__Freelancer Part Three__
- After more missions, Trent gets a call from Juni.
Juni: Hey Trent! Come to Planet Manhattan.
Trent: The planet of fun?
Juni: Uh ... hey, sure, why not. (She cuts the link.)
Trent (in his ship, flying to Manhattan): Yay! Marshmallows!
- Trent lands on Manhattan and heads to the bar. But before he can get there, Lonnigan shows up, holding a water pistol.
Trent: Lonnigan! I thought someone shot you! Go figure! Where have you-
Lonnigan: Stay still! I had to kill a man to escape today. What's one more?
Trent: That is a water pistol.
Lonnigan (ignores the interruption): Why are you still here? Can't you see what's going on? Freeport 7? Zone 21? The Freemasons?
Trent: Not really, no. I forgot to put on my tinfoil hat today and now They are blocking my conspiracy-detecting neural pathways with gamma rays.
Lonnigan: Right, makes sense. I'll tell you then: it's Liberty! The artifacts! They're up to something.
Trent: Who's up to something? The artifacts?
Lonnigan (ignores the interruption): I thought I had to warn you, I felt I owed it to you. Don't try and follow me, Trent. Get outta Liberty while you still can! (Runs off.)
Trent: Well, I've had my daily dose of random now.
- Trent gets to the bar. The barkeeper looks up and sneers.
Barkeeper: You again!
Trent: I'm looking for Jun'ko Zane. Have you seen her lately?
Barkeeper (leers): Yes, I did. She had a message for you. (silence)
Trent: ... what did she say?
Barkeeper (still leering): I don't know. I was too busy looking at h-
Trent (hurriedly): Yes, um, okay, maybe she left a note or something.
Barkeeper: Oh yeah! She did, here it is. (Hands Trent the note.)
Note (as read by Trent): Hi Trent. I suddenly forgot all about 30th Century communications technology and so decided to leave a message in the bar instead of just calling you, but was coherent enough not to trust the sleazy barkeeper to remember more than two consecutive syllables, so I left a note. Meet me on California Minor. Juni.
Trent: I forget, do I have the access code for that jump gate? Or are we just going to forget that jump gates have access codes now that the tutorial missions are over? I think from this point on, whenever I'm able to get somewhere I'm not supposed to be via a jump gate, I'm just going to mentally make a note of the fact that my enemies are idiots for not locking the door.
- Trent gets in his ship and flies to California Minor. Along the way he goes through a jump gate. On the other side of the jump gate, a Rhino-model freighter appears...
Freighter: Mr. Trent? We need to talk... I was with you on Freeport 7, we met on the rescue ship? Something's going on! I'm being followed. Other survivors from Freeport have been disappeared. Please, meet me on Los Angeles!
- Just then, three Navy fighters show up.
Freighter (in haunted voice): Damn it! (He begins trying to divert course.)
Lead fighter: Brandon Roland, you are under arrest! Cut your engines and stand down.
- The Freighter tries to flee.
Lead fighter: All units, fire missiles!
- A volley of missiles is fired and hits the Freighter. Its pilot begins to scream... only to be cut off as the ship explodes.
Lead fighter: Civilian ship, this was a classified Navy operation. Do yourself a favor and keep this quiet. (They fly off, leaving Trent alone.)
Trent: ...the things you miss when your communicator is broken...
- Trent lands on California Minor, telling the robot mechanic to have the ship's radio repaired in the meantime. He instinctively heads for the bar, and happens to find Juni there.
Trent: You know, if you wanted to see me, you could have chosen a quieter place.
Juni: I'm trying to keep a low profile.
Trent: Well, this is low, I'll grant you that!
Juni: The reason I called you here, Trent, apart from your glittering social commentary, is because you are expendable.
Juni: I mean... it's because I have a mission for you. Ashcroft finally talked. Are you interested?
Trent (stares off into space, his eyes looking in different directions): ...
Juni: ... hello??
Trent (snaps out of it): Oh, sorry. I was just reading the mission details and stuff on that dialog box that appears out of nowhere.
Trent: Anyway, aren't you going to tell me about the mission? I clicked 'Accept', didn't I?
Juni: Ooookaaaay, not going there, whatever's going on in the happy rose-tinted cloud land you call home. Right. Before we prepared Ashcroft with garlic and chives, lemon juice, and carrots julienne, he told us a few things...
Trent: Before you go on, what was he like?
Juni: Meh, a bit tough, but I've had worse. Anyway, according to the late lamented Ashcroft, someone in the Navy or the Security Force was helping them. Now, this is probably just his way to spread mistrust, but we thought we'd better make sure. We have a plan, and I need someone who is above suspicion. Since we need a complete outsider for this, I thought of you.
Trent: _Nice._ So when do I leave?
Juni: When do _we_ leave. We're working together on this one -
Trent (interrupts her): SHUT UP WOMAN! THERE'S SOMETHING ON THE TELLY! SOMETHING WHICH INTERESTS ME. (He stares at the TV, his mouth slightly open, drooling on the table.)
TV: According to official reports, the Liberty Security Force has crippled the Order by bringing down their top man - again. The LSF reports that the _actual_ leader of the Order, who is the really really real one this time, unlike the previous 351 random people shot on suspicion, and whose terrible code name is Orillion for some reason, is this guy ... (a mug shot is shown on screen).
Trent and TV in unison: Sam Lonnigan!
Juni: How did you know that?
Trent: You remember the time I was going on a mission and you found me randomly KO'd on the launching pad?
Juni: Yes! That was fun!
Juni: Sorry. Continue.
Trent: Well, remember that I said 'Where's Lonnigan'?
Juni: Not really. Usually, when your mouth starts flapping and making stupid sounds, I think of other things to hear and see, other places ... the future, the past ... old friends, long gone ...
Trent: Han? Leia! (He drops his glass, spilling beer all over himself.)
Juni (sighing and shaking her head): Control, control! You must learn control!
Trent (while sucking the beer out of his shirt): But anyway, I met him on Freeport 7. He was a trader, or at least I thought he was.
Juni: Well if you knew he was a traitor ...
Trent: I'm Bretonian, I never should have adopted this Libertonian accent in the first place. I said trader and I meant trader. Trade. Someone who ... oh forget it. He was Jewish.
Juni: Ah, I see. Buying low from friends and selling high to gentiles. That was his cover. He must have been doing a recon before the attack.
Trent: It wasn't before, it was during. He almost died! It doesn't make sense. He wasn't smart enough to _be_ a terrorist, let alone lead them.
Juni: You're implying that being smart is a requirement for being a terrorist. I kinda disagree.
Trent: Point. But anyway, Lonnigan was really panicked. He was trying to tell me something ... but he died. Oh well.
Juni: Yeah, whoever he was, he's dead now! Come on Trent, we have another scumbag to ferret out.
Trent: Okay, so he's automatically guilty because he got shot by the LSF?
Juni: Yes. I'm LSF. My job is easier if I assume we're always right. I just shoot them all and let Anubis sort them out.
Trent: Remind me to avoid you when you're armed.
Juni: I am armed. There's no such thing as an unarmed LSF commander.
Trent: How fascinating. On an unrelated note, I intend to get in my extremely bullet-proof ship as soon as possible. (He runs away, gets aboard his ship, launches, and heads to the rendezvous, all in record time and while screaming.)
Juni: He just got into his ship without complaining. Why didn't I think of this before?!
- At the rendezvous in space. Juni flies up to where Trent is waiting in space.
Juni: There you are! Switching to a secure channel. Bleebity bloop! We're off to lure us some bad guys with valuable artifacts as cargo. We're taking the artifacts to Research Station Willard, which is inside an icy asteroid field, which is in a space ... cloud ... thing. We'll be flying through the Berrera Passage, an area of space that is purposefully eerie. And also free of asteroids. Because I mean, it's not like asteroids ... MOVE AROUND or anything. Follow along.
- Juni flies off, and Trent follows along.
Trent: Okay, two things though. One, we just did something a lot like this earlier today, so, you know, plot repetition. Two, I'm pretty sure that saying 'bleebity bloop' doesn't turn your connection into a secure channel. In fact there is no such thing as a secure channel.
Juni: What do you mean?
Trent: You can't stop the signal, you know. It goes somewhere, and the hackers go everywhere. Who knows? Maybe some sleazy nerd with a robot girlfriend and no life is out there somewhere in the Universe right now, listening to us, stealing our identities, and being unfunny.
- On a small planetoid with an atmosphere composed of comm static. In a large building surrounded by satellite dishes. In said building's control room, surrounded by monitors, sits a random guy who calls himself Mr. Universe.
Mr. Universe: HEY!!
- Back in the Sirius Sector.
Juni: Oh, so now, people will drain my bank account whenever I buy something on meTunes? Sheesh, thanks for the lecture, Grandma.
Trent: Bah! Ungrateful young'un! Don't cry to me when the Chinese steal all your money! Shifty-eyed Asians, you just can't trust them! Why, back in my day ...
Trent: Sorry. Uh, ... arigato. Sayonara. Otaku.
- They fly on. Eventually they reach a space station.
Juni: Where is everyone?
Station: Commander! The convoy has already left and is waiting for you at the entrance to the Berrera Passage.
Juni: That kind of defeats the point of us being their escort. Them leaving without us and all. But, thanks.
- Juni and Trent go to the Berrera Passage and meet the convoy, which is just sitting there.
Juni: Hi, convoy! Why did you leave without us?
Convoy Leader: We got bored waiting at the station.
Juni: ... but ... now you're waiting here.
Convoy Leader (brightly): Yes!
Juni: ... okay. Let's go. The Berrera Passage is eerie and stuff, so follow the buoys and keep your eyes open.
Convoy Leader: So ... what do we do?
Juni: Fly to the entrance of the Passage, it's marked with a buoy.
Convoy Leader: Um ...
Juni: That metal thing with the lights on over there.
- The convoy, with Juni and Trent in tow, fly to the entrance buoy.
Convoy Leader: We've reached the entrance to the pathway, Commander!
- The convoy makes no attempt to change course.
Juni: So ... fly to the first buoy. Just keep following the buoys. Keep your eyes open.
Convoy Leader: Acknowledged! Proceeding to first buoy!
- The convoy changes course and heads for the first buoy. As they approach it, Juni calls the convoy.
Juni: Convoy leader, are you there?
Convoy Leader: Zzzzzz ...
Juni: Fly to the second buoy!
Convoy Leader: Buh, what? Second buoy?
Juni: And keep your eyes open!
- They reach the second buoy.
Convoy Leader: Commander, help! I'm still confused! What now?
Juni: Oh, for ... sheesh, I'm getting flashbacks to when I was teaching a Computer Literacy course. Fly to the third buoy. Keep your eyes open. There's an old supply depot, perfect for an ambush. If we're attacked, we should be nice and far from help, and facing an entire gang. Which is why we came here with just me and Trent and nobody else.
Trent: You're trying to get me killed again, aren't you?
Juni (cheerfully): Of course, who wouldn't?
- Before Trent can reply, a space mine explodes and sends the ships in all directions.
Convoy Leader: A mime!
- Marcel Marceau floats by the viewport, miming someone suffocating in space. He does it very convincingly, then suffocates.
- Everybody starts fighting. Not kung fu fighting, though. That would hardly be effective in this situation.
Juni: Help, we're being attacked by pirates, just as we planned! Except that we didn't plan for this eventuality!
Random Patrol: Since we just happen to be nearby, out of all the vastness of space, we'll assist you.
Juni: That's convenient! Thanks!
- They kill all the pirates.
Convoy Leader: An ambush!
Juni: What?! Where?
Convoy Leader: Just now! There was an ambush!
Juni: Not that quick on the draw, are you?
Convoy Leader: Leave my Pictionary scores out of this!
Juni: ... anyway, let's go to Research Station Willard. By the way, thanks for showing up, Random Patrol. It was starting to look ... grim.
Random Patrol: You mean there was a house made of gingerbread?
Juni: Close. More like a station made out of flavored maize.
- They reach Research Station Willard. It looks like a giant cheese curl.
Research Station Willard: Hi! Our doors are broken.
Trent: ... why?
Research Station Willard: So that Juni can talk at you for a while and you don't immediately land to sell your loot before she has a chance to finish her sentence.
Juni: It's like you people know Trent or something ...
- She talks in Trent's general direction, but he's shooting at little icy rocks drifting by and picking up the water that is left.
Research Station Willard: Okay, the doors are open!
Juni: Oh, and Trent, one more thing ...
- Trent docks.
Juni: ... darn.
-- A while later. Juni and Trent are in space next to Research Station Willard.
Juni: Okay, Trent! Let's go to California Minor!
Trent: But ... we were just there.
Juni: And now we're going back to talk to someone. I know a short cut. Switching to a secure channel ...
Trent: ... secure channel ... okay fine, since you're so attached to the idea, I'll let it slide.
Mr. Universe: You can never stop ... the sig ... nal ... (He dies.)
Juni: All my friends in the Liberty Police have been arrested and I don't know why!
Trent: What ... just now? That was fast and efficient! And you're saying the government was involved?
Juni: The only one I was able to contact was King, who's still on Pittsburgh.
Trent: Why's he always there? He told me it was remarkably unexciting. A lot of smoke, rocks and fire. But that what it lacks in class, it more than makes up for in cheap drinks.
Trent: ... ah, right.
Juni: Anyway, I'm going to go talk to a friend of mine on California Minor. Come with! It will be fun!
Trent: Meh, okay. Who's this friend?
Juni: He's in the Navy. His name is Walker. Johnnie Walker.
Trent: Are all your friends winos?
Juni: I've made some bad decisions. Don't judge me.
- Suddenly, three ships appear and attack.
Juni: What? Rheinland ships? They're attacking!
Trent: See, this is what happens when you take short cuts!
- The nebula becomes a calming rural scene. Trent walks up to the camera (?).
Trent: Remember kids, taking short cuts through unfamiliar territory isn't cool. Don't be like Juni here, who took a short cut across Farmer Brown's nebula only to find a Rheinland bull in the asteroid field! Stick to the trade lanes you know. That's what cool kids do!
- Trent winks.
Juni: Hello? Trent! Hello, are you okay? One of the Rheinland ships hit you with a missile ...
Trent: And now, a message from our sponsors!
Juni: ... okay. Just follow me.
- They land on California Minor and immediately go to the bar, as always.
Trent: I'm beginning to figure out why everyone you know is an alcoholic.
Juni: Shut up. This, Trent, is Captain Morg- uh, I mean, Captain Johnnie Walker.
Trent: That's confusing.
Captain Walker: Oh hey, man! Uh ... got a little captain in you?
Trent: Still the sketchiest corporate slogan of all time.
Captain Walker: Man, I'm sorry, man. Look, Juni says you're gonna help us out with, like, ... our problems and stuff. So ... thanks, bro. You got my back, I got yours, yanno? We're bros, man! I love you, man!
Trent: Nice to meet you too, I guess.
Captain Walker: Man, talking about backs, yanno, my cousin's got this business, right? He makes those clothes for ladies that squeeze their fat into a good-looking shape. What's it called ...
Captain Walker: Yeah! Yeah, man, you totally got it. Corsets. Solid. Yanno when you're done helping us and stuff, you ought to ditch this whole space travel thing. I'm gonna stop doing it, totally. Space is not cool any more. Yanno what's cool? Mullets. And corsets. Corsets are cool. We could make money selling that. Corsets will always be cool.
Trent: No thanks. Corsets come and go. I'd rather just keep freelancing if it's all the same to you.
Captain Walker: (shrugs helplessly) Man, suit yourself, man. I thought you were cool, man, I thought you were up for it. I gotta ... (wanders off aimlessly)
Juni: Sorry about that. Great captain, when he's sober. When we're in space, I'll tell you what all this is about.
Trent: So ... why did we come to California Minor?
Juni: Eh ... I don't get time off, so I figured hey, I'll just use company time as inefficiently as possible.
Trent: I like you better now.
- Trent and Juni launch from Planet California Minor.
Juni: Follow me, Trent. Walker and his fleet are on the other side of the planet, far away from anything useful or relevant.
Juni: He probably got lost. Let's go help him.
- They set off, when King contacts them.
King: Hey Juni! You were right about all your friends in the Liberty Police getting arrested...
Trent: What for? Flying Under the Influence?
King: ... actually no, surprisingly enough. There's been a major shakeup in the higher ranks of the LSF.
Trent: Oh, the Shake Up? You mean that dance move from a few years ago?
Juni: Shut up, Trent. You're draining the IQ of this general region of space. Okay, thanks, King. I'll keep my eyes open.
King: Bye! Don't get arrested! (He signs off.)
- Just then, they reach Walker's fleet.
Walker: Oh, hey, guys! I'm so bummed right now.
Juni: Why? Did you get suspicious orders and now you fear arrest?
Walker: Huh? No, I got lost. What were you talking about? Are you drunk?
- Suddenly, Willard Station calls them.
Willard Station: Help! Rheinlanders are attacking us!
Trent: Oh good, I was getting tired of the Amazing Flying Salvage Patrol.
Walker: So like, ... we should probably go help them and stuff. Just keep down the fighting if you can, I'm getting a headache.
- The fleet (with Trent and Juni in tow) head to the station.
Trent: Question, are we just going to go around in circles now? Because we went to California Minor twice, and now we're going back to Willard ... I'm going to start feeling dizzy.
Walker: Heck, that's me all the time.
Trent: Flying between California Minor and Willard?
Walker: No, feeling dizzy.
Willard Station: Are you still coming? Our fighters are being shot down like flies!
Trent: That seems difficult.
- They arrive at the station, and before long, the enemy fleet is defeated.
Juni: Thanks for the help, Trent!
Trent: I feel like I'm the only one who did anything.
Juni: You are. You get paid by the hour. The rest of us don't get a bonus, so we don't care.
Trent: I feel safer knowing that this system is under your protection.
Juni: (brightly) Thanks! Anyway, I'm authorizing some extra pay for you. You've gone beyond the call of duty already.
Trent: I know, I'm not really that into the Black Ops ones.
Juni: ... whatever that means. Okay, bye! Walker and I have a lot of things to dri- ... to discuss.
Trent: Right then. Cheers!
Walker: Oh, sorry! Yeah! ... uh, cheers! (sound of glass clinking)
- Trent minds his own business for a while. He has just innocently sold a consignment of Strepsils when Juni calls him.
Juni: Trent! Shit's going down!
Trent: That's what it usually does.
Juni: Funny. Meet me on Manhattan.
- Trent flies to Manhattan and lands on what is apparently the only landing pad on the planet. After Trent gets out of his ship, he sees Juni pacing around next to a stack of boxes. I mean ... a FUTURISTIC stack of COOL FUTURE-LOOKING boxes. A robot ... or rather, FUTURISTIC DOCK WORKER walks by.
Juni: Trent! Over here! Yooo-hoooo! I'm heeeee-eeere!!!
Trent: What's up?
Juni: (Goes and stands right by the nearest robot walking by.) I have a secret! We need to talk! About the secret, secret thing that I have to say! Secretly.
Trent: This is the main landing pad of the capital planet of a society built on trade, which spans a vast area of space at the crossroads of three other nations.
Juni: What's your point?
Trent: Never mind. Go on.
Juni: I went back to the battleship Missouri. I wanted to question Ashcroft on his connections to-
Trent: I thought you ate him!
Juni: ... what are you, crazy? That was a joke! Did you really think I was a cannibal all this time?
Trent: ... uh ... I don't need to answer that.
Juni: Wow. Okay, where was I ... Ashcroft. He's gone missing! And all the records of him ever existing are gone! Even the male waitrons have been replaced, and the new ones have never heard of him!
Trent: That's fishy.
Juni: But it gets worse! Walker is gone too-
Trent: You're sure he's not just lost somewhere?
Juni: Well, no ... probably not. He's definitely missing.
Trent: Wooooo! (He begins to dance.)
Juni: Your concern is touching. But it's worse than him just being missing. His ship is listed as having been lost ... FIVE YEARS AGO.
Trent: Wow! Like the Enterprise and Captain Kirk? On a five-year mission to seek-
Juni: No, I mean, lost with all hands. Destroyed. What I'm saying is, this is a conspiracy.
Trent: A conspiracy to get rid of Walker? Not that I don't support the idea, but they're listing him as having disappeared five years ago, when he just saved hundreds of people on Station Willard yesterday?
Juni: Yes ...
Trent: Worst. Conspiracy. EVER.
Juni: So we need to find out what's going on. I have to go ... uh, powder my, ... no. Um, take care of business? That's it. You wait here. Bee Are Bee.
- Juni leaves. Immediately, the Mean-Looking Dude steps out of the shadows and throws away a barely smoked cigarette.
Mean-Looking Dude: I've got to remember not to buy menthols again.
Trent: Can I help you? Were you eavesdropping?
Mean-Looking Dude: It's kind of hard not to. This is a public place, you know.
Trent: I tried telling Juni, but noooo ...
Mean-Looking Dude: Yeah ... I mean, I try not to listen to other people's conversations, but ...
Trent: Yeah ...
- There is an uncomfortable silence.
Mean-Looking Dude: Anyway. I need to talk to you, Mr. Trent, because we're the last two.
Trent: Last two of what?
Mean-Looking Dude: Of the Mohicans. I mean, of the Freeport 7 survivors.
Trent: Wait, I know you! From the rescue ship! You stole my toothbrush!
Mean-Looking Dude: Yes. I'm a thief, Mr. Trent. I'm in the possession of something that a certain party wants very badly.
Trent: Yes! Me! Give me back my toothbrush!
Mean-Looking Dude: It's not really about your toothbrush, Mr. Trent. It's about this ...
- The Mean-Looking Dude shows Trent the JPEG-ified Easter egg.
- Someone shoots the Mean-Looking Dude.
Trent: Every time I talk to a guy on this landing pad, he gets shot.
- A soldier walks up, his gun drawn.
Soldier: Hands up!
Trent: Wait, I can explain!
Soldier: No! You have JPEG artifacts! Evil! Evil! I'm going to shoot y-
- Suddenly, Juni reappears and shoots the soldier.
Trent: Every time I talk to a guy on this landing pad, he gets shot! But thanks, Juni, you saved my life!
Juni: Oh! Trent, I didn't see you there.
Trent: ... then why did you shoot that guy?
Juni: Oh, I'm LSF and he's military. The inter-departmental rivalry has really gotten out of control lately. Anyway, let's go look for Walker. Wait, who's that mean-looking corpse?
Trent: I don't know, but he stole my toothbrush.
- Trent bends down and picks up his toothbrush. Then, on a whim, he takes the Easter egg with the JPEG artifacts, too.
Juni: What are you doing?
Trent: Looting corpses! Why, what do you do after a random encounter?
Juni: I'm pretty sure this was scripted. In which case, we need to get out of here.
Trent: You're right.
- Juni and Trent get in their ships and launch. But when they get to orbit, the whole Liberty Navy is there.
Liberty Navy: Your ass is grass.
Trent: No, it's not. It's meat, and-
Juni: Trent, hurry up and follow me! We need to get out of here!
- As they turn to flee, they realize that they're surrounded.
Juni: There's too many of them! The Battleship Unity is blocking the trade lane that leads away from here!
- At this dramatically convenient moment, Walker's ship appears, with King not far behind.
Walker: Hey, Battleship Unity! Are you hassling my friends? My bros? My buddies? Not cool, man. NOT COOL.
Juni: I'm not your bro.
Walker: Everyone! Shoot at the Unity until they ... go away.
- The Battleship Unity starts disintegrating.
Battleship Unity: Oh no! We're exploding! Everyone, save yourselfs!
King: I told you, you've got to say-
- The Battleship Unity explodes.
King: Ah, never mind. You'll learn better grammar ... IN HELL!
Trent: I thought you were Native American.
King: Oh yeah. Uh, ... the UNHAPPY hunting grounds! Or something.
Juni: Guys, the rest of the Navy is still shooting at us. Let's leave.
King: What about Walker?
Walker: You ... stupid ... buddy-shooting ... uh ... I'LL KILL YOU ALL!
Juni: He'll be fine. Come on!
- Juni, King, and Trent dock with a trade lane and scuttle like spooked hamsters. Eventually they reach the Badlands: a dark area of space. Somehow darker than usual.
Juni: They won't follow us in here!
King: If you say so. I'll go back and check on Walker before he crashes into Manhattan or something. (He leaves.)
Trent: And that would be bad ... why, exactly?
Juni: Come on, Trent, follow me. I want you to meet a friend of mine.
Trent: Oh, good! I'm going to need a drink after this.
Juni: Actually, he's not an alcoholic.
Trent: YOU LIE! In your friends' cabinets there are drinks! A fair chance-
Khan: THIS IS CETI ALPHA FIVE!
Leonidas: THIS IS SPARTA!
Patrick: NO, THIS IS PATRICK!
- Juni sends out a general hail.
Juni: Hello! Dr. Van Pelt? Are you there?
Dr. Van Pelt: Juni! Is this you? I heard you were in trouble!
Juni: The whole Navy is after me.
Dr. Van Pelt: Land on my station.
Trent: He seems ... trusting.
- They land.
Dr. Van Pelt: Juni! I'm glad you made it. The channels are buzzing with reports about you!
Juni: Hi. This is Trent.
Trent: Hi! Who are you?
Dr. Van Pelt: I'm a scientist, studying anomalies in this far-flung region of space. Like that one, right outside the window. This station was abandoned long ago after an accident, but I'm still hanging around. Not like I have anything better to do.
Trent: Is anyone else on board, or are you alone here?
Dr. Van Pelt: No, I'm not alone! I have my machines.
Trent: ... so, yes, you're alone.
Dr. Van Pelt: Machines are people too!
Console: Security alert! This is a general announcement from the Liberty Government.
- Everyone gathers around the console.
Console: There are some bad guys about. They're armed and legged and dangerous. Sending identity data now. (The console displays a photo of Trent and Juni.)
Trent: I don't remember that photo.
Juni: King took it. We were having fun while you were unconscious on the Manhattan landing pad that one time. There's another one of you wearing funny glasses.
Dr. Van Pelt: Juni, what is all this about? A security alert? That can't be true, you're not dangerous!
Juni: Thanks ...
Trent: I think it might have something to do ... (he pulls something from his pocket) ... with THIS!
Dr. Van Pelt: A toothbrush?
Trent: Oops, no. (He takes something else out of his jacket) ... with THIS!
Dr. Van Pelt: An Easter egg? With JPEG artifacts floating around it? Let me analyze it!
- He grabs it from Trent and runs over to the console. He puts the JPEG Artifact Easter Egg down in front of the console and starts typing.
- Suddenly, we get an external view of the station. For dramatic effect? An asteroid comes by and crashes into the camera.
- Back on the station.
Dr. Van Pelt (tickles the console keyboard): Why isn't my website working?
Dr. Van Pelt: I mean, why isn't this working? Oh, I haven't started a file for it yet. What do you call this thing?
Trent: Uh ... an Alien JPEG Artifact Easter Egg Thing?
Dr. Van Pelt: I'll just call it ARTIFACT. That even fits into 8 letters.
Trent: You're limited to 8 characters on that thing?
Dr. Van Pelt: This is DOS. Look, I don't even own a mouse!
Trent: That's true. Anyway, what can you tell us about the Artifact?
Dr. Van Pelt: Hmm, this is interesting. It's still active! You need to ask Quintaine about this.
Juni: What's a Quintaine?
Dr. Van Pelt: He's a scientist who knows about these kinds of things. He lives in Cambridge. He even has Windows 3.11 For Workgroups! It comes with Minesweeper and SkiFree. The yeti always eats me in the end when I play it. I visit him sometimes.
Trent: So will he identify it for us? For free? Like Deckard Cain?
Dr. Van Pelt: Yes.
Juni: I don't want to identify this thing, I want to get rid of it!
Trent: But it might be socketable! Once we identify it, I can put it in my sword and it will gain an elemental effect.
Dr. Van Pelt (hastily): Or it could be important in some other way! If Liberty is after you, then you know too much already. At least if you keep this, you'll have a bargaining chip!
Juni: I suppose ...
Console: Liberty ships approaching!
Dr. Van Pelt: Dude, far out! I mean, ... Liberty ships never come this far out! They must have followed you somehow.
Trent: Maybe by taking the only trade lane that goes in this direction, that they saw us enter.
Dr. Van Pelt: Juni, for your own safety, leave now! Take the Magellan jump gate nearby. It hasn't been used since the accident on this station a long time ago. But it still works!
Juni: How do you know that?
Dr. Van Pelt: Well, the lights are still on.
Juni: I guess it's our best shot. What about you?
Dr. Van Pelt: I'll be fine. I have my security blanket.
- Trent and Juni launch. The Navy is surrounding Dr. Van Pelt's station.
Juni: Looks dangerous out here. Dr. Van Pelt, come with us!
Dr. Van Pelt: ... with a station?
Juni: Good point. I'll land and rescue you.
Dr. Van Pelt: Then why did you leave without me?
Juni: Uh ...
Liberty Navy: You're all under arrest!
Dr. Van Pelt: Oh, yeah? Well, you're all doo-doo heads!
- The Liberty Navy destroys the station.
- Exterior shot of large structure exploding in space.
Audience: Deja vu again! Again!
- In the confusion, Trent and Juni escape.
Juni: Dr. Van Pelt is dead! This sucks!
Trent: I guess. I just met him, so I don't really care.
Juni: Wow. Okay. Let's just jump to Magellan.
- They find the Magellan jump gate and go through. On the other side, they meet some Bounty Hunters.
Bounty Hunters: You're going down!
Trent: Are you implying that I'm shit?
- They fight, and some other ships arrive.
Other ships: We're here to save you!
Trent and Juni: Yay!
- Together, they defeat the Bounty Hunters.
Juni: Thanks! Who are you guys?
Other ships: We're Lane Hackers. Pirates.
Juni: ... so if you're pirates, why did you save us?
Lane Hackers: Because the good guys are bad guys now, so obviously the bad guys must now be good guys. Duh. That's only logical.
Juni: What do they teach in schools these days?
Lane Hackers: Anyway, follow us to our base!
- They do. On arrival at the base ...
Leader of the Lane Hacker ships: I found them. Repeat, I found them!
C-3PO: Master Trent, how good to see you fully functional again! R2 expresses his relief also!
Juni: Trent, let's land and fix our ships. We'll decide where to go after that. Probably Cambridge, to see this Quintaine fellow.
- Later, after they've repaired their ships and returned to space.
Juni: So, I've got good news and bad news. Good: there are jump holes nearby that go to Manchester and Leeds.
Trent: Leeds! A friend of mine runs the equipment dealership there.
Juni: Thanks for that random bit of information. Anyway, the bad news is that there's a reward on our heads now. One million credits. Can you believe it?
Trent: So if I turn myself in, I do get paid after all! Hello, million credits!
Juni: Please don't do that, it would be stupid.
- Suddenly, Rheinlanders attack!
Juni: They're here for the artifact!
- A fight ensues and the Rheinlanders die.
Lane Hackers: Oh! Protecting you from your enemies means that we'll sometimes get attacked by your enemies? Well, that's just not on! We can no longer protect you!
Juni: ... fine. Okay, Trent, go see your friend on Leeds, and I'll go find Quintaine. I'll call you later.
- Later, as Trent is preparing to land on Leeds.
Juni (over the comm): I spoke to King. He says Walker is still alive, amazingly. They're hiding out somewhere. I couldn't hear where; King was slurring a bit.
Trent: They're probably on Pittsburgh, then.
Juni: Not necessarily. Walker's ship is running on a skeleton crew to make space for all the drinks he lugs around. They could be anywhere. Eh, we'll figure it out sooner or later. More importantly, we're now the most wanted people in Liberty.
Trent: You mean everyone wants us to play gigs and -
Juni: No. Wanted criminals. If we go there, everyone will try to kill us.
Trent: You know what they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity!
Juni: ... we'll have to disagree on that. Anyway, talk to you later.
- Trent lands on Leeds.
Trent: Ah, Leeds. Home. Hideous, hideous home.
- He heads to the equipment dealership, which belongs to his friend, Richard Winston Churchill. As Trent enters the shop, he happens upon Churchill as he is cleaning a tommy gun and smoking a cigar at the same time.
Trent: Hi, Churchill! Having fun?
Churchill: Dealing in weapons and ship equipment is not a game. It is an earnest business.
Trent: I see. So, how's it going?
Churchull: The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.
Trent: So like ...
Churchill: It goes well, thanks. Why are you here?
Trent: I got kicked out of Liberty by their entire Navy.
Churchill: ... so that "million-credit deal" of yours ...
Trent: It kind of fell through. See that hunk of junk out on the landing pad? That's my ship now.
Churchill: "No comment" is a splendid expression. I am using it again and again when you're around.
Trent: I was meaning to imply that I need you to give me a new ship.
Churchill: Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong.
Trent: So that means no?
Churchill: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.
Trent: Fine! I'll buy a ship from you, then!
Churchill: I don't stock them! Where do you think I keep a spaceship? Behind the counter? Go buy one on New London.
Trent: Okay. Well, this has been a waste of time.
Churchill: Good to see you, too.
- Trent leaves and heads to New London; finally free from the pursuit of the ironically named Liberty Navy, but not yet free from his credit limit...
To be continued...