Forum:The Efate Run: Chapter 1
Dock Yellow 26, Regina Highport, 08:00 028-1120
Dock Yellow 26 has a foyer with some tables, chairs, and couches where passengers can relax while they wait. Two thirds down, a counter furnished with various devices -- computer terminal, baggage scales, metal detector, chemsniffer -- runs across the room, separating the waiting area from a big air lock in the back. The airlock is currently open and leads, through a short length of umbilical tube, to the Sphinx' main airlock, likewise open. A young, bored-looking man in a shipboard uniform stands just outside the air lock.
Padfoot ambles up quietly, carrying a shapeless canvas bag.
"Excuse me... I've just joined the crew of the Sphinx. Where do I go now?"
The young man straightens up and grins cheerfully at the four new arrivals. He has an open, friendly face, short-cropped brown hair, and brown eyes; he seems to be in his mid-twenties. His uniform has a Silver Sphinx patch on the right shoulder and a name tag that says 'A.P. Uamdar' above the right breast pocket. "Hi there," he says. "You the new officers?" Without waiting for an answer he presses a button on the intercom on the wall. "The replacements are here, First. I mean, Skipp... I mean, Captain Kerana." He then turns back to the foursome. "The captain will see you right away. She's on the bridge. Just go straight in and turn right. You can't miss it. Oh, by the way, I'm Uamdar, but I mostly go by 'Chip'. I'm the signals tech."
Gabon steps forward and shakes his hand. "Thanks, Chip. I'm Gabon. See you onboard." He heads down the tube. "Best not keep the boss waiting."
"And I'm Padfoot. Good to meet you, Chip." Tag along behind Gabon.
"My name is Giri, so very glad to meet you Chip." As Giri heads down the tube, and to no one in particular, he says "It will be good to be back in space again. Even highports give me the shivers. But it's nothing compared to my Great-Uncle Aggie. A claustrophobe like you wouldn't believe. They finally had to cold-ship him to some featureless rock in Deneb before he felt there was enough space. I think it was just an excuse to get away from the family, but it depends upon who's telling the story."
Gabon laughs. "Good thing he didn't hate vacc suits, then. We had to fire a deckhand for that once. He was okay on the ship, but he wouldn't get in a suit or bubble for depressurization drills. Said he'd rather die. So we dumped him on the next planet." He quiets down as they approach the crew lounge.
The door to stateroom 1 slides open and a tall, lanky woman in her mid-twenties appears in the doorway. She has medium-length brown hair and brown eyes and is wearing a creased, oil-stained coverall. She pauses and silently waits for the four to walk past, giving the whole group a single slow nod. Behind them she lugs a footlocker across the corridor to the opposite room.
The crew lounge is empty except for one person who is standing in front of a closed iris valve leading to the bridge, a woman in her mid-thirties in an immaculate green uniform with a Silver Sphinx ship patch on the right shoulder, a Uakye world patch on her left shoulder, the stripes of a 1st officer on her shoulderboards, and a name tag saying 'P. Kerana' above the right breast pocket. She has pale skin, blue eyes, blonde hair pulled back in a knot, and a face that even her cold, austere demeanor cannot prevent from being attractive; if she ever relaxed a bit and smiled, she'd be outright beautiful.
"Greetings, Gentlemen," she says. "I'm First Mate Patricia Kerana, Acting Captain of the Silver Sphinx. I understand you're my replacement officers?"
"Hello. I'm Matthew Padfoot... I am to be the purser... what do you like to eat?" The voice is quiet enough that you have to strain a little to hear it.
"Very well, Mr. Padfoot. Our Purser, Mr. Alistar, was staying in stateroom 3. I'm having someone pack up his belongings and storing them in a locker on the station. You'll have to put your own stuff somewhere until that's done. Here's a copy of the cargo manifest. Mr. Alistar had everything stowed away yesterday, but no doubt you'll want to review it, since you'll be responsible for it. We'll start embarking passengers at 10:00 sharp, and I expect to be able to leave at 12:00. First Meal will be at 17:00. Right, carry on."
"Aye, aye, sir."
Padfoot hurries out of the lounge.
"Ma'am, I'm Gabon Roughbark, your new chief engineer."
"Right. Our Chief Engineer, Mr. McBride, was staying in stateroom 5. You can move in as soon as Simmonds has packed up his stuff. I expect you'll want to do your pre-flight checks as soon as possible? You have two engine hands, Simmonds and Freed. I'll send Freed down to the engine room in a few minutes. Simmonds will be occupied for a bit. As I said to Mr. Padfoot, I expect to leave at 12:00 sharp. Carry on."
"Yes, Ma'am." Gabon heads off briskly, dropping his duffle in front of #5 and going downstairs to the engine room. Four hours is not a lot of time to examine an unfamiliar jump drive.
Kerana glances at a couple of flimsies she's holding and nods in turn to Gani and Bralt. "You'll be Mr. Stennetii and you'll be Mr. Bralt? From the date on your licenses I can see that Mr. Stennetii will be Acting First Mate. I've had my belongings moved into the Captain's stateroom, so you can move into #1 immediately. Mr. Bralt will be Acting Second Mate. You're in #3. I want the bridge manned at all times. Mr. Stennetii will take the 16:00 to midnight watch, Mr. Bralt will take the midnight to 8:00 watch. I'll take the 8:00 to 16:00 watch. If you need to leave the bridge for any reason, you can get one of the crew to spell you. Right now, I'd like you both to work out flight plans for taking us to the Forboldn jump point. Report to me when you're finished. Carry on."
She turns halfway towards the bridge, pauses, then turns back again. "Oh, almost forgot. Turn any weapons you have over to Mr. Padfoot and have him secure them in the weapons cabinet in the ship's locker. Have him put his own and Mr. Roughbark's weapons away too."
"Aye Aye, Captain", Gani replies. He turns to Bralt and says "Stow your gear and report to Mr. Padfoot regarding any weapons. Meet me back here when you're done. I'll chase down our new engineer and pass on the orders."
Engine Room, Silver Sphinx, 08:20 028-1120
Josh Freed walks through the iris valve and looks around. He does a double take as he spots his new boss hanging on to a light fixture on the wall while peering into one of the jump drive's inspection ports. "Chief? Mr. Roughbark? I'm Josh Freed, one of the engine hands. Alishia is running errands, but she'll be down aysap."
"Freed, welcome to my engine room. Pull up the drive maintenance records from this last cycle and I'll be down as soon as I've closed up this port." Freed looks up and shields his eyes with his hand as he says "Uh, yessir."
The crewman sits down at the console and pulls up the jumpdrive records. Gabon thumps to the deck and stands next to his chair to view the display. "So did Chief McBride sign off the drive before he went to the party?"
Freed stands up and says, "As much as he could without turning it on, yessir. Welcome aboard, by the way. Let's hope third time's the charm."
"Thanks, glad to hear it." Gabon decides to provide the straight line. "Third?"
"You're our third Chief Engineer in four weeks. We left Chief Twill on Ruie with acute appendicitis, and you know what happened to Chief McBride."
"Yep. Well, my stomach feels fine. I'll let you know if that changes," he adds with a laugh.
Gani appears at the hatch to the engine room. "Mr Roughbark", he says, "I assume you have found everything in order? And since I don't know you", Gani addresses Josh, "I'm Gani Stennetii, the new first mate. Pleased to meet you."
"First, this is Josh Freed, one of the engine hands. Everything's looking good so far. You can tell the Captain that Engineering is ready for scheduled departure."
"Excellent", Gani replies. "Two things: Before we take off you need to see Padfoot about stowing any weapons. Second, I'd like to meet all the crew before we leave. I've said hi to the acting captain, Bralt, you", nodding toward Gabon, " Chip, Padfoot, and you, Josh. Is there anyone I'm missing?"
Freed says, "There's Alicia Simmonds, the other engine hand. She's making sure the Captain's and the other officers' baggage gets left behind here for them. And there's Rolf Barker, our sensor tech. He's on the bridge at the moment."
Gabon says "First, I'm going to be crawling over the drive until we're in jump. How about Padfoot just tosses my duffle in the locker and I talk to him later?" His attention is going back to the maintenance records display.
"Mr. Padfoot will probably be as busy as you are, but I'll let him know," Gani replies. Gani returns to the bridge, sits at the navigation console and begins punching buttons.
Bridge, Silver Sphinx, 08:30 028-1120
Captain Kerana is sitting at one of the two main bridge consoles, studying the latest updates about Forboldn. She looks up and glances at her watch as Gani enters, but says nothing and goes back to her studies. A young, male Vargr is sitting at another console, monitoring station bulletins. He swivels his chair 180 degrees and stands up. He is tall for a Vargr, dressed in a new, clean shipsuit with a Silver Sphinx ship patch on the right shoulder, a Regina world patch on the left, no rank marks, a name tag saying "Rolf Barker" above the right breast pocket, and a tag that says "Senior Sensor Technician" above the left. His hands and feet look several sizes too big for the rest of him. He appears very young and full of repressed energy. His eyes narrows a bit as he salutes Gani.
Gani returns the salute. "As you were, Mr. Barker," he says.
Several minutes later he turns to the Captain. "Getting out of here will take a while so First Meal will be in normal space, hope you don't mind too much. The good news is the trip to Forboldn will be quick. Permission to go and stow my gear. When I'm done I'll come back and redo these calculations, since we're jumping on my watch."
"Very well. Go ahead, Mr. Stennetii," Kerana replies.
Dock Yellow 26, Regina Highport, 10:00 028-1120
Padfoot and Bralt step out of the airlock and study at the passengers assembled in the waiting area. In one corner a richly dressed woman is talking to what looks like a prosperous business man and being fussed over by a somewhat less richly dressed woman. Three Aslans, two males and a female, stand with their backs towards the bulkhead and watch everybody else in the room. An old woman, one middle-aged man, two middle-aged women and a young man in his twenties huddle together on a couch, clutching a large number of bags. A Suerrat woman relaxes comfortably on a couch with a dufflebag and an intricately carved wooden box beside her on the couch. A woman with a priest's collar is talking to another woman in pilgrim robes. A trim, hard-faced man carrying a weapons lockbox stands in another corner and watches his surroundings warily. And in a third corner an attractive young woman with the delighted, slightly goofy smile of the first-time tourist is avidly drinking in everything.
Padfoot looks at the passenger manifest.
|Name||World Of Origin||Passage|
|Duchesa Elanor Harding||Rio/Chronor||Single|
|Rasai of the Hkeoihyoa||Regina/Regina||Single|
|Iroioah of the Layoelailoi||-||Single|
|Ktiskheao of the Ferekhearl||-||Single|
|Rev. Richenda Tuchemova||Regina/Regina||Double|
"Good morning, everybody, and welcome aboard. My name is Padfoot, and I am the purser - I'll be looking after you all. Our rules are simple, you are to have a good trip... and to that end, I will ask that anyone carrying weapons or other dangerous items give them to me for safe-keeping until our arrival. First Meal will be at 1700 hours, which will give you plenty of time to settle in; and there will be a buffet available midday for anyone who's hungry. Any questions?"
The Aslan female turns to the two males, obviously translating Padfoot's words. The other passengers slowly begin to bestir themselves, none of them in any great hurry, except for the group of five who quickly gather their sundry bags and, with the occasional apprehensive look back towards the entrance, scuttle towards the counter. It is quite obvious that their bags exceeds the formal allowance, although Padfoot could probably find room for it somewhere. The older man holds out a receipt for five low passages made out in the name of Eneri, Gani, Dasha, Khasi, and Gaarlesh Kamrak.
"Ah, the Kamrak party. Welcome. This looks like rather a lot of gear... I'll see what I can do to squeeze it all in, but it would help if you can prioritise what really needs to go with you over what it would be nice to have. You'd best get on and see the medic, make sure that everything is all right. I trust you have taken the normal precaution of fasting for the past 12 hours?"
"Please," the older man entreats. "These are all the possessions we own in the universe. We have to get away from Regina! The Fi... they'll kill us if we don't get away from them!"
"Don't fret, I'll squeeze it in... somewhere. Who's after you? So's I can tell them I've never heard of you if they come round."
"No, no!" the man exclaims, with a rising note of panic in his voice. "You mustn't say a word! If we can just get away, we'll be safe. They'll never find us!"
Behind the Kamrak party the other passengers are beginning to form a line. The Suerrat shoulders her dufflebag, picks up her wooden box, and saunters forward. Looking at the way she moves, Padfoot immediately thinks "Marine".
"Don't worry, Mr Kamrak, you'll be safe with us. If you could just take your family that way and check in with the Doc, I'll see your stuff all gets safely stowed."
Turn to the next in line.
"Good morning.. May I have your name please? Do you have any weapons to check in?"
The Suerrat places the wooden box on the counter, draws an autopistol from a holster on her belt, ejects the magazine, and hands the gun over. "Name's Gagi Nimara" she says. "I'm along for a low ride. Please lock up this box in your safe. I'd be really unhappy if anything happened to it. I also have a knife in my duffle. Want me to dig it out?"
"If you please. Everything will be kept safe for you, my word as a Marine on it."
Nimara smiles and steps to the side where she quickly extracts a big military issue knife from her bag and hands it over. "I thought I recognized the bearing... Sergeant? Corporal Nimagi, late of the 7238th, at your service. We're with the 60th Fleet in Corridor."
Most of the other passengers go through check-in with a minimum of fuss. The hard-faced man, a Chretien Lopez from Regina, hands over his weapons lockbox without a word and passes through the detectors without a bip. None of the others appear to be armed, with the very obvious exception of the two male Aslans. The older one is leaning on a highly ornate two meter long metal staff while the younger one is carrying a handgun in a holster on his belt. The three Aslans approach the counter with the female in front. "Greetings," she says, in flawless Reginan. "I'm Rasai of the Kheoihyoa, and I've been hired as guide to these two visitors from the Hierate. This is Iroioah of the Layoelailoi and the venerable Ktiskheao of the Ferekhearl."
"Welcome, Rasai of the Kheoihyoa. Are your clients aware of our rules regarding weapons?"
"They are sure that these rules cannot pertain to them. The venerable Ktiskheao is not armed, and surely you would not deprive an old man of the staff that supports him? As for Iroioah, he only carries his personal sidearm, and to request that he surrender it is to imply that he cannot be trusted with it, a most deadly insult. He will promise not to use it while on board your fine ship, however."
"Even I do not carry a weapon aboard ship... and I am at least as honourable as anyone else."
Rasai's ears twitch and she is silent for a moment. Then she replies: "About your honor I will say nothing. Having lived among you Imperials for many years, we of the Kheoihyoa know that there are those among you who approach a true understanding of the concept. No doubt you are one of them. If you feel that it does not compromise your honor to be disarmed, that is your judgement. But it is Iroioah's honor that is in question here, and your feelings are not really... how do you say... the issue? Relevant?"
"It is if he wishes to travel on this ship."
Again Rasai's ears twitch and she is silent for a moment. Then she speaks up again. "Is that really your final word? I thought you were running a business, but obviously I was mistaken. Your attitude seems more like a warrior's than a trader's. It will cost you money and us time, but so be it. I shall, of course, advise my clan not to have any dealings with your company in the future."
"I can ask the captain if she is prepared to make an exception but..." shrug a bit helplessly "Not everyone has the same concepts of honour. I am myself probably more warrior than trader, but needs must when Shaitan drives..."
Rasai turns back towards Padfoot and waits politely while he calls Captain Kerana on the intercom. Behind her, the two males have remained immobile throughout the discussion, the younger tense and stiff, the older relaxed and comfortable.
Captain Kerana listens to Padfoot's account and frowns throughtfully. "You're right that we can't have a passenger running around with a loaded gun," she says hesitantly. "It's against company policy. More to the point, it's against Captain Allbright's policy, and I concur with him. But it's also against company policy to let 21,000 credits just walk away. Can't you jolly him along, somehow? We don't see many wild As... that is to say, we don't see many Aslans from the Hierate this far coreward, but down along the border they must run into this problem all the time. Surely there are ways..."
Perhaps realizing that she is sounding indecisive, Kerana's face suddenly turns hard. "Just deal with it," she finishes curtly and cuts the connection.
"Yes, Sir," Padfoot says and turns back to Rasai. "The Captain has specified that no loaded weapons may be carried, so I will be willing to allow the weapon provided that it is unloaded."
Rasai nods thoughtfully. "That might work," she mutters and turns to speak to Iroioah. The two engage in a spirited discussion, but the male gives in a lot faster than Padfoot had expected. Iroioah draws his gun, ejects the magazine, checks that the chamber is empty, and hands the magazine to Rasai. He then without prompting, pulls two more magazines from a pocket and likewise hands it over. Finally he digs out a fourth magazine and a box of bullets from his carry-all and give them to Rasai, who in turn hands everything to Padfoot.
Rasai now pulls half a dozen plastic slips out of her belt pouch, peels three of them off, and hands them to Padfoot. They turn out to be three passage vouchers issued by different organizations; one by the TAS, one by the Scouts, and one by the Colonial Office. Padfoot grunts with satisfaction. These vouchers entitle the bearer to passage on any passenger-bearing ship in the Imperium, regardless of the length of the jump. The issuing organization will redeem them for whatever fare the passage cost, but will pay up to CrImp8,000 without any questions (For anything more than that, the ship or company will have to justify the cost). So these three vouchers represent a cool profit of 3,000 credits more than would have been the case if the Aslans had paid cash.
The three Aslans advance towards the airlock. Padfoot feels a moment of doubt as he considers Ktiskheao's staff. From the way the old Aslan moves, he could probably do quite a bit of damage with it. On the other hand, in the cramped environment of a ship's interior, the staff would probably be a lot less dangerous than his dewclaws...
Bridge, Silver Sphinx, 10:30 028-1120
- [In the interest of moving things along, I will, on occasion, put words into your characters' mouths. I'll only do so if I think the response is a no-brainer (as in the scene below) or to kick-start a scene. But if I get it wrong, or if you want your character to do something else (or something more), just jump in and correct me (preferrably within the next two or three of days).[GM]]
A triple ping sounds from the communication console that Chip Uamdar is manning. He turns to Gani and reports: "A priority message from the factor, Sir. It's in the private chipher and is addressed to the captain."
"Route it to her, Chip," Gani orders.
A minute or so later Gani turns back to Chip "Why aren't priority messages like that automatically routed? I mean if the engine room catches on fire, we shouldn't need to spend the time to find the captain if the computer already knows where she is, right?"
Chip shrugs. "It was addressed to the Sphinx and marked for attention of the officer in charge. If it had been addressed to Fir... Mister Ker... (this is confusing...), it would have gone to her, but if she hadn't been aboard, you wouldn't have gotten it instead. This way, I suppose it would have been OK for you to read it if Fir... the Captain hadn't been here."
"Let's see if we can't straighten this out. It's going to be a while before everything returns to normal. If there's one thing I don't like, it's having to handle routine stuff that someone, or better, the computer, can handle on their own." Gani checks the computers progress on the course plotting and walked over to chip's station. "Show me what you've got setup now."
- [I'm a bit light on inspiration for this conversation, Thomas. I'm not sure where you're going with it. If you want to run Chip's side of it, too, go ahead. I'll jump in if I think it necessary. [Hans]]
[How long does it normally take to compute a navigate-jump-navigate course like this one? Tjoneslo]
- [Off-the-cuff answer: 20 minutes for the jump, 10 minutes for each of the real-space problems. A more precise answer may or may not be forthcoming when (and if) I get around to checking the rules. There's something about it in Referee's Manual, I think.]
Gani and Chip are interrupted [about five or six minutes later] when the iris valve to the bridge opens and Pat Kerana steps in. "Mr. Stennetti," she begins without preamble, "I've just received word that our Chief Operations Officer, Mr. Kerana, will be traveling with us to Forboldn. Inform Mr. Padfoot and have him prepare accomodation. I believe we have an unused passenger stateroom that Mr. Kerana can use, but his personal assistant, Mr. Kline, will have to double up with one of the officers. They're on a shuttle at the moment and should get here half an hour before our sheduled departure."
Low Berth Compartmemt, Silver Sphinx, 10:30 028-1120
Gabon curses under his breath as, for the seventh time, he checks the readouts of a low berth to make sure the occupant has completed the process without any mishaps. He should have been down in the engine room, running last-minute tests and making sure everything was ready for the jump. Instead, it had turned out that he was the only one aboard that had the med-tech license required for anyone to put passengers into low berth. And pure luck that had been, since obviously Tatiana Larsen had forgotten to make sure someone had it.
Gabon straightens up and turns to the last low passenger, the female Suerrat, Gagi Nimani. "Sorry for the wait, ma'am. We're having a bit of everything-at-once here. Do you have your health certification forms?"
"Yes, right here. And don't worry, I'm not in a hurry."
Gabon looks over the paperwork, noting that she'd had a full exam less than a year ago and had handled previous cold sleep without problems. He sneaks a less-than-professionally-interested peek at the "next of kin" box, which lists a parent, not a spouse.
"Right. Lie down here, please, and take some deep breaths." The readouts are all good. "Okay, relax for a few while I get the berth prepped." Gagi sits up on the exam table and watches Gabon take the cryochamber through the readiness cycle. One of the ones he'd prepped had failed its final check, so this one was being taken through the sequence from the start. "So have you been to Efate before? I've never been out that far yet."
"I'm not headed for Efate, just to Forboldn. Personal business."
"That's a long haul. I've never been back to the homeworld myself. The Preservationists would probably shave me alive if I did, though."
Gagi smiles. "Oh, I'm not from the Old World myself either. I'm from Khirar, corewards of Ilelish. But I follow the news, of course. The Preservationists are getting their thumbs broken, don't worry. The Seven just lost their appeals, they're off for some nice long prison time."
"Glad to hear it. Fighting the Empire is no way to keep us safer. And I'd like to visit Ilelish someday."
"Me too. I'd like to see the ancestral forests at least once before I die. . . it's where we're meant to be. For those who can afford to live there, anyway. But somehow every jump I made took me further away from them. And, let's face it, if every Suerrat somehow managed to return to Ilelish, we'd crush the trees under our combined weight. Fortunately, there are other forests. I've been to scores of worlds and many have decent trees of their own. I to could give you some tips on how to find good places for a visitor to climb."
"I'd like that. And maybe you can help me explore Forboldn, too, if you have the time." He smiles at her then turns back to the berth. "Pre-chill's done, go ahead and make yourself comfortable."
She accepts a completely unnecessary hand into the berth, then holds onto it. "Gabon? Can I ask a favor?"
"Um, sure." Her hand is warm.
"If you have any business in the ship safe--don't go there if you don't need to--but if you are in the safe, I've got a wood box in storage. Could you make sure it's safe?"
"You bet." She squeezes his hand before letting go and laying back in the berth. They trade smiles again as Gabon starts the freeze-down. Five minutes later he finishes the checks and notifies the bridge all the low passengers are ready for travel. Walking back to the engine room he can't help wondering Why the heck would she be that worried about her box?
Abuna Alverado, Vice President in charge of Personnel for Ekatur, finished reading the requisition and pondered for a moment before touching the 'denied' and 'signature' icons. She then added her authentication code and touched the 'send' icon. "Anything else," she asked, looking up from her console.
"Nothing urgent," Saunders, her personal assistant replied. "We're going to need a new Third Engineer on SM 7436, but she's in for her annual refit and isn't due out for another 12 days, so there's no hurry."
"What happened to the old one?"
"He quit and took a job on the Silver Sphinx. It's one of UTP's tramp ships."
"Aren't they all, Saunders; aren't they all. Do you have the personnel record?"
Saunders handed her a data plaque and she began reading. "Name, Gabon Roughbark... Joined us in 1116... six month as trainee pilot in 1118, but returned to the engine room... Just got his license a few weeks ago, then abandoned the company that paid for his training. Dear, dear. You know, Saunders, the depths of ingratitude some people are capable of never cease to surprise me, no matter how often I encounter it. It's a sad universe we live in, Saunders."
"Well, have him blacklisted and make sure the listing gets to Mother and all the sisters. And draft a memo for all our factors. If they're ever in a position to do him a little payback, they should feel free to do so. And then you and I will have to think about something to teach UTP a little lesson. We really can't have these dinky little companies thinking that they can posch our people with impunity."
[Roughbark is now blacklisted with Tukera and all its subsidiaries, a 0-point disadvantage. He also has a Disfavor (Ekatur) a 1-point disadvantage. Disfavors are a house rule. They're just like favors, only the other way around. Someone owes you one, and if he's ever in a position to do you a bad turn, he'll jump at the chance. The GM then throw the dice to see if he considers that enough to cancel the debt, just as he would for someone who'd done you a favor.]