Six days in the slip and two days of sub-light survey confirmed the sensor finding the company had bought from its contact in the Scout Service: there was something out here, something man-made, and very large. Moving, too, generally in the direction of Deneb.
Once the Mudslide was within beam sensor range, Guy determined that the thing was about .8 miles in length, was moving at a decent clip, although not under power, and displayed a number of temperature readings – all of them inconsistent with what would be expected from a ship that had been adrift and dead for years.
Getting within good visual range, they identified it as one of a number of types of massive cargo/passenger liners common over 150 years ago, during the height of the jump drive era. The bridge area registered temperatures of around freezing; engineering was colder by 30-40 degrees, and more in some places; amidships was over 100 degrees below zero in some places; and a decent amount of the bow area was at or just above freezing. These were definitely not temperatures one would expect from a dead hulk. No significant energy readings were detected; however, when Eddie directly hailed the ship – as of yet unidentified – there was a ragged spike in the electrical field around the bridge, which was mostly aft and above the engineering section.
The vessel was missing 4 of its large, detachable cargo/materials containers, and closer inspection during fly-bys found no evidence of damage – either the things hadn’t been loaded for the voyage in the first place, which was unlikely, or they’d been jettisoned during flight at some point. Odd.
The ship itself showed hull abrasion and minor damage on par with what one would expect from over a century adrift – with no power to the navigational shields or turrets, the thing had been scrubbed by dust and other small particles, leaving scratches and dents across the outside surface and all visible windows grey and opaque. In those terms, the ship was a pretty standard wreck.
Suzanne and Eddie landed the ship on the upper tail, above the main engines, and anchored the Mudlside to the hulk with magnetic plates, as usual. Eddie, Freddie, Guy, and Sidd gained access to the shop by jury-rigging an airlock next to the command shuttle bay doors – a safe assumption that’s what they were, at least, given their location. The airlock, empty of atmosphere, was dark, and aside from a small amount of ice on the window leading into the ship, there was nothing – nothing aside from some dents and scratches inside the airlock chamber itself. Evidence of a struggle? Or damage of some sort? Again, another oddity.
Entering the ship wasn’t too much trouble, since they had adapters and the tools they’d need to interface with the power system and terminals. The first chamber was as expected: an e-suit locker and suit room, with 20 lockers, one dented, and next to a cracked plastic bench, and the rest either full or empty, the suits old…very old…and probably not serviceable. A side room had more e-suits in storage containers – those were maybe in better shape, but still not to be trusted unless in a pinch.
The exit led into a hall, which split left and right – dead-ending to the right in a pressure door, with an internal door in the opposite wall to the left, and with the left hall turning right after about 15 feet. Some evidence of atmosphere was found: dust particles floated into the locker room once the door was opened, and using an oxygen and pressure sensor Guy was able to confirm that although there was air, it was very low in oxygen, dangerously high in CO2, very cold, and bone-dry.
The pressure door opened into a shuttle bay, in which there was a small launch – likely the captain’s – and room for another. As Eddie and Guy examined the chamber and small craft, Freddie and Sidd stood near the pressure door, watching and chatting – they’d been in similar situations, and sometimes it made sense to just shoot the breeze while the techies did their thing.
Shooting the apparently dead, however, was what both men were doing a moment later, as Freddie got off only a choked and sudden scream as three figures rushed them from the hall, two wielding pipes, and all in what looked like regular duty uniforms, tattered and in some places torn and worn, with jaws wide open, offering muted moans barely audible through the salvage crew’s helmets.
A short battle ensued, with Freddie emptying his pistol into one of the creatures while Sidd riddled one in the torso and then dropped it with a head shot. Guy reacted with his portable power saw and came to Freddie’s aid, while Eddie fired rounds at the creatures from the steps of the launch. Sidd’s suit was breached, although thanks to the minimal atmosphere he didn’t suffer a rapid depressurization. Moments later all three figures were down, their heads splayed open by gunfire, and their torsos shot full of bullets.
The salvage crew’s breathing didn’t slow, what with so much adrenaline pumping through each of them. Looking at one another in shock, they stood ready as Freddie stooped to examine the bodies, which according to his medical knowledge were definitely dead – dry, frost-bitten, and showing no signs of life for a long time…and yet they’d attacked.
“Take them back to the ship to examine them.” ordered Eddie.
Sidd’s face screwed up in a scowl, visible even though the subsiding condensation inside his helmet bubble.
“No we’re not!” blurted Sidd and Guy simultaneously.
“I’m the captain and I’ll leave your asses here if you don’t!” countered Eddie.
“Not with a bullet in your brain pan, you won’t!” Sidd leveled his auto rifle on Eddie.
Before any of the men could continue, all their comm units beeped, signalling an ‘all call’ from the ship. Typically only one of an away team would be in contact with the ship, and so such a call could mean trouble. Suzanne’s voice, tight with anxiety, began.
“We’ve got trouble out here – the magnetic anchors are going haywire! I can’t keep the ship moored!”