Location: Miishakaal Crew Lounge
1125.7.6 Standard Imperial time: 17:20, Standard Vland time: 17:18, Local time: 15:40
The captain has been gone less than a minute when Gvarokh's hand computer chimes. Glancing down, he sees that an email has just arrived from the Port Master's Office. It states that the Miishakaal has passed its background check. The registration and background check fees will be included in the bill for the transponder installation. The total cost will be 7,000 cr.
Gvarokh contacts the Starport Authority, informs them that the starship registration form has been completed, and arranges a time for the transponder to be installed. The Miishakaal is scheduled for installation at 18:00 Standard Vland time.
"I've set up our transponder installation appointment. We're scheduled for 18:00 hours. I'd like you to puppysit them for the duration."
"Wouldn't dream of doing anything else."
"I thought not." Gvarokh smiles, careful not to show too many teeth, "I presume you'll need the bridge."
"Yeah, that's where it's located."
"Right. I'll go there now and logout of the system. I'll be in my quarters after that. Let me know when they're gone. You're in charge." He hands Slade the ship's bank card.
The time goes by fast. The technicians arrive promptly at 18:00. Slade instructs Vincent to keep an eye on the FPP and page him if anything should hiccup. The rest of the crew begin digging through the galley to find something to eat for dinner.
Slade gets to the airlock to see one lone technician waiting to come inside. Slade lets him in.
"Afternoon. Technician Smith here to install a transponder for the Miishakaal." He offers his hand.
Slade shakes it, "Slade Trask, Chief Engineer. You've come to the right ship."
"Good. My partner, Tech Jones, is outside. He's waiting for your permission to walk on your ship. Being Chief Engineer, you already know that the transponder housing access is located..."
Slade finishes his sentence, "....outside the bridge. Yeah. Tell your man he has permission."
"Thank you." Smith touches a comm dot on the right side of his neck, "All clear Tom."
Slade escorts Smith to the bridge. Seconds later, Jones peers in through the bridge window and waves.
"Ok, he's in position. This won't take long. Standard ship. Standardized procedure." He chuckles, "The Vilani sure believe in the KISS principle."
Slade is sure he means Keep It Simple Stupid.
Slade observes Smith interface with the ship's communication system and make his way down to the transponder subsystem. He types something in and the transponder goes offline.
"Ok Tom. Go to it." To Slade he adds, "You should be able to access the docking bay cam if you'd like to watch Tom work. Just access the Starport Authority's netsite and click on 'public telemetry'. Select docking bay 3. The network should automatically authenticate you."
"Thanks." Slade follows his instructions and is greeted with a view of the Miishakaal's hull. He accesses the camera controls and swings it around to face the front of the ship. He then zooms in on Tech Jones. All the while, he glances over at Smith to make sure he isn't accessing anything that he shouldn't be. Slade transfers the video feed to a monitor near Smith. Although Smith thanks him for doing it, Slade can now effortlessly watch the two men work.
In a half hour, they're done, system checks and all. Slade has monitored the whole thing and is certain that no "monkey business" went on.
Slade pays Tech Smith and sees him to the airlock. He then informs Gvarokh that the installation has been completed to his satisfaction.
NPC: Chuck and Shiraamer
Gvarokh's voice emanates over the ship wide comm, "Attention everyone, Slade
informs me that the fuel purification process is complete and that the new
equipment is working just fine. It is now time for us to depart. Flight and
engineering crews to your stations. Captain to the bridge."
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, Simrii, and Vlad strap themselves in as Gvarokh directs power from the fusion plant to the maneuver drive.
The docking collar disengages. Attitude jets fire in short bursts, pushing the ship away from the station. Once clear, main thrusters fire, putting distance between the Miishakaal and the Gishinridu Starport. The ship accelerates away at 1G.
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 3 hours, 37 minutes, 19 seconds of flight time to jump."
"Aye aye captain."
"Incoming message from the port authority. It reads "For captain's eyes only."
Shiraamer takes the message. The bridge crew take a peek at the captain and notice that she's got a smile on her face.
"Everything ok captain?" Gvarokh asks.
"Everything's fine Gvarokh," she replies, the smile still on her face.
"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. Glad to be out of there.
Shiraamer passes out complements, "Slade, Gvarokh, well done. We're in jumpspace people. You can relax now."
Since it's been a long day, the crew is beat and heads off to bed.
At this point, private threads take over. The next public thread is for the crew's weekly game of poker. This week's version is abbreviated.
NPC: Chuck & Shiraamer
Location: Miishakaal crew lounge
1125.8.5 - 19:45
"Ok Vincent," the captain began, "Let's get this started. We'll be emerging from jump sometime tomorrow or tomorrow night and I want everyone to be rested."
"Yes ma'am." And Vincent commenced to dealing.
Simrii whips up some Mercenary Nachos (canned beans, canned chili, red & black pepper, reconstituted cheese) and lets people wash them done with some tasty Larkarda Lager before Chuck goes in the back to bring out cans of Imperium Ale (which on Terra would bear a striking resemblance to Budweiser). When a chorus of groans and boos arises, Chuck apologizes, "Sorry guys. We need to find a planet that has good beer. All we've got are our emergency beer rations."
"Chuck, that's going to be number one on your list of things to do at Hrun," the captain orders.
"I'll try cap'n," Chuck replies.
Lady Luck is with Chuck tonight. He easily cleans house and makes up for the losses he suffered in the first poker game. Gvarokh comes in second again. Lakir, who came out on top last time, winds up in third. The captain, despite her claims of ignorance about the game, still winds up with more money than she started with.
Vincent winds up in the cellar again (and to think that Poker Night was his idea). Simrii isn't far behind. Slade knew when to cut his losses and bailed before things got worse. Vlad ended up in the red too, though not too bad.
When the captain finally decides that her crew needs to get to bed, the totals look like this:
Chuck won $50.
Gvarokh won $28.
Lakir won $22.
Shiraamer won $5.
Vlad lost $10.
Slade lost $20.
Simirii lost $35.
Vincent lost $40.
NPC: Chuck & Shiraamer
Location: Miishakaal crew lounge
1125.8.6 - 10:00
With the last remnants of breakfast consumed, and the galley cleaned, the captain calls the meeting to order.
"Sometime this evening," she begins, "we'll be emerging from jump. I'd like this to be a quick stopover: unload our cargo and fill it back up again for our next destination, which I'll get to in a minute.
"For those of you who haven't already looked up Hrun in the library data base," she smiles at Lakir, "it's an industrial world, so we should have no problem finding cargo. We should be able to conduct all of our business at the starport, which is located in the massive orbital city of Shatison. The law level is higher than Gishinridu. No firearms are allowed to be carried outside of one's starship or residence. The tech level is really good, a 13. So if anyone needs to pick up techie toys, this would be a good place.
"Hrun itself is near vacuum. It's a big mining planet too, and they specialize in mining robot software. But they're a little weird about it. Gishinridu's quirk was the xenophobic cult. Hrun's quirk is that their roboticists belong to some kind of guild which is highly protective of its technology. If you meet any shady characters who want to talk or deal in software secrets of any kind, don't. Just walk away." She smiles, "I don't know if we could count on the naval base here to come to our aid as I think they would've at Gishinridu.
"And yes, there's a naval base here. I expect that we'll encounter some kind of patrol on our way in." She pauses, "Any questions so far?"
Lakir raises his hand, "So I guess Vinnies activities will be somewhat limited?"
The captain looks over at Vincent, "Yeah, I don't think that we want him hacking any networks on a tech level 13 world that specializes in software. Sorry Vincent."
"Aw man, I really wanted to hack a planet I might get thrown into jail a long time for...but I'll behave..."
She shakes her head disapprovingly.
Lakir continues, "How about legal software transactions- anythin' bout that bein' taboo?"
The captain shakes her head, "No, legal transactions are fine. It's programming secrets they're concerned with. These guys export their stuff all over the region."
"What about the hardware aspect- anything we need ta' be huntin' for ship wise? With Theton bein TL 11, looks like this might be our last chance for some high tech goodies."
"That's a good question Lakir," she passes the question on to the others, "Slade, Gvarokh, do you guys know of anything we need for the ship?"
Gvarokh and Slade exchange glances, before shaking their heads, "no."
The captain continues, "So where do we go from here. The two worlds along our route to Theton are Umilikha and Oksanad. Umilikha is a mining world. B starport. Tech level 11. Low population, low law level. They seem to be natural customers for goods from Hrun. The bad news is that the planet's surface is in an active volcanic state. The surface is mostly covered in molten rock so the one settlement down there is actually underground in a stable landmass by the south pole." She smiles, "But at least there aren't any cults.
"Oksanad is the polar opposite. Although it's listed as having a standard atmosphere, it's misleading. It's really cold! -53 C! 90% of the surface is covered by frozen oceans. It does have an A starport and they're listed as tech level 13. It's also a low pop world, but the law level is 9. The information that I've got is that they do alot of product testing, in particular, how it's able to withstand the cold. Makhidkarun is said to have a pronounced presence there. That's the company Mersshon's employee snagged that prototype from.
"Ok, having said all that, does any of you have an opinion as to which world we should hit after Hrun?"
Vlad raises a paw, "Should we be actively avoiding Makhidkarun for any reason?"
The captain answers, "We're in the employ of a competitor of theirs who all but admitted to stealing a prototype of proprietary technology. I think that's reason alone. But since Makhidkarun doesn't know we exist, I don't feel that we need to go out of our way to avoid them."
Lakir adds, "What do we really know about Makhidkarun? Any chance we can up our knowledge base abit by hittin' Oksanad, and mebe' pokin' round abit- fore' we really get it stuck in on Theton? Be nice to see if we can scare up some info on the opo we're likely to bang up 'gainst, if they're really hot an' horny to get their kit back."
"Vincent researched the public record," she replies, "and there's plenty there. After all, we're talking about a company that's been around since the First Imperium. In the past, Vilani Patent Law gave them the right and authority to do anything they deemed necessary to protect their intellectual property by any means necessary. And the Makhidkarun took advantage of that power. They invaded worlds that they thought stole their technology. Now that the RVE has revived the old patent laws, I honestly believe that it's possible that Makhidkarun would use force to ensure that their technology wasn't stolen." She pauses, "But you want to know if they're specifically annoyed about this one particular piece of tech being stolen. We could go to Oksanad and try to find out, but I'd also be afraid that by asking around we might expose ourselves."
Vincent raises his hand, "Umilikha is my vote. I think we might want to stay away from Makhidkarun. Not to mention, they might be in the need of supplies a little more. Hopefully, at least."
The captain nods.
Gvarokh offers, "I don't think we need to pick the next step yet. Let's see how things look at Hrun, and what cargoes we can find. Once we find all that out, we can pick our next step."
The captain shakes her head in disagreement, "A merchant must anticipate markets. We should 'hit the ground running' as it were. Hrun is an industrial world. All industrial worlds live by exporting everything to everyone. Therefore, we should find plenty of cargo for either world. A decision should be made before we get to Hrun. I plan on hitting CargoNet as soon as we can get a signal," she gestures to Gvarokh, "while you're contacting the people who are receiving the stuff in our hold and arranging for pick up. We just have to decide where we feel like delivering cargo to."
She lets that sink in before continuing, "So, it would appear that we have one vote," she nods to Vincent, "for Umilikha and one vote," she nods to Lakir, "for Oksanad. I'm leaning towards Umilikha, for reasons I've already stated, but I'm willing to consider Oksanad if others feel as strongly as Lakir for going there. Does anyone else feel strongly one way or the other?"
Slades offers, "I vote for going wherever we seem to have the least chance of getting tortured and killed by people with more guns and friends than us."
"Fair enough," she replies.
Vlad gruffly adds, "As long as I can get off the ship for a couple of hours, I don't care!"
Gvarokh grunts in agreement.
"Thank you gentlemen," the captain replies, "Your opinions are much appreciated. I'll have an answer for you upon our arrival at Hrun's starport. Meeting over."
Next: Entering Hrun System