Serenity PP 005
The group faces the armed men on horses, when suddenly, the Marksman says in a low voice, “Someone’s up there with a sniper rifle.” The group decides rather than to risk each other, they will surrender. They’re taken as prisoners; although they are certainly kept in gilded cages and treated as honored guests, they know that there will be a duel forced between Shortbread and Taylor in the morning.
The next morning, the two face off across an empty field. Taylor’s goons stand alertly by with guns drawn to prevent any anticipated action by Shortbread. Suddenly a shot rings out and everyone stares as Taylor looks down at his own chest in utter shock. Everyone sees a red circle form on his crisp white shirt. But Shortbread’s gun never left its hoslter! In the silence, a man steps up, holding a rifle.
Turns out that it is the dead chef’s brother there for vengeance. Well, that dead chef’s brother and a ton of his kin, all armed to the teeth. It also turns out that a girl that Shortbread was sweet on way back when is kin of the dead chef, too, so he decides to stay and cook for that wealthy family full-time and take his chance on love.
David and Margie decide to stay for a while, too.
And so the crew of the Clementine is now the Professor, Travis, Mirela, JB, and the Marksman, with two passengers (Ariel & Robbie the Reaver).
The crew decides to head off into the black, to a very, very remote asteroid field where the Prof’s old friend Mulligan mines ore, and pass some time to regroup. Mulligan’s Rock is in an asteroid field around a planet called Shadow. Shadow is no longer inhabited, as it was bombed into oblivion during the war and rendered completely inhospitable to life.
They spend three weeks in the black.
The Prof sets up a camera and tries to catch the ghost on film. He sees her dancing and does actually catch her on video. He looks for holograph projectors, without luck, so he checks all the computer things but still finds nothing to indicate that the girl is a projection or something produced by the ship’s computers. He spends a LOT of his extra time researching ghosts on the Cortex.
He also tries to talk to her and find out how she “feels.”
One evening, while the group is at the dinner table eating, she shows up. The Prof asks her how she is feeling and she replies “Much better.” He asks her (since the group are “passengers” on her dad’s ship) how old she is and when is her birthday. Mirela tries to find out what Clementine’s dad does, but Clementine clearly lies about it and says that he is a prospector (Mirela can’t ever actually sense Clementine. She gets a complete blank, so she has to rely on all the normal cues that everyone else gets). Then the Prof brings up the war and what each of us was doing on Alliance Victory Day. The Prof pulls out his little computer and shows her a documentary on the War…. She gets kind of flickery and when she refocuses, it’s like she completely wiped the conversation about the War out of her memory. Conversation turns to chit-chat and she disappears.
Then, later, Clementine meets up with Travis and they chat. Turns out that she thinks she’s currently on Londinium and at the end of the conversation “the bell rings” and she “has to get back to class.” Travis reports his encounter to the Prof.
The group arrives at Mulligan’s Rock. Living there are Jack Mulligan, his wife Jennifer (who was a geologist for some big company sent out there to research the value of the claim and decided to stay), their children Mitch (8), Renee (6) and Dan (4); Mulligan’s nephew Chris and Chris’s wife Beth (Mirela can tell that Beth is pregnant).
The Prof fills Mulligan in on an overview of our situation (the truth).
Weeks pass, and the crew gets comfortable and friendly with the residents of Mulligan’s Rock.
One day, during lunch, they notice that only Mitch shows up, but not much is remarked, as the kids like to play, etc. However, after lunch, Dan comes running up (Mirela can sense the pure fear in waves from him).
“The monsterman got Ariel!!”
The crew dashes for the ship and runs full tilt to the shuttle. Robbie is not in his cage. It has been battered open, and there’s blood…
The Prof runs to the com and calls ship-wide, “Ariel, if you can hear me, call out!”
Mirela sits down and starts dealing out tarot cards slowly. The Prof looks at her in amazed exasperation and bolts from the shuttle with Travis on his heels as they begin searching the ship. As Mirela stares blindly at the tarot spread before her, she reaches out mentally to try to find Ariel. She senses that Ariel is not on the ship…. But there is also a strange presence around…. But not Robbie?
She gets on the com and says “Ariel is not on the ship!” And she heads out quickly. However, the hallway connecting the Clementine to the dock is completely covered in blood! The ceiling, the walls and the floors are flowing with red. Mirela freezes and immediately, desperately reaches out, looking for both a threat and for life, but senses nothing….
The Prof freezes beside her and swears in Chinese. Travis doesn’t notice and keeps on going.
The Prof starts to out to check on the family; Travis, too, when they hear a bone shaking shriek. Clementine runs by, totally covered in blood. “It’s Reavers!” As she disappears through the ship’s wall, the blood in the hallway disappears, too….
Mirela walks out and sees the Prof, who tells her to go to the family. She pauses, though, because someone on the ship is watching them. She turns back to face it. “Someone is still on the ship,” she mutters, and heads back to the ship, drawing her gun.
“You be careful,” calls the Prof to her retreating back.
She goes to the cargo bay, keeping her back to the wall and the exit clear, when the lights go out. The presence is down there, and she knows he is hunting her. After several extremely tense minutes (he gets very close), she hears a rustling at the other end….
“Daddy, are you out there?” Clementine!
The presence slides off in that direction, and Mirela makes her escape. She heads back to the house and as she pulls open the door to the kitchen, she startles Chris and the Prof. The Prof is going to stay with Beth (Chris’s wife) and protect her and Mitch and Dan. Everyone else is out looking for Ariel and Renee. Mirela and Chris head out together to help with the search. Just before they leave, the Prof gives Mirela a syringe full of sedative to knock Robbie out if possible.
Then the lights on the asteroid go out!
Luckily, shortly after, the emergency lights turn on and the asteroid is illuminated by dancing shadows and crimson light. Chris and Mirela head out to look for everyone. They choose a mine shaft and head down it when Mirela hears a deep TWANG! just in time to see a sledge hammer land with a crushing thud directly into Chris’s chest, sending them both tumbling to the ground.
Chris is gravely injujed, semi-conscious and not responsive. Clearly in shock. Mirela makes a snap decision, and giving up her position (she knows that there is someone out there, someone besides Robbie), she breaks into a dead run for the garage/hangar for a dollie with which to transport Chris to the Prof for medical help.
Once in the garage, she moves as silently as possible until she finds a dollie. She can sense someone is in the hangar with her, but she knows that she needs to get back to Chris. Just as she reaches out to grab the dollie and run, someone else grabs her! Immediately, she instinctively struggles wildly, when she finally senses that it’s Robbie. She forces herself to relax, but she can also sense that he is MAD. He has her in a tight hold, arms wrapped around her and a hand covering her mouth… And nose. She starts to struggle again when she realizes that he isn’t relaxing his hold on her. She suddenly remembers the syringe that the Prof gave her. She fumbles for the syringe and just as the manages to sink the needle into Robbie and push the plunger, she fades into unconsciousness.
The Prof and Travis find each other (Travis found Renee and Jen found Travis and they all head back to the kitchen). While there, the Prof sees someone in the hangar and he and Travis go investigate. After a brief scuffle in which Travis gets stabbed in the shoulder, they capture her. She calls herself Mary, and she’s there with a crew of people. It turns out that there are actually a LOT of them on the asteroid, and they’re claim jumpers – an old acquaintance/partner of Mulligan is their leader.
Travis takes Mary’s radio and talks to the badguys, telling them to leave the kids alone and that if they run into Robbie to knock him out, but that if he’s eating someone, they need to kill him. He manages to thoroughly confuse the badguys (heh).
Mirela slowly regains consciousness. She has a throbbing headache. But Ariel is there, afraid, but holding it together. Mirela slowly sits up, her hand holding her painful head, when Robbie appears in the doorway. They’re in a supply closet somewhere. Robbie turns and faces out, and Mirela senses a wave of powerful fear from him, followed immediately by a wave of furious anger. He turns, and Mirela notices that Robbie at some point tried to sew his eye lids shut, but (of course) it didn’t work. Blood is drying on his cheeks where it ran down his face.
He picks up a sharp pice of metal and twine and starts wrapping the metal. Mirela hides Ariel in a metal barrel at the back of the closet, and then focuses on Robbie. As he starts moving towards Mirela, she senses that Robbie wants to “help” her…. by sewing her eye lids shut, so Mirela hides, too, and covers her eyes with her hands. Robbie moves up to her and tugs at her hands, but she holds them to her eyes tightly. He screams, and she can feel him standing over her. Then he slips off.
Elsewhere, the Prof, with Mary, Beth and the children, heads back to the Clementine. Travis and Jen head out to find everyone else.
In the cargo bay of the Clementine, a badguy grabs Beth and holds a knife to her throat.
“Do you intend to harm a pregnant woman?” demands the Prof.
“Bloody hell,” mutters Mary.
The badguy looks over at Mary. “You gonna help me here?”
“Hell no,” retorts Mary. “She’s pregnant, you bastard!”
After some threats on both sides, the Prof bluffs his way to making the badguy release Beth. The badguy flees the scene as the Prof leads the women and children to safety within the Clementine. For some unknown reason, Mary does not make her escape, but follows the Prof docilely.
Travis and Jen encounter MORE badguys, and they have Mulligan hostage. Travis charges them and the fight ensues.
Mirela hears all the booms and echoes of combat and decides to make a break for it. She gets Ariel and they move as quietly and quickly as possible towards the Clementine.
Standing in the shadows in the hangar, Mirela looks across the wide, lit expanse at the Clementine. She waits, not wanting to break her cover. After a moment, behind her she hears the quiet click of a hammar being pulled back. Heart in her stomach, she turns slowly and sees the predator from before.
“You’re my ticket out of here,” he says quietly. “You come with me, and I’ll let you live. You make a fuss and I’ll kill you, then the kid.” Mirela knows he is lying. He will kill her as soon as she has no value to him.
As she desperately tries to think of something, she senses someone behind the badguy, and knows that it’s Robbie. “Cover your eyes, sweetie,” she whispers to Ariel as she places her palms over her own eyes. She hears a shriek and some slurpy, cutting noises. Then some gurgles and then the noise of a body being dragged away. When she finally uncovers her eyes, the badguy and Robbie are gone.
She runs for the ship and joins up with the Prof who is on the radio with Travis. Travis found Chris, who is conscious! They rescue Chris and take him to the med bay on the Clementine. He is stabilized but will need Alliance treatment.
The group plans on how to trap Robbie. They will lure him to the hangar with food and music. Drugged food.
After an hour or so, Robbie takes the bait and shows up in the hangar. He looks around, and sees the Prof sitting by the table with the food. The Prof talks to him quietly and matter-of-factly. After a tense moment, Robbie looks around, then covers his eyes. Mirela knows he is looking for her, so she steps up, and Ariel, too. When he sees both of them he calms down and eats. After he is finished he goes up to the Prof and SCREAMS in his face, then collapses to his knees and buries his head in the Prof’s stomach and sobs.
Mirela walks up and touches Robbie, intending to comfort him. Her vision flashes and suddenly she is Robbie, desperate. He is pushing a woman and a small girl into a closet, and tells them to hide and cover their eyes. As they close the door, he turns, just in time to draw his gun and face the Reavers who have broken down his door….
The Marksman has captured the badguys’ ship, which the group sells to the Mulligans for a good load of ore.
The group says their goodbyes to the Mulligans and plans to go to Londinium to gather more information on their ghost.
It will be four weeks in the black (with a pitstop for fuel) to get to Londinium.
While in transit, JB secures Robbie’s new room, as the group has put in in one of the drop-down crew rooms. JB seals off all the vents, etc. He also plans on booby trapping the ship should it be intruded upon again – like life support, the grav system, etc. The traps are non-lethal but extremely unpleasant.
The Prof gets a long-distance wave from Leng with a possible job. The group decides not to respond since the group is “on the lam” and already has a cargo anyway. The Prof decides he will respond later.
(Travis has not yet disclosed this information to the crew) One night Travis is walking down a hallway and encounters Clementine. She thinks he’s some guy named Wendell, who was walking her through the park. She was going to give him a “goodbye” kiss because his dad was getting transferred away, but Travis tells her no, he doesn’t think he’s leaving. He stalls and wishes someone else was around. She tells him she will just give him a celebration kiss then and uses the “a gentleman wouldn’t disappoint a lady” line, and so he kisses her. Heh.(Resume)
The group gets a recorded wave from Mr Universe. He’s been keeping tabs on the group from time to time and can tell the ship is going to the core. He “guesses” the group is going to Londinium and recommends go to Ariel and talk to Mr Tyson for legitimate cover to get there. Also, Mr Gray is still looking for the ship. Plus “another group” is looking for us (the group or ship?) and to NOT do any business or interaction with Blue Sun Corp. Depending on what the group learns on Londinium and what is shared with him will determine future interactions with Mr Universe.
JB says the group needs to go to some government office and get the ore “assayed” and get a bill of lading or something and rattles off all kinds of bureaucratic paperwork terms. Plus he says some techno-stuff about how Mr Universe could be tracking the ship.
The group decides to go to Ariel to get the ore assayed and talk to Tyson. Maybe sell the ore to Tyson or someone else, or take it to Londinium, playing that one by ear. JB prices the ore on the cortex.
Each of the crew continues teaching Ariel the tricks of the trade (pretty much all of them make it a game and as fun as possible for both her and them).
The Prof and Mirela visit Robbie daily. He’s not as aggressive as he used to be. Mirela feels a lot of loss, grief and confusion, mixed in with some anger and agitation but no where near as much as there used to be. He also even acknowledges Mirela and the Prof’s presence, although he still doesn’t speak. He has shown significant improvement.
JB gets a recorded wave from Blue Sun Prize Division titled “You Are A Winner!” saying he won a lifetime supply of Fruity Odie Bars with a claim number redeemable at any Blue Sun Outlet… Basically a never-ending coupon. He decides NOT to use it but he does keep it.
The ship lands at Ariel. Whee, core worlds! JB knows a LOT about core world bureaucracies, so he handles the sale of the ore.
The Prof, Travis, Mirela and Ariel go for a stroll. They almost stop at a cafe but after seeing the prices, decide to go to a park. After some very relaxing time spent in the park, the group leaves. Ariel comes home with a hoverball some kid gave her.
Mirela brings up the fact that they should do a con, but is quickly disabused of the idea, as the Prof informs her that all entertainers need a license and with out the license could be sent to jail. Uh, no thanks.
JB gets the ore assayed and then they give Tyson a wave. Barret Tyson, who works for McMillan Shipping, a transportation company. Some of their ships are down for routine maintenance so they have cargo for us to take to Londinium. Like light bulbs or something equally mundane. A meeting is set up at his office and JB will sell the ore.
The ore is sold and the crew gets certified cred sticks in payment (basically as good as hard cash).
At Tyson’s office, the group visits with him and negotiates. Mirela also gently pries for information, like how does Tyson know “Mr Zahn” (aka Mr Universe). Apparently Mr Zahn organizes independent contractors and recommends them to Tyson from time to time. Tyson is definitely legit.
Ariel composes sheet music in the office while Mirela and the Prof negotiate and set up terms.
Also, on the way back to the ship, the Prof gets Robbie a kitten.
The group gets the cargo, sells the ore, has a BIG, nice dinner and then heads off to Londinium.
Also, it turns out that Ariel conned the hoverball from some booy at the park – she asked the kids if they had any money for her to buy a ball for her sick brother, and one of the boys felt so sorry for her that he gave her his own ball.
That’s our girl!
On the way to Londinium, in the black….
The ship shudders with an impact, and then an explosion! Eep! Everyone runs to the bridge, except JB who runs for a space suit. Looking at the ship from the observatory, they see that some object struck the left propulsor and busted it up. So JB space walks to check the damage out. When he returns inside, he says that he’ll need a day or two to fix it. If the ship wavers from its course or tries to break atmo, it’ll ‘splode. So the group decides that they’ll just take it easy for a day or two, going in a nifty straight line.
JB spends two days fixing it – the first day he fixes all the emergency stuff, and the second day he fixes it pretty well (he isn’t completely satisfied, as he says there’s some kind of shudder. No one else can hear it, though…)
After a couple of days in the black, Clem shows up in the infirmary with the Prof. “How long have I got left?” she asks, voice soft and melancholy. She seems to be assuming that he’s her father.
The Prof calmly says, “Well, sweetheart, you’ve been dead a while.” He is fiddling with the medical equipment, not looking at the ghost.
The statement doesn’t quite register with her as she walks into the infirmary. “I’ve been fighting really hard,” she says quietly, “but I’m really tired.”
“You just hang on for a little while longer,” he replies, “because we’re going home.” She gives a small sigh and lays down on the examination table and closes her eyes.
The Prof goes to the observatory and has a few stiff drinks. He stares off into the black, the tip of his cigar glows in the darkness.
Some time later, JB is getting ready for bed. Clem shows up and looks at him, an irritated look in her eyes. “Could you move your stuff? This is my room.” JB stares at her, completely disconcerted, completely forgetting his half-removed work boot. She arches an eyebrow. “Well, this is my art room. You do know there are other rooms that don’t have people in them?” Her hand gestures distractedly towards the other hall as he still simply stares, at a total loss for words. A grimace crosses her face. “Well, maybe we can talk again,” she says.
Finally JB shakes himself from his stupor. “Well, we could, but that would…. uh…. be really uncomfortable.”
She leaves through the door, and JB can hear her mutter, “What a strange man…”
He promptly begins packing his stuff and moves all his belongings to the engine room.
Before getting to Londinium, the group tests the propulsors. JB declares it fit enough to go through the atmo, but it will need tweaking when the ship lands.
As they approach Londinium, they see an Alliance space station orbiting the planet. The Alliance cruiser hails the ship to ensure it’s legit, and the Clementine docks with the space station for pre-planet protocol. JB handles all the paperwork and interactions (thank goodness – he seems to know a lot about their red tape). The rest of the crew wanders about the space station, even though there’s not much to see, it’s nice to stretch their legs. The registration or whatever goes off without a hitch.
On the way to the planet surface, the crew discusses plans for finding Sarah. They don’t have anywhere near enough information – all they have is a first name and the fact that the girl was Clem’s friend in school. There is no information to be found on Clementine Calloway OR Phineas Calloway.
Mirela brings up the fact that Phineas is probably not his real name, based on the original wave they received from Mr Universe upon powering up the ship (”....er…. Phineas”). Someone suggests that they ask Mr Universe, so Mirela suggests they send a wave to “Mr Zahn” saying that the shipment went through to Londinium with no problem, but they have a question for him. That way if the wave is intercepted, nothing important is revealed.
She also suddenly remembers that she saw Clem painting a city scape, so once they’re on the planet and in an cortex cafe, she’ll search images of the city that could be similar to the one she saw Clem painting. The Prof looks through the medical records on the ship, thinking to find her by her DNA.
At the cortex cafe, the Prof sends a wave to an old friend and tells him that his lover (aka Clem) died recently and left him with a young daughter. However, she died before she could share her medical history, which the Prof desperately needs so that he will know what possibilities of illness may affect their daughter. He and his lover never discussed it (if the Prof is required to produce a daughter, he’ll use Ariel). The old friend agrees and the Prof researches Clem’s DNA. He finds the DNA match, from Jorgenson Hospital, but all personal information has been removed. Subject, female, aged 14. Clearly the file has been tampered with.
Mirela finds an image with the landmark she saw – a pyramid in a city scape called the Aurelia Arboretum.
So, the group has a city and her age. New plan is to go through all the school year books in her age group in that district and lok for her picture. Mirela finally finds her in the back of one album in an Art Club picture, but her name has been removed from the roster. However, they now have a school – Richard Willheidt III Academy, and Clem’s friend Sarah is in the picture. Sarah Alexandretta. So Mirela picks the name of one of the darker school girls from the picture and starts calling all the Alexandrettas in the district, pretending to be that girl looking for an old school friend. Finally she runs into Sarah’s mother and gets Sarah’s married name and address (Sarah Chun).
The Prof and Mirela decide to tell Sarah pretty much the truth, leaving out the “ghost” part – they recovered the ship and were intrigued by Clem’s story and want to know if Sarah can tell them anything more about Clem. Clem had a few pictures of Sarah, which is how the group knew to look for Sarah (Mirela and the Prof printed out two pictures that had both Sarah and Clem in them, got them artificially “aged” and bought an old frame for them).
Sarah lets the group in, eager to find out what happened to her old school friend. Pretty much first off, the group learns that their actual names were Jonathan Cambridge and his daughter Natalie. Sarah shares all kinds of memories,they went to school together and both of them loved art. Eventually Mirela steers the conversation towards the father (Natalie’s mother was named Audrey and died of leukemia, too). There was a huge scandal – Clem’s father was a researcher and was wanted for treason. He and his daughter fled Londinium, and Sarah never heard from them again.
The Prof invites Sarah to come to the ship to see where Clem spent her last days, and also to collect some of Clem’s personal effects.
They leave and stop at a cortex cafe on the way back to the ship to do a search on Jonathan Cambridge. The only information that pops up is a wanted poster from eleven years ago, although it is still an open file. Any information is to be forwarded to Josiah Gray. JB tells the group that Gray’s contact information is definitely military. Mirela reminds everyone that it’s Gray that is after the Clementine….
On the ship later, Sarah sends a wave. She says she’ll come that afternoon. Mirela goes to pick up some fresh tea. Sarah shows up and the Prof gives her a tour. She shows some sadness at the medical bay. Then, in Clem’s art room, Clementine shows up. Sarah sees Clem and faints, and Clem disappears. When she comes to, she thinks she’s being scammed, but between the Prof and Mirela they convince Sarah that it’s for real.
The Prof gets an idea, and they all go to the medical bay. The Prof calls for her, and Clem shows up, and assumes that the Prof is her father. Sarah and Clem talk, and share some girl secrets (like who was Clem’s big crush).
Finally, Mirela says softly, “On a more serious subject, Natalie, you know you’re sick.”
“Yeah, I know,” comes the quiet reply.
Mirela studies the ghost, eyes somber. “I have to ask. Before you pass, if you could do any one thing, what would it be?”
Clem is quiet for a moment, staring at the floor. Then she looks up at the Prof. “I’d like to go home.”
The Prof’s voice is choked up, “Honey, we are home. That’s how we got Sarah to the ship.”
Clem’s eyes widen in shock. “Dad, how could you risk it“
“Because it was best for you, sweetie,” he replied, voice still a little rough.
“Thank you, Daddy!”
The group follows her as she wanders through the ship and to the loading ramp, which is wide open. “We’re really here!” She turns and looks at the Prof. “Can I get off the ship?”
“Of course, sweetie.”
She smiles, her face full of joy, and turns to face the city. As she steps off the ship, she disappears. The group shares a quiet moment, with some sniffling, then they thank Sarah. Time to get back to space.
A few days later, in the black, Travis is down in the cargo bay preparing for his daily work out. He looks over at the jump rope and sighs sadly. Then he hears a eerily familiar voice….
“Bet I can beat you!”