The Demon’s Eye: How to win friends and influence people
The B Team finds itself in a lower than comfortable orbit of a gas giant in the First system, with no comms and no sensors. As best they can tell they’ve got many hours before their orbit degrades to the point it’s a problem. Having no luck restarting the systems, they begin to disassemble the sensor system. Key circuits appear to have been fried, but without any damage to other components. This leads Lemuel to opine that it may be a nanobot outbreak, maybe something they picked up on Jali’s stolen ship, the Vagabond Soul. But why would nanobots target just these systems so precisely? He doesn’t have a good answer for that, but suggests can could try sending impulses through the electrical systems that will instruct any remaining nanobots to deactivate. Meanwhile, Alaina is able to restore basic sensor functionality, but no more.
Comms also are partially restored, in that they can pick up incoming signals but not transmit. They immediately pick up the active ping of the Emuar. Odd that a naval vessel on patrol would be actively signaling its location, but it did send a distress signal several hours earlier. It’s not hailing anyone that they can tell other than its transponder ping, at it appears to have pointed itself away from the planet, so they (correctly) presume the Emuar is not in any immediate danger. The Vagabond Soul has disappeared. Of course, it could be close, but with DM-4 sensors and at the edge of the atmosphere, they wouldn’t know it.
So now what? They consider hanging around and continue their efforts to restore communications, at least to get their own transponder going. Maybe even head to the starport to get the ship checked out. But with the Emuar apparently facing the same systems issues, the navy will have questions they can’t or won’t answer, which might make things uncomfortable. So they decide to chance the crappy sensors and comms, and head for the jump limit. If anyone asks, their comms and sensors were on the fritz (true enough), and they never heard any distress call (almost true), and don’t know anything about that other tramp trader (well. . .).
Next stop is Eshadi, mainly because it’s got a decent starport with a high tech level. There they are able to obtain replace parts, and given the surgical nature of the damage to their sensors and comms, the repairs are quick and easy.
At this point the players make an unusual request. They are chasing Jali to a religious conference. None of the travellers know jack about religion, and none are diplomats either. Might one of their contacts or allies (some of whom we ever really detailed) be able to help? So I reward their foresight by answering yes, and the team jumps out, bound for Tobia. Chad knows a guy there, a former petty officer under him, who found religion and left the navy, but they’ve kinda sorta kept in touch. Well, not within the last five years or so, but hey, he’s as good a contact as any. Hopefully he’s still on Tobia.
At Tobia, the team’s problems catch up with them. They are denied permission to dock at the main downport, and are instead directed to the highport. They are met by a small squad of marines, who escort the crew to the Naval offices onsite. There they are questioned by an eager young sub-lieutenant, who seems very excited to be questioning the crew of a tramp trader:
Why were you in Fist approximately three weeks ago?
Why were you refueling at a gas giant instead of using the local starport?
Why did not answer distress calls from the Emuar when you were known to be in the vicinity?
What do you know about the other tramp ship that skimmed fuel several hours after your ship?
What repairs did you have done in Eshadi?
Where did you obtain the cargo you sold at Eshadi?
What is your business on Tobia?
Through the tedious process of mostly evading these questions, they decipher that they’ve been stopped because they were the last ship boarded by the Emuar before it experienced difficulties, losing comms and sensors just as the Lady Miria had.
As they can document the repair work, they can make a strong case that they too were experiencing electronic issues and never heard the distress call. By time they got partial functionality, the “mysterious” other ship was gone and the Emuar appeared to be headed back to the starport. However, that also documents that they had the EXACT same problem as theEmuar. Can they explain this?
“What exactly are you getting at, Lieutenant? Electronics can fail the same as any other part. If we are being accused of some wrongdoing, be straight forward about it, Lieutenant. Otherwise, we have business to attend to.”
The young officer leaves, and after an uncomfortable waiting period a Lt. Commander enters, asks a few follow up questions, and then informs the B Team that the Lady Miria is being impounded so that it can be inspected. No, she doesn’t know for how long. No, the Navy will not pay for their accommodations while they wait. No, they aren’t being accused of anything. Yet. But two ships experiencing identical electronic failures shortly after boarding requires investigation. We can’t have a tramp trader running around infecting patrol vessels, can we? (A failed recon role means no one notices Lemuel’s ever so slight smirk at this). The Navy apologizes for any inconvenience.
She then inquires as to any contraband carried on the ship?
“No contraband. We are an Imperium registered mercenary company, so don’t be surprised by the Plasma Gun. Or the Cryojet. Or the closet full of gauss ammunition and grenades. Please do be careful with our stuff.”
“Ah, yes,” replies the Lt. Cmdr “You are, of course, part of the band that destroyed a PRQ facility in Acrid. What were your roles in that incident?”
“I don’t know anything about that. I just met these people. I just needed a ride back home.” squeaks Lemuel, the only words he speaks during the interview.
“My role was liberal use of said Plasma gun“, says Chad.
“I blew up the security room on the docks with a double pulse laser cannon”, adds Gemma.
“I got to ride around in a dune buggy while firing an autocannon at the same time. It was awesome! Indoors, too! Like shooting guns in the house.” Says Junior with a smile.
Alaina, feigns a disapproving look at the other three before saying “Well, Commander, all I did was fly the ship, and after I dropped the kids off I went to get groceries, like a good wife. Now then, we’ve been gone for a few years, Commander, so tell me: what is the Imperium’s current stance on slavery? Surely the Navy doesn’t still have all those supply contracts with known slavers, do they?”
Junior slaps the table, growing more excited. “Oh, and I got to blow up the dune buggy, too. BLEW IT UP! Right in front of everyone. AWE-SOME! Tell her, Colonel. You saw it when I shot the ammo rack. I know you did! “
Chad just shrugs and looks at Alaina.
“Oh yeah! And then the Colonel, he like . . . shot the ceiling! With his plasma gun! And all these rocks were falling, and, and . . . what? Why are looking at my like that again, Captain Madigan?“
Captain Alaina Madigan sighs before turning back to their interrogator: “Please don’t mind Sgt. Sanchez. My husband feels some obligation to look after him. They’re both from Simok, you see. So, slavery?”
The Lt. Commander maintains an impressive poker face before saying “I’ll be frank. Your attack on PRQ, while violating no Imperial Law, will make you less than popular here. Pax Rulin Quartermasters has many friends in both the Navy and the subsector bureaucracy. I’d suggest you keep a low profile.”
“A few less friends than before they were exposed as slavers, I would hope. That IS still against Imperial law, is it not?”
Chad gives Alaina a look. “Um. . .Honey, we DID sign a non-disclosure agreement, remember?”
The less than amused Lt. Commander says “You can retrieve personal items from your ship now if needed, but you will not be permitted to stay on board. You’ll be notified if and when your ship is cleared for departure. You are required to clear any travel plans off the highport with my office prior to departure, and you must remain in system until notified otherwise. Welcome to Tobia.”
Another minor kerfuffle erupts when the marines watching their ship attempt to take Alaina’s portable computer. She allows it to be scanned, but refuses to turn it over, much less to unlock the security features to the laptop’s contents can be examined. “If you want into my computer, Corporal, you’ll need an order from a judge. So I suggest you press your dress uniform. I’ll wear mine too and we can compare medals”. Eventually the security team relents and our travellers are on their way. “Oh yeah, and tell Lt. Commander whats-her-face that we’re headed to the downport. We might leave the port but won’t leave the city. We promise! (virtually the entire landmass of Tobia is covered by one sprawling city). And don’t mess up our ship!”