Alpha Species Cruiser 24th Of April

[15:06] <Minaplo> [Commander Franco had assembled Inara and Liane in a special chamber on the Valletta. The Dirac Chamber was nothing except a big round alcove with a small dirac beacon built into the roof.-
[15:07] <Minaplo> ["The Captain thinks something's fishy with the alien vessel, and I agree. Their motives, behaviour- something doesn't add up. We think they might be hiding something, so we're going to have a poke around." Said Franco.-
[15:08] <Minaplo> [They were to be encased in full armour for this one- Liane and Franco in Federation power armour, Inara in her full, intimidating Immortal armour. Helmets especially.-
[15:08] <Minaplo> [Idris opened a dirac portal for them- tiny by the standards of the ship, but big enough to accommodate them comfortably. Franco led them over-
[15:11] <Minaplo> [… And they would find themselves in a strange new place. The innards of the alien ship were- well, recognisable. A corridor here, a room there, pillars, computers…-
[15:14] <Minaplo> [But the lighting was odd, tinted toward indigo; the computers (those that worked) were in an unknown language, full of sharp angles and straight, blunt lines.-
[15:15] <Minaplo> [It was also hot- not that they felt it through their armour.-
[15:15] <Minaplo> [There was also no gravity. Handrails and the like adorned the flat, bare walls.-
[15:17] <Minaplo> [Shortly after arriving, Franco turned on his gravity boots, snapping him to the ground. "Alright, here's the deal. These guys showed up and asked to trade with Frontier Gate. Then opened fire once visuals were up. They were followed by a fleet of vessels only a few hours after arriving- if it was a trade mission, why bother with the battlefleet, and if it was a trap, why bother hailing for trade and then opening fire anyway? Why not just wait for the fleet?"-
[15:20] <Minaplo> ["So we're going to look around for anything out of the ordinary. If there's something they intended to trade that we missed, I want to know about it. If there's anything about their situation that seems weird, I want to know about it. And if you find something they've got hidden- I want to know about it."]
[13:46] * Liane gave Franco a nod. "Understood. With that in mind, then, Khalef, I think we should start our investigation from the cargo bay. What about you?"
[13:48] <Inara> "Wouldn't have it any other way. Makes sense for them to be jumpy if they were carrying something suspicious with the rest of their cargo."
[13:50] <Liane> "Alright. I'll take point, then - we shouldn't have any issues, since the organics should all have been cleared out of here, but just in case there's any inorganic surprises or anything… well, y'know."
[13:56] <Inara> "Gotta watch out for those killer cargo security bots, m'friend." Inara rubbed her chin speculatively. "But, yeah, no. It's probably fine."
[13:57] <Minaplo> […-
[13:57] <Minaplo> [You see one cargo bay, you see them all. This one was no exception.-
[13:59] <Minaplo> [Stacks of square magnetised containers reaching toward the roof, which provided illumination from flickering, damaged lights.-
[13:59] <Minaplo> ["All of their cargo is in here." Said Franco. "Like I said, no real sign of trade goods, so let's have a look-see."]
[14:06] <Liane> "Alright, let's see what we've got here," Liane remarked, as she made to get one of the crates open, which may or may not have been a painstaking process. She wasn't all fancy and cybered out like Inara, after all.
[14:08] * Inara also looked, prying the lid off of a couple at floor level and peering through them, regardless of locks or any such obstacles "Hm. Food. But not much is left. Wonder how long these guys have been traveling…"
[14:09] <Liane> "Not to mention that what *is* left is…. eugh." Liane quickly slammed the lid back on a crate. "Okay, that was pretty gross."
[14:11] <Minaplo> ["Apparently they're carnivores." Said Franco. "These crates should be working as refrigerators, but look-" he cracked open a panel on the side of the crate and took out a dull-looking piece of transmatter, which was cracked. "Out of battery."]
[14:13] <Liane> "Strange that they offered to trade rather than, I don't know, sent an SOS or something," Liane replied, as she pried open another crate. "… Looks like their medical supplies were running low, too."
[14:15] <Inara> "Maybe they had nearly reached their destination. Still, this is pretty dismal."
[14:16] <Minaplo> ["According to Shadowfire, these guys are probably fighty bastards." Said Franco. "Sending out an SOS might be seen as a sign of weakness, whilst trade is a bit more face-saving."]
[14:18] <Liane> Another crate was popped. "… Hm, is this more of that transmatter stuff?" Liane asked, holding up a piece of just that.
[14:23] <Minaplo> ["Looks like." Said Franco.-
[14:24] <Minaplo> ["It looks rough, too. I hope they weren't thinking of selling this."]
[14:26] * Liane shrugged, or as close to it as she could in a bulky suit of power armor. "Desperation will do some funny things," she said, as she began to enter some notes on the findings so far into a datapad.
[14:39] * Inara frowned over the state of the medical supplies now, looming over one of the crates Liane had opened. "Who were they fighting, anyway?"
[14:41] <Liane> "… That's a really good question," Liane said. "We know it wasn't *us*, unless the brass are hiding something…"
[14:43] <Minaplo> ["Like a shadow war or something, Meier?" Said Franco, pulling his way toward her.]
[14:53] <Liane> "Yeah. I mean, you never know. But I don't really suspect that," she said, not paying much attention to his movements as she continued with the datapad.
[14:58] <Minaplo> ["I would hope not, Ensign." Said Franco, his tone stern. Floating along, he didn't see his foot catch on a crate's lip.-
[14:59] <Minaplo> [For a moment he was sent through the air, pinwheeling, forgetting to re-activate his boots. He slapped the datapad out of Liane's hand as he went- it sailed through the air, before becoming lodged in a small hole in a nearby wall.-
[14:59] <Minaplo> ["Shit-" He said, spinning past her in a lazily uncontrolled whirl.]
[15:01] <Liane> "… well THAT'S interesting," came Liane's voice, staring at it as she moved in that direction. "Check this out, Khalef."
[15:09] * Inara wiped her smirk away, settling into her best clinical poker face instead as she stamped nearer to the two. "Oh? And what exactly's so interesting…?"
[15:17] * Liane gently tugs the datapad from the spot it had lodged itself. "Phew, it's undamaged. Anyway…" She crouches, and peers at the spot. "… There's a hidden room here."
[15:18] <Minaplo> ["Can you pull the wall off, Khalef?" Asked Franco, righting himself finally.]
[15:21] * Inara obliged, of course. Gripping the edges of the panel was tricky, but once she had it she was able to yank it free with one swift jerk and toss it carelessly aside.
[15:21] <Minaplo> [The panel floated through space, bouncing off walls.-
[15:22] <Minaplo> [Behind was… Another crate.]
[15:27] <Inara> "Exciting! More boxes." Inara pulled this one forward to see better into it and frowned. "Hey. It's a bed."
[15:31] <Minaplo> [And indeed- within it lay layers of silky sheets, a big pillow- and a small pack of food. This one, apparently, unopened and fresh.]
[15:50] <Liane> "This sure doesn't look like a military accommodation. Or even adult-sized."
[16:02] <Inara> "Somehow this makes this whole situation even more sad."
[16:06] <Liane> "Agreed… You think they might have had a stowaway or something? It's odd that this would be in the cargo bay…"
[16:07] <Minaplo> ["A child couldn't have pried open this wall. Well, a human child at least." Said Franco. "They must've had help. Maybe the crew were smuggling them."]
[16:08] * Liane frowned. "We should check out the residential sector. Maybe it'll give us some further insight…"
[16:10] <Inara> "Agreed," said Inara simply. "Let's go."
[16:13] <Minaplo> […-
[16:17] <Minaplo> [The crew quarters were nothing special: these people lived truly like soldiers, in rooms full of double bunk beds with belts and tethers to keep them from floating off. The sheets were very thin, and many had fabric missing or cut away. Furthermore, some beds saw little bloodstains on them.-
[16:19] <Minaplo> [There were a few single-occupant rooms, with a bed, a desk belted to the ground, and wardrobes- plus the odd large, wooden pole, serving no discernible purpose.-
[16:21] <Minaplo> [But finally they found a room unlike the others. This room was large and, they noticed immediately as the weight fell onto their shoulders: artificial gravity. The bed here was twice the size of any other on the ship, and layered in soft, silky blue cloth that looked and felt identical to the bed in the crate. There were other little knick-knacks here, the purpose of which remained a mystery- as far as Inara and Liane were concerned, they could be perfume bottles, or hand grenades.-
[16:24] <Minaplo> [There was a wardrobe here, bearing nothing even resembling a military uniform. Instead, the clothes looked decorative, with bright colours- blues and greens especially. They were also rather small, being perhaps one and a quarter metres from shoulder to hem. There were what looked like robes here, too, or perhaps dresses…]
[16:28] * Liane gawked at the bloodstains, the missing fabric from the sheets… "Did we do this?"
[16:36] <Inara> "Hmph. This certainly takes me back…" said Inara, squinting at one of the beds. "Look, these were caused by sleeping on minor injuries before treating them, so it's nothing to really be alarmed about. Besides, some of them are pretty old looking."
[16:38] * Liane poked through the clothes curiously. "… Well, that was kind of my point. Means they had to be fighting someone else before we came upon them. And I don't think it was our station, either…"
[16:49] <Inara> "Can't prove who they were fighting either way at this point." Inara wandered close enough to the luxury suite to poke her head in past the threshold, searching for places where a young child could have hidden. The scans had showed that no one else was left on the ship, but…
[16:51] <Minaplo> [… She did find an amulet, round, about five cm in width, made of what looked like a mix of silver and transmatter; the markings on it were incomprehensible. It hung from a silver chain.]
[16:55] <Inara> "Over there." She pointed it out to Franco and Liane. "I wonder if that little bobble's important."
[17:01] <Minaplo> [Franco took it and held it up. "Jewelry?"]
[17:04] <Liane> "Looks like it," Liane replied.
[17:05] <Inara> "Let's take it with us. Might be able to use it to ID the person who was staying here."
[17:08] <Liane> "Agreed. It seems out of place for the rest of the stuff here though, doesn't it? I mean, this little thing is probably the most valuable trade good I've seen on this ship so far. It might just be worth enough to buy a couple nice meals. For one person." Obviously, she was speaking in terms of Twiceborn food consumption…
[17:17] <Minaplo> ["According to the Defectors, they start wars over transmatter. Probably not this much, though. I'll keep it on me." Said Franco.]
[17:20] <Inara> "Should we move on?" Inara gave the room a final once-over with just her eyes.
[17:20] <Minaplo> ["I think so."]
[17:35] * Liane nodded. "Yes. Hmm… where to next, though?"
[17:40] <Inara> "If you don't mind, I'd like to investigate the food situation here a bit further. We know that this… guest was receiving proper care and nutrition, unlike the rest of the soldiers on board. Maybe we can find more clues about them from how their meals were prepared."
[17:44] <Liane> "That sounds like a good idea. Things seem safe enough, so… I'll go to the bridge, and see if any of the systems are still online and if I can figure out anything from them?"
[17:47] <Inara> "Seems like a good plan to me."
[17:53] <Minaplo> […-
[17:54] <Minaplo> [As Inara reached the kitchen, the first thing she'd notice- much to her dismay- was the sickly scent of putrid meat.-
[17:55] <Minaplo> [The kitchen, despite this, had been kept clean and tidy. The refrigerators still worked, but the meat had simply been around too long: that said, it was apparent someone had been desperately trying to salvage it, judging by the clinical cuts in the greening mass.]
[18:00] <Inara> "Hmm. Nice try, chef," she muttered, eyeing the meat dubiously. Trying not to breathe in too deeply, she went to work. There was bad meat, but surely there had to be some good stuff still remaining too. Where else would that food in the secret bed have come from?
[18:02] <Minaplo> [It wouldn't take long- kept aside from the rest of the food, in a special box: the high-quality cuts reserved for that special guest, apparently.-
[18:03] <Minaplo> [In the same area, Inara would find… Eating utensils, she assumed? A strange sort of spoon-fingered glove, with patterns on it similar to the shiny brooch she'd found.]
[18:06] <Inara> She pocketed the utensil. Then she sniffed at the fresh meat. Then she sniffed at the air. It was difficult to follow with the stench, but… the scent was still there in spite of everything. All she had to do was follow it. So she did.
[18:07] <Minaplo> […-
[18:07] <Minaplo> [The bridge of the alien vessel seemed strange to Liane. It was empty and large and had a slight, spooky cavernousness to it…-
[18:08] <Minaplo> [Only about half the consoles were working. The rest were dead, or flashing a warning sign, which was accompanied with a small sound similar to two rocks grinding together…]
[18:13] * Liane finds one that is working. "… alright, let's get to work here," she mumbles to herself. It'll take some painstaking work with Violet's translator device, and of course some 'creative access techniques', but she would first go looking for a crew manifest. All Federation ships had these, surely other nations would be the same, right?
[18:15] <Minaplo> [Apparently this assumption is proven correct. She finds a crew manifest, and even a command that connects each name to a bed…-
[18:15] <Minaplo> [But trying to access info on the VIP room brings up an angry ACCESS DENIED message.]
[18:20] <Liane> "Of course," Liane mumbled. With her omniglasses, she quickly scanned the manifest - and the existence of the data behind a security clearance - into a saved record to be sent to the superiors back on the Valletta. Then, noticing the ports all the terminals had, she started to look around for access cards…
[18:21] <Minaplo> [And cards she found- but the bridge crew had been smart. Any cards she found were damaged, chewed up, torn in half.]
[18:34] * Liane stowed away a number of samples. Perhaps she could take them back to the Valletta and the engineers could, well, reverse-engineer them or something. "… That symbol looks like the same one on the other things, huh." Next step: try to ascertain the course the ship followed to get here.
[18:40] <Minaplo> [ACCESS DENIED… But not entirely. Liane saw enough to know that the ship had been travelling at a recklessly high speed for a long time…-
[18:40] <Minaplo> [Not that she had much experience with such things, but at that speed, it was probably enough to start causing wear and tear. Especially considering their poor metallurgy.]
[18:45] <Liane> "Hmm. They sure were pushing this thing beyond its limits," Liane radioed, as she looked up the ship's layout. Maybe she could get that.
[18:46] <Minaplo> […-
[18:46] <Minaplo> [Inara traced the scent back to the VIP room… Well, that was one mystery- not a hard one- solved.-
[18:46] <Minaplo> [But the smell also led Inara into a part of the ship she wasn't really familiar with.]
[18:54] <Inara> So she wandered, slowly, past open doors and other places. Also, she decided to use her radio. "Khalef here. You two make any progress so far?"
[18:56] <Liane> "Less than I like. I found a crew and cargo manifest, but there's a file I can't access without a higher security clearance, and I don't care to risk triggering some failsafe by trying to poke at it. Also couldn't get at the navigation data, though I did figure out that they've been pushing this ship beyond its limits for some time. I did turn up a map of the ship, though…"
[18:58] <Inara> "Well, that's lucky. Think you could guide me? I ended up on the starboard side, but I've got no idea where I'm going."
[19:01] <Liane> "Let's see… Hmm. There's escape pods along the bottom. Slipstream-capable, it seems like. And… according to this, one of 'em is missing. I guess that means the VIP took off?"
[19:04] <Inara> "I can't think of any other ideas as to where they went. I'll take a look at the pods up close. Think you can figure out where the missing one might've gone to?"
[19:05] <Minaplo> [Inara would quickly find the pods. Enough room for maybe three people… Cramped. And indeed, one escape pod bay was empty.]
[19:06] <Liane> There's some background noise on Liane's side, followed by an angry buzzing noise and a muttered curse word. "… Best I can figure is Some Planet In This System. Process of elimination would narrow that down to one with vaguely survivable conditions, I'd imagine…"
[19:13] <Minaplo> ["Alright." Came Franco's voice.-
[19:13] <Minaplo> ["Good work, pilots. I'll let the regulars take care of it from now- we need this info to the Captain asap."]
[19:14] <Liane> "No kidding - it'll be useful intel for questioning their captain, yeah?"
[19:14] <Minaplo> ["That's right."]
[19:16] <Inara> "They'll thank us for this. Anyway, where do you want to meet up? Let's head back together."
[19:17] <Minaplo> ["Back at cargo."]
[19:17] <Liane> "Cargo sounds like a good waypoint, yeah."
[19:17] <Inara> "Righto. I'll see you both there."
[19:18] <Liane> "One last thing. That symbol you saw on the necklace, it's on their terminal access cards too. Probably some kind of national emblem or something."
[19:20] <Inara> "I found it on a few more things too. Eating utensils, and a shiny hair ornament thing. So the missing VIP might be the head of a nation or something."
[19:21] <Minaplo> ["That sounds like a real complicator." Said Franco.]
[19:22] <Liane> "… Hoo boy. I hope we can get something out of their captain, then, or this could get messy fast…"
[19:25] <Inara> "We've done our part," Inara sighed. "Let's get back and leave the rest to the experts."

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