``Funny how the dead cry far louder than the living could ever manage.''
- Norris Meridian, Strategos, 2352.223 AS
The provisional crew of the Hippocrates prepares to finish up what tasks it can before departing the Pierogi system. A few main areas are outlined as high priorities:
Pierogi Orbital Station
Squeezing into Janzur's transport wearing environment suits, a boarding party from the Hippocrates heads over to the ailing station. Dr. Symphony-Hayes takes this opportunity to demonstrate her latest invention, the Gravitic belt. It proves helpful in maneuvering in the zero G environment of the orbital station's docking spine. With a bit of swooshing about, Grimblemaury and the good doctor manage to get enough pull ropes strung through the docking area for the rest of the party to move over to the station. Due to the previous crash of the Sublime Xanthippe's ship, the docking spine is in vacuum.
On the station, people collect as many useful supplies as are around, but also work on repairing the station so that it might be as good a lifeboat for the next group to come along as it was for them. To this end, the orbital maintainance thrusters are refueled, and the atmosphere leak in Sensors/Communication is patched, the life support system is recharged, and the Sublime Xanthippe's space car is removed from its crash landing place in the docking spine.
While in the area of the station, the crew also takes that opportunity to salvage the engine unit from Xanthippe's space train. This and the car are placed into the Hippocrates' shuttle bay until the can be repaired. Meanwhile, the Exotic Dancer fares a bit better, as Grimblemaury manages to make it spaceworthy once more using supplies recovered from the station.
Also of interest is whatever records remained in the stations computer logs. Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot there as the computer was put into the minimal power mode along with everything else. Among the few remaining pieces of information in the computer are the fact that the station was shut down and essentially abandoned 140 years ago, and that the air leak in Sensors/Communication occurred 40 years ago.
The records of the last few days are a bit at odds with what the outworlders remember however, as the computer indicates that attempts to activate the Planetary Disaster Beacon were denied until someone with sufficient authority attempted it, while the outworlders are pretty sure that the attempts failed due to a circuit breach until it was repaired. These irregularities are mostly atrributed to the equipment malfunctions, and multiple operation by unskilled folks. In any case, the timing of events seems completely consistent with what people recall.
(A few days later, the docking spine itself is repaired with materials recovered from the planet.)
A fond farewell is wished to Pierogi Orbital Station.
Derelict Tarn Redliner
While Dr. Kye is all for bringing the redliner aboard immediately, most everyone else overrules him, lest the ship be set to explode, or have hostile aliens aboard. Max is unable to detect any life signs aboard, or any active tech, but does note some organic matter. Eva pilots the Hippocrates behind the redliner, and then she and Max remain aboard while Ruehan pilots the Elite's shuttle and everyone else (Anya, Sook, Maury, Voriig, and Dr. Symphony-Hayes) to the redliner's airlock.
From outside, Anya determines that the most dangerous possibility is that one of the party will accidentally shoot her from behind. She cycles the door open, and proceeds in. The ship initially appears completely dark and spartan, but as she nears a wall, it lights up with a display of some kind. The display does not appear to be dangerous, however.
Max confirms that some of the ship's technology has become more active. The rest of the group proceeds cautiously into the ship, leaving Ruehan on the Dancer in case a quick getaway is needed. More walls begin to light up as people pass them, and still nothing seems dangerous. Maury heads back to the engine section of hallway, while Anya continues forward. An alien is spotted; those with vivid imaginations can consider it a cross between an chitin-armored Koosh, a tarantula, and a Niven Puppeteer; it is a tangle of armored tentacles with hand/mouths at the end. The central core contains a number of shiny spots that could be sensory organs or something else entirely.
In any event, the creature does not appear to be moving, and (like everything else on the ship) doesn't seem to be dangerous. As Anya begins to investigate, Sook spots a panel lighting up all the way forward, where nobody has been yet. She calls out that there's a light up front, and Anya gets back in the front of the party just in time to see another alien, this one apparently alive, turn the corner with some sort of weapon in hand. Max, on sensors back in the Hippocrates, notes that there's a life sign showing up now that wasn't before.
Anya's danger sense warns her that the weapon is dangerous, but the creature isn't; that's somewhat unusual, in her experience. The alien shoots her, stunning her a bit and causing her to lose a die of precision of body. Anya starts throwing knives at it while others attempt to shoot it with blasters; between its natural armor and their unfamiliarity with zero-g (or blasters), progress is slow, but Grimblemaury teleports the alien's gun away before it can shoot again, leaving it hanging before him rather than risk touching it.
The alien screeches something (er, in vacuum?) that resonates along the walls, and heads for another wall in the forward section of the ship. It does something cryptic, causing the lights to react, and everyone holds, waiting to see what's happening (Anya still doesn't think it's dangerous). Then the wall lights at the rear of the ship shut off, and Sook shouts ``It's wiping the computer! Kill it!''
A storm of blaster fire later, they have; at least, the alien has fallen; Sook has done her best to keep the wall-computer she is near from crashing. With some thought to interrogating it, Ruehan and Sophia (the two potential xenobiologists) are summoned to try and keep it from dying. There is a bit of startlement when they proceed to start hacking it into pieces instead, but they explain that it was destroying itself and that if they wanted to save any bits for study, they needed to get the bits away from contact with the nervous system.
No further live aliens are discovered, and the ship is gently landed in the Hippocrates shuttle bay, where Voriig has gridded out an area labeled "Tarn Ship Here". The redline weapon is not functional, but can serve as the inspiration for a research project (Sophia signs on as the chief researcher); the gun is functional, and there is much argument over who is permitted to shoot who with it. Over Anya's objections (as she still suspects the gun of being Evil), Voriig contemplates the gun for a while. He reports that it belongs to ``the Tarn'' either jointly or generically; it's made from a bunch of not-too-arcane components, it's a neural disruptor stun weapon, and that it holds about ten charges. Apparently you should be able to feel how full it is, but he doesn't seem to be able to tell. The gun can also be the subject of a research project.
Dr. Kye announces that the language the Tarn use seems to be related to Standard (the precursor to Integral). Sook's investigation into the computer system indicates that Pierogi was the first planet that they located; they only have sublight travel and cloaking devices, not ``shimmerdrive''. The orders were to ``silence Pierogi'' once the planet was found.
Pierogi Capital City
Shopping lists in hand, the group takes the now-repaired Dancer down to the Pierogi spaceport. There are a number of automatic radio distress calls still active, but they are surprised when a grounded ship shoots at them; it also appears to have an automatic broadcast of ``Take that, you bastards!''. The Dancer being unarmed, Eva quickly peels up and away, coming back down out of range of the ship's guns and terrain-following back to close to the spaceport.
Landing with the palace somewhat between the Dancer and the spaceport the party splits up to make slightly more efficient use of the daylight. The small group, comprised of Sook and Grimblemaury head off to the spaceport to find what supplies they can and discover the source of the mysterious weapon fire. Arriving at the spaceport, Grimblemaury is a bit dismayed at the state of affairs there. There are two gravitic landing assistance modules, but one of them looks like it hasn't been used in years, and the other looked like it was mostly used to supply spare parts for the first one.
The field itself looks like pavement that has been retarred many many times. On it, are two ships fully upright, but with vast burn marks under them, as if they had fired their engines continuously at full power to no effect. There is also a thrid ship mostly on its side, with its bridge and forward sections smashed into the ground. Examining the two upright ships, they find some brief logs of recent events, including the attempt of the third ship to take off when it was hit by a redline beam in midair. One ship has its pilot at the helm, and his log indicates that he sent his crew to the Farseer after they burned all of their fuel, but he decided to stay with his ship and set the weapons to automatically blast any landing craft that attempted to take advantage of the initial attack of the invaders. The third crashed ship turns out to be the ship that carried Kith and her mentor here to Pierogi, preparing for another passenger run back to Creek. Unfortunately, they never go thte chance.
Examining the field, they discover the underground storage facility that keeps the fuel supplies for the port, and the directors office with lots of paper files containing arrival and departure logs, and an old navicomputer with the slowboat routes between the known outworlds. Grimblemaury outlines a complete salvage plan to extract the landing gear from one of the ships, and the weapons from all three. Also, various amounts of patching materials and replacement parts as available. Having outlined about 18 hours of work and carrying, Grimblemaury and Sook await contact from the rest of the party....
The others have proceeded to the Farseer's palace. As they head up the wide stairs towards the main doors, a portly gentleman in a shabby suit comes around the corner. "Hello hello! Isn't this a lovely day?" he greets them. Everyone makes somewhat bewildered and nervous small talk; Max's tricorder doesn't indicate that the gentleman exists at all, while Ruehan notes (and whispers to the others) that the gentleman doesn't have a mind, while there's something else around that does. Something large. This reminds him of the loa that Pierogi is said to have, powerful disembodied spirits, usually associated more with the tribes and wilders than the city-dwellers. This loa seems strangely broken, though, with shreds of personality and a very compelling insistence that Nothing Is Wrong.
There is some question as to whether the loa will object to the group looting the palace, so to start with, they proceed to Ruehan's quarters, where he acquires tapestries and paintings "to make his stateroom less spartan." The loa, now represented by two small girls with a ball, bounce on the bed and remark what a lovely day it is. One of the palace vehicles is liberated, keys taken from the steward's body, and Ruehan's accoutrements are loaded into it. A trunk of throwing knives belonging to the armsmen is similarly loaded. Eventually, someone wonders whether they will go into the Farseer's suite, and since the loa (a young woman who dances with Voriig and leaves a flower behind his ear) is still not objecting, they head to it.
The Farseer's body is in a chair by her bed; there are six letters on a table near to her hand, addressed to the six who traveled to the Orbital. Ruehan and Anya open theirs, and Ruehan takes the others to deliver. Also acquired are the Farseer's computer, her personal records, and a whole bunch of archival records: the few records of the second Farseer (there aren't any from the first Farseer, who doesn't seem to have used so much paper) and the third, other records from the Farseer of 140 years ago (Iurii Galakhtion), and records from the last Farseer. The Farseer's study also has a safe, which Max tries to open for a while, and Maury demonstrates that he can loot one piece at a time ("Oh, is that something of value? I thought it was just an emerald." - Sophia), but that proves tedious and then Sophia takes it apart with a blowtorch. The safe turns out to contain a bunch of gold inworld Asters and gems.
The two groups confer. Eva and Anya wrap all the bodies from the palace in linens and take them to the capital's cemetary. Others continue to provision from the city: anything that looks like a plant from the apothecary's, anything that looks alive from the florist's, dry goods and vegetables, changes of clothing, various paintings and Interesting Artifacts from the art museum, crates of trading spices and liquors from local warehouses... At this point, there's too much to fit in the Dancer along with everyone else, so things are loaded into one of the larger ships and the group heads back to the Hippocrates for the night. While the cheerful people talking about the weather ("it's always a lovely day on Pierogi") haven't caused any trouble yet, nobody wants to see if they will turn Evil after dark or not.
Back up on the ship, supplies are unloaded, and people get some rest. Grimblemaury starts the repairs ont eh landing gear and manages to get it attached. He's not really happy with the job though. It appears to be sufficient to land on on either a low G world, or with a very skillful landing, so it'll probably suffice until he can try again with better facilities.
The next day, they return to the planet to gather the remaining supplies and prepare to depart the Pierogi system. As they clean up loose ends, Dr. Symphony-Hayes gets started on the development of a defense to redline technology and enlists the aid of several others of the crew. The letters picked up on the planet are delivered to their outworld recipients and several people retire to the pods with the initial symptoms of Kaufman Degeneration. It is there that they will be spending the trip to Crux...