ideal employee,” in her words. (The PCs do not press for details.) She was in a position to see the tip-off about the Gotland come in and realized it was a golden opportunity. Rana knows a ‘high up’ in the Varberg branch of the Guild (she uses this term interchangeably with ‘Organization’) that has a vested personal interest in the Gotland. Due to some indiscretion during socializing, Rana knows that “she” wants very much to get both the body of the Gotland’s captain and a copy of the journal that the captain was keeping. Rana figured that bringing back both would get her some new employment at the Varberg Guild, along with a fat reward. So she copied the coordinates, loaded everything she wanted to keep in a suitcase, and contacted the PCs.
Rana expresses surprise that the Phoenix gang members (local muscle for hire) showed up to kill her straight off like that. She says she expected there to be some warnings and threats and investigations and such before jumping straight to a hit. The PCs discuss among themselves how likely it is that the Phoenix Gang now knows their identities and will cause trouble if they come back to Udigi. The conclude that it’s possible, but not likely, and all they did was run away so it’s not like there’s revenge to be had.
In any case, Rana’s offer is this. She will provide the location of the tranaponder signal, and they take the Eden Hawk on a salvage mission to retrieve the captain’s body and journal. Anything else the PCs can salvage is theirs free and clear. In addition, she’ll make the sales connection for them and give them half of whatever the body and journal fetch on Varberg. As a side benefit, she gets a ride to Varberg. When the PCs show some reluctance, she throws in an offer to guarantee them a minimum profit of 30,000 credits, making up anything they don’t get from the sale from her own funds.
The PCs still don’t trust Rana, doing a thorough search of her person and possessions. Finally Ebek puts the squeeze on her a little, pointing out she’s at their mercy and asking for 50,000 guaranteed profit. Rana appeals to their past and future working relationship, and Ebek lets her go down to a mutally agreed 40,000 credits guarantee. He also demands to be present for the sale to her mysterious patron, which she agrees to without argument.
Rana points out that none of them speak the Triune Pax language, know what a captain’s uniform looks like, or has the deckplans to a Pax escort vessel. Fortunately with the subsector capital less than an hour away, there’s a good place to go to seek answers. They get permission to take off and make a quick hop to the floating city of Hamada on the moon overhead. Pretty much everything can be bought and sold on Hamada. Locking Rana in a cabin (over her annoyed protests), the crew go shopping for goods and information.
With Gaius’s assistance, Rorrik is able to track down a civilian Triune Pax military study group on the net. From there he is able to get all sorts of probably usefull information regarding their uniforms and (theorized) ship deck plans and such. Meanwhile, Ebek goes shopping, picking up some weapons, stim pills, a fancy mechanic tool kit, and a few top pf the line Pax translation programs. Preparations made, the crew return to their ship after a long day and seek clearance for take-off. Just as the official time turns to 1116-008, they Jump.
The crew amuses itself over the next week, counting out the time in Jumpspace. They finally emerge on the outer edges of the Varberg system on 1116-015. Rorrik hits the comms to begin tracing the transponder signal. He is so skillful that he picks up not one signal but two. There is the signal of the Gotland described to them earlier, and there is also a much fainter signal, barely detectable above background radiation, of a Triune Pax distress beacon. The curious crew decides to track down the distress beacon first, eventually locating what appears to be a Pax escape pod.
After a few cautious scans, Gaius uses his vacuum skills to reel the pod on board. It looks like it’s been in space for years, but there is no one inside it when it’s opened up. The only thing inside is a message written in Pax and inscribed into a durable metal plate, purporting to be from survivors of the Gotland. It states the ship has crashed into a comet, is damaged beyond repair, and begs for rescue.
With this information, the PCs are easily able to locate the Gotland, not confused at all when the signal appears to lead them in the direction of a large comet. They find the Gotland embedded engine first into the ice. The impact has set the comet spinning wildly on its axis, and it looks to require a skilled pilot to match velocities and safely land. Gaius proves up to the challenge and sets them down as gentle as a feather next to the wrecked ship.
After some discussion, the PCs decide to work together to investigate the Gotland. There is some talk about locking Rana up again, but she complains a great deal about the lack of trust until Ebek steps in on her behalf. Gaius contents himself with locking down the ship’s control from outside access, which would take a while for someone with the right skills to work around.
Neither Ebek nor Rorrik are totally comfortable in the available vacc suits and neither of them have training for Zero-G movement either. It doesn’t help that the rapid rotation of the comet exerts a small but noticeable drift towards throwing them off the surface and out into space. Gaius uses his space skills to slowly assist them in getting to the Gotland, using lines to secure them the whole trip. On the way, however, they notice signs of recent activity as if there has been movement on the surface of the comet. Rorrik is unable to tell how old the tracks are or whether they go from the ship out or out into the ship.
Coming in through a large hole in the side of the ship, the PCs find that the bottom two decks holding the engine and power plant have been smashed into the comet, leaving them coming in on the cargo and shuttlecraft deck. Emergency LED lights provide dim illumination, sci-fi technology batteries easily able to power fifteen years of light. The boats were all smashed in the wreck, and laying on the ground are a large number of corpses, preserved in the vacuum. Some of them are Imperium Star Marines, what looks like a squad’s worth. The PCs theorize that a boarding action was occurring when the ship jumped.
Going up (or rather down, as the centrifugal force of the comet’s spin pulls objects away from the surface) to the next level, they find it too is vaccuum. On this deck are the escape pods and a large supply of repair drones. All except two escape pods have been launched, and the repair drones are mostly intact, other than a few having been disassembled for parts. The hatch to the next deck is sealed against the vacuum, and it appears to be powered with air pressure on the other side. The PCs proceed on, cycling through the lock as the air pumps groan.
As the PCs half suspect might happen, survivors appear when they exit onto the next deck, the crew quarters. There are only two of them, one human and one dryadian, and they are carrying laser carbines and half-dressed, having obviously just awoken. Things are very tense for a little while as they are crazed from their long isolation, but Gaius is eventually able to talk them down and explain the war is over. The two (the human is Kendall and the dryadian is Awan) are so grateful to be finally rescued that they eventually settle down and tell their story.
Durng the battle, the ship’s power plant took severe damage and began exposing the ship to some hard rads. The ship jumped in the middle of the boarding action, and the Pax sailors managed to kill the Imperium marines. However, by that time they were all dying of radiation poisoning. The two survivors were bomb technicians working in the nuclear missile bay (shielded to contain rads) and wearing hazardous environment vacc suits sealed against radiation as part of their duties, so they avoided the worst of it. They are unclear on exactly what happened to cause the crash, but they believe that the pilot was attempting to carry out an emergency refueling procedure using the comet but was so out of it from radiation sickness that he crashed the ship instead.
Over the past fifteen years they salvaged some auxiliary fusion plants to keep the air refreshers going and survived on rations intended to feed a crew of over 100 for months. The two of them… or the three of them. They explain there is another survivor, sort of. Only one emergency cryoberth was left functional, so they elected to place the highest ranking officer in it before he completely succumbed to ration poisoning. The captain is still alive in there.
The PCs ask about the Captain’s journal, and the duo admit they searched all the officer’s cabins long ago and took all the reading material they could find. It’s all in a big pile in one corner, and they can’t recall what may have come from the Captain’s cabin. Rorrik goes up to search the cabin, but can’t find anything of particular interest other than some holo pictures. There is some discussion on what to do, as the PCs feel a Guild salvage starship could show up any time, and they don’t want to get caught ‘claim-jumping’ as it were. Gaius suggest shutting off the Gotland’s transponder, but it’s not immediately obvious how to do that.
In the end, they all work together to transfer the captain’s cryoberth over to the Eden Hawk, along with the pile of books and the two survivors in their vacc suits. When Kendall and Awan get to the ship’s gravity, they collapse. They are obviously in much worse shape than they let on and will not be much help in any strenuous activities for the next while. The PCs determine that moving goods from the Gotland to the Eden Hawk will require a lot of delicate maneuvering of big masses in near-zero gravity up and down stairs and across a comet in a vaccuum. The others might help a little, but Gaius is the only one who can move quickly with little risk of an accident. Therefore he is set to that job while Ebek and Rorrik keep a close monitoring for signs of the Guild ship.
After over eight hours of work, Gaius is able to empty the ship’s armory as well as load about a ton of repair drones onto the Hawk. Ebek spots an incoming ship and alerts Gaius, who tiredly races back to the Eden Hawk, his zero-G skills more than up to the challenge of getting there in time. With Gaius exhausted from the labor, Ebek takes over the controls and lifts the ship off, maneuvering it to keep the comet between them and the incoming ship. He’s able to hide them for a good long while, giving a good lead from the strange ship before it finally rolls into position to spot them. The other ship begins pursuing, its thrust faster than the Hawk’s.
Rorrik makes contacts with the comm, but the other ship is non-responsive, only demanding a clearance code for being in this area. Ebek takes over the radio and spins a line of bullshit about them being simple belter miners, which gives Rorrik enough time to complete the calculations for jump. Just as they strange vessel’s patience appears to be wearing thin, the calculations are completed and the Eden Hawk safely makes the jump to hyperspace. Their destination is the world of Varberg.