He paused; then continued, ‘by the way, Adese is still sore at you, even after all this time. He’s away at the moment.’
Meeting: A strip bar in the spaceport; a female private investigator. She didn’t give a name; just a burner number.
‘The supply dump is five hours away on foot. This gives a very little margin for error. We can’t afford stragglers; keep up or you die. Is that clear?’
‘Get up!’ Bellatrix’s voice was sharp as she shook Capella where he sat. ‘We don’t have time for your self-pity.’ She looked round as Paula headed for the rock outcropping that they were in the shadow of. ‘What are you doing?’
‘Getting some evidence’; came the reply. ‘I know the Lebkuchen; they wouldn’t pass up a moment to record this moment. Got it!’ She held up a small HEV video camera; set to record. She gave it the bird; then switched it off.
‘There might be something on the data card that we can use.’
‘Okay, check your kit’, said Bellatrix. ‘I doubt that we’ve got much … oh!’ The suits had their full allocation of survival gear; repair patches, spool of rope, basic tools etc. They had no weapons though.
‘That’s the Lebkuchen way of thinking,’ said Paula. ‘They wouldn’t have thought to remove the tools.’
Bellatrix led the way west, keeping in the shadow of the mountains as long as she could. Ahead; the glow of the sun grew on the horizon; casting stark shadows. The suits indicated a rise in the external temperature.
They crossed the terminator and Wolf 359 rose. Although a red dwarf, its close proximity was enough to darken their faceplates.
‘Frack,’ said Capella. They stood on the edge of a wide chasm. ‘We really are screwed.’
Bellatrix responded angrily. ‘For frack’s sake Capella; drop the whining’. She assessed the problem.
‘Okay, got an idea. You might not have noticed, but you are all wearing weight belts to compensate for the low gravity. We tie three of them together; throw them over and all jump at the instance they land. The momentum and Newton’s Third Law should get us across. Don’t jump too hard.’
‘Don’t jump too hard! Paula did and was pulling them up too high. At the last minute Bellatrix threw her weight belt backwards: it was enough to pull them down over the crevasses onto the far side.
‘That’s pushed us off-course. We need to strike more to the north.’
They entered a cratered area; it delayed them a little tracing their way through but keeping in the shade reduced the drain on the suit batteries.
180 minutes of air left.
They were faced by another crevasse, deeper than the last one. They used the same plan as last time; again Paula misjudged her jump and only Bellatrix’s survival skills saved them *
‘I’m from Earth; I grew up in real gravity. Apart from a brief assignment on Cyclops, I’ve never been out here.’
‘So why are you here now, on Crown?’
‘The Yao kidnapping in 2223. Paul Yao is a Haruna executive, I found …. Shit!’ She tapped her wrist readout. She looked up, her eyes wide. ‘I’m losing air; I’ve only got thirty minutes left.’
Capella moved to her side and plugged in a diagnostic cable from his terminal.
‘The landing must have scrambled it; you have two hours left; the same as all of us. I’ll re-set it
120 minutes of air left.
Bellatrix changed direction and they went south-west, on to a lava plain. This was good going and they made good time. About ninety minutes later their wrist readouts started to flash amber – ninety minutes air left.
Bellatrix headed for a squat square building and pulled the door open. They all crowded inside; she closed the door; sealed it and hit a large green button; a loud prolonged hissing sound followed and she cracked her helmet.
‘Adese thought that maintaining these shelters was a waste of money and resources.’
The cache was three rooms; a service room that held batteries supplied by solar panels off the roof, a basic computer terminal and a communicator linking to an orbital satellite network. Bellatrix called up Kukawa; a ground transport would be with them in eight hours.
Achernar: ‘Eight hours? That’s a long way just to dump us to kill us. What were they on their way to?’
The other rooms held basic supplies; mainly air, food and water. There were also medical supplies, suit repair kits, spare batteries etc.
‘Weapons, Achernar? Who do you think we need to kill out here?’
‘What about the Lebkuchen? They don’t seem too worried about killing us.’
Bellatrix accessed the Crown database. ‘There is a Haruna research base west of here, further out on the Brightside. I think we need to check it out. Kukawa, send two tractors with re-supply and also with weapons; standard firearms issue for a four-man team.
Capella and Paula came back: – ‘We’ve checked the stores; they are down by 40%. Someone has been using this stuff and not replacing it.’
Paula went into the service room and pulled out the HEV camera.
‘We’ve got time. Let’s see what’s on here and what we can access. This isn’t the best rig available, but I might be able to get something.’
Several hours later, Achernar woke and wandered into the service room. Paula was looking at an image on the screen; a blonde woman with blue eyes. Achernar gasped.
‘That’s Lydia, my partner in the Survey Scouts. She was lost on LR804 in the ATV crash where I lost my eye.’
Paula turned to him, tears starting to form.
‘I’m sorry Achernar, but that is a Haruna Genetic Female Three (GF3.) I pulled this image off the camera.
‘BULLSHIT!’ screamed Achernar. ‘Lydia and I were a couple. I didn’t fuck a robot. Don’t give me that shit.’
‘I’m sorry, but if this is Lydia, then she is a Haruna GF 3 clone.’ She fell silent.
‘WHAT! What are you not telling me? You’re hiding something! Fracking tell me!’ Achernar balled his fists; Paula backed off.
‘Most of the records about the Lebkuchen were destroyed in the 2009 uprising. Some scattered records survived and I’ve managed to piece together some stuff.’
She took a deep breath. ‘You won’t like it.’
‘I won’t like what?’
‘The GF 3 model was designed and equipped to capture and store genetic material.’
Earlier that day, Achernar had supressed the urge to vomit. This time, he failed. **
To be continued …
How I handled the trek: –
The PLAN is good, but I didn’t feel it introduced enough tension into this episode.
I used a deck of cards, red and black with only the 2 – 10 cards in.
Black cards – travel is shorter (good going), only 30 mins air used.
Red cards – each one represented a different hazard or obstacle, (chasm, kit failure, crevasse, dust pit etc.)
As it was a hazardous trek, I made a deck of 6 red and 4 black, shuffled them and drew the top five. Each card turned represented 60 mins travel; each black card was 30 mins travel.
Draw top card; act on results. Mark elapsed time and air used.
In the event of failure or a bad consequence then there was a real possibility of death; they were in a hostile environment. This was written on the card.
*On both occasions, it was the +2 granted by Bellatrix that avoided a failure.
** This was triggered by a Mythic check and has totally taken me by surprise – I really did not see this coming. For more on this, see GM Interlude 3.