Two crewmembers dead. Hundreds of plant creatures giving chase. Can what remains of the crew complete their rescue op, or will they too be consumed by the warped vegetation?
Active Crew: Alex Hardcastle Sasha Denisovich J. Olivia Hanlon
Hearing the chamber where they left 02BZ and Albie erupt in a crushing explosion of fluid, J, Olivia, and Sasha let Liv Chain slump to the floor and fire on the creatures blocking the passage ahead. J shoots through several of them with her SMG and Olivia rushes in with her newfound shotgun, blasting a few away before more emerge from the hallway and swarm her.
Hardcastle runs back the way he came, sloshing through the now knee-high fluid and past three creatures that have just emerged from pods on the walls. He swings at them with his vibechete, misses, and clumsily twists around and keeps running towards what remains of his crew.
Olivia and Sasha engage in close-quarters combat with the plant creatures blocking their way as J hangs back with Liv Chain and tries to give suppressing fire, unfortunately catching Olivia with some friendly fire. As they rip apart most of the creatures, they’re interrupted by a cursing and yelling Dr. Hardcastle sprinting past J and towards the others, with three more creatures hot on his heels. The creatures take J by surprise and lunge onto her from behind, tearing at her vaccsuit.
The crew fall back to J’s position and kill the remaining creatures, but they can hear more coming from that direction. They decide to book it: Sasha and Dr. Hardcastle help Liv Chain up and carry her while Olivia takes point and J covers their rear, cautiously backing into the plant’s chutes as the sloshing noises get steadily louder.
Olivia reaches the entrance to the chamber that nearly crushed them before, and calls Hardcastle over to examine it with his expertise in Xenobiology. He identifies a large patch in the middle of the floor where the texture of the plant matter is a bit different, and where it seems to pulsate and throb slightly. The crew guesses that this area is what triggers the room’s rapid crushing contractions. The two gurneys the crew used to get through this room are twisted heaps of wreckage on either side of the patch.
The leg massage may be a little weird, but it’s a crit success for Sasha here.
Olivia and Dr. Hardcastle very carefully work together, without touching the patch, to push one of the gurneys to the end of the chamber with the exit. The orifice that let them in has mostly closed again, but it still has a small opening that a person could squeeze through. Meanwhile, Sasha, who’s fireman-carrying Liv Chain, massages her legs to restore some of her ability to support herself. It works, and she slides to the ground, better able to stand: she doesn’t need carrying, but she’s still delirious and needs guidance.
As the chamber outside fills with plant creatures, Olivia carefully crawls over the broken gurney and through the orifice. Dr. Hardcastle follows, and Sasha helps Liv Chain get through while J carefully backs her way through the chamber. J jumps through the hole just as the creatures enter the chamber, causing it to rapidly swell while Sasha’s still inside.
Sasha gets trapped and gradually crushed as the chamber squeezes down on him, only his head visible to the rest of the crew. Hardcastle jabs a stimpak into his neck, and J starts carving at the plant orifice with her vibechete, and gets it to release him. The crew pull Sasha through the orifice, and they start moving through the hulk towards the airlock they entered through. The huge vines around them start bulging and pulsating, and creatures start emerging like newborns from the fruit pods all around them.
Hardcastle calls up Nip on his comms — after a few minutes he gets through to a stressed-out Nip who seems to be talking to someone — he says he’s been held up but he’ll be able to pick them up soon, maybe. He goes back to what sounds like a muffled argument before cutting off the comms.
Cursing, the crew rush out into the cargo bay where the scavengers are still pulling apart machinery and looking for valuables. They yell to Franklin, their leader, to help weld the door shut behind them, and that there are plant monsters chasing them. Franklin is incredulous but sends some of his deputies, Markova and Jane, to check it out. Markova goes through the door as Jane covers her, and the crew soon hears gunshots. Markova runs back cursing and helps the J shut the door, severing a planty hand trying to reach through. She orders Jane to weld it shut.
Franklin steps over and picks up the severed hand, realizing that something is going horribly wrong. The crew tells him they found the warp drive, and he drops the hand in terror and tells them that the scrappers never go near the old warp drives. He immediately orders his team to wrap up the scrapping and beat a retreat back to the ship.
Hardcastle hails Nip again, and this time, Nip says he’s en route and will be there in five minutes. Hardcastle tells him to step on it.
The crew runs back to the cargo bay with the temporary airlock they used to enter the giant ship. The creatures start scrabbling through the vents in massive numbers and the scavengers make a fighting retreat past the cargo bay. Olivia sets up a barricade and J goes to help the scavengers, saving Franklin’s life and helping Markova lay down suppressing fire, buying time for the rest of the scavengers to make it back to their own ship. Markova thanks her as she runs off.
Nip’s ship shows up just as J retreats back into the cargo bay, and the crew load the three surviving members of the team they came to retrieve onto his ship. As they sit in silence, Nip nervously babbles. As he flies them back to the station, his flight is less erratic and surreptitious, not using asteroids and chunks of the hulk as cover. Instead of flying them back to the main hangars labeled AKMC, where their own ship is, and where they departed from, he flies to the other end of the station, to the smaller hangar labeled Kenbishi.
The crew aren’t sure what to make of this, but after they land, Nip quickly gets up, looks at them sheepishly, and says, “good luck” before jumping down and out of the shuttle. They look out the doorway after him and see a squad of Sol Military Contracts military police surrounding the ship. Stepping out from among them is a seven-foot-tall woman with a buzzcut, SMC officer’s dress, and a sneer: Warrant Officer Jacquet.
Continued in 01.12 The Hot Sweats