INT – DAY – Tajemnica bridge
Helton, Bipasha, Lag, Kaushik, Cooper, Allonia are present, in their normal spots. Kaushik is in an armored space suit again. On the screens, the curve of the planet is slowly shrinking as they clear the atmosphere.
Allonia: They are calling us. Something about having to return to the facility?
Helton: Don’t answer. On screen.
On a side screen, the image of the Warehouse Manager appear, looking nearly apoplectic.
Warehouse Manager: (yelling) You MUST return to the warehouse IMMEDIATELY! You do NOT have proper clearance to lift! You are in violation of the hazardous material disposal act, and you MUST return this INSTANT to unload until you have the proper forms filled out! You are NOT cleared to LIFT or UNLOAD or DISPOSE of ANY of that Material until proper procedure has been followed! You MUST come back THIS INSTANT!
Helton waves to Allonia to cut the transmission.
Lag: Like I said – WAY too easy. He didn’t get dumped there. He got set up for life there.
Bipasha: Ah, THAT explains the brother who is an environmental law judge – pass summary orders against ships hauling stuff to or away from the facility. Make shaking them down easier. The longer they are stuck there, the more they can take. Likely not the first buyer of that “amazingly good deal” on ammo.
Lag: If we go back, he’ll make us unload by hand, inspect everything, charge us twenty percent plus time and overtime, and impound the ship, until he gets his ego soothed that we managed to load and lift before he finished his night’s sleep. Or just take the payoff and keep the ammo. He expected to have a LOT more time.
Bipasha: If they have a judges order, even if it’s not really the most legit thing-
Cooper: (sounding skeptical) We could land, but-
Kaushik: Once in their hands, we lose ALL control over our lives until they are done messing with us.
Allonia: (looking a little scared) No, don’t go back. Not if they are going to lock us up.
Helton: Unanimous enough. Seems there is a lot of atmospheric interference with radio signals. Cooper, make a course that’ll clear the system as soon as possible, any direction.
Lag: You also want to avoid any of the Emirate navy, especially the cruiser Hussein. It may not get involved in a local squabble, but-
Bipasha: THAT’S the one his uncle is the commander of!
Lag: Ah. In that case, I think we can assume it’s one big happy family, and it WILL get involved. Last I heard, it was out towards the fourth planet. It’s the one that is supposed to have the new interceptors I was trying to find out about. I’m sure they’d LOVE to get a chance to push an old freighter around.
Helton: Let’s hope we don’t find out too much about them the hard way. All right, get an exact fix, plot a fast course to-
Cooper: With an extra four thousand tonnes and only two engines, there ARE no fast courses in this bucket!
Helton: Fastest POSSIBLE course that avoids the cruiser and any other Emirate Navy ships they might call, and gets us out of the system. Let’s just hope they are not very efficient at passing orders.
EXT – night – Orbital platform above Emirate II
Tajemnica blows by not far from it, obviously not interested in stopping to say hello, glow of irritated atoms surrounding it as the Sokolov drives grab for extra-dimensional purchase, climbing out of the gravity well of the planet.
INT – Day – Engineering
Stenson has the guts of some hunk of hardware spread out on a work cradle. He is assisted by four of his recruit/hires.
Helton: (OC, through the PA system) Really? NOW?!
Stenon: Efficiency was dropping fast. They NEEDED some major adjustments.
Helton: (OC) How soon?
Stenson: All offline for at least a day before I get the first two up, then another few hours or so each for each of the other two.
Helton: (OC) Shit. Well, at least the Sokolovs are moving us. If there is ANYTHING anyone can do to help –
Stenson: Coffee, room service, and any spare induction coils you can find that match the specs on number three coil from the Harmon drives. I may need your hands if you can be spared in a little while. Oh, and if you plan on running, you might want to disable the transponder.
INT – DAY – Bridge
On the screens are various local star system diagrams, plotting planet and ship locations. The area to the outside of Tajemnica’s green icon shows a near picket-line of red Navy or official ships.
Cooper: Crap! They are scattered all over outside. Anything heading directly out of the system runs right into one of them. We are going to have to cut inside, go out Capella-side near where we came in. Anything else – (shakes his head)
Helton: Well, if that’s the only path, then that’s the only path, even if it’s deeper into the well. Do it.
INT – Day – Galley
Kwon and Sar are working on lunch. Helton comes in and heads for the range. He pops the top of it open, reaches in, and starts pulling out four round, flat things, pulling them from their flip-up sockets. Kwon and Sar look at him like they are wondering if he’s gone nuts. Helton hefts the disk – eight inches across, an inch thick, plug in the side.
Helton: Stenson needs ‘em in engineering. We’ll get you new ones later.
Stenson continues to work on things in the background. Helton stands at a console, tapping away.
Helton: I think we should be named Inigo Montoya, and registered in You Killed My Father. Class Prepare to die. Or should I just turn it off, totally?
Stenson: Better to just blank it to default zero, so it doesn’t broadcast, and if they ping us, it tells gives them NO DATA for all fields. Shortest possible burst back. If it’s totally disabled, then it stands out like a light to any other ship we pass, screaming “we are trying to not be identified!” NO DATA looks more like a malfunction.
Helton: We could try to be bad-ass, and put in something like “mysterious”, or “if you can read this, we will have to kill you!”
Stenson: Do what you like, but my vote is for KISS, ordinary factory default.
Stenson: Just busy.
INT – Day – Bridge of the HMS Hussein
The spacious bridge has a raised command dais with a large and comfy chair on it. There are more than a dozen stations around it, and at least a score of personnel, all men. The are wearing bright and snappy looking uniforms, with a lot of fancy on them. The man sitting in the command chair has a high peaked cap, with lots of gold braid and medals. Obviously the big cheese-wheel in the dairy.
Hussein capt: What?
Crewman1: Official call from your nephew.
Hussein capt: I’ll take it in my ready-room.
He smiles, gets up and walks off the bridge, and as he walks past the various bridge crew go to rigid attention, whether sitting or standing, then back to normal positions after he passes. He exits the bridge through a side door.
Hussein’s captain ready room
A large and opulent room, lots of cushy seats and settees and decorations. Standing next to the central seat is a boy or young man of 12 or 14, slender, sheer form-fitting cloths, with a cloth over the crook of one arm, like a waiter. As the Captain approaches, the servant hands him a drink. The Captain accepts it, eyes the young man for a moment, then waves him out of the room. As the servant leaves, the Captain sits down in the large central seat, and addresses the ship AI.
Hussein Capt: Put the message on-screen.
A large screen on one side clears it’s decorative image of a nearly-nude woman, and the Warehouse Manager’s face appear on the screen, looking angry and flustered.
Warehouse Manager: I’m terribly sorry to bother you on such short notice. A shipper showed up ahead of schedule, and managed to load and lift before a judgment against them could be filed! I don’t know what kind of evil magic they performed to load that fast, but they slipped out at dawn, and did not respond to orders to return. It’s a small ship, the load barely fit. An old Meridian. The Tajemnica they said. And the DOGS hacked the computers here as they were leaving! Left no record of their being here. NOTHING. Just a “delivered as required” notice with no personnel, ship transponder data, or company information! NOTHING! They messed with the backup accounting records, too, if you know what I mean! Hunt them down and GET THEM BACK HERE! The judgment should be official shortly! Please, HURRY!
The transmission ends, replaced by the previous image. The captain sits motionless for a moment, then shakes his head in disappointment.
Hussein Capt: (talking to himself in apparent disappointment) He’s got ONE job. ONE. Keep people from loading too fast, and he can’t even do that. Even manages to get the accounts hacked. Pathetic. Might need to get someone else there.
He sighs, and hefts himself up out of his seat. He heads for the door. It slides silently open for him, and as he walks through he starts barking orders.
Hussein Capt: Sensors, track ALL ships leaving the DMS! Find a small transport! Navigation, plot for Emirate, shortest time! Wing Commander, prep four interceptors for launch, and get the pilots ready! We are going to go rumble some thieves, bring them back for trial and execution!
The bridge explodes into activity, and several of those standing around start running for the doors to perform some tasks his order require.
Fade to black.
[Inside joke: Tajemnica is a Polish word meaning “mystery”. Properly pronounced ta-zshem-NEETZ-uh, more or less. You can pronounce it however you like. I said “ta-JEM-nik-a” until I asked my Polish immigrant neighbor.]