SEASON 01 FINALE: The night continues at the dive bar Below Zero, the White Ape fight in full swing, the patrons deep in their drinks and rowdy, unaware of an impending conflict that could tear the station apart. The crew carouses, taking their last chance to blow off steam…
Active Crew: Alex Hardcastle
Khalas “Can” Rashid
William Henry Harrison
Can gets irresponsibly drunk on tropical drinks with her pal Tyler, the barback at Below Zero. She antagonizes some more White Ape supporters, a drunk pair of stevedores, who start to come at her when J. steps between them. She reminds them that they’re missing the cage fight, diverting them with a firm hand and stern look back to the screens around the bar.
J. spends the night drinking and watching over Can at the bar & reminiscing about when she was her age — she enlisted with the Tannhäuser Protection Corps when she was 15. She thinks back to one of her first deployments, when she was on a ship in a rim sector searching for terrorists resisting Tannhäuser development. She was playing cards with other new recruits when a bomb went off onboard, blowing the hull open and sucking nearly everyone into space with no protective gear. She held on just long enough for the bulkhead emergency door to close, just long enough to watch her new friends die horribly in the frozen silence of deep space. I had to grow up quick, she thinks, and Can will need to do the same if she’s going to survive. When Can’s sufficiently drunk, J. shows her the video of the Jvara addicts in the showers.
Sasha technically failed his downtime roll here, but his roll was a 69, which — sorry — is a crit success in this particular situation, so he got to convert some stress to XP.
Sasha goes with the crew’s new robot companion William Henry Harrison to find an even divier bar where he can play darts and hopefully pick up some cheap company for the night. They both lose to some bored sex workers and start chatting with them. Sasha sees someone at the bar who suits his tastes and disappears for the rest of the night. WHH quietly watches the White Ape vs. Mega Hank match, then heads back to the ship to use the special oil he got from his bartender friend Frieda to do a system reset (basically a spa day for an android).
Olivia tails Alex and Imogen as they head into the SMC-controlled district of the station, where he sees them head up into an apartment complex. She finds a bar across the street called The Jarhead, full of off-duty marines watching the fight. She settles down in a spot by the entrance and keeps an eye on the apartment.
The next morning, Alex wakes up in an unfamiliar bed, not immediately remembering how he got there. He groans as he sits up — he feels sore all over, like he got in a fight last night. He’s in an apartment, somewhat spacious but fairly dingy and unkempt. Then he feels the body behind him and remembers — Imogen! He very carefully slips out of his little-spoon position, nearly waking her up, and heads to the bathroom to freshen up. He quietly uses his comms to reach out to his crew, and Olivia replies that she’s right outside, a huge relief to the doc. He steels himself to head back out into the room to wake Imogen up and make a gentlemanly exit.
She wakes up with a puzzled, somewhat surprised look, like she’s either surprised that she took him home with her, or surprised that he’s still here. She unfolds one of her cybermodded arms to interface with a dock mounted on the wall, and Alex notices that she has incredibly high-end hardware — the cyberware in her arm looks much nicer than anything that he’s seen on the Crown. He asks her about it, and she reaches to him tenderly, touching his face, then flicks the arm fully open, revealing a 9-inch nanoblade at his throat. “I’m glad you like it,” she says, “but I’m a bit disappointed you don’t remember it from last night.” She laughs, retracting the blade.
She tells him that she didn’t get her augs here — the chopshop on the Crown only does low-end jobs for the scrappers and fighters out here. Hers came from someone with real talent and access to quality equipment. Alex says he’s interested in something like that, that it could really help someone close to him. She gives him a quizzical look and then grabs a datachip, plugs it into a port in the base of her skull for a moment, then unplugs it and hands it to him.
“Here, take this. It’s astrogation data, a little-known route to major station, much bigger than this shithole. I used to live there before I wound up out here. Long story. The station’s called Prospero’s Dream. When you get there, find The Babushka. She can help your friend.” Alex thanks her and they say their goodbyes. Imogen says he should look into getting off-station soon — the station’s Board of Directors is reviewing the footage he gave her and will probably clear her to take Ben Rasheed down within the day. It’d probably be best if Alex and his crew cleared out by then.
AKMC: Anders-Klimt Mining Corporation, the mining conglomerate that (mostly) runs the station. Can’s father Ben runs the local branch, effectively acting as the top official on the station. He only answers to AKMC central, and the station’s Board of Directors.
Can wakes up in the basement of the bar with vomit on her shirt and a pile of fresh clothes that J. retrieved from the ship (formerly Albie’s). J. and an apologetic Tyler watch over her as she wakes up. J. asks if she remembers anything. Can doesn’t reply. J. says she should think about listening to her dad when he tells her to find a different life for herself, off of the station. At the mention of her dad, Can realizes she wasn’t supposed to stay out all night, and she’s supposed to be working at AKMC HQ right now. She rushes out.
Settlement Cluster: The titanic colony ships of old were dispatched to many distinct parts of the galaxy, resulting in relatively isolated regions of settlement. Many of these have been gradually connected as more hyperspace routes have been established, but travelling between them is much more of a task than travelling within one’s own cluster.
The crew regroups at the IMV Grasshopper, and discuss next steps — they know they should get off the station before Ben Rasheed gets word that they betrayed him, and certainly before Imogen raids him. When Sonia asks where they’re going to go, Alex produces the datachip with the astrogation data and tells the crew what Imogen said about Prospero’s Dream. Sonia reads the data on the card and comments that it has an unusual route to an entirely different settlement cluster, and that the route data is marked as “SMC Classified.” She asks where he got it, and he just says, “I have my ways.” Sonia, nonplussed, tells them that there are a bunch of Solarian monks outside with pallets full of crates. One of the monks tells them they’re here to load up their shipment of “holy water” that they’ll be transporting for the Solarian Church — and Ben Rashid.
J. is immediately suspicious of the crates, but doesn’t want to open them while the monks are around, so the crew just helps them load up. Alex chats with one of the monks and says that Ben told them that he’d fuel them up for the trip. The monk looks scared that he might have overlooked something and goes to talk to one of the foremen at the dock. After what looks like a bit of an argument, a fuel line is lowered by crane down to the ship and they load up, apparently on Ben’s tab.
Can heads back to the basement of the AKMC HQ building, where she’s supposed to be working. Nursing her hangover, she sneaks through the station’s familiar tunnels to get into the structure through the sub-basements. As she creeps through the tunnels, her favorite half-finished robot project, DJ Screw, whirs up and starts following her down the hallways.
As she’s heading to her room, she hears a commotion in a side room, and she hears her dad’s muffled voice. He sounds very angry about something. She starts sneaking past, grateful her dad’s mad about something else and probably didn’t notice she didn’t show up on time. But then she hears some more sounds — footsteps, the scrape of a chair on the floor, wet thuds, and then a second voice, choked and crying but recognizable: her dad’s old friend she calls “uncle,” Nip Lacey, begging for mercy.
Confused and frightened, Can sneaks closer to the door and looks in through a crack. She sees Nip, tied to a chair, badly beaten. He’s crying and saying something incoherent. She recognizes a few of her dad’s lieutenants standing nearby impassively. She’s about to push the door open when suddenly her dad, Ben Rashid, steps in front of the door and into her field of view. She freezes. As he walks towards Nip, he snarls something about the Board of Directors and calls Nip a traitor. Nip sobs and says he’s so sorry and begs Ben, “please — please –”
Then Can sees that her dad is wearing large rubber gloves, and in his right hand, he’s holding a huge chunk of ripe Jvara fruit. He grabs Nip’s hair with his left hand and yanks his head back, and as Nip cries out, he shoves the Jvara into his mouth.
Can reels back from the door and runs to her room, her robot skittering clumsily after her. She gathers her most important things in a frantic, sobbing daze and then stops, quivering with fear and rage, before running to her dad’s office.
Can has Trinket #30 from the PSG: “Ashes, a relative,” which her player decided she carries in an amulet around her neck.
Once there, she grabs a “holy water” shot glass and puts it on his desk. She shakily pours some of her mother’s ashes out of the amulet she wears around her neck into the glass as a crude symbolic message. Then she runs to the docks.
The crew starts scanning the boxes once they’re loaded on the ship and the Solarian monks are gone. Meanwhile, Can tries to sneak aboard, planning to become a stowaway. Spotting the two White Ape fans from the night before working on the docks, she flips them off, trying to create a distracting commotion. She’s successful, but when they shout “Hey, it’s that fucking White Ape hater girl from last night!” J. intuits that probably Can is nearby. She goes to talk to them, and Can, seeing an opportunity, sneaks up to the ship and finds a terminal. She tries to use it to hack into the ship’s systems so she can open the airlock and sneak inside while everyone’s in the cargo bay. She has no idea how to do this.
Sonia alerts Alex and says:
> um so the insect is back > i think she's trying to hack me? > to let her on the ship? > uh > what do i do
Alex replies that she should just pretend to be a dumb AI and let her think she’s successfully hacking her way in.
> uh okaaaay > ok
After not getting any feedback from the screen for a minute, suddenly Can gets the alert:
> ACCESS GRAMTED > oops > ACCESS GRANTED
And the airlock hisses open. Can sneaks in, and Sonia guides her with a series of strategically opened and closed doorways to a storage closet near the bathroom. Can hides inside, finds another terminal, and continues to interact with the “AI.” Sonia keeps up the façade and tries to make her feel like she’s actually accomplishing something by making up nonsensical filestructures and eventually basically just playing an improv session of Zork with her.
Eventually Can types a series of commands implying she wants to send a message to her dad. She types in a goodbye and ends the message saying
> nip deserved better. sonia, taking pity on her, actually sends the message — anonymously — through the station’s network.
As the crew scans the cargo, they see that some of the containers seem to have electronics in them, which seems very suspicious. Before they can do anything about it, though, Alex gets a message from Imogen:
> cleared by council. we're moving. He shouts to Sonia to spin up the drives and get them out of there. Sonia starts up the engines, already having secured clearance to leave. The crew resolves to just jettison the suspicious crates once they’re in space.
As the engines rumble to life, Sonia shows Can to a real screen, a text-based messaging system, with a message thread from “brashid”. She opens it, and it says:
> Where are you? > Where are you going??
Can replies simply that she’s leaving, but won’t say anything more. he continues:
> No no > the grasshopper's leaving now > tell me you're not on it > khalas if you go > get on any ship but that fucking ship > KHALAS GET OFF THE SHIP NOW
Sonia, seeing this, immediately cuts the connection and contacts the crew, telling them she might have let the insect talk to her dad. She shows them the chat logs, and asks Alex if she’s going to die. J. tells her that they need to fly, right now. They leave William Henry Harrison in the cargo hold, since he can survive in a vacuum, to have him jettison the crates into space. As they fly out of the docks, several of the crates start vibrating.
WHH starts shoving them out the hatch into space as they leave the station, but the last crate gets stuck. He calls to Sonia to turn off artificial gravity for god’s sake. She quickly snaps it off, which causes Can to go flying into an air duct.
WHH manages to heave the last crate out the hatch and watches as each of the crates, one by one, silently turn into circles of blinding white light. And at first he thinks he sees after-images of the explosions on the station, but when he uses his advanced optics to zoom in on it, he sees that they’re smaller explosions and muzzle flashes. A massive firefight has broken out between Imogen’s SMC and Ben Rashid’s enforcers, and the station has become a war zone. But from out here, in the soothing silence of deep space, it’s just so many twinkling stars.
Can is still crunched up in an air duct when the gravity turns back on, and falls to the storage room floor in a pile of boxes and loose equipment. The PA crackles on with the voice of Dr. Alex Hardcastle. “Uh, Can, if you’re onboard the ship, I gotta say: your dad’s a fucking asshole.”
TO BE CONTINUED…