Following the debris trail and adjusting the headings based upon Marcus’ calculations, the Break found the derelict 9 days out of Whittier. From a 100m standoff position, the crew hit their lights and examined what they had found.
The freighter was in very bad shape. From the looks of it, it had taken a large meteor strike to the stern, tearing away most of engineering and the aft compartments and sending the ship veering off into the black. The cargo area was riddled with smaller holes, also from meteor activity, which made the crew wonder if the cargo was intact. However, the most unusual thing about the derelict is that it wasn’t one ship, but two. The freighter had apparently t-crashed into another vessel, one that the crew did not recognize.
Gale shifted the Break about, keeping the distance but putting the lights on the smaller vessel, which appeared to be a pinnace or yacht of some kind, but of no make or model he (or anyone else) had seen before. The ship was scored by numerous laser and missile strikes and appeared to be armed, with 4 missile hardpoints visible from the side. Also visible was a crest of some kind, like a seal or shield, but again nothing the crew had seen before. Unwilling to query the ‘tex and possibly give away their position, they called the crew to the bridge to see if anyone knew. After a moment’s inspection, Hart recited something he remembered from a history book he’d read, long ago. The seal was the from the house of Shan Yu, the first emperor of the ‘Verse, when the people came from Earth-that-was and began colonizing, who ruled with an iron fist. The ship itself was the Ever Victorious, the personal frigate of Zhang Kaiping, the Shang Yu’s viceroy.
A great deal of discussion began among the crew as artifacts from the Shang Yu dynasty would be priceless beyond measure, but the emperor was also known to be paranoid to the extreme, which meant the vessel was very likely booby trapped. After weighing the options, it was decided that the cargo from the freighter would be loaded first, to secure the known quantity, before exploring the pinnace.
Gale navigated the Break back around to the side of the freighter, still keeping the 100m distance. Gale, Hart and Marcus jumped over to the ship, setting a tether line up between the ships. They sorted through the cargo hold, disposing of things too damaged to be of any value, and secured the valuable cargo, with Hart setting aside a few pieces to reserve for the Break’s labs. While Mikki and Hart sorted, Marcus and Gale explored the freighter. The bow was crushed in, collapsing the bridge and all forward cabins, and the aft was torn free and missing. Apart from the cargo, the ship had little to offer in the way of booty, though there was a great deal of discussion in fixing the freighter’s cargo bay and turning it into a botanical garden, for the Break’s alternative income strategies.
Once Gale and Marcus had determined the ship was safe, they returned to the Break, Gale turned it around, backed it up to the freighter and they began moving cargo over and securing it. As convenient as it would have been to charge up the freighter’s grav plates to help with the loading, Mikki was positive that, even if the fractured grid could be made to hold power, it would pull so much it’d kill the Break, so everything had to be done in 0-g, which took several hours.
Once all the cargo was secured, Gale and Marcus suited up and began exploring the other ship, from the outside, without actually stepping onto it. The damage was total, to both ships. The freighter’s bridge was collapsed, and the pinnace’s back was broken, so no amount of repairing would ever make either ship spaceworthy again. Marcus searched about for traps or other security systems but found none, so the pair made their way to the airlock. With no power, the locks had to be cycled by hand, both outer and inner, and, as expected, no atmosphere was found within.
Stepping into the ship, they found themselves in a corridor with the bridge to the right, cabin doors immediately around them, and a dark open area to their left. Moving slowly and carefully, with Butch looking for triggers and traps, the trio moved into the bridge and began looking around. Everything was dark, the only light coming from their own suits. While old, Gale and Marcus had a fair understanding of which controls were which. The technology may have changed, but the human pilots still have the same needs and physical limitations. Two bodies were found in their seats, in strange uniforms but no other equipment, though they did have empty holsters, which indicated their weapons were around somewhere.
Concerned there might be a biological hazard, Gale took the bodies, after removing their clothing, back to the ship and deposited them in sickbay, asking Hart to determine if they were dangerous. Hart, pleased that Gale had bypassed all possible decontamination protocols and endangered the entire aft portion of the ship to whatever contagion Gale suspected might be there, complied politely, and Gale returned to the pinnace.
Marcus slowly and carefully began removing panels and exploring the insides, without touching or changing anything. While the outsides were somewhat understandable, the insides were quite a mystery, with large cables going every which way and nothing being where he expected it to be. He did determine that, with an external power source, he might be able to provide power to the computer and see what it knew, so he called for Mikki to come over and bring a charger. Shylock asked Butch to tag along for security reasons, so Butch suited up and tagged along with the little engineer over to the pinnace.
Marcus and Mikki focused on the consoles while Gale and Butch carefully explored the cabins immediately behind the bridge. After validating the cabins were empty, they opened them and began exploring. In addition to the normal things one would find in a crew cabin, the pair found pieces of art, including paintings and small sculptures, as well as an Earth-that-was forged katana. At the word “art”, Shylock pulled on his helmet and gloves and scurries over to the pinnace.
Finishing exploring the cabins, Butch stepped into the larger area, which turned out to be a meeting room and contained 4 security robots, obviously designed to repel boarders, secured in their containers. Butch commented on their age and how obsolete they were, but as antiques they’d be priceless. Gale and Butch continued past the meeting room and found a hallway with an ornate door on the right. Checking carefully for traps, they opened it and found it to be Zhang’s personal cabin, with a significant amount of art, antique clothing, his personal firearm and journal.
On the bridge, Marcus and Mikki had found the contacts for power and applied just enough juice to bring the console online, just as Shylock is stepping onto the ship. Unfortunately, the addition of power allowed a logic loop the computer was stuck in as it powered down, due to damage, to release, and the following message is displayed on the dusty screen:
“With Yu dead, I must save my Yo Chr before his Chwen son thinks to use them as his father did. Merciful Buddha, I know I have served a monster, but even if only for the sake of my children let me zzzzzzzzzzz Nuclear detonation sequence initiated, countdown T-minus five minutes.”
A weak claxon went off and quietly began counting down, and a small sliding drawer on the bridge was dislodged, exposing an ancient data disk. Marcus grabbed the disk and Shylock ordered Butch to grab as much art as he can, Gale and Shylock do the same, and the crew hurried back to the Break. The moment the docking bay doors closed, Lindsay hit the thrusters and the Break pulled rapidly away from the intertwined derelicts. A few minutes later both vanished in the flare of several multi-ton nuclear warheads.
The following day, Hart explained that the bodies were just bodies, with no pathogenic threats, discarded them and, with the Capt’s permission, took the medical gear he wanted from the cargo, installed it into his labs, removed the logos, and discarded the containers into space. Marcus examined the data disc he’d found, but given it was several hundred years old and none of the equipment needed to read it was on board the ship. He explained this to the crew and they decided it was likely they could find something in the old wrecks at Ita.
With no further excitement, the Break pulled into Ita and docked with Owens Salvage. Owens was very excited to see them and even more so when they turned out to have cargo. His guys unloaded it and Owens got an account number from Shylock for him to deposit their 50% into, and then gave them run of the yard. The Break slowed pulled between the wrecks, finding a piece here and there that they needed to take care, repair damage, tune things up, etc. The turbo pulse was fixed and spares were added and an entire shuttle was found, combining pieces between 3 hulks, bringing the Break back up to 2 working shuttles.
Determining it was safe, Ivy was allowed to suit up (in an ill-fitting suit) and go explore the wreckage, tethered very tightly to Lindsay. On an old passenger liner, Ivy suddenly became very focused on something and drug Lindsay through a few halls and into a large storage area filled with debris. She headed to one corner and began rummaging, surfacing with a bright red plastic hammer-like tool. Bringing it back to the ship, Shylock noted it was very similar to artifacts he was collecting, and upon commenting on it was told by Ivy that she could “hear” it. Shylock invited Ivy and Lindsay into his cabin, but Ivy seemed agitated, and when he opened his shielded case of trinkets, she seemed very uncomfortable. When asked, she said it was “loud”, so Lindsay sent her to the bridge for Gale to babysit while she and Shylock sat and he explained his relationship with his “trinkets”.
A few days into searching the yard, the crew discovered a very old vessel, and upon exploration found a very old disc drive that would read the disk. Marcus brought it aboard, powered it up, and began exploring the disc. It was very corrupted from damage, but some pieces were retrievable.
The disc was Zhang’s personal log of sorts. Since it was a personal log, most of the commentary was about his all too infrequent visits with his children and very little about the events of the Shan Yu court. However, the disc did contain conclusive proof that Shan Yu’s sanctuary was real and once held directions to find the long lost Hidden City; unfortunately the coordinates were too damaged to read, but they learn Zhang was going to activate the self destruct to cover his escape via long range shuttle. He wasn’t sure if he would make it, but hoped that his wife would find the clues in the map hidden in the Buddha of the central temple that would point the way if he failed. The disc however, doesn’t indicate to which temple Zhang is referring.
Shylock did some searches on the Cortex for Buddhist temples over 200 years old and finds that the only one remaining from that era is the Xiuhua Temple, located in the Herning province on Sihnon, which was the birthplace of Shan Yu and once the center of his regime, but had become a quiet, backwater area. Landing on Sihnon would be very difficult, restricted to those on Alliance business and people on pilgrimages, so Shylock began forging pilgrim credentials for the ship and crew while they decided what to do next. It was decided that it would be suspicious to go directly from Ita to Sihnon, so Shylock put energy into trying to find a cargo run into the Core, giving them a legitimate reason to be there.
The next day, Gale returned from searching a derelict, walked onto the bridge, and found someone sitting in his chair, a rather lithe young woman with auburn hair, pulled back in a pony tail, and a black “cat suit” (for lack of a better description). Gale instantly drew his weapons on her and called for the Capt, and the young woman smiled, raised her hands, and greeted him cheerfully. Lindsay arrived on the bridge and immediately recognized the woman as Alyson, the journalist they’d last seen being led away by the Alliance over Bhima. Lindsay asked Gale to put his guns away and invited Alyson to the common room, which was great because she indicated the primary reason she came by was for the coffee.
Orchid (which she explained was her real name) curled up on the counter (obviously very comfortable in her cover ops suit, which Marcus later explained to the crew what it was), savored her coffee, and answered the obvious questions of why she was still alive and why she was here. She went on the mission to Bhima with the foreknowledge that it was a 1-way trip, but they needed the story to get out. She was locked in her cell, fully expecting to have horrible things done to her, but happy she’d gotten her report out. Several hours later, someone ran up to her cell, screamed, and exploded against the door, in the same manner the Alliance had on Bhima. Terrified, she sat in the cell for many more hours, fearing the same thing would happen to her, but it did not. After awhile, curiosity exceeded fear and she escaped her cell (when asked how, she explained that magicians do not reveal their secrets) and went exploring.
Everyone but her was dead, on both ships. She went to the bridge, sent a call to her father, hacked every computer she could find and gathered all the data she could. A few days later the ship received a long-ranged call from an incoming Alliance ship, asking for status. Her father arrived, they slipped away and watched the proceedings from a safe distance. The Alliance cruiser (one of the big city ships) entered the system, perhaps accessed logs and such on the 2 cruisers, bombarded them into oblivion, and rained missiles on the planet, carpet-bombing the entire region around the settlement. Her father and her slipped away and she put her vid on the ’net.
She then explained that she wanted to come by, make sure the crew was OK, thank them for the help, and find out what they had done to the cruisers. Lindsay answered that the crew had done nothing, though she might want to talk to Hart as he might know more. Gale rather vehemently asked how she found them, Orchid winked at Marcus and repeated her “magician’s don’t reveal their secrets” comment, much to Gale’s chagrin.
Ivy walked in at this time, wondering why everyone was in the common room, turned and seemed to notice Ivy for the first time, was very startled, and ran to hide in Lindsay’s jacket. Orchid found it fascinating, then explained to Lindsay that someone was after the child with a vengeance. She didn’t know who or why, it wasn’t formal alliance, but whomever they were they were seriously funded and unscrupulous. She wished the crew good luck, kissed Marcus on the forehead, and made her way up the dorsal airlock to her ship, securing the locks after she left.
The next day, Shylock got a hit on a good cargo run, taking wine from Beylix to Gonghe, and for almost 20 points profit. Everything else handled in the yard, the Break made its way to Beylix. They arrived and touched down uneventfully, and Marcus vanished from the ship as if he were camped on the airlock, disappearing into the gambling dens of the city for a night of highly successful play.
Since the cargo would not arrive until the next day, Lindsay decided there was time to party, so with Shylock and Butch in tow, the crew headed out into the night, leaving Hart and Mikki to babysit Ivy. Unfortunately, Lindsay’s luck was not quite as good as Marcus’.
As Lindsay walked into the first club, a highly popular and upper-tier entertainment spot, a gentleman to her right asked in a startled voice, “Lyrette?!” Lindsay turned quickly at hearing her actual name and came face to face with Dan Houser, the right hand man of Clayton Yearsley, her old fiancé, and a pair of his bodyguards. Lindsay being startled, Gale reached for his guns, which had Dan’s guards reaching for theirs, the entire situation became tense, and Shylock’s guts became even more tense.
Lindsay tried to calm Gale, who put moved his hands away a little, stepped up to Dan and introduced herself as Karen, and Dan responded politely that her ex-fiancé was VERY distraught and had been sparing no expense in finding her, though he certainly hadn’t expected her to show up in a club he owned, and he would be very happy to see her again. Lindsay explained that that wasn’t possible, and Dan made it clear it wasn’t a question, taking her by the arm and causing Gale to reach for his guns again, which in turn caused the bodyguards to do the same, and all of Shylock’s sphincter’s tightened up a little more.
Shylock quietly whispered to Butch to do something, which prompted Butch to ask what his priorities were. Shylock explained that the Capt needed to be extricated, so Butch told Shylock to head towards the door. The moment his back was turned, Butch dropped a flashbang in the center of the situation, blinding everyone but Butch and Shylock. Butched stepped forward, scooped the Capt up over his shoulder and bolted for the door, shoving Shylock ahead of him through the crowd at the entrance as the club behind him burst into screams and shouts.
Gale, not aware what was happening, jumped forward and punched someone in the face, then turned and bolted for where he remembered the door to be. Butch ran quickly with his burden for 3 blocks, darted into an alley, deposited Lindsay and Shylock, and back out into the street for Gale, returning with him shortly. They trio huddled down in the alley for a few minutes to make sure there was no immediate pursuit, then took filthy alleys back to the ship. Bright and early the next morning, Marcus drifted in smiling and sleepy to find Lindsay sitting in the common room, awake and less-than-smiling.
Later that day the wine arrived, along with a nervous shipper, who fidgeted over the loading to make sure it was done carefully. Gale, being a fairly memorable character, remained in the hold while the customer’s stevedores brought the crates in for him to load. Shylock remained outside, comforting the customer, when a pair of suited gentlemen arrived at the entrance and looked over the posted manifest for the ship and cargo. After a few minutes, they approached Shylock and asked for a few minutes of his time, showing him an old picture of Lindsay (with different hair) and a spot-on artists rendition of Gale, asking if he’d seen either of them. Shylock explained he had not, and they courteously went on their way, but Butch pointed out he could see a “peeper” across the street watching the site, and suggested Gale remain inside.
The cargo was loaded without issue, the ship lifted off and, for the first time, headed Core-ward, towards the center of Alliance power in the ’Verse.