After the long journey, the crew of Acorn finally arrives at the coordinates provided by Badger. Up ahead, a Magnum-class freighter lies dead in space. As Mad pilots Acorn closer, more details become apparent. The freighter, the IAV Rainbird, has Alliance markings on her. The ship’s body is scored and pitted. A small gun turret, topside aft, lies destroyed. Towards the rear of the ship, layers of hull plating have been pulled away, revealing only the thinnest layer of metal between the ship and the black. The portside cargo bay door has been obliterated. Acorn’s sensors detect a large amount of radiation surrounding the other ship.
As Acorn rounds the side of the freighter, a Wren-class ship comes into view. The ship, the Shao Yi (which means “little wing”) is attached to the port-side docking hub. The crew, surprised to see that another craft has beat them to their quarry, is also slightly concerned to notice that Shao Yi has a mounted cannon.
With the damage to Rainbird, it becomes clear that the only place to dock is the on the starboard passenger hub. Mad maneuvers Acorn into position but finds that the automatic docking protocols that normally would be in place are non-functioning—the two ships cannot connect. Colt suits up to try and hotwire the controls. After several tense minutes, with Mad urging him to hurry up as she attempts to keep Acorn in place, Colt admits defeat. Much to his dismay, it is now Sebastian’s turn to attempt. Between the two men, the docking controls are finally activated and the two ships are safely joined. While Mo stays behind to guard the ship, Mad, Colt, and Sebastian head aboard Rainbird, uncertain of what, or who, they will find.
Flashing emergency lights provide an eerie backdrop within the other ship. While Rainbird has gravity, it is clear there is quite a bit of damage. Sebastian finds a functioning data port and pulls as much information as he can. The computer system, as with everything at the stern of the ship, only minimum power is available, with the antigravity and minimal life support systems still functioning. Sealed door proctocols have been enacted on the aft of Rainbird, isolating the the engine room and cargo bay.
With Colt leading, the small group heads over to the port-side docking hub. Peering through the door, it is apparent that the other craft is still connected. Not seeing any evidence of another crew, the group decides to search out the ship. Finding nothing of interest in the cockpit, except piles of empty food wrappers and containers, they move on. Upon reaching the captain’s room, they make a disturbing discovery. A desiccated corpse lays on the room’s bed, its arms crossed over its chest and a loaded military pistol laying on top of the nightstand. Searching the room, the crew discovers that the man’s name was Captain G. C. Scott and that, in his younger years, he served on the Alliance carrier IAV Celestial. Captures of family and crew are displayed. They also find a syringe laying on the floor with two empty vials nearby. The vials are labeled G23-PH.
In two other rooms, they find duffles that match the IDs of other people in the crew captures. They also find the room of the first mate, Lt. Commander Malinda Chavez. More captures of crew and her family are displayed. As the group moves on, they make another disturbing discovery. In the ship’s galley, they find another corpse, this one missing part of its left leg from the knee down. From the insignia, this is the late Lt. Commander. A dried blood trail leads from her body out of the galley. A first aid kit is open and scattered on the floor and a large knife lays by her good leg. She is wearing her combat harness, though her weapon is empty of ammunition. As with the cockpit, food wrappers are scattered all over the galley, but there is no actual food left anywhere. A charred pan sits on the stove.
Continuing on, the crew finds the common area empty, except for unused holo-game tables and dark vid screens. Cautiously, they make their way into the last room this side of the sealed doors, the machine shop. Crates are stacked neatly throughout the room, however some have been opened and the contents pulled out. The doors to a weapons locker hang open. The blood trail from the galley leads through the machine shop and ends at the huge blast doors at the back. All three crew members notice sudden movement behind stacks of crates.
Drawing their weapons, Mad crouches down in the doorway while Colt calls out for the others to show themselves. Two tall men stand up. One is skinny with oily, slicked back hair, the other is large with hair combed in a duckbill. The skinny man, Evelle, is noticeably jittery. The muscular man, Gale, challenges the presence of the Acorn’s crew: he and his brother were here first. Colt counters that his crew is here now and indicates that they have more on their ship. He and the man go back and forth with Evelle growing clearly more and more agitated.
Suddenly, Evelle grabs for his gun, but both Colt and Mad are ready for him and shoot first. Colt shoots Evelle’s gun from his hand, but Mad’s shot goes wild and instead grazes Colt. Sebastian screams and flees back down the hall. The brief gunfight causes Gale to re-evaluate the situation. He agrees that that the two crews can work out some sort of deal regarding the contents of the ship. Colt introduces himself and asks where the brothers hail from and is told that the Snoates brothers are from Ezra.
The two brothers head back to their ship so Evelle can bandage his hand. Colt tells Gale that Evelle should just stay on their ship. Shaking his head at his brother, Gale agrees. When the two cross to their ship, Sebastian hacks the mechanism, locking the door behind them. Colt heads back to Acorn to get a new envirosuit since his is now punctured. Not long after Colt returns, Gale appears at the locked door. He and Colt negotiate terms, finally settling on an 50/50 split with the exception of any crates marked G23-PH. These will not be part of the split and will go only to the crew of the Acorn.
Sebastian unlocks the door. Gale and the crew of the Acorn go back into the machine room. A closer examination reveals that the walls have been damaged by sprays of bullets. Mad is able to determine that the gunfire came from the direction of the cargo bay. While everyone else starts pulling crates into the common room, Sebastian heads back to Acorn and retrieves the portable power cell that is attached to his backup computer system (the “Neccom”). Intending to boost the ship’s computer power to have more access to its systems and information, Sebastian is horrified when Rainbird’s computer flashes that emergency protocols will be enacted unless the correct password is entered. Fingers flying, Sebastian races against a countdown timer. Finally, right before the timer hits “0”, Sebastian manages to crack the code.
Now with more access to Rainbird’s controls, Sebastian is able to determine that the radiation levels in the cargo bay are hot. This means that a person in an envirosuit could withstand 3 hours before they started to feel the effects. This also means that it is very likely that all of the cargo in the bay has been contaminated. And while Rainbird does have decontamination showers, it is unclear whether or not the chemical bath would even still be effective after the ship has been so long abandoned. The ship’s manifest details numerous crates of supplies, including food and medical. However, also listed are five anonymous crates containing canisters and four boxes of vials.
Sebastian is also able to re-connect the cargo bay cameras. Gathering the rest of the crew, they stare at the scene revealed. Even in the dim light, signs of battle are everywhere. Blood splatters the floors and walls. Two or three bodies lie next to the blasted cargo entrance, while other bodies lie scattered across the bay, torn into pieces. Crates lay ripped open and their contents strewn haphazardly about. Against one wall, nine storage units are built into the hull. These, possibly, are hermetically sealed and radiation-proof.
The group discusses the ramifications of opening the remaining starboard cargo bay door. The high levels of radiation worry everyone. Besides the inherent danger of transporting radioactive materials back onto their respective ships, there lies the problem of becoming exposed to the radiation themselves. After much discussion, Mad suggests opening the cargo bay doors to vent the radiation. Everything not nailed down in the cargo bay will be lost, but, considering the likelihood that everything not in the storage units is already useless, it seems like the best idea. Sebastian opens the cargo bay doors and the crew watches as bodies and crates go swirling into the black.
While waiting for the radiation levels to go down, the crew resumes gathering up what salvage they can find.