Wherein Dr. Rose decides that the alleviation of boredom overrides concepts of personal safety.
Aboard the Speaks Softly; 5041.135:0440 (Third Shift)
Xau made his way down to the galley for an early cup of coffee, mildly annoyed that his normal morning workout and run continued to be interrupted by the presence of the Khanniption Fit survivors bunked in the rec room. It was still a few hours before first shift and the majority of the crew was asleep so he indulged in casual clothing and slippers, prepared to defy any crewman he met to say anything about it. He entered the galley and was mildly surprised to discover his XO seated at the table with a mug and a data pad.
He moved to the counter to check the coffee maker. “Mister Nenoic,” he said by way of greeting, using the half-dragon’s name rather than rank to indicate this was not an official meeting as he poured a steaming mug for himself.
“Good morning, sir,” Rwvyan said heavily. He continued to tap on his pad, and then in clear frustration started deleting whatever he had entered.
Xau checked the chronometer and took a sip of his coffee. He leaned against the counter and gave himself a moment to savor that first rush of caffeine. “You’re up early. Or late.” He observed, taking care to sound casual.
Rwvyan opened his mouth and then sighed, closing it again. He set the datapad down carefully and banged his head on the table. More than once.
When he finished, he looked up and said calmly, “I’m having some difficulty with this report, Captain.”
Rather than answering directly, Captain Ni Shen Xau sipped some more of his coffee and raised an eyebrow. He made a non-committal grunt that might have meant “go on,” or just as easily “good coffee.”
Rwvyan accepted the grunt and raised him a yawn, which probably meant “I’m up late, not early” but could also have meant, “good coffee”, and replied “How exactly does one document a total clusterfuck?”
Xau put on a friendly scowl and ruminated over another sip. “I suppose that depends on the type of clusterfuck that we’re dealing with.” He pulled out a chair next to the young executive officer and leaned back into it. “Report writing is a fine art, XO. On one hand, those reading it need to be able to glean the important bits without too much wading through the muck. On the other hand, you don’t want to skip over something that may be important to the reader.” He paused and drank, choosing his next words with care. “Mistakes – honest mistakes – where no one winds up in Medical, no important equipment is lost or damaged, or that didn’t prevent the mission from getting done can be … de-emphasized. If any minor discipline is necessary to remind personnel to refrain from being sloppy, then deal with it yourself. Bring it to me if it’s a big fuck-up. That’s my job to deal with. Does that help?”
Rwvyan replied, "I suppose if you look at it that way, its maybe not that bad. We got the samples. Noone died. Sam…eone got drunk, leaned on the holy tree, and took off their shoes in front of the natives. This person then proceeded to dance, and grab my ass. In front of the natives.” He paused. “In front of the entire ship, as far as I can tell. My sister is busy making posters. It doesn’t exactly feel like a win.”
Xau chuckled. “The little wins never do. But they’re just as important as the big wins.” He sloshed his coffee around and sipped some more, and frowned. “Personally I’ll take any wins right now.”
“I guess the science team is happy. They have some data to play around with finally.”
Xau nodded. “And that is definitely a win,” he said, emphasizing each word with his mug.
“We may have…accidentally…given one of the native pershalans a ride in The Cudgel…” Rwvyan blurted.
The Captain sat forward and rested his arms on the table, hands folded around his mug. “Ah. I see.” He studied the dark liquid quietly for a moment. “And you’re worried about contamination?” He gave his head a little shake, “of course you are, you’ve been reading the first contact protocol.” Xau gave a heavy sigh. “In the end, it’s not going to matter, Rwvyan.”
“First of all, House Gevise and the other looters have been pissing in that oatmeal for nearly a century.”
“What do you mean, it’s not going to matter? You don’t think these pershalans are going to try to make their own ships?”
He shook his head and gave a helpless shrug. “They’re not going to get the chance.”
“Why not?” Rwvyan looked confused.
“Think about it.” Xau spread his hands. “Chadra is a world chock full of treasures – cultural, biological, magical, precious metals and gems. Gevise and the rest have been dipping into that for decades now. But most importantly – its home to an ancient civilization of dragon-slayers.” The captain caught his XO’s eyes. “What do YOU think is going to happen once word of that gets back to the Dragon Court? What is the current Emperor going to do?”
“Dragon slayers? They’re not…” Rwvyan stopped, and his eyes widened as he took in the implications of that phrase. “Oh. Oh! But that’s not…” He trailed off again, and met the Xau’s gaze directly. “Fair,” he finished softly, the word a whisper on his lips.
Xau leaned forward and put a gentle hand on the half-dragon’s shoulder. “This is the last generation for them, Rwvyan. All of them. The Empire won’t leave a tree standing. It doesn’t matter if we file a report or not – word is on its way back to the core. It has been for years. Eventually the Court is going to pay attention to the rumors, so the clock is running out for the natives of Chadra. When the Empire comes it’s going to make House Gevise’s exploitation look like a carnival.” The Captain leans back into his chair and finishes his coffee. “On some level, pretty much everyone on this ship knows what this planet’s future is going to be. Let them blow off some steam, XO.”
“There’s nothing we can do?” Rwvyan asked, and then answered his own question. “There’s nothing we can do. Fuck.” He pushed his coffee cup away. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
“Exactly, XO. Fuck.” Captain Ni Shen Xau frowns at his mug and rises with a heavy sigh. He refills it and moves to the door, but pauses a moment. “Go ahead and be sick. It helps some – I know. Try to get a shower before shift starts.” Xau leaves his first officer with his revelations.
Lord Rwvyan Nenoic, Lord Serpentce Z’Entropyse Augenmanthias, Ereyie Wel, Lord AcRei Burü C’Ge “Pei’Fa”, Dr. Eon Rose, Ditak Kirrin
Unable to Attend:
Dr. Nodagil Maaran, and RC-880 “Durendal”
Executive Officer’s Log, RES Speaks Softly, 5041.136:2130 I.E.; Chadra; Rwvyan Nenoic recording.
At 5041.135.1600, Bishop-1 took a small group down to the planet in the Cudgel to assess the damage to The Khanniption Fit. They determined the following issues exist: main computer core fried, fusion reactor fried, two major hull breaches, Nacelle pylon is twisted, and work needs to be done on the starcaster. Bishop-1 thinks this will take about 80-90 hours of our time to repair. The Captain would like to do this, since it will be easier to do the repairs while we pursue our mission than divert the Speaks to take the survivors back to civilization. After reading the report, he authorized the crew to pursue the repairs.
At 5041.136.0700, Dr. Rose commanded a mission to the surface to meet with the pershalan tribe. Dr. Caladriend continues to suffer from her illness, and Dr. Rose hopes that the locals may have some curative that hasn’t been tried before. The pershalans have agreed to treat the elf, and she will remain in their village for several days while we continue operations.
Personal Log, RES Speaks Softly, 5041.136:1900 I.E.; Chadra; Rwvyan Nenoic recording.
After my last entry, I spent some time screwing with Serpy, courtesy of the Captain’s request for into on The Khanniption Fit. It was hilarious. In spite of himself, I think he actually enjoyed it too. I mean, he got to be as much of an asshole as he wanted and I didn’t get pissy and offended. Elly thinks the guy is lonely and afraid to interact with people. What, fear of ridicule? I doubt that. He thinks his shit smells like roses. Even so, he’s probably a little lonely and doesn’t know it. I was actually doing him a favor, if you look at it like that. What can I say, I’m a stand-up guy.
I have to say, I’m surprised that he provided access to the info so easily. In the end Elly got it for me, but I don’t really care. If he’d been less of a dick, and just said it was available, the whole night might have been less amusing. I gave Elly an extra ration of jam for her trouble, dealing with Serpy. What she found confirmed the info I already had, and I was able to provide it to the Captain without a huge delay.
We spent most of yesterday morning getting things caught up and making plans. Dr. Rose originally wanted to visit the giants next, but she’s hatched a plan to take Caladriend to the pershalan village to see if primitive shamanism can fix what thousands of years of the best medical and arcane masters the Empire has to offer haven’t been able to solve…drug addiction. She seems to want to think that if she can fix the pain in Caladriend’s false eye, that she’ll stop taking drugs and be a normal contributing member of society again.
We had a lovely conversation in which I told her that was cute, but idealistic. I also reminded her that we found that mark on Caladriend’s skin. She still wants to try, even if we have to lock the silly bint up after she’s miraculously “cured”. We clarified that she doesn’t expect me to risk my crew going after her if she runs off into the jungle or whatever stupid thing Caladriend comes up with next. As long as she understands that, I told her I would withdraw my objections to the plan. I think I pissed her off a little, but we reached an understanding.
Shortly after that, Bishop asked to talk with me down in engineering. The Captain has asked him to fix the Fit and make it space worthy again. We talked for a while, and then Ditak joined us. The Rook was starting to get mad about having someone in his engineering area, so I distractedTic Tac and we left. We eventually made arrangements for Ereyie to fly the Cudgel down to the Fit. He took The Rook and Keriwar, Tic Tac and Durendal. Ereyie managed to land close to the Fit. The team had to climb up to the other ship, so Durendal had to stay behind. Climbing isn’t really his thing. I heard that Keriwar fell, but Tic Tac caught her, and Ereyie helped her the rest of the way up.
They took a look at the Fit and determined that we’ll have to fix several things if we’re going to get her into space. The main computer core is fried, as is the fusion reactor. There are two major hull breaches that need to be patched. The Nacelle pylon is twisted, and of course we’ll need to reinstall the starcaster. That’s a lot of work, maybe 80 to 90 hours. Depending on how many people we can get down there, and keep safe, we can condense it, but it’s risky. The Rook made enough basic repairs to keep critters out and they headed back to the barn. That’s when they saw the explosion.
It was one of the Paramour’s shuttles. It was tumbling and expelling atmosphere through a hull breach. Ereyie scanned it and found two human life forms (as in still living) and one unidentified life form. One of the humans was fading fast. Then they have to get into a pissing contest with the Paramour, who was trying to order them to stand down and let the Paramour handle the situation. The problem was, the Paramour’s nearest shuttle was several minutes further out than the Cudgel. There was no way they could get there in time for there to be survivors, unless those survivors were suited up.
Bishop and Ereyie made the call and they diverted, turning off their radio. Ereyie caught up to the vessel and matched its velocity while Durendal and Ditak came up with a plan. Ereyie got out in front of the tumbling ship, and Durendal jumped out, landing on the other ship and activating his magnetic implants. He then used a bottle of one of those magical mending oils to close the hull breach. By then one of the humans was dead, but the other two lives were saved. Ereyie drops back behind the ship and Durendal is able to jump back and board the Cudgel safely. During this crazy piloting and heroic maneuvering, the Paramour is locking on weapons and unlocking them. When Ereyie turned the radio back on, someone was screaming at them to stand down.
Of course Durendal recorded everything he saw through the breach while he was fixing it. We had a lot of conversation about the identity of the non-human, but we landed on a native of Chadra, from a race called the Yuan-Ti. Apparently, they worship some sort of snake god, and turn themselves partially into snakes. I’ve heard of one of these guys when we were on Mourngond. Rumor has it that Lord Shul, the leader of the Adamantine Order, is one of them. At least, half of one of them. Not someone to fuck with, not even me.
With that victory under their belts, they came home. Tic Tac wasted no time in creating a video of their masterful save of the ship, and setting it to music. He was kind enough to not only let Scrapnik show it to the crew during dinner, but he showed it to the Captain privately. Then he sent a complimentary copy to the Paramour. I can’t help but think that the Captain authorized it, unofficially. It seems like a lot gets done around here, unofficially. It was definitely a win though. Morale took a big jump after watching that video. Of course, it’s Zanven afterwards who has to ask why we’re fixing up the Fit at all.
After dinner, the Captain came down and took Ria Star back to his office? Quarters? Durendal reported it to me and wanted me to intervene. Uncomfortably aware that Xao might be, ahem, getting to know a reasonably attractive human woman who isn’t actually under his command, I decided to comm him instead of barging in like a waiter when you have a mouthful of food. I told him some crew had seen him walking with her and were concerned for his safety. He was irritated and basically told me to mind my own business, so I was none the wiser. An hour later, he called to ask me to escort her back to the rec room.
On our way down, she said he was a crazy motherfucker, and asked me if I was “in on it”. I didn’t have to pretend not to know what she was talking about, but I told her in my experience, whatever the Captain said, he meant it. She grumbled a bit and went into the rec room. I admit, I totally misused my authority, and used the comms to listen in on their conversation.
Essentially, the Captain told Ria that the ship was paid for, and that the original owners, left it to any surviving crew members, in equal shares. No insurance policy. He then offered to get the Fit space worthy for them, and he would let them keep all that treasure in the hold. In exchange for which, they would need to transport 200 plus pershalans to an uninhabited jungle world, the coordinates to which he would provide. He also told her he had ways of knowing if she spaced the pershalans, and if she didn’t fulfill the contract, he would hunt her down and kill them all. I left them arguing about whether or not to take the deal.
At first I was pissed that he was keeping all this secret, but after sleeping on it, I think I know why. He’s protecting the rest of us. I looked at the regs again last night, and he could be court martialed for this. He’s breaking about an entire section of the manual. He’s going to go out on a limb for a bunch of people he never met, and risk his career, his entire life, just to save 200 people. I’ve never met anyone who would do that before, without taking any credit.
The next morning, we were in the galley for breakfast before taking Dr Rose and her entourage down to meet the pershalans, and Ereyie asked me to come and talk to him. He wanted advice, because the Captain asked him to convince the tribe to board a ship and leave their home planet. Surprise, surprise. He wanted to know how he was supposed to convince them. I said, “What made you leave your home?” and left him to ponder while I got a coffee. Once I was suitably caffeinated, and wandered back to his table and sat down. He replied, “I left for…space.” My response to that was, “Then you need to show the Elders and the Shaman what you showed Mowanaway. Take them into space, and…go fast.
“But they’re just going to end up on another planet.” Eeyie said thoughtfully.
“Come on, man,” I replied. “They’ve got a whole voyage to see the ship, learn how to fly it, and learn about the Empire. Do you really think they’ll stay put?” Before Ereyie could answer, we were interrupted by a rant from Zanven. He was bitching about fixing the Fit.
“Why are we even doing this?” he complained. Several people responded with, “Captain’s orders!” but that just set him off more. Finally, I squared off with him. He pointed out that I was just as new as he was, and asked why I was going along with this. I told him the Captain is playing the long game. This way we don’t have to take them somewhere and show back up on the radar. He was still skeptical, but we got derailed from the conversation when Serpy and Tic Tac showed up. Serpy told him he should “cower”. At that point, I left to board the Cudgel.
We left around 0700. Ereyie flew down, and landed in the same spot. He took Dr Rose, Nodagil, Caladriend and Pei’Fa. I asked Dr. Rose if she wanted me to go or stay, and she said she didn’t want to leave Yevon alone. Yevon said that she likes being alone. Ouch! Then she said it was a joke and she just wasn’t very good at them. I was perfectly happy to get to spend some time alone with Yevon, so I kicked back and let the others go on the nature walk this time.
I did have to carp at them a little bit about getting separated, but they got to the tree without incident. A pershalan came out and talked with Ereyie and then went to get Mowanaway. We listened to them talk, and Ereyie translate for a bit. I tried a couple of time to get Yevon to chat with me, but she can be difficult to get going. Just as I felt her relax, Pei’Fa said, “Guys, I just heard something.” We started scanning and picked up a number of large life form moving towards the tree. We could see through the cameras that everyone had backed up into the roots of the tree, and some kind of 4-legged dinosaurs stampeded into the clearing.
One of them stepped on one of the pershalan guards, and Pei’Fa pulled him to safety, where Mowanaway was able to heal him. Then the predator entered the clearing behind them, and we saw why they were running. It was a huge bipedal carnivore with a massive skull balanced by a long, heavy tail. Just as the dinosaur saw the small, soft edible bits under the tree, and changed course, Pei”Fa charged it. He dodged left and ducked under its legs, confusing it, while he cut into one leg with his sword. Yevon turned to me and said, “Forty credits on Pei’Fa.” My response was, “I’d be a fool to take that bet, but what the hell…” Forty credits is cheap if it keeps Yevon happy with me. I’m just glad she doesn’t seem to be pissed at me over the debacle with Samai. Although it would be nice if she was a little jealous about it. But I digress…
We watched the dinosaur grab Pei’Fa and try to swallow him. As we jokingly cheered for Pei’Fa (and the dinosaur…because come on, forty credits…) suddenly a gigantic drow/scorpion thing teleported right into the fucking ship with us. I’d just muted us, so at least we didn’t distract the rest of the group while we were yelling “What the FUCK?” as it attacked me with its giant front pincers. It also escaped our notice that three more of the things had attacked Dr. Rose and the others. Pei’Fa didn’t notice because his head was still stuck down a dinosaur throat. His hands were a little full.
Yevon and I both twisted around and crouched behind our chairs, trying to get some cover. At least it couldn’t use its stinger in the confines of the Cudgel. Remembering earlier fights with Koto, I barked “Go low!” to Yevon and I drew Singularity. It was difficult swinging her in the cabin, but mostly everything I wanted to hit was above the seats, and the controls were all behind me. I swung once and managed to cleave right through its pincer and chest. It gurgled and turned into gelatinous goo covering the floor, some of the seats, and our boots.
“You didn’t leave any for me?” snarked Yevon in surprise. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I thought it was going to be a lot harder to kill.” Damn, I wanted to impress her, but I didn’t mean to steal her fun. I promised her the next one. Then I said, “That was a summoned creature. Where’s the fucking summoner?” We looked but couldn’t find anything on the scanner. Then we both turned to see what was happening in the clearing.
One of the pershalans was dead, clearly from a scorpion stinger. They were still all fighting their opponents. Pei’Fa had wriggled free when Ereyie shot the dinosaur in the head. He did a crazy backflip and landed on the dinosaur’s head. From that vantage, he was able to stab down through its skull and brain, effectively killing it. Mowanaway summoned a treant from the holy tree, and it was fighting one of the scorpion demons… drorpians…scrow. Yeah, scrow will do. The treant was fighting one of the scrow. Dr. Rose had turned herself into some kind of plant and was attacking a scrow who had been chasing Nodagil. With Pei’Fa, Ereyie, Dr. Rose, and the treant attacking, they managed to destroy the other three scrow.
After that fight, the treant reached down, picked up the dead pershalan and, I shit you not, melded back into the tree with him. A moment later, there were new bones hanging from the tree. That was some of the creepiest shit I have ever seen, and I spent most of my life in Asamet. Apparently, the pershalans agreed to treat Caladriend, and she and Ereyie are going to spend a few days in the village. Ereyie arranged to call when they’re ready for a pickup. I’m SUPER happy that one is Dr. Rose’s responsibility. The Captain is not going to be happy. Speaking of the Captain, I’m supposed to find some way to casually mention to Dr. Rose that he wants to continue their breakfasts together, without telling her he told me to say it. Seriously. I mean, what the hell is that? And why am I in the middle of it?