Log 11

 

Once Marsh was released the crew hurried back to their ship to get away from the Skyplex as quickly as they could, however, on reaching the ship, a man met them at the ramp. Willis greeted the man formally as the monk was a Buddhist of a different order than the mechanic’s. The monk introduced himself as Li Shen Fong. He needed to charter a freighter to take himself and 200 tons of humanitarian aid to the moon Highgate.

 

Chan was a little surprised at the offer and asked point blank, “Doesn’t Blue Sun have you scared to hire with us?” Cindy covered smoothly when Li asked, “Why should I be scared?” By stating the captain meant, “Blue Sun has its fingers in too many pies and has intimidated all the regular crews at the Skyplex.” Li accepted this and said he had an emergency to contain and that he needed to reach Highgate in five days. Marsh said the only way that would happen was under hard burn. Chan added the added fuel costs would push the standard charter rate for a firefly from 80 to 100 credits per day. Li agreed readily and was willing to even pay the normal 50% up front. Chan really wanted to get to Greenleaf, but the infusion of cash was so badly needed, that she agreed.

 

During the five hours it took to load Li’s cargo, William picked up food for the lift day feast, and Chan had the ‘Ghost’s fuel tank topped off. This gave everyone ten credits for the first pay the crew had earned in nearly two months. As soon as the cargo was loaded, Marsh detached from the Skyplex and kicked in a hard burn for Highgate. William’s lift day feast was another success and the crew settled in for the trip.

 

Two days later the crew was awakened by an emergency alarm. Willis raced to the engine room to find the fusion plant going super critical. He could not shut the overload down and this forced the crew to abandon ship in the shuttles. (Li approached Willis playing on his position to ask the mechanic for help. Li wanted Willis to “fail” to shutdown overload, so Li could borrow the ship.  Once finished, Li would return ship. The plan was for drifting ship to be detected and taken into tow by an Alliance ship. mercs would exit and eliminate crew, then steer the ship to recover shuttles. Mercs and Li would depart in the captured patrol boat, and the PCs would have to swear silence. When mercs went crazy Li had to make up new plan on the fly. And this forced the crew) Li Ming, William, Willis, and Li boarded Li Ming’s shuttle, while Marsh, Chan, Cindy and Xavier escaped on shuttle two; blasting clear of the ‘Ghost the crew could not believe that things could go so badly and that now they could never confront Blue Sun.

 

Twenty-four hours later, the shuttles received a signal from the ‘Ghost! Xavier explained that something didn’t feel right when the ship’s fusion plant went crazy and Willis couldn’t shut it down. She planted a simple buried sub routine to signal her location if nothing went wrong for 24 hours, Marsh easily plotted a course that would bring them to the ship. It took two days to reach the ‘Ghost and when they reached the limited sensor range of the shuttles, they found the ‘Ghost docked with an Alliance patrol boat. The two shuttles docked with the ship and the crew returned to the home they thought they had lost. A quick check of the ship found that the engines had been disconnected from the power plant and that the bridge stations are all locked out. Taking a quick look Willis said it would take a day’s work to reconnect the engines, while Xavier said it would take several hours to get control of the computer.

Quickly donning armor and arming themselves heavily, the other five members of the crew prepared to search the Alliance patrol boat to find out what was going on. The first thing the crew discovered was that the cargo of humanitarian and was actually a set of cryo-suspension chambers and second, that Li was no where to be found. Chan immediately decided that since the “monk” had gone through so much trouble to hijack the ‘Ghost that it was unlikely he would try to damage the ship, also since the ship was already immobilized he couldn’t see damaging the ship as logical. She did ensure Xavier and Willis were armed before opening the airlock to the Alliance patrol boat.

 

On opening the airlock, they found three non-Alliance bodies. Cindy made a quick check and concluded they killed themselves. There were ten cryo chambers in the cargo hold, logically leaving seven more companions to the mad monk as William called Li. Entering the patrol boat, the crew finds a man trapped in a barrier field. He is not Alliance and Chan decided to free him in hopes of talking to him. Cindy moved over to the controls as Chan, William, Li Ming, and Marsh provided cover. Cindy dropped the barrier and the man calmly asked who they were and when was the next train due? The crew could not dismiss the obviously disturbed man as he was heavily armed. Li Ming tried to explain there was a change of plans, and that ship had arrived to pick him up. If he would lay down his weapon due to safety reasons and board through the airlock. The man snarled and attempted to level his assault rifle. Chan fired first with the man avoiding the worst of her two shots worth of pellets. However, his dodge took him directly into William’s line of fire and his shot killed the man instantly. The entrance to the patrol boat was now clear, and the crew advanced.

 

Chan, William and Marsh moved forward toward the bridge as Cindy and Li Ming headed aft to check engineering. The two groups reach the two major compartments finding the Alliance ship fully operational. There were no signs of life and the crew began a complete search of the Alliance ship. As the rest of the crew searched the patrol boat, Xavier worked alone on the bridge with the hatch sealed behind her. The men in league with Li had inserted a control program they named Aurora and the program was designed to only accept commands from the leader of the men that had been smuggled onto the ‘Ghost since he was not available, Xavier was forced to go through he command processor line by line to delete the rogue program. Not extremely complicated, but it was an extremely tedious task.

 

In engineering, Willis faced the same sort of task in reconnecting the engine to the power plant. About half an hour into the job, a voice spoke behind him, “Brother Thorton, I need your assistance again.” Willis stood to face Li and replied “Regardless that your plan has not worked the way you envisioned, it has succeeded, you have eliminated the crew of an Alliance vessel, you will have to get it to wherever you want it without me. “My place is here.” Li attempted a different tack when Willis surprisingly stood up to his request. “Your place is on holy Hera.” This proved to be a mistake as it called into focus the difference between the mainstream Buddhism that Willis followed. “I doubt the Buddha would see Hera as holy. The loss of so many lives may imbue your world with a dignity it did not have before, but the transient nature of existence is not in a place, but within the path we take to enlightenment.” At this point Li lost his kindly monk persona. “I will not debate doctrine with you, I am in need, would you refuse me?” Willis sighed. “It is with deep regrets that I must decline to offer my assistance.” Li nodded grimly. “Then you leave me no choice.” He then drew a pistol and fired on Willis. The mechanic however, had been on the Rim long enough to expect this, dodged and returned fire. Li blazed away ineffectually, but Willis took one careful short that buried deep in Li’s left leg. The monk cried out in pain and shock, then attempted to stagger away. Willis could not bring himself to fire on a fleeing man; instead hit the comm to call for help.

 

Xavier bolted from the bridge to help Willis and spotted him in pursuit. The wounded Li was too hobbled to get any distance and on seeing Willis closing, turned to fire. Willis fearing this action shot Li in his weapon arm and the man crumpled to the deck. Willis ran to the monk’s side and found him severely wounded. Xavier reached the top of the stairs and turned to the nearest comm panel in engineering. She reported that Li had been found and was down. Chan ordered Li Ming and Cindy to assist, while William, Chan, and Marsh would finish the sweep of the patrol boat.

 

No sooner had the sweepers resumed the check of the patrol boat then they ran into trouble. The mad dash to assist Willis brought all five crew on the patrol boat near the midship galley. Since this part of the ship was the start point for the area not yet cleared, Chan, William and Marsh entered the galley. William turned right as Chan and Marsh turned left, they immediately spotted another of Li’s men attempting to hide near the back of the compartment. The man screamed, “I am death!” as he moved to fire, Marsh managed a single pistol shot that did not penetrate the man’s armor before having to dodge out of the way of a burst from the man’s assault rifle. Chan had a clear shot and pumped two bone-crushing rounds into the man’s chest. The armor absorbed the pellets, but the impact was enough to render the man completely senseless.

 

Cindy and Li Ming reached the infirmary of the ‘Ghost in time to find Xavier and Willis had carried the mortally wounded Li to the diagnostic table. A quick check by Cindy revealed the monk would require surgery to save and she was very reluctant to tie up the infirmary and herself on the man that was responsible for all the trouble with seven men still unaccounted. Chan reported in they had subdued another boarder, but that still left six men missing. Willis was heartsick at the thought of being wholly responsible for a human’s death, especially a monk, but he agreed with Cindy’s logic. She gave Li a painkiller and let him slip away.

 

Xavier and a shaky Willis returned to their work, while Cindy and Li Ming moved to stand guard at the main airlock to keep the ‘Ghost secured. The sweepers moved forward with greater caution. They had discovered a man in the infirmary of the patrol boat in a cryo-chamber. They would check into who he was as soon as they finished the search of the ship. On opening the conference room, they found another intruder. Chan was the point, and as she entered, a man opened fire. They exchanged a single shot, with Chan’s shot again slamming into the man’s sternum with enough force to crack the heavy bone and knock him out immediately. This man proved to be the last of either groups of crew to be found outside of the man in the patrol boat’s cryo-chamber.

 

Cindy met William in the infirmary as Chan and Marsh went to access the main computer of the Alliance ship. Marsh was able to access the ship’s log and discovered that a firefly class freighter entered their patrol area two days ago and did not respond to hails. An ASREV was launched to make a close scan finding the shuttles launched and the ship abandoned. The ASREV was able to dock and shut the freighter’s engines off. The ASREV returned to the patrol boat so the mother ship could dock with the derelict ship.  The XO reported a powerful jamming signal had suddenly erupted from the freighter and the commander reported raving mad men storming the ship. The engineer managed one last entry that the lunatics were spacing the crew, dead or alive that they found he was the only officer left and that the two other survivors were going to try to reach an ASREV. Cindy reported breathlessly as soon as she released the man in cryo, he had lunged at her screaming incoherently. It took both her and William to subdue the man. She ran a medscan and she believes she knows what happened to the world be hijackers. Preparing someone for long-term cryo-suspension requires careful medical supervision. The hijacker’s that managed to survive the sweep both showed signs of brain damage. This same condition existed in the Alliance officer. Cindy could only conjecture that the hijackers were put in cryo too quickly or with a completely unqualified medic. The Alliance officer seemed to have been deliberately subjected to improper cryo suspension. The three men were placed in the patrol boat’s recovery ward heavily medicated and in hard restraints.

 

At this point there was very little left to do except to regain control of the Ghost and head for Greenleaf. As Xavier and Willis worked, the rest of the crew carefully searched the hijackers to determine if they had anything of value. First off, Li had the rest of the 250 credits for the charter on his person. They captured six assault rifles with ten magazines, two pistols with five magazines, seven flashbang grenades, a signal blocker, two sets of lock picks, two sets of electronic lock picks, one mag charge, three optical bombs, one CAD board, and a tube of scrapper’s gel. This haul of equipment was more than enough to make the challenge to Philip Keystone a much more likely success.

 

An hour after the goods were stashed, Xavier reported the Aurora program was fully purged and that they had full control of all ship’s systems. She then went to the patrol boat and completely removed all records of the Lattimer’s Ghost from the patrol boat’s computer. (INT d12 roll 5, Hacking d12 + d4 roll 8 and 4, four plot points for a d8 roll 5, and one after roll plot point for a total of 23) leaving the Alliance with a mystery of how the boarders got onto their ship. Willis, still rattled by taking a life, was struggling to get the engine back on line. It took nine hours for the pulse drive to be fully functional.

 

Since Marsh had three hours to plot the best course to Greenleaf as soon as Willis reported he was ready, he executed a hard burn for Greenleaf and the long awaited meeting with their nemesis. The trip at hard burn was going to take six days and two days into the trip, Willis approached Chan to speak with her privately. Willis confessed his involvement with Li and how he staged the overload in the fusion plant. “I did not know why Li wanted to do this, but Li swore that the ship would be returned. Since Li was a monk and his request, at the time, did not seem to be unreasonable I agreed. I will depart the ship as soon as the business with Keystone was resolved, that is if I am allowed to remain that long.” Chan managed to keep her temper in check and said that “Recently, several of us, myself included have had to face up to our past. I can not condemn you for being duped by Li as he played his role as kindly monk far too well for you to take all the blame. However, your actions could have been a disaster for all of us. I did learn a lesson by judging Xavier too harshly, so I will not do the same to you. You are an honorable man Willis, so for the next six months you are restricted to your quarters, your place of duty, and the dining room. You will receive half pay during that same time. It goes without saying that if you choose your faith over this ship and me again, you will have to find a new home.” Willis gladly accepted his punishment and returned to tending his beloved engine room