I Had Trouble in Getting to Bernadette's Moon
BACKGROUND: Seven years ago Captain William R. Sarian commanded the Alliance Corvette "Landisa" with the rank of Commodore. After two very successfully orchestrated battles against Independent forces his otherwise sterling career as a higher ranking Alliance officer was cut short by a stunning display of incompetence. While patrolling the Burnham Quadrant the Corvette "Landisa" was attacked by two mid-sized Independent vessels, boarded by a party of less than one hundred rebels and was nearly lost. Only by venting the majority of the vessel's interior directly into space, followed by a three day search and destroy sweep against the handful of surviving enemy combatants, was he able to finally regain control of his ship. It was considered almost overly generous that Sarian was merely busted down to the rank of Captain of an Alliance patrol boat rather than simply being dishonorably discharged altogether. It is even rumored that some parliament officials went so far as to suggest pursuing the death penalty for cowardice, citing no other reasonable explanation for the unmitigated disaster.
Or, at least, that's the official take on the incident. In point of fact Sarian's Corvette was struck by Reavers. And while it's true that the raiding party that boarded the Corvette numbered less than one hundred, they were indeed able to wipe out almost all of the ship's complement of over 5,000 crewmen. In less than eight hours.
Only Sarian and a few of the other surviving senior officers were even able to get a glimpse of their attackers or witness the inconceivable brutality which swept through their ship. Every other witness being, of course, dead. Which was quite convenient for the agents charged with sweeping the entire incident under the rug. Two of the officers had to disappear, unfortunately, but the remaining officers required little more than a unflattering report on their handling of the incident and the requisite disciplinary action to ensure their silence.
And so it was that William R. Sarian found himself the Captain of a small Alliance patrol boat during and after the war. And there he remained as, year after year, more horror stories of "Reavers" spread quietly through the 'verse. Whispers of savage pirates who cannibalized both ships and men. Tales of demonic sadists with a penchant for remarkably cunning acts of cruelty. In short, everything Sarian had witnessed first hand seven years ago. In time he was forced to accept two deeply disturbing truths. Reavers were real. And the Alliance brass were determined to cover it up.
The injustices suffered by Captain William R. Sarian would be merely a footnote in the unwritten history of the 'verse, were it not for the actions of Sarian's estranged son. To his embarrassment (and secret horror) Alister Sarian dropped out of the Alliance military forces after the war and relocated to, of all places, Aberdeen. There he used the combat pay he'd squirreled away during the war to begin a new life. Which was cut tragically short by a band of ruthless outlaws who raided the town soon after his arrival, slaughtering everyone, including young Alister. After years of discreet inquiry and several hundreds credits in bribes to shadowy informants, Captain Sarian's worst fears were confirmed...the small town on Aberdeen, his young son's final resting place, had been struck by Reavers. And, again, the Alliance had covered it up.
After everything he had already suffered, it was simply too much Sarian. He quietly snapped.
And in the depths of his broken, vengeful mind a horrible idea began to grow...
Having been captured yet again by Alliance military, the PC's are transported back to the cruiser "Weyland". There they meet one last time with the Operative from the previous episode. He informs them that, after the embarrassing handling of the sabretooth's transportation by officials on Persephone (by hiring the PC's to transport it) the Alliance requires a neat, and very public, resolution to the mess. To this end both they and the tiger will be delivered by Alliance patrol boat to Bernadette where the public will hail the Alliance's triumphant rescue of the 'verse's most unique and prized genetic engineering marvel. The PC's, in turn, will be on public display as examples to the futility of standing against the righteous might of the Alliance...before being quietly shipped back to Santo to be tried for their actions involving the theft of Kitty Scratch and the murder of her crew.
But, the Operative assures them, that is where their indignities will end. Once the demands of the Alliance's honor have been met, he will personally assure that the Sanchez kin, and their friend Rooster, are spared the dishonor of rotting in an Alliance penitentiary. He will take care of them personally...
With that the Operative departs and the PC's are transferred to the brig of the Alliance patrol boat "Hampton", already en route to the Alliance base on Bernadette's third moon.
Onboard the "Hampton" the PC's have several days of uneventful travel time ahead of them. Before they can make any use of the time, however, they find themselves in a dicey situation their first night. Two lower ranking security officers, who've linked Marlin's identity with the "coward of Serenity Valley" take the opportunity to tease him mercilessly through the bars of his cell. Furious, Betty threatens the two from her own cell, working herself into a proper frenzy. This, in turn, only tempts the two to greater cruelty and the security officers soon grab stun batons from the weapons locker and approach Marlin's cell.
Realizing their intent, Betty's loyalty and guilt concerning Marlin overwhelm her and she begs them not to hurt him. Naturally, this only encourages them further and they begin to taunt her as well. Lily attempts to intervene and is able to persuade the two to spare Marlin. However, sensing a weakness for her brother and thoroughly enjoying their petty sadism, the two security officers turn to Betty and demand that she submit to both of them in exchange for Marlin's safety. With unwavering loyalty to her brother, she reluctantly agrees.
As the two officers bind her wrist through the bars of her cell and prepare to enter (and Betty prepares to spend Plot Points to purchase their spinal cord injuries), the security chief arrives in time to witness the incident and put an end to it before it gets truly ugly. In short order the two officers are reprimanded and ordered to report to the First Officer.
While the security chief offers his apologies for the two officer's behavior and assurances that they will severely punished, Lily (after judicious use of her own Plot Points) recognizes the chief as a man she once worked with on Ariel years ago. Lily, at the time, was working in an Alliance scrap yard and was required to secure the officer's thumbprint before beginning the long process of salvaging the remains of a particular "classified" vessel. As it happens the officer had been working security for the scrap yard and had been injured in a freak accident with a forklift. Lily eventually tracked him down and found him in the recovery room of one of Ariel's more prestigious medical facilities. His prognosis at the time was doubtful and he was expected, at best, to be paralzyed for life. Glancing at the officer's med chart, out of nothing more than idle curiosity, she noted several discrepancies with his initial examination and reported them to the duty nurse.
Eventually the officer was not only full recovered but suffered no paralysis or loss of sensation at all. His attempts to identify the low ranking scrapyard worker who effectively saved his life were successfuly, but not until weeks after she had already departed for Whitefall.
The two spend the next couple of hours catching up and swapping stories, during which Lily is able to convince him the news reports surrounding them and the charges they face are unjustified. Eventually, however, the chief must beg off to his rack for some much needed rest before duty the next day. Two other (more trustworthy) security officers are posted to the brig.
The PC's spend the next several days languishing in the brig, though they do enjoy some measure of hospitality from their new friend. Lily quickly discovers, to her horror, that the security chief is a Buddhist. She naturally resolves to spend her abundant free time in an attempt to convert him to Christianity. Over the next three days she takes advantage of the chief's shift requirement in the brig to proselytize. Not only does she succeed in converting him but also three of the other security officers as well. Marlin and Betty are amazed as Lily begins holding daily bible studies and prayer meetings from her cell.
After five days the PC's realize they should already have already arrived at Bernadette. They question the security chief and discover that the captain claims to have received instructions (via the Operative from last episode) concerning a secret mission and that the patrol boat is now en route to the Burnham Quadrant. They make note of the chief's obvious distress and question him still further. He relates that, oddly, the captain has ordered a communications blackout and has even ignored several hails by other Alliance vessels. Though the Captain and the First Officer both claim they are obeying direct orders from the parliament and everything seems more or less in order, the crew is becoming quite anxious at all the secrecy.
Sensing more and pushing a bit, Lily encourages the chief to continue and he admits to the PC's that the captain's behavior recently has been somewhat...twitchy.
Almost immediately the patrol boat intercom announces "Action stations! Action stations!" and the chief is summoned to the bridge. After a couple of hours of intense activity and various officers running in and out of the security section things at last quiet down. From the security officers on duty the PC's are able to learn second-hand that the patrol boat has boarded and seized a civilian transport operating in the area. The security crew is also somewhat disturbed that the captain has ordered the security chief not to escort the operaters to the brig, but rather to be held on the transport. He has even had them locked in the transport's cargo bay while an engineer team "does something wierd" to their ship.
After the security chief returns at last the PC's learn from him that the captain has ordered the engineering team to seal off the cargo bay entirely, welding the doors shut with the civilians inside, while they override the ship's bridge controls completely and lock down it's engine room. The civilian transport, "Hanna's Heaven", is now under remote control and is soon to be sent flying well ahead of the patrol boat with it's crew locked up inside.
Soon after the security chief is summoned to the bridge yet again. When he returns he is clearly deeply distressed. The PC's note small blood stains on the sleeves of his uniform. He informs the PC's that he's been ordered to escort them onto the captured transport and lock them in with the civilian crew in the cargo bay. He and three other security officers bind the PC's and escort them to the starboard airlock where "Hanna's Heaven" is docked.
On the way there Lily questions the chief about the blood splatters on his uniform. He reluctantly admits that, when he arrived on the bridge, two of the bridge crew had apparently been killed by the First Officer for "acts of mutiny". He had been forced to help his security team clear the bodies from the bridge.
Sensing the chief's obvious reluctance to comply with his standing orders as well as his doubts concerning the actions of his Captain and First Officer, Lily attempts to persuade him to hold off on escorting them to "Hanna's Heaven" until he can clear things up a bit. During their discourse they pass another team of security officers who are on their way to the security section. Stopping to question them, the chief discovers they've been ordered by the Captain to sedate the sabretooth and evacuate it out the port airlock...after seizing all arms and armaments from security lockers and delivering them to the bridge.
The chief orders the men (two of them the same men responsible for the reprehensible treatment of the prisoners earlier) to stand down, but they refuse citing their orders came directly from the Captain. When the chief draws his weapon to enforce his authority a gunfight quickly erupts in the hallway of the crew's quarter between the two elements of the security detachment. The PC's, bound at the wrist and unarmed, dive for cover and try to avoid getting shot. In moments the fighting is over with only the chief and one loyal security officer surviving, but both of them wounded.
The PC's move quickly to help the two officers to the recovery ward nearby (and Rooster, too, as his creaky old self is out of breath from all the excitement). As they enter the recovery ward, only occupied at the moment by one very anxious nurse, they see the three armed crewmen coming at them from the bridge at far end of the hallway. Betty's lightning reflexes come into play and she closes and locks the bow-side door to the room before the crewmen can reach them, buying them some time.
Lily moves quickly and does her best to patch up the two wounded officers while Marlin takes away their keys to release them all from the confining wrist-restraints (Lily first). At the chief's objections Lily manages to elicit his trust and he allows them to remove their restraints without further argument. As she tends to their wounds Marlin and Betty look for something Betty can use to crack open the door locks but are quickly forced to simply smash it with a metal pole and hope for the best. Luckily this seems to prevent the crewmen outside from overriding the lock for a time. Unwilling to give the other door the same treatment (and risk trapping themselves in the recovery ward) they chase the nurse out and stand ready with makeshift weapons to repel intruders from that direction.
As she continues treating the two security officers, Lily manages to convince the chief to trust them enough to turn over their side arms to the Marlin and Betty, considering their current state, with promises both to protect them and to follow his direction. Once this is done the crewmen on the far side of the door try to open a dialogue with those inside, demanding they open up and release their hostages. Lily takes advantage of the situation and yells back, making unreasonable demands of safe passage and full immunity from all criminal charges (while hastily assuring the security chief that she is only buying time). As they yell back and forth Rooster and the security chief confer on what the hell to do next. In the midst of all this commotion, everyone feels the slight shudder through the ship as the civilian transport is released followed shortly by another shudder as the patrol boat executes a hard burn.
The security chief comes to the conclusion that their only option is to seize the control of communications from the secured cortex in the conference room, contact central command to report in and seek orders from them on how to proceed. The PC's agree and Lily finishes patching up the bullet wounds on both of the officers. They hustle out the stern-side door of the recovery ward and down the ladder to the medical bay, heading for the weapon lockers and conference room bow-ward. The small medical team offers some resistance but obey the security chief's orders to stand aside. The PC's, with Rooster and Lily each supporting a wounded security officer, hasten toward the weapon lockers. As they pass the galley it is announced ship wide that the prisoners have escaped and now hold two security officers hostage. This, in turn, disgorges several burly crewmen from the galley just as the PC's pass by.
Marlin and Betty have the group of men under the gun before they can react and Betty does her best to intimidate them (it works in one case, with one of the men tossing his hands up immediately). Two of the other, however, try to jump them while a third sprints for the intercom nearby. Marlin and Betty each drop the two men trying to grapple them with two shots each, though Marlin is struck in the process. Rooster drops his wounded security guard and manages to grab the running crewman before he can activate the intercom. Lily drops the chief to help him and they overcome the crewman together, flinging him to the floor. Marlin covers the other crewmen while Betty covers the one on the floor.
Lily manages to calm everyone enough to listen while the security chief lays out the situation with the Captain. Lily checks the two wounded crewmen but there isn't much she can do for them herself at the moment. Both are in danger of dying. Taking control of the situation she fast-talks the remaining four crewmen into carrying them both down the hall to the medical ward where everyone can be tended to by the medical team there.
Inside the medical ward Marlin spots a third security team as they arrive at the end of the short hall to the ward. The security team quickly pulls back out of sight around either corner. There they begin demanding the prisoner's surrender and threatening use of gas grenades. While Marlin and Betty do their best to keep the busy medical staff and their captured security officers under threat with their pistols, Rooster finds some makeshift tools among the surgical equipment and sets about securing the stern door to the ward.
Lily, meanwhile, takes on the formidable task of convincing every Alliance crewmen within the sound of her voice that their Captain has gone Section 8, citing his most recent actions and the vagaries of his supposed classified orders. The security chief is quick to lend his verbal support to her assertions, lending his credibility, and Lily senses in the sudden pause down the hall that she may have gotten through to them. After a bit of mutual dialogue, Lily and the security chief have more or less convinced the other security officers and crewmen that the Captain has gone off the deep end. After a little encouragement from the security chief, the PC's agree to turn over their weapons to the officers in the medical ward and the security team outside enters then enters the room.
After the security team secures the medical ward and eventually agrees to obey the security chief's authority, the chief orders them off in teams to fetch assault rifles from the weapons lockers and secure the engine room and the ladders up to the top deck. He then ushers the PC's along with him to the conference room. There he quickly overrides bridge access to the secure cortex and contacts central command. After a bit of fast talking by the chief and Lily, they manage to convey the gravity of the situation onboard the "Hampton" and sit back to await contact by Admiral Lee. Meanwhile they feel the patrol boat once again execute a full burn.
After waiting nearly half an hour they are finally contacted and the security chief gives a detailed accounting of what has occurred on the patrol boat so far, as well as the current tactical situation. As the two consult, the PC's (and everyone else) hear gunfire break out to the stern as the Captain's crewmen attempt to retake the engine room. Admiral Lee hastily orders the security chief to retake the bridge and place the Captain under arrest if at all possible. Barring that they are to secure the engine room and sabotage the "Hampton's" engines. In either case they are to either rendezvous with the Alliance cruiser already en route to intercept or hold the ship until it's arrival.
The security chief quickly issues assault rifles to the PC's and orders all but two of his security officers to reinforce the team that's holding the engine room. He and the PC's then make for the ladders up to the top deck. Immediately they come under fire from the doorway to the bridge. No one is injured in the first volley and bridge personnel quickly close and seal the door. The chief and PC's scramble up onto the top deck and take position at the door while Rooster disables the locks on the stern-ward door to the hallway beyond.
Once they've established a secure position Rooster cracks open the locking mechanism to the bridge door but finds it completely fused. He announces that they'll have to cut through the door if they want to get onto the bridge. Rooster grabs the two security officers with them, preparing to go back down and to the engine room/hanger area to look for a cutting torch. As soon as they leave the PC's hear someone on the other side of the door Rooster recently sealed trying in vain to override it. With the gunfire below having ceased they can only assume the Captain's crewmen have pulled out of the engine room and are trying to return to the bridge.
The security chief spends the time waiting for Rooster to return with a torch convincing them, with much mutually shouting through the door, that the Captain's gone nuts and that they are all now under orders directly from Admiral Lee. He eventually convinces them to comply and link up with security officers in the engine room (whom they just fought, wounded and ran from).
Rooster returns soon after with two cutting torches, informing everyone that the crewmen did indeed surrender to the security team below, and he and Betty begin the long task of cutting through the thick bridge door. After only a moment they feel the patrol boat maneuvering strangely, followed shortly by several jarring shudders. Horrified, the security chief confirms that the "Hampton" has just fired several of it's short range missiles as well as at least a dozen rounds from it's twin 20-lb. cannons.
Working feverishly, Betty and Rooster try to cut through the door as quickly as possible. Though it takes several long minutes they finally succeed and everyone takes position to cover the bridge once the doors are open. When the security chief gives the order, Rooster slides the door into it's recess and everyone storms onto the bridge. There they find most of the bridge personnel already with guns trained on one another and a standoff already in progress.
Quickly supporting the side they perceive as standing against the Captain, the chief and PC's join in the mutual demands of surrender. Out the bridge's windows Marlin and Betty can see the civilian transport "Hanna's Heaven" is now docked with another larger (and decidedly evil looking) craft. Both have been heavily damaged, presumably by the shots fired minutes ago from the "Hampton". As the security chief informs everyone on the bridge that Admiral Lee has issued the personal order that Captain Sarian be relieved of command and arrested the PC's can see the unidentified spacecraft release from "Hanna's Heaven" and maneuver sluggishly below and out of sight.
With Lily's calm persuasion and the security chief's assertions that Admiral Lee has relieved the Captain of command, the First Officer begins to buckle under the pressure. When Captain Sarian begins raving like a lunatic that "the Reavers are getting away!" and ordering his men to open fire, he finally turns his weapon on the Captain and orders everyone to stand down. Relieved, everyone at last relaxes their weapons.
The Captain, however, now totally off the deep end, grapples the First Officer and is shot point blank in the chest. He falls. Lily rushes to tend to him and two of the security officers help her carry him to the medical ward.
After the First Officer and security chief restore order to the ship and ensure everyone injured is receiving proper medical attention, they turn their attention to the wreckage of "Hanna's Heaven". The other unidentified ship is nowhere to be seen, nor can sensors or sensor logs determine where it may have gone.
The First Officer immediately scans the wreckage of "Hanna's Heaven" for survivors but it is soon determined that the civilian crew on board are completely gone, presumably destroyed by the attack that ripped through both ships. After reporting to Admiral Lee, he acknowledge the command to rendezvous with the Alliance cruiser already on intercept and issues orders for heading.
Mid-conversation with Admiral Lee, however, the cortex signal suddenly drops inexplicably and the "Hampton" staggers under a bone-jarring series of explosions from astern.
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