Fargon's Chance
Summary: Tensions over a landing pad incident are aggravated as members of the New Luna Militia get in a shouting match with Jackals. A Militia salvage mission in the Shinaran Drift takes a turn for the bizarre, as comrades in arms discover old friends and a warning shot sparks a warning of a different kind from a doomed freighter captain ...
Cast: Malion Swiftfoot Jared Dirionis Callot Urfkgar Cole Jantine Taeren M'nammrann
Air Date: 2006.06.04

Landing Pad <Greenville>

Perched scenically on the edge of a cliff overlooking the choppy blue Independence Harbor, this solid-looking, plascrete landing pad is extremely expansive, larger than a small city. Neon green lines divide the pad into several landing strips, two capital ship landing sites, and hundreds of individual taxi spots. A tall control tower directs traffic onto and through the pad, and a wide, plascrete path leads into the city proper.

"Stupid softskin do fake fight stuff. Morerer gooderer. Stupid softskin want do stupid softskin cop stuff? Urf no care. Stupid softskin do cop stuff. Urf say all marines stupid softskin do stupid softskin cop stuff. Stupid softskin do morererer gooderer cop stuff all stupid softskin marines all times. Urf no care," says the Zangali as he continues to close in on the Jackal. "Stupid softskin marines no shooteded stupid softskin. Urf no care stupid softskin marines do. Stupid softskin care. Stupid softskin fix. Stupid softskin no fix. Stupid softskin no talk morerer."

Cole enters the massive landing pad from the decon corridor and takes the long walk over to the Jackal. He has a holster prominently displayed, loaded, and is wearing the standard NLM uniform, his armband designating the engineering department. He walks behind Urfkgar and his eyes open widely at Malion's rantings.

Dirionis grits his teeth again, yelling, " sorry!...But its 'cause I was ordered too! I don't normally go around aiming my damn weapon everywhere, but I had to follow orders."

At the appearance of the quite-obviously-armed militia officer walking brashly toward the Jackal, Swiftfoot straightens from where she was leaning against the hull, her eyes narrowing slightly. "You know that one, Mal?" she inquires, ears laying back about halfway as she glances up at the Martian on the landing ramp of the black-and-red freighter. "Orr is he just herre on a social call, ya think?" The Demarian smirks, one eyeridge quirking upward as her gaze goes back to the approaching officer.

"For fuck's sake, Mal," Tay exclaims, approaching the Martian a little bit ahead of . "You're just trying to make my life difficult, aren't you? If this was Ungstir, you wouldn't be giving the Kommissars this kind of shit, would you? And you and I both know they can be a hell of a lot worse." He shakes his head. "In other words, man, just can it. The Militia isn't out to get you. We're trying to get by just the same as you're trying to get by doing your thing. Get me?"

"What the fuck is this meant to be?" Malion says, as he eyes rest upon the new comer. "Ya going fuckin' wave ya fuckin' weapon 'round also?" He looks between all of those assembled, and shakes his head. "I want an appointment to speak with Jeff Ryan," he says as Tay approaches, not backing down from the taller Timonae. "I simply ask for a fuckin' offical apology, and I get treated like shit. I get fuckin' humiliated one the landing pad in front of crew mates and a business associate today and the other night, and ya fuckin' expect me to can it Tay?" He shakes his head. "I know some of the Kommissars, got an understandin' there, right?"

Cole looks at the belligerent swearing man with a furrowed brow as if confused and puts his hands upward as if to say, "I didn't do it." He turns to Dirionis and says, "Hey, Diri, what's up with this guy?" His accent his thick, that of Tycho City on Luna, what ancient Earthlings would have sworn was from Boston, United States.

The Zangali comes to a halt near the Jackal's boarding ramp. He says, "Urf no care. Stupid softskin want talk stupid softskin. Stupid softskin talk stupid softskin. No need say Urf. Stupid softskin say stupid softskin marines no shoot stupid softskin. No care. Stupid softskin no say no care. Urf say Urf no care. Urf no care stupid softskin care. No care."

Dirionis sighs, rubbing the back of his neck with his right hand. He glances at Cole, then looks back to Taeren and Malion, now understanding Malion's name wasn't ' Andrew Gleeson.' Turning back to Cole he says, " Long story...Trying to dispute our lack of cops with law enforcement.." He waves his hand slowly. " Big argument."

Swiftfoot snorts and shakes her head, eyeing the militiamen (and lizard) gathering near the Jackal, then looking up at the Martian on the landing ramp. "Maybe we oughterr just take off, chief. Seems New Luna doesn't like honest shipperrs these days. We can talk to Jeff anotherr day, when half the damn militia isn't on the landing pad." The end of the felinoid's tail flicks, her ears laying back against her head.

"I told you the Marines fucked up," Tay replies, "and I don't know if you remember, but I stepped in on your behalf to clear it up. "-I- gave you an apology, Mal, and if my word isn't enough for you, fine, talk to Jeff Ryan. You know how to get a hold of him, I'm sure. I really am sorry you had to go through that shit the other day," he says. "But all you're doing now is yelling at me and calling names. I'm hurt." He holds a hand to his chest. "I really am. You make mistakes sometimes, too, don't you? And I would be understanding if you were to make such a mistake. Why can't you be understanding too?"

Malion glances across to the Demarian, and then to Urf. He slowly shakes his head in disbelief. "Look at this Swifty," he says, still watching the Zangali closely. "Think I'm being fuckin' threatened." He takes a step back up the ramp, looking between the Militia member tha that have gathered. "Expect this on Sivad... Expect this on Mars and Luna." He turns his head to one side spitting off the boarding ramp onto the ground below. "But New Luna... Ain't got nothing 'gainst ya Tay." He takes another step back, shaking his head once more.

Urfkgar's head rotates to turn his good eye towards Swiftfoot. He says, "Stupid fuzzball. Stupid marines no care stupid stuff do. Stupid softskin care marines do." His head turns back towards Malion and says, "Urf no care stupid softskin."

"'ey! 'ey jackass! Yeah, you up there. My mother and father are on Luna, under the damn jackboot of the occupiers, and I've put my life on the line for New Luna, the last place in the Arm for freedom, and don't you lump this entire world and system together for the actions of a few people, whether what you say they did is true or not." The short, stocky NLM engineer rants up the ramp from his lesser position at the bottom of the ship and his smaller height. He crosses his big arms and glares up at Malion, and then chips in one last derrogatory, "Asshole."

Dirionis smirks at Cole and then glances up at Malion. " Just a misunderstanding...Thats all it was."

"Don't gimme this kind of treatment," Tay replies to Mal, no longer placating. "I know when genuine hurt crosses over into a scam, and I'm starting to get suspicious. You're welcome back on this planet any time you want, that's the law here. I'm not a law-man kind of guy myself. I'm not a diplomat. I'm a spacer, and I happen to be making a living as a Militia spacer right now. You know damn well you're not being threatened, you know nobody was trying to humiliate you, and keeping on like this is doing nothing for anybody. I've got nothing against you, Mal, but neither do I have anything more to say to you just now." He turns his back on Malion, gesturing over his shoulder as he walks towards the Outcast. "Come on, guys. Some people just don't want to be happy. I've got drinks on my ship."

Taeren is walking away from the Jackal, where Malion and Swiftfoot stand on the ramp. Urf and Dirionis are there, and Cole is not far away.

Jared glances down to Mal, "You know I'm with you, Mal, but you start picking fights with Lunites about Luna I can't take your side." he comments from further up the ramp, having watched and listened quietly until now.

Swiftfoot shrugs vaguely, looking from Tay to Mal. "Up to you, chief. We can eitherr go shopping like we was planning, orr we can get off planet forr awhile, find somewherre else to hang out. Demarria's always an option, no matterr what we may be going thrrough elsewherre. Silverreye'd prrobably be glad to have us back forr a rreporrt, anyway, seeing as I haven't checked in with him in ages." The big cat snorts softly, the end of her tail flicking.

"Blow me fuckstain," Malion says in retort to Cole. "Me fuckin' girlfriend's on Luna." He glares at Diri and shakes his head. "So if I started waiving weapons around under a fuckin' order... That'd be misunderstanding? Fucking because I'm a fuckin' Martian ain't it? That's all it comes down to, fucking Racial hatred." He glances back to Jared. "Mate... Check the records, I'm bloody resident of Demaria, not of them anymore." He shakes his head, and then turns. "Getting back home'd be good Swifty."

Jantine walks hesitantly into the landing bay, he sees only a few people he recognizes, and so he hangs back in the distance, out of the way from all the conversations.

Urfkgar shrugs and shakes his head as he turns and ambles off towards the DIC, still holding the knife and whetstone.

Jared grins a little down to Mal, "Man, not that I'm calling you a pile of shit or nothing, but if you move a pile of shit from the head to a rose garden, it's still a pile of shit."

Cole just glares at Malion when he retorts and shakes his head, his arms still crossed. Still glaring at Malion he simply says, "I think I might take you up on that, Tay." He breaks from the little group of NLM officers and the confrontation with the other spacers and heads for Tay's ship.

Taeren waves to Jantine. "Jan!" He calls. "Come with me!" The Timonae gestures towards the bright yellow beacon of absurdity that is the Outcast.

Jantine looks to his sides, as if expecting another being named Jan to appear behind him. Not finding the "other" Jan, he slowly jogs towards Taeren.

Torr has arrived. Torr disembarks from the IND Jackal.

Urfkgar redirects his course back towards the ships, heading for the Outcast. He pockets his whetstone and tucks the knife away in its sheath as he wanders along.

"Great," Tay says to Cole. "She's unlocked." The Timonae leads the Militiamen up into the 'Cast, whose airlock opens obligingly.

Airlock <NLG Outcast>

Brilliant yellow doors grace the inner and outer walls of the airlock, thick, heavy-duty affairs which are split into two halves that dovetail neatly against one another in the center. A smiley face is painted neatly in black against the yellow of the airlock hatches, resting on the right half of each door. Underneath both these icons, bold-faced black type declares the name, OUTCAST. Next to each door is a keypad allowing electronic operation of the inner and outer hatches. Underneath each keypad, there is an access panel outlined with black and yellow warning stripes, marked MANUAL LOCK CONTROLS: EMERGENCY USE ONLY. The floor is black rubberized grip decking.

Taeren boards through the ship's airlock.

Jantine has arrived. Jantine boards through the ship's airlock.

Cole has arrived. Cole boards through the ship's airlock.

Urfkgar has arrived. Urfkgar boards through the ship's airlock.

Cole enters the ship after Taeren and Jantine, and glares at Jantine, crossing his arm. He moves to the side of the airlock, probably as far from Jantine as he can make it.

Jantine tries to avoid looking at Cole, but can't help reaching his hand up to feel the bruises around his neck.

Taeren gestures towards the inner airlock and the smiley face there. "Come aboard, please. I'll bring a bottle of brandy over to the Riposte from my own stash - Cole, are you feeling up to looking for those ion components we need for that cannon?" The smiley face bisects neatly, and he disappears inside.

The hatch slides aside, allowing you passage into the ship

Wardroom <LMS Outcast>

Stretching beteen the ship's cockpit and back to engineering are its living quarters. Forward, a ship's ladder leads to an upper hatchway upon which is painted a smiley face, its impish grin defined with black paint and filled in with yellow in neat, confident strokes. Aft a matching hatchway leads to the ship's engineering compartment, while on the port side a heavier hatch leads to the ship's airlock. Bolted to the floor along the port wall of this room are three sets of bunk beds, creating sleeping space for six. A small living area economizes on the rest of the space, with a comfortable-looking overstuffed chair and couch in synthleather centered around a table, all this furniture also bolted to the floor. The black rubberized decking which dominates most of the ship is replaced here by thick carpet in muted blue. A counter separates the living area from a cramped kitchen facility, whose floor does succumb to the black grip decking, with a hatch against the starboard wall leads into a modestly equipped bathroom area. Last, centered on the floor, a heavy set of access panels leads down into the ship's cargo bay.

Cole enters from the ship's airlock. Cole has arrived.

Jantine enters from the ship's airlock. Jantine has arrived.

Urfkgar enters from the ship's airlock. Urfkgar has arrived.

Urfkgar just posts himself by the hatch leading to the airlock, pulls his knife and sharpening stone out, and sets to work.

Dirionis enters from the ship's airlock. Dirionis has arrived.

Taeren gestures around. "Flight's a short one," he says, headed for the cockpit. "Make yourselves comfy. I know which bottle I'm taking for the trip."

Cole takes a seat at the bolted-down overstuffed chair and relaxes, his mood apparenlty a little less than happy. Nonetheless, through his half-bruised eyes he scans the room with an appreciative eye, but he seems less interested in creature comforts and more in the structure of the ship.

Dirionis steps into the wardroom with a sigh, jerking a thumb out behind him. " Seems like more and more Jackals are spawning out there." He heads over to Urfkgar with little attention to anyone else. " You think it was my fault?"

"Urf no care. Stupid softskin marines marines. No cops. Stupid softskin marines no killeded stuff," says the Zangali with a shrug.

Everywhere there may be water or a path to be crossed when the ship is rocking, the deck is no-slip grip. Every heavy object? Bolted to the floor. Every access hatch and power conduit? Clearly marked, as in the airlock. And the paintjob covering the smooth, reinforced bulkheads? Always pristine, not a scratch. It's as if the place had a fleet of tiny obsessive compulsive engineer-housemaids cleaning it up all the time.

Taeren reappears after the vague discomforts of changes in inertia. "We're back on Hancock," he announces. "Chief, could you be my Bosun for this mission and get this crew and their gear packed on the Riposte? We'll be returning here in less than eight hours, so all the Marines need is their assault weapons and light armor. There's supplies aboard the Riposte," he explains, headed to his kitchen cabinet. There's a *click*, and one of the doors open - they're obviously latched shut. He looks through the bottles inside (each nestled in a foam-lined rack) before removing one, a clear glass with an amber liquid. "Cole, you're coming with me, right? I'll need your help if we find some good stuff. And I've got a worksuit you can borrow if you don't have one."

Cole whistles appreciatively of the ship. "Tay, how'd a scoundrel like you get this ship?" He asks, looking around at the pristine, well prepared ship. He turns both his eyes, one of them bruised to Taeren and nods. "Sure, I'll come. Need some spare parts for the ion cannons. Can't see if I cant scrounge something." He tells Taeren.

Jantine says to Taeren "So where do you want me to go Sir?"

The Zangali grunts vaguely and ducks his way through the hatch leading to the airlock, putting his knife and whetstone away as he leaves.

Dirionis follows after Urf, " Hey, assault weapons, eh? Nice..." He hears the new voice, but doesn't look back. " Whos the new guy?" He asks to no one in particular.

"I bought it from the guy who was paying me to fly it, and then I designed and implemented these changes when I had it expanded to add this wardroom," Tay explains to Cole. "In short, I earned it through a lot of hard work and tears. Which is why I don't put it into risky situations." He blinks. "Nice shiner. Oh, and everyone? This is Private Jan ... uh ... just call him Jan for now. He's Coxswain's mate aboard the Riposte, the vessel we'll be taking for this reconaissance. In other words, a pilot in training." The Timonae walks towards the cargo panel and pulls it open. "I'm going to grab a couple of things. Everyone, follow Urf to the Riposte. The boarding code is [EDITED]. Tell anyone that and I'll kill you myself." He flashes a grin.

Cole chuckles when he is complimented on his bruised eye. "Thanks." He says sourly. "Jantine. Yeah. We've met." he tells Taeren rather less than happily on the subject matter. He simply walks out of the wardroom, back to the hatchway.

Cole cycles the hatchway and heads into the ship's airlock. Cole has left.

Jantine gives Taeren a look that says "About that meeting..." He rubs his neck again and follows Cole at a distance.

Urfkgar cycles the hatchway and heads into the ship's airlock. Urfkgar has left.

Jantine cycles the hatchway and heads into the ship's airlock. Jantine has left.

Dirionis cycles the hatchway and heads into the ship's airlock. Dirionis has left.

IND Riposte Intercom Broadcast - Cole

>>>> From the Engineering : You up there, Tay?

Taeren activates the ship's intercom and sends, "Aye. Just a moment."

Jantine arrives from Main Deck <IND Riposte>. Jantine has arrived.

IND Riposte Intercom Broadcast - Taeren - >>>> From the Bridge : Attention all hands. Jan, Urf, Cole - to the bridge please.

Cole arrives from Main Deck <IND Riposte>. Cole has arrived.

Bridge <IND Riposte>

The bridge before you is cramped, with no natural view of space what so ever. Three consoles are spaced in a triangle, two towards the holographic viewscreen to the fore, and one command console set further behind. However, despite this lack of space, this ship is clearly a military vessel, with clean polished lines, and a look of precision to everything.

Dirionis arrives from Main Deck <IND Riposte>. Dirionis has arrived.

Taeren stands with his hand on the command console, facing the hatch, waiting for everyone to arrive.

Cole enters the bridge, ignoring Jantine completely and nods at Taeren politely. "Captain." he says with a small smirk.

Jantine looks away from Cole and tries to look busy studying the ships controls.

"What?" asks the lizard as he ducks in from the main deck and steps off to the side of the hatch.

"Jan, take the helm. Undock us, and set course for the Shinaran Drift," Taeren says, "On your own time. And by that I mean quick as you can." He grins a little. "Welcome aboard the Riposte - this is my command with the New Luna Militia. I want to remind you all, though, that as soon as we leave the system this ship has no official connection with the Militia." The Timonae looks among all the eyes present on the bridge.

"Once we hit jump, I'm collecting your rank insignia and any Militia IDs you have and stowing them in a secret compartment. When we arrive in the Drift, we do so as just another of dozens of independent scavengers with a specific laundry list to fill. This is for our own good - we don't need to deal with the hostility we'd get if people knew we were associated with a government. People like people who don't work for governments. With me so far?"

Cole listens with curiousity and at the end of the speech, he chuckles. "Any and all record will be disavowed, we never existed, blah, blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda..." He says light-heartedly as he takes off his rank insignia and his NLM Band on his arm that signifies engineering.

Jantine sits down and flicks a few switches. A subtle "Here goes nothing" can be heard under his breath as he eases on the controls, pulling the ship out. He sets in the course for the Shinaran Drift, and breathes out a long sigh of relief, simply because he hasn't crashed, yet.

>> Outside the Ship: The IND Riposte lifts off an departs the docking bay

Urfkgar doesn't bother with the waiting, shedding his armbands and producing a plastic bag full of various IDs. He shuffles through the cards until he stumbles across the NLM ID. He reseals and repockets the bag. Then, he wraps the NLM ID up in the armbands and extends them towards Taeren without comment.

>> Outside the Ship: Changing vectors, the IND Riposte breaks orbit and accelerates outbound.

The forward view becomes a wash of shimmering cobalt planes unfolding as the ship slices through the fabric of normal space to skip between the stars ...

>> Outside the Ship: Its array of jump crystals shimmering a bloody crimson, the IND Riposte slices through the fabric of normal space in a blaze of shimmering cobalt planes, to skip between the stars ...

Taeren chuckles. "You get the idea!" He says, sounding pleased. He tugs off his own Command armband and captain's bars. "That's my speech. We're going to the Drift to look for something we need - specifically, a power converter for ion cannons. Now, the chance of finding an ion cannon part in the huge Drift is slim to none. But an ion -engine- ... well, that's a different story. And Cole and I think an ion engine part would work just as well."

He nods to Jantine, checking his watch. "We've got forty five minutes until we arrive in the Drift, then. For this mission, Jantine is Coxswain's Mate, Cole is the ship's senior engineer, and Urf is our Bosun. There's two people you never piss off on a ship - the cook, and the Bosun." He nods to Diri. "Private Dirionis is the Bosun's Mate." The Timonae walks down the line, accepting armbands and IDs and adding them to his own in his hands. "That's all for now. You're dismissed. I'll summon you to action stations when we arrive in the Drift."

Cole listens to Taeren and nods with a small smirk at the mention of the ion engine. "Yeah. Any other parts, including anything that starts an energy charge we could use too...the last ion cannon's pretty beat up too." He says, handing his Identification over to Taeren. "I'll be in engineering. Saw some interesting tools I wanted to tinker with..." he says, fading out of the room and moving aft to Engineering.

Jantine is visibly relieved when Cole leaves, however, he continues to stare almost straight ahead at the all too familiar light display playing out before him. He brings his hands into two fists, rests his elbows on the panel in front of him, puts his fists to his mouth and lets out a long sigh.

Cole heads into Main Deck <IND Riposte>. Cole has left.

Urfkgar looks over at Dirionis and says, "Stupid softskin marine heareded stupid softskin. Urf no know stupid softskin know stuff stupid softskin sayeded. What stupid softskin marine do?"

Taeren eases into the command chair with an easy sigh. "So, Jan. What's up with you and Cole?" He crosses one leg over the other and rests his chin in his hand. "It was kind of obvious you two aren't speaking. You two having a lover's spat or something?" He smirks, eyes on the starfield relayed to the viewscreen.

The IND Riposte is scheduled to arrive at Shinaran Drift in approximately 25 minutes and 24 seconds.

Jantine speaks through his clenched hands "Had a pretty rough game last night. He didn't like some of the stuff I did, I didn't like some of the stuff he did."

"Game?" Tay asks. "Like, Timon's Dance? Soccer? What?" He looks down at his command console and pokes a button. The command chair actually reclines.

Jantine shakes his head, smirks and replies "No, it was football, or rugby, one of the two, I'm not really sure."

Taeren chuckles. "So you're pissed at him over a rough game?"

Jantine rubs his neck again and sits back in his chair, putting his hands on his legs. "I would just prefer to keep on living, he's obviously mad at me, and I don't want to start anything."

"You two could apologize to one another," The Timonae suggests, gesturing with one hand. "That's not so hard, right?"

Jantine tenses at the word "appologize" and replies "That's easy for you to say, you haven't had him at your neck."

Dirionis yells over to Jantine, " I once knew a guy named Jantine, back on Lovell Park. Damn good friend, too bad I left em' behind." He butts in with his speech.

Urfkgar grunts and steps out through the hatch.

"Yeah, Jan, but it was a game ..." Tay replies. "Game, remember? As in, not for keeps? As in fake stuff, not important?" He blinks, looking from Diri to Jan as the Marine hollers across the cramped bridge.

Urfkgar heads into Main Deck <IND Riposte>. Urfkgar has left.

Jantine turns to Dirionis and cries out "Diri!" Upon recognizing his former companion and sole friend he rushes to meet him. Suddenly, he halts in mid stride, remembering that Taeren is in the room, and is talking to him. "Yea, but he tried to kill me, then again, I almost did the same to him. I caused his black eye." Jan trails off.

Dirionis smirks as his yell gets the attention of nearly everyone in the bridge, wanting to say something for the whole ride. He watches Urf leave, shrugging and raises a brow as his name is called. " Whoa, Jantine?!...First Cador now you?!" He blinks in disbelief.

"Cute," Tay says. "If you're going to take up space, do it on the main deck. There's a bottle of brandy in the kitchenette, feel free to have a little to celebrate this happy reunion. Just don't drink too much. We're coming insystem in ten minutes."

Jantine turns to Taeren and says "Sir, I don't ever drink while onboard a ship."

Dirionis smirks at Jantine, walking to the main deck, remarking sarcastically, " My past is haunting me."

Dirionis heads into Main Deck <IND Riposte>. Dirionis has left.

Taeren smirks. "Then don't drink. I'm only asking that you don't crowd the bridge when you're not sitting at your station, if you can't help it. In a ship this small, keeping the important spots clear is just good practice."

Jantine nods in understanding, stands in place, and suddenly upon realized that Taeren is in fact, talking to him, returns to his station at the helm.

Cole arrives from Main Deck <IND Riposte>. Cole has arrived.

Taeren gestures. "You can go aft, Jan, and catch up with your friend. That's fine," he says. "Just pick one or the other: him or the helm." The Timonae chuckles. "I'm a pilot too. I can handle the transition back from FTL."

The IND Riposte is scheduled to arrive at Shinaran Drift in approximately 3 minutes and 51 seconds.

Cole enters the cockpit and moves out of the way of the door once he hears that Jantine may be leaving.

Jantine hears Taeren's words, and upon seeing Cole return to the bridge, quickly ducks out, making sure to nod at Taeren while doing so.

Jantine heads into Main Deck <IND Riposte>. Jantine has left.

Leaving a torn cascade of brilliant cobalt stars and a shattered crimson blaze in its wake, the ship slices back into normal space.

>> Outside the Ship: Shinaran Drift

A wide swath of badlands halfway between Demaria and Sol, this region of space hosts millions of drifting space particles, from hydrogen to silicon. Some form into fields of asteroids and planetoids, while others merely fill space with sensor-clogging debris. Five red dwarves are scattered about the region, pulling the space dust and debris into organized rings. Comm traffic is strong and constant between the dozen or so colonies that pepper this region, and lumbering mining ships are a constant presence.
A rockhopper darts about, a blur of color and running lights against the sea of black. It slows as it approaches an asteroid field, and an EVA suit-clad being emerges.

>> Outside the Ship: The IND Riposte enters the area, slicing out through a tear in normal space, leaving a torn cascade of brilliant cobalt stars and a shattered crimson blaze in its wake.

Taeren moves from the command console to the helm as the starfield changes. "We're here," he announces over his shoulder to the arriving Coall.

IND Riposte Intercom Broadcast - Taeren

>>>> From the Bridge : All hands to action stations. Urf to the bridge. We've arrived insystem.

Urfkgar arrives from Main Deck <IND Riposte>. Urfkgar has arrived.

Dirionis arrives from Main Deck <IND Riposte>. Dirionis has arrived.

Taeren has situated himself at helm. The ship is stationkeeping not far from the entry point to the Shinaran Drift as grimy-looking vessels of all types and nationalities drift past.

Urfkgar ducks through the hatch and moves to occupy a bit of free space off to the side. He asks, "What?"

Dirionis raises a brow as he follows in. " Whats up."

Cole looks out over the spacescape and whistles. "So much junk. I'm sure there's an ion engine somewhere. Now where...that's another issue." He thinks outloud.

"We're here," Tay replies. "Urf, could you give me a gunner? I think you're the only one who knows how." He looks apologetic. "Cole, get our shields up, if you would. This area of space is sort of dangerous." His eyes flicker to the viewscreen. "If you, y'know, couldn't tell already. Then we set about looking in the most dangerous - and least scavenged - area of the Drift: Avernus Cluster."

Urfkgar grunts in a manner which could be best described as sour. Then, he takes a few steps across the bridge to settle his bulk carefully at the weapons console. The seat there has been modified a bit, and it lacks arm rests which makes getting in for the Zangali that much easier.

Dirionis glances at Taeren, scratching his head. " Anything I can do, Captain?" Cole nods and quickly turns around aft to go to Engineering. "Keep me posted." he says over his back.

Cole heads into Main Deck <IND Riposte>. Cole has left.

>> Outside the Ship: With a sudden shimmering, the IND Riposte raises its shields.

IND Riposte Intercom Broadcast - Cole

>>>> From the Engineering : Shields up.

Cole arrives from Main Deck <IND Riposte>. Cole has arrived.

Cole comes back into the bridge, clearly walking quickly between the bridge and the engineering station. "What I miss?" he says casually to the people on the bridge.

Taeren frowns. "Aye, Marine," he replies. "If Urf doesn't have any duties for you, then listen for Cole. If something goes wrong, he'll have you help him with the heavy lifting." he guides the ship deeper into the Drift, towards the bright Avernus Cluster.

>> Outside the Ship: Avernus Cluster <Shinaran Drift>

A dense and highly dangerous asteroid field, the Avernus Cluster holds many secrets. Asteroids crash and bump into each other here, each large chunk of rock denting and cracking with every blow until it smashes into bits. A few hundred thousand hm space exists near the center of the Cluster, and there's an extremely high radiation reading from that area.
A pockmarked mining tender ventures into the Cluster, attaching itself to a planetoid like a parasite.

Urfkgar fiddles doggedly with the controls at the weapons console. His attention seems pretty taken up by whatever his button mashing is accomplishing.

>> Outside the Ship: A small, sleek gray dart against the brightness of drifting particulates is the Riposte as it enters this area of space.

Dirionis blinks at Urfkgar, asking, " Anything I can do for ya, Urf?"

Cole simply watches out the viewport and looks at the massive asteroids crashing into each other.

"Cole, there's a sensors station at the command console," Tay says. "See if you can't figure a way to sift through all this junk to find us some particle-pushing gold." Keen eyes guide the ship slowly through the dense cloud of scraps and asteroids. He smirks over his shoulder at Urf. "Remember what happened last time we were here?"

"Stupid softskin marine know stupid softskin floaty thingy fake fight stuff?" asks the lizard as he continues to poke at the console. Still not looking up, he says, "Yup."

Dirionis rubs his hands together slowly, glancing out the view port a second before waiting for any orders issued.

Dirionis says, "Like, turrets?"

Cole nods to Taeren and moves over to the command console, eeking his way through the very cramped cockpit, especially with Urfkgar present. "Looking, looking...anything that might be the residual signature of an ion engine." He says, scanning the vast space filled with so much.

Cole sees: There's something - A signature: twin ion engines, active, pushing away from the Riposte at about 70 degrees. Or, wait - shit, there's something else, further away and more or less dead ahead. A faint, stationary ion signature. And the active engines are headed right for it!

"Any luck?" Tay asks Cole, engaging the thrusters. The ship begins to drift slowly among the debris.

"Urf sayeded," says the lizard, probably uncomfortable because his knees keep banging into the console. "Stupid softskin know? No know?"

Dirionis gives a short nod. " Yeah, i'm not bad at it. I'll relieve you if you'd like." He offers to Urfkgar.

"GUN IT! Ion signature dead ahead. There's another ship 70 degrees to starboard. Heading right for OUR ion engines." Cole says with some urgency, pouring over the readings from the sensors on the command console. "Get moving!" He says again.

"Shit!" Tay exclaims, and the vessel lurches forward as he accelerates more quickly than the inertial dampers can compensate for.

>> Outside the Ship: There are the bastards - the viewscreen shows them, just the prow of a Calliope-class freighter, burning full-speed right alongside the Militia vessel.

"Hands off," comes a crackling warning over the comms. "We saw her first!"

>> Outside the Ship: The Calliope pulls briefly ahead, and the viewscreen allows a slightly wider view - one that includes the turret mounted just behind and above the freighter's cockpit, panning over to train threateningly on the Riposte.

Urfkgar remains placidly in his seat, tapping on random seeming buttons. Never-the-less, by the end of his button mashing, he's working on plotting target information for the Calliope-class freighter. The fact that he doesn't get up seems to be his answer for Dirionis.

Cole nearly falls over, but grips the console because of the acceleration Tay puts the ship in. He smirks at the warning coming over the comm. "I don't think so." Cole radios back quickly. "Urf! They're targetting us..." He says urgently.

Sensor data appears for this Calliope, illuminating Cole's face:

IND Fargon's Chance Calliope-Class

Power Signature: Above Spec

Weapon Signatures: MKIII Pulse

Notable Lifesigns: Four

Dirionis takes the message from Urf, running over to the far side where a seat is and hooking to it. Dirionis glances nervously at the other ship.

"Private," Tay snaps. "We're not going to beat them there, but they have to get a salvage marker on that junk before we do in order for it to be theirs. Tell them we'll blow them out of space if they don't face that turret forward." He swallows and rolls to port to avoid a piece of debris, as the Calliope rolls right. Stars and asteroids streak past on all sides. "Urf, warning shot over their hull. Don't hit 'em - just let 'em know we mean business!"

"Cole, what's that power signature look like that we're chasing?" The Timonae adds, sweat forming on his brow.

Cole taps a few buttons. "Idle ion signature. Stationary and faint. Dead ahead." He reports, his words coming quicker than normal due to the pressure-filled situation.

Urfkgar clacks his teeth together as he has the weapons computer calculate a new target. Then, he tries firing the warning shots over the hull of the Calliope.

Dirionis nods to Taeren, a little tensed. He radios to the other ship, " Face your turret forward, or we WILL fire. I repeat, face your turret forward!"

More specifics on the power signature come: It's attached to a ship. Well, the rear half of one, anyhow. Looks like it used to be a Caravan.

Atmosphere: None

Gravity: 1G

Power Signature: Well below what a ship of the size this thing used to be should be at, but at about the right range for an older-model ion engine." to Cole.

>> Outside the Ship: Fiery pulse death arcs towards the Calliope. Abruptly, just aft of the turret is engulfed in a bluish glow. One of the four arcs of doom impacts the vessel's hull, blackening it. Keen eyes might notice a piece of hullsteel go flying backwards - or, rather, being left behind by the hurtling ships.

"Fucking claim jumpers!" Comes the crackling reply, followed by a return volley from the Calliope.

Cole yells, "I've got to tend to the shields and then the cargo if we're alive when we get there!" He heads for the aft.

Taeren banks the Riposte down. "Woops," he hisses. "Well, so much for that idea. Let 'em have it, Urf!" The Timonae banks the Riposte over again, towards the Calliope, as if to ram into its side - and coming dangerously close to actually doing so, as the pair hurtle towards their goal.

If anything the Zangali looks amused as he bangs on some buttons until he's got the guns re-orientated. Then, he fires again.

Dirionis glances at the communications console, to Cole leaving, glancing to back at Taeren and Urfkgar. " Damn, blow 'em to pieces!"

>> Outside the Ship: Four pulse blasts rake the Calliope's hull as it gains a little bit on the Riposte, making an uneven series of dots along its side that, connected shortly by flame, form a jagged line. The Calliope lists to the side and is shortly sent into a tailspin ...

Which is is arrested by a passing asteroid. And here is where interstellar physics gets fun. The angular momentum of the Calliope is almost perfectly nullified by the angular counterpart of its meteorological mate. The darkness of space cannot transmit the jarring crunch which doubtless resulted from the impact, but it does send visual signals, light: and on the viewscreen, the Calliope drifts gently away from the asteroid.

"Mayday, mayday," The Calliope sends. "Severely ... damaged ... attack ... Shinaran Drift ...somebody help!"

Dirionis glances at the communications console, to Cole leaving, glancing back at Taeren and Urfkgar. " Damn, blow 'em to pieces!"

Taeren sucks air in through his teeth, slowing the Riposte and circling their downed quarry. "Private, send them another hail. Tell them this was a misunderstanding and see if they want our help - first aid, stuff like that."

Before the Zangali looked amused. Now, though, he seems downright cheerful. He even recenters the guns on the disabled seeming Calliope, but despite aquiring the target once more, he doesn't bother to fire. Yet, anyway.

Dirionis smirks, speaking through the communications, " This was a misunderstanding, do you request our aid?" He grins slightly back at Taeren.

>> Outside the Ship: "Get the fuck out of here, you - Ow!" Comes the reply. "I mean, yeah. Aid. That'd be great. Our docking collar's ready for you." The Calliope just drifts.

Taeren looks between the two Marines. "What do you think?" He asks. "We can't just leave 'em drifting here, can we?"

Urfkgar snorts and says, "Go stupid softskin floaty thingy. Stupid softskins want kill. Take no smasheded stupid softskin floaty thingy."

Dirionis shrugs at Taeren. " I dunno, Captain...They could set us up, couldn't they?"

Taeren just blinks as the Riposte cruises slowly towards the Calliope, looking to Diri as if for a translation. "I guess they could," he says. "So, Marines, are you saying dock or don't dock? If we leave them to drift, they'll probably die before they can get their ship back to civilization."

This notion doesn't seem to bother the Zangali all that much. He says, "Go smasheded stupid softskin floaty thingy. Stupid softskins do stupid stuff. Urf kill stupid softskins. Stupid softskin want go. Go. Urf no care."

Dirionis lets out a sigh, looking at the communications console, more forgiving than the Zangali." It was our misfire that took the first shot...Its your call, Captain."

Taeren shakes his head. "You two are in my care on this boat, and you're right. They could set us up. We're going for the other prize. Diri, wish them best of luck and tell them we'll relay their distress call when we leave Avernus Cluster.

>> Outside the Ship: The IND Riposte pushes on towards the distant power signature they had seen previously.

"Hey -" crackles the voice from the Calliope. "Where you going?"

Urfkgar works on keeps the weapons aligned on the Calliope, grumbling as he pokes various parts of the control panels.

Dirionis nods slowly and bites his lip before hailing, " We wish you the best of luck, and we will relay your distress call when we leave Avernus Cluster."

>> Outside the Ship: "Can't say I wouldn't have done the same," comes the gruff voice over the comm. "That aside, you're all fucking bastards."

Taeren shakes his head as the Riposte approaches the cloven chunk of space debris that they sought, the aft portion of an old Caravan. A cluster of ion engines dangling by a series of dubiously-connected wires drift along with it, clearly once part of the old freighter.

Urfkgar clacks his teeth together and leaves off pointing the guns at the drifting Calliope in favor of trying to find new targets.

Dirionis nods to Taeren from his seat, " lets get what we came here for, sir."

>> Outside the Ship: "Since we're all probably gonna die out here thanks to you lot, I suppose we oughta speak our piece. Seeing as there's nobody else gonna listen." The crackling voice over the comms pauses, then adds, "Never again."

"My name's Jim Fargon. This here's my ship, Fargon's Chance. I won her in a poker game." There's a chuckle. "Course, it wasn't this shiny piece of new debris you see before you when I got it. No, it was a rusted-out ol' thing, needed new just about everything. But it was mine."

Taeren swallows as the master of the ship they had just destroyed begins to speak. The premature hauntings of a ghost. Hesitantly, Tay rises and nods. "Cover me with those guns, will you? Diri, you know how to handle yourself in zero-gee at all?"

Dirionis shrugs to Taeren. " I've done it a few times...No pro though...You want me along?"

Urfkgar grunts vaguely as he stares fixedly at the various screens on the weapons console.

"Just make sure I don't die," The Timonae replies, heading aft. "Watch from the airlock and pull in on my tether if something looks bad."

Shortly thereafter, in the airlock ...

Taeren is already into a worksuit, checking his seals before attaching the helmet. "Ready?" He asks the Marine.

Dirionis equips Worksuit.

You place Leather Armor in Storage Locker.

Dirionis gets his suit and nods to Taeren. " Ready."

Taeren seals his helmet, turning to the airlock, which opens.

Taeren disembarks from the ship.

Avernus Cluster <Shinaran Drift>

A dense and highly dangerous asteroid field, the Avernus Cluster holds many secrets. Asteroids crash and bump into each other here, each large chunk of rock denting and cracking with every blow until it smashes into bits. A few hundred thousand hm space exists near the center of the Cluster, and there's an extremely high radiation reading from that area.
A pockmarked mining tender ventures into the Cluster, attaching itself to a planetoid like a parasite.

Taeren disembarks from the IND Riposte.

Dirionis has arrived. Dirionis disembarks from the IND Riposte.

Taeren hooks a tether to the inside of the Riposte's open airlock and pushes away from the ship, drifting towards the mass that used to be a Caravan with the arc cutter clipped to one shoulder and his field kit attached to his hip. The IND Riposte swings its weapons around idly back and forth on its turrets.

Dirionis overlooks the tether, staying near it as he watches Taeren drift towards target. He glances at the turrets.

"At first, I tried to make it as a legit shipper," Fargon's voice continues. "I got the ship in shape on a loan. At the time, I was thirty-four." He chuckles drily. "Now that I'm about to die? I'm forty. I've had this ship for six years." Another hoarse, desparate, choked chuckle. "It was even a legit loan, from a bank no less. Course, the bank tried to collect when legit shippin' couldn't pay the bills. So I had my hired hand shoot the loan officer when he came askin' for the deed back in ought-three and we jumped out here from Ungstir, never looked back. Been in the Drift ever since."

"Can you see me okay?" Tay asks. He hesitates at Fargon's voice, unclipping the arc cutter and bracing himself with the magnetic bottoms of his worksuit boots before firing it up. Small, from the perspective of the Riposte, Tay is a gnat clinging to the side of a quarterhorse.

Dirionis rolls his eyes at the mans story, blue eyes looking through his helmet at Taeren, hands ready to grab the tether. " Yeah...Just fine...Though your kinda small."

IND Riposte Intercom Broadcast ------------------------------- Urfkgar --

>>>> From the IND Riposte's Hatch Intercom < : Urf no see stuff.

"The Drift's been pretty good to us, well, was up until now. We had our share of scrapes ... time we ran into the Snappy Comeback crew, barely got out with our lives, that's when I decided we needed another set of guns on this heap. Didn't do us much good today, did it." Fargon pauses a long moment. "Never heard of your ship before. Riposte. What kind of fancy-ass name is that? Some kinda Odarite word or somethin'?" He chuckles, mirthless. "You'll learn quick. Drift is a cutthroat place. Whazzat?" Fargon is silent for a long moment; when he comes back, his voice is even more sober. "Guess we have a reactor leak here. Something like ten minutes to live."

"Great," Tay replies. "I'm almost done here, I've got the assembly we need almost cut free." The plasma arc cutter flashes white and orange in the

" Alright, give me the word." Dirionis says, focusing more on Taeren than the mans story.

IND Riposte Intercom Broadcast ------------------------------- Urfkgar --

>>>> From the IND Riposte's Hatch Intercom < : No morerer time. Stupid smasheded softskin floaty thingy. Boom. Need scram. No scram. Need fix.

"I've got it." Tay shoulders the arc cutter, and there's a change of momentum and a shimmering in the dim ambient light of the Cluster; the Timonae approaches the airlock. "You can give my tether a tug, help me on my way."

Dirionis grasps the tether and tugs it tightly, looking up at Taeren. " Alright then..."

"The Drift works like that. We're all out here on the jagged edge, doing what we can to get by. Some do it without stepping on too many toes, others do. Like you, I guess. Well, hell, like us." Fargon draws in a shaky breath; is he about to cry? "Rubble, you bastards. That's all that's out here. Rubble, debris - the leftovers from lives that were worth living. And us worthless folk picking through the ashes. Sooner or later, you'll turn out like us. Your lives'll end just the way ours are about to, I'll promise you that."

Taeren grows larger as he approaches the Riposte; in the middle distance, close enough to see in silhouette but not close enough to make out in any definition, drifts the hulk of the ruined Fargon's Chance.

The IND Riposte trains its weapons back in the direction of Fargon's Chance.

Dirionis shakes his head slowly, trying to block out the voice as he continues to guide Taeren in. " How are you doing, Captain?" He glances at the turrets again. " What is Urf doing?"

"Guarding," Tay replies. "Against any desparate last moves." He rests a hand against the side of the Riposte, pushing in a roughly him-sized chunk of gray and blackened metal. "They're about to die over there. If we went in now, with that reactor leak they've got, we'd be dooming ourselves, too."

"You think this place is rich," Fargon accuses, breath growing heavy. "You think there's treasure here to be found. A way to get on top, to get ahead, hidden somewhere in these rocks and scraps. Well you're /wrong/," the doomed man snarls. "There's nothing here for you, strangers. There's nothing here for any of you, any of us. Nothing but metal and dust.

"Poor guy," the Timonae ventures, turning his tinted faceplate in the direction of Fargon's ship. "Can you honestly say you'd do things any different?" Nothing changes with the Riposte or its guns for now.

"Metal and dust," Fargon repeats, breath growing shakier. "That's all we all are and ever were." The signal becomes even more staticy as the Fargon's Chance is veined through with whitish-orange light. "Metal and -"

Taeren's visor reflects the violent white-yellow-red explosion, flashes of color where once there was a starship, and then: nothing. Just darkness. Scraps and dirt. "There's nothing left here for tonight," the Captain announces, following his find into the airlock. "Let's go home."

Dirionis continues to guide Taeren in, his helmet lowering a little as he says, " Everyone has to go sometime...Some worse than others..." He takes one last glance at the ship.

The Captain is silent as he disappears inside the Riposte's airlock, and it closes behind the pair. Taeren boards the IND Riposte.

Taeren boards through the ship's airlock.

Dirionis has arrived. Dirionis boards through the ship's airlock.

Dirionis unequips Worksuit.

Dirionis equips Leather Armor.

Dirionis places Worksuit in Storage Locker

On the floor, now, is a seven-foot-something long gray cylinder with wires poking out at all ends and a blackened oval patch facing the ceiling.

Taeren removes his helmet, revealing a sweat-streaked face. He exhales and inhales deeply once he's off the worksuit's air supply. "Thanks for keeping an eye on me," he says. "I know it's not the most exciting work, but it's important."

Dirionis nods as he takes his helmet off, exhaling and inhaling. " No problem, Captain."

Taeren quickly disassembles his suit, the movements of one for whom a worksuit has become an almost daily habit. "Maybe next time we spacewalk together, I'll show you a thing or two about how it's done." He looks over at the Marine as he racks the suit in its equipment locker.

You unequip Worksuit. You place Worksuit in Storage Locker.

Dirionis does the same, replacing suit with armor, " alright, I'll look forward to it." The marine sets the worksuit away. " So what exactly is this thing?"

"Exactly? It's the energy flux capacitor unit for a mark-two, type 989a ion engine assembly," the Timonae replies in even tones. "More loosely, it's a piece of space junk that contains some parts we'll need to fix the ion cannons back home." He shrugs on a leather jacket over his uniform shirt, and turns for the main deck. "You're welcome to one of the bunks in the main deck for the trip back. We should be back on Hancock within the hour."

The pair leave the airlock; Dirionis finds his bunk, and Taeren finds the pilot's chair of the Riposte ...

Bridge <IND Riposte>

The bridge before you is cramped, with no natural view of space what so ever. Three consoles are spaced in a triangle, two towards the holographic viewscreen to the fore, and one command console set further behind. However, despite this lack of space, this ship is clearly a military vessel, with clean polished lines, and a look of precision to everything.

Taeren looks weary as he enters the bridge, wiping sweat off his forehead with the untucked front of his shirt.

The forward view becomes a wash of shimmering cobalt planes unfolding as the ship slices through the fabric of normal space to skip between the stars ...

>> Outside the Ship: Its array of jump crystals shimmering a bloody crimson, the IND Riposte slices through the fabric of normal space in a blaze of shimmering cobalt planes, to skip between the stars ...

Urfkgar is still seated at the weapons console, looking fairly relaxed but no longer so amused.

Dirionis arrives from Main Deck <IND Riposte>. Dirionis has arrived.

Dirionis steps in quickly, saying, " Im hitting the bunk, wake me when were there, will ya?"

Dirionis heads into Main Deck <IND Riposte>. Dirionis has left.

Taeren uncoils into the pilot's seat, steering the ship back out of the Avernus Cluster. Shortly, the streaks and whorls of faster-than-light play haphazard across the viewscreen. "Good shooting, Chief," the Timonae says sarcastically. He waves over his shoulder to Diri. "Yeah, sure."

"Yup," grunts the lizard who doesn't seem to notice the sarcasm. He says, "Urf doeded more train stuff stupid softskin floaty thingy fake fight stuff."

"I could tell," Tay replies. "That warning shot was surprisingly effective." Urfkgar shrugs and admits, "Urf mostererer gooderer marine all times. Urf no mosterer gooderer stupid talk stuff."

"It shows," The Timonae says. At length, he rises, turning his back to the coruscating light outside. "I'm going to have myself an after-mission drink, Urf. I'll be in the main deck."

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