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Star Frontiers: Crash on Volturnus

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

(After play testing Star Frontiers with the scenario “Crash on Volturnus” from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday with Jeff Tolle, Tim, RJ, Derick, Ryan, and Bethany.)

A small group of six had been hired by the government of Truane’s Star to carry out a preliminary exploration of a newly discovered planet. The group included two Dralasites: short, rubbery aliens that had no bones nor hard body parts. The one who called himself William the Dralasite was an environmentalist while the other, named Autobot, was a psycho-social specialist. The lone Yazirian in the group, Cornelius, was a tall, thin biped with a simian face and two large flaps of skin growing on either side of his body. He was the computer specialist. A Vrusk named Schweppes, one of those centaur-like insects, was the robotics specialist in their party. The group was rounded out by two humans, a male doctor named Sir Neville Butterfield, and a female technician who merely called herself Damsel.

The six had been hired to journey by Starliner to Volturnus in the frontier and map as much of the planet as possible. The government was especially interested in contacting and studying any intelligent races living on the planet. The group also had orders that if they were to meet any intelligent race, they were to make friendly contact and learn as much about them as possible.

They were also told that the first expedition to Volturnus had disappeared without a trace as soon as it entered the Zebulon system. If possible, this secondary group was to locate and rescue any survivors of that mission.

The background report on the Zebulon star system that they were briefed with indicated that the system was first investigated 20 years before by an unmanned exploration probe launched by Truane’s Star. The probe had indicated that Volturnus was the only inhabitable planet in the system and that great mineral wealth might have existed on the planet in the form of molybdenum, tungsten, gold, and other heavy metals. Truane’s Star had soon made legal claim to the ownership of Volturnus and completed exploration of a star route to Zebulon, five light years distant, the year before.

The first manned expedition to Volturnus from Truane’s Star was launched nine months before. The four member team of specialists was instructed to set up an outpost, gather data on possible colonization and mining of Volturnus, and report back. However, after passing into the star system, the starship carrying the specialists was never heard from again.

The four members of the lost expedition included Commander Louis V. Jameson of Truane’s Star Military Exploration Force, a combat veteran; Geeko-sur-Mang, a Yazirian professor of geology at Capital University, and a recognized authority in geophysics and specialist in planetary crust formation; Itklikdil, a Vrusk cartographer with Vrusk Atlas Manufacturing Corporation; and Grod, a Dralasite technician in the Truane’s Star Civil Service, a developer of the hydro-magnetic stabilization system in Dralasite air cars, and author of “The Metaphysical Foundations of Dralasite Morality.”

All were well known and well-respected in their fields.

“So, we’re the B-team,” Autobot said upon looking over the credentials of the first expedition.

The report also indicated that Truane’s Star had found itself short of personnel and funds due to colonial troubles and associated police action on Cygnus Omnicron IX recently. They had hired the “B-team,” as Autobot had put it, a team of unknown adventurers, to mount the relief expedition to Volturnus. The government had provided them with a minimal amount of equipment, and transportation to Volturnus on the commandeered starliner Serena Dawn. After dropping them on Volturnus, the Serena Dawn would return in three months to transport them, and with luck, the original exploration team, back to Truane’s Star.

As they boarded the starliner that would take them to Volturnus, the steward gave them each an interior plan of the starship and urged them to study it carefully. He also searched their luggage and placed all weapons and power packs in the weapon’s locker on the bridge. William’s electrosword; Autobot’s gyrojet pistol and rifle; Sir Neville’s automatic pistol, fragmentation grenade, and sword; Damsel’s doze grenade, poison grenade, and tangler grenade, Schweppes’ gyrojet rifle; and Cornelius’ weapons were all confiscated and locked away for the duration of the voyage. They were allowed access to the tool kits that would be used on Volturnus. However, the steward’s assistant placed the military skeinsuits given to them by the government of Truane’s Star in the cargo hold as well.

It took the starliner five days to cross the five light years to the Zebulon star system. In that time, they toured the rest of the ship. It contained recreation areas, the observation dome, the galley, and first class living quarters, and fuel storage. They were also given instructions that in the event they had to evacuate the ship, they were to proceed immediately to the nearest escape bay where two of the Serena Dawn’s lifeboats were stored. Each could hold up to eight persons. If it became necessary to use the lifeboats, they had been instructed not to open the hatch until all persons using the lifeboats were assembled and ready to enter them because they automatically launched one minute after the hatch was open. The boat would then seek the nearest inhabitable planet and land in the first safe spot.

* * *

William the Dralasite was in his cabin on the fifth day of their voyage, preparing to meet with the others and ready their shuttle to the surface, when he heard the sound of scuffling outside of his cabin. After a couple of seconds, he heard what sounded like a man crying “Help!” A loud thump followed the man’s cry.

William had three arms at that time and so grabbed the cabin chair with the arm jutting out behind him and moved to the door, pressing button to open it. He made sure to keep the chair well behind him and low so that if there was trouble, it would be hidden.

In the hallway was a Vrusk. Eight legs grew from its abdomen, four on each side. Its torso was upright in front of its abdomen and the creature’s head was that of an insect.

“Hello, hello,” William said. “What seems to be the problem sir?”

A man whom William recognized as his steward lay on the floor under the creature which was pounding on him with both of its hands. Blood was splattered on the floor and walls of the corridor outside of William’s cabin.

“Autobot! Transform!” William yelled.

He knew the other Dralasite’s cabin was just down the companionway.

The Vrusk rushed William and the Dralasite brought the still-hidden chair over his head and brought it down onto the Vrusk’s head. The creature folded like a deck of cards under the onslaught, knocked out by the massive blow.

“Autobot!” William yelled again.

He could only assume the worst. He quickly searched the Vrusk and found a lot of blood on the creature’s hands. Otherwise he had nothing of interest on him. He grabbed the unconscious steward and dragged the man to Autobot’s door. Once he was close to the cabin, he could hear the sound of Dralasite vibratory music from within. He pounded on the door.

* * *

Autobot heard the pounding on his cabin door. At first, he thought it would be in beat with the music but it quickly degenerated out of that rhythm. He cursed and then opened the cabin door with one of his four arms to find William there with an unconscious steward. A damaged chair was in another of William’s appendages behind him.

He gave William a look.

“These two were in a fight,” William told him, gesturing behind himself with the chair. “He beat up the steward pretty well. We need to get the medics over here.”

Autobot looked out the cabin door and into the corridor. The dark veins that met at his eyespots were not meant for color but he recognized the blood on the floor and wall near the unconscious Vrusk. He was confused, as Vrusk were usually very calm and not prone to fly off the handle. If it had been a Yazirian involved in the fight, even Cornelius, it would not have surprised him. That it was a Vrusk was uncommon.

William suggested they put the two in Autobot’s cabin.

“Do you mind if I use your cabin to get to the other corridor?” William asked.

“Go ahead,” Autobot replied.

William put the steward down on the bunk and as Autobot went to retrieve the unconscious Vrusk, William opened the opposite cabin door into the connecting corridor and stepped out. He saw three more people he didn’t recognize. One, a Yazirian, carried a bullwhip and stood at the top end of the corridor. The second, a Dralasite that had formed one of his legs into a peg-leg and wore a patch over one eyespot, was armed with a club and stood at the junction of the corridor leading from the airlock and the corridor running between the passenger-class cabins. The third, a human who wore silver shock gloves wired to a wide power belt, stood at the bottom of the corridor nearest to William.

William cursed when he realized all three had noticed him though they all seemed surprised to see him.

“Hey!” the man with the power gloves yelled.

“Three more out here!” William said over his shoulder. “I need help.”

He headed up the corridor towards the center pirate, banging on one of the cabin doors as he ran by.

“Cornelius! Get out here! Trouble!” he said.

He ran past the surprised Dralasite pirate and banged on the next cabin door where he knew another of his compatriots was lodged.

“Human! Get out here!” he said. “Neville!”

Autobot, by then in his cabin with the unconscious Vrusk, shoved the creature under the bed as best he could.

* * *

Both Sir Neville Butterfield and Damsel had been in the same cabin, talking very intimately.

“What the devil?” Neville said.

They both began to pull discarded clothing back on.

* * *

In his room down the hall, Schweppes heard someone running down the corridor, yelling and banging on the walls or cabin doors. He turned off the monitor on which he’d been watching a Vrusk drama and sighed.

* * *

Autobot stepped into the corridor and spotted the three men. He ran down the corridor to the Dralasite pirate and was pursued by the human at the bottom end of the corridor. The Yazirian at the top of the corridor rushed William.

William ducked under the Dralasite pirate’s club and the Yazirian behind him tried to whip him without success as well. The man with the shock gloves grabbed Autobot from behind and the Dralasite groaned as electricity coursed into him.

William brought the chair over his head, striking the Dralasite pirate on the head. The creature’s head actually went down into his body, he was struck so hard, and he collapsed to the floor, unconscious, his club rolling away from one of his now senseless hands.

Autobot spun around. The man grinned evilly at him and he punched the human in the head. The man stumbled backwards and laughed at him.

“Let’s go clubbing,” Autobot quipped as he picked up the club that lay next to the fallen Dralasite. William, tickled by the wonderful pun, gave Autobot a big smile and a thumbs up.

A door opened by the Yazirian with the bullwhip and Sir Neville Butterfield poked his head out.

“My God!” he said. “He’s got a whip!”

Down the corridor by the man with the shock gloves, Cornelius’ door opened at that same moment and the Yazirian leapt out, scratching at the man and slamming an open fist into his ribs. The man was busy dodging Autobot’s club and ignored him.

“You first!” the man with the power gloves said to Autobot. The Dralasite ducked to one side.

William passed the chair from the hand in the front to the hand in back, swinging it wildly at the whip-wielding Yazirian, who ducked. The chair slammed against the wall next to Neville’s door, almost hitting the man in the head, and it shattered to pieces, leaving two large chunks of plastic in his hands. Neville shrieked and the bullwhip snapped high above William’s head.

“Oh Lord!” Neville said.

He closed the door.

* * *

Neville crossed the room.

“Brigands and brawlers!” Damsel yelled.

He pressed the button to open the door that led to the opposite corridor. It slid open with a hiss and he peeked out. That companionway was empty.

Damsel ran out past him and headed towards the bridge.

“No Damsel, don’t leave!” he called after her.

He went to the airlock door nearby and manipulated the switches to open it. Then he closed his own cabin door.

* * *

Damsel ran into Schweppes, yelled “Run!” and passed him as well. He followed her towards the bridge. They stopped at the security door that led forward and she began to work on opening it.

* * *

The human gripped Autobot and there was a hissing crackle. The stink of burned Dralasite flesh and ozone filled the corridor as Autobot cried out “Shocking!” Then the Dralasite clubbed the man in the head, though he still did not fall.

Though tragic, William found himself almost laughing at the clever pun. Cornelius rolled his eyes and wondered if he should bother to save the clown and then tried to kill the man with the shock gloves with his bare hands.

The bullwhip cracked again, still too high, and William clubbed the Yazirian who wielded it, beating him about the head and shoulders. The whip snapped near him again.

“You just like the sound of that thing,” William said to him. “You don’t know how to use it, do you?”

“Shut up!” the Yazirian yelled.

Autobot backed from the man with the shock gloves even as Cornelius tried to beat on him without hurting him.

“Fine!” the man shrieked, and turned towards the Yazirian.

Cornelius punched at the man without effect.

“Float like a Dralasite, swing like Ickpak-Mustala!” Autobot shouted.

He swung and missed, unlike the famous Dralasite cricketer.

The man reached over to Cornelius and gripped him by the collar, burning him and sending his hair standing on end. The stink of burning hair and flesh filled the cabin and corridor.

“Hurts, don’t it?” the man said to him.

Down the corridor, William smashed one of his clubs to splinters as it struck Neville’s door. He dropped the shattered weapon as the Yazirian whipped at him and still did not make contact.

“You’re getting closer,” he said, helpfully.

“Shut up!” the Yazirian screamed at him.

“Should I put a cigarette in my mouth for you?” William replied.

Then he beat the Yazirian with his club, leaving the creature badly injured.

“Try taking a couple of steps back,” he quipped. “Maybe you’re better at a distance.”

The Yazirian stepped back and then whipped at him and William charged at the creature and beat him in the head again, receiving a whipping in return.

“Oh, did you hit me?” William said. “I didn’t feel it.”

At the other end of the corridor, Cornelius couldn’t even hurt his opponent, who blocked every blow.

“What kind of Yazirian are you?” the man said. “Don’t you know how to rage? You suck!”

Cornelius ducked under the man’s blows. The man turned back towards Autobot.

“I’m going to show you how my stand-up comedy ‘knocks ‘em out,’” the Dralasite said to him.

Cornelius glared at the creature and then Autobot struck the man with his club. When Cornelius tore at the man, he blocked every blow and grabbed Autobot, blasting him with the shock gloves.

* * *

The security door in front of Damsel slid open, revealing a long, dimly-lit, empty corridor.

“I’ll get it. Run ahead!” she said to Schweppes.

She began to work on making sure the door would stay open as the Vrusk headed down the corridor. It dead-ended in another security door and he knocked on it. There was no answer.

* * *

Cornelius swung ineffectually at the man again but he was ignoring the creature now. The man, instead, grabbed Autobot and burned him again. With a yell, the Dralasite went down in a smoking heap.

“That’s enough damned lousy jokes out of you buddy!” the man yelled, laughing.

Down the corridor, William slammed the club down on the Yazirian and the creature went down in a heap. He turned to see that Autobot was down and looked dead.

“Medic!” William yelled.

* * *

Sir Neville had entered the airlock when he heard a shout for a medic and turned, opened the door to his room, and then ran through the cabin, grabbing his medical kit, and running to the opposite door.

* * *

William opened the door to Neville’s cabin, saw him run in and get his medical kit, and then the Dralasite moved down the corridor towards the man with the shock gloves. The man moved away from the Yazirian in the doorway and then readied himself further down the corridor.

Sir Neville stepped out into the hallway. A cursory examination showed him Autobot on the floor in the corridor next to another fallen Dralasite he didn’t recognize. William’s back arm was pointing at Autobot. Nearby was an unknown Yazirian.

“Don’t worry snotman, I’ll save you!” Sir Neville yelled dramatically.

William rushed the pirate even as Cornelius disappeared into the cabin.

“Bring it Dralasite!” the man yelled.

The two scuffled in the hall for a few moments.

* * *

Damsel had finished jamming the security door and headed to where Schweppes was banging on the far door. She nudged him aside and started to work at opening that door as well.

* * *

Cornelius had crossed his cabin to the opposite door, opened it, and then ran around the adjoining corridors until he came to the bottom end of the corridor where the man and William were still fighting. William clubbed the man in the face.

“This is how you hurt somebody!” he said.

The man stumbled but did not fall.

“That all you got?” he said.

“I have eight more,” William said.

Cornelius rushed the man from behind and tried to slash at him without effect.

“What the hell?” the man yelled. “Get off me monkey boy!”

He tried to burn William but the Dralasite ducked to one side.

“Hold still, both of you!” the man yelled.

He was obviously badly hurt.

* * *

“You don’t have a leg to stand on!” William said.

He swung at the man but the man ducked. Then Cornelius slammed him in the back of the head and he went down. William unhooked the power belt and removed the shock gloves from the man, putting them on himself. He found that the power belt had an LED display that read 34 SEU. He knew that shock gloves took 2 SEU each time they connected.

Cornelius got William’s club and held it in one hand as Autobot stumbled to his feet after Neville’s ministrations.

* * *

The security door opened for Damsel and she saw that the officer’s quarters beyond were in terrible shape. Someone had knocked over a table and the chairs were scattered and on their sides. The mattress had been pulled from a bunk and thrown to one side as well. The room was a mess and no one was within.

The other door, they knew, led to one of the two bridges of the ship.

* * *

As Neville headed back towards his cabin, he heard the pressure door to the nearby airlock sealing shut again.

“Damn it!” he muttered. “It took so long to open.”

William, meanwhile, beat the unconscious Dralasite and the Vrusk in the cabin nearby to death. He had found the Vrusk crammed under the bunk, his legs still sticking out.

“Oh Lord!” Sir Neville said. “So brutal!”

When they finally got together, they realized that two of their party were missing. Sir Neville said that they had gone to look for their gear. After only a short discussion, they moved to the nearest airlock and got the pressure door open.

* * *

Schweppes was moving the mattress and the chairs into the security doorway in an attempt to keep that door open. Then he moved to the door that led to the bridge and listened to it. He could hear talking, rough speech, someone laughing, and the sound of something being knocked over.

“The ship is ours!” he heard.

It didn’t sound like the captain.

They left the room, going to the nearest airlock.

* * *

Sir Neville led them out of the airlock to the door they knew led to the cargo bay. Then he stopped and gestured for William to go ahead of him.

“Here it is,” he said.

William pressed the button to open the door to the cargo bay and was unpleasantly surprised to see that there was Vrusk within armed with a small, bulky weapon that he recognized as a gyrojet pistol. The creature looked alert and aimed at the doorway, ready to fire.

There were many boxes piled everywhere, with just enough room to walk between. There were also several rows of cargo cabinets that didn’t appear to be locked.

William rushed into the room and the Vrusk fired a shot. The tiny missile flew out into the corridor and exploded against the wall. Neville followed the Dralasite into the room and another missile flew by and blasted the wall. The doctor took cover.

“Oh Lord!” he said. “He’s shooting!”

Cornelius ran into the room and rushed the Vrusk. Another gyrojet missile flew by the Yazirian and exploded against the wall. Autobot followed him into the room and the two attacked the Vrusk as William came around the back of the cargo containers and grabbed the Vrusk’s thorax, the shock gloves burning the creature. Autobot and Cornelius found their clubs just bouncing off its exoskeleton.

* * *

As Schweppes and Damsel crossed the airlock to a door to their left, they heard what sounded like the small explosions of gyrojet missiles coming from another door to the airlock about 90 degrees around the round chamber from the door where they stood.

“I don’t want to go in there!” Damsel said.

They worked on getting the airlock door open.

* * *

William reached for the Vrusk and, just as he was about to grab him, Autobot clubbed the thing in the head. William ended up grabbing the Vrusk’s unconscious body. He let out a yell for wasting the charges.

The Vrusk was unconscious.

“I found a computoy!” Sir Neville called out.

* * *

As the airlock cycled, Schweppes was certain he heard Sir Neville’s voice from the same direction that they had heard the gyrojet missiles a few moments before. The two headed into the nearby corridor away from both sounds.

* * *

Autobot picked up the fallen gyrojet pistol and checked the weapon’s ammunition count. The LED read seven missiles within. He also noticed that the handle of the gun was damaged, as if it had been used to beat someone. He tried to fix the handle by beating it on the unconscious Vrusk. It didn’t fix the weapon but did finish off the Vrusk.

They began to search for their equipment.

William found large machine gears in a cargo box. They didn’t seem to have any value or immediate use. Cornelius found their skeinsuits and called out what he’d found. Sir Neville found a crate of hand axes and called out.

William threw a Dralasite skeinsuit over his back even as Autobot started to suit up in his own. Sir Neville found several high-fashion human dresses.

“Oh excellent!” he said.

William had found 12 packets of dehydrated food and read on the side that each packet would feed six people for a day. They were safe for all the major races. Cornelius found and pocketed 10 laser rifle clips.

* * *

Schweppes and Damsel arrived at the door of the cargo bay and opened it up. The Yazirian within was armed with a hand axe and looked surprised to see them. He had been caught looking into one of the boxes.

The Yazirian rushed forward towards them and both Schweppes and Damsel tried to punch the creature as he reached the door. They didn’t appear to do any appreciable harm. Schweppes tried to grab the creature without luck and Damsel attempted to punch him again. Neither hurt him.

The Yazirian swung his axe at Schweppes but the Vrusk ducked under the blow.

* * *

As Autobot suited up, he thought he heard the sound of fighting somewhere forward. He looked over at Cornelius and the Yazirian had obviously heard it too. Autobot continued putting the skeinsuit on as quickly as he could even as Cornelius bolted for the far door of the cargo bay.

Sir Neville, meanwhile, had found some more laser rifle clips.

“I found our laser rifle clips!” he said. “There’s just clips. There’s no rifles.”

William had found a prize Vrusk statue. He tucked the heavy thing into his belt. Then Neville found Vrusk body wax and William found another crate of hand axes.

“There’s a lot of axes here,” Sir Neville said.

“I need a wheelbarrow,” William replied.

He tucked five hand axes into his belt.

“How many axes are on this ship?” William asked.

“We’ll need a lot,” Sir Neville replied. “There are trees where we’re going.”

* * *

Damsel struck the Yazirian in the face with her fist and he stumbled back a step. More blows were exchanged without any appreciable effect. Then Schweppes punched the villain again but only harmed him a little bit. They continued to fight, all of them avoiding being badly hurt.

* * *

Once Autobot finished suiting up, he moved out to the corridor in the direction where the noises had been coming from. He activated the pressure door and then returned to the room to search along with William and Sir Neville. He was unsure where Cornelius had gone. He had headed the opposite direction.

Meanwhile, William had found a holographic fireworks projector.

“Something to impress the natives,” he said.

Sir Neville found a chronocom, a combination watch, calculator, and communicator. It was somewhat useless alone, however.

“I found a watch,” he said.

Then he tossed it aside.

* * *

Cornelius had gone down the other corridor, through an airlock that they hadn’t been to before, and then into the corridor opposite the other cargo hold. He thought the cries he heard earlier might have come from there.

He got through the airlock and headed for the door to the cargo hold.

* * *

William found another prize Vrusk statue. Then Autobot came into the room and searched one of the cargo containers, finding chocolate anchovies in aspic. He picked them up. Meanwhile, Sir Neville found boxes of ball bearings.

The search of the cargo hold continued. William found Yazirian punching bags, deflated. He took some of them.

“You’re being ridiculous,” Sir Neville said, finding more ball bearings.

Autobot found 12 packets of dehydrated food and tucked them into his skeinsuit, then left the room. He found his way to the airlock and entered, moving to the other pressure door and activating it. It slowly started to cycle and open.

* * *

The Yazirian struck Schweppes with his axe, cracking his exoskeleton. Schweppes screamed out profanities at the creature, who just grinned back at him. He backed further into the room and the two pressed their attack.

* * *

William ran out of the cargo hold and through the door to the airlock as it was closing, and went through the other open door. Cornelius was just opening another door and so he slipped by the Yazirian and into the cargo hold.

* * *

Sir Neville found another chronocom in the last unopened cargo container. He looked around the room to find that he was alone.

“I’m coming!” he called, and headed out the open door.

* * *

Schweppes tried to grab the Yazirian in a wrestling hold but missed him. Damsel swung a fist at the creature as well but didn’t connect. Then they spotted William come through the door on the other end of the hold, rush the Yazirian and try to grab the creature with the shock gloves. The pirate noticed him and ducked to one side.

As Cornelius moved to flank the creature, the pirate moved back into the corner and readied his axe for any takers. Cornelius rushed the creature and hit him with a club. William moved into position and flung his axe at the Yazirian, missing completely.

Meanwhile, Schweppes and Damsel started to search the lockers. Schweppes found crates of hand axes while Damsel found a computoy. Schweppes next found chronocom and Damsel found a full set of Galacticana Encyclopedia. Sir Neville came into the room, saw them, and pulled out a locker of his own, finding Vrusk body wax.

“This is so gross,” he muttered.

Autobot appeared in the doorway and looked into the room. Then he moved closer to the combatants to get a better shot with his gyrojet pistol. At that moment, William grabbed the Yazirian with his shock gloves, making the creature twitch and burn. The stench was almost overwhelming but the creature did not fall. As Cornelius tried, ineffectually, to injure him with his club, the pirate swung at him. He ducked and the hand axe slammed into the wall, dented beyond repair.

Autobot aimed and fired at the Yazirian. The gyrojet missile struck the wall behind the pirate. Then William grabbed him with the shock gloves. He screamed and jerked around as Cornelius missed again. The pirate got his bearings and swung at Cornelius again but he easily ducked back and out of the way.

The other three were still searching. Sir Neville had found another box with 12 packs of dehydrated food. Damsel found costume jewelry and started to put it on. Schweppes found yet more Vrusk body wax.

The Yazirian turned to William and swung at him, missing him completely.

“Right on the chin,” William quipped. “What I failed to tell you is: Dralasites don’t have chins.”

“That’s not funny!” the Yazirian screamed.

Then William grabbed the creature, shocking him again. He fell back, smoking and his hair standing on end.

Autobot tried to convince the pirate to surrender but he didn’t listen to him.

“He just attacked me you son of a *****!” he yelled at the Dralasite.

Cornelius backed up and started growling at the Yazirian pirate even as Autobot aimed the gyrojet pistol at the pirate again. The pirate flung his broken axe at the Dralasite but missed completely. Then William grabbed him again with the shock gloves. The Yazirian screamed and jerked before he fell to the floor, smoke coming out of his mouth. Cornelius yelled at the corpse.

Sir Neville found another holographic fireworks projectile even as Damsel found another set of the Galacticana Encyclopedia. Then a third holographic fireworks projector was found. They all set to searching the room as quickly as possible and found another chronocom, another Prize Vrusk statue, more high fashion human dresses, 12 more packs of dehydrated food, more Yazirian punching bags, more chocolate anchovies in aspic, two more holographic fireworks projectors, more large machine gears, and more boxes of ball bearings.

They hadn’t found their possessions anywhere.

They realized they had left the skeinsuits in the other cargo hold. Schweppes pointed out that bridge was occupied.

“We know there are multiple people on the bridge and they are not friendly,” he said.

They decided to get the skeinsuits first. Sir Neville gave Cornelius a shot of biocort and bandaged him up. The Yazirian suggested using the computers to try to take control of the bridge but then remembered that they were separate systems. He told them he might be able to hack into the security system and possibly see the bridge. He also wondered about opening all of the doors between them and the bridge.

Autobot was working on what to do with the ball bearings and realized he could put them in a fist to act like brass knuckles. Damsel suggested putting them into a bag to make a sap. While they talked, Damsel started shoving hand axes in her belt, her boots, and even down her shirt. William tucked five of the hand axes into his belt and donned his skeinsuit.

Sir Neville and Damsel headed back to the other cargo hold and retrieved the skeinsuits. Autobot covered the other door with his gyrojet pistol. Everyone donned their skeinsuits.

They realized that their weapons could be in the weapons locker on the starboard bridge. They also discussed disabling the engines and taking the ship that way or possibly storming one of the two bridges. Sir Neville asked if they could disable the bridge life support from the engine room but Autobot pointed out that only from the bridge could such a thing be done. When asked, he noted that all they could do from the engine room would be to disable momentum. William wanted to get to the weapon locker and get their weapons. Sir Neville mentioned putting on pirate clothing to try to disguise themselves. Schweppes searched the dead pirate for credits but found nothing.

As they talked, they heard a pressure door opening and when they looked around, they saw that William was gone. Sir Neville quickly picked up one of the holographic fireworks projectors and grabbed two axes.

“To the bridge!” they heard William yell from the starboard corridor. A moment later, there was a violent explosion out in the corridor and then the whine of a sonic stunner. Shrapnel rattled down the corridor and in through the open door.

* * *

As William, loaded down with holographic fireworks projectors, hand axes, Vrusk statues, packets of dehydrated food, Yazirian punching bags, and boxes of anchovies in aspic, looked through the opening pressure door into the airlock, he saw there was a Dralasite and a human standing in the room. The Dralasite had a small, round object in his hand, while the man held a sonic stunner.

As William watched, the Dralasite tossed something into the corridor. William rushed into the airlock at the Dralasite. The grenade went over William’s head and landed in the corridor. A moment later it exploded behind him. Then the human fired the sonic stunner at him but he wasn’t stunned.

“Little help!” William called.

The man with the sonic stunner grinned.

“We’ve killed anyone with him,” he said. Then he moved closer, bringing his sonic stunner to bear.

Suddenly, the rest of the group piled into the large, round airlock. Sir Neville had a can of spray on flesh in his hand. He had dropped the holographic fireworks projectile in the cargo hold. Cornelius crossed the room and put a foot on the airlock door.

William tried to grab the man with the sonic stunner but the nimble fellow danced out of the way. Damsel flung an axe that clattered against the far wall.

Autobot tried to persuade the pirates to give up.

“We’ve killed all your friends!” he said.

“You killed my brother?” the Dralasite said.

“My cousin is dead!?!” the man said. “You bastard! I’ll kill you!”

The Dralasite tried to beat on William but he managed to block the blows. The man fired his sonic stunner at him as well but missed completely. Then they both turned towards Autobot.

The Dralasite moved towards Autobot, who fled back into the blackened corridor as the door cycled and closed. William grabbed the man with the sonic stunner, burning him. Cornelius tried to hit the same man with a club but missed him completely. Damsel threw an axe across the room and it struck the far wall.

Sir Neville sprayed plastiflesh on the side of the face of the man with the sonic stunner. The pirate let out a scream, ripping at it, and turned towards him, his face half covered with the stuff.

The door next to William finished cycling and opened all the way, even as the pressure door that Autobot had fled to started to cycle again.

Damsel flung another axe, hitting the man again even as William grabbed him with the shock gloves. Sir Neville fled from the man who was still trying to pull the plastiflesh from his face. The pirate turned and fired the sonic stunner at William and the Dralasite fell to the ground, stunned. The Dralasite pirate tried to punch Sir Neville but didn’t injure the man at all.

Sir Neville tried to spray the Dralasite in the face with the spray. He hit the creature but the eyespot moved out of the way of the plastiflesh. Sir Neville cursed.

Damsel crossed the room and flung an axe at the man with the sonic stunner even as a missile flew from the opening pressure door and exploded against the far wall courtesy of Autobot. Sir Neville crossed to William and administered a stimdose.

“Get up!” he yelled.

The man with the sonic stunner fired at Cornelius but the beam missed him completely. He aimed again at the Yazirian but missed. He had moved away from the others and Damsel flung her axe at the man with the sonic stunner. He fell with a long, drawn-out scream, dead.

They congregated on the Dralasite pirate and fell upon him en masse. Cornelius tried to convince the pirate to surrender or he would die as Schweppes picked up the sonic stunner. The pirate struck Cornelius and then William slashed at him with a pair of axes. Then Damsel flung another axe and the Dralasite fell to the ground.

Sir Neville was holding open the pressure door even as Damsel retrieved the axes she’d flung.

“To the bridge!” William said again.

He went down the corridor as Sir Neville asked if anyone was injured. He tended to Schweppes’ injuries from the cargo hold as the Dralasite examined the door to the bridge. Once Schweppes was tended to, he followed William down the corridor. Autobot lingered behind in the airlock while Cornelius took one of the chronocoms from Neville and then worked on opening the airlock door to the nearby computer room.

William found the door to the bridge unlocked and he manipulated the controls. He immediately realized a struggle had taken place there. Chairs, instruments, and even unconscious or dead officers lay strewn about the floor. He saw four armed space pirates on the bridge, each of them armed with a gun. The first, a Vrusk, held an automatic pistol; the second, a Yazirian, held a needler pistol; the third, a Dralasite, held an electrostunner; and the last, a human, held a laser pistol. From his vantage point, he could see the weapons locker had been destroyed, along with everything it once contained.

The pirates spotted William. He closed the door and then backed up to the other side of the hall from the rest.

“The weapons locker is destroyed, but they have some nice stuff in there,” he said calmly. “They’re going to come swarming out in just a second.”

“Lock the door!” Sir Neville said. “Lock the door!”

Schweppes aimed his sonic stunner at the doorway. Damsel had an axe ready to throw at the doorway. Autobot aimed his gyrojet pistol at the doorway as well.

* * *

Cornelius found the computer room a mess. Several of the monitors and much of the equipment was damaged or destroyed. Other monitors appeared dead. The few that were still working displayed broken words and a warning that read:


He started working on the damaged computer to try to turn off life support to the bridge.

* * *

No one came through the door to the bridge.

“I don’t think this is a fight we can win!” Sir Neville said.

He suggested they lock the door and they realized that the door lock was on the other side of the door. Damsel said she could get the door to lock when the door cracked open and William swung into the crack with both axes. The door slammed shut again.

“Maybe they’re more afraid of us,” William suggested.

“They’re coming a different way!” Sir Neville wailed. “The lifeboats are this way!”

He pointed behind him.

Schweppes headed out of the corridor and back into the airlock. He made his way across the airlock to the pressure door to the escape bay and began to work on opening it.

“Not a bad idea,” Sir Neville said to him.

I do have enough Vrusk body wax to hold me over for a while, Schweppes thought as he worked on the door.

William moved to stand in front of the bridge door and waited, his axes in two of his hands. The rest also waited to see if anyone else would come out of the airlock door.

As Schweppes got the airlock door open, he heard the rattle of automatic weapon fire and a burst of bullets ricocheted off the airlock doorway. Someone was in the escape room! He moved back to the cover of the doorway.

“What!?!” Sir Neville cried. “Who’s shooting at us!?!”

“Let’s just make a run for the lifeboats!” Schweppes called to the rest.

William opened the door of the bridge and saw there were still three pirates in the room. All of them had their weapons pointed at the door. He turned and ran down the corridor, through the open pressure door and into the airlock, and from there into the escape bay. The rest of them followed him, Damsel moving to the center of the airlock so she could see both of the open airlock doors. An axe was in her hand.

Sir Neville ran to the open bridge door and slapped the button to close it. He heard weapons fire strike the closing door and cringed. Then he headed for the escape bay.

As William entered the escape bay , he saw that one of the lifeboats was gone. To one side was a Vrusk pirate armed with an automatic pistol who fired at him. He turned and charged the pirate as the bullet ricocheted around the bay. Autobot, meanwhile, ran to the lifeboat. Looking into it, he noticed an item inside labeled “Survival Pack.” It seemed to locked in some sort of cabin.

The lifeboat itself was a wide, nearly featureless ship with a wide door on the side and narrow impeneglass windows all around a forward cabin. The engine was towards the rear. A single iris door stood closed on the side with a single activation button next to it.

Suddenly, the Serena Dawn lurched and they heard three loud explosions from the bridge. The ship trembled for several seconds, then lurched again and they heard another explosion somewhere. They could hear various squeaks and groans as the ship twisted and buckled beneath their feet.

Autobot slapped the button on the ship and the door slid open. A computerized voice announced: “One minute to launch. Please fasten your seat belts.” For a moment, Autobot thought about going back to try to repair the Serena Dawn.

* * *

In the computer room, more monitors began to go black. Cornelius only struggled with the machine for a few moments after the explosions before he fled out of the computer room into the corridor towards the airlock.

* * *

Schweppes stepped into the escape bay and fired the sonic stunner at the Vrusk standing near William. The pirate fired another shot at William but missed again.

The Vrusk pirate switched his pistol from single shot to burst.

“There’s eight spaces on that lifeboat,” William said to the pirate. “You want to come with us? Drop your weapon now.”

Then he ran to the lifeboat even as Autobot climbed into the lifeboat and yelled that he was going to close the doors and the pirate needed to drop his gun if he wanted to live. Schweppes moved closer to the pirate and fired the sonic stunner at him. The Vrusk jerked and fell to the ground. Schweppes reached forward and grabbed the automatic pistol.

Damsel ran into the escape bay and leapt into the lifeboat. She was closely followed by Sir Neville and then Cornelius. Schweppes moved back to the lifeboat, a light flashing yellow and red above it. He waited in the iris door until what he felt was the very last second and then leapt in just as the door was closing.

The lifeboat jerked into motion as it moved towards the hull of the Serena Dawn. As Schweppes desperately tried to strap himself in, four pirates appeared in the escape bay, all armed with automatic weapons. They opened fire, shooting at the lifeboat, and they felt it shudder and lurch as the bullets struck it.

“See you in hell!” Sir Neville said.

Then they were free of Serena Dawn, only open space ahead of them. They saw the starship tremble again. A few metal chunks floated out of the escape bay and then all was quiet.

The lifeboat quickly accelerated towards the forbidding planet of Volturnus. As they approached the daylight side of the planet, they saw nothing. A great portion of the planet was shrouded in clouds. The lifeboat entered a shallow orbit and traveled to the other side of Volturnus, where it began its descent into the dark, clear night.

Sparks began to fly from the onboard computer. Then, after several seconds of jolting, a rear engine exploded and a fire erupted on the exterior of the lifeboat.

“Fix it!” William yelled at Damsel.

The fire grew larger and hotter as they descended, even entering the passenger compartment. After two minutes of intense heat, the lifeboat crashed into a high outcropping of rocks. The fire seemed to die down but the flames still flashed from the rear engine and the onboard computer.

The survival kits popped out of the locker and were ready for removal from the lifeboat. They also noticed a foul-smelling liquid seeping from the engine compartment. Some of the liquid was starting to burn and they recognized it as a highly toxic, flammable acid used in ship engines.

They grabbed the survival kits and got them away from the burning ship, finding that they were in the middle of a great desert. Both Autobot and Schweppes went back for the extra survival kits, getting away from the ship just as it burst into flames.

“Run!” Damsel said.

They fled the ship and only a few seconds later, the lifeboat exploded.

They quickly looked through the survival kits. Each contained a machete, a box of matches, an allweather blanket, a first aid pack, a chronocom, two small packages of survival rations, a tangler grenade, a compass, a lifejacket, 10 salt pills, a pocket tool, a flashlight, a doze grenade, 10 meters of rope, a toxyrad gauge, eight liters of water, a pair of sungoggles, a pair of stretch coveralls, a poly-vox, and a laser pistol with a 20 SEU clip.

The sun was rising. A desolate wilderness of sand and rock stretched as far as they could see in every direction. The desert was occasionally broken by green, flat plants similar in appearance to tiny lily pads. Though it was only minutes past sunrise, the heat was already overbearing.

They had crashed on Volturnus. They were on their own.

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  1. Tricia's Avatar
    really nice blog read it all very helpful well recommend it to my friends to read it
  2. Max_Writer's Avatar
    Thanks so much! I rarely get feedback so I appreciate your comment and your recommendation!