Getting The Ship Back In Order

Characters: All
NPC: Chuck and passengers
Location: Miishakaal
System: Sardia (outbound towards the Kuiper Belt)

1125.11.7 - 13:30 Imperial Time, 06:30 Vilani Time

With the ship fully pressurized, the crew start examining the ship to determine what's been taken and if the corsairs damaged anything in the process.

Lakir has already reported that the ship's locker has been plundered of Simrii's gift of shotguns, Chuck's shotgun, and Gvarokh's laser pistol. Shiraamer's snub pistol, which was on her person, was taken from her person. All of the shotgun ammo and Shiraamer's snub pistol ammo was taken as well.

Also missing from the ship's locker are the vacc suit thruster packs.

After completing this report, he heads to the cargo hold with Vincent to report what's been taken from there.

While Vlad checks the passengers rooms for "bombs", Simrii checks the Equipment Locker on the upper deck.

Once the passengers moved updeck, Gvarokh goes up to the bridge and says to Shiraamer, "I guess the passengers want to go back to Sardia so there can be an investigation. I suggest we give them back their passage fees and leave them on the damn planet. Or, better yet, is there a way we can keep the passage fees and leave them behind anyway?"

He pauses for a moment, then continues, "We were so close to Theton. There is no way we will be able to get out of Sardia if we go back. Not any time in the near future, anyway. Well, I guess you had better get back with the authorities. Is there anything you want me to check on? Well, besides the passengers." With a smirk, he adds, "Otherwise I will go looking for bombs." He obviously understood and appreciated Chuck's little invention.

Shiraamer smiles at Gvarokh's line about bomb disposal before sobering. "It's not a surprise that the passengers want to go back to Sardia. I agree that we'll never get away on a timely basis if we do though. I DO need to tell Sardia something soon though. I really don't know what I was thinking when I started to repressurize the ship all at once. Feel free to change it if you think it will make it quicker. I don't think my brain was totally engaged when I started to do it all at once. In the meantime I'll bring up the contracts and see if I can find any loopholes that might help us."

Meanwhile, down in Engineering, Slade gives the place a visual inspection to make sure that there's nothing obviously wrong. Fortunately, everything is as he left it. Even his engineering tool kit is where he left it. The one exception is a large, bulbous looking, mesh sack hanging off of the port jump drive. Slade creeps closer to it and soon recognizes it: the vacc suit helmets.

"I've found our vacc suit helmets," he reports over the crew comm.

He heads over to the engineering computer and fires up a cursory diagnostic. That will take a couple of minutes. After that he'll have it run a detailed diagnostic while he performs a visual inspection of the easy access panels, and maybe the more difficult ones too.

While the cursory diagnostic runs, he asks Gvarokh over the comm if it's time to recover his subgun from its hiding spot in the gel condenser coils.

Gvarokh replies that the crew can recover their stuff as soon as the passengers are secure in the passenger deck. He decides to leave his gun where it is for now, though he takes his handcomputer out of his suit. His side aches from hours of lying down on it.

Chuck appears on the lift and heads towards the galley. Gvarokh approaches him. He thanks Chuck for bailing him out.

"No worries. Dealing with people is part of my job. I could tell neither one of you could afford to back down. I figured that I'd outflank him." He smiles.

Gvarokh then asks if he could check on the low passengers once the annoying ones have been secured.

"Sure thing. But the captain should be able to do that from the bridge."

Chuck returns to the upper deck with a tray full of drinks.

Meanwhile, Lakir and Vincent call in from the cargo hold. "Cap'n, we've been cleaned out of most of the cargo. The iron ore, quartz, and circuit boards are all gone. They left the metal parts and holocrystals behind."

Simrii reports in with his findings. "We've lost all of tool kits and even the med kit, though they left us the first aid kits. All IR and LI-IR combo goggles are gone as is the holocamcorder. They left us our emergency gear though."

With all of the ship's systems accounted for, the crew start retrieving their weapons from the places that they've stashed them. All are accounted for.

Debating What To Do Next

1125.11.7 - 14:10 Imperial Time, 07:10 Vilani Time

Shiraamer has been going over the passenger and crew contracts as well as Imperial and Vilani regulations with regards to both. In essence, all pirate activity needs to be reported to the authorities immediately. Delays only aid the criminals in their flight from justice. Both the Imperium and the Ziru Sirkaa take piracy very seriously and impose stiff penalties upon those convicted of crimes of this nature. Unfortunately, it goes without saying that piracy has flourished during the Rebellion/Civil War as resources to combat piracy have been diverted towards the war effort. Nonetheless, victims of and witnesses to piracy must come forward immediately to officially lodge their complaints. Any effort made to hinder victims and/or witnesses from reporting an attack of piracy will be met with charges of conspiracy to aid or commit piracy or outright accessory to piracy charges. The penalties for these crimes are slightly less severe than the actual crime of piracy, though extenuating circumstances might absolve one of these charges, subject to magistrate's discretion.

With regards to insurance claims, these require piracy victimization forms to be filled out and certified by Imperial/Vilani authorities. Insurance companies are absolute in this requirement in order to prevent fraud.

She holds a conference with the crew over the crewcomm to decide what to do next.

Lakir is first to voice his concerns, "Soooo... the place we just left is highly xenophobic, as well as subject to regular Vargr pirate strikes... and we may be heading back to report our "pirate attack", with a passel full of passengers that don't seem particularly inclined to cut us some slack... as well as 2 Vargr crew members, one being the First Officer."

Lakir goes on to say, "I'm inclined to continue with the jump, as heading back sounds like a quick way to the gas chamber, what with our current crew comp. I say we hog tie the passengers, if they look like causing probs, or stick the really obnoxious ones in the spare low berths,and call the contact report on the pirates to Sardia Control, once we know they can't run an intercept, prior to us hitting the jump point."

Vincent disagrees, "I suggest we call into the Starport, explain in full detail what's transpired and wait for their instructions. No need for us to run away. Granted we might have to deal with some red tape crap once we get there but then again I'd rather that than give the law enforcement here some reason to chase and shoot at us. Just a thought."

Gvarokh then offers his opinion, "Actually, we don't have much choice, unless we're willing to kill the passengers. I'm not a cold blooded killer, no matter what some xenophobes might think about my people. If they aren't killed, the passengers would rat us out once we got to Theton, at which point we are even in more trouble for not reporting the crime here.

"As I see it, we need to report in with the Starport ASAP and give them a full accounting. When they ask why we delayed in reporting, we just say that we wanted to do a proper accounting and that required repressurizing the ship which took time. I doubt we will have problems on this. They might be annoyed, but so be it. The passengers need to be allowed to send messages immediately. We don't want them to think they are prisoners.

"Then we, I mean the captain, needs to start filling out the stupid forms. There is no reason to wait until we get back to Sardia to do that. Just start now. Actually, we could probably request the forms from the starport while we are out here. Then, we have a choice to make. Do we go back to planet, or do we try a different gambit? If we go back, we will be stuck here for a while. Going back is what we are supposed to do, and, even with the delay, we will eventually get out. We'll be bored and harassed, but we will eventually get out.

"I suggest we try something different. First, Slade needs to sabotage the maneuver drive. We haven't fired it up since the attack, so we don't have anything to worry about on lying about it. Plus the passengers won't know the different. The sabotage needs to look like something the pirates would reasonably do, but that we can work around over time. Then someone besides Slade needs to hide the missing pieces somewhere on the ship.

"We then ask for a patrol boat to meet up with us. This boat can ferry the passengers back to port (with their refunds) and finalize any forms we need to sign. Then we convince them we don't need a tow, as we will get it fixed soon enough to not justify the effort and expense.

"Once the passengers are gone, and we are relatively alone, we jump. By the way, we're already well past the jump point. We can jump at any time."

The captain speaks up, "I like the alternate idea. Slade, get somebody to help you on it just in case we need it. We can't leave this open ended. We still have our reps in the merchant world to think of. As much as I hate paperwork, there comes a time when you just have to buckle down and do it. I'm going to contact planetside and see what they have to say. Hopefully I can get started on the paperwork from here. After contacting the authorities, we'll see about refunding the passenger fees and letting them contact planetside. I see that the pirates took most of the cargo but did leave us a couple of things. By the way, how are we fixed for food supplies. Let's get going on this. The sooner we can safely jump and get out of this system I'll be happy."

Slade replies, "There are several standard things you can do to cause a drive to be unworkable for a relatively predictable length of time. Some of them don't even require a part to be broken or misplaced... but it might be better if we misplace a part and then when we contact starport, ask them to please send a replacement ASAP. Drive field balance modulator would do it. Small, self-contained, easy to pull, and they never break so there'd be no typical need for a ship to carry spares. It'll take me five minutes."

Gvarokh asks, "How long does it take to put back in? Remember, the idea here is to make it not worth their while to wait for us. That way they leave us behind so we can jump. I will admit, though, this all assumes we can complete our legal requirements from here. If we have to return planetside for inspections or some such, we are pretty much screwed. It is probably not a good idea to become Vilani fugitives prior to whatever illegal activities we will have to do on Theton."

After only a minute, Slade comes back online, "I just figured out the deal breaker: the normal monitoring programs were up and running. Anyone looking at our logs will be able to determine when our engines got broken, and its going to conflict with the timeline presented by our transmissions and the recollections of our passengers. I think we're SOL on this count. If you want to risk getting caught messing with the logs, then there are other externally accessible, yet deeply connected drive parts that can be broken in pirate-like fashion. Breaking them comes with extra risk of breaking something else, and most of those parts are bigger and far more expensive."

Gvarokh is the first to reply, "In that case, we probably will have to just go back to the planet. However, we will need to make sure ask the planet if they can just come and get the stuff they need (and the passengers) instead of us going all the way back. If they ask why, we can tell the truth and say we just don't have a whole lot of confidence we can make it back to 100D safely. We would rather just meet our obligations here, then go."

Shiraamer follows up, "Good thinking on the tapes and monitors. Yeah that would show nothing is wrong. When the authorities answer my call, we'll play it safe and just see if they can come on out since we're already to jump. We're not trying to get out of doing the paperwork, just trying to get it so that we can get it done in the minimal amount of time."

Having gotten the crew reports and her questions answered, Shiraamer calls an end to the meeting announcing that it's time for her to put in the call to the authorities. "This is the Miishakaal called Sardia Down Starport."

While waiting for the starport to reply, Gvarokh suggests to the captain that they kill their vector. "Since we're already past 100D, there is no harm, and we'll have to kill it anyway to return. Plus, if they are willing to work with us, killing the vector makes it easier for the patrol boat/ship to get to us."

While waiting for Sardia Down to answer, Shiraamer takes Gvarokh's advice and gives the word to "kill our vector".

Gvarokh sits down in the pilot's chair and puts the ship into a deceleration maneuver.

Comm Call With The Starport

Characters: Shiraamer and Gvarokh
Location: Miishakaal bridge
System: Sardia (outbound towards the Kuiper Belt, but decelerating)

1125.11.7 - 14:30 Imperial Time, 07:30 Vilani Time

Shiraamer's hails go unacknowledged for two minutes. She checks the nav computer for distance from the planet. At 702,000 klicks (421,000 miles) they're well over 200D out, but still close enough that there shouldn't be that much lag for distance.

Finally, the starport answers, "This is Sardia Down. How may we be of service?" It's the same bureaucrat as before.

"This is Captain Shiraamer. Thank you for being so patient with us. I would like to report that we were raided by Vargr pirates. I have checked with my passengers and crew and everybody is all right. They did take our cargo and other stuff though."

"I see. Now that would be the Enkongsuerrgvo class Packet that docked with you earlier, yes?"

"Yes."

"Well, he tells a different story." Before Shiraamer can say anything, the bureaucrat continues, "We've sent word to the naval base asking for assistance. We estimate that it will be another six and a half hours before they get the call. It should only be thirty to sixty minutes after that before they arrive. I apologize for the delay, but all of our jump capable couriers are unavailable to hasten the delivery of the message. In the meantime, I can summon Chief Inspector Khiikurshasekha to start the investigation, if that's acceptable."

Gvarokh whispers to the captain, "Please ask them what story would that be?"

Shiraamer blinks at the news but quickly recovers, "Of course they would say something different. They were the ones who had guns on us and wouldn't let me contact you before. That warning shot they sent my way proved to me they meant business. I would appreciate any help in getting this investigated. I do have a bunch of anxious passengers on board also."

The bureaucrat just stares at her, unmoved, while she instinctively defends herself.

Shiraamer takes a deep breath and rubs her temple. "Yes, I would appreciate the Chief Inspector looking into this. While we're waiting, I can rotate my crew here and they can give their statements if that would help."

"The Chief Inspector will handle all matters of the investigation. Please wait with your statements until then. I will contact him now. He'll hail you when he is ready to begin." He looks away, presumably at some holoscreen. "I see that you've begun decelerating. Good. That will make it easier for the rescue party to rendezvous with you. Should your situation change, please contact us immediately. Sardia Down out."

And just like that the call is ended.

Gvarokh groans. "We're screwed. They're in league with the corsairs. We have no proof, only a group of passengers who will be willing to sell us out with little provocation."

Gvarokh pauses before continuing. "Captain. I can't ask the passengers, as they don't like me anymore. But you might want to explain the new reality of our situation to our passengers. They might now be more amenable to leaving once they find out the authorities don't believe we were really attacked." He shakes a little, anxiety and paranoia setting in. "I bet if we offer to refund their fares and give them the trip for free, they might even lie for us. 8 or 10 grand should help salve the wounds of whatever they lost."

Shiraamer nods her head, thinking.

Gvarokh's eyes flutter about from one portion of the bridge to the other, not looking at anything in particular but as a result of his thinking process. "One more thought to consider: Sardia can't get word to the Naval base for six and a half hours, yet the Navy is only 30 minutes away. Can we talk to them in less than six and a half hours? If they can get to us in 30 minutes, can we get to them in 30 minutes?

"I'm just thinking that if we can get to the Naval base prior to Sardia, then we have a chance to make our story the one they hear first. Putting our story and the passengers' stories together might be enough to save our asses before the Sardia lies hit them.

"It's a long shot, I know. But even if we jump away we are still going to end up having the whole Vilani navy chasing us, and that is likely a death sentence. I doubt we can make it all the way to the border prior to being caught, especially if we spend any time on Theton looking for our target."

Shiraamer looks over at Gvarokh and nods. "I think I agree with you old friend. There isn't any good way to come out of this. Figures that they cut us off before I could ask what the pirates story was. I somehow doubt that they'd tell us anyway. Give me a minute to figure out what a minijump will cost."

Shiraamer gets to work and shortly sighs again. "If I did my figuring right, if we minijump to the naval station it will basically leave us with zero fuel left." She passes over her work to Gvarokh.

"Feel free to double check my numbers, or get one of the guys to, but I figured it like this. A full tank equals 50 tons. To fuel our jump 2 to Theton it requires 40 tons of fuel. That would leave 10 tons for maneuvering and power plant ops. That's about 5 days of 1g. So far, we've only burned about a half hour's worth of fuel, which is negligible amount really. The minijump to the naval base will require 8 tons of fuel. That would leave just under 2 tons. 1.96 to be more precise. Turning that into hours and minutes it leaves us with 23 hours and 30 minutes of maneuver drive fuel. Actually it would be 23 hours if we wait until we've killed off our current outbound vector 1.92 tons. We should probably do that since the navy probably doesn't want us drifting around. That wouldn't be so bad but the power plant requires fuel too. A week in jump with no major energy draws on the system would require 1.25 tons. Arriving at Theton we might have 0.67 tons of fuel, but more than likely it would be a little less. So we'd arrive there with 8 hours of fuel.

"Looking at Theton though, we know it's a big planet and that means a deep gravity well. I'm afraid that it means we'd burn at least 7 hour and 15 minutes of fuel getting in from the jump point. The end point is we'd be cutting it really close and probably have less than 45 minutes of spare maneuvering fuel TOPS."

Shiraamer waits for Gvarokh to go through her work and offer an opinion.

Gvarokh inspects Shiraamer's calculations and confirms her results. He then scoots over to the nav computer to see how long the micro-jump to the naval base will take.

The nav computer comes back with two warnings. First, is the standard warning about in-system jumps:

"In-system jumps are not recommended due to higher probabilities of artificial and natural objects whose mass may disrupt a jump flight. Frequent performance of in-system jumps can lead to premature jump drive wear and ultimately failure."

It's not something that Gvarokh hasn't seen before and mini-jumps are done all the time.

The second warning, isn't:

"Warning: You are attempting to jump to a planet whose access has been designated restricted by the Vilani Naval Authority. Unauthorized civilian traffic is prohibited."
After that. The nav computer spits out an estimate for the flight to Profess, the gas giant that the naval base orbits: 5 minutes.

Gvarokh then consults the library database to find out how wide the restricted zone is.

"Specific size of restricted zone unknown. The planet, Profess, is restricted by the Vilani Naval Authority. Unauthorized civilian traffic is prohibited."

Not as helpful as Gvarokh hoped.

Gvarokh, after confirming the numbers, sighs and says, "The fuel might not be a huge issue. If they believe us, they will likely let us 'top off'. If they don't believe us, then we aren't going anywhere no matter how much fuel we have.

"Also, I am more than willing to admit I have just entered the 'paranoia zone'. So far, both Slade and I have gone there once, and we were wrong each time. I could be completely overreacting to the whole thing.

"Another thing to consider is that when we get to Theton, we are probably going to be committing illegal acts, anyway. It may not matter much if we are running from the Vilani here, as we will be running from them there soon enough."

Shiraamer looks over at Gvarokh and gives him a smile. "Not too many options that I see. I almost hate to say it but our best bet is to just stay right here. We would definitely be breaking the law if we jump right now and we've already put in a request to start the paperwork. If we jump then the passengers will also have a legal right to file a claim against us. We need to make frequent, but not obnoxiously so, checks on the passengers. Tell them we are waiting for planetside to send out an investigator to take statements, etc. We also need to make an official list of what was taken for the investigator. Tell the crew privately that the pirates have already told planetside a different story from ours so they'll be prepared for it. You heard that I wasnt able to ascertain what story the pirates told them. I think we could probably guess though.

"I'm going to start my reports here and make a list of what kind of shape we'll be in if or when we refund the passengers their fare. Remind me next time to only take on low berths.

"Oh yes, if you get some free time, get somebody to watch the bridge for me while I check out what I have left in my own quarters also.

"Keep me informed on the morale of the crew. This is the kind of thing that will make or break us as a team and Id hate to lose anybody."

Shiraamer looks over at Gvarokh to see if he has any questions.

Gvarokh says, "You're probably right. I'll start calling the crew and let them know." Before starting, however, he says, "If we go back to Sardia, crew morale is low. Even without knowing that the pirates beat us to the story, they are seriously concerned about us ever leaving again.

"As for the passengers, I strongly suggest giving them the report forms and having them start filling things out prior to them making much contact with Sardia. Staying here, our only chance is to have the passengers back us up on our version of the story. Chuck will likely have to nursemaid them through the process."

After a moment, "Oh, and feel free to go check your quarters. I can wait."

Shiraamer nods. "I like the idea of giving the passengers something to do. That might help the time go a bit faster for them. Have Chuck help them." Shiraamer takes a breath and looks Gvarokh in the eyes. "I can't say I blame the crew. This certainly was a blow. We've had good runs but this time our hand wasn't good enough. Let me go check on my stuff and then I'll be right back. Call me if you need me. I might take a couple of minutes to go check on the guys also."

Shiraamer gets up to leave. As she does, she gives a friendly slap on the back. "Don't count us out yet."

Gvarokh informs the crew over the crewcomm that the pirates have been in contact with the starport. He doesn't know what story they told the starport, but it certainly wasn't that they were raiding Miishakaal.

The Chief Inspector has been summoned and will be leading an investigation into the claim that the Miishakaal was raided by pirates. He doesn't know if that will require the ship to return to the surface or not.

The ship is decelerating to kill its outbound vector in order to make it easier for the rescue party from the naval base to rendezvous with the ship. Their ETA is approximately 7 hours.

Also, Chuck is to keep the passengers busy by having them fill out theft/loss claims forms.

Chuck agrees that keeping the passengers busy in this way is a good idea.

Simrii grunts and decides to take a nap until he's needed for something. "No sense getting all worked up while we sit around and wait."

Slade says, "I'll start running engineering diags, and I'll look at the internal sensor logs for foot traffic during the boarding to see if we've been bugged or tagged."

Gvarokh replies, "You know, that's a good point," referring to Simrii's nap suggestion, "I'll work with the Captain to make sure that she and I can get a quick nap in while waiting for the inevitable interrogation. The rest of you should probably get some sleep too once you've taken care of your stuff. I don't know what to tell you Chuck, as those passengers likely need more babysitting."

"That's ok. I'll manage," Chuck replies.

Next: Chief Inspector Khiikurshasekha