Awaiting review by staff
Fifty years ago a strike of high-grade iridium within the Asteroid belt of the Sol system touched off a mining boomlet the likes of which had not been seen since the Iridium rush of the 2020's.
After initial refining at an asteroid-based refinery, the first ship to deliver a load of semi-refined high-grade Iridium to mars was to be the Adrian Martin. The ship ran into trouble, however as pirates attempted to steal its valuable cargo. The captain of the Adrian Martin attempted to take a short-cut through an asteroid that was not actually a single body but a tight field of asteroids. The Adrian Martin made it into the field and lost its tail, but conditions within the field shifted and became very dangerous. The Adrian Martin made it to a sheltered area near a couple of very large asteroids near the center of the field. The captain parked the ship in a shallow cave-like area near a large Asteroid.
The captain and his crew attempted to escape the field using shuttles encased in asteroids, but only one such asteroid-shuttle was partly successful. It was found heavily damaged near the edge of the asteroid field. Its crew was dead as its atmosphere had vented through a large crack in the hull, but its radio was intact enough to continue to send a repeating distress call. Since that time the story of the Adrian Martin has become a cautionary tail about the asteroid field, and sales of bogus star-charts providing routes through the asteroid field to the rich cargo aboard the Adrian Martin have become a staple of hucksters throughout the asteroid belt.
Doctor Hewen, an Owl recom Mathematician at the University of New Philadelphia became fascinated with the story of the Adrian Martin over two decades ago. His lifelong dream has been to create a model of the orbits of all substantial objects within the asteroid field and use the model to allow him to reach and salvage the valuable cargo from the Adrian Martin. He mortgaged everything he owned in order to put together an armed and armored space tug with a train of cargo containers for the dangerous salvage run. The relatively small width of the craft improved the margin for error for getting through the asteroid field, and with proper cabling, even if one container was destroyed, the others would be able to continue onwards. Three years ago the doctor came up with three mathematical solutions. Either of the first two solutions could be used to get to the Adrian Martin, but they were mere hours apart. With further calculation he discovered a third solution three days later.
He waited nearly three years for the orbits he had predicted. He went to the edge of the Asteroid field to insure that the orbits that were precursors to his solutions were as predicted by his model. When he found his model was correct he assembled a crew to make use of his solutions. Towards this end he hired competent furs from outside the asteroid belt who would not know about the legend and the con games surrounding the Adrian Martin.
He hired Bella, a bounty hunter residing in Epiphyte to be his right hand and the muscle to keep his crew from considering taking the valuable cargo from him by force once they secured it. She and the others he would hire would also serve double duty as ship's gunners. In addition weapons mounted on the cargo containers would have robotic brains serving them. He hired Jace as pilot because he needed someone good who had not heard the legend of the Adrian Martin, and he hired White Ears to make any repairs that might be needed in order to get the cargo bay doors of the Adrian Martin open. All of the other tasks could be handled by robots, and Doctor Hewen rented plenty of breach spider robots to repair hull breaches, a couple of engineering robots to assist White Ears and some surveillance robots to handle recon within the hulk of the Adrian Martin. To control these robots and to make any repairs to them if necessary, Doctor Hewan hired Sandhia, a robotician. On top of this he brought spare parts, plenty of canisters of air and other sundries.
Following Doctor Hewan brilliant mathematical model, Jace was able to get the container ship to the Adrian Martin and Doctor Hewan used a high-powered dish to beam a signal through the asteroid field to make a legal salvage claim on the Adrian Martin. Even though the doctor's second solution was shorter and a little less dangerous, he had used the first in order to get his claim in early and to have the maximum amount of time to pack the cargo. Doctor Hewan received legal confirmation of his claim from new Philadelphia perhaps a half hour later shortly after the second solution opened up. It turned out that Falood, an old graduate student of his had stolen a copy of Doctor Hewan's model and had requisitioned the aid of pirates to salvage the cargo of the Adrian Martin. The pirates arrived shortly after Hewan received confirmation of his salvage claim.
The pirates had opted to send a dozen small, armed transport vessels with less armor and firepower than the space tug that Hewan had used. When they arrived they attempted to jump Hewan's claim and extort the cargo out of him in exchange for the lives of him and his crew. A battle ensued and thanks to the gun turrets mounted on some of the cargo containers, the heavier weaponry of the tug, and a couple of turrets that White Ears resurrected aboard the Adrian Martin, Doctor Hewan's team was victorious. Three pirate ships ran away from battle and hid amongst the asteroids near the Adrian Martin's sheltered location and one of the ships docked with the Adrian Martin and boarded as their atmosphere vented into to space due to heavy damage they had sustained.
Bella suited up and uncovered the pirate boarders' plan. They had found some crates of shells for the Adrian Martin's weapons and were in the process of stacking them in a stateroom that was near the Adrian Martin's reactor and just through the Adrian Martin's hull from the spot that the space tug's rear end and engines were parked. Falood was in the engineering section of the Adrian Martin building a bomb to detonate the shells. Bella found and disabled each pirate in turn as they came up with crates of shells. She then captured Falood before he finished with his bomb.
With the pirate boarders neutralized, Hewan's crew decided to attempt to lure the three remaining pirate ships out of the asteroids by recording Falood's voice and creating a false message by cherry-picking his words and arranging them in a new sound file saying that he had got the bomb in place. They also staged a fake explosion of pirate ship debris and a dusty asteroid shortly after sending the message out on a captured pirate radio. The ploy worked and the pirates came in to finish the crew off but got more than they bargained for. Another battle ensued. The pirates proved more difficult to vanquish than they had hoped, but in the end Hewan's crew was victorious.
Doctor Hewan was so impressed with the crew's performance in saving the mission and his life that he agreed to allow them to keep the Adrian Martin and any pirate ship wreckage that they could fit in the Martin's cargo hold as their collective bonus for the mission, but he warned that taking the Adrian Martin was a gamble and that the crew could lose their bonus entirely if the Adrian Martin was destroyed on the way out of the Asteroid belt.
The crew and their many robots worked long hours in order to complete the task of repairing the tug and containers and filling them with the Adrian Martin's cargo while also snagging the best pirate wreckage, putting it in the Adrian Martin's holds and getting the old ship ready for its voyage out of the asteroid belt.
The crew performed better than expected and managed to get the Adrian Martin and the tug and container train out of the asteroid belt, but they were spotted by a large, distant pirate vessel that was waiting for whatever smaller pirate vessels made it out of the asteroid belt with the Adrian Martin's cargo. The chase was on, but Jace had a lead and was able to maintain it and make it to the safety of New Philadelphia before the pirates overtook them.