It's a little after 9:10, and the crew is still discussing
the boarding party. Sir Misha believes Santanocheev is not on
board the courier, but once they are there they can find out where he
really is. Edward "Shark" Teeth, however, believes he is there.
The boarding party will consist of Teri, Robert, and
Sir Misha. Kalida will lock in the target for Helia to fire --
the larian is a decent gunner in her own right -- and also go in the
party. Nightshade is carrying ample numbers of
battledress as well as associated weapons. There are probably
also weapons among the items that were originally in the armory,
although if so they have not yet identified them.
Shark would like at least one communications person
taken alive, but he insists that all the bodies must be
identifiable. He adds that they do not expect to be facing much
battledress. There may be one or two people on duty who are, but
most will not be.
Kalida says that while she knows they want people
alive, the more holes they put in the ship, the less they'll have to
deal with. While they haven't identified the ship completely yet,
it's around 400 tons and should be easy enough to damage. She
expects maybe a dozen crew members at most, possibly five or six if
it's just a courier.
Shark says that they do not want to hit
communications. If Santanocheev is on board, he'll be at
communications or the bridge. If they take out the ship's power
right away, unless they have auxiliary power, they won't be able to
communicate back to the fleet. Either way, as soon as it stops
transmitting -- or calls for help -- someone will react.
Helia estimates the response time of the fleet would
be about 20 minutes.
Shark then asks her if it was a trap and they fired
nuclear missiles to carpet bomb them, how long would it be? It
would, of course, be significantly less. They could be in laser
range in ten minutes, which does not give the boarding party long to do
That changes plans. Kalida will need to be on
board Nightshade in case they need to run interference against
incoming ships. Her place on the team will be taken by Shark.
Robert asks a little nervously if they'll be taking
a grav craft over to the courier, or just jump out?
Sir Misha suggests dropping the boarding party off
under stealth before they open fire. If there's terrain cover at
a suitable distance, they can hide until Nightshade has
finished their fire sequence.
Then comes the question of how many holes to put
into the ship. More holes will reduce risks to the boarding
party, but will run a higher risk of damaging communications gear or
not allowing bodies to be identified.
Kalida says that Nightshade's laser is a
point defense weapon, and designed for multiple shots. Whether
all those hits penetrate or not will depend on what she hits and
where. They'll need several shots to be sure of disabling
The boarding party will have at most 20 minutes, and
at least 10 minutes. Nightshade can provide some cover,
but the boarding party will still need to be very quick.
Kalida's first target will be Engineering.
After that, other areas that might get personnel out of the way, but
not the critical areas they'll want to preserve.
Shark points out that on that ship, they'll be done
with breakfast by now. All the important personnel should be at
The terrain is fairly uneven. There is
substantial ground cover that will allow the boarding party to take
cover from debris, and yet make a short sprint on the built-in grav
capabilities of the battle dress. Given the route that the ship
will have to take to get there, it will be about half an hour before
they are in position. On the way, they can try to get more
information on the courier.
About 15 minutes out from the courier, Callisto says
she's identified the ship. It's a ubiquitous Gazelle class close
escort. If it's being used in a communcations role, it's probably
been de-armed somewhat and the space used for communications
gear. She brings up the details and standard deck plan on the
main holodisplay for everyone to examine.
Shark reflects that Santanocheev is surely getting
suspicious since he won't have seen Nightshade do anything for
a while. He asks Baron Bridgehead what space he'd need to run a
fleet battle. The Bridge clearly isn't big enough. Shark
himself suggests either the Ward Room or the Officer's Lounge.
Bridgehead says that if he were calling the
modifications to this ship, he'd put the tactical operations in the
Ward Room and the equipment to back it up in the Cargo Hold right
underneath it. They could run a conduit through the fuel tankage
between the two decks to connect the two areas. It would be a
very easy modification. He'd also fill the particle accelerator
barbette with specialized comm equipment. That would put
everything right there in that one section of ship.
Shark and Kalida select their targets. She'll
take out a lot of
the rear 2/3 of the ship, and scatter a few shots along the forward
corridor from the Officer's Lounge. Clearly the Bridge is not
where he'll be as it simply isn't
big enough, so they should be able to take that out too.
About ten minutes out, Callisto indicates that the
courier's gig is parked beside the ship off the starboard bow. It
too is running and operational. Kalida adds that to her list of
targets. It should only take one shot to disable, as opposed to
the close escort which will need two shots in the same place to
guarantee a hull breach.
At 09:40, Nightshade takes up position about 200m
out from the courier on its starboard quarter. There's a
convenient crater wall that will provide good cover for the boarding
party while they wait.
Sir Misha, Shark, Teri, and Robert, all in
battledress, exit from the cargo lift onto the surface. They will
maintain radio silence even after the shooting starts. As Sir
Misha points out, while they'll know about the laser fire, they won't
know there's a boarding party coming in.
Kalida believes she can get about a dozen shots off
in a minute. She tells the boarding party to wait two minutes
after she starts firing, and then move in.
The boarding party should be able to reach the ship
in about 20 seconds.
Helia takes off, leading the boarding party behind.
Shark, with his forward observer experience, notices
that the turrets on their target are not equipped with weaponry.
They appear to be fixed and welded in place, although the same size and
shape as the original turrets. The ship appears to be
unarmed. The gig is running hot, and he can see at least one
person moving around, not seated in the pilot's chair. He can't
see the bridge on the close escort from here.
At 9:45, Helia moves them into position to start
shooting. They're about 400m above the courier, point-blank range
but where Kalida can target both the main ship and the gig.
Callisto reports that the maneuver drive on the main
ship is not warmed up. She shows that there are two people on the
bridge, not strapped in. They occasionally leave the bridge and
come back. The ship does not appear to be in any state of
Helia drops stealth.
Just as Kalida is about to fire, Calliso says that
the crew seem to have noticed them. They're looking up and
pointing at Nightshade that's suddenly appeared less than half
a kilometer away above them.
It's 9:45 when Kalida and starts shooting. In sparkly pink she
rapidly stabs at the ship below.
First target is a double-tap right behind the
bridge. There's a hull breach, the ship's atmosphere
venting. With no door to the bridge, that's venting the bridge
The gig is not moving, but Kalida stabs that next
just in case, aiming for the aft section. Hull breach, power
off. The gig is disabled.
Next two shots are a little further back from where
she fired the last two, in the corridor between staterooms 30 and
31. One nailed it, but the other splashed harmlessly on the
ground to port. A third shot at that target makes a small breach
in the hull.
It takes three shots to breach the hull in the
forward end of the Officer's Lounge.
Fuel is now venting as well as atmosphere, mostly
from the forward breach.
Moving back to engineering, she targets the port
nacelle, blasting the forward end of it, smashing through both deck
levels. She follows that up with the starboard nacelle, wrecking
the second maneuver drive unit.
Next two shots hit Avionics directly in front of the
Bridge, breaching the hull there too.
There is now movement in the Bridge, two
people. So next she puts two shots at the Bridge, but it's a
small target and she's hit Avionics again, probably taking out the
bulkhead between it and the Bridge. Another two shots strike
home, breaching the Bridge canopy.
Callisto reports that the ship's Jump Drive is
Shark has been watching carefully, assessing the
damage and making sure no-one is leaving the ship.
Then the Jump Drive is Kalida's next target.
She gets a hull breach, but Callisto reports it's still running.
So Kalida shoots down through the hole directly into the Jump Drive
itself. This time secondary explosions erupt from
Engineering. It's blown a large hole in the starboard side,
ripping the starboard nacelle aside. Atmosphere blew out of the
Callisto says power is low on the ship, fuel venting
everywhere, and no signs of movement.
Kalida has two shots to spare, but ceases fire
because she's met her goals.
Shark makes one more look for movement, and sees
none. The lower deck is mostly intact, he notes. Several
sections of the ship will probably have air, he guesses. He can't
see the damage on the port side, but otherwise he has a pretty good
idea of the state of the ship.
At 9:48, the boarding party activates the grav
units, takes off and sprints to the ship.
Nightshade has dropped back into stealth and
moved up. So far there's been no response from the fleets above
them, not that they can pick up anyway. Below on the moon, the
courier's fuel venting is visibly decreasing.
Teri takes point, Sir Misha behind her, with Shark
assigned to keep Robert alive. Teri swings up over the ship,
heading for the hole in the Officer's Lounge.
The top of the hull is a mess. Teri leads them
down through the hull breach with Sir Misha behind her. From
above, the bulkhead to the aft of the Officer's Lounge appears
intact. Teri drops in facing forward, and takes a step to give
cover for her Captain to come in behind her. She asks for
permission to clear the forward section, but Sir Misha directs her to
open the aft bulkhead while he watches forward. There are no
signs of movement in the forward corridor.
The ship still has a little power. The grav
plates are running about 0.5g, and there is some lighting.
The iris valves are locked. Teri slaps a
charge on the port one, and blows open a path to the Galley. She
dives through the venting atmosphere, Sir Misha behind her.
The galley door at the far side has been blown open,
and they can see into the room beyond. Sir Misha spots some
movement, someone moving out of the way perhaps in battledress.
He tells Teri, and she pulls back.
Sir Misha looks around the corner. He spots
something, and instinctively pulls back quickly as a hail of automatic
fire sprays the doorway.
Shark asks Sir Misha if he wants him to come
in. He agrees, and Shark and Robert come through into the
Officer's Lounge. Robert gets stuck on the hole edge. The
integrity of the battledress isn't compromised, but he needs Shark's
help to get free.
Back in the Galley, clearing the threat is Teri's
job. Sir Misha wants the head intact, but doesn't care
otherwise. She fires her FGMP-15 into the room, and follows it
up. Automatic fire knocks her backwards against the wall, and she
fires again aiming low. Another large explosion in the corner of
the room. She runs forward, and reports, "Room clear. One
unarmed, one casualty."
The casualty is clearly the one with no legs on the
floor. The other person is up towards the other iris to the
Officer's Lounge, in battledress. Teri is covering him with the
Robert is now free and into the Officer's Lounge
with Shark. When Sir Misha reports the room is clear, they move
forward. Shark remains at the blown iris covering the forward end
of the ship.
Sir Misha opens a channel to the person in the Ward
Room corridor. He asks him his duties on the ship. The
person's face is not visible through the faceplate, and doesn't
answer. Sir Misha says to Teri, "Take out his legs."
Teri moves to fire again, and at this the prisoner
screams "No! No! Stop!"
Sir Misha snaps again, "What's your job?"
"I'm a communications officer!" says the
person. Shark says it's an older man's voice.
Sir Misha calls Shark to take over care of the
prisoner. "He's all yours," he says to Shark, and moves to open
the hatch on the floor.
"I'm surrendering!" says the communications person,
This room contains a lot of burnt furniture and
smashed equipment. The port side of the room is fairly
intact. There's holodisplay equipment. This indeed looks
like the terminal and user interface end of the command center.
There's nothing here that Robert is interested in except as a last
resort -- what he wants will be on the deck below.
Shark calls to Teri asking if there's a way to
disable the man's battledress from the outside, perhaps an off
switch? She replies there is none, but she says you can disable
Sir Misha opens the hatch on the bottom of the
inter-deck tube, and asks Teri to open the hatch a the bottom.
Teri places her charges. She says the bulkhead
should protect the cargo hold area, and she is told she is free to lay
Shark meanwhile has told the prisoner to kneel down
in the corner at the end of the corner, facing away from the Sick Bay
door. Shark then opens the door. There is no-one in
there. He wants to ask Robert to check it out, but of course
Robert doesn't understand Galanglic and they're not talking to the ship
Robert hears the grunts and sees the chimp gesturing
into the Sick Bay, and he goes over to do just that while Shark covers
the prisoner. Robert looks over the room, but it looks like a
regular Imperial Sick Bay.
Teri blows the hatch. It explodes downwards,
and she follows that up with three FGMP bursts into the room
below. As she fires the third shot, she drops through. Sir
Misha follows close behind, Teri instinctively moving out of his way.
As Sir Misha lands, Teri takes a hail of automatic
fire. She's spun round and knocked against the wall.
There's one body in here in the port aft corner, and one person in the
passage forward who's returning fire. Teri's knocked back up
against the hatch to Engineering, not in a position to fire.
Sir Misha opens fire with his automatic
shotgun. It knocks the enemy off his feet and back into the
corridor, as Teri recovers and points her FGMP at the threat. Sir
Misha's command display reports that Teri is slightly injured, but it
won't slow her down.
The man Sir Misha shot has dropped his weapon and is
surrendering. Sir Misha asks him his duties on this ship, and he
replies that he's just a soldier. "Kill him, Teri," says Sir
Teri fires two FGMP shots right in his face while
Sir Misha finds the Cargo Hold is locked. He tells her quietly to
keep the head intact next time.
Meanwhile, Shark knows that the prisoner's
battledress will not let him die if he injures him. Since he
can't take him with him right now -- although he's the person they want
to interrogate -- he has to incapacitate him. He tells him to
stand up and come with him. The prisoner is still desperately
saying that he'll do whatever Shark wants, as Shark blows his left leg
off at the knee. The man crumples to the floor, no doubt
medicated by his suit.
Shark motions to Robert to stay with the injured
people here, and tells Sir Misha that he's going forward -- they have
to clear the ship in case Santanocheev is on board.
Shark moves on through the galley and to the forward
corridor. This whole section has been damaged severely by
Kalida's shots, and there's no need to open doors here because the
walls have enough holes.
Back down on the lower deck, Sir Misha tells Teri to
open the Cargo Hold. He then goes back up through the hole, and
gestures to Robert to follow him down as soon as Teri reports it's open.
Robert and Sir Misha drop back down.
The Cargo Hold is full of electronic
equipment. Sir Misha points to it and lets Robert do whatever he
wants with it.
Robert identifies this as tactical equipment, all
top-end Imperial tech.
Teri is ordered to clear Engineering while Sir Misha
covers the way forward. She opens the hatch and moves in.
On the upper deck, Shark has been working his way
forward. He particularly wants to check the Computer Room, right
behind the bridge. On the way there, he sees four bodies, but
none in the Captain's Stateroom. They are not in vaccsuits, and
their Imperial Navy uniform identifies them as a Captain and junior
officers. The Computer Room is a mess, that hole area having been
blasted from the laser. There are two bodies in vaccsuits on the
Bridge, and Shark can see forward through the breached bulkhead into
the Avionics area, which is empty.
He reports back to Sir Misha, who agrees with his
suggestion of coming down through the forward iris valve to the lower
deck, working his way backwards from there.
Shark drops into the lower level through the valves
into atmosphere. The room is full of equipment , but it's empty
of people. He looks around quickly for stuff that doesn't have
labels. There's nothing at first glance, and he opens the
maintenance hatch to reveal an empty corridor.
Teri reports two bodies in Engineering, neither in
Robert starts working with the equipment, which is
still powered on. It's slow going in battledress, but he gets
into the system. This is a full tactical unit. Obviously it
doesn't have the processing power of a capship, but it's a specialized
tactical system. Communications includes meson communicator
systems located in what would be the barbettes. It's in
simultaneous communication with six similar ships in the fleet above.
It's been about ten minutes, 09:58 now. Kalida
reports that ships are on the move.
He starts work to wreck their comm system, offsetting the
keys so it breaks synch. He propagates it as far as he can.
He knows it's successful when the comm system of the fleet to which
this ship is attached goes down completely at 10:03. He relays
this information back to Nightshade, telling them what he's
found and what he's done. He pipes all the information he can
find -- tactical, orders, encryption and so on. He discovers that
encryption is handled by a non-standard black box installed on the
ship. He quickly locates it to the communications gear in the
The ships headed this way from the fleet are still
coming. They're about 15 minutes out, about 5 minutes to laser
range. It's a group of four cruisers.
Shark quietly and carefully works his way back along
the lower deck. The doors to the rooms either side are
closed. He opens the door to room 3 and sees someone in a
vaccsuit, telling him not to shoot. It's a middle-aged man in the
insignia of a regular crew man, but he can see the face well enough
that it's not Santanocheev.
Shark makes him open room 4, but there's nobody in
there. He checks with Sir Misha, who says to being him along.
Sir Misha has sent Teri to the upper deck of
Engineering. She reports that it's a mess up there, and there's
Sir Misha opens the iris valve to room 7, venting
atmosphere, and see no-one there.
Shark has worked his way back to 5 and 6, making the
crewman open the doors. 5 is empty, but there's another crewman
-- a woman in vaccsuit this time -- surrendering. Shark tells the
Captain that the area is clear, and there are two crew. They
agree that those two can help carry the bodies upstairs.
Now that Robert's broken radio silence, Kalida tells
Sir Misha that there's four cruisers on their way.
Shark counts the crew, and announces it's plausible
that they've found everyone when they take into account at least one
person in the gig. He leaves the two captives with Sir Misha, and
goes forward to check the hatch in the floor of the bow. He opens
it and looks into the ventral barbette. It's full of equipment,
with no-one in there.
Robert says he's going to get the converter box,
while dumping the ship's information up to Nightshade.
Shark tells him it's clear in the bow and goes back
to the upper deck, and back to the Ward Room. He checks the
dorsal barbette, which doesn't have anyone in it. He passes the
two incapacitated battledress crewmen down to Shark.
Teri has cleared Engineering -- including the
airlocks and the nacelles -- and is assigned to protect Robert as he
checks the equipment, going forward with him.
Robert searches the room, already knowing from the
ship's systems where the box should be located. He finds it
easily. It's a sealed unit, a dark brown metal box about the size
of an attache case. When he says so, Shark points it it's
remarkably similar to the bomb that took out Third Eye's jump
drive. Robert carefully hooks it up to an alternate power source
so he can take it back to Nightshade with uninterrupted
power. He says he's got what he needs, and he'd like to leave now.
Sir Misha checks the two bodies in the lower
room. One is clearly not Santanocheev, and they take tissue
samples from the body that Teri blew the head off. He says that
they'll be bringing all the survivors with them.
The cruisers are getting closer to laser range, but
have slowed their approach. That gives an extra five minutes,
which should be just enough to pick up the crew provided everything
goes right. That's good, because the expander's rate of fire
isn't enough to take out all four before they have a chance to fire on
the grounded courier.
The boarding party has ten minutes to get out.
Teri blows the ventral gig access hatch, and they get the prisoners
safely out onto the moon's surface. The two conscious crewmen are
Shark rushes over to the gig and searches it
quickly. There are three bodies in it, none in vaccsuits, none
Santanocheev. He returns to the others.
Helia swoops down to the surface and drops into
position in stealth model, right in front of the boarding party.
The prisoners are shocked by the sudden appearance of the ship, but are
sharply kept moving.
The cargo lift raises, and Helia zooms them away
from the site as quickly as Nightshade can manage it.
Teri isn't reporting to Sick Bay unless
ordered. She and Shark cover the prisoners, reflecting that the
ship does not have anything resembling a Brig. Shark muses that
perhaps Mich will have to build one, or some sort of holding capability
at least. They could always use low berths for the time.
It's 10:20. The boarding operation has
completed successfully, and they're about an hour away from the
mainworld. The four cruisers continue on to the courier's
location, closing carefully. Fleet communications are still down,
it seems, with no-one acting at all coordinated. They're using
signalling lasers as rudimentary communications. Obviously they
can't tell about any of the other fleets, but this one at least is
effectively disabled, with no access to tactical information
either. And if tactical direction was coming from this fleet,
it's gone too.
Shark wonders with a laugh if there's a gnome in the
brown suitcase typing to gnomes in the other ships. Each ship has
a gnome in a box, and that's how they're doing the encryption.
Robert plans to feed his recorded communications through the box and
see how it works.
It was at 08:50 that Sir Misha had said they needed
an hour. Just a hair after 10:00 is when the comm systems went