Amber Nebula Campaign Log

23. Slip Sliming Away


17 September, 2775. 19:16 UTC. Field log entry by Serron.

We've eaten dinner after our eventful day at the Explo and slept through the local night. Breakfast at the hotel is good and we're just about finishing up now. Lycroft has apparently managed to secure press passes for all of us to attend the slime boat race today, to be held on the mountain slope not far from Turand. There are buses leaving for the race venue all morning, but first I have some important business to attend to.

21:35 UTC. Field log entry by Iki Piki.

We are at the slime boat race course, amongst the crowds of spectators who watch from the starting area at the top of the plateau. The race course heads down a gentle slope at first, coated in the slippery dark green slime for which Vallauris is famous. A few kilometres away the slope gets abruptly steeper, and there are huge video screens here showing the lower parts of the course and the finish line. There are 18 boats in the race - sleek racing hulls with outriggers on both sides for stability. They slide down the mountain over the slime, using sails in the wind for extra speed.

Serron appears to have bought himself some more new clothes for the occasion, and is investigating the betting odds on the various boats in the race. It also looks like he's checking out the various food stalls which are selling all sorts of things.

21:47 UTC. Field log entry by Serron.

The betting on the race is intensive. I've placed £100 on boat number 11, which is the longshot at 250:1, and £50 on number 7, which the grapevine says is a good bet at 20:1. Even if I lose everything, I've still made a £50 profit, since I found £200 on the bus on the way here - it seemed to be falling out of someone's pocket - very careless of them. Paris has also taken the tip and put £100 on number 7. Lycroft is betting conservatively, putting £10 each on 3 and 14 to place, and 7 to win. 3 and 14 are the equal favourites at a mere 2:1 each.

Now, Lycroft tells me these passes we have can get us into the press area, where they have free food...

21:53 UTC. Video recording made by Lycroft.

Paris: You really think we can win something with these bets?

Serron: Certainly. None of the other boats are even going to finish the race.

Paris: Why not?

Serron: I'm going to shoot them all until they're dead.

Lycroft: And I'm going to video it.

Security Guard: Hey, you lot!

Iki Piki: Who? Us?

Security Guard: Yes... let me see those passes, I think you're in the wrong area... ah... you should be through there. [Gestures at a nearby gate.]

Lycroft [walking to indicated gate]: Oh, thank you!

Security Guard: No problem. You'd better hurry up though. The race starts soon.

Paris [walking through gate]: What a nice guy. Very helpful.

Spanners: I hope there's a better view from in here. I'd like to have a close look at the design of the slime boats.

Serron: Looks like you've got your chance! Look at that!

[Video shows a group of slime boats. Crew are running around everywhere, preparing the boats for the race. Camera operators and other press are milling around.]

Lycroft: I told you these passes would get us into the best places!

Crewman: Ah, finally, there you are! Quick, get on board.

Paris/Spanners/Iki Piki/Tepi/Serron: What?!

Crewman [bustling them aboard a nearby boat]: No time to argue! Get on!

Lycroft: Cool!

Crewman: You're the press crew, right? Good. Now listen up, we don't have much time. I'm Jadsen Raysford. [Indicates a second crew member.] She's Sarya Padath. The guy in the bow is Scooter Slemmons. Our captain is Winston Wong...

Spanners: I guess that means we'll be turning left a lot.

Jadsen: Why?

Spanners: Because two rights don't make a Wong.

Captain Wong [emerging from the small cabin on deck]: Ah, there you are! Good! I need a volunteer up the mast before we start!

Lycroft: Is there a good view from up there?

Captain Wong: Of course!

Lycroft: I'll do it!

Captain Wong: Good! The rest of you, over here! Now listen up! When I give an order, you jump! If you act smart, with a bit of luck we can finish in the top three! If we do, I'll share all the prize money with you!

Serron [eagerly]: And how much would that be?

[Video viewpoint retreats upwards as Lycroft climbs the mainmast.]

Captain Wong: £500,000 for first, £100,000 for second, and £50,000 for third!

[Loud horn sounds.]

PA System: One minute to race start! One minute!

Captain Wong: Okay! Places everyone!

Lycroft [from top of mast]: Hey, the view's great from up here!

Captain Wong: Just keep your eyes open once we get started!

Lycroft: Why?

Captain Wong: If you see a rock in our path, yell and let me know whether to steer to port or starboard!

Lycroft: What? What's starboard?

[Horn sounds at one second intervals, ten times.]

Captain Wong [now moved to the helm]: Here we go!

[Boat starts moving. The mainsail fills with wind and the boat picks up speed as it slides down the gentle starting slope.]

Lycroft: This is great! I can see all the other boats. We're in a prime spot!

Spanners: No, we're in boat number 12.

Captain Wong: One of you guys! Get up to the bow and trim the jib!

Spanners [Walks to the bow, pulling out a pair of scissors.]: How much do you want trimmed?

Captain Wong: No! Pull that rope until it's tight!

22:13 UTC. Video report by Lycroft.

"Corruption and Graft in the Vallauris Slime Boat Races"
An exclusive on-the-boat report
By: Lycroft the Intrepid for ISN

[View of horizon, showing gentle slope of mountainside, pans across to show several slime boats, sails billowing, racing across the slimy slope. View pans downwards, showing deck of a boat from top of mainmast.]

Lycroft: Here live on the slime boat Aurora, currently positioned fifth in the field of 18, we have been witness to a remarkable bare-faced attempt at bribery and race-fixing. Crew member Jadsen Raysford has offered some other crew members £100,000 if they helped him ensure that we finish the race in worse than 10th place. The incorruptable Serron the Magnificent was of course not tempted by this dirty money, and immediately overpowered and restrained Raysford at great personal risk...

Spanners [shouting up at Lycroft]: He injected him with morphazine from behind!

Lycroft: Ahem... With Serron's help Captain Paris Smith and Iki Piki have tied up Jadsen Raysford for handing over to the authorities when the race is over.

Paris [emerging from cabin]: That's it, he won't get loose.

Serron: Never trust anyone with two syllables in both first and last names.

Captin Wong: Brilliant! Good work my friends! With that rat taken care of, nothing can stop us winning this race! [Looks up at camera. View zooms in to his face.] Ahoy, lookout!

Lycroft: Yes, captain?

Captin Wong: You are keeping watch for rocks, right?!

Lycroft: Er... [View zooms out rapidly and scans horizon in front of boat.] No rocks, but we're coming up to a cliff edge!

Spanners: I'll consult my Cliff notes...

Captin Wong: Excellent! This is where we really start racing! Prepare to lower sails!

[Boat 6 cuts in front suddenly, striking a glancing collision with its outriggers. Boat shudders and view rotates wildly as camera is dropped. View ends in static as camera hits deck.]

22:20 UTC. Field log entry by Spanners.

I am steering the slime boat, after we went over the cliff edge and on to a slope of about 45 degrees off-balance due to the collision with boat 6. Captain Wong, crewman Slemmons and Tepi have fallen overboard, and Paris immediately jumped off the rear of the boat to try to save them. We are sliding down the mountain at a breakneck speed, with the sails lowered to reduce wind resistance. Actually the mainsail was cut down by Serron after Lycroft fell off the mast and got tangled in the rigging - well, he intended to cut the sail away, but instead cut the rope that hauls it in - eventually he got it right.

Sarya has taken over issuing orders, being the only conscious person left on board with any sailing experience. She is preparing the back-up mainsail for use when we hit the run-out slope of the race course. Lycroft has climbed back up to the lookout post and I am trying to look up information on sailing on my computer with my second pair of hands while I steer. This would be easier if there weren't helicopters buzzing us constantly, filming the action for TV.

22:27 UTC. Video recording made by Lycroft.

Lycroft: I think that's done it... yes, it's working.

Sarya [looking up into camera view]: Stop playing with that camera and look for rocks!

Lycroft [whispering, while panning camera across nearby boats to horizon]: The race situation is desperate, with the captain and half the crew overboard. It's up to Serron the Magnificent to take control... uh... Rock to starboard!

Spanners: Steer to starboard?!

Lycroft: No! Steer to port!

[Boat veers suddenly and collides with boat 17, shuddering violently. View pans down to show outriggers of Aurora and boat 17 tangled together.]

Sarya: Iki! Climb down there and clear the outriggers! This is slowing us down!

[Iki Piki moves to the port outrigger, pulls out his blaster and fires at one of the struts.]

Sarya: Lycroft! Catch! [Throws a coil of rope up to Lycroft, who catches it.] Thread that through the pulley there and lower the end back to me. We need to rig this up so we can raise the sail again.

Lycroft: Just a minute - I've tied myself on up here so I don't fall again. I'll have to untie myself.

Serron: Uh... Sarya, do we need that outrigger?

Sarya: What? Why?

[Iki Piki fires blaster at second outrigger strut. The entire outrigger falls off, still tangled with boat 17, which falls behind rapidly. The boat shakes and tips over a little.]

Lycroft [falling, view shows deck rapidly approaching]: Aaaarrgghhh!

Iki Piki: Lycroft! Are you all right?

[View from deck level, sideways.]

Lycroft: It's okay! My camera's still working! Er... I think I've broken my arm though...

Serron: Are you in pain?

Lycroft: A bit...

Serron: This'll fix you up... [Injects Lycroft with a small dose of morphazine.]

Lycroft: Wow, man. Slime...

22:34 UTC. VVN News Report - Turand Slime Boat Race Coverage - Live.

[View of Aurora from helicopter. Iki Piki is climbing the mast. Serron is giving first aid to Lycroft on the deck.]

Reporter: Boat 12, the Aurora, is currently in fourth place, despite losing half her crew and an outrigger. It looks like one of the working media on board is climbing up to act as lookout. And here, on board the VVN helicopter with us now is Captain Wong, skipper of Aurora, who we picked up after he was swept overboard at the cliff.

Captain Wong: Nice to be here, Brent!

Brent: So, how do you think your crew are doing without you?

Captain Wong: Oh, they're doing great! Just look at them! This is a fantastic race! They'll finish in the top three, you mark my words!

Brent: A bit of a brave call there... and woah! Boat 16 has just fired a grapnel rope at Aurora! [Video shows rope from boat 16 to 12, hooked over a gunwale. Boat 16 turns slightly, pulling Aurora towards a large rock.] Uh oh! What are they going to do about this?!

Captain Wong: They're a good crew! They'll think of something! Look! Serron is going to cut the rope!

[Close up of Serron with a small knife approaching the rope. He stops and pulls a blaster out of his pocket.]

Serron [voice picked up by boom-mike]: I'm going to shoot them. It'll be easier to unhook the boat when there are no people left to stop me.

[Serron fires at boat 16, hitting the man who threw the rope. He tries to cut the rope joining boat 16 to Aurora. He fumbles and drops the knife overboard. Cursing, he pulls out a sharp piece of glass from another pocket and cuts the rope. Zoom out as Aurora swerves violently with Spanners wrenching the wheel - it just misses the rock.]

Brent: Wow! Look at that manouevre! They just missed that huge rock...

Captain Wong: I told you they were a great crew!

Brent: They're getting into the run-out slope... This race is in the final stages. The lead boats have hoisted sail again.

[Boats 9, 8, 7, 3, 14 and 6 are ahead of Aurora, sails billowing full and pulling away. Serron hauls on a rope and pulls up the mainsail. It catches the wind and the boat races after the lead boats. Several more boats follow in hot pursuit.]

Captain Wong: And there goes Aurora!

Brent: What's the Sparrial doing now? He's trying the same tactic boat 16 used!

[Serron has attached the grapnel to another rope, and throws it at boat 6. It catches on a winch. Serron takes the other end of the rope, which also has a hook on it, and aims to throw it at boat 15, some way behind 6. A crew member on boat 6 fires a laser at Serron, hitting his arm and a leg.]

Captain Wong: Oh no! He's dropped the rope!

[Iki Piki blasts the person who shot Serron. The loose hook flies around at the end of the rope dragging off boat 6. It hits a small rock projecting through the slime and catches fast.]

Brent: Look out! 6 is caught!

[The rope snaps taught and boat 6 comes to a sudden stop. Crew fly off the front of the boat. Spanners steers wildly to avoid crashing into it. Two boats behind, numbers 18 and 11, smash into the back of boat 6. A massive pile-up of boats ensues.]

Brent: It's whole-sail destruction!

Captain Wong: Serron must be in pain! He's drugging himself! [Cut to view of Serron injecting himself with his morphazine hypo. Then he sits up, aims his stunner, and fires at the lead boat, 9.] Amazing! He's hit the captain of boat 9!

[Boat 9 veers out of control and collides with boat 8, taking them both out of the race. The finish line is in sight. Serron fires again, at boat 14. It loses control, and falls back behind Aurora.]

Brent: It's a photo-finish!

[Boats 3, 7 and 12 hit the line almost simultaneously.]

Captain Wong: Fantastic!

22:43 UTC. Field log entry by Iki Piki.

That was certainly an experience. We've just docked the slime boat at the race finish line docks and swarms of press and racing fans are all over the place. Race authorities have told us we finished third, just behind boat 7 and boat 3 - all crossing the line within 2 seconds of each other. Apparently it's been one of the greatest slime boat races seen here for years.

Serron has some minor laser wounds, and Lycroft has a broken arm, but otherwise we're okay. We're still waiting to hear if Captain Smith and Tepi have been picked up after falling overboard.

22:46 UTC. VVN News Report - Turand Slime Boat Race Coverage - Live.

Brent: And here we have the crew of Aurora, who finished third in this fantastic race.

Lycroft: Hey, no interviews! I have exclusive rights!

Captain Wong [rushing forward and bearhugging each of the crew members]: My friends! Marvellous! Such a good job!

Serron: What's our share of the prize money?

23:19 UTC. Field log entry by Captain Paris Smith.

Tepi is lost. I tried to save him when he fell overboard, but I got bogged in the slime and could hardly move until the rescue crews came to pull me out. I ordered them to keep searching, but they sedated me and brought me to the finish line medical facility. I'm still awaiting news, but there's no sign, and the rescue crews seem to be giving up hope. If he slipped into a crevasse in the rock under the slime, Tepi could already be dead, and they'll never find him. But I won't give up.

18 September, 2775. 01:56 UTC. Log entry by Spanners.

Lycroft and Serron are in a local hospital being treated for their wounds. Iki and Paris have gone back to the hotel. I've come to check Legacy and see how the repairs are going. It appears to be on schedule, and we should be able to leave Vallauris in another 60 hours or so.

06:43 UTC. Field log entry by Serron.

I'm feeling better after being released from the hospital. Lycroft's arm will take a couple of weeks to heal fully, but my injuries have been patched up pretty well.

I've investigated likely cargoes and arranged a contract to ship explosives to Banforth. The cargo will be loaded up just before we leave, two days from now.

09:29 UTC. ISN News Report - Just Arrived From Arawne.

Arawne - 11 September: Crown Prince Patrick of Inverness, recently arrived on Arawne as escort to the group of Inverness battleships joining the fleet to retake Rubilith, has announced his engagement to Queen Natasha of Rubilith, currently in exile here on Arawne. Prince Patrick has also been authorised by King Shaun of Inverness to commit an additional fifteen battleships to the fleet as a show of unity, and as an engagement gift to the Queen.

Prince Patrick says he is happy that the two royal houses will soon be joined and he looks forward to a strong alliance between Inverness and Rubilith in future. The wedding is set for early November, the exact date to be announced after the fleet engages with the rebel forces on Rubilith. Military analysts predict the initial assault could be launched very soon after the final reinforcements arrive from Inverness.

10:17 UTC. Field log entry by Iki Piki.

After much discussion over the news from Arawne, we have decided that we can't afford to default on our contracted cargo to Banforth. We should arrive at Banforth two weeks from now, and from there it is about 16 days to Arawne. So we should still be able to make it to Arawne to discuss the situation with Queen Natasha well before the supposed wedding date. Clearly something odd is going on.

Lycroft says he needs to be where the news is, and has taken his leave of us and booked a commercial flight direct to Arawne. He has just been paid some Earth$1050 for his latest set of news reports by ISN, and has plenty of funds to see him through for the time being. With him and Tepi gone, that makes just the four of us heading to Banforth.

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