Nine-tenths of the Law

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An excerpt from Peripatetica, by M. K. Sebastien, Engr. ret.

Wednesday, 02 Jun 2518
Kuiper Class Ship MakeMake
Outbound for the Rim
23:12 hours, ships time

        I grabbed some coffee from the galley and took it to the workroom. I had Grimes’ board with me and I opened it up. It was a newer model of the equipment I’d encountered during the War, but the basic workings were the same. A few careful minutes later, I’d hacked all the way in past the security protocols to what lay beneath.
        Diermo…! No ruttin’ way.
        Grimes hadn’t the skill to overwrite the code. He’d only known enough to hide it under a layer he’d superimposed. In front of me was the original documentation, now revealed. Fairweather Flyers, Inc., it said. Not Potemkin Colonial Services. The ship’s name was the only match. It was still the MakeMake.
        I sat back from the workbench and considered it.
        It was common practice to hack the registry data if you had stolen the ship. Once hacked, you could insert any name you wanted. All the navigation and Cortex buoys, all traffic controllers on approach or departure, all Military and Police vessels would read the pulse beacon and automatically note the ship and its owner, establishing an electronic trail under the alias. During legitimate transfer of ownership, the old data would be cleared and the new ownership information would be installed. When a ship had to be scrapped entirely, the registry board would be turned over to the proper authorities for disposal. I wasn’t so naïve to think that the old boards always made it to the incinerator. The black market does a brisk business in salvaged boards supplied by shady dealers and repair yards. Either scenario would explain what I had in front of me.
        If Fairweather Flyers, Inc. was the legitimate owner of the MakeMake, what was she doing in the Potemkins’ hands? If the MakeMake had been stolen, had Fairweather Flyers, Inc. reported her missing? On the other hand, if I held a black-market post-owner board from the original MakeMake, what were the Potmekins using for their board now? And what was the true name of the ship they flew? Either way, Grimes’ possession of the board could mean not that he intended to steal the MakeMake, but that he’d simply been entrusted with the board once it had been yanked. If that were the case, then the Potemkins could be criminally responsible for piracy and fraud. My insides went cold as I realized the implications.
        I already knew Ivan was dirty. I had hoped his brother Josef was not. Looking at the board in front of me, all bets on that score were off. Working quickly, I backed up my findings on a chip, stowed my borrowed tools away, and took the board with me. I should have just thanked Josef on Bernadette and kept on walking… I checked the corridor, saw it was clear and left the workroom. If I was lucky I could get to the bridge and yank the board there to check its code, compare it to what I had in my hands, and replace it without the Captain knowing. No matter what the true story was, it wasn’t something I would pursue alone. Nika and Christian had to be filled in and together we might engineer a way out of this mess with our skins intact.

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