Finbar and Valk have barely arrived back at the UPR base and been booted out of Padraig’s beloved ship when Romanov gives them a rather unusual task: A visitor from outside the known cluster has arrived in a near-wrecked ship, and he wants them to meet and greet this visitor, and find out more about her, and where she came from.
The visitor is Frostrum, a member of a humanoid lizard species, who tells them how she was forced to flee after her system was invaded and enslaved by another race. Despite Valk’s (instant) concerns, the invaders weren’t robots, but rather another species unknown to the cluster. Given that Frost’s system clearly had FTL technology, the others become concerned that she might have been followed. As a result, they try to smuggle her off the UPR base to… somewhere.
Their plans to steal a cargo ship to get away are foiled by Romanov’s arrival in the cargo bay, where he seems bemused by their actions. Things look awkward for a while, but Valk manages to convince him that he’s got a hunch about robot activity, and that they were going to scout it out. Romanov lends them a fighter, and with Frost at the helm they head out into space.
Deciding to look for Stolen Skulls ships, with Valk under the impression that he’s now their leader, they find some nearby ships suprisingly quickly – a fleet of roughly a dozen badly battered battleships that request their aid, claiming that they’ve just come from Burackkas after a raiding trip, and have taken heavy casualties. The party close on the fleet, and find that they’re Skulls ships, and seem to have been telling the truth. They’re also distinctly unimpressed by Valk’s claims to leadership. However, they’re willing to depower weapons and be escorted back to the UPR base. After checking that the fleet wasn’t followed, the party heads back, having accidentally done everything they claimed they were leaving for. Except get a sandwich for a security guard, which Finbar goes out of his way to remedy when they return.
In the cargo hanger where the Skulls fleet docked, things are in chaos – fire teams are trying to extinguish blazes on the ships, medical teams are working frantically, and fighters are gearing up to patrol the area. In the middle of it all, Romanov is having a shouting match with the new leader of the Skulls, Queen Mab. The group manage to cool things down, persuading Romanov that the enemy of his enemy, etc. Mab, despite initial hostility, is convinced to cool down in a bar (the Nut & Bolt) with the players.
Valk finds a kindred spirit in Mab, who explains that she (and the Skulls) are motived by revenge against the robots. Although he’s careful not to disabuse her of her belief that Bastard John and Princess were assassinated by the robots for planning to fight them. Finbar discusses the Mind Digitiser device they’ve got information on with Frost and Mab, though Mab takes the view that it needs to be proven before she’ll really care, and tells Finbar she’ll send one of her people (a riggen called Patch) to take a look. Mab and Valk return to getting hammered, and Finbar and Frost discuss the matter more while they do.
For the next couple of weeks, things are comfortable but tense on the station – Romanov has assigned the three a luxury suite near his own offices, but the rest of the base is suffering shortages from having to suddenly accomodate the Skulls and their ships. The tension this causes isn’t helped by the Skulls being general piratical party animals compared to the UPR’s more ‘settled life’ attitudes. Valk decides the best way to remedy this is to open up the party’s suite to the Skulls leaders, turning it into a 24-hour party zone. He gets closer to Mab as a result, and learns of her disgust at Romanov’s son Gregor, who’s being a ‘slimey wanker’.
Valk goes to investigate Gregor (finding out that he is indeed a slimey wanker), but Frost and Finbar find themselves in an unexpected confrontation when confronted by a man with a heavy Fallout accent who’s holding The Package hostage. Whoever he is, he’s barely had time to utter his threat when Frost puts a bullet into his head. Fibar explains that The Package is a nuke that he ‘aquired’ from Romanov’s backers, and that it’s probably best to keep this quiet. Frost agrees, and they dispose of the would-be kidnapper’s body.
Back at their suite, Valk has developed a personal dislike for Gregor, which is only exaccerbated when Mab arrives with a black eye. Despite her assurance that ‘he just copped a feel, she knocked him out, it’s all good’, he decides to enlist Finbar and look for anything incriminating in Gregor’s room. Finbar makes the security look like a joke, and they rifle Gregor’s stuff, finding that aside from his obvious habit of taking the best of the station for himself, he’s also made a dart board out of some very bad love poetry that seems to have been returned with ‘WANKER’ scrawled across it.
Frost, acting as lookout, discovers Gregor in Romanov’s map room, working on his ‘secret genius plan’ that she’ll ‘find out soon’. Satisfied that Gregor actually seems to be doing something useful (and isn’t about to discover the others in his room), she leaves him to his devices.
Gregor seems to have been telling the truth about planning something, because the party receive invitations to a strategy meeting in the morning with Romanov, his son, and them. Valk schemes to challenge Gregor to a rap battle, planning to use his bad poetry against him with Mab as bait, but decides to wait until after the meeting.
The meeting starts, with Gregor being the only one to arrive (fashionably) late. With much bluster, he unveils his great plan – to destroy the jump gate between the Contested Grounds and Fallout, which he believes will force Fallout to commit all their forces to attacking the robots in Burackkas (their only other jump gate connection). Finbar makes a rather effective barb based on Gregor’s love poetry, leaving him spluttering and angry.
And then there’s an explosion. The lights go out, and everyone hits the deck.
Frost just joined this session, and a lot of the plot was based on an experiment in trying to meld her character generation into the natural plot. I don’t think it worked as well as I’d hoped, but it wasn’t a horrible failure. Not something I’d do again, though.