Contagion

(GM's note: Based on "Contagion" for 2300AD by Richard S. McEnroe, published in Challenge magazine #46)

Summary
6/7/2518

Many Hands
The Britannia is on Boros after delivering private investigator Rachel Harris and the remains of the Gau family to be shipped home for burial on Sihnon. Captain Windsor and Tai start looking for work. Windsor posts the ship on the port records while Tai goes out to talk. But Tai spends more time shopping for a pistol and doesn't get a good job. Windsor finds a job to deliver a load of industrial explosives to Persephone. Ruan goes out to do his usual tourist trip and ends up in one of his normal stops, a souvenir shop. He can't help himself and buys a new snow globe because of his programming. While cargo is loading, a familiar face approaches the captain, it is the young mechanic Lothel, who previously worked with them on the settler run to New Canaan in Blue Sun. She has had trouble finding a good berth and wonders if the Britannia needs a hand. With Naomi spending more and more time on the bridge and the recent upgrades, the crew is falling behind on maintenance. Windsor agrees and hires Lothel, she will bunk in one of the passenger cabins. The cargo is loaded, and Windsor has Naomi lift off and plot the course. Partway to Persephone, the compression converter cracks and the ship loses maneuvering control. They are still on course and Silas and Lothel jury rig a repair until the unit can be replaced. The rest of the flight is uneventful and Naomi makes a gentle landing. While cargo is unloading, Silas goes out to buy a new converter and gets a replacement and a spare. Tai does some investigation, talking to contacts among the local tongs and buys some body armor. Windsor finds a cargo of preserved food going to Beaumonde and they load up and depart.
After departure, Ruan goes to Tai and tries to explain that he is psychic and can help Tai in his investigation. Tai doesn't believe him until Ruan tells him some of his history that he could not know. Thinking Ruan is a spy for his enemies, Tai draws his gun and threatens Ruan, but Ruan takes the gun from him and continues to try to convince Tai. Shocked and confused, Tai storms out and ends up in the galley and finds some of Silas' home brewed rum and drinks himself unconscious.

Light Work
Wndsor is awakened at 5am ship time by a call from Shen Esposito. He says he needs the Britannia's help for a rescue mission. The Durance class freighter Zebrina was coming from Aphrodite in Georgia with some of Shen's people and a load of cargo salvaged there, cargo he wouldn't want the Purple Bellies to see. The freighter was suppose to meet with another ship outside of the Kalidasa system to transfer the cargo, but they sailed past the rendezvous and don't answer hails. The freighter is headed out of the 'Verse into interstellar space. Shen wants them to catch the ship and help the crew, recover the cargo at least. Windsor says they have a cargo bound for Beaumonde, if they divert, the cargo will be late and they will have a penalty. Shen agrees to pay the penalty and pay them to recover the cargo. Windsor agrees and sets things in motion. He has Naomi plot a new course and go to hard burn to catch the Zebrina. Then he calls their cargo's receiver and apologizes that they will be late.
The Britannia burns through the Black with the crew babying the systems through the stress of a hard burn. Naomi's course brings them to the ship and she maneuvers alongside. The ship appears to be running fine, her navigation lights are on. But the bridge is dark and the main cargo ramp and hatch are open partly, meaning the cargo bay has been depressurized and not resealed. Since the other ship is still in pulse drive, they will have to maneuver very close so the ships two drive fields meet and a boarding party can go across. Ruan goes first and secures a line so Windsor, Silas, Tai and Lothel can follow. Naomi is at the controls and Junior is watching their end of the line. Walking along the hull with magnetic boots, they find the cargo bay hatch is partly jammed with debris and bodies… They climb through the gap and pull the bodies and debris from the opening and Lothel closes the hatches. Windsor goes to a status display and Ruan examines the dead. One is in a crew member's space suit, he was killed by a blow from a fire axe which is still embedded in him. The other two died from decompression, one has a crew member's jump suit and has also been shot. Silas finds a discharged pistol in the cargo bay. Looking at the status panel, Windsor sees the ship appears to be working normally. They search the cargo bay which was a mix of standard containers and smaller crates, some of which appear to be military salvage. The two shuttles are still docked and they head up to the next deck.

The Devil's Workshop
The stairs to the next deck open into the crew lounge and chaos. The room is dark because the lighting fixtures have been smashed, tables and chairs are overturned. There are torn food containers and blood on the floor, wall cabinets hang open. Ruan opens his helmet to adjust his night vision goggles. It looks like the aftermath of a reaver attack. Ruan has been trying to sense if anyone is alive, all he gets are vague feelings, possible of animals, not humans. But now he feels someone is in the area aft of the crew lounge and they head that way. In the infirmary, they find a body on the table covered with a sheet. When they ease the sheet back, the figure attacks them with a scalpel! They open fire and kill the person, then examine it. The body is diseased, most of his hair has fallen out and the skin is covered with disfiguring blotches, which appear to be fuzzy like mold. They look in the medical records and see that the crew came down with some kind of fungal infection that starts with symptoms of paranoia, photophobia and homicidal psychosis. It may be a bioweapon from the bombing of Aphrodite during the war. The crew decides the ship is contaminated, any survivors are probably plague zombies. They will go to engineering and shut down the pulse drive and depressurize the ship. They tell Naomi, who orders Junior to unclip the safety line and she maneuvers the Britannia up and around the Zebrina. Moving to engineering, the boarding party is attacked by two more crew members. Startled and concerned about contamination, they open up with a tremendous barrage of bullets from every weapon and put down the two attackers. They go to engineering and while Silas shuts down the pulse drive, Lothel overrides the hatch controls and purges the ship to space, killing any remaining zombies. They get ready to return to the ship, but realize Run opened his helmet and maybe contaminated. Windsor puts Junior to work on rigging decontamination for their suits, his research shows two hours of vacuum exposure will kill the spores. But Ruan opened his helmet. After the two hour vacuum cleaning, the crew returns aboard ship and Ruan enters Shuttle 1 through the outside airlock and strips off his suit. They move spare clothes and supplies into the shuttle and Ruan strips out of all his gear and leaves it in the airlock to be vacuum cleaned. He will need to stay aboard the shuttle in quarantine for a week.
Windsor calls Shen and explains what happened. Shen recognizes the bioweapon as "Grey Patch" and orders Windsor to abandon the salvage attempt and return home. He will pay them for the job and their delivery penalty and apologizes for sending them into danger. Windsor orders Naomi to plot a course back to Beaumonde and they leave the plague ship behind.

Silly Quotes and Smart Remarks
It was Halloween, so we dressed up.
Lee "I wore my management goon costume yesterday, it was chafing"

Lee "We had the after adventure success party, and no one ended up with a wife"
Jim "That you know of"
Michael "Quick, check the cargo bay!"

Michael dressed as his dead character Cid with lots of fake blood wounds. He got makeup on his phone
Jim "Did you get blood on your phone?"
Lee "First world problems"

Kevin rolls poorly for maintenance, Jim rolls well for Lothel
Lee "She tells you 'righty-tighty' "

Discussing Naomi piloting to land the ship with a load of explosives on Persephone and maybe they could drop some on Badger
Emily "We could dress Badger as a fence"
Lee "Then the captain would have to land"
Jim "You are landing in the hazardous materials handling section of the port"
Lee "Explosives and meat handling"
Emily "Maybe they will load it on the pork truck"

Michael to Emily "I'm going to come up to you, thinking about thinking"
Everyone laughs, Emily is face down on the table
Lee "He's going to Inception you"

Lee "There's no abuse of power on this ship, its a dictator-ship"

Calculating the intercept course
Kevin "It's more complicated because we have to use Common Core"

Discussing Ruan shooting the snow globes and having to clean up
Lee "There's glitter everywhere, its like a strip club"
Emily "It's festive"
Lee "But its not March"
Jim "There's no stripper season"
Lee "Duck season. Stripper season. Duck season"

Coming up on the rogue ship
Lee "The left turn signal has been on for days"

Lothel has her own custom suit
Allison "My mom put my name in it with a tag"
Kevin "You can't knit a space suit!"
Allison "I have seasonal suits, like an ugly Christmas one"