Episode 406: Salvage

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Air Date: 20 Jul 2010
Present: Kim, Maer, Terri, and Bobby

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Sunday, 06 Jul 2521
Lorngaard, Highgate
Blue Sun (Qing Long) system
0900hrs, local time

Kiera has hit a major snag in procuring the drugs Byshek’s client. Thanks to our faces getting plastered all over the news feeds for our involvement in the abortive rescue of Michael Cameron Carter, no pharmaceutical distributor is willing to sell to her, bribe or no bribe.

Nika fires off a message to Byshek on Newhope, telling him that we’re about to take off from Highgate but doesn’t offer much more information than that. Kiera finds a private message waiting for her and taking it in her container she finds it’s a video message from Byshek. It’s not live, exactly, due to the time delay of the Pony Express, and Byshek says his piece uninterrupted.

Byshek: I’ve invested my trust in you, twice now, and twice I’ve been disappointed. But now it’s not simply my money that is lost but my reputation. Hope that you repair my reputation before we meet again.

Kiera records her reply.

Kiera: I can do nothing but.

She hits send. It will take about a day to reach Byshek and perhaps by then she may have found a solution to her problem and his. Nika goes to Kiera and asks if she still has a cargo that needs transport to Meridian. Kiera says she does, however it’s a cargo she still has to acquire.

Nika: I recommend you get to it. We’ve got a couple of days.
Kiera: I think so also. However, I recommend I send someone else now.

Even so, she periodically strolls past the pharmacy to case out who is watching it for … whatever. In her estimation, governments are always on the lookout for shady dealings and characters and what she’s up to is skirting the edge of legitimacy. Kiera goes to Nika and suggests she do the talking, since Nika seems to be sweeter-tongued than Kiera.

Nika: (not thrilled) Great.
Kiera: Everyone loves a blonde, dear.
Nika: Give me money. How much are you going to pay for this cargo?
Kiera: 300 and actually I’m sweetening it with another 100, so 400 creds.

Kiera’s actually down on her cash. The two days we’d spent in jail during the trial had cut into her ability to do business and so she’s down to her last 406 credits. She empties her pockets and puts the money in Nika’s hands.

Nika: How much of this stuff do you need?
Kiera: 300 credits worth.

Which would be about 150 units. Okay. Nika questions Kiera as to the snag—what? the man won’t do business with her? Period? Nope. And there aren’t any secondary suppliers available on Highgate either. He’s the only distributor around.

Kiera: Too hot.
Nika: And you didn’t offer him an extra fifty credits right there and then?
Kiera: To be brutally honest, I didn’t have it.

Nika consults our ship fund. After all the help Kiera’s given us in cash and smoothing the way, we could at least try to help her out of a jam now. It’s also in the back of her mind that one of the things on the salvage list we got from Byshek was medical salvage. This implies there might be meds to be had just for the taking once we get to the derelict. It may be possible to use that scavenger list to make up Kiera’s shortfall. Then again, the majority of the items on the list are generic technical and mechanical gear, taking up a lot of room as well as being lucrative. Highgate would be the most likely place to sell the salvage for profit. Going strictly by hauling capacity versus return payment, it might behoove us to fill our cargo hold with salvage first, then see if we can’t find the meds between here and Meridian. After all, Blue Sun does have more than just the two planets and there are plenty of places that will have what Kiera’s after. Heck, on Meridian itself, the crew knows of at least one hidden cache of medical supplies large enough to stock a large hospital: Dr. Fong’s installation outside Brisbane.

Nika: All right. If he’s not willing to do business with you, the salvage includes medical gear so we might be able to pull it off of salvage. Assuming it’s still there. Assuming we can find it.
Kiera: Assuming it survived in deep space.
Nika: If not, who is this contact in Meridian thatwe’re supposed to be meeting? Do you have a name?
Kiera: Actually, I don’t have a name for it. I’ve got, “Deliver to Meridian”.
Nika: There is a place on Meridian where we might be able to … procure … the items that you require.
Kiera: Now the question is, do they have the quantity that I need?
Nika: That I don’t know. I know nothing about pharmaceuticals. You might ask Arden. He might be able to sort that out for you. But we may have salvage in hand.
Kiera: Hmm.
Nika: If you want to take the risk. That’s all on you. My reputation with Byshek is square.
Kiera: No, I need to square it with him one way or the other.

Kiera suggests we try to buy the drugs quantities normally sold to doctors over the counter. It would still mean going to the distributor who won’t do business with Kiera but if we sent someone else … Nika calls Arden over.

Nika: Arden? for God’s, sake, darling, could you potentially make this order and … not give away that it’s illicit?
Arden: How much do you want me to try to buy?
Nika: About 50 units?
Arden: That’s not terribly illicit. My good friend the big game hunter the next planet over asked me to pick some up while I was here. I forget his last name, Rick. It was Rick.
Nika: If they say no, don’t make a big stink about it, don’t make a fuss.
Arden: Okay.

If Arden can swing it, it won’t be as expensive to buy in lower quantities because we wouldn’t be spending any money on bribes to buy a larger batch. We can expect a cost of one credit per dose and Nika gives him 100 credits to cover any unexpected bribes. Arden forges an order form for the meds and thus prepared, he promises to do what he can and heads out.

The distributor has no problem doing business with Arden. As the man walks off to check his stock, Arden spots way back on a distant shelf, the signature drug known as Chempliant. It’s behind the order counter and Arden just can’t walk up and look it over. When the pharmacist comes back, Arden casually asks about it, stating he has a friend who’s done some research on it. Is it possible he might be able to buy some? The pharmacist says it’s actually used by police for riot control. Oh, really? Arden didn’t know that. The pharmacist says unless Arden’s an LEO, he’ll have a hard time selling it to him. Oh, sure, he understands completely, Arden is quick to reassure the man. It’s hard to get stuff like that, of course. But is there any special paperwork Arden can take care of to alleviate the pharmacist’s concerns?

Pharmacist: Oh … there might be.
Arden: I’m sure there’s a special processing fee.
Pharmacist: Yes, that’s true. How much do you think you need? I mean, your friend needs?
Arden: Four doses, if it’s possible.
Pharmacist: Well … it only comes in boxes of ten.
Arden: Ten? Oh, really? And what’s the processing fee on a box of ten?
Pharmacist: For ten? 25 credits.
Arden: I think I can scrape together 25.
Pharmacist: Plus the paperwork. That’s another ten.

That’s 35. Added to the 50 he pays for the target meds, Arden returns to the Gift with 15 credits which he promptly returns to Nika. She looks askance at the 35 credit discrepancy.

Nika: Where’s the change?
Arden: I also found some Chempliant.

She gives him The Look.

Arden: I’ve been wondering what the stuff does to me and I think this’d be a good time to find out.
Nika: Good. You gave me 15 credits back which means you paid 35 for it?
Arden: Well, it’s normally 25 but I had to pay a 10 credit processing fee.
Nika: Mm-hmm. And how much do you have in your pocket?
Arden: I don’t.
Nika: You do realize that was our passenger’s money, right?
Arden: No.
Nika: Shii.
Arden: Money’s money.
Nika: (gives up) Okay.

Actually, we did get paid 18 credits for delivering that cargo to Newhope. Arden offers it up. Nika takes all of it and makes up the balance owed out of her own pocket. She warns Arden that he owes her 35 credits. He assures her that he’ll owe her more than that. That makes her pause.

Arden: What?
Nika: I … don’t understand.
Arden: You’ve been my friend and you’ve helped me with a lot of stuff. I owe you more than fifty credits.

And when Nika gives Kiera the money, she gets the same look Nika gave Arden.

Kiera: Uh, Capt’n. Why’re you givin’ me fifty credits for?

Is everyone on this ship freakin’ insane? Nika just stashes the money in the kitty she’s drawn up for Kiera’s ship expenses. Hell, if Kiera won’t take it back, Lord knows something will come up that will have us coming to her with our hands out sooner or later. At least we’ll be 50 credits ahead when that happens. She locks it up on the safe in med lab.

Nika: Don’t touch the safe.
Arden: Not a problem.

There being nothing left to do about the drug situation, we decide to pull up stakes and pursue the salvage job Byshek handed us. The L2 is about 60-70 hours flight away but only about an hour’s flight with pulse. Once we’re clear of the dirt, Nika charts our course and pulses our engines. After about an hour or so, we start picking up the transponder signal from the ship we’re looking for. Looks like Byshek wasn’t just feeding us a line—there’s definitely something out there pinging away. She brings us out of pulse short of the debris field and guides us in. The sky is crowded with junked ships and floating scrap and some of it hits our hull.

Rina: Watch the paint job! I just got it waxed.

The impacts puts some scratches and dents on our hull. It also does enough damage that Rina has to do some quick rerouting of systems to keep us flying. When she’s done, the engine room looks like a jungle of wiring and power lines snaking across the deck and overhead. One particular encounter damages our sensor package. We’re back to pre-Orcus levels again and it’s by dint of Nika’s flying skills and Rina’s fast work on repairs that keeps us in one piece all the way to the derelict.

Only, the pinger’s pinging like crazy saying “we’re here!” and we can’t see anything out the bridge windows. The debris around us shifts, shadows move, and suddenly a vast swath of the starfield is occulted by something HUGE.

We’ve found her. We move closer and our running lights pick out the name on her hull: IAV Henri DePollo.

She’s a Rachis class ship, all spine with three sets docking umbilicals in triangular formation running down her length. Round hydro tanks lie along the ridge of her spine like a line of pearls. Her engines flare in a graceful cone at the rear of the spine and the multiple live decks cap the front. Two curving arms sweep out and rearward from the middle deck at the bow. Taken in profile, the ship looks nothing like the bird her name suggests but more like a spiny catfish with two enormous whiskers off her nose.

DePollo isn’t as large as Decatur but she still dwarfs the Gift. Even so, we’re a little too large to dock inside one the hanger bays in the spine. Nika pulls us alongside the starboard docking umbilicals and mates us up to the second from the bow. Arden’s sitting on the bridge with Nika.

Arden: Nika? Who’s Henri DePollo?
Nika: (searching her memory) First governor of Persephone. Why?
Arden: Cuz it’s the name of the ship.
Nika: (eyeroll) Oh. Is that all?
Arden: Names are important.
Kiera: I second that.

Now that we’ve stopped, Kiera steps onto the bridge to see what there is to see. Rina’s right behind her.

Rina: I third it.
Kiera: (to Arden) I don’t know why I’m agreeing with you.
Arden: Because I’m right.
Kiera: This is awk-weird.
Rina: Okay, now this is strange.
Arden: I’m going to drown in estrogen tonight?
Kiera: Yes.
Arden: Oh, god.
Nika: (laughing) Aren’t you already?

And the conversation goes into the gutter, all of us giddy from surviving the debris field and the prospect of finding the ship.

We quickly focus and start grabbing our EVA suits. Joshua has no real skills at salvaging and will be of little use in a fight if it came to Reavers. He elects to stay behind on the bridge to man the comms and the sensors—such as they are. They can give us readings on the passive setting and the active settings don’t go very far. Still and all, it’s better than nothing. We have only two hours oxy per suit when fully charged and the suit gloves are thick, making it hard to grip things. Firing weapons are out, unless we jigger a way to press the trigger without our fingers and Rina being Rina, she jiggers one. She duct tapes her gun to the outside of her suit, on the upper left arm and tapes a spare clip farther down on the forearm. The others elect to go without weapons, though Nika does have Rina duct tape a large wrench to her leg. Thus prepared, we suit up, open our airlock to the umbilical and go down its curve onto the ship.

The umbilical goes for a hundred feet or so and opens up into a vast hanger running the spine of the ship. 40 feet high, 600 feet in length, with gantry cranes on tracks overhead to move heavy materiel. There are fuel trollies and tool chests at regular intervals. There are some fighter ships and small craft dotted along the vast hangar concourse in various states of bad repair. There is no sign of catastrophic fire. Overall it looks as if the ship was evacuated midtask, which jives with what Byshek told us. It’s dark inside but we manage to see that much with our suit lights. Particles of debris, the ship’s equivalent of pocket litter, floats in the cavernous space like dust motes suspended mid-air. Well, if the ship had air.

The DePollo has no atmo, no grav, no power. Taking a quick look around we realize that this state of affairs will severely hamper our salvage efforts. Scavving what’s lying around in the hangar deck, Rina runs power lines from the Gift’s engines to the DePollo, lending the big ship enough power to run minimal life support and grav. Once the ship fully pressurizes we can ditch the suits in favor of respirators. Running that line takes about all the oxy Rina has in her tanks, and she reboards the Gift to recharge. Meanwhile the others do a quick scout of the ship.

Most of the tools we’ll need to effect salvage are in the hangar bays and most of the cargo on the ship didn’t survive ten-plus years of cold and neglect. Foodstuffs are no longer viable, for instance. There might be meds that made the distance all right, and Kiera and Arden go off in search of those. Kiera is still on the hook for Byshek’s client and anything she can find to cover the lack would be welcome. They head for the hospital wing.

Nika’s scouting for things on the list Byshek gave us and for the first hour and a half while Rina’s hooking up that power line, she’s getting the lay of the land. She keeps tabs on everyone’s twenty and reminds them to go back to the Gift to recharge their oxy. She’s also bugging Johsua to check the sensors. Every 10 to 15 minutes, she wants him to check them and give her a report, she says. Rina listens in on the channel.

Joshua: Well, it’s hard to get readings out here with the active sensors, there’s a lot here.
Nika: I’m aware of that.
Joshua: But I’m getting, now there was something on the passive sensors, but …
Nika and Rina together, in stereo: What?
Joshua: Well, it’s gone now. It was kind of in the neighborhood. It was just an energy reading and then it went away, so I just assumed it was a collision or something.
Rina: Uhhhnnn…. (to Nika’s channel) Do you want me to check it out?
Nika: (to Joshua) Go faster.
Joshua: I’ve been watching it. There hasn’t been any more.
Rina: (muttering) On passive sensors. Gribanyi Iesus Kristos…

It’s true, though. With all the debris in the area, the sensor readouts look like a dog’s breakfast. However, it’s unlikely an energy spike would be made by all the inert metal floating around us. Chances are good we’re not alone out here.

Rina: Joshua. Hit the record button if you see that spike again.
Joshua: Is it the one with the big red dot on it? “Break glass..?”
Nika: Anyway…
Rina: (on private channel) What have you been doing with him up there?
Nika: Me?
Rina: You’re the one training him.
Nika: He can fly just fine. Clearly I need to spend a little more time with sensors.
Rina: (heavily) Mm-hmm.

Drawing power from the Gift to run a much larger ship isn’t free of consequences. The Gift is groaning to handle the strain and it makes Rina downright bitchy with worry. As demonstrated. The Gift is already working in a damaged state and now this? No, Rina is not at all happy. She restricts the power drain off the Gift by routing it to just the DePollo’s grav and the atmo systems. We don’t need all the bells and whistles on the big ship to work, just the bare minimum to allow us to walk aboard and salvage her.

And certainly if there’s anyone out there to notice the power we’re throwing out and the DePollo running, well … let’s just say we don’t look like lifeless debris anymore. Another thing for everyone to worry about, not just Rina. However, it’s not too long before the DePollo has enough atmo pressure and some gravity. Enough to work in. Go to go.

Rina: Let’s go people.
Nika: Go quickly.

The grav is a fraction of standard, enough to keep us stable but not so much as to make moving heavy objects and equipment a chore. It will be a couple of hours before there’s enough atmo to breathe, so we’re in respirators. It’s cold, but not severely. We don’t need the suits and that will make the salvage work go faster. As established, Nika checks with Joshua on sensor duty before leaving. He pulls up the recording he’s made for the past hour or so.

Joshua: It’s been pretty sporadic, but … Look at this. A bunch of different flashes here and there. It might be sun reflecting off some metallic objects. But if it were a ship operating on thrusters…
Nika: Does it have a trajectory?
Joshua: It does. It appears to be a pattern consistent with a ship working a search pattern. But it’s a big area. It’s a hundred thousand kilometers in area.
Nika: Assuming they’re a ship running on thrusters, how far away are these spikes?
Joshua: In terms of getting to us, not very long if they’re flying fast. If they put on their thrusters and head straight for us it wouldn’t take very long. If they continue in a search pattern like this, it’ll be a couple of days before they find us.
Nika: Okay. Keep us very low key, keep us as low in terms of power usage as possible, and keep an eye on those sensors. If you get pings that look like they’re coming closer, let me know.

That’s our timetable. Two days to get in, get what we want, and get out. But we’ve got a problem. Powering the DePollo for grav and atmo isn’t a quiet power signature on the sensor readings. If we continue to power DePollo, we’ll be making enough noise to alert however’s out there that we’re here. We might not have two days before they find us. However, if we cut power to DePollo, we’d be back in zero gee and vacc suits and that will slow us down considerably, and we might not get everything before the two days are up. Turning on the grav and the atmo compartment by compartment as we go through the ship isn’t a viable option either for the time delay involved for the environment to ‘run up’—to say nothing of making a quick evac back the way we came impossible, a tactically unacceptable condition. We have to have power if we’re to make the salvage work. We’ll just have to work faster and hope we get what we need before the other ship shows up. Nika explains to Joshua what to look for on the sensor reads, how the differences in power spikes would mean the other ship getting closer or farther away from us.

Nika: If you get pings that look like they’re coming closer, let me know.

To facilitate a faster salvage, we divide the list according to the expertise of our crew and since we’re on respirators, going armed is not a problem. We strap on and go. Nika orders Arden and Kiera to go all the way forward to Medical and the rest of the crew split off to pursue their areas of expertise. Rina covers mechanical, Nika takes technical. We work separately and simultaneously, and we work around the clock.

Arden and Kiera find out that the part of the hospital deck on the plans is more like a hospital supply area. Some things have survived rather well. Latex gloves. Syringes. Scalpels. Gauze. There are some drugs that they’re somewhat dubious about. The supply area is huge, there are a lot of boxes and crates to shift and open and inspect. Arden and Kiera split up and start digging.

Meanwhile, Nika and Rina are doing the same. Rina heads back toward the hangar. Repairs were mostly done in the hangar bay and the mech supplies for such are likely to be stored there. Nika takes a moment to remind Joshua she expects sensor reports from him every quarter hour.

It’s not long before he calls in seeing a longer spike, perhaps a longer burn indicating the ship out there was trying to evade debris. Is it getting closer? Rina wants to know. It’s not headed in our direction, Joshua says. Nika tells him that’s fine but keep an eye on it.

Three hours into her search, Rina finds a small docking bay with a 30-ton dropship in what appears to be good working condition. It’s a military vessel, made to put soldiers down on the surface of a planet quickly. Everything on the ship is pretty much intact, both decks, right down to the vac suits in their lockers, save for the avionics systems needed to fly it. There is in fact, a vacant space in the cockpit’s console array, right where the avionics package would have been installed. It looks as if the dropship was getting a newer model swapped in but the job wasn’t completed before the DePollo was evacced. Rina inspects the rest of the ship and nothing else needs repairing on it. If she can get the avionics package installed, the dropship would be completely functional. It would make a valuable addition to our girl’s configuration. It would also fetch a good price on the market, should we choose to sell it. As salvage, it’s too good to leave behind. Rina takes a turn around the outside of the ship and spots the name painted on her hull: The Fish Head. It’s a Firgin class dropship and so it does look a little like a fish head in profile, albeit a nearly two story tall one. Rina reluctantly leaves The Fish Head for DePollo’s engine room, but notes the dropship’s location. She’s definitely coming back for it.

The crew works for another hour before returning to the Gift for a meal and a recharge of the respirators, which last longer in the thin, near normal atmo aboard the DePollo. Nika checks with Joshua on the sensor readings. The progress of the mystery ship shows it hasn’t drawn closer in a way that indicates they’ve found us. Rina works with Nika to ID the craft and the best they can determine is that it isn’t a military ship. They’re getting spectrometer spikes off it, the sort that people use to scan for metals and other valuable elements. Chances are more than likely that the other ship is a salvage ship.

A plan is drawn up over our meal as to the power allocation issues between DePollo and the Gift. The DePollo is airtight, her hull integrity uncompromised. Since we’re not replenishing the bigger ship’s atmo to full, there’s no reason to keep the ship powered off our girl 24/7. When we stop for the night, we’ll shut of the power to DePollo and close the big ship up. It will mean hooking her up again come morning and a couple hours’ worth delay as we wait for the atmo to come back up to respirator conditions, but it would mean a great savings on power and strain on the Gift.

We go back aboard the tender after we eat, eager to get a couple more hours in before calling it a day and racking out. We’ve worked hard. Arden and Kiera have managed to scav 5 cargo tons worth of medical supplies, which roughly translates to 130 credits worth. Rina managed 10 tons, Nika did about the same, for about 100 credits each. The Gift has a 150 tons of cargo space. We’ve literally tons to go before we run out of space.

Joshua’s been manning the sensors all day and needs a break. Nika takes a four hour watch to relieve him and the others do a two hour watch in turn.

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