Search for the Elder Races

The Start of Things
The search for Joseph Armitage

Cleopatra Kahn is a Dralasite researcher who is finishing its Triple-Doctorate in Xeno-Zoology and Anthropology. It has decided that for its final thesis it will conduct an investigation to see whether some recent computer analytical techniques can be used to expand our understanding of the so-called “Elder Races”. It obtained a research grant which has limited funds but should support a very small expedition. Based on that, it ran some discrete advertising in a few chosen venues.

Much to Cleopatra’s surprise, it got a positive response from a most unexpected source. Joseph Armitage is a member of the Order of Golden Templars. The Templars are a group that has long studied the Elder Races, but they have always been dismissed as cranks by the scientific establishment because they have an almost religious fervor about their studies, and also because some of their beliefs are far too outlandish to be true. Supposedly, they believe that some of the Elder Races used “flying saucers” to spy closely on the various intelligent races before they first attained spaceflight, and that they were responsible for certain massive plagues in more recent times. At least, that is what people SAY they believe: the Templars themselves are notoriously secretive (perhaps because of the disdain with which they are viewed by others) and do not share much about their beliefs and never their data with those not initiated into the Order.

But Joseph wrote to Cleopatra and said that he had been granted permission by the other leaders of the order to try a more open approach (as an experiment). He said that he was willing to allow it to view and analyze the records that the Templars had collected over the years. Cleopatra realized that this would be a significant new source of information and that it might pose an opportunity to really push forward the boundaries of knowledge about the Elder Races. So it began looking for a more active team to pursue this: it would need some way to get transportation to the Harconan System, where the Order’s headquarters is located.

That was how it found Viktor. He is a Vrusk pilot and navigator who possesses a small null-space-capable ship as the last remnant of a powerful Vrusk corporation that was almost completely destroyed by an experiment in superluminal communications that went drastically wrong. Left with little other than himself, his ship, and his loyal Ajax mechanic (The company’s other assets are in receivership; accessible only with evidence that it could be used to restore the corporation.) and believing that only desperate measures would give him any chance of restoring the corporation, he decided to sign on with Cleopatra in hopes that discoveries about the Elder Races would lead to an opportunity to restore his corporation.

Shortly afterward, they heard from Chez, a human gun-for-hire; a rogue with many years of experience in the seedy underside of interstellar commerce. She is currently between gigs (i.e. unemployed) and showed up offering her services. Since she has spacing experience and seemed willing to join for a very affordable rate, Cleopatra decided she would be a useful asset as well.

But after this, they didn’t hear at all from Joseph Armitage. Eventually, Cleopatra sent word (by post) to Harconan inquiring after him. It eventually received a reply back saying that Joseph has gone traveling in the Confederacy. He had gone to the world of Vigal, and had not been heard from since; just over 2 months had passed. Fearing that her chance to analyze the data might be lost, Cleopatra decided to gather its existing band and go in search of him.

Since null-space travel is so dangerous and Vigal can be reached by the Rail, they decided to leave Viktor’s Ajax mechanic to protect his ship while Cleopatra, Chez, and Viktor travel by Rail to Vigal in search of Joseph. The trip was pleasant (Viktor manages to get them upgraded to first class) and presently they arrive in the Vigal system.

At first, they took a shuttle down to the Tourist Zone in Vigal City. But they quickly realized that they wouldn’t learn anything from there. So they went through customs and each received their own personal Watcher (a hovering video camera). (Chez also posted bond to be allowed to carry a weapon, explaining that she was Cleopatra’s bodyguard.) They then made their way to the Immigration Office where they encountered a very stubborn individual.

He explained (in an overly officious voice) that they had laws on Vigal, protecting citizens’ privacy. Of course the government had full records of the location of all citizens, but without a signed affidavit from Joseph Armitage, he could not tell them the location. Nor would he deliver a message—that apparently fell afoul of laws on spam. The group left with nothing more than a blank affidavit form.

They checked a “phone book” but none of the people named “Joseph Armitage” that they could locate seemed to be the right person. Then, at Chez’s suggestion, Cleopatra decided to try a private investigator. They found Marlo in a run-down building a few miles away. For 800 credits (half up front) he said he’d see what he could do, and he also helped them locate a room for the night. The following day he had results. Peering at the screen under the privacy shield (to prevent the cameras from viewing it) they could see the stamped exit visa: Joseph had visited only briefly, then continued on to the planet Thrombo.

So they made their way to Thrombo. They landed in the southern city of Kildore, which Chez explained was the power base of the “Rationalists”—a recently ascendent political sect on Kildore. There Viktor located a nice place to stay and Chez was able to run a quick computer search on Joseph Armitage. She got lucky and on her first try came across a news article from about 2 months ago describing how a traveler of that name had been arrested for “professing non-rationalist beliefs”.

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

Meanwhile, Joseph Armitage had been having a much less pleasant time.

He had simply been describing to someone at a bar some of the facts that the Templars had discovered about the Elder Races, when a mob burst in and he was arrested. The judge asked him if it was true that he had talked about them planting plagues and visiting pre-spaceflight races in flying saucers. Joseph replied that it was true—he had seen the evidence. Shortly thereafter he found himself sentenced to several months in prison.

It was there that Joseph met Randall Moppet, and since they were cellmates they had plenty of time to get to know each other. Randall was physically odd: a human afflicted with some malady that left him a midget, and with only one eye. He was in prison for, as he explained it, “Some misunderstandings over a document that was apparently forged; I had no idea and had assumed the document was completely valid.” In fact, Randall began working on filing an appeal for his conviction.

Another prison inmate they met was Boffo, a huge Wookie with shaved skin (their equivalent of a tattoo) in the shape of a skull. Boffo wanted Randall to help him file an appeal to his sentence, which Randall was perfectly happy to do. Unfortunately for him, the appeal drew the magistrate’s attention to some other flaws in the trial and the result was that Boffo wound up getting his sentence extended instead.

For some reason, this infuriated the huge Wookie. During the next exercise period, Boffo gave the guard a signal to wander away from his post for a bit, then he set upon Randall, intending to deliver some severe damage. Randall ducked under a table (which Boffo destroyed), then through Boffo’s legs to beside where his cellmate (Joseph) was standing. Boffo, enraged, was perfectly happy to beat both of them to a pulp, although somehow Joseph managed to shrug off two of his blows. Both Randall and Joseph grabbed pieces of the table as clubs and tried to engage Boffo.

In moments, Randall was seriously wounded and Boffo was hurt a bit. They circled around a bit: Boffo throwing punches while Randall dodged them and Joseph attempted to stop the beast from attacking his friend. Another guard came by and saw the fight. And all three miscreants were sentenced to be moved to a work camp in one the floating smelteries on the Magma Lakes.

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The Lake of Lava
Escape from Thrombo's Prison

Joseph Armitage and Randall Moppet were in prison on the planet Thrombo, and they both had been sentenced to a work camp for fighting with Boffo. They found themselves in a flier, handcuffed to their seats, on their way to the work camp, which was in the most inhospitable environment imaginable.

The Magma Lakes are not really lakes, they form the entire southern half of one of the continents on Thrombo. The planetary crust on Thrombo is thin, but in this region there is no crust at all — just open magma for hundreds of miles in all directions. Located somewhere within this deadly wasteland is a small smeltery. It rests on stone floating upon this sea, and hosts some huge fusion-powered cooling towers. The cooling towers keep the stone from melting back into the lava, while some large “lagoons” of liquid magma provide a perfect environment for operating the smeltery. Unfortunately, it is a literally hellish environment, which probably explains why they staff it with prisoners.

Randall and Joseph were each given a “Toughsuit” to wear — it covers nearly the full body and has a half-inch of an asbestos-like substance. Scratchy, but it protects from the blobs of magma that occasionally fly past as bubbles of gas burst from under the surface. They spent the day getting trained on the equipment, then were expected to start work the following day.

At first, they were surprised to find that the guards were rather few in number and rather lax, but they later realized that this was because the prisoners had no possible way to escape. Even radio and satellite communications from the floating island were difficult or impossible because of the intense atmospheric disruption caused by the open magma. And fliers from the mainland only came once every few days. So the small number of guards had nothing but stun batons, even though nearly all of the prisoners were Gristles or Wookies.

Randall tried to ingratiate himself with the Commandant of the camp, offering his services doing paperwork, but the man had no interest and told him he’d probably be working as a “counterweight”. Little did Randall know, but that job title was literal. The cranes that they used to swing the buckets of metal out over the magma for smelting were old and in ill repair. When they stuck (which was not uncommon) it often required someone to climb to the top and literally shake the crane loose; Randall generally assigned this duty. Joseph found himself mostly loading scrap metal and pouring ingots.

On the first day of work they discovered that the popping magma often tossed small droplets of liquid stone about, and that even the toughsuits wouldn’t protect fully against something like that. Joseph was tough enough that he was able to shrug off the burns as minor, but Randall was splattered and suffered some severe wounds. They sent him back to the base camp where it appears that the cook kept a huge drum of some cream designed to cure burns.

The second and third days of work went similarly. While Joseph and Randall were finding ways to survive in this environment, their nemesis Boffo had been prospering. He had fallen in with a large gang of rather rough Wookies that made up nearly a third of the island’s population. And he still harbored a grudge, because that evening he sent two of his buddies over to quietly tell Jason and Randall that he and his gang would make sure they were dead.

Randall decided he’d better take action. He tried to get in to see the Commandant, but the guards wouldn’t let him. He finally had to bribe one of the guards by promising to get him a video player and recordings of some recent sports games. Once he got to the Commandant, Randall managed to charm him; convincing him that Randall was just useful enough (and amusing enough) to keep around and put him to work in the Commandant’s office. He also offered to move Joseph to a different work crew.

But that evening Joseph and Randall decided that they weren’t sure that a “different work crew” would be enough. So they waited until well after all the other prisoners and even the guards were asleep (the guards sleep in their own building, fairly far from the prisoner’s quarters). Then they sneaked out quietly to see what they could do. They managed to find a huge piece of rebar in a horseshoe shape and slipped that through the handles of the door to the building where the whole of the Wookie gang was housed. Then they went to gimmick the cooling tower that provided cold air for that building.

They broke off the lock and after some debate decided to turn the controls up from 6.5 (the current setting) to 10 in hopes of freezing the Wookies. The cooler began to make a large noise, and after some time there were noises from the barracks also. Once it was clear that no one was going to be able to get out from the building, Randall and Joseph made their way back to their own room.

A couple of hours later they went to check it out. Shortly thereafter a gristle came out and noticed the freezing ground. While he and Joseph went to get the guards, Randall removed all of the evidence. As it turns out, a few of the Wookies had died of the cold and most of the rest were incapacitated. The entire work camp was disrupted (and no work was done) for a couple of days.


Meanwhile, Cleopatra, Viktor, and Chez were searching the planet for Joseph. Chez managed to crack into the prison computer system and found that Joseph had been transferred to a site on the magma lakes. Apparently the only travel to and from the spot was the prison flier (for food, prisoner transport and such) and the scrapyard (flying in raw supplies and taking out the finished product. So they made their way to the scrap metal company.

Viktor spun a tale of how he was a pilot out of work and looking for a job, and with his excellent piloting skills was able to land a job flying a load of scrap out to the prison camp. He explained that he had “subcontracted” to Chez and Cleopatra to assist with the loading, but the yard owner thought it was a bit suspicious that they would want to go along for the flight. So they left and Viktor took off with the load, landing in a parking lot once he was out of sight and picking them up.

With a masterful display of elite piloting skills Viktor managed to fly right over the extreme sheer winds produced by the lava flows and landed at the prison camp. There he managed to ask the only human he could see (which happened to be Randall, delivering some paperwork for the Commandant) whether he knew Joseph. After conferring briefly, they let Randall sneak on board and he directed them to the location where Joseph was working, to make a delivery. They pretended there were mechanical problems with the flier and asked Joseph to help. Once out of sight, they explained the situation and Joseph and Randall were extremely pleased to accept the offer to abscond with them. Everyone climbed into the flier and they were off!

The rest was easy. Without communications from the island, the jailbreak was not reported for three days. By that time, the entire group was off planet, making their way back to where Viktor’s ship was docked. Randall left one final joke: he filed paperwork requisitioning prostitutes and other “entertainment” for the guards at the smeltery.

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Finding Starkiller
A Strange Warbot

Having returned to the planet Drall, Viktor and his mechanic, Ziggy began to prepare their ship (the “Tanoran Sun”) for a voyage, Randall went to the hospital to get his wounds regenerated, and Cleopatra went with Joseph and Chez to visit Cleopatra’s advisor: Professor Arthur Dent.

Professor Arthur was pleased to see her and had some exciting news. His research group had managed to purchase a significant (but potentially dangerous) Ancient Race artifact. Apparently some Wheelees had discovered a very old (pre-civilization) spacecraft in interstellar space. One thing they found inside was a robot built to look like a biological creature of some species they didn’t recognize. They managed to activate it(!) and attached a communication device. Then after a brief conversation, the thing went haywire and began killing Wheelees until it finally shut down. Afraid of a repeat performance, they were willing to sell it to the research university.

Professor Arthur was showing this to Cleopatra, when the device activated again! It appeared somewhat hostile, and began what might have been an attack, but in an astonishing display of speed, Chez managed to block it before it could do an harm (although it did scare Professor Arthur out of the room). They were able to attach the communications device and began talking with it, and things calmed down rapidly. Viktor, having found some cargo (mail shipments) and completed readying the ship, came to the university, knocked on the door of the laboratory and joined the group conversing with the robot, which was carrying a huge sword and which said its name was “Starkiller”. It said very little else useful, claiming that its memory had been erased.

From another door, Tanya (a meerkat who is another of Professor Arthur’s graduate students) burst excitedly into the room exclaiming with glee about the discovery. At that, Starkiller leapt up and attacked Tanya. Chez tried to stop it, but was unable to tear the sword from its hands, and Tanya took a very serious blow. Viktor left rapidly by the other door to call security, Joseph tried to get the wounded Tanya out of the room, Cleopatra melted into a puddle to avoid the fray, and Chez attempted to get the matter under control. A few moments later, Viktor returned with two security guards. Again, Starkiller attempted to attack the guards, but they managed to subdue him with a netgun.

Some tense negotiation with the university followed. Starkiller claimed it was bound to protect Cleopatra, Joseph and Chez, and that “honor” required it to attack the others. This was NOT looked on kindly by the university authorities. Finally the matter was resolved when, checking the star maps, Joseph found that by great coincidence one wormhole and a single short jump would lead to the ship that Starkiller had been found on. He was remanded to the custody of the group, everyone got on board the Tanoran Sun, and they were off.

The travel through the wormhole and then through Null Space to Starkiller’s ship went without incident. But once there, the Wheelees were still conducting a slavage operation and they did not want anyone honing in on their find. So after some brief discussion the group continued on to Harconan to get Joseph’s historical records.

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Watertown Debt Collections
Can we get off this planet?

As the tube pulled away from the platform, Cleopatra, Randall, and Joseph looked behind them as their pursuers in black hoodies were left behind. Viktor groaned — his head was so badly damaged he could hardly see or speak (fortunately, Vrusk brains are in their abdomens). Star Protector didn’t say anything: it was apparently too damaged to function. Cleopatra got a better first aid kit from a conductor on the train and treated Viktor, then they all waited nearly 4 hours to travel under the sea to the next stop in the city of Darkaf.

They exited the tube and were heading away when they realized they were being surrounded by a group of 2 humans and 2 Vrusk. The leader (a human) demanded that they surrender, while others reached for what looked like weapons. Since they were in plain sight in the middle of the crowded terminal, the characters demanded to know why they were being accosted.

The leader pulled out some sort of ID (Randall thought it looked reasonably genuine) and said they were with Watertown Debt Collections and everyone was under arrest for an outstanding debt. “What debt?” they demanded. The Watertown folks claimed that “Eagletown Corporation” had called them no more than 15 minutes earlier, with Joseph Armitage’s name and descriptions of the rest (including of Star Protector, who was not in evidence, being still sealed in his shipping crate). When it became clear that they would use force to detain them, Viktor grabbed a nearby vendor’s table and clobbered the debt collector with it.

Viktor, Joseph, and the four debt collectors all began exchanging blows. Cleopatra melted into a puddle on the floor. Randall sprinted away, trying to find a Tube security officer. One of the Vrusk tried to pull out a stunner, but Viktor broke his arm and the stunner dropped to the ground. Joseph and Viktor managed to injure one of the attackers, and Cleopatra was just growing a new hand to grab the stunner beside her when Randall returned with a security officer.

Everyone stopped fighting for the officer, who checked the Watertown IDs and declared them to be legitimate. He then put the characters (except for Randall) in cuffs. There was talk of charging them with something (assault? The characters demanded to be taken into custody by law enforcement instead of the Watertowns, so the Tube officers called the police.

Cleopatra had the presence of mind to grab the ship communicator and call Ziggy and Chez. They told them to expect the delivery of the crates of microfilm, and asked Chez to come down to take possession of the last crate and the container with Star Protector in it.

Before the police got there, Viktor insisted on being taken to the hospital. Since only about half of his head was still attached, he got his wish. Cleopatra accompanied him, along with the injured debt collector and another Watertowner to keep her company. Thus, when the police arrived it was just Joseph and Randall that they hauled off to jail. “Just like old times.”

Over at the hospital, Cleopatra saw Viktor into the operating room, then found a place to wait. After some time it happened to notice some suspicious-looking characters in black hoodies who showed up and started looking around. One of them slipped into a “staff and patients only” door and Cleopatra followed him to see what he would do. Unfortunately, he must have noticed it tailing him because he waited around a corner and grabbed Cleopatra when it stepped past. He drew a gun on it and demanded to know where the Vrusk was. Cleopatra played dumb, and managed to wander down the halls for some time (with a gun held in his pocket pointed at it) before talking with a Wookie nurse who sent them back to the lobby. At no point did Cleopatra give away anything about Viktor.

By the time they returned to the lobby, Chez had returned. She realized that the humans in hoodies were armed, and she intervened, rapidly and violently. In a few moments, the miscreants had been captured and the police summoned.

Viktor’s surgery was completed, but he had elected to have new eyes vat-grown, so until the next day when the eyes were complete, he was completely blind. (It would have been 3 days, but he somehow managed to persuade the doctor to work over the weekend.) So Chez and Cleopatra headed off to the police station to bail out Randall and Joseph. They headed to the station quickly and paid the bail; the trial was to be the next day at 5:00 PM. Before leaving, Chez slipped out quietly and and did some scouting. She noticed that there was a group of men in black hoodies waiting in an alley near the station and often peeking out as if to monitor who was there. Circling around, she slipped in the back of the same alley and left a listening device. Then they all managed to slip out through the back of the police station and hightailed it out of the area.

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Assassins
Nope, still can't get off the planet

Star Protector suddenly came to. Although the shot a day ago had blasted a huge hole in his chest, he had somehow managed to heal and was back on his feet. Or rather, on his back for he found himself in a small wooden coffin. Bursting out, he discovered he had been packed away in a shipping crate and was now among the freight on the Tanoran Sun.

Ziggy was there too, and they called the others down on the planet to let them know that Star Protector was functional again. There was some debate as to whether he should stay put or join them on the surface, but in the end they decided to hire another shuttle and send him back down.

They met at the spaceport. Chez offered to head over to the hospital to protect Viktor while the others found a motel room. The others found a motel and borrowed a terminal to do a little research. Randall managed to find the location of “Eagletown Corporation” which had reported the supposed debt. It appeared to be a shell company of some sort that had fairly large amounts of money moving through it, and they had a field office in this city. So they headed out to take a look. It was in an office park, in a shared building. But the door was locked so they returned to the motel.

Meanwhile, Chez was listening in on the bug she had planted. She figured out that they were planning to go after Viktor, so she had Ziggy ring the other communicator (Cleopatra’s) and asked for backup. Unfortunately, Cleopatra must have been very sleepy or something (perhaps understandable as none of them had slept in well over 36 hrs) because she never actually sent Star Protector.

Chez slipped into the hospital and put on some doctor’s scrubs. She headed to Viktor’s room and tried to get him out, figuring that not being in the room he was listed in would be healthy for him. Viktor, by this time, had recovered from his surgery, but he was still completely blind since his force-grown eyes weren’t to be ready for another day. She loaded him onto a gurney and off they went.

Unfortunately, the gunmen were waiting and the moment Chez and Viktor stepped into the hall they began to fire. Chez sprinted up the hall and around the corner, getting away as a group of nurses came in from a side hall. But a few minutes later, the assassins managed to track them down.

Chez had to pull out HER gun and a lengthy firefight ensued. Chez was badly wounded and narrowly avoided near-fatal wounds. There were 2 gunman firing at them, but finally Chez shot one badly (he fled) and the blinded Viktor violently shoved the gurney in the direction of the other, managing to knock the gun from his hand for a moment. Hospital staff arrived then, in response to the noise and shouts, and the remaining gunman took off running. Chez hurriedly searched to see if she could track where he went, and somehow she managed to catch him escaping out a window. She managed to stun him with her ray gun, just as the police arrived.

They arrested Chez for firing a gun in the hospital, and got her injuries treated. She and Viktor were put under guard by several police officers. Meanwhile, they hauled away the human Chez had stunned: turns out he was some sort of professional assassin.

In the morning the rest of the party came to the hospital and police detective Quik! (that’s a click mark) interviewed them all. But they had called their lawyer, Thomson, and he came over during the questioning. The police then took them to a safe house where they finally had a chance to get uninterrupted rest. The police made a call and got the trial for Joseph and Randall delayed.

The following morning, Thomson came by the safe house with some news. He had discovered that the Templars were claiming the group had stolen something from them. Also that his sources in the police said some very strong political pressure was coming down to do something (just what was unclear) with them, and it was only being resisted by detective Quik!. Finally, he had learned who the Eagletown Corporation was a front for: the Rail Engineer’s Guild — the secretive and very powerful guild that controls transportation within the confederacy.

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Helpful Authorities
Wait, they're not throwing us in jail?

After Thomson, their lawyer, left the group sat back and stared at each other for a while in the upstairs room of the safe house. So, what was next? Now that Viktor was safe, all they really wanted was to get off planet. But based on what Thomson said, it seemed unlikely that the legal system was going to move in their favor. The three policemen downstairs had confiscated most of their weapons and equipment, but they still had a few things left: Chez still had the receiver for the bug she had planted on the black hoodie gang, and she had a hidden holdout stunner. And Cleopatra had concealed one of the surface-to-ship communicators in a vacuole within her body.

Tying some sheets together and climbing out the window didn’t seem like too good an idea. The spaceports were almost certainly not going to be available to them. And there was no way that Ziggy could land the ship in an urban area. So they simply HAD to find a way to move. Then Chez heard something more over her bug… it was a little unclear but it sounded like the hoodies had just learned where the safe house was. And a few moments later they were told NOT to go there because it was being “taken care of”.

It was at this point that Joseph had a simple plan. “We should try explaining the situation to our captors.” he suggested. He headed downstairs to have a chat with the police. He told them that they had been set up on the debt charges. He told them that Eagletown Corporation was a front for the Rail Engineer’s Guild. He told them that they had made off with some information from the Templars. They knew there was something fishy going on (their boss, the detective, had made that clear) but this story was a bit of a stretch. He tried to tell them about Star Protector, but that was just TOO MUCH for him to believe. Joseph told him to get on the net and look it up.

Within a few minutes, everything changed. Thomson’s Eagletown Corporation evidence was easy to verify. And by a stroke of astounding luck, the policeman managed to come across an amateur posting of “secrets of the Templars” that showed an image looking very much like Star Protector with the caption “One of the Ancient Races?”. Then they received the call from detective Quik!: the department had caved to political pressure and ordered him to turn over the location of the safehouse. Someone would be arriving any moment now and the protective custody prisoners were to be turned over to them with no questions asked.

It was enough — they believed it. And, glancing between each other, the guards made a fateful decision. They hurried up the stairs and asked Joseph to promise to get a rail line run to Harconan if he could. Then they handed the prisoners back their weapons and said: “Okay, you’ve taken us hostage. And someone will be here any moment. Where do you want to order us to take you?”

Cleopatra immediately got on the communicator with Ziggy. With Viktor’s help, it convinced him to make an emergency landing. They needed a location outside of town; one of the guards suggested his brother-in-law’s farm and gave the coordinates. Then they hurried down to the pickup truck belonging to one of the guards and took off.

Chez shouted out directions to the driver, heading for the location of her bug since it was reasonably close to the way out of town. As they pulled up in front of the building, they saw one gang member sleeping in the driver’s seat of a van and then two others came out of the building. They spotted Chez and, unfortunately, recognized her. She waited just one moment for her bug to return, then sprinted back to the truck and leaped in as it took off. The gang members started to follow in the van, but with careful shots Viktor shot out the tires on the pursuing van and they sped out of town.

However, the escape had been noticed by the powers that be and very quickly there were a trio of squad cars (with sirens) following them at breakneck speed, and a ‘copter overhead. Mindful of the dangerous speeds and the hostages, they simply followed and didn’t attempt to stop the fleeing truck. Meanwhile, Ziggy managed to set down the Tanoran Sun in a field with only minor damage to the landing gear, and he got the gangplank extended.

The truck squealed to a stop right next to the ship, with the police in close pursuit. Viktor sprinted inside at full speed and immediately began to prepare the liftoff. The rest followed rapidly. The police stopped and took a few shots at the final one up the gangplank (Chez) but they missed. The instant she was aboard, Viktor lifted off.

He made it into space and began the 12-24 hr trip to a place safe enough to jump to null space. But within an hour they were being pursued by a military vessel broadcasting Harconan identity codes. The pursuing cruiser, having a military drive, could out-accelerate the Tanoran Sun and was closing rapidly, although Viktor could still maneuver faster because of his lesser speed. But to no avail: within another hour the cruiser was near enough to fire a warning shot across the Tanoran Sun’s bow and demand that they stop to be boarded.

Stalling for time, Viktor did, indeed stop, and while the military prepared a boarding party and sent them out, he got the crystal ready for a drop into null space even though the risk of complete disaster was much greater this close to a planet. Just before the boarding party began to approach, he did it: he sang the crystal and sucked the ship right into null space. Amazingly, he managed to compensate for the not-so-distant planet, and they made the first jump unscathed.

They all breathed a sigh of relief, and discussed where to go next. They needed someplace that would have older equipment — perhaps a university, they thought. But at the same time, they wanted to stay well away from the reach of the rail engineer’s guild. At first, of course, they would be well ahead of the news, but eventually it would catch up with them. They got Randall to forge a new transponder for the ship: re-christening it “The Null Fiche”. Then, drawing on it’s extensive knowledge of sentient species, Cleopatra suggested traveling to Quaternion, the home-world of the Quarterions, a race that had always strongly respected and looked up to the Dralasites. So off they went.

[Peter and Andrew could not attend this session.]

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Trouble on Quaternion
Danger Avoided

The planet of Quaternion lay peacefully below them. The Quaternions were primitive enough that the majority of the planet was still covered by extensive forests, containing wild beasts that prey on Quaternions. But there were several major settlements that had been developed with off-world technology. Viktor was contacted by the ground

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