Amber Nebula Campaign Log

11. Cowboys and Engines

15 June, 2775. 02:34 UTC. Log entry by Spanners.

En route to Arawne, I have been performing routine ship maintenance. I have discovered that the fuel explosion on the Dashgad starport has damaged the Legacy's antimatter rocket engine. The fuel mixing chamber is cracked, which is potentially dangerous.

So far we have been operating without any problems. We have to continue using the engine since either turning it off or dropping out of hyperspace before we reach the calculated location of Arawne will strand us in deep space. If the crack expands into a breach we will have hot plasma leaking into the other engine systems in the rear of the ship, which will probably cripple us. I estimate a five percent chance of this happening before we reach Arawne.

08:29 UTC. Log entry by Spanners.

I have cold-welded a titanium plate over the crack in the fuel mixing chamber. This should buy us some time if the crack widens a little, but will not hold a larger plasma breach. When we arrive at Arawne, we will need repairs before we can safely take off again.

17 June, 2775. 10:50 UTC. Log entry by Serron.

We have skewed back into realspace and are on target for Arawne. We should land in about 4 hours. The antimatter fuel mixing chamber has survived the trip, and if it can just last us long enough to get planetside we'll all breathe a little easier.

We have transmitted Sara Hercule's message to the Arawne Colonial Office, and they have responded by scrambling a small rescue fleet. They assure us we will receive payment for our help once we land.

We've also informed traffic control of our engine problem, so they can mobilise rescue teams if we develop severe problems.

14:47 UTC. Log entry by Ogier.

We have landed safely on Arawne, avoiding any further problems with the engine. We are basically where we were ten days ago, except this time we need a new engine rather than just wanting one.

16:14 UTC. Log entry by Iki Piki.

Our current predicament requires us to acquire a new engine before we can safely leave Arawne. Our options are:

18:35 UTC. Log entry by Spanners.

After some discussion we have concluded that the best thing to do is to leave Ogier and Sirene here on Arawne, looking after the Legacy, while Serron, Iki Piki and myself seek passage to Rubilith to buy and bring back a new engine. We are leaving enough money for Ogier and Sirene to live on until we get back, and Serron is in the process of procuring some sort of profitable cargo with the rest for us to take with us to Rubilith. This should allow us to get a new engine, and hopefully leave enough to pick up something else which we can sell for a profit once back on Arawne.

I have gone through the ship listings here and hired us on to a small ship named the Argonaut, captained by a human by the name of Paris D. Smith. This is a working passage, as Captain Smith is the sole owner and current crew of the ship, so our experience in handling a merchant vessel will come in handy during the flight.

Once Serron has organised our cargo, we shall be leaving as soon as we can. Rubilith is nearly 14 parsecs away, and the Argonaut is no more powerful than the Legacy. It will take us nearly 10 days to get there.

21:57 UTC. Free trader Argonaut log entry by Captain Paris Smith.

I have taken on a crew of three working passengers named Iki Piki, Serron and Spanners, respectively a Pachekki, Sparrial and Chatka. These passengers are paying for part of their passage by working on crew stations. They are also transporting an antimatter engine, apparently salvaged from their own ship and to be used as a trade-in for a new engine, and a small quantity of rare woods which the Sparrial hopes to sell at our destination, Rubilith, for a profit.

The cargo has been loaded and the passengers have just boarded, so we are just waiting on Serron's astrogation calculations and clearance from the Arawne south-east central starport traffic control for hyperspace skew.

20 June, 2775. 07:12 UTC. Free trader Argonaut log entry by Captain Paris Smith.

58 hours outbound from Arawne en route to Rubilith. All systems normal. We expect to arrive at Rubilith about a week from now.

The passengers and I have been using our free time to get acquainted. They are all unique and interesting personalities. I think we should get along fine for the remainder of this trip and the return passage.

27 June, 2775. 13:43 UTC. Free trader Argonaut log entry by Iki Piki.

Captain Smith is preparing the ship for re-entry into realspace...

Skew successful. We appear to be on course and about 5 hours out from Rubilith.

15:09 UTC. Free trader Argonaut log entry by Captain Paris Smith.

We have received a radio message from the Rubilith Royal Office of Customs and Trade: Attached here. We are following instructions and will be landing at Rubilith Central Starport near the capital city of Rheydt in about 3 hours.

18:17 UTC. Free trader Argonaut log entry by Captain Paris Smith.

We have just taxied to landing platform 5/E76 and are preparing to debark and meet the medical personnel who will escort us to the port infirmary for quarantine check. The ship and cargo will be scanned for contaminants while we are being tested.

18:31 UTC. Royal Office of Customs and Trade, Rubilith Central Starport, Rheydt. Medical log entry by Dr Jossel Targophan.

I have just escorted the crew and passengers of the inbound starship Argonaut to the port infirmary for blood tests for suspected infection with viral thrombotic phagadaena, as reported in express mail communication, Reference Arawne/2775.06.19.025714203/Med/001. Crew display no external symptoms. Contamination precautions in force.

Medical intern Bate Pittson suffered a tear to his contamination suit during initial contact with the crew. He claims the Sparrial crew member, Serron, deliberately stumbled and ripped his suit as he fell against him, but there is no evidence to back this up and Serron professes innocence. Pittson has been isolated and is also undergoing tests for the phagadaena virus.

19:08 UTC. Royal Office of Customs and Trade, Rubilith Central Starport, Rheydt. Medical log entry by Dr Jossel Targophan.

Blood test results show the crew of the ship Argonaut to have no signs of infection with thrombotic phagadaena. Intern Bate Pittson, cross-contaminated in the contact phase also tested negative. Scans of the ship interior and cargo reveal no traces of the virus.

In accordance with article 29.6 of the Galactic Interstellar Commerce agreement, the ship Argonaut and all its crew, passengers and cargo are cleared for immigration quarantine purposes.

19:43 UTC. Field log recording by Serron.

Serron: We have discovered that the political situation on Rubilith has deteriorated somewhat over the past few weeks. The corporations which effectively control the media, the law and the economy have begun an active campaign of destabilisation which seems to be aimed at completely removing the last vestiges of the constitutional monarchy government. The few remaining Royal institutions and forces are battling to remain viable and assert their control.

This became apparent when we tried to cash in our interstellar monetary exchange bond, issued on Arawne. Every bank we have tried has refused to honour the bond, because the economy here is so unstable and they are unsure of what equivalent value they can get for it on the interstellar market.

Spanners: So how can we get the money to buy our new engine?

Iki Piki: Captain Smith, how much is the Argonaut insured for?

Paris: Hey, you're not doing anything to my ship!

Serron: I've had enough for today. I wish to go to a pub.

Paris: Yes!

Spanners: I want to keep trying to get us some cash somehow. Iki?

Iki Piki: Yes, I'll go with you. We'll see you guys back at the ship later.

21:33 UTC. Field log entry by Spanners.

Iki Piki and I have had an interesting meeting with some people at the Harcourt Shipyards company. We said we wanted to buy a fusion engine, but when we said all we had was a monetary bond issued on Arawne they turned us down. As we were leaving, an executive asked us into an office for a discussion of possible trade terms.

He told us that they would be willing to offer us a two gigawatt engine plus a little extra cash in exchange for our bond and a "small service". It turned out this service would involve sneaking into the Royal palace and planting a listening device in one of the government meeting rooms, so Harcourt can gather intelligence to use in the defence of itself and allied corporations against attempts to undermine their power by the government. Harcourt would provide us with stealth equipment, details of how to enter the palace undetected, and maps to help locate the meeting room.

Initially they wanted us to leave the bond with them for safe keeping, with the encryption key, while we infiltrated the palace. When we refused, they agreed that we could give them the encyption key once we returned and had the engine. Although a better deal, Iki and I are not sure we should accept this offer, nor even that we should reveal it to the mercenary mind of Serron. We left Harcourt with a promise that we would think about the offer, and are now returning to the Argonaut. Once outside, Iki suggested we take the equipment they are offering us and squeal to the Queen, saying "Here's the evidence, give us an engine." This may not be practical.

21:46 UTC. Free trader Argonaut log entry by Captain Paris Smith.

Serron and I have returned to the Argonaut to get some sleep. Because the sun never sets here, Rubilith operates on UTC, which synchs with our sleep patterns from the hyperspace trip.

Iki Piki has contacted us and says that he and Spanners are on their way back as well, after a fruitless search for banks or engine manufacturers who will accept the monetary bond.

Serron managed to sell the small cargo of wood we shipped from Arawne, and with some Rubilith sovereigns in our possession we tracked down a pub and spent some time socialising with the locals and sampling some of the drinks. Conversation with some of the people in the pub indicates the tense situation between the corps and the government has filtered down to the populace. Several people supported the corps, citing their supply of jobs, education, health care, and effective police forces as the elements which made life on Rubilith good and safe. A minority supported the monarchy, claiming the corps are behaving illegally and that Queen Natasha would have life back to the prosperous state it was before the corps took over if only given a chance. We dodged the issues and left when it appeared that shouting might give way to fighting.

22:02 UTC. Free trader Argonaut vid-phone log.

Paris: Free trader Argonaut, Captain Paris Smith speaking.

Smythe: This is Professor Byron Smythe, of Lyrane. I have a message for your passengers.

Serron: Smythe! You bastard!

Smythe: Ah, I see you're there. I will be coming to see you tomorrow morning, to clear up some unfinished business I have with you.

Serron: What?! Hang up, Paris!

Paris: Too late, he's cut the connection. You know this guy?

Spanners: He only hijacked our ship and tried to kill us!

Iki Piki: He abandoned us on our ship, set for a burn-up re-entry!

Serron: He's a wanted criminal!

Paris: Woah, slow down... tell me the story.

23:10 UTC. Free trader Argonaut log entry by Captain Paris Smith.

Serron, Iki Piki and Spanners have told me a remarkable story about their experiences with Professor Smythe. Serron has gone outside to scout the area around the Argonaut and plans to stand watch out there for the next few hours. Spanners is checking public access records on the net to see if he can find any record of Smythe arriving on Rubilith, or staying anywhere here in Rheydt. Iki Piki is apparently in male mode, and has simply gone to sleep. I'm not quite sure what to expect, but I have weapons ready.

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