Mongoose is currently safe. The safety of the Drift will be fleeting - the drive can only be active for another couple of hours. She’s hurting - did that marine crack one of her ribs? When she closes her eyes she sees the mutilated corpses of the spacers. The marine she shot in the face.
She tries to keep busy - refills Astrid’s propulsion tanks, trying to lessen the rising depression
[Hearten - miss]
But she can’t - she’s all alone, a simple recovery nearly killed her twice. The horror of the corpses. How to confront Wayfinder? How to escape Savarin Clan? It all seems impossible. And the ever-present anxiety of that vision. Of a door that must remain closed. Of time running out. The triangle constellation in front of the indigo nebula. She’s spiralling.
She turns on the gravity to full. Just to feel the weight of her body on the warm thrumming deck beneath her.
The 5 minute warning of return to normal space sounds, and she painfully stands, being reminded of her knee.
[Oracle: space sighting: Settlement]
The Ultraviolet shudders and groans into normal space - and immediately gets the automated warning from a nav buoy - black hole nearby. She sees it immediately - a bright glowing accretion disk around the ‘hole’ itself, the starfield behind it warped and lensed to the hard edge of the event horizon. Beautiful.
Looking out the cockpit, to the top-left, an airless planet hangs in the sky. A grey crater pocked sphere, softly lit by the glow from the accretion disk.
She sits, reduces the gravity to 0.3, and finally looks at her instruments. There’s a settlement down there! Not big, but the buoy makes sense if there’s people here. The automated buoy says this is the Cheleb system, the planet is Aphelion, and what’s this? There’s a precursor vault in orbit! Must be on the opposite side of Aphellion. Her eager quick scan for orbiting bodies shows nothing.
She’s filled with energy, briefly forgetting her woes at the prospect of exploring a vault, like the old days. First time without a crew though - and the loneliness returns like a lump in her chest.
Looking back to the buoy data, there’s a settlement down there on that rock. Prism. She’s low on supplies, and energy. And she’s injured. She can’t risk exploring a vault right now. She gets her computer to fire off a request to land, and an automated system grants it. She wriggles into the harness on the pilot seat, switches her readouts to displays of planetary approach vectors, and down she goes.
Warning lights go off - Ultraviolet is being painted with a targetting laser. Anxiety rises, but, a lot of these butt-fuck nowhere places are wary and like to let you know they have guns. Mongoose stays the course, seeing a bare circular landing pad, being emphasised by rings of light, pulsing in a pattern inward. A laser turret on a nearby mesa targets her the whole way in.
The buildings are beautiful - tall spires of metal and glass, harmonious with the towering rock spires jutting out of the grey dust dunes of the planet itself. Between the spires of the settlement are habitat domes - reflecting the colourful radiation and the blackhole above. But, one of the spires is broken off, halfway up, it’s shattered remains are scattered about, and the domes around it are dark. Only one dome and one spire look inhabited.
She touches down. Gravity here in 0.4 - quite reasonable, but the radiation coming off that blackhole is intense. As she’s wondering how to get inside safely, the panels where Ultraviolet’s landing struts meet the deck become magnetised, and with a jolt, the landing pad starts descending down a short, well lit shaft, 50m in diameter. A large chamber comes into view, five hangar bays radiating off this central shaft. The Ultraviolet is deposited in one of the bays. There is only one other ship present - an old hauler, that doesn’t look spaceworthy, but, the same could be said of Ultraviolet from a distance. An iris closes off the shaft, and radiation levels drop significantly, back to not-cooking-from-the-inside levels.
A doorway in the back of each hangar bay seems to be the only egress. Mongoose leaves the ship, vacsuit on, respirator on (air is thin here in the hangar), blaster visible on her hip, and Astrid flanking. She enters a small airlock, and on the other side comes face to face with someone.
She’s old - Well wrinkled with long frizzy grey hair loosely tied back into a pony tail. She’s armoured and armed - shoulder pads, chestplate, pointing a snub-nosed pistol at Mongoose. Her face looks hard, her stance wide. Over her shoulder is a combat bot - not as tidy as the one on Drift Runner - older with visible cables and jet actuators.
“What do you want?” the old guard snarls.
Mongoose takes off her respirator, and raises her hands “no trouble that’s certain!”. Mongoose’s voice tremors and croaks until her throat is cleared. “ Supplies - food, medicine if you have it. I’m a salvager, I carry parts, for trade? I’m Mongoose.” “Holland” the woman says, holding out her hand. Mongoose, surprised, goes to shake it “no, you dang spacer, give me your gun - don’t trust strangers with guns here at Prism” - does Mongoose see a twinkle of amusement in Holland’s tough demeanour? Mongoose grins, and goes to draw her gun - Holland tenses imperceptibly - and Mongoose slows down and draws it slowly, presenting the hilt to Holland.
[let's speed things along - roll Sojourn - miss] [stressed: -1 spirit] [endure stress - strong hit! +1 spirit]
Mongoose is taken through a tunnel and up a lift into the habitat, and then to the spire. There’s a dozen wary looking people. Combinations of scared, defiant, openly hostile. No children are present.
Up the spire - there’s a lift, to a pristine steel and glass office overlooking the rocky landscape, and the black hole above
The leader is Nassar Ammar - they introduce themselves
Mongoose asks for medical aid and supplies in exchange for what spare parts she she has that they need? Nassar is non-committal, says “perhaps”
Mongoose then asks about the Precursor Vault in orbit. Nassar then notices the tattoos - “you’re a grub! You’re here for our Vault? Get out! Your kind aren’t welcome here!”
Mongoose is marched all the way back to her ship, badly shaken - was hoping for some human kindness, and received none.
As Holland hands back her gun at the hangar she says - “hey, kid. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.” And she holds out her hand again, and this time Mongoose shakes it, and Holland pats her on the shoulder and gives it a squeeze too. Mongoose blinks back a sudden welling of tears at the human touch, and warmth of the gesture from someone so gruff.
(that's the +1 spirit back). “at least theres, space is big” she’s too embarrassed and can’t string a sentence together and leaves in a hurry.
As soon as the ramp closes Ultraviolet jostles as the ship is moved to the centre of the shaft, and then back to the surface. Mongoose is strapped back in by the time the clamps are released, and she angrily punches buttons and flicks switches in prep for takeoff, before flying off, buzzing Nassar’s spire as she goes (and then keeping that spire between herself and the laser turrent as she leaves, just in case)