...And Into the Black
Background: Having been tricked into sneaking back into the Reaver-occupied town of Red Rock, the PC's rendezvous with Patience's transport again to find that Lily's old enemies were behind the whole thing. As they watch the transport fly away, stranding them, they are acutely aware that the band of Reavers they left behind on the road are probably still heading their way, looking for them.
Marlin and Betty demand answers from Lily, who only tells them she made some enemies back on Ariel (her siblings are still convinced she's an actual Shepherd and she doesn't want to reveal that she's been faking it all these years). Running low on time, they don't press the issue and instead pile in and take off in the truck. Rooster suggests heading around eastward to the scrap yard and taking off in Jahn. The PC's then learn that he has buried just enough fuel in a disposable tank near the ship to get her into orbit. In orbit he's stashed enough fuel to get them to Persephone within the fuel tank of an old derelict orbital terminal, a holdover from Whitefall's terraforming days. According to Rooster, going EVA and running a fuel line to Jahn will be a simple matter. The PC's continue on toward the scrap yard, doing their best to stay to rough ground and hide their trail.
When they arrive at the scrap yard in their corpse and spike decorated Reaver truck, they come under light fire from a small group of refugees who are hiding out there. Marlin immediately guns the truck toward the incoming fire, assuming it to be Reavers and hoping to run them over or break their ranks. When he sees it's a group of regular folk, he turns the truck sharply and stops, yelling out the window for the group to hold their fire. They do so and no one is injured.
Leaving the truck, the PC's make contact with the small group of refugees: a brother and sister, a large barrel-chested man, a well dressed gentleman, a ragged woman wearing a parrot (shoulder-mounted video camera) and, to Lily's chagrin, a Buddhist monk. The PC's make hasty introductions and attempt to redirect everyone over to Jahn, where they can begin helping them dig up the fuel spigot on the disposable tank buried there. Rooster points out to the others that the "pilot" from Patience's transport probably wasn't far wrong when she expressed concerns about coming close to town in her ship. The Reavers there will very likely be looking for a way off-planet and there's a good chance that they will check out the scrap yard sooner or later. He suggests haste.
The barrel-chested man, however, recognizes Marlin and Betty by name during the quick introductions. As it happens, he's a Unification War veteran...on the Alliance side. He confirms Marlin's identity and loudly proclaims him to the others as "that damned coward from Serenity Valley. Humped his drop, if I remember. Made it easy for our boys to break through the line there, or so I was told." Betty is quick to face off with the big man and fightin' words are exchanged. When Lily attempts to intervene, the barrel-chested man shoves her roughly. A fist fight breaks out between the veteran, Marlin and Betty while the small crowd of bystanders scold everyone for "fighting at a time like this". The little girl begins crying loudly and runs off.
During the short fight, Marlin notices the little girl and her dog run away from the brawl and climb into a nearby rusted shuttle. When it teeters a bit at the movement, her realizes it's perched precariously on the edge of a junk pit and could easily slide over and injure the girl inside. Marlin attempts to end the fight by tossing out a couple of powerful blows at the man and he succeeds in knocking him out cold. All three are well bruised, however. Marlin immediately begins motioning toward the rusted shuttle, trying to warn his sisters of the danger to the little girl, then rushes over to point out the girl hiding inside. Lily follows, peeks in and sees the girl. Marlin manages to point out the danger and she successfully coaxes the girl out without the shuttle turning over with her.
With no further dramatics presenting themselves the PC's turn over the care of the girl to the brother and sister. Marlin fetches a shovel from inside Jahn and begins digging for the fuel spigot while Rooster and Betty head for the bridge to get the ship prepped for takeoff. Lily tries to organize the refugees, sending the gentleman and the journalist to help Marlin. She, the monk and the brother and sister grab the unconscious War veteran, dragging him into the cargo bay and dumping him there. The little girl trails behind them, sniffling.
As the work progresses, the War veteran wakes up and is mad as hell. Betty hears him ranting and stomps down to put her pistol in his face. She manages to shut him up for the time being but he continues to glower and mutter. Betty forces him out of the ship to help Marlin and the others dig up the tank. In short order the ship is ready for takeoff and the spigot on the buried tank is uncovered. Lily runs the ship's fuel line to it, connects it and begins pumping the meager amount of fuel into the ship.
No one hears the three Reavers lurch into the scrap yard until they spot the crowd milling around Jahn. With a terrifying shriek the small band charges in out of nowhere. The PC's opt to open up with their handguns rather than diving for their automatic weapons, though they edge toward them while doing so. None of the three Reavers have firearms, thankfully, and are pegged a few times between them before they manage to close with the group. The War veteran snatches up Marlin's assault rifle, though, and let's loose a round of autofire that nearly hits Lily in the process. He does manage to wound the journalist, however, who is trying to flee behind the cover of the PC's.
As the Reavers dive snarling onto the first targets they can reach, the PC's, two are finally dropped by close range bursts from Lily and a head shots by Betty's shotgun. Marlin is struck and gouged by the remaining Reaver's makeshift mace, but manages to throw him clear for Betty to drop him.
Lily tends to everyone's wounds and Betty snatches the assault rifle from the loud-mouthed War veteran. She herds everyone who isn't wounded into Jahn's passenger suite and threatens to leave behind anyone who strays from the room without permission.
With the Reavers defeated the PC's anxiously wait another few minutes for the fuel to finishing pumping, then quickly disconnect the fuel line and hop aboard Jahn. Betty wastes no time starting her up and they take to the air. Below they see a dozen or so Reavers loping towards the scrap yard and realize they lifted off just in time. Betty's take off is smooth, despite her unfamiliarity with light transports, but she nearly flubs the break-away. Thankfully Jahn is an agile ship and together they break atmo by the skin of their proverbial teeth.
Once Jahn makes orbit, Rooster calls the PC's onto the bridge to run down the procedure for refueling from the derelict. Betty will pull alongside the fuel port beneath the terminal while Marlin and Rooster use the two EVA suits on board to go outside and run Jahn's fuel line across. Once connected, Betty can initiate the fuel transfer from the cockpit. When that is completed, Marlin and Rooster simply disconnect the line again and come back aboard. Easy as lyin'.
With Betty at the helm and Rooster in the co-pilot chair, Marlin and Lily exit the cockpit. There they find the gentleman, the brother and the sister waiting for them. They are reminded that it is Sunday and, considering the recent horrific events, they feel it would benefit everyone on board if Lily were kind enough to offer Sunday services. Lily is more than willing and asks that they gather everyone who wishes to in the common area while she takes a quick peek in the engine room. Marlin is cornered by the journalist, who then offers her apologies and breaks off when she realizes he really is mute and she isn't going to get the interview she hoped for. Instead she heads for the cockpit to question Rooster and Betty. Marlin goes on to check the stores in the kitchen, inspect and prepare the EVA suits and check out what equipment Jahn might be lacking in.
On the bridge, Rooster hits the cortex to check on the devastation on Whitefall. Contacting the Whitefall magistrate's office, he informs them of the Reaver incursion taking place in Red Rock and is assured it will be taken care of, though the official doesn't seem particularly convincing. Rooster also reports his own situation concerning his passengers and is told, basically, that the local magistrate couldn't care less if they are stranded on Persephone or not. Satisfied that he's done his civic duty, Rooster returns to his duties.
In the commons, Lily conducts a routine Sunday worship. The distraction of a bored and rather rambunctious little girl and her dog make it less than easy, but she pulls it off successfully and earns the respect of the passengers. The journalist, having completed some preliminary interviews with Rooster and Betty, is caught in the hallway by the War veteran who graciously offers an interview. Humoring him, the journalist asks some standard questions and the veteran takes the opportunity to expound on his many victories over "those cowardly, inbred Independent scum" during the Unification War. Betty, hearing his remarks from the bridge nearby, loses her temper and abandons her station to confront the arrogant cod. Fightin' words are exchanged and the two of them go at it again while the journalist yelps and flees to the common area. Hearing the ruckus, Marlin and Lily come running and manage to break the two up. Lily barely manages to talk the two of them down and Betty stomps off back to the bridge, cursing profusely. The War veteran is angry (and bleeding a bit) and stomps off as well to the cargo hold to fume.
Marlin heads back to complete his inspection of the ship. Lily finally finds herself free for the moment and heads to the engine room to give the engine a proper inspection, as well as keeping an eye on the trouble-making War veteran. As she passes the passenger suite she immediately notices that the Buddhist monk is looking quite pale and sweaty, not at all healthy. She stifles her revulsion and goes to check on him. Despite her abrupt manner with him, she manages to diagnose some impending heart trouble and jogs off to fetch her medical bag, hoping to treat him before it becomes acute. When she returns she finds that he has already collapsed. She attempts to determine a proper dose of specific medication, but miscalculates. When she injects him, the monk's condition immediately worsens and she finds herself scrambling to keep him from dying. Unfortunately, despite her best efforts, his heart stops. Lily attempts to revive the monk, but again fails. After nearly an hour of emergency treatment, she is forced to pronounce him dead.
Subsequent mutters from the various passengers make it clear that there is some question in their minds whether or not her obvious hatred for the Buddhist may have effected her treatment of him. Lily conducts a half-hearted (and decidedly Christian) service for the dead monk and sees that his corpse is properly stowed away in the cargo hold.
After circling through Whitefall's orbit for nearly an hour, Jahn arrives at the old derelict terminal. Betty manages to find some basic schematics on the cortex that should correspond with this type of outdated terminal and determines the optimal approach to the fuel port. Meanwhile, Rooster and Marlin suit up at the port airlock.
As they do so, the War veteran comes up and appeals to Rooster to allow him to take Marlin's place on the job. He claims to have extensive experience with EVA work and takes the opportunity to insinuate that Marlin might leave Rooster in trouble if things should go badly outside. Rooster rebuffs him and flat-out threatens to give him some real EVA work alright, if he causes the next little bit of trouble. Cowed, the War veteran skulks back to the passenger suite to whine to the other passengers.
The two men turn to the airlock to find that the little girl has joined them and is pleading earnestly to be allowed to go along. Attempts to explain that there aren't any spacesuits in her size fail to dissuade her, as she insists she can fit in one of their suits with them. Losing his patience a bit, Marlin glares at the girl and points sharply back toward the passenger suite. When that doesn't work, he grabs the little girl by the arm and roughly escorts her there...at which point she begins howling loudly. Marlin soon finds himself at the receiving end of some rather hostile looks from the other passengers and a muttered accusation of child abuse from the War veteran. He responds by storming off for the airlock and exiting the ship with Rooster as quickly as possible.
While the two men are gone Lily does her best to soothe the tempers of the passengers and keep them occupied. Betty focuses on getting Jahn as close to the port as possible and watching over the EVA from the bridge. Outside, Marlin is finding that fueling a transport by hand in vacuum is quite a lot more difficult than Rooster let on. He and Rooster spend the next hour running the line across, clearing frozen condensation from both ports and generally forcing Jahn's fuel pumping system to do things it wasn't designed to do. Finally, though, they manage to get the last of the fuel that Rooster cached back into Jahn and are ready to depart for Persephone.
Emerging from the airlock, Rooster announces that the refueling is complete and they'll be on their way to Persephone as soon as he gets up to the bridge. This is met with a surprising wave of objection from the passengers, who hadn't thought they would be going anywhere but back to Whitefall. A little nonplussed, Rooster and Lily try to explain that Jahn doesn't have enough fuel to make a planetfall, break atmo again and still run all the way to the nearest border planet with a space dock to refuel at. This doesn't placate the passengers, however, who are soon demanding to be put back down on Whitefall at once.
As the two try to reason with the irate passengers, the little girl begins crying hysterically, her dog begins howling along with her and the War veteran begins making loud threats to take over the ship. Marlin decides he's had enough. Tossing his helmet down, he grabs the War veteran by the collar and drags him to the airlock. In an impressive display of body mechanics he tosses the sputtering blowhard into the airlock and locks him in. Then he kicks the dog in the hindquarters and stomps off to the bridge where he and Rooster left their weapons.
Returning with his assault rifle, he glares the passengers into submission. When they are at last compliant he herds them all at gunpoint into the passenger suite, which he locks from the outside.
Later, after Betty has Jahn heading on course to Persephone, Lily prepares a large meal from the canned foods and protein paste in the ship's stores. She delivers it to the passengers and attempts to put them at ease with assurances that they will be arriving on Persephone in three and half days. Of course, this doesn't help their mood terribly. But further assurances that, if they remain in the passenger suite as much as possible and follow the instructions of the crew, they will do their best to insure they are returned home to Whitefall. With that she returns to the bridge, leaving the suite door open for the passengers.
Marlin, Betty and Rooster, however, spend their time reviewing the cortex on space and commerce laws. Finding what they need they quickly elect Rooster as captain of the ship and note it in the official ship's log. Rooster issues his first official order, also duly noted in the log, which Marlin carries out by evacuating the starboard airlock and flinging the troublesome War veteran into vacuum. Betty is quick to point out the demonstration of the captain's authority to deal with "inciting mutiny on a commercial vessel in interplanetary space" to the remaining passengers.
Leaving the passengers to mull over the War veteran's fate, the PC's retreat to the cockpit. There Rooster takes the time to fill in the PC's on Jahn's history and that of uncle Isaac Sanchez as well. Astounded, the PC's learn that their dear uncle, the simple rancher, lived quite the life of high adventure in his youth. Rooster specifically fills them in on a raid on a Blue Sun research vessel which resulted in nearly seven years of Jahn and her crew being hunted by corporate troubleshooters.
He further details the events surrounding Jahn, her crew and the Sanchez family over the last 26 years (including the daring Smoke Hills bank robbery), leading to the realization by the PC's that there may well still be Blue Sun agents or Yonsheng interested in their whereabouts. They are particularly disheartened to learn they had a "brother" who died in War, years before they'd even heard of him.
Jahn, crew and passengers continue on toward Persephone for the next two days without incident. Betty and Rooster continue sharing bridge duty while Lily entertains and oversees the guests and keeps an eye on the ship's systems. Marlin more or less resigns himself to periodically intimidating the passengers to keep them in line.
In the interim, the gentleman passenger unsuccessfully attempts to bribe first Rooster and then Betty into taking him back to Whitefall, the journalist has her parrot broken by the overly curious little girl and the brother and sister end up in a knockdown drag out feud over sleeping arrangements.
A day out from Persephone, however, all hell breaks loose. Without warning the engine grinds to a halt and the crew suddenly finds the ship dead in the water (so to speak). Racing to the engine room Lily doesn't see the dog droppings in the hall, slips and cracks her head. Braving on, she reaches the engine room and quickly determines that the power stabilizer has cracked, but can be repaired fairly easily. Tracing the trouble to the source she finds...a frontier Fanny doll melted to the main grav line. When Betty and Marlin arrive she announces that the ship can be back up and running in a day, but that the startup sequence is going to be a little flaky until the grav line is patched up or replaced.
Lily and Rooster get to work on repairs, with Betty pitching in when she can get away from the bridge. Marlin, meanwhile, works overtime bullying the passengers. With the three mechanics pitching in together, the repairs are completed in less than eight hours and everyone returns to their duties. The startup sequence thankfully completes on the first try and Jahn is on her way to Persephone again.
Lily speaks with the little girl and gets her unconvincing assurance that she won't play in the engine room anymore.
Finally Jahn nears Persephone. Contacting the dock authority by broadwave, Rooster puts Jahn in line for docking at the first available spot at the Eavesdown Docks. Within a half hour, however, he is surprised to find that Jahn has been cleared to land and has had a spot reserved for her nearly two hours before she even makes orbit. Her small port fee has even been waived. Communicating with the docking authority doesn't reveal why Jahn has earned such a privilege. The order has apparently come down from a high ranking official of the docking authority who didn't deign to include an explanation for his order.
Lily takes the time to contact the docks by broadwave and books four of Jahn's surviving passengers on Dog's Day, a Firely class mid-bulk transport, back to Whitefall for a whopping 120 credits. The journalist turns out to be a native of Persephone and is perfectly happy returning. She hopes her documentation of the events surrounding the Red Rock raid and her escape on board Jahn will allow her to finally break into a proper border world news agency.
The other members of the crew all object to Lily's outrageous expenditure but, considering she's the only one of the bunch with any actual money in her credit account and she'll be paying for everything, they drop it soon enough.
With a certain amount of trepidation the crew reaches Persephone's orbit. Betty and Jahn break atmo and land at their reserved dock without incident. The PC's immediately send Lily off to escort their passengers to Dog's Day and get them out of their hair while Rooster arranges to fill Jahn's tanks. Betty starts on a long overdue general maintenance tour of their new fast courier until Rooster can join her. Marlin sends a text off to the local hospital to report the dead monk in their cargo, oversees his removal and takes up position on the dock guarding Jahn.
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