Into The Black

The love boat

It was supposed to be a quiet trip. Everything was lined up nice: booze, paying passengers, ship upgrades, booze, my old friend-with-benefit Nadia, booze. Good booze too, snatched during the party we organized for the overpaid brats we were supposed to babysit, aka the Gators. I wonder what a gator is, by the way, never seen one in the black…

So, anyway, take off went superbly, we were all in space in no time. It looks like ruddin’ Rammstein’s ship had already left when we hit orbit, probably headed for the coordinates I had sent him. Who knows how long it’ll take him off our track, but he’ll be back that’s for sure. In the meantime, he can sure kiss my Pei Gu. I owe the crew a solid on that one, they could just as well have sold me out, the offer was tempting after all. But where would they find such an awesome pilot, with such a winning personality ? In any case, I really wonder why Obersturmbannf├╝hrer Rammstein has such a tumescence for my tribe? Ok, they’ve been causing trouble for a while, but not more than notorious criminals like Badger or Niska…

We’ve never been that crowded on this ship, what with the unexpected arrival of Leonid’s Natasha and my Nadia, plus a full complement of passengers (mostly Gator fans, to the exception of Lisa Kung-Lau (a real firecracker). Then, there’s the addition of a stowaway, Brad Armstrong himself, one of the aforementioned brats. This one has been damaging my calm ever since I met him, and by climbing on our ship uninvited, he just officially made it on my shit list… He wanted to be with Alicera, hoping she’d put up for the rest of the trip and welcome him like a hero. Well, it turned out quite different: although he did get to spend a night in her bunk, he was welcomed the next morning with an optical grenade and the business end of a shotgun. And this time I aimed the grenade just right… Discussion with Captain Prudie ensued, and the boy was sent to our improvised brig, i.e. the starboard shuttle. We soon after warned Charles Ringessen (Brad’s boss, and our current employer) that we had his boy and that he was safe and sound.

The trip started well and quickly fell into routine: for me that was day shifts with piloting and “light drinking,” and night shifts in my bunk with not-so-light drinking and sometime a nice visit from Nadia (ouch, she hasn’t lost her touch one bit. I’ll have more scars by the end of the trip, but that’s worth it). For the rest of the crew things were going fine, Gideon was taking care of the food and passenger activities (good old Bingo-Gator-Trivia…) and Brad was trying to ingratiate the rest of the crew by making himself useful in the kitchen and impressing the passengers. The latter soon realized who he was and went nuts: we should have asked more money for their ride. Alicera tried to stay away as much as possible from loverboy and kept busy in the engine room. Leonid was taking care of Natasha, who mostly kept to herself. The Padre started working on some counselling with them. Things were quiet, there was a bit of smack talk between the Gator fans and miss Kung-Lau who could hold her own. One of the passengers, a nerdy boy called Robert Blake, actually asked for some advice from our Shepherd about the best way to make her understand he had a crush on her. I’m not sure why you’d ask such a young fellow, with a bible for a brain, about such matters, but I guess the Religiosity Kid’s got more common sense than most, so why not.

On the twelfth day of our trip (about midway), Brad paid a visit to Alicera in the engine room to chat her up. I dunno what they talked about, but soon after they were joined by Robert Blake (the nerd), who had brought a gun to the party! He locked the door behind him, and forced Alicera to sabotage the engine. suddenly we were “dead in the water.” I was at the helm with the Captain at the time and we asked over the comm what was happening. Alicera replied that there was a problem with the engine, and that “they” were working on it… As the Captain was making her way to the ship’s poup, I gathered some gear and warned Wilson about the situation. When we arrived at the locked engine room airlock, Blake was yanking cables and pipes left and right while holding Brad and Alicera at gun point. He told us to stay put and that we’d have some visit shortly.

I raced back to the bridge and scanned the surrounding, pushing the Nightingale’s sensors to their farthest range. Indeed, a ship was incoming and would be on us in less than two hours. Like my uncle Luc would always say when something was breaking down on the Je me souviens (about every other day) : Criss de calice de tabarnac d’osti de sacrament! I rushed back and took Gideon in tow. Blake would not answer to any kind of negotiation. He seemed crazed, almost hysterical. Looking through the blueprints of the ship, there seemed to be an air vent going from the center of the ship (above the galley) to the ceiling of the engine room. It was pretty tight, so Leonid was out of the question, and both Gideon and Captain Prudie were keeping Blake busy to keep him from shooting his hostages. I warned the others to look away from the room on signal, ‘cause there’d be some fireworks.

I climbed into the vent after donning my welding goggles and my ballistic mesh. Crawling through the space was taking forever, I barely had space to wiggle my way forward. As I was making my way and listening to the events in my comm unit, the situation was escalating and Blake was threatening from shooting Alicera in the face at any moment. Than suddenly, time stopped: I heard the echo of a gunshot coming from the back of the ship. I didn’t hear any scream from Alicera, so either she was dead or had frozen again. Gideon and Wilson started shooting bullet after bullet through the three inch thick porthole set in the airlock blast door. They finally cracked the door and Wilson tried to slide his arm through the opening, to unlock the door.

That’s when I arrived on top of the vent. There was no time and not much room, so I just threw my weight, head first, into the vent to break through it. As I was falling into the room I unpinned another Optical Bomb. I gave the signal to the others and hoped my welding goggles would protect me from the effects. Of course Alicera and Brad could not be warned ahead of time and dropped to the ground at the same time as Blake, the psychedelic LED strobe having wrecked havoc with their nervous system. I fell heavily on the floor but managed to mostly protect my head and back. I stood up, kicked his gun out of Blake’s hands and head butted him as hard as I could, then unlocked the blast door. Prudie, Wilson, Gideon and Leonid rushed in, tied Blake with the wires he had yanked from the engine, and helped Brad. Unbeknownst to me, Brad had dived in the way to protect Alicera when Blake tried to shoot her. He was badly hurt in the shoulder, there was blood everywhere. Although I’m glad Alicera is fine, I realized that Blake had just shot our moneymaker…

As Brad was being carried to the med bay for some express surgery, the Nightingale received a call from the incoming ship: this was Liu Bei, the same gorram triad boss who had tried to intercept us a couple months ago when we were transporting the wine cargo for baron Othello. Obviously he didn’t like the fact that we gave him the slip and dumped our septic tank all over his nice luxury ship… He explained that he had to kill his previous crew because they had witnessed this humiliation. Now, imagine what he’s going to do to us if he sacrificed his men so easily…

As the yacht was approaching and when Alicera stopped seeing dots, she diagnosed the damage and realized there is no way she could fix the ship before the K14 men arrived. We now had to defend she ship the best we could. I offered to pilot one of the shuttles, loaded with explosives, into their yacht as they approached (hopefully jumping off before impact), but the plan was deemed too reckless (good thing they didn’t see what I pulled off during the war).

We armed some of the passengers (and I gave my repeater crossbow to Nadia, who thought Xmas had come early), and I prepared a plan B involving my trusty and all patched up military spacesuit, several packs of Scrapper Gel (will burn a hole through a hull in seconds) and some rope. Hopefully the rest of the crew will manage to hold the Tongs long enough for me to blow a few unhealthy holes in their ship.

Wish us luck !!


Late to the read here. What a fantastic retelling!! Nice Job Franck! It reads like a serial- which is a credit to the your tale tell’n and our GM’s story arc. Great back story nuggets too. Bible-Brain eh? Okay, funny.

The love boat

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