Monday, 19 March 2018

The Ace of Spades Campaign - Alien Base part 06

Alien Base Sub Level 1
The party returned to the central room where the elevator was located and moved in a clockwise direction to the door in the centre of the next wall in line. This also led to an identical corridor to the one they had just exited. Danica activated the hatch at the side of the door and it slid open.
Inside, the room was of identical dimensions to the storeroom they had just explored. This was also a storeroom, but it was used for bulk storage, whereas the other room was used for the storage of spare parts and machinery.
"Another storeroom," Danica observed. "Let's see what have this time."
In the north east corner were six large drums. In the north west corner were a number of small barrels and to the south were a pair of powersleds of the same design and size that they had seen in one of the submarine modules in the docks.
Judith, Lynda and Storm went to examine the large metal drums. Both Judith and Lynda noted a slightly warm breeze coming from the end of each drum. Closer inspection revealed that the breeze emanated from a small valve.
"I picked up this in the other storeroom," Danica offered as she took out the small device from a pouch on her belt. "What do you reckon?"
"It looks like it should fit into any of those valves," Lynda observed. "Pass it over. I'll insert it into this valve here."
The device fitted perfectly. Twisting one end of the device opened the valve to allow a very small blast of gas to emerge. Lynda closed the valve and immediately took a reading with her science scanner.
"Yuk! It's chlorine gas," she noted. "I believe these drums all contain liquid chlorine. As you know, chlorine gas is highly toxic."
"Why would anyone store so much liquid chlorine?" Storm asked, shuddering at the thought of what it could do.
"It could be for chemical warfare purposes," Lynda suggested grimly.
"Or possibly, for a chlorine-breathing race," Judith offered.
The five crew members moved over to the opposite corner, whilst Smiley kept watch at the doorway. The barrels in this corner were easily opened to reveal a pinkish mass of fibre of vegetable origin inside each one. Once again, Lynda activated her handheld science scanner over the contents.
"I wouldn't suggest eating this stuff," she warned with a note of alarm. "It contains huge amounts of hydrogen cyanide with many other lesser chemicals, in which chlorine figures heavily."
"I could be right, couldn't I?" Judith surmised. "We could be dealing with chlorine breathers and this might be what they eat."
"That's certainly possible," Lynda acknowledged, "but it doesn't explain why we have oxygen in the rooms on this level."
She made a note of the labelling on the sides or the barrels to add to her database of the two alien languages thus far encountered.
"I want to check out these sleds," Storm said as she walked over to where the two vehicles were parked.
Each powersled was two yards square and they were operated via a simple control panel that used the same joyhole principle as used to control the submarine they had arrived in. They, too, had been drained of power, but Lynda, who was a very knowledgeable engineer as well as being a skilled scientist, informed the others that, "I could get these working if you want."
"Absolutely," Storm agreed enthusiastically. "We could use these to get around the base."
Lynda ascertained that the powersleds could be re-powered if the correct voltage was applied to their battery terminals. By determining that the power cable was made of aluminium and by calculating the area of its cross section, she was able to compute the correct voltage.
A number of cables hung from the walls and ceilings. One of them proved to be used for recharging the batteries of the powersleds. Thirty minutes later, both powersleds were fully charged and mobile.
Lynda hooked up one sled behind the other and Storm offered to drive them around the base. They all climbed on board. Storm knelt down to operate the joyhole but the others remained standing.
The third room they visited was very similar to the previous two. This was another storeroom. Again, the dimensions of it were the same as before and once again, it was devoid of life. The room was filled with metal crates and boxes of various sizes and colours.
On closer examination, it was noticed that all of the containers at the northern end of the room had a small green tag stuck on one end of them. The writing could not be deciphered but Lynda added it to her data-pad, knowing it would help toward understanding the alien language. The crates all contained foodstuffs in many combinations of colour, fragrance and consistency. Analysis revealed that they were edible and safe to eat for humans but that they tasted bland and were lacking in many essential vitamins.
A comparison between identical packages revealed that in every case the contents of the package with the green sticker was either a different colour, was splotched with another colour or smelt differently.
"I believe the packages with the green stickers are spoiled," Judith correctly deduced. "I suspect that here, green means danger."
It was another piece of the jigsaw they had in solving the puzzle of the alien base. A small number of the boxes were empty, so they placed one on the back of a sled. The plan was to fill it with any bulky artefacts, devices or treasures they found. Rebecca placed her large industrial diamond in the crate as it was quite heavy.
"Just one more room on this level to check out," Storm said after an hour had passed in this room. "Let's go."
The fourth room was the same shape as the three others on this level, but this one was dark and quite cold. It was also almost completely empty but closer examination revealed tubes coming out of the ceiling, floor and walls at various points. There were many marks on the floor and walls as well as twisted brackets. The brackets were now useless, apparently as a result of the over-hasty removal of the gas tanks they were connected to. The fact that this storage room, obviously used for storing breathing gases and other such needed chemicals, was the most thoroughly looted was a big clue that the base had been abandoned. The party did not stay long and returned to the elevator.
"There are three more levels below us," Danica revealed. "Shall we drop down to the next level?"
The others all agreed. Danica pressed the button for the second level and wondered what they might discover there? Was the base really deserted? Would they find any survivors from the DSX Timothy or any evidence of what happened to them? Lynda had discovered writings belonging to two alien races. Why two? Who were they? So many questions and so far, no answers.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

The Ace of Spades Campaign - Alien Base part 05

Alien Base Sub Level 1
The elevator descended to the next level and opened to a room that was perfectly square, with the elevator occupying the centre of the room.
"This area is breathable," Lynda announced as she activated her science scanner. "We've got normal oxygen levels here."
"In that case, we may as well make use of their air supply," Storm suggested, "and preserve our own oxygen supplies."
"I'm not detecting any lifeforms either," Judith added as she checked her medical scanner.
"That's a relief," Danica said, "but even so, stay alert, everyone."
"Absolutely," Rebecca replied, "I've still got my Phaser set to kill."
As the party stepped out of the elevator they could see that the floor was covered in trash, as if a great deal of material had passed through in a hurry and the remnants had not been cleaned up. Some of the trash was made of some kind of vegetable matter and other pieces were made of metal. There was a circular door in the centre of each of the four walls, all of which were closed. An activation lever was visible next to each door. In the four corners of the room, high up near the ceiling, was a single weapon turret. No one could identify what the weapons were, but they all looked identical. The turrets did not move at all. Whether they were active or not was unknown.
Lynda scanned the walls and and made this discovery, "It looks like this whole base is constructed of macromolecules," she revealed. "Each individual wall is really one single, gigantic molecule held together by the terrific strength of stomic binding."
"Which means what?" Storm asked.
"It is going to be very difficult to blast or cut our way through a wall or the floor," the research scientist replied. "Blasting it would make the wall deform outward from the blast and return to its normal shape almost instantly. Cutting would be equally useless. You'd need a very special tool, which we don't have, to cut through these walls."
"Bummer," Rebecca responded.
"We'll check out this door in front of us," Danica said, "and if it's clear, we'll move around this area in a clockwise direction and check out the other three doors. Smiley, lead on."
"Affirmative, mistress Danica," the robot replied in a cheerful voice.
The door opened to a short corridor that led to another door, identical to the one they had passed through. A single red lighting strip ran along the top of the corridor to provide illumination.
The room they entered was rectangular in shape and was clearly some kind of storeroom filled with many boxes and crates. There was no sign of life and nor were there any cameras or gun turrets visible.
"We may as well check out these boxes," Storm said, "and see what's being stored here."
They spent about five minutes opening boxes at random and they all made discoveries. Rebecca was absolutely delighted to find a huge industrial diamond weighing roughly 20 pounds. It was worth about 10,000 Credits.
"Oh, lucky me," she squealed.
"Remember, we share any finds we make," Danica, who was standing next to her, reminded the young cat burglar.
"Yeah, I know," Rebecca sighed forlornly. "What have you found?"
"I dunno," Danica answered. "It's some kind of control valve. I've no idea what it's for, but I'll keep it. We might need it later."
Judith and Storm were checking out the boxes at the other side of the room. Judith found a collection of small cubes that looked like children's toys. They were of many colours and they stuck together in whatever shape they were given. Their use remained a mystery, but Judith still took them.
Storm found several small flat cans. They were full of a thick, oily, yellow fluid. Analysis revealed that the liquid was most likely some kind of lubricant. She kept one of the cans.
In one large crate, Lynda found the drive and motor assembly of the type used in the powersleds they had seen in one of the modules in the dock above. With it was a scroll of instructions for its assembly, which Lynda copied to her data-pad for translation purposes. She left the devices in the crate.
"I'm getting the feeling that this complex has been abandoned," Danica surmised. "If there is anyone here, surely they would have noticed our arrival by now."
"It's certainly looking that way," Storm agreed. "Let's see what else is on this level."

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

The Ace of Spades Campaign - Alien Base part 04

The Alien Ship
Storm landed The Jack of Spades shuttle close to the point of origin of the signal form the atomic reactor that Lynda had spotted on the ship's sensors. Flying over it, the crew of six noted it was some sort of vessel, possibly a spacecraft. Once on the ground, the vessel was hidden from view by steep sand dunes.
Storm ordered Jeanette to remain onboard the shuttle. The ship's gunner was the only other crew member on this mission who had piloting experience. Venetian Scout, Danica, led Storm, Rebecca, Lynda and Judith towards the alien ship. Smiley the robot sped ahead of them.
They had only travelled fifty metres when a creature emerged over the top of a sand dune. It was a lava salamander, a native of this planet, although none of the crew recognised it as such. This was the first time any of them had seen such a creature. The lava salamander was heavily armoured and frequently swam in lava pools. Its strong teeth were powerful enough to tear through armour. The environment suits worn by the crew would provide them little protection if the creature bit them.
"Oh, shit!" Danica screeched in alarm. "I don't like the look of that. Blast it!"
She had her Phaser Pistol already drawn, ever alert for danger. It was on kill setting and she fired once, hitting the creature in the side of its head. Rebecca and Storm drew their Phaser Pistols and snap fired almost simultaneously. They also hit the creature.
What none of them knew, was that the lava salamander was immune to heat damage - after all, it swam in lava pools. It growled menacingly at the party.
Even though the creature took no damage from the three shots, the aggressive nature of the party of strange beings made it think again about attacking them. Or maybe it just wasn't hungry. Whatever its reason, it turned tail and slunk away.
Soon after, the party discovered the alien ship. It was slightly longer than their own shuttle, and it also had two decks. The lower deck and the front of the ship were partially submerged under dust and sand as it rested on the shoreline of a large sea of dust. There were airlocks on either side of the vessel, just next to the bridge. The crew were able to gain access to the interior of the vessel easily enough. A quick survey revealed that the lower deck consisted of, from front to back, the bridge, the airlocks, main computer and life support controls, an empty cargo bay and the engine room, which contained the atomic reactor. The vessel was of a modular design. It was really a flatbed vehicle which could take various modules into a large equipment bay on top. This particular module was split up into a gunnery station at the front, behind which were seven crew cabins on the port side, which each contained a futon-like bed and an empty cupboard. On the starboard side were a sick bay and store room. The sick bay also contained two futon-like beds. At the aft was a large fuel tank. All of the rooms were empty and there were no clues to be found as to who the vessel belonged to. On the bridge, there were no seats as such but four oblong shaped cushions on the floor. All of the control panels were lower down than on a normal vehicle. Also, both decks were roughly one and a half metres tall, forcing the party to bend down as they moved around the vessel.
Upon examining the atomic reactor, Lynda worked out what the alien ship really was.
"Hey, I know what this is," she announced with clear delight. "It's actually an ionocraft."
"And just what is an ionocraft?" Rebecca asked. "I've never heard of one."
"Let me explain," Lynda said confidently. "Although this ship is powered by an atomic reactor, its method of propulsion is unusual. It uses a drive principle invented by Igor Stravinsky in the 20th century. It was suggested as a viable substitute for both rotor and jet propulsion, but was never developed due to the tremendous head-start enjoyed by other forms of propulsion. It languished and eventually expired on Earth. But whoever built this are masters of electricity, as they have taken the ionocraft principle and made it into a useful form of propulsion."
"So, does it fly or sail?" Storm asked.
"It can do both, but this is primarily a submarine. Did you notice those short, stubby antennae at the back? I bet there are more at the front. When in motion, the forward antennae will emit a blast of positive ions, while the rear antennae will turn their charge negative. The positively charged dust will be pushed backward by the combination of the like charge to the front and the unlike charge to the rear, pulling the sub forward. The antennae on both ends then switch polarity, to prevent dust from accumulating on the rear antennae, and the process repeats. Do not confuse this ship's ionic drive with a space ion drive. An ionic drive must have some working fluid to operate. This form of propulsion cannot work in a vacuum where there are no particles to charge and use for repulsion."
Storm relayed their findings to Kimberley on The Ace of Spades.
"That's great work," Kimberley congratulated them. "Have you worked out how to pilot it yet?"
"I'm working on that now," Storm replied. "The controls are very few and we should be able to work them out."
"Be careful, Storm," Julia warned.
"You betcha!"
The main control panel of the submarine was just under a viewport. No switches were marked, but a small screen on the panel was visible next to several switches. Under the screen was a hole. This was the equivalent of a joystick (a joyhole?) and it was meant to take the tip of a tentacle, although a finger would serve just as well. When Storm inserted her finger, the screen lit up with a map of the planet. Moving her finger around in the hole caused a flashing image of the submarine to detach itself from the sub's picture on the screen and begin moving around on the screen. Storm moved the picture of the sub to the point where they had located the third of the the four sources of radioactivity, which was roughly 400 miles south-east of their current location but under the sea of dust.
This had an immediate effect. The submarines' power plant was activated and the sub began to move at great speed towards the point indicated. The onboard computer took care of all of the calculations needed and piloted the vessel towards its destination. The computer would always take the shortest route, which could result in the sub taking to the air for part of the trip. This is what happened. With enough of a take off run, the sub could become airborne, travelling at speeds of up to 4,000mph, although it got nowhere near that speed. While airborne, additional lift was provided by retractable wings, built in towards the aft of the sub.
With a bit of experimentation, Storm discovered that the first of the switches next to the screen would abort the mission, returning the sub to normal command mode. Moving the flashing indicator off screen would result in the flashing image coming back on the screen from the opposite direction (it "wrapped round"). The second switch overrode the computer entirely, and the joyhole became, in effect, a steering wheel, giving Storm full control of up, down, left, right and speed. The next switch opened the equipment bay doors but would not function whilst the sub was in motion. The last switch would launch the sub into the air under manual control and would not function unless a finger was present in the control hole.
There were two other panels either side of the main control panel. On the starboard panel was a small screen with a picture of the view forward and a target reticule etched into the surface of the screen. This was the gunnery control. The crew left this panel untouched. Its use was obvious from even a cursory glance. The panel on the port side was sealed and could not be opened without a proper access code, although it did have an easily activated computer tie-in port. The crew wisely decided not to tamper with it. Sharuna might have cracked it but she wasn't present on this mission.

Storm contacted Jeanette to inform her of their findings.
"Were heading to the third source of radioactivity," she added, "and if that proves to be a false lead, we'll continue on to the fourth source, which lies in the same direction as the third."
"Acknowledged, Storm," Jeanette said. "Do you want me to wait here for you or to return to The Ace of Spades?"
"I have no idea how long we're going to be," Storm answered, "I think it might be more prudent for you to return to The Ace of Spades. If we need any assistance we'll give you a call and you can come to our aid with the cavalry."
"Will do, Storm. Jeanette out."
The submarine arrived at its destination a few hours later, which turned out to be a large dome of grey material on the floor of the dust sea. The base hangar opened automatically as the sub approached, revealing a simple docking tube with a dock to one side. No weapons were visible but a number of spy cameras were to be seen. None of them moved or gave any indication they were active.
The crew disembarked, fully expecting some kind of reception but the dock was eerily quiet and there were no signs of life anywhere.
"Curious," Danica cautioned. "Stay alert, everyone. Draw pistols. Judith, scan for life-forms."
"I'm not getting any readings at all," Judith replied as she looked up from her hand held medical scanner.
On one side of the dock was a huge sliding door that was closed. A single button to one side of it opened it to reveal  a gigantic room on the other side. Hanging from the ceiling were four more equipment modules for the submarine, with catwalks twining around them. Below was dust, so that the sub could easily scoot over under a module and lower it into its equipment bay. A ramp led up to the catwalks, which the party took, moving at a steady walk.
The first module was securely locked up but judging from the sensors and gun barrels protruding from the front it was clearly a heavy weapons module. The second module opened easily, and was some sort of laboratory with lots of canisters, many of which were refrigerated. Most of the equipment in this module had been stripped and removed. The third module contained ten power sleds, each two yards in length by two yards in width, and each hooked up to a two yards square flatbed trailer. The sleds were operated by a single joyhole atop a short column. They all appeared to have been discharged of their power. None were operable. It was hard to tell what the function of the fourth module was as it had been completely gutted of all equipment.
Lynda made a note of the labels on the canisters, and other equipment, on her data-pad. It seemed like they were written in two alien languages. Lynda surmised that these would help in deciphering the languages and thus, hopefully revealing who the base belonged to.
Eventually, they made their way back to the submarine dock and towards what looked like an elevator.
"Shall we explore further?" Danica asked rather unnecessarily.
"Of course we will," Storm replied. "It's what came here for. Let's go."

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

The Ace of Spades Campaign - Alien Base part 03

The RSC 8996-aug Star System
Two days after departing from Fabergé, The Ace of Spades dropped out of hyperspace at the RSC (Revised Stellar Catalogue) 8996-aug star system. The flight had passed without any problems.
The majority of the thirteen all-female crew were on the bridge. Only Judith, Kyran and Rebecca were absent. Judith was relaxing in the sick bay with her pet daggertooth cat, Fizz, as company; Kyran was working in the engine room and Rebecca was sleeping in her quarters. On the bridge, Storm Galloway was piloting the ship with Kimberley alongside her as her co-pilot. Lynda and Sharuna were monitoring the sensors, whilst Celeste and Jeanette were manning the weapons stations. Observing the goings on were Danica, Katja, Julia and Gwendoline. Arrival at any new star system was always a time of excitement and expectation.
 "Lynda, Sharuna, sensor scans, please," Kimberley requested. "Tell me what we have here."
Lynda was the first to reply. "We have an unremarkable F2 star with six planets. The outer two are Jovian worlds, quite uninhabitable. The four inner planets are more interesting. The innermost has a mean temperature of 1,200 degrees Celsius with many molten metal rivers. The next planet is also lifeless and resembles Venus in the Sol system. The third and fourth planets compose a binary and both are violently volcanic. The smaller of the two is an airless planet that resembles Sol's Mars before it was terraformed. The other planet is an entirely different kettle of fish and is most interesting."
"Lynda's right" Sharuna confirmed. "I've just pulled up its data. It is about 14,000 km in diameter and about 45,000 in circumference. Its density, and thus its gravity, is low. Density is 0.84 Earth's mass, and its gravity is 0.93. The atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide and nitrogen, with about 2% oxygen. The atmospheric pressure is about one half normal, giving an effective oxygen concentration of less than 1%. Another 5% is composed of various oxides of nitrogen. Of course, the atmosphere is laced with silica in the form of dust. It is certainly not breathable."
"Okay, that planet looks like our best bet to investigate," Kimberley decided. "Storm, I want you to pilot The Jack of Spades on a reconnaissance mission. Take Danica, Jeanette, Judith, Lynda and Rebecca with you."
"Don't forget Smiley," Lynda reminded her captain.
"Indeed," Kimberley acknowledged with a friendly smile. "Let's not forget Smiley."
Aerial Reconnaissance
The Jack of Spades was the ship's shuttle with a crew and passenger capacity of 10 but could fit 14 at a pinch. On the bridge, Storm deftly piloted the craft planet-side into the hostile atmosphere. Over half of the planet was covered in dust seas. The dust had a density of about half that of water; the quicksand that lurked in the deepest parts of the dust (quicksea - a mixture of smooth sand particles and water) had a density of about one and a half times that of water. To travel on it or under it would require some form of aquatic vehicle, which the crew did not possess. Fortunately, they could fly over these dust seas.
The mountains of the planet were quite rugged, despite the enthusiasm of the eroding winds. This was due to the volcanic lava flows constantly rebuilding the escarpments. The rest of the planet was made up of arid plains, which could be crossed easily on foot or by ground vehicle.
Before departing, Kimberley had Lynda and Sharuna scan the planet for any possible traces of the DSX Timothy. There were no distress beacons or radio transmissions but there were four sources of radioactivity that were detected. One was located in a mountain range near the equator. The other three ran in a line running south east, about 3,000km to the west of the mountains. The northern most one of these was on a plain and the other two were in or under a dust sea. It was decided to check out the one in the mountains first.
As Storm flew the shuttle over the mountainous region, Lynda announced, "This is a bust. It's just a natural outcrop of radioactive material, mostly thorium and uranium 235/238 in a 5%-15%-28% combination, with ordinary rock making up the balance."
"Fair enough," Storm replied. "One down, three to go. Let's check out that one on the plains."
As Storm flew west towards the source of radioactivity, they noticed an unusual geographical feature - a diagonal slash near the western edge of the mountain range that ran for about 1,000km. On the west side of this fault line, the terrain was two kilometres higher than the east side, making it virtually impassable unless you had flight capability. No sooner had they flew over this fault line than a nearby volcano erupted. A vast plume of smoke engulfed the shuttle and the small craft was severely buffeted. It took all of Storm's skill as a pilot to keep the shuttle stable and on course.
"Dear God, that was too close for comfort," Storm said with relief, when they flew into clearer skies.
"I'm glad you were piloting, Storm," Jeanette, who could also pilot the ship, remarked.
"Thank you, Starfleet Academy," Storm added with a grin.
Eventually, they reached the second source of radioactivity and Lynda made a startling discovery.
"Whoa!" she said excitedly as she viewed her sensor display. "This is no natural occurrence. This is from an atomic reactor, most likely a ship's or a small settlement's."
"Could that be from the DSX Timothy?" Storm wondered.
"Unlikely," Lynda replied. "It's too small for a ship of their size. One thing is for certain, it has to be alien in origin. Nothing on this planet could have made it."
Storm opened the communications channel to the crew quarters where Judith, Rebecca and Smiley were resting.
"Strap in, ladies," she commanded. "We're going down to land. We have a possible sighting."
"Affirmative, Storm," Judith replied for both of them.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

The Ace of Spades Campaign - Alien Base part 02

The Job Offer
Kimberley Wells, the charismatic red-haired captain of The Ace of Spades Class V scoutship, was on the ship's bridge when she received a radio call asking if she would be prepared to meet a captain of the Survey Scouts who had a job offer for her, if she was interested. She was, and so a place and a time were arranged. Later that day, Kimberley, accompanied by her bodyguard, Celeste the assassin android, and her best friend, Nurse Gwendoline Papillion, met up with Captain Devon Renton, a grizzled veteran in a nearby bar.
Renton was tall, aged in his fifties, and had a ruggedly handsome tanned face. He chewed on a thick cigar, which in deference to the bar's no smoking policy, was unlit. He was unarmed and he carried a data-pad in his left hand. Introductions were made and he quickly got down to business.
"The DSX Timothy, a small Survey Scouts vessel, had a flight plan that called for a wide detour to carry out some follow-up survey work while carrying passengers en route to Wilson's Planet. The Timothy has been overdue for more than eight standard days. Deep space scans from automated probes in the area have revealed nothing. The last known position of the vessel was near the F2 main sequence star RSC 8996-aug. That system is known to have six planets, one of which is classed as marginally habitable. The system is otherwise unsurveyed; what data is available is from a fly-by robo-probe two hundred years ago. There is no known phenomena that can account for the death or disappearance of the Timothy. No radiation sources, gravity point sources or other ship-killing stellar objects are nearby, and no record exists of hostile alien races in that area of space."
"I'm guessing you want us to find out what happened to your missing ship?" Kimberley correctly assumed.
"That's right," Renton confirmed. "Find out what happened to the Timothy and follow it up. A full report is needed. Should you find out that aliens are involved, we need to know about their culture, their technology, and above all, we must find their home-world. Attempt diplomacy if it seems possible, but do not endanger your ship, unless necessary to the mission. If you do not return within one month, a follow-up mission will be launched. Leave behind marker buoys if at all possible. Are you interested?"
"We'll take the job," Kimberley said without hesitation. "Do we get paid for this? At the very least I'd expect you to cover our fuel costs."
"I can certainly do that," Renton replied, "But regarding financial rewards I'm afraid not. You will, however, have the gratitude of the Survey Scouts and I'll make sure your report reaches the right people, which will surely enhance your reputation as independent explorers."
Kimberley looked at Gwendoline quizzically. Gwendoline just shrugged her shoulders and said, "It seems fair to me, Kimberley. We're not going to get a better offer here. Plus, this is what we do best."
"Okay, Captain Renton," Kimberley announced. "You've got a deal. We'll take the job."
"Great," Renton smiled warmly at her. "I wish you the best of luck."
Outward Bound
With no reason to stay on Fabergé any longer than necessary, Kimberley filed a flight plan to the RSC 8996-aug star system, which was 36 parsecs away in an adjoining star sector. Travelling at FTL:16 and with Kimberley making use of a short cut she discovered, she was able to reduce the distance to 32 parsecs. The flight time was just over two days and they were able to make it in one jump.
On the evening of the second day of their journey, the ship's young research scientist, Lynda Pelligrosso, called Kimberley and the other crew members to join her in her research laboratory. She stood in the centre of the room near her work bench. Standing just behind her were engineer Kyran Calaveri and computer hacker Sharuna Randall. All three were smiling broadly when the other crew members arrived.
"Hi, everyone," Lynda said excitedly. "I'd like you to meet our newest crew member, Smiley."
Standing in front of her was a very small robot with a bright yellow, circular body resting on three smaller circular wheels spaced equidistant around its lower body.
"Say hello, Smiley," Lynda prompted.
"Hello," Smiley said in a soft female voice. Her smiling expression did not change - it was permanently fixed in place.
"What the...?" Kimberley was temporarily at a loss for words, but she smiled back in amusement.
"Aw, she's so cute!" Gwendoline purred.
"What does she do?" Katja Sondquist, one of the ship's scouts, asked.
"I'm glad you asked, Katja," Lynda replied. "She's a reconnaissance robot. I thought she'd be useful in helping you out on scouting missions. You can send her ahead to see what's round corners or through potentially booby-trapped doorways."
"Is she sentient?" Danica, the bald-headed Venetian scout, asked.
"No, she isn't," Lynda answered. "Giving her sentience would take up far too much memory. She's more of a tool but she does understand simple instructions. She can communicate, although she only speaks Basic Anglic at the moment. She is also fitted with cameras in her eyes, so she can relay her observations back to whoever is monitoring her."
"I'm impressed," Kimberley said sincerely. "Did you design and build her yourself, Lynda?"
"I did a lot of the work on her, but it was a team effort with Kyran, Sharuna and Jeanette helping me out."
"Well your timing couldn't be better," Kimberley remarked. "We'll field test her on this upcoming mission."
"Cool!" Lynda beamed. "I hope she proves a useful asset."
Note that Smiley is a simple Servobot, with 5 HEALTH, 18 DEFENCE, a SPEED of 6 and SOAK:5.