The Ship That Would Never Leave the Docks
The Independent Spaceship Livingstone would spend fourteen years in it's cradle at the Patsaev Naval Yard on the Far Side of the Moon, with ownership of the spaceframe changing hands no fewer than six times. Originally laid down as a long range cargo hauler, the holding company folded, and it's assets were liquidated. The 20% complete spaceframe was acquired by a new company that resumed construction after a year and a half pause. The ship would reach 50% completion before the second company was undermined and consumed in a hostile takeover. This would happen several more times, with the plans for the ship being changed, progress being made, and then the company holding it going bankrupt. At Patsaev, it became known as the Mallymuck, or the Albatross.
Technodyne and SmartTek would eventually come into ownership of a amalgamation of a ship, the hull of a heavy freighter, accommodations of a passenger cruise liner, communications and electronics systems for a cognocom company, as well as a dozen other poorly planned and executed ideas wedged into a single behemoth of a ship. The two corps had gone in together on the purchase of the ship, and spent a combined 28% of their combined net worth to get the ship off of Luna and into service.
The ISS Linvingstone was a grandiose plan, an act of hubris on par with the Titanic, a magnum opus only rivaled by the Hindenburg, with optimistic expectations that were as bright at the Challenger.
The ISS Livingstone's launch was preceded by one of the most audacious and impressive media campaigns ever launched. Rather than no expense spared, the campaign was marked by guerilla marketing, outlandish advertising, and the appearance of the Livingstone Sex Marines.
The Sex Marine Corps
Entirely a creation of the PR department at SmartTek, the Sex Marine Corps would nominally function as the security and peace control force aboard the Livingstone, as well as it's various stops in it's pan-solar cruise. In reality, the Sex Marines were a large number of women who were dressed up in sexually provocative outfits, given marine and police gear, and were used primarily in the media campaign. Sex Marines didn't just appear in ads and fliers, commercials and promos, they could be found in person handing out information or special codes for upgrades for passengers after they bought their tickets for the inaugural launch.
The Pleasure Brigade - more than 80% of the Sex Marines were dated Apex series sex droids. The remaining 20% were a mixture of newer Climax series droids, meretrix clones, and a handful of actual women who were the 'named' or 'speaking' roll marines. The massive number of sex bots demonstrated easily that the purpose of the Sex Marine Corps was a pleasure brigade, there for the sexual entertainment of the ship's passengers.
Despite the increasingly controversial media campaign, interest in the ship and it's cruise line was minimal. Of the available 2000 cabins, only 160 were booked for the maiden trip of the Livingstone. This number would drop to 113 by the time the ship was actually able to make it's launch, only three months behind the last schedule. By this point, reviews were already in the critical range. Despite the delays, sections of the ship were incomplete, there were issues with the electrical and internal communications systems, and a dozen other minor to major problems.
Lay in Your Course, Helmsman
The Livingstone launched from Patsaev and reached lunar orbit before the first engine failure. After thirty minutes in zero gravity conditions, power was restored and rather than returning to the surface, the ship embarked for it's first destination, Huo Hsing. Under regular drive conditions, the jaunt to to the red planet should have taken six days. It took thirteen as the main engines shut down twice. This was on top of mounting passenger hostility as Livingstone was not equipped with a resident L/AISC or AISC, and was entirely reliant on pan-solar nodes to access the CogNet, and the majority of the ship's computational and communications ability was being commandeered by the engineering crew who were working desperately to keep the ship running.
The Livingstone was intercepted by the Legate cruiser ISS Landmark. The two ships docked while continuing on course for a restocking stop at Ceres before powering on towards Jupiter and a Galilean loop. The Landmark sent lawyers over to the Livingstone to start filing court proceedings against Technodyne and SmartTek for the disastrous trip. A number of passengers attempted to board the Landmark to escape from the Livingstone, but were refused. The operators of the legate cruiser refused legal liability for the health and safety of the passengers aboard their ship.
The Livingstone was a few million miles short of Jovian space when it signaled back to Earth and home base that the ship was unfit and unable to complete it's pansolar cruise as planned, and that it requested to return to base, but that rescue ships should intercept it as soon as possible, pending the living conditions aboard the ship. The CEOs at the joint ownership companies refused to okay the order as things on Earth had deteriorated dramatically. Technodyne's CEO and legal forces had distanced themselves from SmartTek and had issued legal torpedoes against their former partners. Likewise, SmartTek had already covertly arranged a half dozen shadowruns against Technodyne to steal information that would hopefully demonstrate their technological incompetence and failure to complete the ship as agreed to.
The Livingstone did not make it to the Jovian system under it's own power. It would eventually be rescued by the AFS Sebastian Cabot, a deep space exploration vessel. The Cabot was too small to make a meaningful contribution to the Livingstone, but it remained docked with the ship, offering it's power and communications system to the passengers while also alerting authorities in the Jovian region. The AFS Excaliber, a Titan III class cruiser, reached the Livingstone, attached mooring lines, and towed the distressed ship to the Axalon Naval Base at Callisto. There, the passengers of the ship were allowed to disembark and after a short recovery period, were returned to Earth. Most of the Livingstone's crew also choose to abandon the ship, leaving only a financially invested skeleton crew supplemented by the mechanical based Sex Marines. A number of the ship's crew, most notably the Captain, XO, and a number of other high ranking officers were taken into custody and remanded to Luna for trial over their conduct aboard the Livingstone.
Conditions aboard the Livingstone during the last month of it's cruise were abominable. Food and water supplies were rationed out on an emergency basis, and sections of the ship were depressurized to reduce strain on the air recycling systems. Bathing and non-essential use of water had likewise been ended, leaving almost everyone aboard the ship hungry, filthy, and smelling bad. With the power supply minimal, non-essential use of electricity had also been rationed, with many sections of the ship reduced to emergency lighting or outright darkness. This meant that communication gear, cognet interfacing devices, and such were non-functional.
At the risk of facing shipboard riots or a mutiny, the captain of the Livingstone, Daria Pamaten, ordered the Sex Marines to have their coding changed. The robots were tasked with keeping order on the ship, enforcing curfews, and keeping the passengers from congregating in any area in sufficient numbers to cause alarm. Though unarmed, the buxom robots roughed up and injured a number of passengers, and a few died from the treatment. This was not without cost, a fair number of the machines themselves were damaged or destroyed by the passengers. This was in stark contrast to the command crew of the ship. Captain Pamaten and her bridge crew enjoyed the same standard of living onboard the semi-derelict ship as they would have if the cruise were going perfectly.
What was not known at the time, but was later discovered in the legal proceedings was that Captain Daria Pamaten was formerly the mistress or SmartTek CEO Derrek Proudstar, and that her credentials had been falsified. While Pamaten had indeed served as an officer in the Atlantic Federation Navy, she had never held the formal rank of captain, and her claims of commanding a space cruiser were actually limited to serving as acting commander of the AFS Humility when it was in spacedock above North America. Pamaten had falsified information about conditions aboard the ship through public channels while feeding actual data back to SmartTek HQ.
Pamaten's trial at Tycho City would ultimately find her innocent of the charges levied against her, and that the deaths aboard her ship were not expressly her fault, but were rather accidents in the line of duty while attempting to maintain order and control aboard a stricken vessel. Her lawyer successfully argued that there were no provisions in the Spatial Codex requiring the command crew of the ship to share their supplies or facilities with the passengers of their ship. After the trial was concluded, Pamaten was disgraced and all but disappeared. Today, she is the first officer aboard the ISS Steelhaven, a belt mining ship operating out of Ceres.
The Livingstone would take half a year to limp back to Patsaev, most of that time operating with a purely automated crew and coasting rather than under power. The ship was grounded at the shipyard, the Mullymuck come home to rest. Repairs to the ship were estimated in the millions of credits, and by the time the assessments were made, the ship was placed for liquidation, as both of the companies behind it's launch were all but gutted by the year long legal battle they had been engaged in, plus probes from the Federation Space Administration.
Cosmos and the Decline into Irrelevancy
The hulk of the Livingstone was bought at near scrap price by Cosmos Logistics and the hypercorp spent the money required to repair the ship and bring it back to operational specs. Rather than rebuilding, Cosmos had a number of ships to be decommissioned, and the parts from the ships were used to revitalize the Livingstone. The massive bulk engines were replaced with clusters of smaller freighter engines. The single central power plant was torn out and replaced with six power cores from smaller ships, networked together into a power grid. The bridge was rebuilt, the secondary command center was replaced with a technically out of date L/AISC from a scrapped refinery ship, and the passenger cabins were gutted and turned into cargo holds. A decade after the 'Wreck of the Livingstone' the ship was reborn as the CL-ISS Gyre-NOMAD, a 3rd rate cargo hauler.
The Legacy of the Livingstone and the Sex Marines remains a fixture in the Cosmic Era spacers zeitgeist. It is a cautionary tale of what happens when planetside corporocrats attempt to control space things with no experience, the ineptitude of corps, of political insider trading, and so forth. Stories abound, and from the tellings, rather than 113 passengers, the manifest of the ship would have had to be in the tens of thousands, not entirely like 20th century claims of people having had relatives on the Titanic. Stories are also still told about the Sex Marines, about the sex bots going martial, about human-robot relations, and big ugly haunted ships.
Most people think that the Livingstone is still sitting out there trailing behind Jupiter, that the rescue operation left the ship behind. Too much money in raw materials to just leave it sitting. But the idea of the ship left to space is more romantic than the fact that Gyre-NOMAD is the Livingstone, even if they knew that name. A 3rd rate ore hauler, making the once a year run from it's mining region to Ceres to change crew and offload ore. Sad stuff.
I know a few spacers who worked on Gyre-NOMAD and they say that the ship is actually haunted, and that there was a huge cover up, and that it wasn't 113 passengers on the ship, that there were 113 survivors. I don't like to think about it. Ships are strange enough without adding ghosts to the long days in the darkness.