Dark Frontier

The Times are A Changing
4th April 2159

“And after the break we have an interview with Doctor Katrina Orlov, One of the eyewitness survivors of the Mining Riots on Luna. Back in five.”

John Hackney flashed his charismatic world weary “I’ve seen it all” newsreader smile, and Laura turned away as some bimbo advertising perfume flashed across the holoscreen. She downed her drink in one. Time for business.

She hated Luna; she shared this antipathy with her current location in the Asteroid Belt, but here she was, stuck since leaving the crew of the “Louis Bleriot”. In fact there were a lot of things Laura wasn’t too keen on: all work and little play – and that mostly solo chess and heavy drinking.

And now there was a potential job, but the Mr. Johnson had indicated that a team was required, and Laura as the sole owner/ employee of Dakai yanjing Investigations on her own was not a team. And so she had done some fancy footwork on the local net. She’d picked four from the reply resumes from the dozen she’d received. All would be desperate for work to have bothered replying so quickly given the minimum notice and deadline, but that suited her fine. The message hadn’t given much away apart from the Jenseitech logo and the instructions to meet with a contact – Mr. Alessio West—at the Glintorn Restaurant, located on the Main Piazza in Traveler Sector.

Laura had opted for a mixed skill set- a marine, a tech, a spacer and a wastrel who clearly knew how to talk the hind legs of a donkey. She had almost smiled as she twigged to a couple of the more probable half truths (unverifiable in the time available of course) he had shown in his resume. All had submitted copies of firearms verification certificates

Anyway, here they were: in Smokey’s Bar. Next stop the Glintorn.

The One Off
4th April 2159: 5.00 pm

Fortunately, they had all come appropriately dressed.

The Glintorn Restaurant was one of the nicest places on Caikuang Station, set in a large dome through which the a vista of the system was projected. The surroundings were modeled after eighteenth century Venice, with troughs filled with unnaturally blue water, walls designed to look like elegantly dilapidated buildings and tendrils of artful plant life winding through open window-frames. The restaurant itself was a hangout of the well-to-do. The local AR tags pointed out the conspicuously high cost of some of the fixtures.

“Whoever this is has taste” offered the languid voice of Rackham.

“And cash” added Hanson, the ex Marine. There was a pause – none of them knew one another apart from their brief introductions.

The awkward silence was interrupted by a hail from a handsome looking man in his early forties, sitting quite casually at a large, circular table. He was wearing fashionable clothing, and gave an overall appearance of being fairty relaxed.

“Ms. Chen?” he offered. Laura and the others approached.

“Alessio West” he flashed a brilliant smile. Formalities were exchanged. West called over for drinks and the group sat down. Looking around Laura noticed several well dressed men trying to appear inconspicuous.

“Not a fool then” she thought.

“So Mr. West”, said Laura. “This is the team I have assembled. You gave few details about the job, except that it was a rescue mission?”

“Rescue mission. Yes.” said West. “The job is to find, secure and return with one Jim Segall: The Segalls are a very wealthy family who hold a major stake in Jenseitech.”

“He’s in trouble then?” fished Rackham.

“Hmm. Jenseitech has recently acquired an old mining Facility – Furari Station. The plan is to disassemble it and use its equipment on a new venture within the Belt: so far so good.”

“Unfortunately there a squatters on the station -some sort of fringe cult – and as you can imagine, this complicates proceedings.”

“So where does Segall come in?” asked Laura.

“We believe they are holding Mr. Segall.”

“What?” snorted Rackham. “How did they get hold of him?”

“It is my understanding that Mr. Segall visited the station in order to deliver charity and relief to those living there. Mr Segall is committed to helping those without his wealth and privilege. Indeed, as are all his family.”

“I’m sure” muttered the taciturn Kurtis. Laura shot him an acid look, before turning quickly to Mr. West.

“You’re sure he’s not thrown in with them – it’s not unprecedented. Rich kid falling in with Cult.” Mr. West frowned.

“No. No, not at all ", he replied. “Mr. Segall simply isn’t that sort -he is past such youthful indiscretions. Our view is that he is being held against his will, and we want him rescued.”

“How hard do you want him rescued?”

“Well,” said Mr. West sitting back, “Our remuneration would be quite generous.”

Plan of Attack
4th April 2159: 7.30 pm

“Right”, said Laura. “You’re sure this contact of yours is in Port, ah, Franz?”
“Sure” said the Engineer. “I bumped into her yesterday. If we can charter their ship at Mr. Wests expense, that should resolve the transport problem.”.

“Fine. Get onto it.” said Laura.

“And the rest of us?” asked Rackham.

“Well lets hope for a departure tomorrow, or the day after at latest. A little digging on our target or this Cult might be in order. Otherwise make your personal preparations.” replied Laura.

“And bring your Vacc Suit.”

“Ah.” said Hanson.


“I… uh, can’t afford one.” muttered Hanson.

“A Marine without a Vacc Suit” laughed Rackham.

“This is a problem” said Laura sharply. “No room for dead weight.”

“Tut. How much do your need M’ Dear?” smiled Rackham like a shark.

“I don’t….” Rackham held his hand up.

“It will be a loan at exhorbitant rates I assure you, not a gift.” he interrupted. “How much?”

“Well Cr 2000 with what I have left would allow me to get a decent Armored Hardsuit” said Hanson.

“Fine. And when we get paid you give me Cr4000. " said Rackham. “Is it a deal?”

“That’s robbery!”

“You need a suit now. It’s business.”

Enter the Satis
5th April 2159

“Odd name” said Franz.

“Egyptian Goddess Old Boy” said Rackham: they were almost on first name terms now. Laura raised an eyebrow.

“One of the advantages of a Public School Education.” he smiled. " Discendo discimus, and all that."

“Come again?”

“Never mind.”

“Here she comes now,” interrupted Franz. “This is Anthea.”

The woman approaching them was in her thirties maybe, attractive looking with sleek black hair. When she spoke it was with an accent which Rackham recognised as Greek.. The woman nodded at Franz, and introductions were made.

“Is everything ok Anthea?” asked Franz.

“Na, Na. It is good.” replied Anthea. We can do business with Prometheus Station, which is a few days M drive from Furari. The extra income will be helpful for a couple of days delay."

Franz nodded, and introduced the others. All had their baggage nearby, and he noticed that Hanson (or Vic, as he now called her), had a brand new Vacc Suit trolley. Laura eyed the ship with interest.

“Cleopatra Class Freighter isn’t it” she asked.

“You have good eye,” replied Anthea. “You are Pilot, yes?”

“I am qualified yes, but mainly an Astrogator” replied Laura. “Never flown one of these though.”

“Not too different from Trojan Class” said Anthea. “Anyway, you come aboard ,yes?”

All Aboard
5th April 2159; 1.30 pm

As they settled in a short discussion about the mission emerged.

“Find anything out Laura?” asked Zola.

“Not much. Most of what West said checks out: the Segall family are incontinently wealthy, but beyond some murky business practices in their past, are as legitimate as anyone else with that much money.” Rackham snorted.

“Jim Segall was a bit of a Hell Raiser in his younger days – plenty in the old gossip columns. But after his last Rehab about ten years ago he seems to have cleaned up his act and kept off radar.”

“And Jenseitech?”

“Oh thats pretty common knowledge” said Rackam. “Big Meditech and cutting edge Biotech, the usual rumours of secret projects: no doubt some of them are true.”

“Nothing on this Furari aquisition” said Laura. “Probably too recent.”

“So how long till we get there?” asked Franz.

“Wrong area of the Belt from here. Usual 2 weeks T Drive.” said Laura. “Probably half a dozen hours before we need to enter the Stasis pods.” Franz nodded.

Out of the Shell
14th April 2159


Laura spewed up the vile oxygenated gel which had flooded her lungs. Around her, in various stages of undress up to paper track suits, her four comrades were doing the same. People stumbled into Zero G showers, and eventually regained some semblance of humanity.

While the others went off to wolf down much needed food, Laura made her way towards the bridge. Anthea turned to greet her.

“We make good time: 9 days only.” she said. She was reviewing the radio transmissions they had recieved over the intervening days:.

Playing were a number of static bursts with obvious codewords being barked in a panicked voice: “Epsilon, Epsilon, Violation Twelve” and “Verdigris Delta, Violation Twelve.” She frowned.

“From Furari Station, or its vicinity anyway” she explained.

“How far is it?” asked Laura.

“Four days.” said Anthea deadpan.

“Four days!” exclaimed Laura. “It should be 48 hours maximum.!”

“Ah. But listen.” repleid Anthea, touching a console. Laura listened to the distinctive signal.

“It’s a Mayday!” she said.

UWC Regs” said Anthea. " ‘All vessels have a duty to render timely assistance to any distress signal they come across.’

Laura nodded; the ship stasis systems would be programmed to automatically wake the crew to deal with the situation should the ship detect a nearby S.O.S. call. This is exactly what had happened. She sighed.

No Reply
14th April 2159: 2.30 pm

The Transponder code indicated that the Mayday was coming from a 300T light freighter called the Tuttissimo. A check of the Ship Registry indicated that it operated under ArrowEx, and its registered flight plan was along a path not far from its current position.

“Not much information” said Anthea. “Engines are offline and its not responding to hails. Life support operational.”

“The signal is just automated then” stated Laura.

“Presents interesting possibilities don’t you think?” said Rackham, who had appeared behind the. Anthea frowned.

“What do you mean – and what are you doing on my bridge?”

“No offence Dear Lady – but I couldn’t help overhear. What I meant was: if the signal is automated it may be, sadly, that the crew are dead. Which presents salvage options.”

“Salvage Law is minefield” said Anthea shaking her head. “And with ArrowEx Big Lawyers would be nightmare.”

“True, true.” smiled Rackham. “So why not contact them and drop a few hints. If you play it might they might offer a reward if you play up the damage to your ship due to danger angle etc. Just a thought.”

“Hmm” thought Anthea. “I might contact them at that; need to check if we’re the only ship in range anyway.”

Laura gave Rackham a sidelong glance. Clearly he was one to keep an eye on.

The Ghost Ship
14th April 2159: 3.15 pm

The Sprint shuttle was being piloted by the Astrogator of the Satis, called Holly. Both Zola and Laura were confident that they could pilot the Sprint Class, but technically their qualifications applied to larger craft.

Laura had volunteered her team to board the craft: this would enable her to observe them at work in a potentially stressful situation. She considered this might be useful if later on in their mission they were pitched into real danger. Anthea had raised no objections, but insisted on her own Pilot.

The Tutissimo design was elongate and spindle shaped; a perusal of the model plans indicated a bridge forward and hold aft, connected by a long corridor: the design was not streamlined, though it did have its own Sprint Class docked to the starboard airlock; interestingly enough, they had determined that this was the source of the Mayday. Their plan was to dock on the port airlock, and from there explore the ship.

As they approached they could see no signs of damage, battle or otherwise. The silence remained a mystery.

At Laura’s insistence everyone had armed themselves, but apart from Laura with her XSM the others sported only sidearms, though she noted that Rackham wore two – one on each hip. Laura shook her head. The marine Vic also carried a Boarding Axe, which might actually prove useful in some circumstances. She had also insisted that the shuttle pilot carry a sidearm, though she was to remain on board.

“Atmosphere Good” said Holly. “All seems aok.”

“Keep your suits sealed anyway” said Laura. “No telling what’s caused this. Biohazard maybe. Keep alert.”

They had docked now and the five crowded into the small airlock, virtually toe to toe. The lock cycles. Nothing sinister: a spartan ships corridor, normally lit. No hazard lights. Nothing.

“I’ll take point” said Laura. “Space yourselves out a bit.” She launched herself forward in the microgravity witch practiced control.

“The Shuttle first, then the bridge” she buzzed over the channel. Ahead the corridor opened out slightly to reveal a small med bay. Ahead was a four way junction.

“Hold on”" she said. “Rackham come and check this.” Dutifully Rackham approached, a pistol in each hand, and the two scanned the small area over. It was fairly basic – a foldout bed, and a small bench with some cupboards and supplies. Rackham pointed.

“Here’s something,” he said. “Medikit is missing – see its been removed from the tethers.”

“Hmm.” said Laura. “Something amiss then.” The others moved up, a couple taking a covering position from the alcove. At the cross junction they could see the access to the starboard airlock, and towards this they now headed; there was no sign of activity along the long axis main corridor. The layout was similar to their own shuttle, and they ca

“Perhaps I could take point " said Zola. “I’ve spent a lot of time in microgravity and I’m pretty mobile.” Laura had noticed, and nodded her head and grunted.

“All clear” she called from the junction. Beyond this extended a corridor similar to the one from portside, terminating in another lock leading to the ships own shuttle. Down this corridor they proceeded.

The layout was similar to their own shuttle, and the carefully examined instruments and compartments.

“The Mayday is automated” said Zola, “Still broadcasting.”

“Leave it for now” said Laura. “Let’s head Aft.”

Off the corridor leading towards the bridge was a large alcove with a dozen stasis pods. On the opposite side of the corridor were two doors leading to a common Hab area..

The Sleeper
14th April 2159: 3.30 pm

“Doors first” said Vic, standing to one side. The Stasis Area was clearly visible and so could contain no obvious threat. Laura nodded and covered the door, while Zola pressed the stud and stepped back. Rackham scanned the room, twin pistols in hand.

“Good grief!” was all he said. Laura peered round.

The Hab was a room where the crew could sleep and hang out during the parts of the journey where they were not otherwise in stasis: this was usually only be a few days at a time, and the room was room is relatively small. It consisted of an open area with five beds along the wall, where the crew could strap in to sleep. One of these beds was clearly the captain’s, as it sported the additional luxury of a pull-out divider, giving it some modicum of privacy.

“Cheaper than staterooms I suppose” said Zola. “Barely call it living though.”

Each bed also had a lockbox near its foot, where the crew could leave their personal effects.

But floating in the middle of the room was the corpse of one the dead crew members, It slowly drifted across the room in microgravity, bouncing from one wall to the other. Blood had leaked out, forming droplets in the air, and coating everything.

“Gygax” read Laura from his overall, and then matching this to the name panel on the Captain’s locker. Laura moved over to search the body.

“Thumbprint lock” said Vic. Zola manouvered the corpse over to the locker, and they soon had it open. The was little of interest other than some ArrowEx documents and personal effects.

“Bag ’em” said Zola. “For the relatives.”

“Crew of four” said Laura after a few moments.

“This fellow has been shot” said Rackham. "Autofire I’d surmise – several holes. "

“Died quick too” said Laura. “No sign of a struggle.”
“No movement in the corridors” said Vic, who was half stood in one of the doors, keeping lookout.

“It’s clear that someones up to o good” said Laura. “And maybe the ship has hidey holes. Be on your guard.”. The locks on the crew lockers would have proved too time consuming to finesse open, and so they decided to move on.

Opposite the Crew Hab was an open.bay which constituted the Stasis Area containing five pods. Fliping herself effortlessly across to one of the many handlebars Zola hovered over the pods and then exclaimed:

“There’s somebody in this one!” Quickly the others gathered round. Laura squibted through the plexiglass.

“Makemba Kesi.” she read, from the name patch. “Odd that she’s in her overalls.” It was usual to strip to a T shirt and shorts, or a disposable paper suit when entering one of the pods, prior to being flushed with the nasty oxygenated jelly

“Life signs are a bit odd” said Rackham. “Almost as if….Hmm.”

“What?” asked Laura.

“Its like she went in in a hurry, and messed up.” replied Rackham.

“Well we need to get her out. Rescue equals reward.” Rackham sighed.

“It’s true she can’t stay here” he said. “Here goes.” before operating the controls he prepared a hypo. As soon as he operated the evacuation cycle warning panels on the controls started flashing.

“Can’t be helped” said Rackham. “I doubt she’ll even be conscious.”

She was… and she immediately started a high pitched screaming. Laura and Vic pinned her arms, and Rackham jabbed the sedative. Immediately she collapsed.

“Let’s just get her back” he sighed. “We’ll get zero sense from her for a good while.”

Fore and Aft
14th April 2159: 3.45 pm

The bridge was little more than room for a pilots console and a nav. computer, and off this were a couple of doors to a walk in locker and a small stateroom. The walls were covered with all manner of controls.

A quick check of the area revealed nothing, and so they headed down the long corridor aft towards the cargo hold and engineering areas.

“Everthing ok?” called Laura to the shuttle. The answer came back in the affirmative.

The cargo hold was the main volume of the ship, consisting of a large chamber divided by a walkway leading down the spine towards the engine room. On one side loomed numerous crate, while on the other were sealed containers clearly marked as mail – one of ArrowEx’s
specialities. There was lots of potential hiding space here, and as the emergency lighting flickered on the group moved forward cautiously.

On either side everything was neatly sorted in crates, which were strapped to one of the walls, or to other crates to form a stack. These stacks meant that the walls of the cargo
hold were largely obscured from the entrance, and that floating between the walls of crates gave the entire bay a closed-in feel.

As they moved down the walkway Laura again spotted something floating in the microgravity; shining their lights revealed that once again there were droplets of blood. Trailing some of these they spotted something wedged between two crates.

“Another Deader” said Laura. “Uggh… Shot to pieces.” Indeed, the corpse was riddled with bullet holes.

“Someone isn’t messing around” said Vic, thumbing her Anvil 12mm. They were halfway down the hold now, and moving towards the engine room.


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