A few days have passed on the Purple Parrot. No events worth noting. The ship is dirty but serviceable. Getting to know Larry Templeton and getting to know the ship have consumed most of everyone’s time.
Napoleon has a nightmare. He sees Josephine’s face. She smiles at him – or is she baring her fangs? She says “I love you Napoleon. Don’t make me kill you!”
Needless to say, Napoleon woke in a fit of near hysterics.
Later in the morning, DOLBY alerts Jocelyn. He has a message for her. It’s an email from firstname.lastname@example.org
Message: This will help you. Alli.
DOLBY tells Jocelyn that the message arrived in his mailbox – not Jocelyn’s. However, until a few minutes ago, he wasn’t aware he had a PalMail account, nor the PalMail Alerter application installed. In fact, his last diagnostic does not have it listed. Jocelyn tells him that she will remove the software and update his security software later.
Jocelyn reviews the document. While the document is credited to “Dr. J. L. Izzard,” the document details Jocelyn’s theories on the listed title. She compiled many of these while in the Field of Flowers. She communicated many of them to the teachers and the “scientists” she spoke with at the time. However, several of the compiled theories were in her personal files – she never completed them nor told anyone about them. They are listed here in their incomplete form.
The last few pages of the document feature opinion papers from four scientists; Dr. Charles Junt, Dr. Maddy Flemming, Dr. Murphy Edwards and Dr. Sang Gupta. Jocelyn knows all of these names, she communicated with them in the simulation. A search on their names provided some interesting facts: all of them worked for OmniPet, all of them are experts in their fields. Junt is a physicist, Flemming is a mathematician, Edwards is a astrophysicist and Gupta is a biologist. (Why would OmniPet employ an astrophysicist?) All of these scientists have been off the grid for the last six months.
“Dr. J. L. Izzard” has been making quite a stir. Two other papers under that name are floating around the net. Several opinion papers by some very prominent scientists have been published in response to “Dr. Izzard’s” work. The papers are all Jocelyn’s work.
The opinion papers included with the attached document are well thought out, most of the information in them had already been expressed to Jocelyn. Jocelyn noticed something about the third paper. She noticed that every third word is capitalized. Jocelyn discovered that the letters, when put together, form a complex chemical formula – an exact molecular weight – the makeup of a large rocky body, perhaps. A small moon or asteroid?
All bodies constantly change composition. So, this composition would also indicate a very specific time frame as well. Jocelyn researched the body and found a single entry – BLY 38, an unremarkable mid-size rock in the Asteroid Belt. BLY 38 sits in the Bly Field. A prospector working for Helion, Elliot Bly, mapped out 175+ asteroids in this section some fifteen years ago. BLY 38 was four days from their location as the Parrot flies.
A day out from Bly – the Parrot’s sensors went wacko. The chronometer reads that it is the 48th day of February, 3074. The collision sensors were intermittently reading incoming ships, missiles, boulders – one reported a giant rubber ducky. DOLBY began singing “Puttin’ On the Ritz”. The lights flickered once. Then again. Then two more times …
Then the ship vanished.
Larry, Jocelyn and Napoleon find themselves on a horizonless, white plane.
A familiar female voice, Josephine, rings out: “Napoleon! I told you not to come!”
Before the group appeared a giant, mechanical porcupine. It began swinging. It first connected with Jocelyn, squarely in the chest. She went flying, landing on her ass, with metal quills sticking out of her chest and shoulders. Removing those would have been painful, but there wasn’t time – the Mechanopine struck again and again! Napoleon stood in disbelieving horror. Larry was doing his best Mohamed Ali impression.
The group was back in the Parrot, sitting on the floor of the cargo hold. That wasn’t where they started …
Jocelyn was able to discern they had gone through a Reality Storm, but those are usually deadly for all that encounter them. Nothing on the ship had been disturbed, also not characteristic of Reality Storms. It was as if this storm had an intelligence, or was guided by an intelligent hand …
The Asteroid Belt isn’t as dense as many movies would make it appear. But, there are certainly a large collection of rocks of various sizes as far as the eye can see. BLY 38 is not the largest rock in the area, but it sticks out like a sore thumb.
The asteroid wasn’t tumbling as many of the other rocks were, it wasn’t moving much at all. (The original Bly survey noted quite a tumble for #38.) Articulated solar fins jut out from various angles. A large dish on an articulated mount marks the peak of the rock. Just under that is an obvious landing deck. The deck was protected by a large blaster turret to the right of the deck opening. An unlit sign intended to give landing instructions sits to the left of the deck. The deck had a large metal blast door lowered.
When the Parrot crossed 1000 KM, the sign lit up with the message “STOP! You are not authorized!” The blaster tracked the ship. A message hit the comm unit. It was an automated “Restricted Area! Leave now!” message.
The group tried at this point to be cautious. Scans of the asteroid revealed nothing. Several communication attempts resulted in automated replies. The group waited for quite some time. The only sign of life was a shuttle that exited the flight deck, circled the asteroid and landed – no one was sure if that wasn’t automated as well.
A decision was made to return to Luna. No good would come from getting blasted out of the stars. The Parrot isn’t armed and is not a tank, it wouldn’t take a great deal of abuse.
However, Alli was having none of this. For the first time since the Field of Flowers, she was communicating directly with the group – albeit still cryptically. These communications included another coded formula, Jocelyn was able to determine this was for a cesium-argon matrix that could be incorporated into optic fiber. A computer running with those fibers would actually be somewhat precognitive – was Alli able to predict the future? Finally, the crew of the Purple Parrot decided to return to BLY 38, this time with a plan of attack!
This time they rigged up some decoys. The crew followed the decoys in, at a distance, to see the turret’s reaction. Jocelyn piloted in as close as she dared as the turret fired on the decoys. Eventually, Jocelyn maneuvered to come up under the asteroid and attached to the surface on the asteroid.
Mere minutes later, the collision alarms alerted the crew that a problem was incoming. Jocelyn detached as a security-remote came into view. It was about the size of a large trash can, beige with a large turreted blaster on top. It was slow. Jocelyn turned to face the remote. The crew grabbed laser weapons, which should be able to fire through the glass (although range and effectiveness might have dropped). In a few shots, the remote was dispatched – it had only fired once, but the Parrot shook off the damage!
However, the collision alarm had already detected a second remote. Jocelyn rolled the ship and accidentally hit the remote – sending it careening into the belt!
At this point, the group decides to move the ship so they can see what’s going on. They maneuver up so that they have the dish between them and the turret. The turret is firing all around them, but not at the dish and thus at the ship. Then, the turret seems to go dead and the barrel droops. The landing-sign changes to the message “SqrrlGrrl Rules!” The blast door opens and a rush of compressed air and dust evacuates the deck. The automated landing system requests a slave circuit. Jocelyn passed over control and an automated system that landed the freighter.
Alli informed the group, very directly, over the PA system, that she was able to defeat the turret when they got in close – the decoys helped a great deal. She was also in the middle of a hacking fight – so she was able to get them to the first two levels but not below. When asked, she thought she was on level 8. The group explored the first level – finding food storage. Larry, ever the rat and smart soldier didn’t pass up the opportunity to eat and grabbed junk food. He was forced to drop said food as another remote showed up and attacked – it was defeated with dispatch.
Level 2 was parts storage … and another remote. The remote was a bit luckier but not too tough, thanks to some good strategy by Napoleon.
At this point, it was determined that getting to level 8 was the over all goal. One of the elevators was disabled so that they could climb down the shaft without having to worry about getting run over by the car. The elevator door was jimmied open and the security door was melted with laser fire.
This revealed a room filled with large tanks containing green liquid and developing hyena clones with cybernetic implants. Oh, yeah … and Dr. Bower Stern was there, too!
Seeing Dr. Stern put two of our crew in a strange position. Jocelyn had been seeking out the man she calls “Father” hoping to restart the Sapipet program. Napoleon knew in his heart that Stern could lead him to Josephine.
Stern was a pure depiction of the cool, calculating scientific administrator. He instructed the group that there was nothing there for them. Alli was his computer, this was his station, they had no right to be there – he ordered them to leave. When Napoleon implored for information on Josephine, Stern looked him in the eye and told him “Josephine is mine!”
Things went downhill a bit from here. While Larry went off to investigate the computer rack for the whereabouts of Alli and the contents of the tanks, Dr. Stern pushed past the pets and headed for a corner of the lab. They had so many questions and he wasn’t answering any of them. Finally, Napoleon grabbed the doctor – begging for info. Stern produced a small remote control and stated he would kill Josephine if Napoleon didn’t let him go and leave the station. Napoleon did as ordered and stepped back – but his love for Josephine knows no bounds. He whipped out his pistol and melted Stern’s hand – boiling away the remote.
That’s when Jocelyn shot Napoleon in the back. (Ah! Team work!)
Stern screamed in surprise and pain, smacked a pad on the furthest tank in the corner. A panel swung open, revealing that the tank was fake. Stern entered and the tank dropped through the floor.
Larry unracked Alli, but not before she completed one more task – she released a toxin into the the tanks, killing the mutant hyenas. Jocelyn dashed off a note in a rough hand and left it on the computer rack.
“This isn’t how I wanted our meeting to go. I’m sorry.” – Jocelyn
Napoleon was out and badly hurt. They carried him and Alli back to the Parrot.
As soon as the group hooked Alli up on the ship, she made a simple request “Kill me!”
Alli’s reasoning was that she had been programmed for evil. Jocelyn hoped to retrieve all the information on Alli’s main drive without retrieving the intelligence files. Jocelyn took her time, several hours, making sure she could open the computer case without blowing herself into chaff. Upon opening, it was revealed that indeed Alli was light based and used several advanced technologies, including those hyper-fast fiber optics. Light pumped into those fibers would actually exit about 15 minutes before it entered! So, Alli knew exactly what would happen 15 minutes before it happened. From there, she could extrapolate thousands of possible outcomes and be as much as 90% accurate for as long as an hour.
On the down side, she had three bombs on-board, she probably wasn’t even aware of them, as she would have likely activated them herself. One bomb was simple High Explosive. One was an EMP, it would do some damage to Alli’s pathways and would likely make nearby humanoids go wonky, too. The last was a photonic weapon, essentially a flash bang, but all of that light going into Alli’s fibers and speeding up beyond the speed of light, it would have been messy for her. Considering the reversed time-dilation effect in those fibers, who knows what might happen?!
As Jocelyn worked, she accidentally set off the HE. Her hands were splattered across the walls, she received minor burns on her face and arms. Had the case been closed, it would have been worse! Larry witnessed the whole thing, as he was assisting. He watched Jocelyn slip out of consciousness. Then Napoleon appeared, barely holding onto consciousness, waving a laser pistol, yelling that they needed to return to the lab for Josephine.