TO: Captain Jo Liáng
FROM: Levi Brooks
SUBJECT: Status Report from the Heavenly Rose
CREW PRESENT: Captain Jo Liáng, Levi Brooks, Percival Devolo, Evelyn Edwards, Dionaea Holliday, Sullivan Horner, Duplaix Getties, Li Zhang.
SEQUENCE OF EVENTS:
There was no job.
But tā mā de it was no vacation.
First order of business, the crew is alive. It didn’t seem like it would go like that at the start. And somehow, none are in the lockup. Is NN to thank for that? Gorramn, after seeing his crew and organization, is it possible the Cháoshèng owes him no favors? And are we his friends? Zhēn dăo méi!
It took the Cháoshèng 3 days to get back to Li Shen’s Bazaar from the rock, arriving on 10.11.2517. Thankfully uneventful. At least that’s what it seemed until we opened up the bay doors to the LSB security force.
Officer Lam Teng (hereafter, OLT) arrested DH (who was trying to hide). Fallout from whatever left her unconscious when the Cháoshèng pulled out of LSB a few days before. JL took TH away from LB’s guard and instructed LB to go follow up on DH. DG accompanied him.
Nothing much came of that. LSB Security left them to nap. JL knew more by the time she checked in at the security office with TH in tow. Reading LB’s mind, JL must have “encouraged” TH to help. The black eye convinced him of that.
After making JL wait unreasonably long, OLT came out. They spoke. OLT escorted TH into the back. More waiting. Unreasonable waiting. OLT returned. TH didn’t hold up his end of whatever bargain was struck. Instead, it only cost JL 10K credits to get DH released. JL paid the fine and DH was released. (There went our pay from the job to the rock. Did she even say thank you?)
SH and PD successfully purchased replacement parts and fuel for the Cháoshèng. Costs of doing business. Nothing more.
Back on the Cháoshèng, JL informed LB of a possible lead on GL. [Details are not for this report.]
JL left for a meeting and got the Cháoshèng a job. It requires a trip to the Eavestown Docks on Persephone. LB received the cargo on board the Cháoshèng and got it securely stowed.
JL arranged what she needed to arrange to pursue her lead. The crew, of a sudden excited for a luxurious holiday, boarded the Heavenly Rose.
It was 10.12.2517.
There was a masquerade ball the first night aboard the cruise, all fancy duds and masks. The crew attended. LB is unaccustomed to this kind of luxury and was uncomfortable. It likely showed.
Shortly after the party got going, JL and PD waltzed their way across the dancefloor. (There was some courage!) LB sought out some liquid courage to relax while keeping his eyes on JL in case she needed anything. Always on the job.
LB wasn’t vigilant enough, however. The power went out. A shot was fired. The lights flickered and returned. A woman was down on the ground, dying if she wasn’t dead already. Figures wearing Volto masks were positioned at the exits with heavy weapons drawn, though not threatening the passengers – at least not yet. A man in a red suit wearing a mask of a white skull carried a smoking pistol and addressed the passengers: He’s in control of the Heavenly Rose. Stay calm and no one will be hurt, but they will kill to make their point. [No offense, but it seemed they already did that.] They are holding “you wealthy elite” to exchange with the Alliance for previously captured allies. They’re splitting us up. Any action or attempt to escape will result in the indiscriminate murder of the passengers in the other locations. The man in red acknowledged with a nod a woman in a black cat mask and they left together.
The passengers were split into three groups. The crew of the Cháoshèng was divided:
• JL was with LZ (and NN) in the ballroom.
• DH, PD and EVE were led to the ship’s theater.
• LB, SH and DG were corralled in the botanical garden.
LB didn’t know the condition of JL and the others. [I haven’t yet had time to consult with the others; details of what exactly occurred in their rooms will have to come from them.] LB tested his earcom but it wasn’t working. Jammed perhaps? Instead, LB assessed the situation in the garden: all of the passengers were gathered together in the center, surrounding a fountain. There were four exits from the center square, paths leading off into the darkness where there were presumably doors and exits in all directions. An armed guard stood ready at each path.
LB quietly discussed with SH and DG the potential for escape. There were no real ideas just yet. SH remained calm and collected. He showed impressive restraint. They agreed to investigate as cautiously as they could, to see if they could locate any possible impromptu weapons, any opportunities to escape. They scanned the room. Immigration pipes, perhaps? Too high to reach those around the ceiling, but maybe underground?
LB strolled across the space, scanning. A guard shouted. He wasn’t looking at LB, but SH. SH wasn’t cautious enough and now the guards were on alert.
[Improbably, LB spied an old friend: Leah Covington (hereafter, LC), his high school sweetheart. He was shocked to see her here, on this boat of all places. LB approached her and they had a brief reunion. LC was vacationing with her husband, Robert. RC wasn’t in the garden with us and LC was worried. LB offered his company and she gratefully accompanied him back to SH and DG. Introductions. LB encouraged LC to stay with him throughout the course of the events described below to protect her (and RC via the others) and reunite them once the fight was over.]
SH and LB had nothing firm yet in terms of weapons or escape. But with those jumpy guards, they prepared themselves to move if the situation deteriorated.
JL’s voice broke through over the earcoms.
JL was with NN. He had men in the other rooms, too, so find them. LB spotted someone fitting a description and approached him. It was him. The others seemed equally successful. JL instructed EVE to pull up a schematic of the Heavenly Rose and loop the security feed, if possible, to protect everyone from any observing eyes. The plan: NN’s men will create a distraction; escape through service hatches and rendezvous in the cargo bay where all the stowed weapons are kept.
JL gave the signal. DH initiated the distraction.
Shit hit the fan.
LB and SH waited in the garden, poised for action. It didn’t take long.
Chaos erupted across the earcoms. LB heard PD groan, injured.
In unison, the guards in the garden raised their weapons. LB charged the nearest guard and urged SH to get DG and LC into the hatch. The guard clocked LB with the butt end of his rifle, knocking him to a knee. SH opened the hatch and then ran towards LB after seeing him fall. A second guard aimed at SH and shot him in the buttocks. Shaking off cobwebs, LB reached up, grabbed, and pulled the trigger of the guard’s gun, shooting the guard in the head before he had a chance to re-aim. Passengers in the garden screamed. SH shouted at LB warning him about the second guard. SH then changed direction, charged the guard, took him out, and acquired the weapon.
LB commanded DG and LC to get in the hatch, stood, wheeled around, and fired the rifle, taking out the third guard. SH shot the last guard in the face. The garden was clear.
LC was frozen, so LB herded her into the hatch along with SH and DG. NN’s man followed. As the last one dropped into the hole in the floor, another hijacker rushed into the center of the garden firing wildly. With a short burst, LB shot him down.
LB followed the others into the hatchway and called out an “all clear” on the earcom. JL did the same. There was no confirmation from the theater, only the groans and cries of PD and now DH. They were in trouble.
EVE was on the earcom, directing JL on how to get to the cargo bay. She confirmed that PD and DH had not made it down to her. She guided LB through the access tunnels and he ran off to the theater, instructing the others to get to the cargo bay and he would catch up. When he arrived at the theater, the shooting was over. He supposed one of NN’s men had completed the work? Regardless, PD and DH were still there, wounded. LB got them mobile and they all rendezvoused in the cargo bay.
All of the crew of the Cháoshèng was there. Not all were unscathed, but all were alive. And they were safe, for the moment. Unfortunately, the situation was far from resolved.
DH and another doctor attended to the wounded. In the meantime, NN accessed his cache of weapons and he and his men were now armed. Fully.
Likewise, the crew of the Cháoshèng retrieved their stowed weapons.
Other passengers trickled in via the tunnels. [Let me know if you want to talk about Louisa.] As more gathered and more injured, the medical personnel advised that they could help them here, but their best bet was to get them to the escape pods. Unfortunately, the halls were crawling with hijackers, blocking easy access to the pods.
If we could gain control of the Heavenly Rose’s Security Center and Bridge we might be able to divert the enemy, clear the hallways and allow them to get to the pods.
There were 11 of us prepared to fight. 4 from the Cháoshèng (LB, PD, JL, and SH); NN plus 6 others. DH was attending to the injured (and her own injuries). EVE, DG and LZ would remain behind.
EVE hacked into the Heavenly Rose’s security feeds to provide some intel. The feeds revealed in the Security Center a short man sitting at the console wearing black and red and a god-like mask. There was a bodyguard beside him and one other guard in the room. Four additional guards waited in the hall. All the guards wore Volto masks. [If I never see another one of those Gorramn masks again it’ll be too soon.]
The man in red was on the bridge; he appeared to be in charge. There were six others in masks, working the ship’s controls. The regular ship’s pilot was there, apparently piloting. Four guards waited outside.
(Additionally, EVE discovered a crew attempting to break into the ship’s vault. There was a man in a bird mask and a second in a broad-brimmed Stetson: DH’s friend Boyd Elmore whom we left behind on Shepherd’s Moon to nurse his injuries. He has apparently healed.)
EVE spotted the woman in the black cat mask walking the halls around the escape pods. Other guards were running. The remaining passengers in the ballroom had barricaded themselves.
NN recommended JL take a team to strike at the Security Center. He will lead a team to take the Bridge. Get the two teams into position and strike simultaneously. It was a good plan.
The Bridge team consisted of LB, PD, NN and 2 of his men. (JL instructed LB to keep PD safe and to try to keep NN from getting the man in red out alive.)
The Security team consisted of JL, SH, and 2 of NN’s men. (EVE and DH accompanied to support the effort. They would be held out of the fighting as much as possible.)
We moved out.
Outside the Bridge, NN rolled a smoke grenade into the hallway. It blew, clouding the guards and confusing them. NN’s man stepped out and fired some sort of laser into the gas. The gas ignited, engulfing the guards and eliminating all four of them. We moved out into the hall to no resistance.
NN’s man hotwired the door to the Bridge and opened it to a hail of gunfire. One of NN’s men was lit up by the gunfire and killed. After another moment, NN’s team breached the door. NN took a shot to the leg. LB covered the back. PD waited in the hall. As the fight continued LB and PD joined in.
But in mere moments, the Bridge was taken.
NN went straight for the man in red, shot him in the hand and forced him to unmask. He was an older man, maybe 60 years old, gaunt, with black hair, dark eyes, and clean shaven with a long, previously broken nose. No one recognized him or had seen him before.
Sounds from the hall indicated additional soldiers were approaching the Bridge. LB and NN’s man took up defensive positions. PD went to the pilot’s chair to ascertain the Heavenly Rose’s position in the verse.
PD related to NN that the Heavenly Rose’s course was locked in and the ship was headed towards Summerfair, the third moon of the border planet Shadow. The ultimate destination was Penal Colony 4617, Blackwall. Our ETA was 1 hour.
PD also discovered that all external communications had been jammed via a device installed somewhere else on the ship.
NN picked up the comm and instructed all the hostile soldiers to stand down, telling them their leader was dead. Lay down your arms and surrender to anyone with a gun. Come, apologize to NN and he’ll let them go. Do this immediately.
PD dropped his gun.
Firing in the hallway ceased. There were some raised voices and a smattering of gunfire down the hall, but there were no more threats. A white handkerchief floated around the corner.
NN led the man in red into the hatch and politely suggested to PD to reset the course of the Heavenly Rose to New Melbourne. PD changed course.
The fight was over. We had regained control of the ship.
o DH: Arrest on Li Shen’s Bazaar. Loss of 10K credits to bail her out.
o Crew: Cost of 8K credits to get the entire crew tickets to board the Heavenly Rose.
o SH, DH and PD were wounded during the firefights escaping from captivity.
o SH treated for shock following the combat at the Security Center.
o Crew, generally: Getting caught and captured by the hijackers without any weapons.
o The ship was left behind at Li Shen’s Bazaar.
o TH: Walked back his bargain with JL to drop charges against DH.
1. Successful training exercises & communication between pilot & engineer. It was good to see PD and SH working together and doing these exercises unprompted.
2. Successfully scheduled work upgrading _Cháoshèng_’s medical bay.
3. Successfully orchestrated our escape from captivity on the Heavenly Rose, suffering only minor casualties.
4. Quality efforts by SH and PD in armed combat. They both handled themselves very well while in LB’s presence.
a. Especially SH. He maintained seriousness and took direction (nearly to perfection), only disregarding LB’s orders to attempt to be a hero and fight the guards in lieu of getting the others into the hatchway. In return, he was shot. He was ultimately successful. (He took out two guards on his own – he handled the weapon extremely well!) But the ends don’t justify the means, right? However, he ought to be commended. And it might mean a lot to him coming from you. How did he do during the assault on the security office?
b. PD did the little bit that was required of him. He kept himself clean and fired his pistol a couple times. But he needs to develop some confidence carrying and handling a gun. He has asked to train with me and I have agreed to do so as time permits. We’ll get him going.
5. Avoided alienating NN. (Possibly?)
6. Job waiting for us when we reunite with the Cháoshèng.
ONGOING CHALLENGES AND RECOMMENDATIONS:
1. Better monitoring of Cháoshèng mentions/warnings/warrants on the Cortex. Perhaps task EVE with creating a script or hack to do so.
2. Do we need to talk to DH about trying to hide? Or being better at it?
3. Spending 10K credits to bail DH out of LSB security center. Significant use of important ship resources. Can this be recouped? Does it need to be? All things for the crew. I get that. That’s why we follow you. But I believe this was an avoidable loss.
4. TH walked back his bargain to drop charges and help release DH from custody. (Was it too much to ask for guarding him for three Gorramn days?) Will there be repercussions? Is a black eye and leaving him in LSB custody punishment enough? He’s obviously not trustworthy. Let’s know better if we encounter him again. And make sure PD knows better, too.
5. Spending 8K credits to take the crew aboard the Heavenly Rose. Significant* use of important ship resources.
6. PD inquired about scheduling a time with LB to instruct him better on the use of firearms. LB will invite others to join, if they are interested. It never hurts to practice.
7. Recommend drilling on covert communication in case we find ourselves in a situation like this again. Or practice using the earcoms. Or making sure everyone in the crew is so equipped. Or reminding them to wear them. Or all of the above. Tā mā de! It was good to see the way they handled themselves, but it wouldn’t hurt to run some preparation drills.
8. Likewise, let’s talk and figure out some ideas to teach the crew about concealed or impromptu weapons. Getting captured with nothing to protect ourselves put the crew at a significant disadvantage. Nobody should have had access to them on the Heavenly Rose, I know, so we were caught unawares. But we should consider our options moving forward.
9. NN. Do we owe him? Are we now his friend? Does it matter?
*I don’t begrudge your search for your brother, Jo. God knows, if I had a chance to learn anything about Joseph, I’d go to the edge of the verse to find it. Hindsight being what it is fortune favored us all being present aboard the Heavenly Rose when the shit hit the fan. But that was a lot of coin. I’m just not sure we all needed to go, dŏng ma? But gŏu niáng yăng de, that was a lot of coin.
I apologize for my language. I guess I’m still a little jacked.