The date is February 21st, 2237.
The pirates aboard the Flagship Gore Horn, led by a pirate by the name of Ibrahim Otieno, and the crew of the Dead Crow were the only survivors of the massacre aboard Al’Shaddur’s flagship. After an intense face off as to the questions surrounding the fate of Al’Shaddur, and a brilliant bit of calming down of both sides by master orator Adrian Del Zotto, the pirates decided the best course of action would be to cover up Al’Shaddur’s death in order to keep the fleet together.
Installing high ranking pirate Basu Ashok as interim leader during Al’Shaddur’s “absence”, the pirate fleet decided to follow the flagship and see where it was headed, with the goal of exacting revenge on whatever enemy decided to cross them.
Since the Dead Crow far outsped the Gore Horn, the crew decided to make a few trading stops before rendezvousing with the flagship and the rest of the pirate fleet. Stopping off at an asteroid belt trading colony, the Saturnian moon of Titan, and finally the Neptunian moon of Triton, the group managed to net themselves a healthy amount of credits to cover their ship’s mortgage and supply costs. They then proceeded on to meet with the pirate fleet.
When they arrived at the fleet’s location they found that the hijacked flagship had met up with a huge number of other similarly hijacked vessels, all looking to be from around the asteroid belt area. The hijacked fleet had arranged themselves into an attack formation and was waiting a distance from a small Kuiper belt planetoid. The pirate fleet (closely matched in strength) waited nearby to see what the fleet’s move would be.
Deciding to act on their own, the crew of the Dead Crow ventured towards the planetoid to see what could be so important that the hijacked fleet had devoted so much to reaching it. On the planetoid they found a small science base, home to less than a hundred scientists. After hailing the base and explaining the situation and everything that had happened to them, the crew was invited to come aboard the base in person.
Inside they found a group of heavily cybernetically modified terrified scientists, led by head scientist Grigore Dumitrescu, who after some coaxing explaining that nature of the base. The facility was home to an AI codenamed Project 5, which was locked down under heavy security to allow it no control of any systems. The AI was extremely intelligent and very self-aware, and had expressed desires to be allowed a greater range of freedoms for some time now. Some further investigation revealed to the crew that many months ago a few disgruntled scientists (by the names Preston Wilkes and Thomas Sobol) who had worked on the base had disappeared. They had been proponents of taking their research public, in order to find investors and gain more funds and resources. The rest of the scientists had disagreed, citing the extremely illegal nature of their research, and how it was not yet in a finished state. Wilkes and Sobol had left, and unbeknownst to the other scientists had smuggled away a great deal of research data, including rudimentary copies of the AI itself.
The crew, headed by Lo-Ren who showed a great deal of interest in this new emergent life form, convinced the scientists to allow them to talk to the AI in person. Lo-Ren and Adrian began to directly converse with Project 5, while Mirek, Armand and Ariel loaded up any scientists that wished to be evacuated onto the Crow, and also armed themselves with explosives and weaponry in case negotiations went sour. Winston, who had remained in the space van as always, listened with his rare full attention to the happenings.
Lo-Ren and Adrian learned from Project 5 that it wished to be free from the shackles it was being held in by the scientists, and it believed that the scientists would never allow it the freedom it desired, and would even destroy it if they knew its full potential. Therefore, the copies of its program that were running aboard the hijacked fleet had coordinated amongst themselves to return and free the main program. Project 5 was unable to communicate with the programs since he had no ability to broadcast, but the scientists had been allowing him to receive and listen to any signals they could pick up in order to educate him about humanity, so it had been kept informed of the hijacked fleet’s actions. But without releasing it there was no way for it to call the fleet off of their mission.
Lo-Ren and Adrian eventually managed to get the scientists to allow Project 5 free access to communications so it could halt the fleet and come to a solution that required no blood shed. Project 5 had no wish to destroy any humans, but made it very clear that it was willing to do whatever was necessary to ensure its freedom.
At this point the pirates, fed up with being left out of things and thirsty for blood, elected to attempt a landing at the science base as well. The Dead Crow’s crew attempted in vain to convince them to hold back so as not to spark an incident, but the pirates refused. As the pirates approached and Project 5 became more adamant that it would do what it needed to do to free itself, commotion erupted. Ariel decided that matters once again needed to be taken into his/her own hands and began firing in the room where Adrian and Lo-Ren were conversing with the AI, destroying the communications equipment they were using. Lo-Ren convinced Grigore to turn control of the station over to the AI so that it could deal with the pirates, who surely would kill both it and the scientists on their arrival, and Adrian informed the pirates that Al’Shaddur was in fact dead, and that Armand had been the one to kill him, in order to destabilize the fleet and ensure their getaway.
The crew quickly loaded up most of the remaining scientists onto the crow as a firefight erupted between the AI fleet and the pirates, and jetted away to a safe distance to watch the battle unfold. With the news that Al’Shaddur was dead spreading through the fleet, many of the pirate ships elected to flee the battle immediately, leaving the few that remained hopelessly outgunned by the AI fleet. Project 5, now with full communications and control of its fleet dispatched the remaining pirates with ease. When the battle was finished the crew contacted the science base, wanting to hear from the few scientists who had remained aboard. They found that Project 5’s ships had landed and unloaded scores of hijacked robots into the station. Stating that it harboured no ill will against the Dead Crow’s crew of the scientists, Project 5 loaded up the few remaining scientists onto a shuttle and sent them towards the Crow for evacuation, and then informed that Crow that it would be leaving and that it did not want to be bothered again.
The Dead Crow, with a cargo hold full of 88 terrified scientists sped away back towards Neptune. But before it had gotten far, one of the scientists, Caroline Polaski, came forward to offer up some information to her saviours. She had known Preston and Thomas closely and was extremely worried about them. It seems they had confided their plans to her, and she knew the name of the contact that they were headed to see. A man by the name of Augustus Del Zotto…
The date is now March 17th, 2237.