Location: Miishakaal crew lounge, parked at the Limii Starport
The captain has called everyone to the crew lounge to have a meeting about
"As you may recall, Mersshon has hired us to bring his purchasing agent, Oda Linnachre, and the Makhidkarun bioscanner prototype back to him. Well, Lakir and Vincent have discovered that there's alot more going on than that.
"Vincent hacked his way into the Makhidkarun Intelligence Agency's website. It turns out that Oda has actually been watching Vilani fleets and reporting their movements back to Mersshon, who must be an Imperial Intelligence Agent. Makhidkarun figured this out and confronted Oda with it. In order to get her to work for them, they picked up her brother and his family and incarcerated them in a prison camp down on the planet's surface.
"Lakir has serious doubts that there's even a bioscanner involved and I think he's right.
"According to Mersshon, we're supposed to meet her at a bar called Igakhum's during the normal Vilani rest period, which starts in less than four hours. Lakir has already come up with three different routes to and from the bar that we can take if there's trouble. After we meet her, we should probably go somewhere else just in case she's under surveillance. Vincent has already hacked his way into the city's security camera network so he'll be able to keep an eye out for our team in case Makhidkarun makes a move on us while we're there.
"I'm going to have Lakir lead the team that heads out to meet her. And since Oda probably won't leave without her family, Vlad will lead the team that heads to the planet's surface to the internment camp to rescue them. Vincent was able to find its location but was unable to crack their network to get more detailed information.
"Lakir found a list of weapon regulations which you can look at later. Any questions, so far?"
Gvarokh asks, "Who's on each team? And who is assigned to stay with the ship?"
"Lakir and Vlad will decide that," Shiraamer replies.
With a smile, he then asks, "Are the weapons regulations so that we know what laws we're breaking and what prison sentences we're facing?"
"Something like that," Shiraamer smiles back.
Vincent asks, "Will we be attempting the rescue while the meeting is going on? We can stagger a rescue team to be in place just in case our contact needs to leave immediately and is being tailed. Since we'll all be in communication with each other, all we'll need is our contact's approval to attempt the rescue during the meeting and we can do it. We'd need a distraction to help out, some sort of explosion that will draw attention away from what we're doing."
Lakir shakes his head, "I wouldn't recommend it. It means the contact team and I will be cut off, with Vlad and the ship gallivanting about on the surface, unless of course you plan on leavin' without us..."
Vincent continues, "On a side note, maybe we could use our passive scanners to get a look at the camp. Say, take a drive by and get as close as we could without drawing attention to us and get a look."
Shiraamer seems intrigued, "Can we do a fly by for our scanners to get a better idea or would that be restricted air space?"
Lakir shrugs, "I doubt there's much sight seeing on that island, though Vincent can run a net search for a map of the area and environs. I should have asked while I was waiting for the meeting."
Chuck offers, "I got the impression that passive sensors weren't going to be of much use in that atmosphere."
Vincent makes another suggestion, "I'd recommend that I, and obviously whoever our pilot is, should stay on board. The Cap'n should lead the team going to the bar. Two people. Three tops. And the rest can be the rescue team. We'll need more on that team than anything else. Hell, since I'll be providing the lookout, I might even say just the Cap'n goes to the bar."
Lakir replies, "Chuck and I for sure, the Capn' if she wants, but if she goes, and you decide to try a rescue with us, you'll be somewhat short handed to crew the ship, and put enough boots on the ground."
Vincent continues, "We'll need to make sure everything is in place before the rescue operation has begun. We'll have to be ready to go before we begin it, because once we start, we're going to be chased, and potentially for a period of time. We should probably consider this as well. If there is governmental espionage going on, then we'll have to be very careful till we get outta Vilani space, we'll be considered enemies of the state."
Lakir raises his hands in a halting gesture, "I think we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's surviel Oda, do the meet, and let Vlad plan his op, with intel from you. We don't do our intelligence preparation of the target, we'll get greased for sure. Least we won't have far to travel for incarceration, 'course they could just leave us outside and the corrosive atmo will eat us, after it gets through the suits."
Shiraamer nods her head, "I agree with Lakir. It would split us up too much and some of us would be left for sure. If we have to leave without somebody, I don't expect it to be any one of you. There might even come a time when we have to *cough* convince *cough* Oda to join us without her family."
"Kidnap her?" Chuck exclaims. He whistles. "Oh, that'll get ugly for sure."
Shiraamer decides not to comment on the ugly word (kidnap) and goes on. "Ok, Lakir, you'll take a team to meet with Oda. Make the initial contact and see what's up. No need to tell you guys to be careful since I know you will." She then moves on to the next topic for the meeting.
"I've been working on a route back." She cues up the map on the holoviewer. "After dealing with pirates and bureaucrats, I'd rather not go back through Sardia." She gestures at the route lined in pink. "And heading trailward from Theton just looks dangerous. Both of these states," she gestures at the purple and orange territories, "are full of pirates and corsairs. It looks to me like the worlds along the border are going to be raided as much as Sardia, if not more.
"I'm hoping that by taking this route," she gestures at the blue lines, "we'll be far enough inside Ziru Sirkaa territory that we won't have to worry about pirates and jumpy bureaucrats." She hits a button on her PDA and the following list of worlds appears on the PDA's of those who brought them and terminals in the room for those who didn't.
As everyone reads through the material she adds, "I didn't know which world
to start the trip back with, Akkunat or Shishaldin, but I'm leaning towards
Shishaldin because it's about half a week shorter. But I haven't committed
myself to it. Any thoughts from the rest of you?"
Gvarokh is the first to speak, "I like Shishaldin better than Akkunat simply because Akkunat is directly on the Vilani border. Akkunat is likely to be just as dangerous as any of the worlds along the trailing path."
Lakir disagrees, "Capn', no offence, but that alternate route out you have planned sucks hind titty."
A small smile appears on Shiraamer's face.
Lakir continues without pausing, "Every one of those worlds is a 'pirates den', just waitn' for some poor sucker to come jumpin' in. Admittedly, our route out isn't optimum, but I think we've managed not to piss to many of the bureaucrats off, and I think you made quite the impression on a few. Is it an option to haul ass straight back the way we came, just stoppn' ta' tank up? We may want to give Sardia a miss, though.
"If you want to maintain the low profile through RVE space, maybe the Argonos - Odsad - Saden - Vakkuum - Gegirur - Phago - Larkada route would put us back on the 'proper' side of the border faster, though drag out our return flight. It looks like the transponder issue will be irrelevant in Imperial space. No reason to go back the way we came.
"It'll be 7 jumps, most 2 parsec, and all but 2 through Imperial space."
Gvarokh counters, "The big problem with that route is that the first three Imperial worlds are on the very edge of the Imperial border. Hell, by the time we get there, they may not even be Imperial worlds.
"If we want to make it shorter, we could jump Shishaldin, Veppim, Umilikha, Pradman, Lashlaminan, then Lakarda. This gets us to skip Sardia, but should be just as quick as our way in. Also, instead of Pradman, we could hit Hrun and follow that path back. Hrun forces us to go through Gishinridu, while Pradman lets us hit the Imperium directly.
"All things considered, I like Shishaldin as the first jump, as it keeps our options open, it is not Sardia, and it is away from the border."
Shiraamer smiles, "Shishaldin as the first stop would be agreeable."
Gvarokh continues, "Also, I recommend against just running unless we know we have to. Having a little tramp freighter like us running and jumping is a sure red flag for the Vilani.
"However, if we are flat out running from the Vilani government, we will be forced to go the trailing route, as it gets us to Imperial space the fastest. Maybe we can get lucky with that route and find some fuel tanks. That would let us get through that J3 gap and stay away from the border."
Lakir points out, "Its only been 7 weeks since we departed Larkarda. I would think that those worlds would've held."
Vincent asks, "That's a great idea! How long would it take to get a bladder installed in the ship?"
"You up for having one installed Cap'n? It would provide us a simpler, quicker route home especially if the Vilani are after us, which at this point I'm assuming. If we're going to attempt to rescue our contact's family, and take them all with us, assuming governmental espionage is taking place, I'm sure we are going to be on the run. Let me look into seeing if we can get a bladder bought and delivered."
Vincent does a quick search for fuel bladders.
"Either route is going to be..." Simrii rubs his chin, "interesting at best. And with the way the Imperial infrastructure is starting to collapse around our ears we're really only left with a few choices."
Simrii takes a sip from his drink and continues, "We either A, pick a side and go back deeper into their territory, or B, we start thinking like smugglers and pirates and figure out what we can do to minimize our exposure everytime we drop out of jump or come up out of the well.
"Personally I'm not that big on any of the local factions and I'm not sure the rest of you are either. So, perhaps we should start thinking like criminals because the law isn't looking out for us anymore. I'm not saying become bad guys, but at least start thinking the way they think to begin minimizing our risks."
Shiraamer says, "I see the logic in that although I'm not good at thinking like a criminal which I'm sure is not a surprise to any of you. I'm sure that you guys can educate me on that."
Simrii rubs his chin, "What's it going to take for us to convert some of the dead spaces between decks and such into very small smuggling holes? I realize smuggling is illegal but if we're running 20 tons of grain and 1 ton of Medical supplies, it's going to hurt us a lot more to loose that small high value cargo and if we had a way to hide it just in case something happens again."
Slade shakes his head. "Dead space in a ship like this is minimal. In order to pack as much tech in a ship this small without forcing us to live like sardines, the walls are packed solid with pipes, wiring and conduit. Sure we can find the occasional spot to hide some weapons or ammo, but to grab a ton or more is impossible. What we'd need to do is create secret rooms. Take some space out of the cargo hold and put up walls and hide the entrance. Done right, people wouldn't notice if our hold was a ton or two smaller than what it should be."
Simrii pulls out his PDA and starts to look and see if there's any information on Imperial or Vilani salvage contracts.
While everyone mulls over what Simrii and Slade have just said, Vincent announces the results of his findings.
"Ok, if we're looking just to do a jump 1, we'll need a 20 ton bladder. With installation, that's going to cost us 30,000 credits. When it's empty, it's gonna take up a ton of space. We can probably get it installed in one to two work periods if we get the order in during this one."
Lakir nods in agreement, "I would definitely procure the bladder. It gives us a pile more flexibility."
"Vincent, is there a fuel bladder available for 40 tons? Even though it would cut down on cargo space when it was filled, it would only take up around two tons when collapsed, since we won’t always need it. It would certainly be helpful though this time around. That would give us enough fuel for 4 parsecs."
"Yes! Double the price. Same approximate installation time."
"Ok then. We've a 40 ton bladder to order and get installed. I'm going to see about some speculative goods instead of regular cargo which might give us a bit more freedom on the return route." Shiraamer stands up and starts heading to the bridge.
"No, captain," Vincent says.
Shiraamer is caught by surprise and turns around. "What was that, Vincent?"
"I strongly believe that we shouldn't be taking on any cargo right now. Look, I know this is a merchant ship and it needs to generate money, but I have an issue with your priorities. We're about to meet with a woman who's been spying on the Vilani navy, got caught, and subsequently been forced by the government to become a double agent. Her brother's been sent to a prison camp on the surface and she probably won't leave without him. The only things we should be worried about are the meeting with Oda at the bar, planning the rescue operation for her brother, and getting the hell outta here. Cargo should not be on our list of priorities."
Chuck backs him up, "He's got a point, cap'n. What's the sense in buying cargo if we have to worry about it getting blown up in a firefight." He puts on a smile, "That's just pouring money down the drain, which is almost as bad as pouring beer down the drain."
Gvarokh comes to the defense of the captain's decision, "Investigating the cargo is probably a good idea. Everything we can do prior to fleeing that makes us look boring and normal is a good thing. We just have to be prepared to stiff the customer or drop the money if we leave before loading.
"Actually, the whole 'double-agent' thing just got me started again.
"First, if she truly is a double-agent, should we even make contact with her? Doing so will only bring attention down on our head; attention we must definitely do not want. Can we even trust her? If her family is in 'hock', that loyalty may trump anything she feels towards the Imperium.
"In light of this, do we have any chloroform or some sort of knock out drug? If we have to 'convince' her to come with us, a good dose of 'persuasion will be very handy. And are we prepared to force-freeze her? If she is not completely cooperative, the freezer will likely be the best option to prevent further arguments."
Chuck replies, "We used to. But those damn pirates stole the medkit."
"We might want to buy a medkit or two while we are checking on the fuel bladder."
Chuck nods, "I was planning on doing that when the cap'n called this meeting. But I want to say again, kidnapping is a serious crime. If we get caught, we're screwed."
Gvarokh continues, "Second, in light of this whole attention thing, if we really expect to get a bladder from here, we should probably do the whole procurement installation thing before we try to make contact. Once contact is made, we have to be completely prepared to run away at that moment.
"And if we do have to run, we really need to skip the whole caution thing and just take the two jumps trailing to get out of Vilani space.
Shiraamer says, "Let me recap some things that were decided on which might have gotten lost in all these discussions:
"A) The planning of the meeting with Oda at the bar is already in the process. Lakir will lead the team that meets her. I'm not expecting her to leave her family and I really don't plan on kidnapping her since that would be TOTALLY illegal and get us in worse trouble.
"B) We need to restock our medical supplies and replace some weapons before we leave. This means it should be looked into before our meet with Oda and preferably delivered.
"C) We'll be purchasing a 40 ton fuel bladder and it should be delivered and installed (and filled) before we take off, preferably before the meeting.
"D) Work on making Miisha/us/our cargo safer. One suggestion has been to make the cargo hold slightly smaller since it would be doubtful if people would notice a one ton space difference. Slade, it was your observation. What would we need to do that? I can agree to allocate some space for that. Get me a list of supplies and costs on that please. What about incorporating the storage area around the same area that we'll need for the bladder? We can use the area where we'd store the empty bladder. If we keep it full we wouldn't need it." She grins. "I would think that it would be built so it would be hard to find."
Before Slade can reply Shiraamer continues.
"E) Vincent and Chuck have raised a point about us concentrating on the meeting, the rescue operation and getting the hell out of here. We're waiting for info from Lakir and Vlad about their team decision and plans and we're getting the bladder to help with 'getting the hell out of here.' I'm not taking on regular cargo this time. I'm going speculative which means we won't have a regular customer already to deliver to but it will help with the cover of 'Merchants trying to earn a credit.' It still remains to be seen if I'll buy any of the speculatives but I am still going to look into it.
"F) The big question is, do we actually do this run or not? If we don't, it will put a black mark on our record and Mersshon doesn't appear to be the kind of guy to let it just stop at that. At the very least he'll probably ask for the advance back. Heck I'd ask for it back, if I was in his place. It would be harder to get decent runs, but I have to admit it's a strong alternative. If this alternative is chosen, I still want to get that bladder. I need more information from Vlad on the possible extraction before I can make that decision. In the meantime, I'll look at the accounts and see how we'll sit if we have to return that advance.
"So, we'll go ahead with the bladder. I'll go ahead and look into speculatives. I'll be waiting for the reports on who will be the teams. Remember we don't have to meet this Oda person this rest period. We could wait for the next one even which gives us time to finish our resupply and alterations to Miisha.
"Any more questions or objections?"
Vincent shakes his head and waves his hand dismissively as he returns his attention to his laptop.
Shiraamer turns and leaves the lounge.
At this point the crew have split up to accomplish their various tasks. Next: After the Meeting