To Boldly Go

New Earth

The trip to New Earth goes smoothly. The newly repaired FSV Columbia makes the jump from Midnight with no problems. They find themselves on the edge of a moderately settled system, rich in asteroid belts and with a crown jewel, a small blue world.

As they make their approach, they get increasing communications from New Earth. The Hite Corporation and ICP are eager to meet them. Max connects to their local internet once within orbit and hacks into Alpha City’s grid, gaining access to their cameras and databases. They learn about the planets massive bioroid operations as well its strange language. Rho studies up on it.

Babbage and Twitter decline to visit the planet. Babbage asks for a sample of the native life and the Doctor is disinclined to go with Steve and Echo. The team plus Echo and some ensigns descend to the planet.

At the starport they are greeted by [[:ceo-donald-hite | CEO Donald Hite] and a delegation from ICP. They usher them inside and present their desire of removing Samsung as the dominant player in New earth’s market. Language difficulties make the conversation difficult from both sides but their point is made. Rho also realizes that these delegates are practiced liars.

The delegation breaks up with a planned tour later in the day. Max rigs up a bioroid identifer for everyone. Rho uses the time to visit a local bar and learns the mood of the citizenry. While watching a news program about recent civil disobedience at a bioroid factory, someone bumps into her. It turns out to be a Helot series in a rain slick. He asks her to follow him outside.

Outside the bioroid informs her about the a resistance movement that wants to meet with the Federation. She is given an address to be at in 2 nights. Max overhears this over the comm, overriding the fugitive’s primitive jamming equipment.

In his searches Max hears about a local market at the starport. Steve and Echo join Max in investigating it. Much to Steve’s distaste they find lots of contraband being sold by Space Gypsies and other riffraff. Then they find a merchant demonstrating a weapon with no visible beam: a gravity gun.

Recognizing technology beyond Federation’s means and against every regulation, Max convinces Steve to buy it, to keep it out of the hands of others. They learn the weapon was sold to the Gypsy at Pepsi Can Station on the edge of system. Taking it back to their rooms, Max disassembles it and learns that it was built by the Federation. Steve is shocked.

The corporate delegation takes the team on a tour of Alpha City, focusing on the factories. They see bioroids being assembled and their R&D facilities. It is clear they are trying to impress them. Steve is not swayed and probes them about what is behind the bioroid freedom movement. Hite claims it was the result of a flaw in Samsung’s conditioning.

After the tour, the team returns to the columbia to discuss what they have learned. They decide to reveal the gravity weapon to Captain G. W. Teregan. She is unsurprised and when pressed ushers Steve and Max into a private chamber. She reveals that she has orders from Federation to use the secret weapons on level 27 against the Samsung Corporation if necessary. The weapons are black hole bombs, tools of mass destruction that rendered Mars uninhabitable. Max is intrigued but Steve and the Captain both hate the idea. Teregan agrees to keep them apprised of any further communications.

Afterwards Steve suggests using a disabled weapon as a tool against Samsung but Max shoots that plan down. For now they will look at using social manipulation against him.

Once they return to the planet, Steve takes a hard line with the delegation and forces them to accept his terms: the Federation will help them, but they will play by its rules. The black market will be shut down. Intellectual property will be exchanged. I this deal ceases to be advantageous, the Federation will abandon them.

Max meanwhile hacks Samsung’s systems. Security is tight but he breaks into their skill database and also sets up a tracker on the CEO himself. Max begins to plan how to sabotage the bioroids being built now. Each day tens of thousands are being made…

Rho attends the Bioroid Liberation Movement meeting along with Echo. There she meets the nonviolent but overly trusting Sand and his violent revolutionary of a rival, Sea. Rho questions Sea’s plans, pointing out the flaws in a violent approach. She also learns about the agonizingly slow leadership of the group. She leaves Echo with them, promising to discuss helping the movement with their influence with the others.

On the way back she runs into the Primate Liberation Army or “Space Monkeys” as she calls them. Rho flees and loses them at the starport. she then warns the others.

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Knives at Midnight, Part II

Dr. Twitter Morgan and Max Petrobras knock on the door to Steve Walmart‘s room. After a moment he opens it up. Echo 417 is standing beside him, a rumpled bed behind them. Max explains that they need Steve’s help to get Zeus to let them use Lares 12 in a mind emulation experiment. Meanwhile the two women have a frigid staring contest. Twitter’s voice fills with irritation.

Steve asks Echo to excuse them. She goes to the bathroom to freshen up. As the two finish briefing Steve (while leaving out the part where the device will destroy the subject’s brain), Rho shows up. They fill her in and discuss the situation. There is the matter of paying for property, both Lares and Echo, who Steve has agreed to help get free. Twitter worries that Lares may be close to death already. Rho and Steve seek out Zeus while Max and Twitter to check on Lares. Echo goes back to her work.

Max uses the ship’s systems to find Lares. he directs Twitter to him while he investigates a suspicious shipment that occurred a few hours ago. It seems two new Lares models boarded along with some wine. Filing this away he heads to Twitter’s chambers to set up the device.

Rho and Steve find Zeus in his library. The book are for show but Zeus is well read. Steve leads the bargaining. Zeus seems willing to sell his slaves, especially Lares as he is dying. He wants his prized koi back as well as the earth apple. Steve counters with the offer of the apple and a reproduction of a Van Gogh. The debate takes some time as Steve impress the paintings value on the Mythweaver.

Twitter burst in to say that Lares is dying. Zeus, absorbed in the debate, gives them Lares and uses Steve’s feelings for Echo against him. In the end however Steve convinces him of the deal.

The team assembles in Twitter’s chambers to help her upload Lares. The bioroid is near death. With no time to spare, she injects the nanites and processes his mind while Rho helps. Max oversees the digital reconstruction. Lares regains consciousness in the computer as his body dies. Steve calms the new mind as he adjusts to his new condition. Distracted by images from the ship’s bow and with the microphone off, Steve makes the security protocols for this new entity clear.

The team retires for the night. As Rho opens to the door to her room, she hears a noise within. She strikes out knocking a two headed dog aside. Pulling her combat knife, she stabs the raging beast. It lashes out with foaming jaws but she lops off one head. As it lies dying, servants and the rest of the team arrive. The servants identify it as the master’s favorite hound. Max detects evidence that it was drugged. she shows it to Zeus as he arrives. Checking the security footage, they find that two Lares models placed and drugged his pet. Zeus orders a search for them.

The rest of the night passes uneventfully. Max attemtps to trace the Lares models path back but loses them at Olympus station. Rho calls the Columbia to warn Captain G. W. Teregan. She learns that the ship has received visitors from the Federation.

At breakfast, the team and Zeus are joined by Xanthus and Myra. There has been no progress on finding the culprits. Xanthus suggests eliminating all of the Lares models just in case. The diners all begin to feel ill as the poison in their food takes effect. Suddenly two Lares models enter the room with knives.

Max and Rho jump to their feet while Steve slides unsteadily to the door. Rho and one assassin spar back and forth while the other chases after Steve. Max tips the balance by throwing a syringe of nanites to Rho. She injects him. He is instantly wracked by pain as the devices tear his brain apart cell by cell.

Twittter meanwhile doses the diners with an antitoxin before heading after Steve.

As Steve flees down the hall, the assassin shots at him. A fortuitous wave keeps it from hitting him but he is still grazed. Steve momentarily loses him when Max kills the lights throughout the ship. He then trips the first assassin while Rho goes to save Steve.

Zeus calls his six legged lynx to him and orders it to kill the assassins, Max warns it not to kill the dying assassin.

Rho, Steve, and the final assassin move in a distant hall seeking each other out in the darkness. Steve sets up an ambush, hiding behind a statue and calling the bioroid to him. Max suddenly directs the lights at the bioroid’s eyes. Even so the assassin manages to stab Steve severely. Steve topples a statue onto him while the lynx savages him. Steve dodges a final knife throw, bruising his skull at the same time. Rho finishes him off.

Twitter patches Steve up and Zeus thanks all involved for their help. Steve returns Zeus’s koi as a symbol of goodwill.

The team returns to the Columbia and learns that the Federation want them to proceed to New Earth to entreaty with Samsung and their competitors, the Hite Corporation and ICP (Interstellar Consumer Products).

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Knives at Midnight

The FSV Columbia pulls into Olympus Station, a massive orbital ring floating above the dark skies of Midnight. While Captain G. W. Teregan oversees the repairs, the others are invited to spend time on the planet’s surface on the opulent yacht of Zeus.

Dr. Albert Tzen-Babbage elects to stay on board, safely away from the viruses and alien germs. Rochelle “Rho” Total talks to the station’s inhabitants and learns a little bit about their host. Steve Walmart takes a more direct approach and has a long conversation with the man. He learns that the well off academic is honest and eager to put the best face forward fro his people.

As they prepare to leave, Dr. Twitter Morgan quickly retrieves her remaining things from storage, eager to leave the threat of the vacuum of space. Max Petrobras spends some time familiarizing himself with the computer systems of the Mythweavers. Steve picks out the most attractive ensigns to serve as the team’s entourage.

The team’s shuttle arrives at the massive ship without incident. Zeus is there to welcome them on board, accompanied by an entourage of friends and servants. He shows them around the well appointed public areas, including an internal garden with unique bioengineered animals. Zeus is particularly proud of the human faced koi that he created with fish and primate genes. He also shows them an elaborate dining hall and a mobile dock for the skiffs that his friends plan on racing later in the day.

Their host asks about the Federation and the group’s past exploits. Steve describes where he grew up, an asteroid owned by the Walmart corporation. He also indulges Zeus’s curiosity about Earth telling him about its current state and the wonderful apple pie.

Eventually Zeus shows them to their rooms so they can freshen up before meal time. Twitter begins to unpack her gear but Steve, realizing that she is still suffering from her near death experience, takes some time to talk to her. He helps her talk out her fears and puts her on the road to recovery.

Max meanwhile goes to examine the skiffs. He finds the best of the unclaimed vessels, being sure to place a monitoring device just in case. Rho also does some exploring. She talks a bit with the sickly looking servant Lares 12 who just reach his 30th year of service that day. She also talks to some of the other skiff racers and learns a bit about them including the bet between Xanthus and Ivanna.

At dinner the team and Zeus’s other guests are served by a vertible army of biorids, including Lares 12.. Max notices a bioroid girl paying particular attention to Steve. He also realizes that these Mythweavers don’t care at all about the help. Rho and Steve work together to intimidate the skiff racers with their own expertise. Steve makes a bet with Zeus, one of his koi against an earth apple. Their host agrees.

Rho attracts zeus’s attention and he asks her about her most dangerous adventure. She relates a run in with Space Monkeys on one of the moons of Saturn.

Steve questions Zeus about the minefield but he does not know why they were active. They were placed their as a deterrent after a war with some rogue AIs a century ago. They should have been disabled long ago. Steve asks about Samsung’s connection. Zeus reveals that his company is a major supplier for all things.

Max entertains the dinner crowd with some tales about Virginia as desert is brought out. As he concludes, Lares 12 collapses. The Mythweavers ignore it, but Twitter checks on him. The other servants eventually carry him away.

After their meal the team joins in the skiff race along with some ensigns. With Rho working the sails and Steve helping Max pilot they force the other teams to travel dangerously close to the rocky islands of the course. As they are forced to slow down, Max leads them to victory.

As the arrive at the finish line, they notice a powerful storm blowing in. The team races back to Zeus’s ship, battling the fierce winds and heavy waves. A lightning bolt strikes the ship creating a minor fire. As Rho puts it out, a heavy water surges over the deck swamping the boat. Even so with Max’s superior skill, the team manages to get to the cruise ship with no one injured.

Zeus congratulates them on their victory as some of the other teams are fished from the sea. Steve and rho slip away while Max soaks in to adulation.

Rho seeks out Lares 12, finding the dying servant in a tiny chamber deep in the ship. Lares has reached his expiration date. He like many of the servants is reluctant to speak out against their masters or be too familiar with their guests but Rho establishes bond with him. Lares accepts his fate but asks to be taken to the 2nd deck to see the view one last time. Rho obliges him. The Mythweavers are surprised at her faux pas and the servants still don’t know how to relate to her. Lares however is happy.

Steve meanwhile find the bioroid eyeing him. She introduces herself as Echo 417. she takes him to the garden where she proceeds to seduce him. They go to his chamber where she reveals that she wants to escape. Unlike the others she refuses to die a slave. Still tells Steve that Zeus is a callous slavemaster. Steve seems willing to help this enchanting woman.

As Max returns to his chambers, he finds Twitter setting up her devices. She asks him for his help. She explains she acquired some mind recording and emulation tools at the Hub. She says the technology came from farther outside the system, possibly New Earth or past New Beijing. The only downside is that the devices destroy the mind they are uploading. Max suggests testing the technique on the dying bioroid. Excited they go to convince Steve to help, only to find him occupied with Echo.

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Bottle Episode

The FSV Columbia reaches the jump point after two weeks at the Hub System. With a Federation frigate stationed for defense, the exploratory vessel makes the jump for Midnight.

The view from the server room shows carnage as several autonomous mines collide with the Columbia and explode immediately upon exiting the wormhole. Crew members are tossed to the floor as the disaster rips open the hull and starts fires throughout the vessel.

Max struggles to her seat as fires rage in the server room. Directing the crew out, she slips into her suit, seals the server room and vents the atmosphere into space.

Rho finds herself swept up with the crew leaving the Rec room as the level 27 bulkhead comes crashing down. Pressure alarms blare while she feels her eardrums popping from the declining air pressure. Heading with the others to a lower level, she find the pressure drop continuing. She nearly collides with Dr. Tzen-Babbage. The addled scientist was fleeing level 22 where a massive breach has vacced Med Bay. Taking command she directs Babbage and the others to get into space suits.

Steve’s head rings as he pulls himself off the cafeteria floor. Ensigns are running here and there around him. Collecting his wits, he directs some of them to open access to Hanger Bay 2, which has been sealed off by the automatic pressure doors. The rest of them he directs to the upper levels to secure the O2 and food generation areas.

As the tremors from the impacts quiet down, the team is able to establish communications with Captain Teregan. she and the command crew are desperately battling a fire on level 28. Reports come in as well of a fire with the second server room.

Steve’s team manages to open access to the depressurized hanger bay. The main doors hang open, blown free by an errant mine. Further decompression has been limited by the pressure doors.

No coms can be raised from either the Med Bay or Engineering.

Rho, now suited up, manages to reach level 22 and seals it off from the upper levels, slowing the atmosphere loss. A huge chunk of one wall of Med Bay has been torn out and there is no sign of Dr. Twitter Morgan. Peering through the gash, Rho sees the damage extends in a thing slice from level 22 up to level 26. She directs people down to the storage area on level 19 to get supplies of sealant gel.

Max meanwhile repressurizes the server room. Rebooting the systems, she is able to partially survey the ship. While the captain fights the spreading fire on the upper levels, the server fire has cut off all information about the lower levels. She remotely locks down the secondary server room and vents it. Unfortunately repressurizing and rebooting the server must be done manually. Max heads for Hanger Bay 3.

The crew meanwhile passes through the repaired server room to get the sealant gel. Returning to Rho, they apply it to the outer breach, focusing on the crack on levels 23 to 26. Rho surveys the damages from outside. She advises the captain to seal that section and vent it. She learns the flames have already spread to the top three levels.

Steve readies a shuttle. Along with a squad led by Ensign Roux, they head out, skimming along the Columbia’s blackened hull. As they do they spot a lone figure in the void flashing out an SOS. Steve flashes lights back to indicate that they saw them and then races for the engines. Some of the mines alter their flight path, drawn by the sudden movement.

At the engine, Steve finds another large hole. He sends the squad in and carefully plots a course to the drifting crew member. With daring and skill he reaches them without triggering the remaining mines. He finds a panicking Twitter, who he pulls on board. After comforting her, he heads back to the Hanger Bay.

Max flies by, taking an engineering team down to Hanger Bay 1, hoping to access the damaged server room. She directs some of the crew to check on Engineering but not to turn the engines on. The rest of them she leads to a fire in the Grow Room.

Captain Teregan finally manages to vent the bridge, giving up the upper level Grow Room for lost. She and the command crew evacuate to the lower levels in space suits. Rho reenters the ship and works on improving crew morale.

As Steve flies back to the ship, he gets a call from Ensign Roux. They found a live mine inside the engine room.

Several level up, Max activates the automatic fire extinguishers as well as the sprinkler systems for the Grow Room, bringing the fire under control. Leaving the mop up to the crew, she races down to Engineering to examine the mine.

The insignia of the Samsung corporation decorates the desk sized device. Four twitchy legs keep it stabilized in the wreckage. Carefully probing it, Max works out the IFF signal to keep it from detonating as she turns it off.

With a signal worked out to keep the mines at bay, the Columbia limps to Midnight.

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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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