Sunday, 10 Sep 2519
Back of Beyond, Kaleidoscope
White Sun (Bai Hu) system
1300hrs, local time
Oksana is waiting at the pick-up coordinates with her mule and shipment paperwork. The Space Otter is to deliver the supplies she’s been hired to parcel out. The recipients of the supplies will be arriving soon for their allotments and she is to document and supervise their allocation.
Space Otter lands in a cloud of dust and once it settles, Oksana and the Captain, Allyne Stone, meet. She inspects the cargo and finds it still sealed. Good. It’s 30 tons of med supplies. There is another 100 tons of general goods as well, but as a doctor she’s primarily concerned with the med supplies.
The Captain offers her a job as their ship’s doctor. She is looking to leave Kaleidoscope and her current employment. Oksana has that twitchy urge to get on the move again. She’s been here too long. She accepts the job offer, and Capt. Stone gives her the tour.
Space Otter is an experimental prototype ship and Oksana can see it’s nothing like anything she’s ever been on before. And given all the travelling she’s done since before the war, that’s sayin’ somethin’. She can see there have been some after-market modifications made, some apparently non-sensical, and most seem to be involve lots of electrical tape.
As they are waiting for their clients to arrive, she’s introduced to the crew. Verity is the pilot, reserved and quiet. Xiu is their young mechanic. It’s apparent there’s something not quite right about Xiu. She has a skewed way of speaking and expressing herself and is more than a little twitchy. Oksana refrains from comment. Allyne shows Oksana her bunk. It’s a palatial 20 × 20 foot-plus cabin with an attached bath.
That’s not all to the ship’s blandishments: The med bay has top-line equipment. There is a diagnostic scan suite—the bed and machines and displays included. There is common equipment too, but all of it is Core-Tech. Well made. Most of it new.
There are two beds in the med bay but at 20 × 30 there is certainly room for more. There is an office area, good for records keeping and paperwork. There is no separate recovery ward and Oksana silently measures the bay with her eyes. She might be able to partition the bay to make one, but puts the idea aside for later. The med supplies are well stocked. Nothing fancy, just the basics. It’s somewhat ironic, considering the medical supplies the crew has just delivered are a little more complex.
Allyne gives Oksana the option to take pay in the form of a salary or in shares of the ship. She questions him as to his success as a freighter captain. He admits he hasn’t one, having only just started out in the business. She considers it. A salary will make it easier for her to drop employment and leave at a moment’s notice but the prospect of having a stake in something tangible and long term … that paradoxically appeals to her.
She chooses the share.
Allyne gives her the passcodes to Space Otter’s terminals. The computers are Core fast and Core fine. He also assigns her channels for the ship’s comms on her multiband. Everything works with the quality of fine Core-Tech and again, Oksana gets the sense that the ship was built for a Core customer. When she inquires about it, she’s told the ship was refused or not delivered to the original client. Allyne bought it instead.
There is no more time to settle in. The clients have begun to arrive and are waiting for their medical allotment. Oksana gets down to parceling the meds out, keeping meticulous records for Sunshine Supplies.
The first two clients are loaded up and ready to leave when Verity spots three bogies incoming on the bridge sensors. One of the bogies has the signature common to shuttle craft and the other two are land vehicles—mules. The clients have all verbally checked in and none of their vehicles match. The bogies are not them. The bogies are coming in fast, too, and Verity relays all of this to the crew in the hold.
Oksana knows that the medical supplies are a valuable commodity. If stolen and sold on the black market, their value is even higher. She’s seen it happen before on other worlds. So of course, she thinks the worst.
She immediately asks Allyne if they have any heavy weapons mounted on Space Otter. No, they don’t. They have armor plating though and should withstand bullets. Not satisfied with the answer, Oksana asks the clients if they have anything they might use to defend themselves against possible bandits. One of the clients volunteers his RPG launcher. He’d just gotten it and it’s already loaded. He has extra grenades, too.
Oksana devises a plan: have the man stand inside the hatch at the top of Space Otter’s hull and when the hostiles get within range, pop up and fire that RPG at them, take out shuttle, then pop down again.
Allyne agrees to the plan and sets about fortifying the hold against possible boarding parties. We warn our inbound clients to divert to a safer location and tell our clients already here to run. Xiu seems overwhelmed by the incipient confrontation and starts getting agitated.
The bogies arrive and it’s pretty clear they’re hostile. The mules are sporting mounted guns on the rear, manned by a gunner while another drives. One of the two mules splits off and goes after the clients inbound. The other mule heads straight for us. The shuttle comes in from above.
Everything starts happening at once.
- Our volunteer fires the RPG at the shuttle—which is armed with an undermounted gatling gun and is manned by a pilot and gunner.
- The grenade goes wild and bounces off the hull of Space Otter, scratching the surface, before hitting the shuttle.
- The shuttle crashes, missing our ship by a whisker, and augers in to one side.
- We fire on the approaching mule. We’re lucky in our shots. The bullets find their targets and the mule crashes.
- The driver of the mule is killed instantly in the roll-over but the gunner is thrown and survives, albeit gravely injured.
*Oksana grabs her med bag and runs out under fire to the gunner. She manages to drag him aboard.
She stabilizes him well enough to hustle him into med bay. Allyne helps her get him there via the cargo bay lift. She thanks him and immediately preps the bandit for surgery. She wants him alive for questioning. If he dies, they will never learn who he works for and what they planned to do to the crew.
There being no one left to shoot in the immediate vicinity, Allyne orders Verity to take us aloft to rescue the remaining clients from the other mule. Thanks to some fast flying and a daring maneuver, Verity scares off the last mule and saves our inbound clients. Meanwhile in the hold, Xiu goes into full panick-attach mode and is reduced to a crying shivering huddle on the cargo deck. Allyne approaches her with soothing words and a blanket and manages to wrap her up in it, holding her and calming her down.
Allyne rocks Xiu. Xiu’s fit passes. The dust settles.
- 3 bogies neutralized or fled
- 5 hostiles dead
- 1 survivor
- No clients or crew harmed.
Xiu is angry over the scratch on the hull but overjoyed to have salvaged scrap from the crash sites. She comes away with a glorious load of scrap and the jewel in the crown is the gatling gun. She’ll have to pound out a few bends from its frame but she believes she can mount it to Space Otter, giving us some offensive weaponry at last. She’s even managed to salvage several ammo belts for it. Allyne grudgingly agrees to the modification and it’s all over but for figuring out where on the ship to mount it. It’s enough to make Xiu hold off killing the guy with the RPG who scratched her beloved ship’s hull.
If only just.
Allyne thanks the man for his assistance and calls for pick-up. The sooner the man is out of Xiu’s sight, the better. The client is no dummy—he can see the crazy in Xiu well enough and when his ride arrives, he jumps on.
In med bay, Oksana finds her patient suffering from a full on concussion and perforated bowel, along with other assorted trauma from the crash. She trepans his head injury to alleviate cranial swelling and doses him with anti-swelling meds, then goes right on to performing thoracic surgery. She saves his life. As she’s strapping him down for recovery, she notices that he has a skull tattoo on his left forearm, surmounted with curving bat wings. It is quite distinctive. She looks for but finds no other distinguishing marks. She fully medicates her patient, ensures he’s sedated and strapped securely, and reports her findings to Allyne.