The first shift has only recently begun when Miishakaal exits
jumpspace. The transition back to normal space goes smoothly. Sensors indicate
that Theton is still busy. There's plenty of traffic heading in and out of
Limii Orbital City.
As you begin your approach to Limii, a pair of 400 ton system defense boats (SDB) swing into an intercept course with your ship. You're expecting this as this is what happened upon your last visit.
They hail you, "Attention Miishakaal, this is Lieutenant Kabaashgii of the Theton Defense Force. Please maintain your flight path to Limii."
Shiraamer replies, "Acknowledged."
One SDB pulls in front of Miishakaal while the other one takes position behind you. Miishakaal takes her place with her escorts as Shiraamer remembers this dance.
Shiraamer doesn't feel claustrophobic flying in this formation like she did last time. She's got a job to do. She's focused.
As the trio of ships approaches the queue to enter Limii, the SDBs peel off.
Starport Traffic Control (STC) hails the ship and provides flight plan data to
Miishakaal's navigation computer. The flight plan shows up on the main
screen as a series of circles that Shiraamer must fly through.
She has no problem flying Miisha through the course.
Miishakaal flies into the central access corridor along the route dictated by STC. Text appears on the main viewer designating what sections you're passing. Auxiliary Ports Alpha and Beta go past. And while they look more than adequate for ships your size, they pale in comparison compared to the Main Starport Bay. The doorway alone is 60 meters high and 100 meters wide. Once inside, instrument readings declare that there's a 130 meter clearance from floor to ceiling. Much of the light pouring into the bay enters through gigantic sections of the outer hull which have been rendered transparent.
The ship lands in the designated spot without a hitch.
"We're here," Shiraamer announces over the comm. "You know what you have to do." She adds, "Good luck."
The automated welcoming voice starts to broadcast itself over the ship's comm, "Welcome to Limii..." Shiraamer cuts it off. No need to hear that again. She sends a wake up call to Gvarokh then contacts Imiduuka Metals to inform them that their delivery has arrived.
Lakir, Vlad, and Simrii are down in the cargo bay, anxiously awaiting the delivery truck.
Slade has contacted the starport authority to arrange for the delivery of fuel and life support refurbishment.
Meanwhile, Vincent gets to work on the first of his two very important tasks.
Characters: Vincent, Shiraamer, and Gvarokh
Vincent is hunkered down on the bridge with his laptop while the captain
stands by and Gvarokh monitors the rest of the crew's progress.
Vincent establishes a connection to Limii's net and enables his anonymizer program. It randomly moves him through several IP addresses, one every 5 seconds, while deleting his tracks behind him. Once he's sufficiently far enough out, he enables the sendmail routine to deliver the stranger's email.
"Ok, it's away." Vincent gets the next IP address and then terminates his connection. He scans the IP address log and then launches an IP Identifier program that traces IP addresses back to their source. He reconnects. He keys in three addresses: the one used to send the email and the ones just before and after. They come back with dead end tracer routes.
Vincent breathes a sigh of relief. "Phew. Ok, we're clear on the email."
Shiraamer and Gvarokh's faces mirror the sentiment.
"Now the hard part. Let's see if we can find that prison."
Gvarokh notes that a truck from Imiduuka Metals has arrived. Meanwhile, a fuel truck is approaching the aft end of the ship. It hails the ship and Gvarokh routes the call to Slade down in Engineering.
Shiraamer anxiously awaits the results of Vincent's hacking before she contacts Oda. She doesn't feel that she'd be able to compose herself for the call with that level of uncertainty.
Vincent works furiously at the encryption protocols. He hopes that they haven't changed since his last foray. After ten minutes, he pumps both fists into the air. "I'm back in!"
Gvarokh and Shiraamer breathe a sigh of relief.
Vincent lowers his fists and gets back to work. "Now to get into the prison network." First he checks Oda's file to make sure that nothing's changed since his last visit. He's relieved to find that it's the same.
Suddenly inspiration strikes him. "Now why didn't I think of that before?"
Gvarokh and Shiraamer exchange puzzled glances.
Vincent works feverishly now. His eyes are ablaze. He's in the zone and driving hard. In a matter of minutes, he exults in triumph. "I'm in! I'm in! Woooo hoooo!"
Shiraamer and Gvarokh commend him on his success.
"Ok, Vincent. What do you got?"
The excitement drains out of Vincent, to be replaced with bewilderment. "All of it. I've got coordinates for the prison, a list of prisoners, work details, guard rosters, blueprints, specifications, you name it."
"Ok, how many guards are there?"
"That's all I'm seeing on the roster."
"That doesn't sound that bad. I'll have to ask Lakir and Vlad what they think. I'm going to call Oda now. You guys try to look positive."
Shiraamer comms Oda and selects the "encryption" option.
"Hello? Captain Siirkasaare?"
"Yes, Oda. How are you?" The captain's voice is full of familiarity, as if she were calling an old friend.
"I'm fine. I didn't expect to hear from you again, let alone a couple weeks later."
"Well, we felt bad about leaving you so suddenly that we decided to give it another shot."
"Really? No way?"
"Ok, what's different this time."
Shiraamer pulls Vincent into view. "Vincent found your brother's family."
Oda gasps in surprise. "No. Don't get all my hopes worked up."
"He really did. We've got coordinates, a layout of the place, everything."
Tears well up in Oda's eyes. "Does this mean you're going to get him?"
"Yes. How soon can you get here?"
"Ummm it'll take me a few minutes to pack some things..."
"Oda, don't bring anything. You'll arouse suspicion."
"You're right. You're right. Ok then. It'll take me a few minutes to calm down and then about ten to fifteen minutes to get there."
"You remember Chuck, right?"
"I'll send him and Gvarokh, he's my first officer, out to meet you at the crew entrance."
Gvarokh leans over and waves so that Oda will recognize him.
Shiraamer smiles, "We'll see you soon."
Oda returns the smile. "Ok. See you soon."
The connection is terminated.
"Ok, let's move fast. I'll get Lakir up here to go over the prison specs with Vincent. Gvarokh, you and Chuck get ready to go meet Oda. Make sure Chuck brings a tranquilizer for Oda just in case Lakir gives a thumbs down on the rescue. I want him ready to sedate her the moment you get back, just in case."
The truck from Imiduuka Metals is nearly loaded when the captain's
voice comes across the comm channel. "Lakir and Chuck to the bridge, on the
The captain's never used the phrase "on the double" before. It sounds odd coming from her. Lakir and Chuck exchange glances. Chuck shrugs. The two jog up to the bridge, leaving Vlad and Simrii to finish the job.
Seconds later, they're on the bridge.
Gvarokh intercepts them. "Chuck, you're with me. Where's the medkit?"
"In the galley," Chuck replies.
Lakir continues on to the bridge. "What's up, cap'n?" he asks.
"Vincent hacked his way into the prison. He's got access to everything. I need you to work with him to determine if a rescue is feasible. We don't have much time. Gvarokh and Chuck are meeting Oda in 15 to 20 minutes. I want a decision by the time they get back."
Lakir looks over at Vincent, whose disposition is far sunnier than it was a few days ago during the rescue strategy meeting.
"OKaaaayyyyyy. Don't tell me the targets are movin'."
"Oda's brother? No. They're still in the prison. The only 'target' moving is Oda as she makes her way here. Like I said, Gvarokh and Chuck are going to meet up with her."
"Oh. Ok. What have ya got Vinny?"
"Quite a bit. What do you want to know?"
"Size and rotation timings for the garrison, layout of the facility, contact protocols/codes, resupply schedule and routine (in house or subbed out)."
"It looks like 16 guards who split shifts according to the regular Vilani work schedule. I've got a layout of the facility." He cues a map of the facility. "I can offer a layout for each building, floor-by-floor, but I haven't found the security cameras yet. That should just be a matter of looking around.
"Don't know about the re-supply schedule. It's a Makhidkarun prison so I'd imagine they're doing the re-supplying. I'm sure that I can find a schedule though. It should be near the duty roster.
"No clue on contact protocols. That might take some digging."
"Should probably start diggin'. We'll need the info."
"Can you determine how guards are armed?"
"No, I can't. There's no mention of equipment of any sort. Even checked the personnel roster."
Gvarokh sticks his head in the bridge. "We're good to go. We'll have our comms on in case something comes up."
Shiraamer nods. "Stay positive. Remember, we're going to rescue her brother. Keep that in mind at all times. If she suspects that we might not go, she'll freak out. She made that quite clear when we met her."
"Rrrrrright." Gvarokh and Chuck leave.
Lakir addresses the captain, "It's unfortunate that a meeting was set with Oda, prior to a plan being in place for a recovery op, and a complete analysis of the facility, routines, and capabilities available to the team, given Vinny's access to their systems. The last thing I'd want to do is rush an op, if there's no reason to. If the family isn't moving into a position of opportunity, we are no better off than when we left the system the first time."
"I understand your apprehension Lakir but I don't want to be here any longer than we have to. I want Oda on board one way or the other. I would think that you of all people would appreciate the fact that we've got an Imperial Intelligence agent with a long reach waiting for us back on Larkarda." She smiles. "Don't worry about Oda. I'll stall her or sedate her. You just see if we can pull this rescue off."
"Fair 'nuff." Lakir turns his attention back to Vincent, "Ok, can we get codes and clearance for an approach/dock with their landing pad? Say a 'critical resupply', or some other reason for us to visit with the ship?"
"It doesn't appear that way. From what I'm seeing, all traffic checks in at the main gate. They don't even have a landing pad. And there isn't much clearance between the fence, wall, or whatever it is, and the buildings."
Lakir mulls this over a bit. "Does anyone have a plan?"
"I was hoping that you'd have one," Shiraamer says rather coldly. "I took from your meeting last week that we were grabbing Oda either way, which we are. Now that Vincent has hacked into the prison you should be able to figure out if it's possible. I know a frontal assault is out of the question. With only 16 guards to worry about, we'd probably be successful. But if they call for reinforcements there's no way Miisha's fast enough to outrun any naval vessels. So, we need to either sneak in or bluff our way in."
Lakir puts his hands up to slow the captain down. "With all due respect Capn', if you looked at the proposed T&E for a hot op, with the ship still crewed, 4 against 16 ain't what I'd call 'good odds', 'specially the way my poker game's been goin' recently."
The captain smiles at the poker reference. "Well, then Gvarokh should be leading the operation then. While my luck has soured too as of late, he's won three of the last four nights, right? Anyway, I expected more than 16 guards. I thought that they'd have 50 or more. As for how many people we'd send up against them, we can send 6. We only need a pilot and a gunner on the ship. Everyone else can go."
"Vincent, how many guards at the gate?"
"Two. But maybe a hot op isn't out of the question?"
"If we can take out their communications array, we wouldn't have to worry about them calling for backup."
"But their sensors would get us first, wouldn't they?"
"Maybe. If we fly below their radar, we could hit 'em before they saw us."
"Yeah. If we wanted to sneak in, we'd have to do the same thing. Otherwise we bluff our way in."
"With codes, and fake orders, we can bluff. If shot our way in, we've got to be careful not to breach the barracks, put out enough firepower to suppress the defenders, and take out the comms. We need to make sure signals don't leave the surface, and our ordinance release isn't detectable from orbit."
"I hardly think a couple of laser shots are going to be noticeable in this atmosphere. And I understand that Vincent's an excellent shot. He wouldn't miss. Would you, Vincent?"
"Not at all ma'am."
Shiraamer snaps her fingers. "Lakir, when you got here, you asked if the prisoners were on the move."
"Targets, but yeah that's right."
"How about a prisoner transfer then? We'll claim that someone from the bureau wants them up at headquarters as leverage on Oda."
Vincent replies, "Might work if we can find the right forms and fill them out properly. We know that Vilani are sticklers for paperwork."
"If you recall the planning session, this is the preferred method. Ideally, we could insert orders for a 'transfer' of the family further into the RVE, best case, with us named as the transport. Failing that, some sort of movement orders that will decrease the guard element we need to engage. Then the op needs to go off like a strike on the prison. No comms from the transport detail, nothing detectable by orbital sensors, grab the family, and we just cruise on out to the 100D limit."
"Uh huh. I didn't get hung up on the finer details of the planning session. I didn't think we'd get this far. No offense, Vincent."
"I thought that we'd send the message and be on our way. Now that we've got all this," she gestures to the info on Vincent's screen, "it's a whole new ballgame." She puts her hands on hips. "So, can we do this or not?"
"If we can get the targets on the move, rehearse a snatch'n grab with Vlad O/C'n, Simrii and me gunnin', with Chuck running backup/fire support/med; with MAYBE Gav; sure as shit not Slade, else this boat ain't goin nowhere, he gets hit. Capn' I really don't think 'ya wanna' be run the ship short on manpower.
"Same routine for a surface strike, if we can't get them off. Only problem is target designation for fire support from the ship, and keeping the ship close enough so we don't get spotted from orbit, yet can still fire effectively. Even at 5 to 16, you still want to be able to take this ship outta here, and you ain't goin' ta do that with Slade feedin' worms. I'm thinkin you gotta keep your basics back, if you want outta here in one piece. You , Slade and Vinny are the min for ships crew, so run 'your odds' as you see fit, me'dear. Other wise, WTF, we don't live forever."
"Vincent's our back up engineer. He can handle things. If we're going in hot, then we'll go 6. I want those odds working for us.
"And Gvarokh isn't going in. I am. If I'm going to risk our necks, mine is going to be one of them. Besides, he's a better pilot than I am.
"But let's forget going in hot and work on faking a prisoner transfer. Vincent, get me those forms."
"Aye, aye captain."
Simrii and Vlad show up at this point, having completed the loading of the truck.
"What's this about 'going in hot' and a 'prisoner transfer'?" Vlad asks.
"Might as well tell everyone. Slade, please report to the bridge."
Once he arrives, Shiraamer explains what's been going on.
Gvarokh, Chuck, and Oda return to the ship without incident. Everyone is
Chuck looks to the captain for a signal that he should administer the tranquilizer, but she gives him a curt shake of her head. He breathes a sigh of relief.
Shiraamer greets Oda upon entering the crew lounge. She clasps Oda's hands, "Welcome aboard, Oda."
"Thank you, captain."
Shiraamer smiles. "Let's go get your brother."
Oda smiles back her tears. "Ok."
"But first, we need to get them vacc suits. Our ship is too big to land within the compound and our air raft is open. Do you know approximately how big Dyce's kids are?"
"Yes, I do." She gives Shiraamer the information which she uses to place an order with Kunsinan Supply House.
Shiraamer then explains her plan to Oda who nods approvingly.
In the meantime, Vincent has found the prisoner transfer form which he and Lakir fill out to the best of their ability. To fill in the spot for "transfer authorized by," they select Major Liinir Gegaragirsamki, the man in charge of Oda's file. They run it by Oda who agrees that he's a good choice.
Gvarokh prepares the ship for take off. When Traffic Control requests a flight plan, he asks the captain what he should file.
"Tell them we've got cargo that needs to be delivered to the downport at Harod before the end of the work shift."
Gvarokh does as she instructs. He's tense for a few moments as he waits for a reply.
"Flight plan accepted."
The vacc suits arrive. Although the crew keep an eye out for any suspicious
activity, there isn't any. Everything is as it seems: a busy starport deck.
Gvarokh prepares the ship for take off.
Slade reminds the captain that the fuel hasn't been fully purified yet. It is only 1/3 complete.
"Coordinate with Gvarokh. He should only need maneuvering thrusters until we exit Limii so you should be able to keep filtering until then. We're going to take our time with our descent until we hit the cloud cover so you should be able to filter between acceleration and deceleration. Once we land you'll have some more time while we wait for the transfer to go through. That's all I can give you. Hopefully it will be enough."
The crew begin their preparations for the mission. Each suits up in their vacc suit (Gvarokh plans to don his as soon as he gets the ship out of the city).
Vincent enters his preferred turret.
Weapons are checked. Vlad demonstrates his shrink wrap technique for cutting down on the corrosive atmosphere's effects on the weapons. He also warns everyone that besides the nitric acid in the atmosphere, they'll have to worry about a surface pressure of 5 atmospheres (the limit of their suits) and 20% stronger gravity. "Don't over exert yourself. Save your strength."
The ship lifts from the starport deck and enters the central access corridor.
Next: To The Prison