After having mined precious He3 from the nebula, Sona and the Gargorian Deep Space Initiative were ready to put its refined form into practice as a fuel to test both speed and maneuverability. In what's becoming a hallmark of the program, they put out an open call to engineers and technicians across Treatise Body space to ask folks to design their own rocket systems around a stock pod and engage in time trials to test their designs and learn about the practical applications of the new fuel source.
Over a dozen teams entered, quickly turning it into a competition despite it being time trials rather than an actual race. A group out of Pinnacle Station that only had one physical member joined up with Adrian aboard the Pinnacle Pride while Jakob found himself aboard the "Taramar or Bust," a mixed group on a somewhat duct-taped-together rig with some of the more powerful-looking rockets in the hangar. Dakas was content to spectate, and thankfully found the feeds from all the various ships displayed for the gathered crowd. He met a stranger, dressed well but deliberately casual, who commented on the race and the betting, and was putting all his money on a Lake Hope team who called their ship the "Only Hope."
The races set off one at a time as Sona and the other scientists tracked the data. Aboard the ToB, Jake used the ace pilot's early turns to create an effective autopilot to assist her in the latter portions of the track. Turned out that was a very good thing: reaching the second turn, their ship was hit with a rocket that had flown off one of the earlier vessels. The hit knocked their pilot out of commission. Luckily Jake's autopilot took over and kept them in the running while the ship medic saw to her her health.
Adrian and the Pinnacle Pride set out later in the order, also getting caught up in the wreckage, which caused Adrian to hit his head badly. Powering through it, he collated the positioning data of the other ships to help them avoid any further collisions and kept their slow but powerful vessel in the running.
Before long, the Pride, the ToB and Only Hope were among the half-dozen ships still able to complete the course at all. In fact, the Only Hope seemed to be the only one having no trouble at all with the racing. That is, until one of the buoys used to outline the track fired its thrusters unexpectedly, putting it just in the path of the Hope to clip it and send the ship spiraling out of control. At the same time, their pilot seemed unable to get hold of the controls enough to break them out of the spin. Dakas spotted the buoy thruster firing, and the disappearance of the well-dressed stranger, but the crowd was otherwise too distracted with the drama of the race.
Following the stranger out of the hangar, Dakas overheard him talking with someone about a stolen prototype, O-15, and something about "Nemesis." He also mentioned that the Only Hope crew would not be a problem, which is always an ominous thing to hear. Dakas got a recording of the audio before having to scurry back out of the way to avoid being detected as the man made his exit to points unknown.
Back on the track, the Pinnacle Pride had pulled into first place thanks to Only Hope's death spiral. Spotting the ship on his sensors, Adrian asks the crew to detour to assist. They were able to stop the Only Hope from spinning long enough for the rescue drones to recover the crew. Adrian then spotted a warning that the engines were nearing critical mass. Not wanting to risk the rescue drones or their physical crew, the two digital members of Pinnacle Pride asked their friend Teekay to take Adrian and evacuate while they pushed the Only Hope to a safe distance before exploding. Aboard the rescue drones, Teekay let Adrian know that both teammates had backups, but might want to know about their heroism after they'd been reloaded.
That left Taramar or Bust as the lead racer, and with their pilot back to consciousness and Jake's handy autopilot, they deftly slid through the hairpins turns of the track's final challenge before crossing the finish line. Once all trials were completed, they still had the superior time of the ships who completed the course.
Sona thanked everyone for all the data, although much of her announcement was lost in the celebration of the returning heroes from Pinnacle Pride and the returning champions from ToB.
- Adrian: 1S, 2I, 1G
- Dakas: 1C, 1I, 2X
- Jakob: 2S, 2I
- Adrian: +4 reputation with the Treatise Body Populace, as well as sensor data gathered from the Only Hope before it exploded
- Dakas: A recording of half a conversation with the mysterious individual, usable in further investigations or as evidence later
- Jakob: 200s in gathered bets for placing first in the time trials