To Boldly Go

The Hub, Part II

As Rho lugs Ju Li’s body back to the FSV Columbia, the power goes out on the Hub. Stowing the body in a closet, Rho heads down to the core of the station looking for answers. She spots people fleeing a batch of Sentient Snakcs attacking people with small makeshift weapons.

Rho calls Max Petrobras on the Columbia. Max is attempting to triangulate a set of signals beamed from the center of the station just prior to the power down. He reads scattered com traffic throughout the station but main and secondary power has been cut. Max directs Rho to an alternate path.

Rho backs away as the snacks move towards her. Using her impressive strength, she manually seals a door behind her and retrieves Rho’s body. Max directs her towards an airlock.

Steve Walmart meanwhile is returning with the scout shuttle. Easily outpacing Samsung’s much larger vessel, he estimates they have at least a half hour before it arrives. Noticing station power is down, he calls Max who directs him to pick up Rho.

As approaches the station however, he collides with a body. Bringing the ship around he sees Taiko Reynolds in his suit and a hastily patched hole marked with dried blood. Steve sends Ensign Roux to retrieve the oligarch’s form. It is unclear if he is alive or dead.

Max meanwhile goes down to the cargo bay where he finds pallets of Sentient Snacks have escaped their packaging and are waiting by the door. He circumvents the safety protocols and vents hold to space.

Steve picks up Rho, straining the shuttles capacity with 4 people, a comatose Taiko, and a corpse. They quickly return to the Columbia. Dr. Twitter Morgan is waiting in the shuttle bay with a med team. They whisk Taiko away while the others lug Ju li’s corpse to Dr. Albert Tzen-Babbage’s lab. He is not happy about dissecting a corpse.

Max finally establishes communication to the Hub. The administrators there are working to bring back power and main systems. The Sentient Snacks have been mostly subdued. But the location of the oligarchs remains uncertain. Max heads over to help out.

Dr. Babbage soon reports back that Ju Li isn’t a robot and has no chips in her. She was just an artificially built person. Twitter informs Steve that Mr. Reynolds is awake. Mr. Walmart questions the injured oligarch but learns little. Taiko claims he was shot while surveying the area under construction. He never saw his attacker. He limped to the airlock and escaped into space.

At this point Samsung’s ship has approached the station. He radios the Columbia and makes it clear he is docking with the intent to help restore order. Rho heads out to intercept him.

Max meanwhile arrives at the central portion of the station as Casy is brought back online. With the AI’s help they pinpoint the remaining repairs to be made and track the final movements of Mr. Reynolds on the station. Unfortunately there are no camera shots of the attack. Max however is able to find a path of access codes used to open and close doors from the construction area to the central meeting room. All of these use Aesir’s registry. Again however there is no video footage, it has been erased. As Rho is directed to investigate Aesiir, Casy begins work on reconstructing the data.

Max takes a pair of technicians to fix one of the breaks to main power. While fixing the severed lines, a pair of Sentient Snacks appears. They make short work of the technicians, buying Max time to overcharge his scanner. He blows them up and then radios for additional help.

Rho meanwhile intercepts Samsung at the airlock. She find the CEO accompanied by another Ju Li as well as small army of bioroids. Samsung directs his minions to scour the ship for the defective products and then proceeds to Aesir’s room based on Max’s intelligence. Rho verbally spars with him, hinting that she thinks he is behind this.

At Aesir’s chambers they find the oligarch injured but alive. She claims the snacks attacked her as well be fore escaping out a vent. Rho assures that only the station med team gets access to Aesir.

Finally power and gravity are restored. The team returns to the Columbia. Rho wants to know what Babbage has found out and Max needs new gear. They run into Steve in the hall of the space vessel as a security team rushes past.

They learn that one of the snacks is on the loose, having escaped Captain G. W. Teregan‘s quarters. While Max uses the ship’s computers and his earlier scanner work to track it, the others head for the med bay. Max discovers they are right, the tiny killer is already inside the room with Twitter and Taiko.

Rho arrives first and spots the Sentient Snack. With perfect aim, she slices it in half, disarming it in the process. Placing it in a container they take the would-be assassin to Babbage to extract its chip.

Dr. Babbage is unhappy to see them but extracts the chip. With it, Max works out that they were modified after construction and how to turn them on and off.

Steve meanwhile contacts Samsung, attempting to get him to back off. Samsung claims not to know anything about the killer snacks. Steve meanwhile manages to convince him that they do not have Taiko. As things get more heated, Steve builds on his earlier lies to bluff that a pair of Federation ships are already en route. Samsung seeking to regain control over things, reveals that his ship carries an army of bioroids which he is prepared to use to take the Hub.

In the end, both sides back off. Samsung proposes they leave a token force on the station and discuss matters like civilized people. their respective ships will travel to the far side of the gas giant until the matter is resolved.

Both sides ready for their meeting with the surviving oligarchs. Mr. Reynolds remains hidden on the Columbia. Max looks over the reconstructed footage Casy has found. He figures that it has been falsified. It seems Casy is the real culprit.

During the meeting the Federation Team reveal their findings while watching everyone’s reactions. They reveal that Taiko was ambushed and presumed killed, that Aesir’s code was used to access the areas where Taiko was attacks and the message activating the attack. Oddly Casy and Samsung seem to agree with their description of the event in way that makes Steve think they believe it. Aesir seems to know something more.

Realizing somehting is up, he has Max scans the area. It seems Aesir is using pheromones to influence them, making them trust her. Max also detects that Samsung is a bioroid. Samsung laughs and points out that Aesir’s plan has backfired.

Eventually it comes out that she framed herself but in a way that would ultimately cast blame on Casy. Caught in her lies, she surrenders.

Afterwards Samsung leaves the system, washing his hands of the situation.

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The Hub

The Contact Team wander the Hub after their initial meeting with the oligarchs of the Hub. These merchant masters seem eager for a trade treaty with the Federation. They discuss what they know about the station and the people they are dealing with. It is clear they need to learn more.

Max Petrobras focuses on mapping and investigating the station. The others tag along. In a market area, they encounter a display of Sentient Snacks, small edible robots being sold to the local children. Intrigued, they purchase one.

Rochelle “Rho” Total and Steve Walmart break off to talk to the locals while Max continues to scan the station. Max is particularly intrigued by the composition of the warren nest of interconnected habitats and derelict ships that make up the old section of the Hub. Max finds one segment made from a repurposed prewar transport. Everything has been networked to the Central Administration system or Casy, the AI that is one of the Hub oligarchs. It tries to be helpful as Max navigates the mainly Space Gypsy constructed space station.

Rho leaves Steve at the bar and approaches a pair of Space Gypsies talking to an elderly oriental man. After making friends, she learns that the man’s name is Henry Wu, the clone of pre-war billionaire Henry Wu. He hails from New Beijing which apparently is full of such clones. He mentions that he has a cousin living in Ariadne, a nearby system dominated by radical feminists, including some cross sex clones of Henry Wu. Despite his odd background, rho is able to make friends with him and learns a bit about his “grand-children”.

Steve meanwhile orders a gin and tonic. Chatting with the bartender, Jack, he learns a bit about the powers that be. Aesir apparently is an exile or criminal from Midnight. Zhe has many contacts with the Mythweavers and the Ascension. Zhe facilitates information trade, which the basis for zher power.

The Reynolds clan led by Taiko Reynolds controls physical trade throughout the system. Taiko is over a 100 and isn’t likely to die anytime soon.

The last oligarch, Casy was once the property of Aesir but bought its freedom. With control of the Hub’s systems, Casy has the most physical power.

As he drinks his gin, a beautiful blond approaches him. He orders a second round for the both of them. Introducing herself as Ju Li, she easily seduces him. She orders them a third round but as Steve drinks it, he passes out.

Rho leaves her conversation to find Steve gone. When he fails to answer his communicator she calls the ship. The Ensign there confirms he hasn’t returned. She recalls seeing him with a blond and suspects trouble. Talking to the bartender, she confirms that he left with her. Glancing about she spots a service elevator that they likely used. Rho relays the information to Max who queries Casy as to Steve’s whereabouts. The AI pinpoints his location. The two hurry up to level 12 where Steve has been taken. The elevator up is slow however and the numerous doors slow them down.

Steve wakes to find himself on a bed with a blond haired man in a dark suit seated opposite him. CEO Atsu Samsung-Exogenisis introduces himself and explains that he was brought here for a private chat. The sinister suit warns Steve that the oligarchs of the Hub plan on breaching their contract with Samsung. He warns them not to get involved. He does make a passing mention to his ability to get Steve personnel such as Ju Li. Steve however stands up to him.

Shortly after Samsung leaves the others arrive and they discuss what happened. Retiring to the FSV Columbia, they do an examination of the Sentient Snack. The tiny person shaped food item cracks bad jokes and tries to entertainment. Dr. Albert Tzen-Babbage however finds it disgusting. He pins it down and does an examination. Steve rips off an arm and eats some of it, finding the flesh syrupy and sweet. Max and Babbage meanwhile locate its “brain”, a biodegradable CPU. Max analyzes the simple AI.

Later that evening they meet with the oligarchs in an opulent round room in the inner section of the Hub. Steve confronts them with Samsung’s information. Reynolds addresses it, explaining that the CEO provides their bioroid work and security force but has been jacking up prices whenever an opportunity arises. The Hub leaders want the Federation to cover their protection thus freeing them from his grip. They offer trade and information about the region. They want to keep their autonomy and freedom of trade (outside tariffs and restriction going into the Federation). In the end they make an initial agreement to work up a treaty for them to chose when their current contract with Samsung ends in 10 months. They plan to meet the next day.

Max decides to track down Samsung’s ship. Since she can’t find one docked at the station she sets the Columbia’s sensors to scan over night. She also configures their scanners to detect bioroids.. That morning she discovers two things. First there is a faint signature on the far side of the gas giant they are orbiting and second, the virus that infected the computers is back.

As Max tries to fight the virus, she finds that it is beaming data from the ship to a location in the Hub. Rho goes after that while Steve takes a shuttle to seek out Samsung.

At the location where the information is being sent, Rho finds a device hooked up to Hub’s systems. As she disconnects it, Ju Li attacks from the shadows. Rho easily dodges her attack, inflicting a nasty dent in the bioroid agent’s skull. Ju Li knocks her momentarily off balance but Rho recovers and defeats her. Her scanner is bloody but Ju Li won’t be threatening anyone anymore.

As Rho drags the corpse back to ship, Steve finds Samsung’s ship. The massive vessel also detect him so he hightails it. The Colombia may be able to easily handle it but the scout ship is very much outmatched.

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