Serenity: Those Who Stare into the Black....

Game 05: Diversions

Diversions, pleasant and unpleasant, occupy our crew

Friday, 22 Sep 2519
Mid bulk Freighter Space Otter
Spaceport, Greenleaf
Red Sun (Que Zhe) System
Evening

In the couple of hours before dinner, Oksana is cooking in the galley in anticipation of our guests. She’s got some cooking experience and the ship’s computer library for recipe ideas. She decides that going simple is best: steaks, corn on the cob, potatoes, fresh veggies from our garden bunks. The Captain breaks out a luxury food ration to cover the more expensive items, including the chocolate cake for dessert.

Note: Real cocoa powder is 50 credits per ounce. A chocolate truffle half the size of a ping pong ball is 100 credits. So that chocolate cake is a pretty big deal.

Meanwhile, Allyne Stone tries to find extra cargo to fill up the little empty spaces in our cargo hold, but no luck.

Mal’s crew arrives shortly thereafter and Allyn greets them, taking them up the stairs to save them a claustrophobic trip up the lifts. Even though the lifts are ten feet square, with all of Mal’s crew it would have been a tight squeeze.

Oksana has set out the sideboard in the crew lounge with bottled alcohol and all the fixings for drinks, along with the usual bar nibbles. Allyne plays bartender and after everyone’s got their libation of choice in hand, Mal questions him about Oksana.

What side of the war was she on? Allyne admits he didn’t specifically ask but given what he’s been able to figure out for himself, she was on the Independent side. Well, she’s made my doctor uncomfortable, Mal admits. Allyne assures him that while Oksana’s people skills might be lacking, her heart is in the right place and she’s a damned good doctor. She’s good people.

Mal sees Verity walk in and hails her gladly: “Verry! Mei-mei! How’s Patches?”

Verity tells him that Patches passed away two years ago. Mal sobers. How did he go? he asks. Fighting or grappling? Verity tells him that Patches went the way he wanted. Mal nods at the news and tells her that if her crew doesn’t treat her right, she’s got a guaranteed place on Serenity. Verity assures him that she’s treated very well aboard Space Otter. Mal lets the matter drop with the request that she’ll keep in touch with him.

River greets Verity and after a couple of words, skips off to see Xiu. Engineering techobabble ensues.

Seating arrangements get figured out over the course of the drinks and greetings. Both captains sit at either end of the table and the rest of the crews take the spaces between as they wish. Dinner hits the table in due time and Mal’s eyes widen.

However did they get this bounty? he asks.

Allyne tells him. He’s got garden bunks and such. Among other things, he used to be a fixer. As a result he’s got contacts.

How’d he get this ship? Mal’s never seen anything like it.

Allyne launches into the tale of how he acquired it. The Otter’s an experimental prototype that didn’t quite make the grade with its intended owner. It was supposed to be decommissioned and scrapped but instead it was put on the auction block. Remember his contacts as a fixer? Well sir, that got him the word in time to make it to the three a.m. auction and put in his bid. His bid won.

Oh, good catch. Very nice. Mal goes on to coordinate with Allyne our trip to Harvest. They decide on which channel to use if we need to talk over the airwaves and Mal stresses that he’s parked only three berths down from us if we need him for anything.

Allyne asks him if he knows anything on the downlow about the shipment we’re all carrying. Mal has nothing on it or the company that it’s from. We haven’t anything either. So far, it looks pretty above board.

Throughout the dinner, River babbles on this and that. Simon is watching what she says like a hawk and whenever his sister strays into topics that might be too sensitive, he squelches it. River gets annoyed by his overprotective behavior. Simon is too painfully aware of Oksana sitting at the table with them and obviously doesn’t want the other doctor learning anything more about his sister. Jayne is deeply appreciative of the food, eating heartily without apologies. Zoe is her usual quiet self, with a touch of the stoic about her. It’s been only about a year since the death of her beloved Wash and Mal runs interference for her if the topics get too close to piloting and flying.

Dinner ends with full bellies and cargo holds waiting to be loaded—the shipment’s finally arrived. Time to get back to work.

On their way out, Simon and River are taken aside by Xiu. She thanks them both for engineering River’s escape. It gave the rest of the students at the Academy hope that they could someday escape themselves. It certainly gave Xiu hope and she didn’t want them to leave before she could thank them.

Mal overhears this and murmurs to Allyne his sympathies: if Xiu is anything like River, Mal knows Allyne has his hands full.

Conversations get wrapped up as our passengers who’ve booked passage for Harvest arrive. Oksana excuses herself to get them settled in her capacity as Ship’s Steward. And as the rest of the crew are escorting our guests through the cargo hold, they hear a ruckus outside. It’s a man yelling and screaming at one of the company reps delivering our cargo. He claims to have business with our crew.

We recognize him as the inspector who tried picking up Verity for drinks. He’s found our ship and he’s here to claim his date. Of course, Verity has gone back to the bridge and she’s listening to this over our PA and this just makes her laugh her butt off.

And somehow in the middle of her hilarity, she hits the button for the all-ship PA and her laughter rings out across all decks … including the cargo bay where the guy is standing.

Well, sir, that just deflates his male ego right flat.

Oksana excuses herself from our passengers and checks on Verity on the bridge. Is she okay? What is going on? Verity slaps the PA off and explains. Amused, Oksana watches the man from the bridge windows and remarks that there is only a one-letter difference between “laughter” and “slaughter” and apparently Verity’s managed to do both. Then Oksana goes back to her passengers.

We send the inspector on his way and Mal’s crew goes back to Serenity to oversee the loading of cargo. We get word that their ship is inspected during loading. We aren’t.

Hmm…

Oksana’s settled the passengers successfully and finds out that the family is the only party that has cargo that needs stowing. She goes to Allyne and gets permission to have them stow it in one of the cargo lockers in the cargo deck. She advises that they should escort the passengers if they need to get anything from their locker once the ship is in transit. Cargo has this habit of shifting and the dangers of getting hit by falling cargo is real enough to warrant extra care.

Allyne agrees and leaves to file his flight plan to Harvest with the proper authorities. We’re scheduled to take off first, with Serenity following us once we’re in atmo.

The moment arrives and we take off. It’s smooth as silk, thanks to Verity’s skill and Oksana remarks she can’t even feel us moving. It’s that smooth.

We pretty much settle into our in-transit routines. Oksana takes care of the passengers, seeing to their needs, explaining the schedule for meals and the escort rules for the cargo bay. Xiu busies herself working on the gatling gun and devising plans for a clockwork/friction mechanical otter. She plans to put it in the Captain’s Jacuzzi when it’s done.

Saturday, 23 Sept 2519
En route to Harvest

It’s an uneventful day. Everything goes peacefully.

Sunday, 24 Sept 2519
En route to Harvest

The family of four has two rambunctious kids and Oksana finds ways to entertain them. She anticipates their energy will have them waking first and so she’s ready with their breakfast in the lounge and activities to keep them occupied while she serves their parents breakfast in bed in their cabin. A chance for a meal and peace and quiet is appreciated by the grown-ups.

Our other passenger is taciturn and keeps to himself. He’s a bit like Jayne that way. Oksana’s duty as Steward is not to intrude but to make his journey to Harvest a pleasant one. She makes sure he has what he needs in terms of meals and such and leaves him his privacy.

Toward the middle of the day, Verity and Allyne notice that Serenity starts slowing down and falling behind on our sensors. They hail her and she doesn’t answer. We slow down to allow Serenity to catch up. Serenity comes to a full stop.

Not good.

We sweep her with our sensors and the results come back: her life support, her engines … everything’s shut down. She’s running dark. Xiu tells her captain that the Alliance and Reavers are the only thing Serenity would run dark for.

Definitely not good.

Allyne has Verity turn the Otter around and do a fly by. There are no signs of life and no signs of damage either. What happened to the ship? What stopped her dead in space?

There being nothing for it, we park alongside Serenity and suit up to knock on her door. Verity will stay on the bridge. Oksana goes to the passengers to explain that we’ve stopped to render assistance to Serenity and for their safety they should stay locked in their quarters.

Allyne chooses Oksana and Xiu to go with him. Oksana is a doctor who can patch up the people and Xiu is an engineer who can patch up the ship. Oksana takes her pistol with her. Allyne takes his sniper rifle. Xiu takes her usual suspects—tools and such. Oksana also takes her medical bag, just in case.

Everyone makes it to the top hull hatch on Serenity without mishap. Allyne cycles through first and goes through the outer and inner hatches in turn. He comes down the ladder into Serenity, right at the top of the foredeck stairs, just aft of the foredeck corridor where the crew quarters lay. To his immediate left are the stairs going down to the cargo hold one deck below. Ahead lies the foredeck corridor running left to right, with the crew lounge and galley to the left and the quarters to the right.

That’s all the time he has to observe before he hears shots ringing out on the deck below.

Shit!

He comms Oksana and warns her that she’s coming into a potentially hot situation. She comes through anyway and Xiu follows her. Once they’re all gathered together, Allyne cautiously checks the crew quarters—they’re all locked tight—and the bridge. The bridge door has been welded shut. There’s no getting past it without cutting it free.

Shots ring out again and there’s no ignoring it. There’s something going on down below and we take to the stairs down to see what’s going on. Mal and his crew may need our help. We go cautiously—we don’t want to get shot—and we get halfway down when we see the two bodies on the stairs.

They are civilian, not military, but their EVA suits are high quality—expensive bounty hunter grade. Whatever’s happening, it’s not likely on the up-and-up. Allyne orders Xiu to take the portside catwalk while he and Oksana take the starboard one. They’ll check the shuttles first before going down into the cargo hold proper.

Xiu’s inspection of the portside shuttle yields nothing but a scrap of fancy cloth. Otherwise it’s intact and empty save for a few boxes. Allyne gains the starboard shuttle but can’t open the door. A cautious look through the door’s window shows us why—it’s been decompressed. The door’s automatic systems will not allow it to open under those conditions. Allyne uses the scope on his sniper rifle to scan the hold below, going through all the different scope settings to find out if anything untoward is happening. Nothing shows up.

Meanwhile on Space Otter, Verity gets a warning from our shuttle’s security panel that we’re losing internal pressure in it. She hails Allyne through our comms and he tells her to activate the internal cameras aboard our shuttle remotely and take a look.

She does and sees 4 people in black EVA suits slipping around inside. Allyne tells her to remote launch the shuttle. Verity jettisons our shuttle and it starts floating away from our hull with the 4 invaders trapped inside.

FWOOOOOSHHHHHH!

Allyne sends Oksana down below to investigate while he stays above to provide her cover. Xiu climbs into one of the ventilation ducts on her own initiative.

Oksana gets halfway down the stairs when a shot pings off the railing at her side. She freezes.

“Hold it right there,” a gruff voice yells out.

It’s Jayne, with his most favorite gun Vera. Allyne calls out and identifies us as the friendlies. Jayne seems skeptical. Xiu yells at him that he’s a dumb ox. As she’s saying right at his feet from the vent and it’s something crazy like what River would do, that convinces him we are who we say we are.

He lets us approach and we get a sit rep from him:

1. Mal and Zoe are wounded.
2. They and everyone else is holed up in med bay.
3. There were 5 guys originally and he’s killed four.

We tell him we’ve got four more trapped in our shuttle. Oksana offers to go to med bay to help Simon.

Verity remotely shuts off the shuttle engines to keep the hostiles inside from taking off in it but they manage a hack around and start firing the engines up. A game of console button Whack-A-Mole ensues, with Verity punching buttons to shut things down as they start up. So far she’s managing to stay a step ahead of the bogies on the shuttle but she notices that the response time on her commands is getting longer. The bogies are fighting her remote commands and will soon hack their way past them. She tells Allyne that she’s running out of time.

Xiu (via comms): Send it a virus.

Allyne: Send a command to the shuttle to initiate the auto maintenance sequence. It can’t be hacked around. Lock all the airlocks except the forward airlock.

Verity manages to do it. Barely.

Sure enough, the shuttle gets locked into maintenance mode and the bogies are well and truly trapped inside. At least until they realize that there’s one airlock they can open and get out.

Jayne and Allyne inspect the cargo bay and the shuttles. Jayne’s worried about the 5th guy that he didn’t kill. That guy could be anywhere. River voice comes out of an air vent. The 5th guy tried to open a hatch that he shouldn’t, she explains.

Oksana arrives in the med bay in time to see the two girls, River and Xiu, drop or crawl out of the air vents.

Simon’s busy with Mal. He’s been shot badly in the thigh. Zoe is in better shape, suffering a clean through-and-through in the meaty portion of her upper left arm. The bullet missed bone and important nerves and blood vessels. Oksana gets to work on patching Zoe up.

Verity warns Allyne that the shuttle is coming back. Allyne tells her to lock it all down.

Xiu goes up to Mal, who’s amazingly still conscious while Simon works on him.

Xiu: Where’s Kaylee?
Mal: Engine room.

Xiu goes to the engine room to find her friend. The door has been welded shut and looking through the window on the door, Xiu sees that the engine room is empty. Where’s Kaylee?

Allyne quickly gets Jayne in a suit and they get back out topside to defend Space Otter. Just as they gain the hull, they see the shuttle’s redocked and the forward airlock is starting to open. Allyne and Jayne brace themselves and aim carefully.

The first man to exit the shuttle gets taken out by Allyne. The second man falls to Allyne as well. Jayne fires at and misses the third man, as does Allyne. The fourth man goes down on Jayne’s shot. Allyne only wings the first man, knowing that any hole he can put into the bogie’s EVA suit will kill him, but his second shot makes the second bogie’s helmet explode.

This tips off the third man in the airlock behind him and he immediately throws up his hands in surrender. Jayne keeps the man in his sights while Allyne does a quick hull check. Nothing else shows. The hull is clear. Verity sweeps the area and reports there are no other bogies.

Allyne and Jayne take the surviving third man into custody and drag him aboard the Otter. The man turns out to be the amorous asshole inspector who was mackin’ on Verity. They lock him up in one of the guest cargo lockers while they decide what to do next.

They decide to interrogate him.

Meanwhile, Xiu can’t find Kaylee. She’s not answering the engine room door. She calls Allyne with the news and Allyne comms Oksana, telling her to put Mal on the line. She passes her wrist comm to Mal and Allyne ask him where else Kaylee could be.

Mal: Her quarters. Check her quarters.

Xiu finds the door to Kaylee’s easy enough. It’s got a big hand painted wooden sign with flowers, butterflies, rainbows and her name right on it. The door is locked. Xiu bangs on it and calls out. Kaylee, you in there? Kaylee bangs on the door from the inside.

Yup. She’s in there.

Xiu confirms it and tries to figure out how the door’s locked. There’s a mechanism on the frame that doesn’t look like it belongs there, a mag-lock, and Xiu divines that’s what’s gumming the works. She can’t remove the mag-lock directly but she torches the door, hoping to catch the power supply line to the mag-lock and disabling it.

Xiu is lucky. She cuts the line. The mag-lock goes dead. Kaylee climbs out.

Xiu: Kaylee in a can!
Oksana: (via comms) Certified Fresh.

Oksana moves over to help with Mal. His injury is more severe than Zoe’s. In his case, the bullet is lodged in his thighbone. Luckily for him it missed the major artery, otherwise we’d be burying the captain, not operating on him.

Mal comes through the surgery. Oksana offers to have him spend time with a bone-knitter aboard Space Otter’s med bay. Simon is understandably envious of the better equipped bay but gets his patient aboard.

The dust settles as our respective crews assess the damage done. Space Otter is fine save for minor damage to our shuttle. Serenity is less lucky. There are tricky mag-locks on the crew quarters that need finessing to remove. There are tape-welds sealing the doors to bridge and engine room. There is no power on Serenity save for med bay, which was on a separate battery.

Fixing all this will put us half a day behind schedule. Luckily we built in an extra day as a transit cushion, so we won’t be hit with late fees.

Oksana gives the passengers the all-clear but informs them that they must stay on the crew deck of the Otter for the time being. The family tells her that they were actually a little scared by being shut in. She does her best to assure them that our partners are all right and that everything’s being taken care of.

We interrogate the inspector we’ve got locked up in our hold. Gauging the ugly mood of the crew, Oksana steps in and says she can rig up a cocktail of drugs that will make him sing like a canary. No torture necessary.

Allyne approves the idea and she injects the prisoner for questioning.

He tells us a few things:

He and his team were hired to scope out both our ships. They were to derelict Serenity and leave no witnesses.

Why derelict Serenity? Who hired him?

He doesn’t know. He was just hired by two guys.

What guys? Give us a description.

Doesn’t have to. They’re part of the raiding party we killed.

We show him the bodies. He identifies the two right off. We inspect their bodies and find the now-familiar skull and bat wing tattoo on their left forearms. There is no ID on them. No other clues to who they are.

How did they get aboard Serenity?

They were brought aboard in a special crate, geared to carry them and trick the scanners. It’s a classic Trojan Horse play. We find the crate. It’s got patterns on it making it look like the other cargo but it’s got thicker walls to dampen the scanners. We check the manifest. It’s listed as a half full crate. It’s now empty.

What were they after? we ask the prisoner.

He doesn’t know. They didn’t tell him.

He doesn’t know anything else of value, despite our questioning him.

Allyne and Mal are all for spacing the bastards as pirates. The Laws of Space allow Captains to be judge, jury, and executioners of pirates who attack their ships. Oksana disagrees and urges turning over the prisoner to the proper authorities instead.

A brief discussion ensues. Nobody knows who’s hired the thugs to kill Serenity’s crew and oh, don’t forget they were going to kill us too because we would have been potential witnesses. At this point we cannot be sure if the people who attacked Serenity were after River and Simon or if there was another target they were after, but we can’t leave anyone alive to come after whatever they were after for. The conversation quickly goes paranoid and vengeful after that and when the Captains call it, it’s in favor of spacing. Oksana defers to the majority vote, clearly outnumbered.

The game ends with the decision reached but with the sentence yet to be carried out.




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