So, to continue...
As Lord-Captain Black and Arkady approached the ancient Courthouse, the first of her rivals made an apperance.
At the door stood a man, fully clad in blood-red powered armour (with hints of gold strewn here and there), helmet and all. Even from a distance, it was obvious he was arguing with the door clerk. As it turns out, he had arrived to the auction with a small army in tow - twenty guards, armed with plasma guns and the odd heavy stubber. Despite insisting that they were essential for his continued protection, the clerk refused them entry - until the man backed down, sent the most heavily-armed ones home, and got the rest to check their weapons at the door (though they were allowed to keep a sidearm, as a formality). By contrast, Claudia's ten bodyguards, in their (still highly practical) ceremonial dress, coloured to match the Lord-Captain's outfit (she claims to have sets of armour to match each of her favourite frocks), and only armed with lasguns and ceremonial swords, were waved through with little hassle.
As they sat and eyed up the competition, Claudia spotted a few familiar faces: Lady Charlabelle, a ruthless trader with a penchant for Xeno retainers, sat with her bodyguard of Kroot (each still barbaric, but looking a damn sight better presented than those previously encountered); the power-armoured gent (later known as Captain Krawkin); the desperate Lady Sun Lee, last of her failing line, wearing fashions years out of style and with a few badly-maintained augmetics; and others she would know by their crests or faces, but not by name.
With the sound of servos and pistons, the Intercessor appeared to start the auction - sitting on a mobile throne, carried by four stout legs and belching smoke as it went. He explained the rules of the auction, adding that 10 bids would be accepted. The first few offers were made - Thrones, gold, and precious materials. Each bidder was denied, after which, they were swiftly escorted from the premises by armed toughs.
Around an hour into the proceedings, the real bids started in earnest. From artifacts (such as the Daemonette's toenail from Madam Charlabelle), to places (the co-ordinates of a lost colony, given by an Admiral of the Imperial Navy), to more esoteric offers (a thousand blind slaves from Krawkin), many more were denied their chance, but a few were accepted. Claudia saw she had but a small window to make her bid - to early, and she'd be rejected out of course, too late and she might miss her chance. Claudia entered her piece (the Ear of St Drusus) with a (quickly prepared) speech, and managed to secure herself a place at The Foretelling.
As the auction rounded off, the ten were chosen - Claudia, Krawkin, Charlabelle, the Admiral, a young, charming-looking Rogue Trader (think a young Johnny Depp in a greatcoat), and a few others she did not recognise. Lady Sun Lee was tearfully removed from the premises after her offer (a 50-year old bottle of Brain Leaf essence) was denied. Their retinues and hangers on disposed of, the ten were led from the auction house to a back room, wherein they found the Sisters.
A grotesque amalgam of seven forms, the Warp had touched the Sisters (possibly, inappropriately), and left them barely human. But with this change, they were granted no small amount of psychic potential - which led them to divine the location of The Pearl. They showed the collected winners via a mass hallucination/vision - of a stone, of alien worlds, dark threats and mystical portents. Most of the people present did not take to the vision well - Krawkin even doffing his helmet to vomit on the floor shortly after. While regaining her balance, Claudia saw him belt for his ship - and knew that they chase was on. Making her way to her own ship (voxing in to get the ship ready the second she gets on board), she, her crew, Arkady, and the two hundred able-bodied men he had promised set off to find their fortune.
However, it would not be as simple as following a map - the information was somewhere in her soul, and needed to be extracted before it could be used. Enter Allesaunder.
A Navigator of House Parth (locked into an exclusivity contract with the Black Dynasty), Allesaunder is tall, unnaturally thin and almost totally bald, with dim grey skin and a mouth full of razor-sharp, needle-like teeth. Combined with eyes so dark as to appear black, he resembles nothing so much as a bipedal, robed shark. The Navigator put the Lord-Captain into a sort of trance, allowing him to draw the information from her mind. He talked her through his vision of the Warp -
...a vast ocean, with yourself as a minnow. Below, you can feel great, terrible horrors lurking, ancient and undisturbed. Feel them shake the ocean with each brief movement, changing currents and unleashing new depths... All around you, the hungry eyes of predators watch, waiting for their moment to strike. Hear them growl and whisper blasphemous secrets, sense their hunger, feel them sense you. And far above, the tiniest pinprick of the sun - The Astronomican, the God-Emperor's light shining from Holy Terra to guide his faithful. Feel its warmth, distant and unreachable, but take a tiny piece of it inside you - feel His indomitable will fill you, and know you are safe under His watchful eye.
As Claudia let the vision fill her mind, she felt another presence. One of the predators was brushing close to her, some great beast waiting to snap up her soul. Luckily, Allesaunder pulled them both from the vision just in time - and he had managed to extract the information needed to locate the first part of the puzzle.
It would take roughly 50 days of Warp travel to reach the location, despite her efforts to convince Allesaunder to find a shorter course and to encourage the Tech-Priests to fully appease the engine's machine-spirits. The journey was uneventful, barring a tiny fluctuation in the Gellar field - not enough to allow egress to any Warp entities, or so the Captain thought...
At around the half-way point of the journey, Claudia felt that crew morale was low - so she decided to leave a skeleton staff on board and allow everyone a "night off", for celebration, merrymaking and general fun. The crew responded in different ways - as she did a round of the ship, she met with the Astropaths, holed up in quiet contemplation and conversation; the Navigators, who shared a small amasec and poured over old starcharts; the Tech Priest, led by the ship's Explorators, engaged in a battle of logic puzzles and willpower, The Ritual of Back and Forth (represented by a game of Pong); down to the gunnery crews, who used the time to dance, sing, and in some cases, set up pit fights. Instead of stopping or interfering, the Lord-Captain stayed a while and watched (even bet on!) the fights, which happened to include her Security Officer and Master-At-Arms, Jayne.
About six and a half feet tall, with the build of a professional soldier, dark black hair and a tan that could double as camouflage, the Catachanian was well-respected on board, and singularly feared in the ring. In the pit fights, she remains unbeaten (even though she fought 10 men one after another, then a group of three, then a Battle Servitor) - needless to say, the Captain cleaned up with her bets on Jayne, despite the low odds.
While heading down to the Enginarium, however, the Lord-Captain overheard conspiratorial whispers coming from a nearby cargo hold. Getting into position, she was just in time to hear one of the crew lambasting her ability to run the ship, and stirring the others present (about 60) into mutiny. She scrabbled to find her security staff, and had to call upon anyone who could attend from nearby decks - she gathered a motley band of 50 or so men, variously armed with clubs, knives, and the odd autopistol. A few minutes later, Jayne herself appeared, coated head to toe in carapace armour and wielding a shotgun.
After commenting on her being "overdressed", the group stormed the hold and arrested those present, to be taken to the brig for questioning: around 20 were of the men Arkady brought on board (his suggestion to simply try them as mutineers and chuck them out an airlock did not go down too well), the rest previously loyal members of the Captain's crew.
Interviews showed that most were "in the wrong place at the wrong time", or so they claimed, and a few even claimed to be spying to report back to the Lord-Captain (a likely story). Most disconcerting of all, the rabble-rouser himself claimed no memory of the act, the events leading up to it, or even his own name.
Things would soon be getting worse for Claudia and her crew...
The NPCs from LotE were... uninspiring to me. I stole a few bits and pieces here and there, but dramatically changed others - such as Lady Sun Lee. I think she's meant to be set up as a potential ally, but there's nothing to motivate the players to join with her. So, I made her desperate enough to weep, to show what might happen should their endeavours fail. It also gives a good reason to have her attempt to join with the Lord-Captain, to regain her lineage's wealth and status. Knowing Rogue Trader, she'll be used as a distraction, then betrayed in due course. Fine by me...
Also, Cannonball Run IN SPACE, FUCK YEAH!