No Fate But What We Make

Tech Infantry - Season 10

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Forum Home > Now This Ain't No Frak > It's the Bishop! (Part 2)

MJ, the Original Gangsta
Site Owner
Posts: 143

Baron Sarlok was in a foul mood. After a long day at the asteroid, sorting out the million and one little annoyances that his life had become, the last thing he wanted to go to was a party. Arriving more than fashionably late, he had gotten there just in time to find out his wife had left a few minutes earlier.


It was bad enough he had to go to the count’s party in the first place; it was another to beg pardon from his superior to go find his wife. Finally docking at home, he stormed out with his entourage to find her. And the last thing he wanted to hear from her was…


“Grenade!” one of his aides yelled. Sarlok, a veteran of the Ascension War, immediately threw himself to the floor. His followers followed suit, leaving the baron to wonder what idiot was using a plasma grenade on a space station?


In the piercing silence, Sarlok heard the activation beeps, the hissing of the micro-fuse, and tensed for the plasma wave to roll over him. Instead, he heard footsteps racing past him, and the airlock shutting. The baron opened one eye to look. Sure enough, there was a grenade smoking furiously, wrapped in a gold cylinder.


Another couple seconds made him realize what he was staring at. “Get up!” Baron Sarlok growled, pulling himself up, and dusting his dress clothes off. The muscular man walked over and picked up the gold cylinder. “This isn’t a grenade. It’s a single-use cybermodem!” He took a sniff. “Self-destruct mechanism. Now why would someone throw…?”


“Sire!” one of his aides was over at the controls. “Someone’s took our shuttle!”


“What?!”


*****

Stumbles was piloting the baron’s sumptuous shuttle out of the space shuttle, leaving Gabby to split her time between playing with the spacedock’s ship logs, and admiring the rich Corinthian leather. “Have to admire the baron’s taste. Pre-Caal?”


“K’Nes,” the werewolf pilot corrected.


“I should have known. They really weren’t making good luxury shuttles in Clarke’s day.” The bishop took another glance at the logs. “Ah, here they are. The Kirr…oh! I can never pronounce these names. There’s enough growls and hisses in here for a football match.”


Stumbles growled back.


“Funny boy,” Gabrielle chided, trying to piece together which were the legitimate transports and who were the corsairs. “I suppose you follow the Impball games?”


“Yes.”


“It’s funny, don’t you think? With all the problems we have with shuttling supplies—just vital supplies, mind you—why does the Emperor insist on shuttling football players around the galaxy?”


“Maybe His Holiness is a fan?”


“Oh, not you too?!” The bishop glared at him.


“What?”


“His Holiness again?”


“We work for His Faith, Gabby.”


“Doesn’t mean I want to hear it every five minutes, Stumbles.”


The werewolf sighed and checked his readouts again. “Sorry.”


There was a pregnant silence in the air until Gabrielle admitted. “I didn’t mean it come out like that, Stumbles. I’m sorry.”


The friar grunted in response.


“Doyou still pray to Him?”


The werewolf thought about it for a moment. “Sometimes.”


“Then you’re a better man than me, Stumbles. I haven’t prayed in a long… long while.” Gabrielle sat there for a second. She was pretty sure her companion believed the same as her; that Vin Dane was a fraud. But Stumbles always keeps things close to his chest, she realized. I don’t know what he’s thinking half thetime. So I better have an excuse quick; better to be safe than sorry. “After you meet God face to face, I mean, it seems ridiculous to pray to Him. After all, we live on the Holy Planet, Avalon!”


“Yes, Gabby.” Stumbles answered in his usual non-committal tone.


The bishop wasn’t convinced. So she kept scanning the logs, picking out the discrepancies, and keeping the conversation simple. “Where are we headed?”


“Second moon. Once we’re in its lidar shadow, I’ll change the transponder codes, and we can hook up with our ship at the Central Station.”


It was then that Gabrielle suddenly saw the links in the ship log discrepancies. “Allah be merciful.”


“What?”


“Turn the shuttle around. Head to the asteroid mine.”


“Why?”


“We don’t have time. If I’m right, the next corsair visit will be in the next few hours!”


“But Gabby, they’ll shoot us down.”


“They won’t shoot down the baron’s personal shuttle, and if you hurry, Baron Sarlok won’t have time to tell them otherwise.”


*****

No one expected the baron himself to be here; he had left only a few hours before.Besides, it was never like him to be present when serious work was going on.The space pirates were coming and the owner preferred to have plausible deniability. It didn’t stop him from taking the profits later—he could always blame his employees later—but the extra funds could be later attributed to hisgood management of the facility. That cash flow helped Sarlok conveniently ignore the fact that the mining operation had been running in the red for years.


The baron was allowed to dock, but before the station manager could rush to meet him, was surprised when he received a text message. The shuttle told the manager not to worry; that the baron would be out of their hair soon, and that he simply forgot a few things. Still, the subordinate was always worried when the boss was in orbit.


When the shuttle left five minutes later, the manager sighed in relief, and went back to preparing the payment for the corsairs. He didn’t wonder what the baron had come for or why he left so early. The manager was too busy to care.


*****


“I’m gonna miss that shuttle,” the bishop admitted, as he watched it slowly disappear on autopilot.


“You couldn’t afford the maintenance on it, Gabby,” Stumbles reminded her.


“A girl can dream, can’t she?”


The friar shrugged and activated a nearby dataport. Since none of the protocols were encrypted, finding the lidar screen was easy. He rewound the old tracks until he saw what he was looking for. In fact, he pointed to the holoproj. “Hyper footprint.”


Gabrielle squinted at the glowing sphere. “It’s been a while since I was in the Light Infantry, Stumbles, but isn’t that a little… big a footprint?”


The friar squinted. “Yep. A light minute outside the planet’s detection radius. It’ll take the ships three hours to get there and back.”


“But why so big?”


“Gravity drives are only on big ships.”


“So whatever Roquefort has out there has got to be large.”


 The werewolf shrugged. “Mother ship freighter with nothing but a gravity drive can still open a hole in hyperspace.”


Gabrielle stared at him a moment. “You know an awful lot about piracy, Stumbles.”


The friar snorted in reply. “It’s either that or a battlecruiser. Which would you prefer?”


“Good point,” the bishop admitted.


“Now what?” Stumbles asked.


“Now,” she pointed to some lidar tracks spreading from the footprint to the asteroid, “we get on one of those ships.”


*****


Gabrielle had learned many important lessons in her life—always pay wholesale over retail, a guy with completely clean fingernails ain’t worth dating—but most importantly, no one ever looks at the grunts. So she dumped her beautiful dress in the trash compactor, found a pair of loose coveralls, and joined the line of dock loaders hauling box after box into the giant troop transport that barely managed to fit in the primary spacedock. On the wing, in old faded letters, it said LSM-708. The name of the ship (Adam was the only word she could recognize) waspainted over with the words Don’t Give UpThe Ship.


“Skorzeny-class,” The friar muttered behind her, shoving another crate onto an anti-gravity skate.


“Served on a couple, Stumbles?”


“Workhorse of the Tech Infantry.”


She smiled. “Don’t suppose you know some hidey-holes on board that crate?”


He grunted back in amusement. “I know a few.”


“That’s the best news I heard all day.”


After two more hauls, they conveniently fell out of line, and the friar found an abandoned barracks area that hadn’t been used in years. Gabrielle immediately hacked into the nearest dataport and laughed. “They haven’t even changed the protocols. It’s still Clarke Fed codes. I use them to lock out my daughter’s Net access.”


Stumbles grunted in response.


Suddenly she stopped. “Oh no. I won’t get back in time to sing Fayza to sleep.”


“She’ll understand,” he shrugged.


“Now, maybe… but she’s never liked these ‘business trips.’ Great. She’s going to be cranky for the next week.”


“She’s a smart girl,” the friar ham-handedly comforted her. “Your daughter will understand if you tell her.”


Gabrielle shrugged and went back to the dataport. “This is why you’re not a parent, Stumbles. Logic has nothing to do with it.” She shut down the connection. “Like what I just did. Now the shipcomp nolonger knows this room exists, but because of the protocols I just fed it, it’ll keep pumping heat and air in here even if the captain depressurizes this entire floor.” She plopped down on one of the dusty bunks. “As long as the crew doesn’t get too nosy, we’ll be able to cheerfully sail to the pirates’ mother ship, and no one will be the wiser.”


“And then what?”


“Then we’ll finally know exactly how the corsairs are operating.”


“And shut them down for good?”


The bishop leaned her head back on the built-in pillow. “Get some sleep, Stumbles. Once we get the pirates, I’ll need all your strength to get us out of there.”


*****


She felt a hand on her shoulder, shaking her out of a dreamless sleep. “Gabby?”


“Stumbles?” Her eyes opened and confirmed it. “Are we there?”


“Engines are braking harder. Should be docking in a few minutes.”


Gabrielle walked over to the dataport and passed a mirror. “Ick. I look like a wreck.”


“You’re fine…”


“What would you know?” The bishop snapped at her bodyguard. “Ugh. If I knew I was going to sleep over, I would have brought my fresher kit.”


“I think the corsairs will forgive you.”


“First rule of diplomacy, Stumbles,” she tried fixing her hair with her fingers, and aftera moment, finally gave up.


When the bishop didn’t enlighten him on the rules of diplomacy, he guessed “Never shoot the messenger?”


She laughed and finally walked over to the dataport. “No, friar, the first rule is ‘It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.’ And looking fabulous while doing itnever hurt anybody.” She activated the antique holoproj. “A good looking gal can stop a man in his tracks… and give her enough time to shoot him before he can warn his friends.”


“I wondered why you didn’t get second dates.”


“Speak for yourself, furball,” she hacked into the passive lidar readout and stopped. “That’s odd. I’m getting static.”


“What’s static?”


“Come over here and look at this. I should be getting null readings from the space around whatever this mother ship is. All I’m getting instead is a solid signal. Like we’re in orbit around a planet.”


Stumbles stepped over, saw the problem, and adjusted some of the controls.


“No, Gabby. The readings are right.”


“That’s impossible. If the corsairs were stupid enough to orbit a planet, we would have had reports…”


“It’s not a planet, Gabby. It’s the mother ship.”


“But the size…”


The friar hit the zoom out feature and slowly the shape of the massive structure took shape. “That’s the EFS Poseidon.”


“That’s impossible. The Poseidon Task Force surrendered en masse at New Madrid. Everyone knows that.”


“Everyone must be wrong,” Stumbles shrugged. “You know what this means?”


 She gulped and nodded. “Admiral Roquefort has control of the most powerful warship ever built by man. My God, no wonder the Emperor 's never caught him.”


“The Emperor saved us from the Caal,” the friar muttered, “but who’s going to save us from that?”

--

I call myself Albigensia - the once and future Storyteller.

December 10, 2012 at 4:14 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Lorpius Prime
Administrator
Posts: 184

Ha!  Guess Rocky's doing better than I thought.  If it really is the Poseidon and not a replica or something, then I'm guessing Gergenstein's neo-Technocracy had something to do with it falling into pirate hands.


I hope there's more to come?

December 10, 2012 at 7:16 PM Flag Quote & Reply

MJ, the Original Gangsta
Site Owner
Posts: 143

Absolutely - I'm planning on a Part 3.

December 11, 2012 at 8:22 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Xinjao
Moderator
Posts: 164

Click here to download the podcast version.


Hope Stumbles voice works better for you, MJ.
Feedback always appreciated.  :)

--

=^_^=

December 17, 2012 at 2:34 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Martin The Mess
Moderator
Posts: 247

Nice to see the EFS Adam Selene in operation.  But loading cargo by hand to fill a 1.15km-long ship?  A spacedock big enough to fit a ship that size, even barely?  Maybe for major repairs, but general cargo loading and such ain't gonna be in an enclosed bay, wasteful of air. 

There's not really any such thing as "passive lidar".   Lidar is basically a laser rangefinder that scans back and forth like the electron beam in an old cathode-ray-tube television set.  The narrow beam makes it very precise, although it has a shorter range than radar et cetera.  I guess you could have a passive lidar detector, but that would only detect other lidar scanners that happened to be active and pointed in your general direction. 


Incidentally, like the Ares class, the Poseidon class does have a docking bay at the rear big enough to dock Skorzeny class transports.  It'sdesigned to be used to bring either escorting warships or a few small battlestations with you into and out of hyperspace, so it's not generally pressurized.  It does have the capability of being filled with breatheable air to permit major repairs to carried warships, when the Poseidon is being used as a sort of forward staging base and command center.  But it takes hours or even days to pressurize and depressurize a space that big, you don't simply open the doors and waste that much oxygen. 

December 18, 2012 at 6:42 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Xinjao
Moderator
Posts: 164

A Skorzeny-class trasnport struck me as a bit large, too - 1150 meters long - but only us Fleet Geeks would realize that, so I didn't worry too much about it.

@Martin: I've been wondering for a while now - what exactly is the difference between lidar and radar?  Laser vs. radio wave detection?  Would radar work in space, or do radio waves need an atmosphere to carry?  Or am I getting them confused with sound waves?

--

=^_^=

December 18, 2012 at 9:42 AM Flag Quote & Reply

MJ, the Original Gangsta
Site Owner
Posts: 143

Martin -- Good catch! I was just screening through the Earth Fleet website to find something big that would haul stuff... probably aimed too high, but the idea of reusing the Adam Selene was too good to pass up.


Ed -- Wow! Your sound effects are really getting good for these reads! I like the "dream-like quality" of the character's thoughts when I write them. Stumbles got a few more lines so the "smokes six packs a day" was balanced well with "Yeah, I sound like a big dumb idiot, but I'm actually quite knowledgable" aspect of the character.

--

I call myself Albigensia - the once and future Storyteller.

December 20, 2012 at 12:05 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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