Mongoose Traveller Tale in the Third Imperium


Mithral 167-1081

Week 1

We set off with an empty cargo bay, which, immersed in broker lore as I am, was a little disquieting - space equals loss of profits - haha! Still, we are going to jump to Datrillian and try and pick up some speculative trade there. We can refuel via skimming and will only have to pay for docking fees.

The jump to Datrillian was smooth. Now I have a few jumps under my belt I will apply for the basic astrogation test when we are in a system which administers it. From Datrillian we are going to jump to Gunn to re-fuel and say hello to our friends. Then towards the Lunion sector via Mithral to make a little cash trading. Then who knows?

Weeks 2-5

We couldn’t even find any freight to pick up at Datrillian! Peter is feeling better about skimming in Highndry and Helena is doing a lot of the regular flying. Vasquez and I work out most mornings in the jump. She trained in a very strike orientated martial art, as befits the mentality of a marine, while I trained in a close combat style with lots of locks, as befits a commando who wants to be able to win against someone in armour. So we are finding it useful to spar with each other. She is going through J-drive manuals (although skiving most of the time, I think), Helena spends a lot of time practising her psionics and Peter plays video games or reads trashy novels. He also likes to scan the datanet for the latest gossip in the Hunter community. Hunters, in this context, are people who “hunt” for information about the Ancients. Some apparently believe they are still out there manipulating the destiny of humanity. Others squabble about the end of the Ancients society (with little undestanding of the archeological research, if you ask me) or what they actually were. They often go beyond the data available. Peter insists he is “just keeping an open mind” but I think he just doesn’t want me to tease him.

We landed at Gunn and caught up on the village gossip. The women of all chastised me for not making Helena “an honest woman” (she giggled) and everyone asked about Noreena. It was really nice to go back there and see the people who had taken us in. We brought a few crates of nice wine and spent a few days drinking too much and laughing. Then we headed out.

We came out of jump space almost exactly at 100 diameters from Mithral, which I was pleased about.

Day 1

Mithral is a Sword World planet and we weren’t sure how friendly a welcome we would get. There is a gas giant which we refuelled at but we all wanted to get off Highndry, if only for a handful of hours. Helena took us down. An automated signal informed us that we are welcome to land at the “starport” (a flat section of fused rock and a handful of buildings, which apparently formed the entire infrastructure of Mithral) but to remain in our ship. Lights were visible from building windows and outside. No one contacted us other than the auto-signal but that wasn’t unusual - we were broadcasting from an Imperial transponder. We hoped that there hadn’t been any clashes between the Sword Worlders and the Imperium which we hadn’t heard about and went into land. Landing lights indicated the landing strip and Helena brought us in pretty smoothly. Until, that is, we were a metre or so above the ground. We were just about to touch down when power to the M-drive seemed to give out. We landed heavily and my coffee mug fell of the table and smashed. Peter barked at Helena. She angrily defended herself and we all looked at our screens. Peter, displaying irritation, turned to his and prodded his controls a few times. “Hmm, grav systems are down. Poly, go take a look, will ya?” I went to check.

The grav plates were fried. The controls were fine but the plates were not. I had to climb into inspection spaces to look at the plates. This wasn’t a random failure, this was a specialised EMP attack which targeted grav tech. Some other systems had been effected but in minor ways which had caused temporary shut downs. Any grav tech which was active when the pulse hit was ruined. I wasn’t even sure about the tech which was switched off. The others took the news in grim silence.

“Right, everyone arm themselves. Flak jackets, nob guns and fasten snubbie holsters the back of your belts just in case. I’ll check everyone’s flak jackets to make sure they are on properly. Get your breathers. Poly, bring your medikit.” - Vasquez. Since we had been given engraved gauss pistols on Caladbolg we had started calling them nob guns.

“Breathers? The air out there is -“ - Helena

“Breathable, yes. But we have been attacked, we might be attacked again, and that might include gas weapons. Tranq. grenades are cheap and easily acquired so mercs use them a lot. If I had any I would gas this entire facility and then move in. We are immobilised in a ship which has no weapons. We need to go out there and find out what is going on and we will most likely meet resistance. Ok?” Silence from the rest of us.

“Ok, Peter, take a shotgun. You’re with me. Comms on all the time. I’m Red 1. Pete, you’re Red 2. Poly, Blue 1, Helena, Blue 2. We move in pairs. Peter and I will move over to the fuel tanks over there.” V pointed at a screen showing a video feed of the area outside the ship. “When we signal Poly and Helena move along this stretch of the road, keep to your left and stoop when you get opposite the gate in the fence. We will move up when you are in position and use cutters to get through the fence and scout the buildings. You will be ready to come to our aid. Pairs leapfrog pairs. Questions?”

We had none so we all got ready. I saw Helena load a foam shell into her shotgun and pocket a couple more. While she did this I opened up my mind and telepathically “pinged” the area. No sign of higher life. Virtually no lower life forms, either, just a small concentration of bacteria a few hundred metres away. I was surprised that there was even that much bacteria. Mithral is a cold planet and we hadn’t seen a part of it which wasn’t covered in snow yet. Helena paused when she was ready and briefly closed her eyes. She frowned. She had done the same thing. We met each others gaze. We didn’t need telepathy to know we were both thinking the same thing. Either there wasn’t anyone here or they were A) psions who could shield themselves or B) they were wearing psi helmets which would block out telepathy. On top of that there could be kill-bots or booby-traps.

We congregated in the air lock. The steps unfolded, door opened and V and P ran out and across the snow to cover. We held the door open keeping a close eye on likely hiding places were our friends could be attacked from. They reached their goal and we left the safety of out ship. Snow crunched under foot as we ran towards the road that led to the buildings of the base. There were a couple of lampposts in each corner of the landing field and more along the road. We reached our target location, about 200m for the ship, knelt down and peered at the compound. It was all on the other side of the road, surrounded by a wire fence 2.5m high. A path ran form the road through a gap and in-between four buildings, two on either side. V and P moved into view from our right using the same crouched run we had used. They cut the fence at the corner near the path and moved to the nearest building. They skirted round the back of it. We watched as they moved out of sight. We heard their whispered conversations over the comm; they looked in windows and for other entrances, people, signs of danger. We saw them emerge from behind the nearest building on the left.

“No signs of life and lights are only on in the admin building, the first one we scouted round. Blue Team, move to the entrance and enter. We will follow behind and cover you.” - Vasquez

We scurried over and stood with backs to the wall, one on either side of the door. I held up a hand and counted to three then I pushed at the double doors - they were unlocked and led into a small porch - through the second set of doors and into a small reception. There was a stain immediately inside the second set of doors. It looked like hastily cleaned up blood. Two doors led off on either side and another set of double doors ahead of us. The lights were on in the reception and we could see light under the double doors across the way. We moved to the right and prepared to open the first side door. Again we had our backs to the wall on either side. This time Helena reached over, turned the handle and threw the door open. It was a cloakroom. V and P came in and between us we checked all the side doors. I held up my hand and tilted my head, a little theatrically as though listening. I closed my eyes and cast my mind a few metres into the next room. It was a large shared office space. Nothing moved. Doors led off at the far end and to the left. I looked at the door we were about to go through. No visible booby-traps or danger of any sort. I stepped forward, as the others got into position. V counted to three and I threw the door open and stepped inside. Crouching we fanned out into the space beyond.

We repeated the process with every door in each of the buildings. There were no kill-bots, no booby-traps. We did however, find signs of a struggle. It took nearly two hours to make sure a compound we could have walked through in 10 minutes, was safe. The first building was an admin/work building. The main office space led on to several individual offices, a comms room and a secure room which had been busted open. A couple of desks had been pulled together in the middle of the main room. There were bullet holes in the wall near the comms room and more stains. The secure room held some empty weapons racks and a couple of bottles of what looked like some kind of home made gin.

Opposite the main building was a garage. There was an ATV and an empty bay for an air/rack. I had hoped to find an air/rack to steal the grav plates. Various tools were in cupboards or leaning against the walls. On the same side as the admin block was the reactor shed. It included a small electronics workroom which had the EMP. It was clearly improvised by someone who knew what they were doing. It appeared to be slowly recharging. We switched it off. The last building was an accommodation bloke. The door had been destroyed by a blast from a a heavy weapon. Not a laser, but my guess is a ship or vehicle mounted weapon. Probably from the ship that brought whoever attacked this place. There is a large common area/dining room and a dozen sleeping quarters off both sides. Opposite the entrance is a kitchen, a lounge and a gym. One of the living rooms was used as a junk room. Half a dozen had been occupied as indicated by the discarded clothes etc. One of the living rooms had a feint trail of blood leading to it and again a stain which looked like a poor attempt to clean a pool of blood. This room had a few items on shelves but nothing in the wardrobes. V found a few spent casings in the common/dining area.

Helena and I went back to the comms room and started the long process of trying to hack into the computers. Helena has an old intrusion programme which I used while she tried to get into the CCTV logs. CCTV footage appears to have been deleted. I managed to get the shipping records up which showed the last ship to arrive was a trader called E-a-Taka Wasab. The automatic log recorded it as having landed, refuelled and then left later the same day. The previous ship was another trader called Jinfrei which appears to have left one passenger here three days before the Wasab came. There were also a number of apparently routine visits by “Supply Run 4-14”. These are roughly every 6 weeks. The last one, about a month ago, left 4 people, Eric and Myntelle Bothildr (explorer-scientists apparently) and their children Egino and Runa. There is no record of them leaving.

We spent he rest of the day searching through the various buildings. I was particularly curious about the blood trail to the stateroom. I sat there for a while and ended up getting the PRIS goggle from the ship. It wasn’t hard to find the panel in the wall. There was a small box containing data chips. We ran then through the base computers but they are encrypted. So, someone arrived a few days ago, presumably hide some data files. Then others came, killed everyone and left. Helena and Peter are certain that this is related to espionage in some way. V thought the casings were from Sword Worlder weapons, so we think possibly an Imperial spy was dropped off and the SW-ers caught up with them. But why kill the rest of the SW-ers in the outpost? And what of the family of scientists? Are they important? Did someone want to prevent them from finding something?

We went back to our ship for the night. Apart from the grav plates and some damage to the landing gear which makes the ship a little lopsided everything is working on Highndry. We set alarms on our sensors and patched them through the tannoy. If anything enters orbit or comes into land at the base we will be woken very rudely. We are sleeping with our weapons by our sides.

I had a sudden thought in the middle of the night: that bacteria cluster I sensed when I first felt for life. I waited until we were all up and told the rest that I wanted to scout round the area of the base. We are making sure we are in pairs, so I went with V. We walked about 150m past the complex where the road from the landing area gives out. There is a refuse pit. We shone torches into the pit and after a little work were found 3 badly burned corpses. None of them were children. We had found three partly cleaned up blood stained areas plus the trail leading to the semi-used living room. We found records of 5 people who were based here, plus the visitor and the family. That makes up to 10 people. Ten people but only 3 bodies.

We discussed setting the ships transponder to send out a distress signal, but we are feeling worried that whoever killed the people here might come back. We aren’t hopeful, but possibly some of the 7 missing people who should be on Mithral might still be here. Helena is going to try and boost the base comms and see if we can find anyone on planet before letting people off world know we are here.
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Day 2

Late on the second day on Mithral Helena was fiddling with the comms, as much to stave off boredom as anything else, when she picked something up. It is a standard distress signal which merely contained a location and a request for assistance. It could be any one of the missing people. I am thinking of them as the missing people, anyway. V thinks anyone who survived was probably taken by the attackers. If it is the missing air/raft then we might be able to make jury-rig something using the grav tech and at least be able to get off the planet and limp out of the gravity well of Mithral. If we can jump we will broad cast a distress signal as soon as we return to this universe. We are going to pack the ATV and drive to the location of the distress signal. Besides, how can we leave people stranded on a ball of ice.

Day 3
Helena thinks the distress signal is coming from about 2,000 km away. The ATV has good communication systems and she is certain she will be able to locate the origin when we are closer. We hope we can make the round trip in a few weeks. The ATV is typical of SW-er tech: solid and dependable, not as comfortable as one would like, a little low tech compared to Imperium stuff but absolutely up to the job in hand. It had all the tech we needed including radar and thermal imaging as well as video cameras. It also had a lot of survival equipment. A set-up like this would have made Gunn a pleasant hike! The big problem with it was that none of us had ever driven anything like it. Vasquez had driven some full-tracks but this was wheeled. We were going to have to go slow.

We went through the personal equipment on board. It had 4 cold weather kits with heavy coats, body-warmers, gloves, all the things you would expect. They also had detection badges which change colour when exposed to radiation or a selection of chemicals. We all brought some changes of clothes from the ship and got kitted out with our warm weather gear. Then something unsettling happened. As Peter as going the through the destroyed main entrance to the accommodation block on his way to pick up extra provisions for the journey his badge reacted. We looked using the PRIS goggles and found residual radiation which Vasquez thought is was from a particle beam weapon! She is certain that we are all safe, but I am a little worried. I will need to get some anti-rad pills for the medikit.

We set off. It is a bumpy ride but we are managing a good 25km+ per hour. The ATV navigation system has a reasonable map and it will take us two or three weeks to get there and back. We have plenty of extra food in case we have problems or the people we are rescuing need food. V took first shift. It was relatively warm today. So warm it was raining! This didn’t help as we were moving across snow plains, which require using the bulldozer attachment. I patched my comms though to the ATV’s systems and we all read about survival in cold climates. Gunn was cold but this is virtually arctic. My turn driving went poorly. I didn’t crash, but I was the slowest, I think.

Day 4

We got about 3 hours of driving in before the storm struck. It had turned cold in the night and was snowing heavily by the time we woke. But we weren’t prepared for the violence of the storm. Spectacular lighting displays lit the sky for several hours. When we got out to check in the morning the ATV was almost buried under snow, although the powerful engine didn’t complain when we started moving. We intended to drive as long as there was light but disaster struck. A bank of snow shifted while I was driving and it took a few hours to right the ATV. By that time it was dark. It was a miserable day. Helena played back some footage of Noreena doing skits back on Gunn, which cheered us up a little but made us miss the little’en.

Day 5

It was very cold today but only light snow. A similar thing happened to yesterday happened while V was driving. We were able to get the ATV out more quickly this time and it was only a minor delay. For most of the afternoon we were off the deep snow plains and made good time.

Day 6

We were woken up in the night by heavy hail. It continued all day and drove us spare. We came to the river but the ATV was easily able to cross it as it is fully amphibious. We were quite jubilant by the time we had crossed until we saw the wreck of an old ATV a little farther on. If we are wrecked we are going to die in the cold.

Day 7

A clear, if cold, day and good progress.

Day 8

Warmer today and sleet. It got even warmer when we came across a hot geyser. It was surrounded by a variety of grasses and bushes. Undoubtably by various animals too. It felt like an oasis of heat. I would have liked to stay longer if it wasn’t for three things. First, we are marooned on a hostile and virtually deserted planet, again, we need to rescue some kids and there were these weird parrot like birds which landed all over the ATV and started pecking at the antenna, which didn’t endear them to us. Peter shot one with his shotgun. There was a flock of them pecking at the corpse of reptile about the size of a Terran badger.

Day 9

It was colder and stormy all day. The storm proper only hit us after dark. We were woken up by the howling wind and hail. It’s frustrating being stuck in the ATV all the time and storms mean it is harder to get out and move around in the morning. We don’t want to miss too much daylight but a break would be nice. Even Noreena would have been irritable. We cheered up when Helena made contact with the Bothildrs. Their comms signal was weak but we did manage to let them know we are on our way.We should be arriving tomorrow.

Day 10

It has continued to be very cold, even for Mithral standards. Today we had to backtrack some distance after the channel we were following became deeper and deeper and eventually ended abruptly. We made less than half a day’s miles. We let the Bothildrs know. They were disappointed, but now they know that they are not abandoned didn't seem too upset by one extra day.

Day 11

Hail woke us up but at least a storm didn’t blow in. We made good progress and reached the Bothildr camp shortly after midday. They have rigged up a sort of fence around their camp made from wired-together scrub. They have two structures, one a living area and the other a work space. We stopped just outside the fence, jumped out and clambered over. Eric was standing outside the modules, behind a folding table. He ever so casually had a shotgun in his hand. It’s not surprising. They heard a distress signal from the base when it was attacked. Eric sized us up, asking us a few details about ourselves and the base. We had nob guns at our hips but we weren’t aggressive. After a few minutes his wife showed up sporting a short carbine which I’m sure was levelled at us a few moments before. They were concerned about the base and said there should have been three people there but didn’t know anything about any visitors. The air/raft wasn’t there. When the scrambled message came through that the base was having problems the 2 base staff with the Bothildrs decided to fly straight back to the base. Eric and Myntelle hadn’t liked this idea as it meant stranding them and their family with no means of transport and, as they were replying on the air/raft’s comms, without reliable comms. A fight had broken out and Eric decked Egil. The upshot of it was that Egil and Katrin had flown off into a storm. Eric appeared to feel awful that he had lost his composure with them.

Eric suggested that we set off in the morning. He would pack their personal possessions - it was obvious that the modules were too large to fit in the ATV with all 6 of us - and Myntelle would cook. We handed over some of our rations, which were gratefully received and then the kids took us on a tour of the area. Egino, the son, and Runa, the daughter took us Peter and up to some of the caves they have been working in. Runa talked us through some of their parents ideas and findings. Apparently there was evidence of Aslan steelers on Mithral which pre-date Aslan use of jump technology. Runa argued that radioactive material, which was found by a previous (“And rather amateurish”) survey which also found the first Aslan rock carvings on Mithral, was evidence that thousands of years ago a ship was here. We weren’t all that interested but the kids were very keen so we tried to ask encourage them. The conversation continued over dinner.

The Bothildrs know the direction the air/raft set off in and received a distress signal shortly after. But the signal stopped being received after a few hours and they didn’t have any means of transport anyway. I could sense them some 200km away, roughly in the direction the Myntelle had waved when describing the air/rafts direction. So both of them are still alive. We packed up their equipment and had an early night. We wanted to start early in the morning.


Eric suggested that we set off in the morning. He would pack their personal possessions - it was obvious that the modules were too large to fit in the ATV with all 6 of us - and Myntelle would cook. We handed over some of our rations, which were gratefully received, and then the kids took us on a tour of the area. Egino, the son, and Runa, the daughter took Helena, Peter and me up to some of the caves they have been working in. Runa talked us through some of their parents's ideas and findings. Apparently there was evidence of Aslan settlers on Mithral which pre-date Aslan use of jump technology. Runa argued that radioactive material, which was found by a previous (“And rather amateurish”) survey which also found the first Aslan rock carvings on Mithral, was evidence that thousands of years ago a ship was here. We weren’t all that interested but the kids were very keen so we tried to ask encourage them. The conversation continued over dinner.

The Bothildrs know the direction the air/raft set off in and received a distress signal shortly after. But the signal stopped being received after a few hours and they didn’t have any means of transport anyway. I could sense them some 200km away, roughly in the direction the Myntelle had waved when describing the air/rafts direction. So both of them are still alive. We packed up their equipment and had an early night. We wanted to start early in the morning.

Day 12

It was cold but not nearly as cold as Mithral can be. After a couple of hours we lost control of the left hand wheels. Part of the steering system was damaged. It took us a few more hours to find out the cause. It was a software problem. We were not very cheerful by the time we got moving again.

Day 13

We woke in the middle of the night to howling wind. The lightning storm was impressive. We recorded a fair amount. The storm lasted well into the next day and we set about digging ourselves out around lunch time. When we were moving the wind was still quite strong and is felt like we were in a snow storm at times. There was a lot of ice pressure and we had to stop when it got dark. It was frustrating as we were less than 50km from the air/raft and its crew. It is cramped and very difficult in the ATV. Everyone is very obviously on their best behaviour.

Day 14

Light snow fall accompanied us the short distance to the crashed air/raft. Helena and I made sure we were driving so we didn’t have to “make suggestions” to another driver. We had gone about 30km and we picked up a reply to our periodic broadcast asking them to respond. Helena was driving and I was up front with her. V, Myntelle and the kids were riding on top as it was over crowded inside and the snow wasn’t bad as long as you were wrapped up. We were on a level patch of thick, and we thought, compacted snow. The ATV lurched and we fell forward! There was some kind of cavity which the front of the ATV was embedded in. Those who were riding up top were hurled into snow and the ones onside bounced around. Eric was making some coffee and was ill prepared for the crash. He sustained a nasty crack to his ribs. The rest of us were a bit shaken and bruised but ok. There was some blood on Runa where she burst her lip but, all things considered, little harm came to any of us. We clambered out of the rear hatch. The cavity was a sort of tunnel, maybe 2m in diameter. We had no idea of how it got there. There wasn’t any signs of technology which could make the tunnels and we hadn’t seen any animals large enough to leave such a burrow. We had sensed unfamiliar life but other than “multi-cellular” and bigger than say, a chicken, it wasn’t easy to work out the size of an unknown animal through psionic life detection.

We set to digging our faithful steed out when I got the fright of my life. I wasn’t expecting to find the weight on my shoulders wasn’t a miss-thrown shovelful of snow but rather one of the badger sized reptile things which had climbed onto me from a pile of snow. They are basically snow coloured and everyone had been focused on the task in hand so no one saw it coming. I yelped like a Peter! A few minutes later and Eric, who couldn’t help dig as I’d bandaged his ribs and given him a local, said he had spotted something moving a little distance away. We all stopped and looked but we couldn’t see anything. It’s hard to make things out when it is just snow in all directions. We were unnerved enough that we all kept pausing in our work to look around. On one occasion I spotted snow collapsing into what I assumed was the same cavity, about 250m away. Others reported that same.

Anyway, we dug out the ATV and before long we were on our way again. We came to a low rise and Katrin guided us along it. She told us that Egil is injured from the crash and so they wouldn’t be able to come out to us “…even if there wasn’t something under the snow”. We pulled up a few dozen metres from a snow bank which led to where we thought the cave we were looking for was located. We all froze as we felt the ATV shudder. Something huge forced its way up from beneath of us, knocking our vehicle on its side. We were all prepared after our earlier experience, and we were stationary, so no one was hurt. We saw through the side window which was now effectively a skylight, a vast worm-like creature, a full 2m in diameter and rearing up a good 30m before it came crashing down on the side the ATV. We were all horrified and froze in place. A second blow rocked our only means of salvation. It was rearing up for a third blow when Helena sprang into action and probably saved us all. She pushed myself and V out of the way in her mad haste to get to the drivers seat and slammed her hand on the horn. The worm thing swayed in the air. Keeping one hand on the horn Helena fumbled with her comm and linked it to the vehicle’s systems. The horn was replaced by very loud music coming out of the outside speakers. This appeared the be it for the animal. It pulled back under the snow and was gone with a few bulges in the snow showing where it went. In less than minute since the attack began it was all over. Barely believing our good luck we jumped out of the roof hatches once again and started lashing some cords to the side of the ATV which was pointing upward. Myntelle ran up the slope, looking for the cave. We worked frantically wile Helena’s playlist blared out. We clumsily righted the ATV with a crash and Eric, the kids and Helena got back inside. P, V and myself went after M. Some dozen metres or so up the slope we saw M crouched in the mouth of a low cave. We moved closer and saw that she was talking to a woman who looked filthy and pale. A moment later we saw another figure, lying In the crashed air/raft which was just inside the cave. It looked like it still had power but it couldn’t have much after all this time. They had run out of food a few days earlier and were eking out power to deliver a little warmth to Egil. M led Katrin to the ATV and we carried Egil down the slope as best we could. Egil was in pain constantly and picking him up was obviously agonising, We got him in the warm music still playing. Egil was irritated by the sound but we ignored his angry complaints. I shot him up with a sedative and looked at his wounds. None were open, but he obviously had broken ribs and I was worried that there might be a slow bleed due to a tiny puncture. I was probably worried about nothing as he most likely would have died by now if that were the case. Still, he was in a very bad way. After a while Helena turned off the music and as katrin was asking what had happened at the base, were the others ok, how had we found them, etc., P and I dismantled the grav plates on the air/raft. We set off as soon as we could. We fed Katrin and after another hour I gave her a mild sedative and she rested. I’m not sure the grav plates will work. But we didn’t think it would matter. “Supply Run 4-14” will be along eventually. Although I wasn’t sure it would be soon enough for Egil.

Week 3

The rest of the week was something of a nightmare. The atmosphere in the ATV was strained at the best of times. At one point a crevasse forced us to backtrack a whole day. On another an argument broke out between Katrin and Eric when we spotted what looked like an octagonal ruin of a building - Eric wanted to stop and examine it and Katrin demanded that we carry on. In the end we just recorded the grid reference and drove on. We only had one storm on our way back to the base. Egil’s mood remained sour and Katrin, well, she will benefit from time with a good therapist. I’m beginning to think the same applies to all of us.

Week 4

It took a total of 12 days to get back to the base after picking up the Bothildrs. We were only 10-15km away from the base when night fell on 200-1080. We decided to carry on for once. We made it close enough to see the base when we saw a ship take off and head up and to our right (south). At first everyone was jubilant. Myntelle went to pick up the radio but V stopped her. We didn’t know who was at the base and Katrin confirmed that it didn’t look like a A2 trader, like Supply Run 4-14. We pulled up in-between a hillock and a deep drift and we hacked into the base’s security cameras. We had already done that when we looked for old footage so we already had the feed on my comms. We could see maybe a dozen people wearing flak jackets and carrying auto-rifles apparently searching for something. We had a good idea what that was - the data chips I had found in the wall of the visitor’s room. It was a fair bet that this was the team who had killed the three crew at the base and taken the visitor. They were not going to want any witnesses. We powered down the ATV until the only systems it was running was the video feed and a comms link to our personal comms - we wanted Eric to let us know what was happening and where the newcomers where so we didn’t have any surprises. We kitted up and made sure our P-HUBs and breathers were operational and slipped out of the ATV into the heavy snow. Katrin and Myntelle started to rig a cover over the ATV - hopefully a build up of snow would hide it from the sensors of the ship when it came back. Eric was going to try and listen into any comms traffic from the ship if it wasn’t scrambled. We assumed the searching team would be on personal comms like ours which might take hours to hack due to the security on most phone apps. Again we split into two teams. Again we approached the base, but this time with a running commentary from Myntelle about the comings and going of the marauders.


“We see two in the accommodation centre, 2 in the admin block, two out on the road stamping their feet to keep warm and we think two more moving from the accommodation to, yes, to the ATV garage.”

Helena and I had already located another two, one on the reactor shed and on on the garage. I guessed snipers. We needed to take them out first…

The landing pad was to the north of the base and the road ran south for 3-400m. All the buildings were to the west of the road, the admin and reactor shed buildings next to each other to the north, with the admin nearest to the road. Facing the admin building from the south was the ATV garage. Facing the reactor shed and next to the garage was the accommodation block. I had felt the presence of a sentient life on the roof of the admin and accommodation buildings. We approached from the west, on foot. We cut a hole in the fence in the south west corner. Team Red, V and P, waited a little way outside the hole covering it. Team Blue, Myself and Helena, moved along the inside of the southern edge of the fence. All the lights were on and we felt exposed. However, the heavy snow masked our movements. By the time we got there the two moving across the compound into the garage had reached their goal.

We made it to the rear of accommodation and climbed up as quietly as we could. The snow was dampening sounds and window ledges served us well in getting up on the roof. Helena was ready with her shotgun while I was armed with my nob gun - set to fully automatic. A figure was standing over by the edge overlooking the entrances to the compound. It was rubbing its hand for warmth and we could hear muttering. A crunch of snow underfoot gave us away but only when we were almost close enough to touch them. A head turned to face us and froze. I put a finger to my lips and pointed to their belt, from which hung a holster with an auto pistol. They weren’t foolish enough to try any heroics so they unbuckled and dropped their belt. Standing less than 2 m away with my pistol aimed at her their head I passed the roll of duct-tape to Helena and she bound the sniper’s wrists and ankles and even their eyes and mouth for good measure. We assumed this was the group of mercs who had slaughtered the three murdered base staff so we didn’t care if we ruined their eyebrows. Then Helena frisked our captive and took out a small transceiver from their pocket and a comm-dot from their ear. Helena put it in her own ear with a grimace. The sniper had a laser sniper rifle propped up against an antenna in addition to their pistol. We reported our success to Team Red and told them to hold as we could see another figure on the admin building. Helena picked up the sniper’s rifle and hefted if a couple of times to get its weight and knelt down and aimed at the figure across the way. She handed me the weapon and I used the scope to get a better look. The snow made it difficult and would interfere with the firing of a laser. I could see a lone shape holding what looked like another similar rifle to this one. Returning the rifle to Helena she again drew a bead and I knelt down facing towards the rare of the building I was on and moved.

I appeared in the middle of the admin building, on one knee, pointing directly at the back of the sniper. I paused and was about to speak when they turned and took a couple of paces towards me. They froze when they registered me. Then they jerked their weapon up. At this range, maybe 3 metres, the snow barely mattered. My gun made a stuttering noise and the sniper fell backwards. Their steps towards me in the dark had carried them away from the edge and they didn’t fall. I pulled them into the centre of the roof, took their transceiver, ear-piece and rifle. They were bleeding heavily and I knew they weren’t going to make it. For all my training and the fire fights Vasquez and I had been involving in on Feri it was still the first time I had shot and killed someone. I felt horror rise up inside me. I let the others know that I was in place and that Helena and I were covering the compound with laser rifles. We hear V swear at the idea of lasers in this weather.

We asked for an up date from the ATV. “Four in admin, two on the road, two in accommodation. No, wait, the two on the road are moving.”

Team Red had moved to the south west corner of the reactor shed. The sentries on the road were moved anti-clockwise around the rear of admin and towards Team Red.

“Understood,” - V

“We will pin the others in their buildings,” - me

“Understood,” - V

I lay down by the edge of the roof and levelled my rifle at the entrance to the garage then the accommodation and back. A moment later the slightly muffled sound of a gauss pistol came from behind me, answered with the heavier and slower bark of an auto rifle. The merc comms went mad.

“Motherf*ers firing on us. Behind the reactor! F*! F***!’
“What, say again?”
“How many?”
“What the f***.”
“We’re on our way.”
“We’re on our way.”
“We’re on our way.”

Two came out of accommodation. I was already aiming at the entry so I merely exhaled and fired. The head of the first one out of the door burst into flames and they dropped, lifeless. The second jumped back into the cover of the damaged doorway. The snow enabled me to make out the red of the Helena’s laser as she did the same. More frantic sounds came over the comms: “We are pinned down,” “Suzie and Lance have gone crazy,” “Get the f***over here they've hit Walt.” Gunfire continued from behind me then the sound of a grenade going off. I think a thunderflash, not a frag but it was hard to tell. More gunfire. The lone merc opposite me in the accommodation started shooting at me pouring rounds into the air. It took all my nerve to aim and take a clear shot - I knew the snow and dim light on the roof was making it very hard for my enemy to be accurate, along with the fact only my head was visible. But still, it’s hard to rely on those things when someone’s shooting at you. I missed and a small flame ignited on the wall next the the merc. They ducked back. Again they peered round the entrance and fired, again I was waiting for them. Again we both missed in the snow.

I knew that Helena had hit one, from the comms. I wasn’t sure how V and P were doing, but I could still hear a nob gun and a shotgun firing, so I assumed they were ok. I couldn’t let the mercs in accommodation get out or they could take Team Red in the rear. A third time they moved into view and opened fire. This time I was lucky and hit them. They fell backwards, out of sight.

“Look out Poly, incoming,” Helena’s voice was loud and shrill over the comm. Absorbed in my own struggle I hadn’t seen that one from admin had timed a run with Helena’s shots and run over to the garage. I just saw them taking cover in the entrance as I turned to look. I didn’t see the grenade they threw. It hit the wall below me and dropped a couple of metres before it went off - a thunderflash. I looked up and just caught a glimpse of someone disappearing into the garage.

Another grenade landed on the roof. This one had come from the north side of the building. I covered my head with my hands and lay as flat as I could. A sinister hissing noise came from it. Vasquez is going to be so smug. I threw a handful of snow onto the tranquilliser grenade and drew my nob gun. A head appeared to the north, checking what the grenade had accomplished. Obviously nothing due to my breather. I fired and the head dropped out of sight. Covering the area the head had occupied I cautiously moved towards the edge. I looked over and a merc opened fire. I pulled back and leaned forward. We both fired a burst and we both missed. There was another merc pressed against the wall of the building. He disappeared out of view to the west. I pulled back again, not having the nerve to see which one of us would hit the other first. I heard a click which told me they were out of ammo. I stood up and aimed. They dropped an empty magazine. I took a deep breath and they inserted a full one. I started to exhale and they raised their weapon. I squeezed my trigger and flame burst from the barrel of their gun. It felt like an invisible hammer struck me just below my ribs. I took a step back and then my legs gave way and I sat down. I clawed at my coat. I could hear gunfire from below but I paid no attention. There were three grooves in my flak jacket. Due to the angle at which I had been hit my armour was effectively thicker which had probably saved my life. It hurt like hell. Wincing, I crawled on hands and knees and looked over again. My assailant had collapsed. I think Peter or Vasquez got them. A second merc had their arm around a third and was half-carrying half-leading them round the building. As they started to cross the area between the admin block and garage an area of snow in front of them flashed into steam.

“Drop your weapons and lie down,” - Helena.

“I’m helping wounded,” came the reply.

“You’re untrustworthy murdering c***s, now throw your weapons in front of you and lie face down,” - Helena.

The wounded one was dropped to the ground and the other threw away his rifle and unbuckled his belt. He lay down.

Vasquez and Peter rushed into the area between the buildings as well.

“Who's left?” - Vasquez

“We have one in the garage who is unhurt and one in the accommodation block who is definitely hurt.” - Eric.

My climb down was painful. At gun point we made the merc pick up his buddy again and take him into admin and put him on a table. He had taken a gauss needle to his right bicep. It had passed right through but it had pulled most of the muscle with it and now he looked there was a huge bloody slug hanging from his arm. His arm was contracted and it was hard to straighten. I shot him up with pain killer and did what I could. I cleaned the wound and shoved his muscle back under the skin. I stitched up the tears in the skin. With my skill and the equipment at hand that was all I could do for him. He had lost blood, naturally, but not enough to be life threatening. By the time I had finished the one from the garage had surrendered and, along with the sniper who gave herself up and the one who had been carrying their comrade all were bound. The one in the accommodation block had died by the time we got to him.

Eric drove the ATV into the compound, checked in with us in admin and then took his family to accommodation. He looked shaken by the level of violence he had witnessed on the security feed. Not as shaken as I felt. We laid out the dead to the rear of the reactor shed. We had killed six. It felt like a lot more. I had shot at people before but didn’t think I had killed anyone. It’s not a good feeling. We sat in silence and drank hot coffee. I think we all got a shock when a voice came out of the merc’s comms a couple of hours later:

“Hey, found anything? We’ve been checking on a radiation reading we got but we didn’t find anything. We will be landing in about 30 minutes.”

We hadn’t forgotten about the ship but everything felt unreal after the fight. We got up and looked at eat other.

“Ok, we don’t answer and they might think there is a fault with the comms. We hide and take them as they leave their ship. They will be suspicious but we don’t want them to start blasting the base.” - Vasquez. We all nodded and picked up auto rifles and laser rifles. Each sniper had a spare cartridge for the rifle. This time V and P took one each as they are the better shots. V had a tiny flesh wound in her left shoulder - not even deep enough to damage muscle. It was sore but not a problem after I had dressed it. P and H were fine, other than the horror of the fight. P hurried over to accommodation to tell the Bothildrs, Katrin and Egil that the end of the situation was about to play out, one way or another. We needed someone to guard the captives and for the rest to hide. Eric came to watch the prisoners.

We took blankets from beds in accommodation and when we got to the landing strip Helena, Vasquez and Peter all lay down and I covered each one with a blanket and shovelled snow onto them. It was the only way we could think of hiding our heat signatures if they thought to do a thermal scan. It wasn’t likely but we really didn’t want the ships weapons turned on us. After no reply came from the base the ship kept trying to get response. We ignored it. I hid by the fuel processing equipment. We only had a few minutes to wait before the ship came into view. It was at least 400 tons and was a class of ship I hadn’t seen before. It landed facing the base. I could see a ramp or stairs on the other side of the ship from were I was. I closed my eyes and psionically moved my vision to where I thought the top of the ramp was. Three people were walking down the steps. All wearing flak jackets and helmets. Two carried auto rifles or submachine guns and one a shotgun. In the airlock a fourth was in the process of closing the door. The door closed, I counted to 12 and once again I moved, teleporting into the airlock.

I moved to the inner door and looked through the viewing panel in time to see a corridor and a door to ly left, which was closing. I hefted my rifle and opened the inner airlock door and pressed farther into the ship. I moved as quietly as I could towards the door I had seen closing. Every step sounded unbelievably loud to my ears. I opened the door and quickly stepped in. There was one man, sitting in front of a screen who looked up with a start. I screamed “Freeze” as loud as I can and they froze in an awkward pose. “Stand up slowly.” He stood. Hands in the air. “He put his hands in the air.” “Now open the airlock doors again, slowly.” I must have looked half deranged. Regardless, he reached over very slowly and did as instructed. We waited. It seemed like time stood still. The others hadn’t questioned me when I said that if we can lure the crew out then I can get inside to make sure ship weapons weren’t used. It seemed like forever before a voice came over my comm:

“They’re down. Are you in?”

We had put a comm under a jacket and the plan had been to tell them to stand down when they were close to the edge of the landing strip. I later found out that when they were told, via the comm in the jacket, to put down their weapons they replied by opening fire on the jacket. Peter and Vasquez took down two, each with a shot from a laser rifle. This, with Helena’s chaotic auto fire convinced the last to surrender. They then joined me with their prisoner in the ship.

Out of 14 mercenaries seven had died, two were seriously wounded and five were taken prisoner relatively unharmed. We didn’t waste any time in taking over their ship. There were four low berths so we put the two wounded mercs plus Egil into those. We bound the others with duct tape. Later, when we found an empty cargo container in the hold we shoved them in there taking turns to guard them to make sure they didn’t get out. We did the usual safety checks, got the Bothildrs, and Katrin and took off, wishing we had never landed in the first place. I felt sick.

It was early in the morning of 201-1080
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The Adventures of Polybius Comnenus II

The week in jump was not a comfortable one. We had prisoners and they needed to be guarded, fed and looked after to a basic degree. We had ten staterooms and some of them must have been the rooms of people we killed. They were murderers and who knows what else, but that didn’t mean we were insensitive to having killed them. They all had histories, had suffered and known joys. Whatever they had done with their lives didn’t stop them from being people. We all felt uncomfortable in the rooms were occupied. We just piled belongings in one room and moved ourselves into the now empty ones. I tried to distract my thoughts anyway I could, the meditations I practise to strengthen my psionics, studying brokerage, working out, familiarising myself with the vessel. We all all kept busy and tried to avoid talking about what had happened on Mithral.

The ship was well maintained and capable. It had two triple pop-up turrets. One had powerful particle beam barrels and the other combined a missile launcher, a sand caster and a beam laser. The missiles turned out to be a problem. Out of the twelve on board we identified five as having nuclear warheads, which, as you know, are strictly illegal in the Imperium. We spent time going through data files and found a cache of encrypted files which we assumed the Imperial authorities would be interested in. The ship was capable of 5G acceleration and could jump two parsecs. Its hull was clearly designed to have stealth capabilities. It was, all-in-all, a very nice ship. Probably made for a sinister market. We also had a small arsenal of side arms: the two laser sniper rifles, a dozen auto-rifles of Sword World manufacture, a couple of SMGs and an MG, along with more auto-pistols than I bothered to count. We found a nearly full crate of stun grenades and another of tranq. grenades. There were four shotguns and six snub pistols in the ship’s locker. The ship’s locker was the typical mess of equipment. We counted fourteen vacc. suits, but they weren’t as good as the ones we had left behind on Mithral. We were all exhausted and more than a little unsettled when we left and had only collected personal effects from Highndry. The hold was empty apart from a couple of cargo containers.

We took our time leaving the gravity well of Mithral so we could get a feel for the ship. We also put extra time into plotting the jump and making sure the J-drives were operational. We didn’t really take the time to familiarise ourselves with the ship properly because we wanted to be away. Eric and Myntelle spent most of the time with their kids. I think they were weary around us after witnessing the fight on the screen in the ATV. At least I thoughts so. Who wouldn’t be uncomfortable around people as violent as we had turned out to be?


We jumped to Wardn. It was the nearest scout base. As soon as we returned to regular space Helena broadcast a request for assistance. When we had plotted the jump we had decided to jump a little farther out than the usual recommended jump-arrival area. The Starport replied asking what the problem was. We reported the nuclear weapons and the prisoners and were told to remain in position and wait for instructions. We knew we would have to answer a lot of questions but I didn’t care. The authorities would have to sort it out. The prisoners would have to be either charged with piracy and murder or extradited to the Sword Worlds. Probably the latter as the crime shad been committed against a Sword World base and personnel. Helena said she we had a claim on the ship due to something legal. I didn’t pay attention.

We cut our velocity and waited. We were drifting in space for most of a day when we were hailed. We rushed to the bridge to respond. Helena took the comms and I checked sensors. A Midu Agasham class destroyer was approaching with a weapons lock on us, which is enough to make anyone nervous. A destroyer! We were ordered to prepare for boarding, if we started our engines we would be fired on. If we powered our weapons we would be fired on. If we refused docking we would be fired on. We were asked for a crew manifest. We were told to have someone meet a boarding party at our airlock. A pinnace left the Cuirass and manoeuvred adjacent to us. We heard the ring of the docking clamps closing on our ship. The four of us were waiting at the air port, which you will remember is next to the bridge. We were taken aback to see three figures in battle dress, along with another couple of navy personnel. Destroyers don’t typically carry space marines, but this one appeared to. We could see built in laser weapons in the right arm of the battle dress. Their faces were mirrored plasteel which was very intimidating. The regular navy carried cutlases and snub pistols and carbines. A marine - a captain by insignia - led the boarding party.

“I am captain Aksel Hensen. I will be conducting an inspection of this vessel and impounding it in the name of the Third Imperium. You are commanded by Imperial law to cooperate in all ways. Please show me to the bridge.” They didn’t wait for a reply. The two other marines stepped forward and we opened the door to the bridge.

“Okay Lilly, what’s this all about? Has someone been a naughty girl?” The mirrored plasteel slide up an into the helmet revealing the face of a 40-something man with sharp eye and a nose which had been broken more than once. There was a hint of a smile on his face.


“Hello Aksel, No, not at all. We’re just trying to do our part as good citizens.” - Vasquez

The captain smiled. “Now that’s suspicious.” He frowned. “I have a report that this ship is carrying nuclear weapons. Do you deny it?”

“We reported them!” came Helena’s indignant reply.

The captain looked at Helena. “So you admit to the possession of illegal weaponry in Imperium space?”

“We have nuclear weapons on board but we are not ‘in possession of nuclear weapons’. We seized this vessel from pirates on Mithral -“

“You stole nuclear missiles from the Sword World?”

“How dare you make such an accusation, we are Imperial citizens!”

Captain Hensen looked Helena up and down. She was visibly bristling. He turned back to Vasquez.

“You always did like the pretty ones, Lilly, but I think you should try to find ones who have more than looks. You need to explain what’s going on here to your cough ship-mate.”

Even in such a serious situation myself, Vasquez and Peter all had to stifle laughter at this. I turned away, looking forward to the outcome. Helena drew herself up to her full height and said, “My name is her Ladyship, Sir Helena Rhoanion of Rhylanor, Daughter of Count Rhoanion. I would enquire as to your lineage but I doubt you ever met your father.”

The captain stood up to this quite well, I thought. The smirk left his face and he inclined his head slightly and said, with a formality which had bee missing to this point, “Ma’am, please accept my apologies. I should have recognised good breeding when I saw it. I did in fact know my father, and you will appreciate hearing that he will be suitably angry with me when he hears of this meeting. I must state that despite the good will I have for the Imperial Nobility there have been more than one of your social standing who have, shall we say, made poor decisions. I will conduct my enquiry respectfully but nonetheless fully. I have orders to impound this ship and arrest the crew. You will be taken into custardy where you will be treated with the dignity afforded to you by your rank. You rank, however, will not influence me in the pursuit of my duty.”

Helena gave short nod in reply and the captain turned back to Vasquez. “Okay, Lilly, tell me what has been going on.”

It didn’t take long to explain what had happened on Mithral. We had the data in the ship’s computers, some of which we had managed to decipher, the data chips which were presumably left by the Sword Worlder spy and video footage of both our initial search of the base and our subsequent fights. None of this was going to stop us from being arrested but it should prove our innocence. The captain appeared pleased that we had evidence which corroborated our story. We also had the support of the Bothildrs and Katrin (and presumably Egil, when he was revived). The captain called the destroyer and requested that the ship’s doctor come aboard. He asked us to show him the nukes.

“And just in case any of you - “ started captain Hensen

“Yes, we know” interrupted Vasquez irritably.

“As long as we understand each other.”

We showed him the missiles which we suspected were nukes, the prisoners and, when the doctor came aboard, the wounded in the low berths. A crew was sent over and we were taken into custody and taken to the destroyer. As captain Hensen had said, we were treated curiously. I suspect this was as much due to the presence of “Lilly” as much as that of a noble. It turned out that Vasquez’s unit had served along side Captain Hensen’s and he had promoted her to full lieutenant some time ago. The thing which apparently ” …we knew” was that the destroyer was monitoring boarding parties vitals and if they died they would fire on our ship with the intension of completely destroying it.

On docking at Wardn’s scout base they separated us and put us in holding cells. I think Helena might have been given different accommodation.



Week 1
We spent three days in confinement and were almost constantly interrogated. On release we had the freedom of the Starport but couldn’t leave. Not that we wanted to without Highndry. Our team included an ex-scout, an ex-marine and a member of the high nobility. I didn’t have anything going for me other than that paper I had written on the end of the Ancients which had a load of citations. But at least it made me look like a regular citizen. We booked into a hotel and tried to relax. After a couple of hours we met up and went for dinner and ran into some ex-military buddies of Lilly’s. One anyway, a Vargr named Hurgen who had been a gunner on a ship Lilly had served on. He was with two others, both ex-army, Rexacora, a female Aslan who had been a tank driver and Adhza who was a mechanic. It isn’t common that you meet female Aslan in the Imperium so Rexacora piqued our interest. She seemed normal enough, less of the bravado than the male Aslan. We all got on.

Over the following days Peter made repeated requests to be given parts to repair Highndry and permission for us to go back to Mithral. Naturally, each request was denied. Helena spent a lot of time putting together a something-or-other. She still believed that we had a legal right to the ship we took from the mercs. Some kind of anti-piracy salvage law. It sounded gibberish to me, but then what do I know. Vasquez and I spent time in bars and exploring the starport. The Bothildrs met up with us after a few days. There were due to jump to Biter the next day. We all went for dinner and listened to their plans (which include returning to Mithral!) and they wished us well. They are a nice enough family and we genuinely wished them well. It made me feel better. It was good to know the Bothildrs didn’t think of us a monsters.

Week 2
We received a reward for recovering the Sword Worlder spy’s data. 25,000 credits, not a huge amount but not bad either. Peter had been told that for diplomatic reasons Mithral was closed to Imperials, so recovering High dry was not going to happen anytime soon. It was getting boring on Wardn Starport but we didn’t have clearance to leave. It was obvious that we would be cleared of wrong doing after we received the credits for the data chip. The encrypted data on the ship had turned out to be highly incriminated including orders to kill everyone at the base . It also included information regarding the people who had employed the mercenaries. A group of smuggler-traders had feared that the spy had collected data which would reveal some of their dodgy dealings so had wanted him eliminated. They probably succeeded. Warrants were being issued. Helena assured us that the diplomatic problems and the closing of Mithral to Imperials was the normal posturing which both sides indulged in and didn’t mean anything. It might last some time, though. Peter found some dataset news programs which named the Highndry as a “Imperial asset” and speculated on what had happened. A variety of conspiracy theories sprang up. It was quite amusing but also a little worrying.

Week 3
Peter joined us for lunch late today. He had be delayed by a call from a naval officer who introduced himself as Captain Wight.

“Funny thing, he was wearing a naval officer’s uniform but no rank insignia.”

“F***. That means intelligence. What did he want?” - Helena.

"He said that he had heard that we are currently stranded without our ship and that maybe he could move things along for our group. But he is distracted by problems in the Gorram system. A search and rescue team quit and they were having problems replacing them. Long story short, he wanted me to step in and be temporary S&D for Gorram. Three months tops. I would need a team of 6-8 and a mix of skills, but nothing out of the ordinary. He said he can get us cleared to leave Wardn and will pay for middle berths to Strouden were he will cease to have anything to do with it. He is just helping out a friend. Well, what do you think? We get off this station, get in the good graces of the Imperium and it might speed up getting Highndry back?”

“Did he mention Highndry?” I asked.

“No, only that he could help speed some things up,” Peter replied with a frown.

There wasn’t much to talk about. We all felt bored here, and a little apprehensive about what would happen to us. We liked the idea of getting away from here, a few credits in our pockets and to be seen to be keen to help the Imperium. None of us are keen to help the Imperium, but we want to be seen to be keen.

“Okay, he asked me to let him know by the end of the day. I’ll send a vid.”

“We are only four, though…” - V

We talked it through a bit more and then went to see if the Vargr and Aslan who we had met the other day were still on station. They were and they were still looking for work so we hired them. We didn’t know rates but we had decided we would pay a going rate to anyone we hired and pool our own share of the pay. The Vargr and Aslan were hired by us, not the navy. Peter left to make his call.

At Lunion 255-1080

The liner we booked on came out of jump smoothly enough, but ran straight into problems. We had taken berths on a free trader from Wardn to Tenalphi where we only stayed for a couple of days. Then we took passage to Shirene on the aforementioned liner. Tenalphi is a strange place. A mixture of Imperial and Sword Worlder cultures. It’s pretty high tech and it seems anything goes. Certainly almost any weaponry is available. The four of us bought good quality stunners. All our weapons apart from our sabres had been impounded on Wardn. We wanted to be able to defend ourselves without killing people, if possible.

Instead of approaching the Starport and engaging in the usual negotiation regarding docking priorities we just waited. I was only when we didn’t get an update on arrival times that we thought to ask the stewards. Apparently there was a problem at the Starport. Peter jumped online and a few moments later he called us over.

“You better look at this,” he said in a deadpan voice.

We all watched the news in horror. A bomb had gone off in the customs area of Shirene Starport. Ine Givar had claimed responsibility. A retaliation for the unprovoked incursion on Mithral and the attempted annexation of that planet by the imperium! What the f***? We didn’t know what to say or think. I know I didn’t, anyway. It had only happened a few hours previously and all ships were being redirected to Lunion. Tankers were making the rounds providing sufficient fuel for a single parsec jump. We had to wait for our turn to re-fuel. The jump to Lunion and then a subsequent jump back to Shirene would put at least two weeks on our journey. So it goes.

Lunion Starport was overcrowded which made it an unpleasant place to stay. Hundreds if not thousands of people sort lodgings and sustenance. Bars and restaurants were busy and hotels were expensive. We witnessed a couple of fights and had to restrain Vasquez at one point when some tipsy Aslans barged past us rudely. Rexacora didn’t like Lunion. There are a lot of Aslans and she doesn’t conform to the common gender roles of mainstream Aslan culture. Vasquez understood, although she was argumentative at first. We booked on an A2 headed towards Strouden after only two days of being stranded on Lunion and considered ourselves lucky. We had more luck when several other passengers were taken on at Sharrip who all wanted transport to Strouden. The diversion only set us back three weeks.

Stroudon 283-1080

Captain Hammond was a decent bloke and we all got on with him. After two jumps in Mark’s Moustache and a few days in Sharrip we had become friendly. Arriving in a system like Strouden when you are on the bridge is very different form being in your stateroom playing Annually on your comm. We had virtually zero velocity when we entered and therefore when we left jump-space which I was glad of. Blocking the planet entirely was the vast bulk of a Galika class freighter, nearly 200,000 tons displacement. Jane, the only crew member who wasn’t a Standard Engineer Droid started the dance with the Starport regarding docking times. We received the usual order to go into orbit and to wait for a time. There was over a dozen minor ships: As, A2s and Empresses, along with an array others. There was Mary-Ann and Yamamoto, both Galoof class freighters the size of light cruisers, passenger ships, subsidised liners and jumping in behind us a Maru class merchant the Leong Xin’ai. We looped ‘round the Galika, Ip Man, and made for the planet. As we got closer we adjusted course to slot into the designated holding orbit. A Subsided liner, the Aimshi, slide out of the Starport and found a space between the passenger ship Mauritania and a Reach class freighter, Kaagira. Shortly after entering into orbit we received our docking time, over 4 1/2 hours wait! Round we went. The ships computer uploaded the local net as soon as we left jump-space and everyone’s personal computers and comms updated from the ship. We had waited a good few hours when we had an update putting us back a ship. We all knew we would have to wait for the heavy freighters to be dealt with, particularly Ip Man, but it was annoying when an executive yacht, Helena’s Fancy, jumped in and stole our slot. The look on Helena’s face was unreadable when Lilly said, “Hey, Helena, it’s your yacht, pulling rank”. It was her yacht, which her father had named after her when he bought it as a graduation present for her. But we didn’t find that out until she started ducking round corners every time she thought she heard her brother’s voice on the Starport.


Gorram 291-1080

We were met at Gorram by one Sar Aylen, the station executive officer. She was accompanied by a couple of station crew who weren’t anything like as smartly presented as she was. Sar had some of the stiffness of the Navy, but was friendly, introducing Sasha Dumont (Flight Operations Officer) and “Susan” Gragr (Flight Mechanic), a Vargr, informally and with a pleasant smile. Sar went through some of the basics as we walked: no personal firearms - personal weapons can be stored on the ship but are not to be carried on station and weapons will be issued if needed, the ship's locker contains snub pistols as a basic security measure; the key cards we will be issued with will get us in anywhere apart from the armoury, the command centre and the main electronics centre; we are expected to give a full readiness report by the station commander; while technically we answer to the station commander we will, in practice, deal with Sar, Sasha or Gabe (Duric, Security Officer, currently indisposed); we will have to undergo a series tedious - sorry - lectures about protocols and safety and then follow said protocols in system; we will be responsible for safety checks on “our” ship; that she hopes we enjoy our time working on the station. I liked her, she greeted crew members with a smile and used first names (for everyone a part from the Station Commander Chrix Derisson, who was always “The Commander”) and often shared some quip or other with the ones we passed. We chatted with the three of them until we were shown into an office and introduced to Gleetheonale, a Bwap - the first I have ever met - who led the small station admin team and asked us whether we thought the courier ship exits jump as smoothly as an A2, what we thought of courier ship storage arrangements and if we knew how to optimise the growth of orchids in artificial gravity. I liked her, too. Sar left us at admin and Sasha and Susan carried on her low-down of the station as they walked us to our ship, a conversation which ended with a brief discussion about the weekly poker game - “which we keep friendly, no big pots” - and that we should let Harry know, one of the skim pilots, if we wanted in.

Our ship was a lovely Garis class rescue model. 400 tons and and stuffed full of goodies for rescue and repair missions. It was a little overwhelming for me as I was expected to take a formal engineer’s role. We divvied up the staterooms, stowed our kit and explored. There was some very good sensor equipment, lots of drones, grappling arms, even a couple of brigs (which was a tiny bit unsettling). After a while we did the same with the station, at least as far as the canteen. We met a few others, including Harry and about three hours following our arrival we received an itinerary starting with some talks (orientation “workshops”) early the next morning. We turned in.

Orientation was followed by a lecture on our obligations and rescue protocols a lot of which is keeping the surveillance system operating and responding to requests for help. This elicited a few guffaws from the others and it is apparent that we can expect some annoying call-outs and pointless labour on Derisson’s orders. In the afternoon we had a talk on restricted planet protocol (“don’t go to the planet, don’t be visibly on the planet”) which included information on Nay and Dindy codes. Put simply, any ship detected in a restricted system will trigger an alarm. A Nay (No Intrusion or NI) code will cancel the alert by including a recognition code signifying the ship has a legitimate right to be in-system. It will still be registered as present and logged. A Dindy code (Do Not Detect) instructs the monitoring system to ignore the presence of the ship and not even record it as being present. These are uniformly restricted to Naval and IISS vessels which do not want to leave traces which could be monitored by sinister forces. Dindy codes can, it turns out, be issued on a system basis, or at sub-sector and even sector level. A bit of a discussion broke out about the existence of “Dindy-All” codes which would be universal and make mask a ship anywhere, if they exist, which they don’t, so we weren’t to worry. We had been joined by a number of crew who had to do their obligatory annual training and it was obvious that no-one likes Dindy codes. They can mess with systems and local buoys might start acting weird. Naval vessels would dock at the station so no one knew why they use them here anyway.

We had a full day of that and the next we started looking at our ship in more detail. We had to complete a readiness report vouching for the ship before we started. Overall, we were pleased. Some sluggishness with the tech and yaw controls, but not excessively so, some electronic systems needed an overhaul but weren’t likely to conk out anytime soon and there were signs that few bangs and dents had been put in the ship, imaginatively named “Gorram Rescue One”, over the course of it’s working life but not that many and they had all been appropriately dealt with. Our only concern was the rescue equipment and some supplies and tools were lacking. We spent a couple of days putting GRO through her paces and wrote our report.

Gorram 295-1080

We had our first meeting with Derisson. He welcomed us to “His happy little family,” which made us all suspicious as hell. That after he had kept us waiting for 15 minutes and then didn’t look up from some flimsies for another half minute after calling “Come” through the intercom. He spoke about how the station was a well-oiled machine and all we had to do was ask and we would receive. So Adhza asked for require units and new rescue equipment. Derisson went off on one about how no-one puts in their acquisition request on time (so not a well-oiled family then), which meant entire supply cycles get missed, that supply ships are always late and basically blew smoke up our arses. We didn’t take to him. When he pressed for an answer to the question of whether we were space-worthy he had run out of time for us moments after getingt a “yeah, I suppose” from us. Hmm.

Our safety and readiness checks had already taken us out of the station in GRO but only locally. We were dispatched to Gorram's only gas giant to do some routine maintenance on the buoys in orbit. Laura, another of the skim pilots went with us. GRO has a good turn of speed, up to 4g acceleration, so the journey didn’t take excessively long. The work was simple but there was more of it than we expected - “routine” maintenance hasn’t been carried out for longer than usual as our posts had been vacant for so long. Helena asked a lot of questions about the station and Derisson. Laura seemed a little evasive to me, saying she just does her job and brings in fuel for the station. Re-fuelling at the giant is prohibited and all ships need to dock at the station for fuel so a constant supply is needed. We didn’t ask about this but heard all about it anyway. I know Helena was interested to know why we had been employed by an intelligence officer and that was why she was probing. Laura ended up saying she doesn’t get involved in station politics but talk to Harry if you want to know about things like that.

We were out for a day and a half and had hardly managed to get any R&R before Derisson sent us off to the other side of M6 V, the companion star in Gorrma system, to check on some tiny “jump” readings. Apparently he wanted us to check on a possible illegal jump into the system. It looked nothing like a jump energy signature to me but off we went. Even in our ship it took a couple of days to get to the other side of the system and check. We found nothing and were a bit annoyed at having wasted our time, but hey, ours is not to reason why.

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