Campaign of the Month: January 2011

Honour Among Thieves

Nine Tenths of the Law Session Thirteen
Wherein the crew faces the unkindest cut of all. Well, maybe just Jonah.

The crewmembers cooled their heels at their budget lodgings in Capital City, waiting for Declan Jenner to send for them. In the meantime, Shenmue had been transferred to a nearby repair dock courtesy of Tao Barker, who had also dispatched a bevy of licensed mechanics to give the freighter a thorough overhaul.

Wild Sky had let the repair crew on board, but kept out of their way as best she could. She was feeling quite a bit better. Her headache persisted, but her battered body was feeling less stiff and sore by the hour.

One day turned into two.

“Why don’t we get back to Jenner instead of waiting?” YJ said.

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Nine Tenths of the Law Session Twelve
Wherein a plan comes together.

“Here’s what I’m thinking,” Jonah said to his crewmates. “We go to Baron Otello and somehow get him to think that we’re Federal Marshals, and we suspect one of the members of Desdemona’s crew has been engaged in smuggling. We tell him we don’t want to attract any media attention, and that we don’t want to cause his operation any trouble, and if there’s a way we can have some plainclothes officers just go quietly to the ship, bring some investigation equipment with them, gather some evidence, and then leave, and oh yes, if he doesn’t mind calling ahead to the ship so there’s no confusion, then we’ll just pop in, take care of our business, and pop out.” He smiled. “Nobody needs to know about it, and there will be no media attention, and no scandal if he co-operates. And we, well we’re here to let him know because we figured that courtesy dictated that we let him know what’s going on before his yacht gets raided publicly.”

YJ smiled. “I think that’s a good plan. We just need to sell it.”

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Nine Tenths of the Law Session Eleven
Reality begins to sink in.

Shenmue left the chaotic clouds of Branson’s Mark behind as YJ guided her through the upper atmosphere.

“I thought we’d never get off that rock,” Worth grumbled. “How is it that three days felt like eight months?”

No one had an answer.

The crew set about their various tasks as Branson’s Mark receded behind the ship until it was a slightly brighter speck of light than the other specks of light in the Black. Worth stationed himself in the engine room, trying to get a handle on the various issues plaguing the beleaguered transport. After examining Wild Sky’s charts, Doc Tulsa decreed that she could be moved to her personal quarters, freeing up both the passenger dorms and the infirmary. Jonah assisted the Doc in moving Wild Sky, strapped onto a stretcher, up the stairs and down the ladder (a tricky set of maneuvers, that) where they transferred her to her own bed. Worth and Jonah had quickly set her quarters back to right after having ransacked it twice, but their ability to fold clothes was inadequate to say the least – sleeves and pant legs trailed from overstuffed dresser drawers, and the door to her wardrobe hung askew. They couldn’t get the tatami mats on the floor to fit right, and now they were overlapping and dog-eared.

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Nine Tenths of the Law Session Ten
A promising lead comes to nothing, while a crew member comes to.

The next morning, the crew convened in Shenmue’s common area to plan their next move.

“Let’s prioritize,” Worth said.

“We’re already here,” Jonah said. “Right?”

“How did I know you were going to say that?” the mechanic replied.

“Yeah, the situation’s pretty clear,” YJ said. “We’re going to leave Shenmue here, we’re going to get to the island and see what we can find, so in case we don’t repossess this fantastic yacht, we have something to pay for repairs.”

“Makes sense to me,” Worth said. “We’re still looking at a hefty repair bill, even with the stuff we salvaged from Haruna.”

“So we grab the stuff from the island, fly to Osiris, repossess the Desdemona, leave Shenmue on Osiris for some extended maintenance, and get her completely fixed up, using the stuff we grabbed from the island.” Jonah said.

“Yeah,” nodded YJ.

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A Captain's Flashback
Captain Johnson finally has some time to think about recent events.

The Cap – Branson’s Mark – September 17, 2517

Captain Ying Johnson watched from his perch on the overhead catwalk in Shenmue’s cargo bay as Jonah, Tulsa, and Worth walked out to meet the leader of the tiny settlement they’d landed at a few minutes ago.

He’d fobbed the negotiations off on his crewmates under the pretense of checking for further damage aboard the ship, but what he really wanted to do was make sense of recent events.

He leaned against the catwalk railing and issued a long sigh as soon as he was sure his crewmates were out of earshot.

Then he gave a sharp kick to the nearest rail post.

What in the ri shao gou shi bing had he gotten his crew into this time?

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Nine Tenths of the Law Session Nine
The search for replacement parts leads to a surprising find

The crew examined their options. Each of Shadow’s three moons were more heavily populated than the last, with only a thousand people scattered across the polar regions of Branson’s Mark. Worth explained that without more coolant, Shenmue’s reactor would go critical before she could break atmo. A shuttle trip to Summerfair, the third and most populous moon on Shadow would take a few hours each way.

“We could do a sweep of this moon and see what comes up here,” said YJ.

“Well, we’re here now,” Jonah agreed.

Worth booted up Shenmue’s sensor system. After a few minutes of pinging, the sensor system brought up a read on a thermal signature several miles to the northwest.

“Let’s check it out,” YJ said. “The ship’s okay to fly in atmo, right?” he asked Worth, who nodded.

YJ got Shenmue into the air, but it was obvious to the crew that she was still hurting. The deckplates shuddered more than usual, and the smell of overheated wiring soon choked the aft corridor. A loud bang issued from the engine room, followed by a profane oath issued from Worth’s lips.

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Nine Tenths of the Law Session Eight
Shenmue and Wild Sky both receive medical attention as a hurricane approaches.

“Jao gao!” Worth said, his eyes widening in shock. He had all but written off Wild Sky after she had disappeared into the dead-end alleyways of the Eavesdown Docks back on Persephone.

Doc Tulsa cracked open his medical bag as he knelt beside Wild Sky’s prone form. “I need to stabilize her before she slips away completely,” he said to Jonah, who was staring at the woman’s grievous wounds.

Jonah stood and walked out of the hotel room, pushing past Worth’s bulk to cross the hallway. He found Ying Johnson staring at the window with a distant look on his face.

“Jing Chai, Captain,” Jonah said. “We’ve found Wild Sky.”

His revelation had a less than impressive effect on his captain. “That’s great,” Johnson said distractedly, not taking his eyes off whatever it was he was looking at.

Jonah stepped over to the window and followed YJ’s gaze. He stared blankly at the pall of black smoke streaming from the south end of the island.

“Is that the…yeah, it is,” Jonah exhaled sharply. He forced himself to rip his gaze from the smoke to the approaching hurricane. “Ai yah tien ah!” he exclaimed as he watched the roiling clouds make their steady approach. Jonah shook his head and called over his shoulder. “Worth, we need to check the ship!”

The burly mechanic poked his head into the room. “Why, what happened to her?”

Jonah pointed out the window. Worth’s face fell as he saw the smoke from the foot of the island. “Oh, Darla,” he muttered under his breath. Then he caught YJ’s eye. Without another word, the pilot and mechanic both bolted towards the elevator, leaving Jonah to gaze out at the gathering storm.

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Nine Tenths of the Law Session Seven
Wherein Captain Johnson gets a building dropped on him.

The Mantis class ship hovered over the taller of the two hotel towers, dipping its nose down as if sniffing for prey amid the piles of rubble scattered across the courtyard. Over the drone of its engine pods, which were sending heat distortion waves down that blurred the lines of the hotel structure beneath them, Jonah, YJ and Worth could hear a high-pitched whine starting up. Their attention was drawn to the two chin-mounted autocannons slightly off set from the centre of the ship’s nose. It was the larger of the two that had begun to spin.

There was a sound like the tearing of fabric as the autocannon split the air between the ship and the ground. The Mantis was rocked back on its center of gravity as a tongue of yellow fire like dragon’s breath shot out from the spinning Gatling gun. The effect was instantaneous. Concrete was pulverized into dust that leaped into the air in a billowing cloud as round after round gouged bowling ball sized holes in the buildings adjacent to the hotel complex. Edifices and support pillars were stripped bare, revealing the rusted rebar within, and sparks began to fly as metal struck metal.

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Nine Tenths of the Law Session Six
Violence Ensues!

It was a short hop from Osiris to Branson’s Mark, a detour that took them out of the Core and into the region of space known as Georgia. Strategic territory for both sides during the Unification War, the planets of Georgia were no stranger to the horrors of war: the Battle for Serenity Valley took place on Hera, and Shadow, the seat of Independent resistance, had been bombed back into a pre-terraformed state by the Alliance.

That spherical, cratered and scarred monument to the folly of war hung imposingly in the distance as Shenmue approached the first of its moons, Branson’s Mark. In contrast to the dead husk it orbited, Branson’s Mark was bright and colourful, its azure oceans wrapped with brilliant white clouds.

That was on a good day. On a bad day, none of the blue showed through, and instead the moon was blanketed by thick layers of chaotic cloud cover, giving it the appearance of an ice-planet confection one might purchase in a skyplex food court.

There were few breaks in the cloud cover, and it soon became apparent to everyone on the bridge that those breaks were actually the eyes of a number of swirling hurricanes blowing across the moon’s surface.

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Nine Tenths of the Law Session Five
It's the crew's first time in the Core, and it goes about as well as you'd expect.

Several hours passed as Shenmue made its way towards Osiris. The members of the crew did what they normally did on long trips – YJ stayed on the bridge, Jonah sat at the galley table working with his counterfeiting kit, Worth puttered around the engine room, and the Doc self-medicated in his quarters.

The quiet of the voyage was suddenly interrupted by the blaring of Shenmue’s proximity alarm. YJ snapped to attention on the bridge. Checking his instruments, he peered out the viewports and paled as he saw what had caused the proximity alarm to go off.

“What do you see, YJ?” Jonah called up to the bridge.

“Your tax dollars at work,” YJ sighed.

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