The date was August 24th, 2434.
Liska, Bobby Watson & Aurora Skye have had their resumes approved. Liska is the new Head of Security for Pandora Engineering Group on Pandora 23. Aurora has also signed on with PEG as a Shuttle Pilot. Bobby has been transferred to P23 to act as Quartermaster for The Space Corps. The three of them were picked up from their various locations by Space Corps transports and whisked to an Earth orbit station. From there they boarded a freighter, The Queen Lisa, headed for The Pandora System.
The trip was surprisingly short. Only an hour from Earth to the wormhole. The wormhole was a storm of whibbley, wobbley, swirly yellow lights. Entering the event horizon shook the ship to its core. But, then it was smooth sailing for about fifteen minutes. Exiting the wormhole was … different. It felt as if your body was being pushed down by a giant block of, specifically, Peach Mango Jello.
The sight of the Pandora System was breathtaking. One star, Pandora Alpha, large and violet, orbits a smaller and yellow Pandora Beta, pulling streamers of gas from its surface. A third, blue and smaller still star, Gamma, orbits the mass of the other two, ejecting smaller streamers outward into an immense, wide belt of glittering asteroids. Fairy lights from thousands of ships could be seen plying their way between the huge chunks of rock, domed settlements and neon pink & green stations. The Pandora System appeared to be an ocean of danger and chaos.
Immediately upon exiting the wormholes, calls went out for passengers to disembark. Shuttles arrived to take people to their various destinations. A school of smaller ships could be seen through the ports and on the view screens, docking with the massive freighter. A thousand passengers were off to work in the mines and shops and corporations around the system. Three passengers, our Aurora, Bobby & Liska, boarded a small shuttle, Hobo Rex, headed to Pandora 23.
Pandora 23 is, in a word, ginormous. The original asteroid was 17 kilometers across. Now, solar sails tower across one surface, 5 & 10 kilometers high, making the mine look more like a sailing ship from a thousand years ago on Earth. Structures; comms towers, Helium 3 storage tanks and barracks, jut out here and there, appearing to be barnacles growing on the rocky ship. In many ways, the mine is a ship, it has thrusters and engines, and the solar sails not only collect light for power but can be used as sails to catch the ever present solar winds. The winds blow the He3 that collects on and in the asteroids. Motes of dust and frozen helium 3 blow past the mine as Hobo Rex began docking procedures.
Once docked, the group was greeted at the shuttle harness by two women. One wore a tan uniform with a gold insignia indicating she is a Senior Certificated Officer in the Space Corps, her dark hair is pulled into a severe, slick ponytail. Her serious dark eyes could cut through a bulkhead. They softened only slightly as she introduced herself as Executive Officer Commander Mary Decker. She turned and gestured to the other woman, a woman in a yellow pantsuit with a tremendous smile and even bigger blond hair. Commander Decker introduced the woman as Shirley Pasco, Human Resources Coordinator for Pandora Engineering Group. Shirley waved saying “Hi y’all! Wel-come!” and upon seeing Liska stated brightly “My! Aren’t you just precious!” This drew a tired but tolerant sigh from Liska and a bit of backlash from Aurora. Aurora felt Ms. Pasco could be more respectful of Liska. Liska informed Aurora she could fight her own battles and as for Shirley Pasco, she was entirely flummoxed by the whole exchange.
Cmdr. Decker guided the group to their various quarters, instructing everyone to meet on the Bridge at oh-seven hundred in the morning. It didn’t take long for the group to go exploring.
Aurora found several of the shuttle bays. All bays & vehicles in disarray and disrepair. None of the shuttles were in actual working order. After visiting a few bays and their disappointing contents, Aurora wandered off to the Mess Hall.
Liska & Bobby had already dropped their gear and found the Mess Hall. The hall, made for hundreds contained only dozens and these were silent, P23 appears to have a serious morale problem. Liska & Bobby observed each other and eventually found a common table. Introductions and small talk ensued. Aurora found the pair and dove into the small talk. Soon, Aurora introduced alcohol into the conversation and the small talk got a little deeper.
Bobby related the story of how he ended up on P23. One ordinary day at Bobby’s previous assignment, a certain Admiral Yang came on a site visit. Bobby was working on some equipment, but there was an malfunction. Bobby just managed to push the Admiral out of the way of the Rube Golbdberg-esque series of flying debris, catching a spinning jackhammer to the chin (and a scar to prove it) for his trouble. For saving his life, the Admiral rewarded Bobby with Tenure, guaranteeing Bobby would never leave the Space Corps. For nearly killing an Admiral, the XO reassigned Bobby to P23, guaranteeing Bobby would never leave the Space Corps.
It was late and the three New Hires returned to their rooms. About 3 AM, Bobby was awoken by a noise at his cabin door. He swung the door wide to discover an ancient droid, cleaning a spot of dusty floor with a tooth brush. The droid had burns, torn skin, and exposed wiring. The droid noticed Bobby. He snapped his head around to face the new quartermaster, revealing broken features and a simple, puppet like mandible. “Corpse humping smeg pot!” bellowed the droid, then he picked up an oil burning lamp and a hockey stick and trudged down the corridor. Bobby shook his head, closed his door and returned to his bunk.
The next morning, the three reported to the bridge for more introductions and joyous paperwork. Along with XO Decker and HR Rep Shirley Pasco, the group was introduced to Mort, the accountant. With paperwork complete, XO Decker gathered the three in her office for a closed door chat.
Decker had a mission perfect for three new employees. She relayed that the mission could not be official as it would be embarrassing for The Corps. Until the group “volunteered”, she wouldn’t reveal many details.
Once the group volunteered, XO Decker could be seen to visibly relax. She related the details of the mission. It turns out some pirates boarded a shuttle, stealing a crate and a stasis pod. The pirates were very precise, stealing those items while more valuable items, even a crew that could have been held for ransom, were left behind in a burning ship. This brings up concerns that P23, the intended destination of these items, might have a security leak.
The only other item the pirates took was the shuttle’s comm system. The comm contained the IFF transponder. The pirates turned that off, however this activated an emergency transponder. This has been pinging away ever since, it should get the group close to the pirates, but only so close. In the asteroid field, the signal will bounce around a great deal. However, the crate & pod have a short range signal that should lead the group the rest of the way. Fingers crossed.
This leaves one last issue: a ship. The Space Corps wants no direct link to this mission. So, they cannot issue a ship. XO Decker has given the group access to The Junk Deck, a collection of refuse, junk, garbage and who-knows-what. Deck 48 is chock full of 60+ years of whatever broke down or was just in the way. Deck 48 has a large landing bay, supposedly for waste removal, but it has been rarely used as such. XO Decker “has it on good authority” that there is enough bits & parts to build a ship dumped in there. She also claims there is enough heavy equipment to move the bits around.
The group has seven days to build a ship, find the pirates and figure out how to get the goods back. Welcome to P23.