The run to the core was a long one, 9 days in the deep black. As the Hephaestus travelled through the darkness, Gale received a mail that had been dropped off at one of his dirt-side boxes. It was a video message from a young boy, perhaps 12, who addressed him as Mr Gale. Apparently the young lad’s mother, who he said was a former Capt of Gale’s, had found herself in a bit of trouble. Accused of smuggling (which the lad insists was untrue, though Gale knew better), the woman had been rail roaded through the legal system and deposited onto the hellhole known as Di Yu, the Alliance penitentiary, for life. The boy’s name was Miles and the mother’s was Elizabeth “Betsy” Martin. The boy was on Beaumonde, hoping to hear from “Mr Gale”.
Life on the ship puttered along domestically, with the passengers spending days in the lounge while Clair waited on them and saw to their needs and Hart cooked for them and led matins at morning and noon. Sariah spent her time in the lounge playing her instrument and singing and socializing with the Capt and Clair. Carlton spent his time working on his upgrade list, putting the finishing touches on Carl’s gun position and the doors into the lounge. Overall a quiet trip into the Core.
As they neared the Halo, the Capt began sending out calls to various vendors to find the best prices for her ore, and snagged an outstanding deal with one Barton Zertram on Persephone. As the ship passed through the Halo and into the Core, they noticed a few things. First, there was a significant Alliance presence here, again far more than normal. Additionally, all the Alliance Naval channels had gone dark, indicating they were in operations mode, versus domestic…something was going on, and Abe was unable to find out what, without making his attentions known, at least while sitting there surrounded by Naval ships.
Entering orbit, the Capt contacted Zertram and finished the negotiations. He was so impressed by her charm and professionalism that he waived the docking fees, set them up with a private place to land, helped them clear inspection quickly and invited her crew to dinner with him that evening to celebrate the closing of the deal. The ship shook its way to the ground and Zertram’s men started unloading the ore (estimating it will take 2-3 days to move it all). The crew debarked to go their various ways, with the Weathers (the family of passengers) thanking the crew for a safe journey and heading off into the city. Abe called his contact on the planet regarding the computer on the “black rock” and got additional information, paying him the agreed upon half up front and being given the cords to the rock, deep in the Motherlode field. The contact was very evasive and agitated, but assured Abe that the info was legit and if it wasn’t he’d refund the money, then hung up.
The Capt, Gale, Abe, Markus, Carl and Sariah head to Zertram’s party, climbing into his limo with him. En route, Gale rather casually asks the Capt what she knew about jailbreaks, in front of Zertram and his men. Sariah made it clear to Carl he stood no chance, but she did do him the favor of being his wingman. With her assistance, Carl was able to attract the attention and affection of the restaurant manager, Katherine Baker (who happily accepted Carl’s “Kitty” nickname). During dinner, he did the same thing, and in both cases the Capt politely deferred the question to be discussed later. The Capt and Zertram negotiated out a 5 shipment deal at the same prices, with the option to discuss further deals as time progressed. He explained that the Alliance had dumped a number of contracts on local defense vendors for munitions but couldn’t promise how long it would last, but as long as they needed the ore, he’d buy it from the crew.
Once the dinner was over and the crew returned to the ship, Markus bolted to gamble (doing very well), Carl headed out to hook up with Kitty, and the Capt confronted Gale about this “jailbreak nonsense”. Gale explained the situation and after going over the details, the Capt agreed to help, but offered a more above board approach, as the evidence and process of conviction was filled with holes and she felt she could get it over turned relatively easily. The Capt committed to heading to Aberdeen to look over the trial info as soon as they were in the area. She then got dressed up and went out upon the town, where she ran into Javier, who was on planet to catch the Poker Ship, a floating tournament on a privately-owned luxury liner. The two of them spent the evening together and had a marvelous time, dancing and partying, ending up in her quarters back on the ship.
Markus, out on his prowl, ran across a group of up-and-coming gamblers who were there to earn their stake for the Poker tournament. He fleeced them like a shepherd (and not the good kind), ruining many of their chances to get into the tourney and earning more than a couple of grudges. He walked in with 10k and walked out with 150k credits, having handed out most of his cards as mementoes of their loss. Several would-be tournament goers left with hard feelings and Markus drug himself back onto the ship in the wee hours of the morning and rolled around on his bed in cash, falling asleep contentedly.
The following morning, Javier departed early, leaving a note with Abe to let the Capt know he’d be back later that evening, but not before seeding the Capt’s cabin with her favorite flower, hiding them in odd places for her to find later. She awoke to both his smell and that of the flowers and went to the lounge to receive Abe’s relaying Javier’s message and for a cup of coffee. It was at this time that the door chime rang. The Capt went downstairs, in her nightgown and flimsy robe, and met with Sly Weathers, talent scout and agent (according to his card), who was there with a business proposition. The Capt escorted him aboard (with him enjoying the view as he climbed the stairs behind her) and the group sat in the lounge while he gave his pitch.
He was the representative of a band, named Trainwreck, that had been doing very well on Persephone and had attracted the attention of Volara Productions on Sihnon, but Volara was requiring that they prove themselves on the road and show that they could handle the travel and were not just a flash in the pan on a single planet. Sly explained he’d pay passage for them and their 50 tons of gear, with the roadies camping out in the cargo bay with the equipment. The band needed to make it to Sihnon, and when the Capt explained they’re making a stop on Valentine, Sly said that they should perform there as well and will cut the crew in on a cut of the take. The Capt agreed, Sly paid half up front and told the Capt they’ll show up later in the day, as they had a show in the afternoon.
Later in the day, the ore was completely unloaded and a group of unsavory individuals arrived at the ship, looking like a pack of road warriors from an old post-apocalyptic movie. When approached, their leader introduced himself as Steven Aspers, the lead singer of Trainwreck. The others were Bash, their lead guitar, Maynard Krell, the bass player, and Rico Suave (real name Richard Smith) the drummer, along with assorted roadies and gear. Gale and Carl supervised their loading and the ship was ready to take off, but the Capt delayed, much to Gale’s chagrin. Just about the time when the Capt was going to give up waiting, the door chimed and she ran down the steps to the door to find Javier there, smiling up at her. He apologized for having to leave, thanked her for a spectacular evening, kissed her hand and bid her farewell. She wished him good luck in the tourney and as the ship rattled into space, put bets on Javier to do well in the tourney.
Shortly after leaving atmosphere, the band gathered their gear, set up in the lounge, and started playing their music, startling Abe who thought the ship was crashing back onto the planet from the cacophony. Trainwreck’s dulcet tones filled the lounge, sending all the passengers and crew fleeing to their cabins but one…Mikki shuffled out of her cabin, wrapped in robes and bandages, curled up on the sofa and quietly smiled tears of pure joy. As the band took a break they came and hung out with her, asking her what was up. She told them her tale and they were so enraptured that, on the spot, they composed the tune “Reaver Chick” in her honour. Granted, it sounded like every other song they played but apparently Mikki could tell the difference as she was beside herself with happiness. They also wrote “Gun Toting Madman” about Carl and “Crashing Without Hitting the Ground” for Gale’s atmo piloting skills…again, all sounding pretty much the same, like someone took the instruments and threw them down 3 flights of stairs, but apparently that’s how it was supposed to sound.
The ship touched down on Valentine, Jarl Kinly departed the ship (happily), and the band and roadies hurried out to get set up for the concert they’d scheduled en route. Carl went along to help and found himself backstage, surrounded by crazy groupies who were all over him because he was “with the band”. He held “tryouts” with them to see which got to come back to the ship with the band, selecting 5 from the group to follow the band back to the ship. After the concert, back at the ship, Carl retired to his cabin, exhausted and the girls fall in with the band in the lounge, raising all manner of raucous. Everyone returned to their cabins or berths and hid.
In the morning, the crew awakens to find the lounge empty and breakfast served. The Capt, concerned that the band was gone, peeks in their rooms and found them sleeping, albeit unnaturally, considered that “OK” and the ship took off for the black. A bit later, Carl asked what happened to the girls and found out that Hart had them sent home by cab. En route to Sihnon, Abe did some polite queries into the terraforming gear Brian was seeking, but in each of the three places that sell it, there were very complex and dangerous monitors on accessing the information, monitors that Abe was not certain he wanted to mess with, so he told the Capt and they set that aside for now. On the way to Sihnon, the crew does a bit more work on the ship, installing camera feeds for the cargo bay and lounge.
Well outside the orbital perimeter of Sihnon’s moons, the crew is met by an Alliance marine convoy, consisting of 2 corvettes and a cruiser, ordering them to stand-to for inspection. Instead of the normal naval inspection crew, the ship was boarded by a trio of armored marines, led by a Major Curon, who inspected the ship and asked them their business. Once the inspection was concluded the marines then escorted the ship all the way to Sihnon orbit. The Hephaestus landed and the crew bid farewell to Trainwreck and Sariah, the latter having given tearful goodbyes to both the Capt and Clair and made her way home. As the roadies unloaded the band’s gear, Carl bolted from the ship to make a run for the Sihnon Wal-Mart, having never see one so classy. He made it back just in time for the ship to depart, the crew not wanting to spend any more time there then absolutely necessary.
The ship pulled out of Sihnon orbit, making a course for Bernadette, and were hailed again and asked their business going deeper into the Core system. They explained they were on a pilgrimage to Bernadette. They received a naval escort all the way there, where Gale and Carl hopped a shuttle, went planetside, picked up the translated journal, and departed again. They were escorted as far as Sihnon when the escort broke formation, leaving them free and clear to navigate and they made their way out of the Core to Abe’s black rock in the Motherlode. As the ship passed out of the Halo, they encountered 4 Alliance vessels, frigates, coming inbound from the border worlds, showing a great deal of damage. The ships did not change course, nor did the Hephaestus, though Gale did rather intensely suggest we should “close and finish them off”, though the rest of the crew quickly vetoed the idea. Abe hit the ’tex and found it to be notoriously empty of news about this until he found a small, local story about the “Battle of Aesir”. Apparently the planet had been attacked and taken by an “unknown independent faction”, though no further details were available. Further research had shown that the Communications Stations were running in military mode and all traffic was being reviewed. This concerned Abe because this level of security was (supposedly) reserved for martial law.
Eventually the Hephaestus found its way into the Motherlode asteroid field and began hunting down Abe’s rock. As they reached the coordinates, Markus found nothing on scanners at all. Doing a bit of digging, Abe determined that it wasn’t that Markus wasn’t finding anything, it was that he was finding nothing at all, because that’s what was being projected on his sensors. Shortly after realizing this, the weapons lock indicator on Markus’ console it up, indicating someone (or something) had a target lock on the Hephaestus.