Weapons fire flares in the Etamisian evening, as a wheeled vehicle leaps and bucks over the rolling terrain, trying to intercept the Blazemaster. With Ari already at the wheel, Milo gets into the gunpod seat, and the rest of the gun bearing crew roll into the back, ready to drop the back cargo door to show these assailants what a fully armed crew of a Blazemaster can do.
Dodging around rocks and leaping off the small hillocks makes aiming hard, and closing the distance harder, for the attackers, while Ari presses her advantage. The crew gets bounced around, but with Milo landing a few shots, the time is ripe, and the back hatch drops, and the report of a Accelerator cannon and a Battle Rifle rock the enemy, shooting one of the human raiders right out of the passenger seat where he was leaning out the window firing his rifle, and sending sparks an smoke up near their gunpod.
It becomes clear someone in the enemy vehicle is crawling into the forward compartment with something bulky. Deciding to ruin the pilots day, the crew of the Albatross focus their fire on the main lynch-joint between the front and rear of the two-piece vehicle. Just as the raiders finally get a handle on Ari’s course and accelerate to catch, the sustained fire causes sparking blowout on the raider vehicle, and unable to retain control is rockets forward as the grew close the back hatch, and Ari hits the breaks.
There is a thunderous crash as the enemy vehicle slams front-first into a massive boulder, jack-knifing halfway around it, and flinging bodies from the rear hatch.
Ari slows the Blazemaster to a stop, as a humanoid figure stumbles out of the front hatch of the now reversed raider vehicle. Clearly dazed and injured from his movements, the raider still manages to pull a long, heavy object out of the vehicle, drops to one knee, and aims the bulky pipe-like object at the Blazemaster…
With a rush of exhaust, a small rocket erupts from one of the launcher’s 4 tubes, but careens in a wild spiral toward the Blazemaster, one of it’s stabilizer fins clearly malfunctioning. Three more burst of flame erupt from the rocket launcher, but nothing launches, and before the raider can even drop the weapon, the rockets detonate – obliterating the man and flipping the raider vehicle into the air twice such that it amazingly land right side up, now on fire. The flying rocket finishes it’s widening forward spiral, missing Ari and the driver’s compartment, but whizzes down and UNDER the Blazemaster, where it impacts the ground, and suddenly the crew of the Albatross experiences momentary free fall.
With a mighty whump, the Blazemaaster flips over and lands on it’s roof, and the crew tumbles head over heels onto their new floor. Bruised, but not really injured, the crew pops the back hatch, and crawls out.
A quick scan shows there are no survivors among the raiders, so the group focus on the immediate problem, and rocks and finally rights their multi-ton armored truck. Making sure the sleeping beetle specimen is safe, the the group goes to examine the raider vehicle.
What remains can be found all show human. They are able to extract the vehicle computer core, and find a still intact datapad on one of the bodies. There are a few cheap, mangled rifles and handguns among the bodies, and what might have been functional mining equipment, but for the most part, the vehicle and the people are a lost cause.
Getting back into the Blazemaster, the group continues toward Cardinia, while Nero and Ari examine the data cores they retrieved. The last couple hours of the drive are fruitful – it becomes clear that the group, despite a lack of names and use of shorthand, are raiders, claim jumpers, and blackmailers, with the most ties to Rhineback colony to the north, although there is likely at least one informant at Cardinia Colony working in the spaceport that the raiders had some sort of location blackmail upon. In addition, there are tallies of money, as well as a manifest of ore weights, and a local topo map which marks some topsoil strip mine sites, and what is probably the Raider’s base.
Ari has a hunch, base on her time at the spaceport and the info in the pad, that it might be one of either a turian or human worker. The group agrees to bring this information of Constable Won when they get back.
The group pulls the Blazemaster into the Albatross’ bay, and decides to sleep the rest of the long night away, and meet their contacts in the actual morning.
When the sounds of work crew returning to the repairs on the Albatross wake them, the group cleans up and heads out to the Constable’s Office. After describing vaguely the events to the officer at the front desk, he makes sure that the Head Constable is in, and waves them through. Constable Won listens with an impressed look on his face as the description of the attack is presented. Based on their description, the raiders sound like a group that Cardinia has been aware of for a few months, hitting some smaller mining stakes while the panner was in town, but didn’t have any good leads. The datapad, even in shorthand, has enough entry details to match the group to several known hits. Also, the knowledge that there may be people in Cardinia abetting the raiders is quite valuable. Won offers them a bounty for the information, and also offers to deputize them, under a standard merc pay contract, if they would be willing to head out to the coordinates of the possible raider camp, investigate it, and see if they can find further proof, especially stolen goods. The group agrees, planning to set off tomorrow.
On their way out, a turian and human constable walk in, and Won calls them into his office, “Have I got a job for you two…” as the doors shut.
Heading over to Dr. Basiri’s lab, the group finds her lightly anxious, but in a clearly good mood. The new specimen starts her to babbling about various bits about genetic engineering and biomechanically designed life, mentioning the Citadel Keepers (one of the galaxy’s still unfathomed mysteries) in the complex scientific rambling. Putting the new specimen in her newly shield hardened containment bay, she gets down to brass tacks. She gives the group an IOU for now, as her next grant disbursement is still days away from transfer, but starts the discussion about percentage stake, retainers, and similar payments in exchange for publishing rights, etc, etc. The group counters that if she hasn’t already, she should be looking at presenting preliminary data to her university benefactors in an effort to get her the funding she deserves. In the process of tentatively negotiating prices and values, right at the end, Milo, having watched the mannerisms of Dr. Basiri during the discussion, blurts out the names of a medicinal chemical.
Dr. Basiri stops instantly, “Out.” she says in monotone. “Out. Get. Out.”
The group leaves without goodbyes. Once out in the hall, Milo explains that the medicine he named is a stimulant that works on Asari and Salarians, can be habit forming, and can also lead to cardiac failure. And the twitchy mannerisms and other physiological signs he saw on Dr. Basiri were common to the drug.
The party walks on.
Stopping to rest and have some food, the group is approached by Molly Calligan, who is looking for backup for a job. One of the southern outlier agriplots has been hit a number of times over the past couple of weeks, only at night, by some kind of large, fast scavenger. She’s been hired to scout it out and capture, or kill, if necessary. But having a second vehicle on the operation to herd a target would be helpful, and she wonders if the group would be interested.
As the job is set for about 4 or 5 days out, the group agrees, as that should give them time to find and search the raider camp, and get back in time to report to Constable Won.
Later, Nero’s datapad beeps as the programs he and Ari set to work on Professor Bellcasi’s datapad alert him to success at cracking the passwords. Most of the professor’s entries are fairly dull, either about academic rivalries, setbacks, or archaeological theories irrelevant to current affairs. However, some point out to a new patron, one whose information suggested possible sites of intact Etamisian artifacts, based on prior planetary scans that detected anomalous energy signatures. At least one set of coordinates is in the rough location of the Ripple Hills.
The professor never refers to his new patron by name, only as “she” or “her”, and how the funding and contacts have helped him prepare for the Etamisian exploration, followed by various arrogant variations on how he’ll show all his colleagues what a true discovery is.
With that information tucked away, they rest and recuperate, and upon waking from a good night’s sleep, head out to the coordinates of the raider camp.
The area is covered by low lichenous trees, and evntually proves to be a shallow bowl surrounded by wave-like hills – easy to miss from an aerial survey due to the rare tree-like plants. Past a ring of shield poles is a small mining camp, complete with another truck, and portable habitat shelters, mine tailings, trash, and several iris-capped mining tunnels in the bowl’s walls.
Rummaging around in various crates and piles of trash are three large black striped creatures, full Selcha Spigers. Hearing the Blazemaster approach, the three beasts look toward the potential threat, letting out bass roars in challenge…
END OF RUN