Kupakii – Tlianke/Hinterworlds – 0101 – C654352-A
We actually tumbled back into normal space around 1100. I was on the bridge, sitting in the Captain’s chair since I didn’t want to change Saahna’s configuration, and immediately put the ship on alert. I then pulled up the sensor scans. A single ship was near the Jump Point, a 600 ton mercenary cruiser identified at the Fesarius. I tagged it for passive monitoring then opened a communications channel to Fugitak.
We were about a half-dozen light-seconds out so communications would be delayed, but I announced us to Kupakii STC and called an emergency on-board.
“We had an incident while in jump,” I reported. “Attempted hostile takeover by a passenger. Two casualties; other hijackers in custody. Requesting Patrol intercept and investigation team on landing.”
“Confirm Grayswandir,” came the reply about 15 seconds later. “Are you currently under emergency condition?”
“Negative,” I replied. “Situation is under control. We just need to have investigators on standby.”
“Do you require assistance Grayswandir?” That was a different voice, coming much too soon. I looked at the display and saw it was from the Fesarius.
“Negative Fesarius,” I replied. “Situation is under control.”
“Confirm, Grayswandir,” came the reply from Kupakii. “Patrol SDB PS11 has your situation. They are leaving orbit and will intercept you on approach. Please follow it in for approach and landing.”
“Thank you Kupakii,” I said. Then, switching channels, “And thank you Fesarius, I think we have it.”
“Are you sure, Captain? We can match course with you much sooner than the Patrol. Are you sure you don’t need assistance?”
I frowned. “No Fesarius, we’re fine. But thanks.”
There was a long silence. I pulled up my nav console on one of the screens and started setting an approach to Kupakii. On the scanners, I saw the PS11 breaking out of orbit, but it would be a few hours before we would rendezvous with each other.
I saw the Fesarius was maneuvering as well. They had apparently been holding position relative to the jump-in point and were now moving towards us. They were further away from the planet than us, so they would be following us from behind instead of intercepting us, which kept our relative speeds lower.
I cursed. We were still at a relative standstill since I hadn’t had a chance to plot an orbit yet. I quickly started entering a vector with an assist from the Grayswandir itself. I flicked a basic approach to Do’rex.
“That’ll get us more-or-less into a close orbit,” I told him as I flipped through my displays again. “We’ll fine-tune it once we get a bit closer to that Patrol ship. And… Shit!”
I flipped over to the crew channel. “Saahna? You in the gimbal?”
“Yeah,” she said. “I see it too.”
“Jami!” I continued, “The Fesarius has gone to full power. Spin it up!”
“Gotcha, Captain!” She was trying to sound like her normal self but I could hear the tension in her voice.
The almost unnoticeable thrum that always ran through the ship increased as the power plant nearly doubled its output. As it did, I felt a slight vibration from beneath me as the missile turret mounted beneath the bridge deployed and a pair of missiles were fed into it. From the displays I could see that the laser turret had been extended as well and the firing capacitors were charging.
I flipped to the ship-wide channel. “OK everyone, looks like we have a welcoming committee. Grab a suit if you have time, otherwise… emergency stations.”
I hit the ship-wide alert, then flipped to the already blinking communications console. It was from the Fesarius.
“Grayswandir,” came the voice. “You’ve deployed weapons. Is there a problem.”
“No problem,” I replied, checking the status display as everyone reported in as ready. “We’re just a bit paranoid right now.” I paused. “How about you? I notice that you’re at full power as well.”
There was a slight pause, then another voice came on. “Grayswandir, this is Captain O’haran of the Fesarius. May we speak with Sir Gortor, please?”
I hesitated. We weren’t on tight comms, so anyone in the system could hear what we were saying. However we were going to spin things, we had to start now. I flipped external comms to the ship-wide channel so everyone would know what was up. It would save time explaining later.
“I’m sorry Captain O’haran, but we have all passengers confined to cabins at the moment. Because of our emergency we have cut them off from the ship’s systems as well. If you will accompany us to Kupakii, we will be happy to let you see him when we are on the ground.”
There was a slight pause. “Captain Kodai…” came O’haran’s voice. “We really didn’t want to have to share this over an open channel, but Imperial Knight Sir Gortor was supposed to rendezvous with us upon arrival. He and his family don’t need to go down to Kupakii; that would delay him from the assignment he is on. A very critical assignment, I might add. I’m sure he has impressed on you his need for quick action in these things?”
“I wasn’t informed of this,” I said. Truthfully, actually.
“Then I suggest you ask him.”
“I will.” I cut off external comms then opened the ship-wide channel again. “Well, looks like we’re in the shit.” I looked over. “Do’rex, how’s our plot look?”
He clicked several times. “They will easily intercept us a few hours before the PS11 can get here.”
“And they’ll be in optimal firing range in 20 minutes,” added Saahna. “Hells, they could maybe hit us now depending on how good their computer and gunners are. Are we accelerating?”
“Yes,” replied Do’rex. “I am actually pushing the engine as far as I dare over threshold.”
“You’ve got another 7 or 8 percent,” interjected Jami. “I’ve got this. Go for it.”
“Confirm Engineering,” he replied. I saw from the displays that we had increased acceleration slightly. With the compensators on we of course felt nothing.
“Grayswandir, is there a problem?” That was from Kupakii. “The Fesarius is offering assistance. Are you in danger?”
I flipped off external comms. “Well… this is getting fun.”
“Did you send the recognition code I gave you?” That was from Minister Trakon.
I nodded, then realized no one could see me. “Yeah. I set it to auto as soon as I got up here. But…” I thought, then switched on external comms again.
“I’m sorry Captain O’haran, but we are transporting a member of the Boilingbrook High Council and he has requested that we limit all non-essential communication until we land on Kupakii. I hope you understand.”
There was a pause longer than the lightspeed delay would explain. “Captain Kodai,” I heard, finally. “I’m sure Sir Gortor explained to you the purpose for his trip. We really need confirmation from him.”
I frowned and looked at the sensor display. The Fesarius was continuing on an intercept course, and at about twice our acceleration. They would be on us well before anyone else could be here.”
“And that’s what I get for carrying a datastick,” I said to no one in particular. Then I flipped back to external comms. “I’m sorry Fesarius, but Sir Gortor is unavailable.”
“I need to speak with him. Now.”
I sighed, the last of my patience exhausted. “I’m sorry, that isn’t possible.” I hesitated, then continued. This might be my only chance to let anyone else know what had happened. “Sir Gortor pulled a gun on me when I intervened in his attempt to assassinate Minister Trakon; a member of the Boilingbrook High Council. That decision… didn’t end well for him. Would you like to see our computer records?”
This time there was an uncomfortably long silence. I half expected to hear something from the rest of the crew or the passengers, all of this was still going over the ship-wide channels after all, but everyone else was apparently like me; holding their breaths and waiting for a response.
“You interfered with an Imperial Knight in the performance of his orders?” was the eventual replay.
I laughed out loud at that. “Seriously? That’s the best you have? He. Attempted. To. Hijack. My. Ship. And. Assassinate. A. Passenger. There’s only one response I could have to that. Find a psionic. A real one. That’s the only way you’ll make contact with him.”
“Incoming!” said Saahna almost immediately. The ship shook. “Hit. Engineering. Pressure loss. Deploying sand and returning fire.” I felt a shudder beneath me. “Missiles away.”
I flipped over to the sensors. An expanding fuzzy cloud was surrounding us and I saw two blips moving away. Then I noticed a half-dozen blips moving towards us.
“Do’rex, evasive!” I shouted.
“Confirm.” Almost immediately I saw our projected path turn into a drunkard’s walk; the ship lurching from side-to-side, up-and-down, its course altered by the random radioactive decay of the thorium triggers in the fusion plant.
Another energy spike indicated another round of laser fire from the Fesarius. Fortunately this one missed us. On sensors, I saw one of the inbound missiles disappear. “Missile one down,” I heard from Saahna.
Suddenly, another blip appeared on the sensors. This one was large, much larger than us and easily twice the size of the Fesarius. It had apparently been running silent with EM dampeners on until now.
“Hello Grayswandir!” came a new voice. “This is Captain Danya Kellis of the Boilingbrook cruiser Skellis’ Eye. Are you having a problem?”
“Yes!” I shouted, not sure if I was annoyed or relieved.
“Confirm Grayswandir.” There was a slight pause. “Fesarius, this is the Boilingbrook Naval cruiser Skellis’ Eye. The Grayswandir is under our protection. We advise you to cease hostilities. Now.”
There was a long pause. “What the hells is going on out there!” came a comm from Kupakii, finally. “Skellis’ Eye, you are not registered as being in-system. Please respond!”
“Sure!” came the reply. “Right after we take care of this!” Sensors detected several energy pulses coming from the Skellis’ Eye. A few seconds later, I saw a spray of debris emerge from the Fesarius.
“You’ll pay for this!” That was the Fesarius again.
“Add it to my tab,” I replied. “It’s still open.”
“We will. Believe me, we will.” The comm channel abruptly closed.
“Jump drive engaging!” said Saahna. I glanced at the sensors. There was an energy buildup on the Fesarius.
“Leave me, my ship, and my crew alone!” I shouted to the open channel. A few seconds later there was an energy burst, standard for a Jump. They must have had everything coded in and ready. I hoped the few thousand kilometers they had moved chasing us would throw them off.
“Good riddance!” I said to no one in particular. “Hey, Skellis, thanks for the assist!
“No problem!” came an almost immediate reply. “That’s what we’ve been here for. Can you put Minister Trakon on?”
“Sure.” I flipped through my displays again. Had Captain Anna dealt with this kind of thing all the time? No wonder she was always annoyed. I finally found the passenger circuits. “Minister Trakon? The captain of the Skellis’ Eye wants to talk to you.”
“Certainly!” he replied after a slight pause. “Can I assume we are safe now?”
“Yeah. Relatively, anyway.” I hit the all-clear. “Repair bots to Engineering.”
“I’m already on it,” said Jami. “But thanks.”
“Yeah, fine. Having the hull split open above you and all the air leave happens all the time. No worries..”
“Welcome to the Grayswandir. We try not to let that happen too often.” Reaction was setting in and I was starting to babble a bit.
She laughed. “Yeah, thanks.”
“How bad is it? Do we need to worry about landing?”
There was a pause. “It’s not going to hold as it is. I’ll see if I can patch it from inside. If not, I’ll have to EVA to look at it.”
“OK, take your time. We don’t need it ripping open further on entry.”
“Right there with you.” She cut off.
The communications console was showing multiple incoming transmissions. I flipped to the first.
“…is going on? Repeat, this is Kupakii Space Traffic Control. Grayswandir, Fesarius; we are detecting weapons discharge. What is going on?”
“This is the Grayswandir,” I said. “The Fesarius opened fire on us then jumped out. Credit to the Skellis’ Eye for appearing.”
“Yeah, thanks Skellis.” There was a pause. “And how long have they been here anyway?”
“I don’t know,” I replied, “but we’re glad for their assist. Kupakii, we have damage and will be stopping in orbit for some hull repair. Do you have a preferred orbit for us?”
“Um… sure. Are you in immediate danger?”
“Only if our Engineer gets claustrophobic in her suit.”
There was another pause. “OK, sure Grayswandir. Continue to rendezvous with PS11. They will escort you in.”
“Confirm Kupakii.” I flipped over to the next channel. “Thanks again, Skellis.”
“We call ourselves The Eye,” came a new voice. “But you’re welcome. We heard that you have damage. Do you need assistance?”
I shook my head as I responded. “We’ve got a breach in Engineering that we need to close before entering atmosphere. Our Engineer claims she has it under control but I won’t turn down an assist either.”
There was a “Hey!” from Jami, still on the open circuit followed by a slight laugh from the comms. “Understood Grayswandir. We will rendezvous with you and the PS11 and follow you to orbit. We’ll assist with repairs there.”
“Sound’s good, Skellis… I mean Eye.”
Again the laugh. “No problem, Grayswandir.” The circuit cut off.
I pulled up the navigation display again and started plotting an intercept with the other two ships. I had been at it a few minutes when the door to the bridge slid open and Saahna entered.
“Well,” she said as she ducked under the seat I was in. “That wasn’t fun.” She dropped into her own chair and pulled up her console, then looked back up at me. “Starting without me?”
I shrugged. “I didn’t know if you were planning on staying in the gimbal or not.” I flicked the calculations I had started on to her console. “Have at it.”
“Thanks.” She busied herself with the course plot.
“I think we’re OK now,” she said, eyes still on her console. “The Boilingbrook Navy came through in time. I just wish they had dropped their stealth a bit earlier. If that had been a beam instead of a pulse we’d be looking for a new drive. Not to mention a new Engineer.”
“Yeah. I guess they had to make it look like they were moving to protect us instead of firing on someone at random.” I frowned. “Still, we’re the ones who get stuck with the repair bill…”
“Something to take up with Minister Trakon.”
I thought for a moment, then climbed out of the seat. “Speaking of whom, I should probably go reassure our passengers.”
Do’rex clicked. “And what if STC or the PS11 needs to talk to us?”
“Just route them to me.” I stopped, then shrugged. “We don’t have any secrets from anyone on-board anymore anyway.”
“I suppose you are correct.” He clicked again. “I will notify you if anything requires your attention.”
“Thanks.” I nodded towards Saahna but she was involved in her own console. I exited to the lounge.
The crew and passenger lounges were both empty. At a bit of a loss, I tapped the comm to Minister Trakon’s cabin.
“Can I help you, Captain?” he responded after a brief delay.
“Just wanting to make sure you are OK. We did take a hit that breached the hull.”
“I am fine, Captain. Thank you for your concern. And do not worry about your ship; I have been speaking to Captain Kellis of the Skellis’ Eye and she will send an engineering team over when we arrive in orbit to take care of any damage you have received.”
“Thank you, Minister.” I paused. “Of course, if they had intervened a bit sooner, we wouldn’t have had any damage in the first place.”
I heard him sigh. “Captain Kodai. Remember, they didn’t know what had happened while we were in Jump. They couldn’t act and reveal themselves until an actual attack had occurred.”
I paused, then sighed myself. “Yeah, I get it. Still, you have to realize, the Grayswandir is my ship…”
He laughed slightly. “Yes, I’m sure it was much more distressing to you. But do not be concerned, the Eye‘s engineers will make sure you are fully repaired before landing.”
“Thanks,” I said, probably sounding a bit less than convinced. “I’ll let Jami know.”
“All will be fine, Captain.” I heard the professional politician coming back through. “Now, if you will excuse me? I need to finish updating Captain Kellis on our status.
I sighed. “Certainly Minister. Please relay my thanks once again.”
“Of course, Captain.” He cut off.
I sighed again, then headed towards Engineering.
It was still in vacuum, of course. I pulled out my hood and gloves and sealed my jumpsuit, then cycled the air from the Cargo Bay. It took about 5 minutes but when it was done I opened the iris to Engineering.
When I entered I at first didn’t see Jami and so pinged her comm. “Hey Jami… What’s up?”
“What? Oh! Hi Captain! Didn’t see you come in.” Over comms I couldn’t tell where the voice was coming from and so looked around a bit before looking up. She was overhead, standing on an airpod and spraying something onto an ugly, scorched tear across the outer bulkhead.
“Everything looking OK?”
“Yep. I’ll hopefully get air in here again soon. Though I’ll probably weld a patch over the outside before we try to enter atmo.”
“No need,” I said, waving my arms. “The Eye is going to send an engineering crew over once we make orbit. They’ll patch us up.”
She stopped spraying and looked over the edge of the pod at me. “What! You could have mentioned that sooner!”
I waved my arms in the standard vacuum suit symbol for confusion. “Sorry, I didn’t know myself until a few minutes ago. Then I came down here to see what was going on.”
She sighed loudly, then the airpod dropped and landed near me. She stepped off. Unlike me, she was in a full vacc suit instead of a sealed jumpsuit. “Then I guess I’ll go somewhere with air until we get there. I assume the Cargo Bay is evacuated?”
“Yeah, I cycled it to come in here. Can you handle things if you leave?”
She gave an exasperated sound. “I told you that I installed a bunch of monitoring systems. I’ll be fine.”
“OK,” I said. I then pointed at the airpod “Where did that come from?”
“Oh!” I could hear embarrassment in her voice and she turned away so I couldn’t see her through her helmet. “I… um… I was using it on Boilingbrook and forgot to take it off board before we left.”
“Forgot?” I said, annoyed. “We’re trying to be friendly with them now, remember?”
She sighed then turned back. “So I ‘forgot’, OK? The next time we’re there I’ll leave it and we’ll apologize and pay for the ‘rental’. It happens.”
I sighed. “Let’s try to make sure it doesn’t happen again. OK?”
She glared at me. “Oh, you’re one to talk about doing things!”
I paused, then tilted my head. “I may have done things you didn’t agree with, but tell me the point at which I actually did something illegal.”
She actually took a step back at that. “What! You planted a bug in someone’s restaurant.”
I nodded. “Yeah. After telling the person with the most authority there that I was doing it.” I paused seeing her reaction. “Oh, you think everyone there knew him by ‘accident’? If he didn’t run the place he was paying off the people who did. Otherwise the Spoilsports wouldn’t have wanted me to bug the place in the first place.” I frowned at that sentence.
That seemed to anger Jami for some reason. “I thought you were a Free Trader!”
I felt my own anger rising. “Yeah. I am. I’m not a smuggler. Or a thief. Or a pirate. You have a problem with that?”
“You don’t have a problem with being a spy for Boilingbrook.”
I frowned. “They haven’t asked me to do anything illegal. Just carry some people or cargoes for them. Not the same thing.”
She laughed. “Oh? And if those cargoes are illegal?”
“Then I’ll have to make a decision at that point, won’t I?”
She snorted. “Yeah, sure. Like you’ll turn down credits.”
I smiled tightly. “I’m a Free Trader. Remember?”
“Yeah,” she said, her own voice tight. “I remember.” There was a pause. “Let’s get out of here. I don’t want to have to stay in this suit any longer than I have to.”
“Sounds good to me,” I said, thinking of the conversation as well as the lack of air. I passed through to the cargo bay. Jami followed and I started cycling the air into the bay again.
As we stood there waiting for the bay to fill I wondered at her reaction. I had thought that everything was fine, based on what Saahna had told me. We had our differences still, sure. But they were based on our own problems, not anything I had gotten us involved in. And Do’rex and Varan seemed to have accepted things as well. I hadn’t expected the reaction from Jami though.
Maybe people in her part of the Hinterworlds didn’t like Boilingbrook? I really didn’t know her background. She was the only one of us who wasn’t Imperial.
Well, besides Shelly. And I honestly wasn’t sure how long she would be with us.
The pressure reached standard levels and I popped my hood off. Jami did the same with the helmet of her suit.
“Wow,” she said, any irritation she had been feeling no longer evident. “I’m glad to get that thing off my head.”
“Can’t blame you,” I said. “And good job taking care of everything back there. I’d have ruined a jumpsuit if the hull breached in the cabin I was in.”
“Oh, it did the first time it happened to me,” she said with a slight laugh. “Fortunately… I kinda got used to it.”
“Fortunately?” I replied, genuinely surprised. “That’s not something I really want to get used to.”
She laughed. “Yeah, I guess I’d like to get used to having a stable ship again.” She paused. “And don’t worry Captain, I’ll do the best I can for us. No matter what.”
I frowned. “No matter what? Do you know something I should know?”
She looked away and hesitated before replying. “It’s just that… I know you trust Minister Trakon. But… Well, I just don’t like being beholden to someone I’m not immediately involved with. I know you have the best interests of us and the Grayswandir in mind.” She laughed. “Hells, it’s your ship, you sure as hells aren’t going to risk it. But Boilingbrook? They’re the biggest economy of any planet in the sector. They could risk, and lose, us without even thinking that hard about it. I’m just concerned about what they may ask us to do. They have a full navy. They sent several of them here and don’t seem to think anything of patching us up. What will they ask us to do that they don’t want to risk their own people on?”
It was my turn to look away. I had actually thought that myself. “I suspect they won’t. They know we have an Imperial Agent on board. And they know our capabilities. I agreed to carry passengers and cargo for them. If they want much more… well… there isn’t much we can do to help them there.”
“Even if the credits are good?”
I paused. “I’m not sure they could possibly be that good.”
She turned back to look at me. “OK… fine. As long as you remember that. I don’t want another ship destroyed under me.”
I nodded. “Got it.”