With a little time to think about it, the group comes to the decision that while the safari job sounded good at the time – with their new experience with spigers and the pay to threat ratio – they’ll be asking some important questions about how the hunt will be prosecuted before they decide to throw in.
While there is a strong push to going back to the Ripple Hill Ruins to find out what lies below, the shadowy ruins only faintly seen from the wincher ledge, for instance, making some cash with some “honest” work certainly gets the big vote. The group has been on the less armed and armored side in most of the conflicts that have happened upon them, and using the Albatross’ cargo space for it’s duly intended purpose with rare foods and luxuries seems like a way to make some quick cash in the tax free frontier. With that in mind, the group creates a wish list of what they want to get out of the deal, and thinks about the contacts they can draw on to speed things along.
Despite making the alternate plan, the group still visits the local gunsmith, picking up their nicely reconditioned weapons, as well as picking up two sniper rifles should they agree to the safari job.
A couple days later, they receive an email requesting an interview at one of a number of set times with one Corius Tyell, Administrative Assistant to Zellius Tharv, the huntsman looking for local safari talent. Slotting an appointment, the group meets up with Corius, who explains the general aspects of the safari expedition, the tools and vehicles provided, and the overall terrain limitations of the Southern Stone Forest, as the valley is known.
The group quietly considers, as at least two aspects of the hunt worry them given their encounter with spigers. In the end, they make a counter offer, they have access to a recent satellite topo scan of the area, and would be willing to sell a copy to Corius, to help in the hunt. Corius requests a brief review of the data to insure it’s recent, but otherwise agrees. Shortly thereafter, credits are exchanged for a map.
Moving on, the group starts calling around, and makes a plan – a jaunt over to Larson Belker, the old prospector they saved from the raider camp, and the old coot is happy to sell them what he’s mined with the new equipment on the cheap in exchange for cash, this time, though he says, if they want to trade again, he’d much prefer fine food, tech, and such so he doesn’t have to futz with Rhineback Colony himself. Loading up the raw ores, the group follows up on a call at Rhineback, pays the docking, fueling, and cargo handling fees and does a direct trade, off-loading the raw ore for smelted ingots, throwing in some of their remaining cash.
Kicking into orbit, the Albatross sets course for Chandresekhar, and then out cluster for Hercules System in Attican Beta, in hopes of repeating their prior fresh fruit success. Things aren’t quite in alignment though. Heading direct to the source takes them to the moon of Eletania. While Eletania has a life sustaining biosphere, the microorganisms in it’s atmosphere are deadly to current space-faring races. However, it’s moon, Sabal, about a third the size of Earth, is also life sustaining and not detrimental to humans – who have gone and set up an agricultural colony and basic starport to support smaller Earth Alliance naval vessels. Lacking in heavier metals, Sabal trades it’s wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains for rare building materials and finished goods. Unfortunately, the primary fruit growing season is done in the western hemisphere where the starport is located, and the crew is relegated to grains and vegetables. Still a step up from Etamis’ lichens and herb-like trees, the Albatross off-loads tons of ore, and gains back tons of food at a great deal. Staying out of view of the Earth Alliance corvette parked nearby during the transfer, the group heads over to Yban Station around the gas giant Zatorus to fill up the tanks on the cheap, and then slingshots out to the relay, and begins the journey home.
Back at Etamis, the groups finds that with the latest mail delivery, most of Cardinia Colony received their university stipends and returns on sales of data and artifacts, and then promptly paid off debts, leaving few folks in a position to jump directly on the fresh vegetable bandwagon. However, Momsetagar, the salarian propietor of the colony’s largest restaurant, “Mom’s Place”, is always looking for a good deal on rare foodstuffs. Unfortunately, he’s currently the only game in town when the crew gets back, so profit is slim on his offer.
Nonetheless, the group still counts a success, having nearly doubled their cash reserves thanks to picking their goods and markets carefully.
That’s when Roger’s datapad bleeps with a new message.
With scrubbed headers, no sender, and no return data, it’s definitely curious. A short missive, it informs Roger that he isn’t the first to survive the bounty hunter’s death throes, but that he should “watch the skies” within two months. Getting away isn’t that easy. The one thing the message does have is a send date – a day after they zipped out on their Sabal run, which took about 2 weeks.
Without a way to respond, and nothing more to go on, the group plans a second expedition. This time trying to figure out where the toys they want to buy are, and where to pick up other things to sells to cover the costs. Everyone, but especially Milo, racks their brains for places they’ve been, and places they’ve heard of so they can make a lucrative round trip.
After a day of brainstorming they pull together their flight plan. Once again going to Rhineback, they will pick up ingots of useful building materials, then to Ontarom, a newly established Earth Alliance military and communications base with support colony in need of raw materials to support the infrastructure buildup – and maybe pickup a few “lost” bits of high tech paraphenalia, then off to a black market armor and weapons dealer with a mobile “showroom” on Pragia, then off to Arvuna to trade high tech goods and entertainment for seafood, then back to Etamis to cash in on the rare joy of fish and crustaceans.
On their way to their first stop, they pass through the Shadow Sea Cluster, and while prepping to continue on through the relay, not dozens of cargo and colony class vessels heading in system, but most disturbingly, a cool, mostly silent corvette hanging out at long sensor range from the Relay, watching all the colonist vessels heading toward the planet of Horizon. Moving on, they arrive in the Kepler Verge, and head toward Ontarom.
After offloading half of their raw resources – the rest useful in the construction and maintenance of shield generators, and destined for Arvuna – the party goes looking for sources for some of the upgrades they want for the Albatross. While they find contacts on Ontarom that can get them the Medi-Gel immersion tanks, data pads, and similar sundries, it quickly becomes clear that these are smugglers and thieves taking advantage of Exo-Geni Corp – one wild, smoke grenade streaming ride through half constructed neighborhoods and through a pressure testing water main to clean the bright orange off the Blazemaster, the group bids farewell to Ontarom early – failing to pick up more of the trade goods they hoped to gather for Arvuna.
Skirting the mass of EGC ships, colony vessels, and Earth Alliance vessels, the Albatross gets out of dodge.
Moving out system and to the Nubian Expanse, Milo sends out the coded signal he remembers, and gets a response from a com satellite around the jungle world of Pragia. Following the coordinates, the crew finds a space that appears to have been cleared with fire and chemicals. Taking the Blazemaster, the group follows a tight recently burned trail to a central clearing where an older style corvette with plenty of security armed with flamethrowers sits amidst the jungle. Once they prove they have credit, they are escorted into the lower cargo bay, which has been remodelled into an armor and weapons showroom – with many restricted or at least expensive and probably stolen suits of armor and system attachments.
Some pricing and sizing later, as well as trading one of their medi-gel tanks for some extra credit, they make a purchase from the asari sales associate, and Milo and Roger are kitted out in armor with a simple charcoal finish, and Illyria’s skirmisher armor gets a quick omni-gel paint job to remove the orange and tan colors and highlights.
Rolling back through the ominous jungle, the flamethrower gets some use, and then the Albatross is back in space. The next leg of their journey taking them to the Caleston Rift toward the exile colony of Arvuna. Unfortunately, for the first time in a while, Milo overshoots his calculation of a gravity assist before hitting FTL, and the correction costs them – nearly doubling the time to cross the nebular gas to the Aysur System. Luckily, the Volus are terraforming a nearby moon of the system’s gas giant, and have basic gas ining systems in place. Unluckily, the price isn’t exactly cheap out here in the middle of nowhere. In short order though, the Albatross is fully fueled, Arvuna receives various metals and ores useful in the colony shields necessary for comfortable habitation, and the crew gets dozens of sealed cargo containers of freshly frozen fish and crustaceans.
The return trip is shorter, as Milo is able to shave time from the long flight back to the Relay system, and shortly they are back in Chandresekhar. Fueling at the Heavy Metals ExoMing depot before the final leg of their trip back to Etamis, the crew sees an older asari-style corvette making it’s way to the fueling station as well. Thinking about the time spent on their loop, everyone wonders if that ship might have something to do with Roger’s mysterious message. But fish is of the essence, and shortly they are again in interstellar space.
Two days in to the 5 day journey to the Schwarzchild System, the Albatross suddenly drops out of FTL, and there is a sudden and deck plate shaking “KLONG”, as if something has hit the hull.