Characters: Shiraamer, Vincent, Lakir, Simrii, Gvarokh and Slade
Location: Crew Lounge on the Miishakaal, parked at the Larkarda Starport
1125.6.5 - 14:25 / 18:25 local time (18 1/2 hr day)
The captain and Chuck have finished the loading of the last cargo (data crystals from Imperial News Service). After grabbing a glass of water, the captain summons Vincent over the comm. The captain and Chuck sit silently while they wait for his arrival.
Just as Vincent enters the lounge, Lakir, Simrii, Gvarokh, and Slade return to the ship. They're each carrying a package. Simrii puts his in the walk-in refrigerator. Everyone else sets there's down on the table. Hello's are exchanged between everyone.
The captain then asks, "Well gentlemen, let's have your report."
Gvarokh says, "Well, we went to see a mechanic about a part (I guess) and he told us that the Vilani transponders are basically just Imperial transponders with a few extra codes added in. So, it shouldn't be a problem to operate in Imperial space with a Vilani transponder.
"He also said that we should be able to bribe the technicians doing the transfer in order to keep our old transponder. We won't be able to install it ourselves, but we should be able to bribe another technician on this side to put it back in for us."
He pauses, looking at Lakir specifically, and says, "Did I forget anything?"
Lakir adds, "Cap'n, I take it you got my voice mail regarding recent shipping losses and cross-border traders. In regards to the search for a Vilani transponder, our contact at Starship Solutions says we should be able to keep our existing one, as the Vilani codes on a new install will expire after a year. Doesn't sound like Vilani transponders are that common around here, so looking for source code may not pay off. Even if I find it, I'm not sure Slade or Vinny can do anything with our existing kit. As to the wait time, our guy suggests a smaller port, should cut down on the queue, and the locals may be more susceptible to a little 'monetary persuasion'. He also alluded to some possible legal loopholes associated with the process. Unfortunately, he couldn't recommend a port anywhere specific, so it looks like we're on our own there. If we're getting close to the border, and our host world has a Starship Solutions branch, I'll try again. Aside from that, it was pretty much a bust."
Lakir then slumps down into a chair and tries to disappear into his utility vest.
Shiraamer nods to Lakir, "Thanks for your report Lakir. I was happy to hear that we might be able to keep our transponder. I'll go back over the message again though since I was pulled away when the cargo arrived. We'll look for a smaller port and see if we can't spread our wealth," she gives a rueful smile at that word, "around -- discretely of course."
She gets up to get a cup of coffee, her skirt twirling around her legs as she walks. After getting her cup of coffee, she turns and leans against the wall for a second, taking a sip of the coffee and smiling fondly at her crew. "Vincent managed to dig up stuff on Makhidkarun for me. That information is available for you to read. It's too long and detailed to repeat everything in it right now, but is there anything you'd like to capsulize Vincent for the rest right now?"
"Sure. Well, Mersshon said the corp that his agent stole the bioscanner from was Makhidarun. If it is indeed the Makhidkarun, then he picked the wrong company to steal from. These guys have been around since the vilani started exploring space. Yeah, they've had their ups and downs through the millennia, but they've been on the up again. Since the vilani seceded from the Imperium, they've revived vilani patent law. Basically that means that the vilani government has given Makhidkarun the authority to safeguard its technological innovations. During the First Imperium they were allowed to use any means necessary. I don't know if that applies now or not."
Shiraamer pushes herself away from the wall and walks back to the group again. "You all have done a great job on getting information. As you all know, I'm not good at this cloak and dagger stuff. I'm just a simple captain trying to eke out a living and keep her ship. I want to thank you all doing such a great job on this and for hanging with me during it all. Also I want to open up the floor for any discussions and/or comments about what we're going to be up against or our plan. I didn't just hire you on for your good looks you know," she smiles at the group", you're part of my family now so let's hear what else is rolling around in those heads." Shiraamer sits down letting her skirt swirl around her legs as she sips coffee and waits for the first person to start.
Lakir mumbles into his vest, "Nah, nothin' I ain't said before. This op reeks, but let's do it if we're goin' to. Maybe we get lucky."
Gvarokh looks up from his hand comp, "I think that we might be in luck. We're going to Gishinridu for our neighbor," he gestures in the direction of the Aerlay Craver, "and Gishinridu has been friendly with the Vilani. So much so that their allegiance code was changed from Imperial to Vilani client state. Maybe we'll have some luck getting the transponder matter settled there."
Gvarokh also adds, "Plus our first stop into Vilani space will be Hrun, which, despite its high population, has only a class C starport. If we have to wait until then for the transponder, hopefully we can find a bribable tech."
Simrii listens carefully to the discussion, "This whole crossing no man's land worries me more than a little. Everyone's just looking for an excuse to open up on everyone else and it's always the little guys like us who get caught in the middle."
He leans against the bulkhead and scratches his chin, "Best say a little prayer to the great buddah or whatever and hope we can find those codes on Gishinridu."
"Of course," he shrugs, "we could just have to approach the Vilani port authority on Gishinridu and ask for an entry and exit visa. I'm pretty certain that they don't want to cut off all ties with potential markets."
After a brief pause, the captain decides to summarize things, "Ok, here's what we've got: This guy, who we suspect isn't what he appears to be, wants us to travel into the RVE to bring back an agent of his company who has acquired a bioscanner prototype under less than proper circumstances from a megacorp with a history of protecting its technology.
"As far as we've been able to determine, the guy's cover story checks out. He works for Wellesmoor as does his agent. We've even uncovered some company files with references to the bioscanner.
"There don't appear to be any warrants for the guy's arrest.
"Lakir and Simrii still think he's an Imperial agent of some type.
"We're hauling freight for our neighbor. Despite my initial concerns, it has so far proven to be legitimate. And we now have a hold full of cargo for delivery to a world in the RVE.
"Traveling in the RVE requires us to swap out our transponder for one from the RVE which will expire in a year. We have to wait 30 days for the paperwork, background check, and installation of the RVE transponder. Word is that we might get this sped up if we play our cards right and possibly grease a few palms. And we might even be able to keep our old transponder, though apparently the Imperial navy doesn't care if we have a RVE transponder, at least according to the locals."
Simrii asks, "Do we actually have to swap the thing out or can we just insert the new codes and the codes kick off after a year?" Simrii shrugs, "I'm not an electrical engineer but that sounds much easier than going through all that other stuff, particularly if they're essentially the same thing on the inside."
Slade answers, "It's technologically possible but illegal. I haven't done any work on transponders per se but from what I've read in the past, governments are cranky about this stuff. The moment they configure these things so that people can update them on their own is the moment the system is thrown into chaos. Before you know, hacks are writing code so that destroyers can pretend to be free traders. Dreadnoughts can pretend to be fuel tankers. So they hardwire the codes right onto the chips."
Shiraamer waits to make sure Slade has finished explaining before continuing, "And let's not forget that corsair and privateer activity continues to plague this region."
She pauses to let all this sink in and takes a drink of coffee. "Ok, have I forgotten anything? Is there anything else we should check out while we're here? Or should we just get this show on the road?"
Lakir says courageously, "Let's go do some flyin'."
Simrii seconds that suggestion with, "Lets kick the tires and light the fires."
Shiraamer smiles, "Ok then. Slade, start the engines through their pre-flight checklist. Gvarokh, contact the tower and let them know we're leaving...."
"Uh Captain," Chuck interrupts.
Trying not to look annoyed, Shiraamer responds, "Yes Chuck?"
"We can't leave yet."
"Vlad hasn't come back yet."
Lakir, with sheepish look into utility vest, pulls out his comm and tries to contact Vlad. "Vlad, this is Lakir, over."
Shiraamer opens her mouth to say something and changes her mind and just shakes her head. Torn between wondering where Vlad is and laughing at herself for not noticing that he wasn't back yet, she looks across the table with a rueful smile. "Yes, we will wait for Vlad." She waits to see if he responds to Lakir.
Over the comm there's a low growl followed by, "Vlad here."
"Hey Vlad, what's the scoop? Capn's getting ready to lift."
"Be there ASAP. I dug up a little general info that might be useful from a couple of folks who've had dealings with the RVE."
"Well shag your tail pal, the Capn' wants to start the preflight. What's your ETA?"
"Uhhhh, just a second." The line is muffled for a few seconds then Vlad's voice returns, "Be there in roughly 25 minutes. Vlad out."
Location: Miishakaal, parked at the Larkarda Starport
16:00 / 01:30 local time
While waiting for Vlad to arrive, the crew goes through its normal pre-flight checklist. Slade is busy in Engineering warming the power plant from standby to maximum. Gvarokh is coordinating his flight plan from the starport to 100D with the control tower. Shiraamer and Chuck check all systems from the bridge while Vincent monitors progress from the main computer. Lakir and Simrii check the cargo in the hold to make sure it's secure.
Once Vlad arrives (panting) he joins Lakir and Simrii in the crew lounge. All three strap themselves in as Gvarokh directs power from the fusion plant to the maneuver drive.
The hangar bay doors part. It's a clear night and the brighter stars are visible. There is a slight wobble as the contra-grav is engaged. Thrusters fire, lifting the Miishakaal from the hangar bay floor and through the open roof. Once at safe clearance altitude, Gvarokh points the Miishakaal's nose upward and hits the aft thrusters. The ship begins its ascent at 1G.
Slade lets out an exuberant, "Yeee-haawwww!" Some people think he's enthusiastic, others sarcastic, but he'll never tell.
Shiraamer finishes her calculations with the nav computer, "Ok Gvarokh, I want a 3 hour burn. We'll coast from there to the 100D point. That should mark us for 4 hours, 2 minutes, 46 seconds of flight time to jump."
"Aye aye captain."
Once clear of Larkarda's atmosphere, Gvarokh gives the all clear sign to the crew. They climb out of their seats and begin making pre-jump preparations.
"Two minutes to jump." The crew once again straps themselves into their seats. Captain Shiraamer dims the lights. Someone crosses their fingers.
Shiraamer asks, "Slade, how we doing?"
"All good. We're ready down here."
"Let's do it," Shiraamer orders.
Gvarokh engages the jump drive. For those with a view on the bridge, the stars ahead suddenly shift blue. A hole in space opens up directly in front of you. The familiar colors of jumpspace appear in the hole: chunks of white plasma etched with jagged blobs of pink shot through with electric bolts of neon blue all surrounded in a halo of overcast gray. It's no wonder people get sick. Effortlessly, the Miishakaal glides right in. No one feels a thing. Those without a viewport ask, "Are we in yet?"
Gvarokh is smiling. That went really well.
Shiraamer passes out complements, "Slade, Gvarokh, well done. We're in jumpspace people. You can relax now."
Next: The First Night In Jump