- Smitty. (Brian) Captain. A focused spacer with a remote built in so he could control drones, gifted with sharp senses. He had a salvage kit and a drone named Jethro.
- Gasper. (Jesse) Disfigured ship’s medic.
- Jan Klaya. (Jeremy) Charismatic sword mystic.
Clyde Bruskin was so skilled with tech that he could put in twice the effective tech hours, better than other spacers, so they left him to get the parts put in. It would take the tireless spacer 13 hours to install the burner and the scrubber, so they were on the clock to get the administrative permission to take off.
They asked Jack who else could grant permission to take off, and he told them Lt. Commander 1st Class Anna Graymalkin could do it. She was logged in to the Belarra Preserve.
Three spacers armored up and headed through the Fringe all over Telmar Bay to go check out the entrance.
They found the entry, but it had a “stay out” pole with various heads and masks on it, and a rusted bulkhead that Smitty’s drone buzzed to find out the other side was a deep pit, and beyond that a door guarded by the purple tough guys.
Reexamining their map, they saw the Tarmaxians were adjacent, and connected; maybe they would help.
They approached the Tarmaxian entrance, a spare staircase leading up to a bulkhead, flanked by autogun turrets tuned to a sensor fence. Smitty stepped out to parlay, and a Tarmaxian came down the stairs to chat with him.
He explained the Tarmaxians were mercenary bounty hunter doctors with high tech, distant from various factions in an attempt to stay neutral. Their connection to the Belarra Preserve (or The Garden as the Gardeners call it) was sealed by mutual agreement, except in case of emergency.
Rather than offering errands, Duke discouraged them from working with him, as it carried a price too high because he had to assure their trustworthiness. On the other hand, he encouraged them to escape Telmar Bay, so he told them about how the Gardeners had their own Garden of Eden and would see spacers as “Softies” who were mythical deity figures to them. Smitty thanked Doctor Duke for his time, and they headed back to the Garden.
They asked nicely, and the Gardner guard extended the ramp and ushered them into the Garden, taking them to meet the Floating King on the Drifting Throne. In a hollow flanked by cliffs, they saw the King, on a throne flanked by seats and supplies, mounted on the stripped foundation of a hover bus, a meter above the ground. His throne had a killer bird skull on a stick to control its drift, which was slowly to starboard most of the time. King Driftsless welcomed them as Softies and ordered a Righteous Party, where they arranged boulders for the Softies to sit on, and entertained them with various meat and plants. Klaya sat on the Drifting Throne by the King.
Gasper was impressing the Gardeners with his ability to eat anything, and he got chummy with Shaman Nobelt (who had a pot belly.) He casually asked after Graymalkin’s login, and Nobelt freaked out and accused them of being monsters. It was up to the spacers to prove they were Softies, not monsters, or they faced death!
Klaya appealed to the King that surely they were not monsters, calming things down some. The King set a challenge that only Softies (not monsters) could do; fix the drift of his throne. They lacked the proper tools to do so, but he pointed out there were tools in a nearby cave, only a family of 3 deathbirds were living there. They had an egg, though, and if they were defeated there would be another Righteous Party and this time they’d eat the deathbird egg too. They had one hour.
The shaman led them to the cave; it was a garage. Smitty and Gasper took cover, and Klaya climbed up on top of the entry. Smitty shot at the birds, and they came out in a rush of fury; Klaya leaped down to ride one, missed, and ended up flat on her back with a deathbird stamping on her. It managed to wipe out her belt shield as she cut it badly.
The birds were gunned down by the spacers, and they checked out the garage, finding the big egg and also a back room with the necessary tools.
The Righteous Party
Returning to the King, Klaya took time to wash up while Smitty and Gasper worked on the throne; it was a puzzling design, and they were having trouble until they realized the stabilizing matrices were based on theremin technology, and they had to put their hands into the fields and do it manually. They fixed the throne.
The King declared himself anointed by the Softies as King Nodrift, and they had a righteous party that outshone the previous party. The spacers and the King also partook of the hardboiled deathbird egg, which was like rock candy mixed with teriyaki jerky (as close as their senses could interpret the new flavor and texture.) It was oddly affecting.
Shaman Nobelt took them to the Glowing Altar, hidden in a cliff. Graymalkin had been logged in for 425 years, and the Gardners prevented linguistic drift by watching her entertainment list, which included a lot of surfer shows and movies.
Feeling a strange reverence, the spacers enlisted Jack’s help to use Graymalkin’s credentials to authorize their escape. Then they looked deeper into the history of the ship.
The ship launched about 825 years ago, sister to the Colony Ship, aimed at a colony 2,000 years away. About 200 years out, they were hit by a cosmic mutagenic wave that killed or changed most of those on board; some made it to vaults built into the superstructure. Some engines exploded. Some engines ran on dimensional folding technology, so some parts of the ship were moved beyond detection or communication with the rest of the ship. Survivors mutated.
That was 625 years ago now. The vast self-replenishing ship could perhaps go on forever. It was over 100 miles long, some of that now in other dimensions. It was a mass of life and death dragged through the void that rivaled the density of some colonies on planets.
Downloading as much as they could into a data cube that they would have to build new technology to read, the spacers took what records they could and left the Glowing Altar as they found it. As the shaman said, push no red Xs, never turn it off. A snapshot to an ancient past.
King Nodrift was so impressed with them he let them ride his giant red triceratops back to their ship. They were mounted on a howdah on its back, and they saw some of the chasekin who were after them run afoul of some of the teksuppar who were after them. But they made it back safe, boarding the ship, putting in the last few hours of work, and blasting out into space.
As they parted ways, they saw the ship from space. In the void, its viewports and energy leaks and damage and displays formed their own constellations against the cosmic background. Then the spacers turned their backs on the spectacle and resumed their journey in Medusa’s Scow, back to the world they knew.