Episode 616: Mulan Maersk

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Air Date: 01 Nov 2011
Present: Andy, Kim, Maer, and Terri

We get paid by Fanty and Mingo at the Maidenhead Bar on Beaumonde. We don’t linger but lift off that same day for Urvasi, there to find the doctor the twins recommended and to lick our wounds and heal. At least we don’t have extensive ship repairs to deal with, so most of the 1600 we got paid can go to other things. Like food, fuel and firearms. Beglan does the repairs and everything but the security measures—hacked and broken by the Blue Sun goons on Beaumonde—is taken care of. Rina and the other wounded are checked into the hospital for treatment. The hospital at New Hyderabad is a somewhat terrifying place. It’s super crowded and not very sanitary, with people bringing in and even preparing food in the corridors. That said, the staff is competent if overworked. Arden finds himself conscripted as a teacher leading interns and young medical students through the halls. Kiera is able to perform some cosmetic surgeries. And together these pay for our medical treatments.

We end up laying over in New Hyderabad for three weeks. Rina is the most wounded and she spends a few more days than the others in the hospital but once she’s discharged, Nika posts Equinox as looking for work the next day. It isn’t long after our three weeks on the ground that work finds us and we get back in harness as cargo haulers.

Saturday 13 Mar 2523
New Hyderabad, Urvasi
Kalidasa (Xuan Wu) system

James Brion sends us a job offer: transporting a large ship out of the Alang Orbital Shipyards to Red Sun. It’s a decommissioned Lightning class Cruiser, a 200,000 ton ship, refitted to be used as a freighter. It’s called Mulan Maersk, and will become part of the Shulan Maersk shipping fleet. The pay for the job is 1200 credits. Nika accepts the job. It’ll take a couple of days before the repairs and refitting is done, leaving us plenty of time to get ready for the trip.

We do a fly-by at the shipyards in Lagniappe. Nika flies, Joshua and Rina go with her. Alang Shipyards is huge, looking more like an extensive debris field orbiting Rambha than a shipyard. But after a few minutes the details resolve themselves and it becomes clear that this is primarily a ship stripping and recycling facility, big enough to rival those on Beylix and Boros. More specialized than those of Beylix and able to manage larger ships, it serves the entire Kalidasa system. It is not Alliance affiliated, resulting in fewer regulations than the shipyards of Boros. However, as part of an agreement with the Alliance, the Alang Shipyards have a tag and destroy policy for surplus weaponry. It is also known that many of the weapons end up being resold illegally.

It looks like a straightforward cake run: fly the ship from point A to point B, have our own ship parked inside for the ride, arrive in one piece, turn over the ship, and get paid.

Smooth. As. Silk.

We fly back to Equinox and get ready for Mulan Maersk’s departure.

Monday, 29 Mar 2523
Lightning class, Mulan Maersk
En route to Red Sun

Mulan Maersk is freakin' HUGE. It's got several decks worth of cargo bays and one of them fits Equinox with room to spare. Considering our ship is over 40 feet tall---that should illustrate how big this ship is. Over 1300 feet long. There is a rail-car/elevator that goes down the spine of it, paired with a spinal access corridor travelling through all the decks. Imagine a skyscraper on its side, with the elevators/corridor running down the center of the building. Now, imagine two directions to the gravity. When standing on one of the 86 decks (rising like the floors of the skyscraper from the basement--the engines--to the tip of the building--bridge and observation dome) people are walking with their feet pointing down on the floor, the soles of their feet facing the engine. Just like a building on dry land on a planet. BUT when they enter the spinal access corridor to travel between decks, there's a null point and then the grav shifts and feet are pulled 90-degrees off the deck gravity's direction. You step through the door, the gravity changes direction and your feet shift to the side wall of the shaft. Standing on the deck looking at people using the corridor, they're walking on the walls and their bodies are horizontal to your vertical. Getting out of the spinal access corridor is a reversal of the process going in. However, the elevators, like the decks, are unaffected by the shift.

The doors to the decks off the spinal access corridor occur every 20 feet in opposite matching pairs. Lots of these doors are welded shut. There are hatches between decks scattered across the floor and ceiling of the decks, in matching above/below pairs. These are mostly operable and allow us to go up or down through the decks without needed the elevator or spinal access corridor. Given there's 80-plus decks, it’s pretty understandable why people generally use the elevator.

So we park our ship inside Mulan Maersk and spend two weeks living aboard her. It's a decommissioned military vessel, and was once the IAV Australia. Just about everything of military/strategic importance or value has already been stripped from the vessel. Only one elevator was left working. Only one of the corridors is pressurized. The officers quarters and enlisted have been stripped, but mattresses have been left behind with blankets. No sheets. The heads work. The galley works, though it's not stocked with food. The engine room is a three-story cave of wonders for Rina, but the master console that oversees everything is gone. There are several stations that monitor the equipment categories separately, so there's a lot of back-and-forthing involved. The bridge is stripped down to the barest minimum. In the place of the pilot controls is a refrigerator-sized box of an autopilot: Nika doesn't even have to fly this thing. The autopilot is doing all the work. The humans are aboard mostly to babysit the machinery.

It's a fairly easy, if boring, two weeks aboard the ship. Rina and Kiera run out of things to do and start exploring the decks. In one of the welded-shut doors off the central corridor, closer to aft than to the bow, they find a storage room that's filled with newer equipment. Examining the equipment, they find out it's the controls for a massive EMP pulse gun. Given Rina's twitchy little mind, she's convinced that the ship is carrying more of these things and it's bound for the Independents in Red Sun. I mean, c'mon! A ship this size is like a nuclear aircraft carrier--the potential to use it as a mobile base of operations and flight deck to project your offensive power is gi-normous! And of course the Independents would LOVE to get their hands on this freighter and start making trouble for the Feds with it.

It’s what Rina would do, were she in the position to do it. Why wouldn’t anyone else?

Never mind it says Mulan Maersk on the hull, ostensibly part of the Shulan Maersk merchant fleet. Nope. Rina's convinced that this is a tactically useful ship going to the Independents. She and Kiera debate whether to tell the Captain what they found. What if Nika gets upset? What if the recipients of the ship get upset? What if they won't pay us for prying into things?

They decide to cover up their snooping by replacing the door and welding it shut. The original door had its lock cut through by Rina and she and Kiera toss it into one of the empty deck rooms--just another decommissioned door, cut off at the shipyard and left by the yard crew. Yep! Of course, given that the shipyard crew was doing nothing but the quick and dirty when it came to decommissioning and removing parts, there is evidence of this sort of thing all over the place. Over the two weeks, Rina and Kiera and Beglan have added their own marks to the ship by salvaging what was left that we can actually use. So ... One itty bitty door?

No one's going to miss a slice off a cut loaf, right?

So we get to the halfway mark of our journey--meaning Mulan Maersk is in the middle of freakin' nowhere and too far from either system to call for help, when Nika hears this THUD when she's on the bridge. She and Kiera look down the central corridor to try to find the source of the noise. Did something fell into one of the engines? Are we going to blow up? Is it stuff shifting around on the decks? What?

Down, down, down the length of the ship, Nika sees something twinkling in the dark. And it is kinda dark. It's a decommissioned ship. They aren't wasting lightbulbs to make her bright and shiny-like. So that twinkle is pretty eye-catching. Nika and Kiera go closer and they find out that, OMG, it's a cutting torch. Someone's in the sealed off portside docking bay on the other side of the door and someone's cutting through!

We can't let them do that.

We need the money.

Nika sends Kiera back to the others to tell them what happened. Nika will stay and see what she can find out about the boarding party, maybe hold them off. Kiera runs as fast as she can back toward the bow where the rest of the crew are. Joshua and Rina are cooking the crew's next meal in the freighter's galley and miss the initial excitement: Arden and Beglan are dispatched to Equinox and are ordered to get aboard her and defend her from being stolen. Meanwhile, Kiera will take the arms we've got and help Nika fend off the boarding party cutting their way through. Joshua and Rina finally get the clue and stick their heads out the galley and catch what's going on and they all take a bit of precious time deciding what they should do.

It's decided:

  1. We make the ship as impossible to move through except via a path we choose. So we shut down the remaining elevator and jam the floor/ceiling hatches between decks. The hatches aren't ALL going to get jammed--there's 86 freakin' decks with about a half dozen of those hatch pairs EACH. Rina's going to jam just the ones closest to the bridge—decks 22 through 17 (where the bridge is). The engine room is not as great a priority. If they're thinking to steal the ship, they'll need to keep the engines unmolested to keep her moving. No, the hostiles will want to take the bridge. So ... we're sealing off the bridge.

  1. Kiera will go forward through the ship to defend the bridge.

Of course, things never go according to plan. While Kiera is filling in the rest of the crew, the boarders get the drop on Nika. They shut the lights off in the central corridor and approach her in the dark with a really really big dog. Nika’s not afraid of the dark, having spent several months blind and she’s not stupid enough to panic at the sight of a large dog. It’s not attacking her. It’s just making sure she doesn’t go anywhere. Knowing it would be foolish to run and have it chase her down, she sits tight and sure enough, the dogs handlers show up and take her prisoner. Nika is brought at gunpoint through the boarding point onto the hostile's ship--a Sandfly class ship, smaller than a Firefly. She finds out that there are five of them, and their leader is a concerned citizen of the Alliance. He plans to take the ship over and fly it into the gas giant Heaven, to keep it out of Independent hands. No, he's not a Fed agent and no one's paying him to do it. Just give us the ship, your crew wont' be harmed and you can all fly off in your ship and be free of this.


A pirate who's letting valuable hostages go? Weird. But Nika's not going to take his generous offer. She's going to keep both ships, thanks. They lock her up in one of their quarters and they leave to take the freighter. Two men stay behind to guard Nika and their own ship.

One of the men sets himself up with a rifle and shoots down the central corridor--pinning down Kiera, Rina, and Joshua. They duck into elevator for cover and plan some more. It idea of isolating the decks and disabling the elevator is still a good one. They just got to get past the guy with the rifle. The shooting stops. They peek out and there’s a comms on the deck. Joshua picks it up and keys it on.


We have your Captain. Give up the ship and we won’t hurt you, says the voice at the other end of the line.

No. Go ### off.

Apparently that was the wrong thing to say, cuz the shooting starts up again. Joshua ducks back inside the elevator and under its cover, he and the others decide to go through with the original plan—with one exception: Joshua’s going to go after Nika and get her free.

Rina disables the elevator. Kiera uses the bulkhead struts and the doorways (every twenty feet) for cover as she makes her way to the bridge. Joshua and Rina exit the elevator in turn. Joshua ducks through the deck outside the central corridor to the bay where Equinox is parked. Rina avoids the central corridor as she starts closing down and jamming the hatches 'tween-decks.

Kiera heads up the access corridor, spots a guard at the door to the bridge, and with a single shot takes him out. Of course doing so makes her position known to the sniper down the corridor.

The sniper is really making life interesting for Kiera. She's taken some hits--gotten winged, mostly, but still--and she's decided she's had enough. She starts trying the doors she's ducking into for cover, hoping to find one not welded shut. Maybe she can get into the deck beyond and bypass or avoid the bastard with the rifle. She finds an unfastened door, gets out of the central corridor, and the sniper leaves off shooting--his job is done. No one's going to be using that central corridor now. He goes back to the ship he came on.

Rina gets those hatches shut. Joshua bypasses the sniper by going down the length of Equinox's docking bay and comes out the far end behind the sniper's position off the central corridor.

Joshua finds the boarding point and ventures down it ... and ducks back when he realizes it leads right into the common room of the hostile's ship. One of the boarding party is sitting at the common room table, cleaning his guns. Ducking back behind the bend in the corridor, Joshua throws a bit of debris at the man and rushes him. Blows are traded but Joshua wins the battle. The other man on the ship walks right into this and Joshua intimidates him into surrendering. Both the men are tied up and locked up in a room and Joshua frees Nika. They both leave to get back with the rest of the crew and to take the freighter back from the three men remaining.

Kiera makes her way back to the upper decks via the hatches between decks. She runs into a snag when she encounters a deck that Rina's sealed off. She manages to find another way past it running up the central access corridor and goes all the way back to the bridge--to sees one of the remaining boarders mucking around with the autopilot box. Well, dammit! She heads up to the deck above there to think of a plan.

On a different deck, Rina's just come up from the floor and is jamming that hatch before starting on the others on that level when she hears something click-clicking toward her. She's come out of the hatch into a small side room. The doorway out of the room leads to the common area of the deck and from the doorway she hears a menacing growl. It's a dog--a great dane/mastiff mix and it looks mean.

Rina is meaner. She shoots the dog, nothing doing, and manages to vaporize the dog's head clean off. She hears the sounds of another dog coming fast for her and she ducks around the doorway and shoots it. Her shots aren't as deadly, she only wounds the dog ... but she does enough to make it cower and run away. Whew.

It's a short lived respite. She hears someone coming and of course, it devolves into a firefight. Rina gets some lucky shots in but takes some damage. In the end, there's a dead guy on the floor and she's still standing. Her gun's got one bullet left to his three or four. She tries to get it from his dead hand when the man's buddy starts shooting at her from behind. He nails her with a solid hit. Luckily, she's wearing her mesh and though it packs a helluva wallop, she's still conscious and able to move. She ducks back into the room and waits for the man to come at her through the door. She moves back along the wall and kneels, bracing her pistol and aiming up toward head-height. Anyone walking through that doorway will get hit in the head from below, definitely not the first thing someone will look for when checking out a room. Trap set, she waits for the adversary's next move.

Kiera descends from the ceiling through a hatch, sees the last remaining boarder and starts shooting at him from her vantage point. Rna hears the gunfire and seeing that none of the shots are pinging off the dead end at her end of the corridor outside, she knows the shots aren't coming her way but going elsewhere. She takes a cautious look. She spies Kiera engaged in a firefight with the other guy and Rina adds her fire to Kiera's. Together they take they knock him out and that's it.

We've taken the freighter back. It's ours again. We all manage to gather back together near the bridge and give Arden and Beglan the all-clear. At the moment, the freighter is still spaceworthy and still flying for Red Sun. Equinox wasn't even scratched, much less seen by the bad guys. And speaking of bad guys ...

What are we going to do with the two Joshua tied up and locked up on their own ship? And what are we going to do with the Sandfly sitting in the portside docking bay? We still have two weeks to go before we reach our destination. Do we have enough supplies to keep five people prisoner until we get there? And once we get there, what do we do with them?

Meanwhile, three of our crew are injured--Rina, Kiera, and Joshua--and need medical attention. The two weeks ahead of us will allow them to heal back up, but there is no guarantee there won't be further trouble. We have five men we will have to keep under lock and key and of course, any prisoner will want to escape.

It’s not a perfect situation but it’s the best we’ve got at the moment, and so we fly on.

Go back to: Heart's Defense | Go Foward to Contagion
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