23. Go Fish
Date: 175-993 to 176-993 Imperial.
Location: 069-526 system (0721), aboard the free trader Avarice Rewarded.
"Lieutenant… Kharassiss is it? Hello, I'm David Shetland the owner aboard. How can we help you, lieutenant?" Sir David sat at his desk in his cabin. He'd been checking out restaurants when the call came in.
"Yes, good morning Sir David." The young navy man knew his title, so he'd done some sort of basic background check. "I'm one third of the Imperial Navy in these parts, I'm here as an advisor and to carry out the occasional inspection at the shipyard. We don't have any vessels in system, but we've a small recovery job in the outer system that needs doing and we'd prefer not to use a local. It seems you have a bit of a reputation for boarding on intercepts."
"Oh really?" Sir David immediately wondered if he was talking about the Vraidercalt, and tried to look more interested than alarmed. "Would this be a confidential mission, by any chance?"
"Just so," Kharassiss nodded, "but nothing of a military nature. To cut a long story short, there's the wreck of a pirate vessel drifting in the Kuiper belt. We got a lucky intercept when they'd just hijacked her, while they were heading for the border. Our frigate had to move on immediately after the battle, so we never searched the wreck. And now we've, well, discovered a few things around here and we'd like to recover the data cores from that ship's computer to have a look at them."
"I should think our engineer and security officer could handle the boarding. How far out is the ship? What sort of vessel is it?"
"It's above the plane, spiraling slowly in towards the sun. Call it thirteen hours each way at 2g, plus the boarding. The ship's a thousand dton freighter."
Sir David raised his eyebrows. "Pretty big. Nobody's tried to salvage it?"
"We pulled rank on the locals. And the rumour that it was irradiated after the particle beam hits probably helped. Not that it's true, but we sort of forgot to scotch it." He shrugged and grinned.
"Well, I could be interested. Even if this is meant to be our day off, and we're committed to jump in 48 hours. What sort of fee are we talking about here?"
Kharassiss offered Cr500 a head and Cr5000 for successful recovery. Sir David countered that it was a decent offer for hire of the crew, but owning the ship cost him about Cr3000 a day in interest, maintenance and salaries. They settled on Cr6000 for the job plus the Cr5000 bonus.
Later, in the galley, Sir David explained that he wouldn't have normally cancelled the day off for a job like this. But a bit of practice boarding and searching a large vessel could be handy if they were going to do a tricky salvage later. And a friend in the local navy might be a good thing, too.
Silea talked to traffic control, and they were under way within an hour of the call ending.
"These are pretty hefty. Have you tried moving in them? I bet they'd be no fun in high gee." Maelcum waved at the two environment suits they'd taken off Malfeasant and looked at Sir David.
"They weren't much fun in one gee ship's gravity. I was out of breath in fifteen minutes. Hopefully they'll be less work in the wreck at zero gee. And the alternative is emergency soft suits, if we're to suit everybody."
"Alright, well I'll look them over on the way. Come and suit up before boarding, and I'll adjust yours. You get the hang of it after a few thousand hours walking around in methane or whatever."
"See you in nine hours, then."
"No nuclear radiation worth talking about. The sun has made it a bit warmer than background, but there's nothing generating heat anywhere near the surface. No radio emissions. No response to a transponder request." The former survey/contact specialist sat in his co-pilot's chair, putting the ship's sensors through procedures nobody had used in years. They weren't ideal for the job.
The Avaricious were gathered on the bridge, looking at the freighter on the docking telescope.
"And there's a really big hole in it." Fish said, in case anyone had somehow missed the really big hole in the freighter's side.
"Some little holes too," said Silea, "maybe they fired missiles to occupy those turret lasers while they hit it with the big beam. Then the missiles hit the hull later."
"At least it wasn't a Meson gun" said Maelcum.
"What do you mean?" asked Luan.
"The hole in the side. A meson gun fires a stream of particles that pass through normal matter, then decay to normal high-energy particles inside the target. It's not actually mesons, there's some historical reason for the name. But it wouldn't leave a hole like that, exploding inside. The thing is, they do massive radiation damage. That would have been a problem when we go aboard."
"I see" said Luan. "Do you think there was anyone aboard when the navy destroyed it? Not pirates, I mean?"
Sir David puffed out one cheek. "That Lieutenant didn't say. I was thinking that if we find any obvious prisoners, we should collect ID and maybe bring the bodies back."
"It's funny that they haven't been to look at it before now" said Silea. "Even with the war on, they usually want to check a wreck like that."
"Yes, it is a bit odd."