Subsubsection: 9 October 2016 Up Subsection: HMS Cumberland Subsection: HMS Raleigh 

9 April 2017

Cumberland needs a new drive, among other repairs; rather than tow her to a permanent shipyard, supplies and workers are being brought in. The crew is accommodated on orbital stations or planetside; with this much cutting, there are many opportunities for inspection and fixing of things that wouldn’t otherwise be human-accessible. Captain Andrews spends much of his time making comm calls.
There’s some resentment from the locals; Shadbolt doesn’t have a huge shipbuilding industry, but the main problem is that its workers would need time to pass the high-clearance checks to be allowed to work on a naval vessel.
This is only exacerbated when an engineering team is brought in from al-Khwarizmi, a neighbouring system belonging to the Rightly Guided Republics; yes, the jump point is very close to the planet at the moment, and they’re already cleared for working on RGR naval ships, but there’s still muttering.
Keene is on an outside party when he spots a pressure suit helmet tumbling away from its owner, with a trail of frozen air behind it. The engineer, Aya Arkaji is unconscious, but she’s taken to sickbay and patched together (explosive decompression damage to eyes, ears, nose and lungs); she doesn’t know what happened, but got the impression that the helmet suddenly unlatched itself. McRobert takes a look at the suit’s computer, and finds it in factory default state with no logs; she digs further, but it’s hard to get anything coherent out of high-density storage units that have been wiped.
Keene takes this up the chain of command and to Mutaz Ghaffar, lead on the RGR engineering team; the suits are personal property of the workers, and are being maintained by a local firm.
The other suits are passing internal tests, but have non-standard software installed; digging into this reveals changes in the visual enhancement processing software, and Entwhistle (who came up with the idea) is packed into a suit to try various activities in an observation dome to see if they’ll trigger the disconnection. Nothing happens, even when he’s in an evacuated airlock close to sickbay.
Ship’s informaticians are put on the problem, and eventually dissect out the core code: it’s triggered by using visual enhancement on something the colour of the wildfires that rage over the planet’s surface.
McRobert arranges to factory-reset one of the suits, and send it in with a “computer problem”; it comes back with the custom code reinstalled. That pins it down to the maintenance company, and a raid ensues (Marines cooperating with local police). The code is on one of the computers used by a junior maintenance tech, though it seems too sophisticated for him; after some ranting about “local jobs” he eventually narks on his uncle, head of informatic security at a downside firm. Former head, that would be.
Some weeks later, a Novaya Europan cruiser comes through from Artsutanov; Captain Korolev explains that he’s involved with the pursuit of a criminal, Valdis Vinewicz, who seems to have fled Novaya Europan space, and he’d appreciate cooperation from local authorities. He even offers some reconstruction aid, implying that this is a fairly high-level action. Details of Vinewicz’ crimes are fairly sketchy, but he’s definitely violent.
On the other hand, the fellow who approaches Keene’s damage evaluation party on a downside trip to a recently-burned area seems fairly harmless, and looks nothing like Vinewicz, though that’s the name he claims. He asks for asylum, and hints at damaging information that he’s prepared to trade.
Keene checks that he has no active electronics (just a standard wearable, turned off, in a metal box) and calls this in. Getting a shuttle in here without starting fires isn’t practicable, so the plan is to get him back to the downport by local transport.
They’re not the only people on the airbus, and they decide to sit separately but in sight. After a bit McRobert notices Vinewicz, somewhat paler than before, gesturing with his eyes at the old woman opposite him; McRobert goes over and sits next to Vinewicz, and spots that one of the woman’s knitting needles is pointing towards Vinewicz, and has a small hole in the end. She steps in front of Vinewicz, and a few seconds later notices a wet spot on her (lightly armoured) uniform; the impact was too soft to be felt.
The team grabs and arrests the old woman (who complains loudly, and everyone on board records her doing it). The other needle isn’t hollow. Ryan gets a sample of the wet spot, which turns out later to be a fairly vicious neurotoxin.
In the downport, the woman is cuffed and led out by a Marine patrol, but snaps the handcuffs and runs off at speed; Keene and some of the Marines follow her, but she loses them in crowds. Vinewicz is taken up to Cumberland, and among other things talks about a “black” shipyard project, suggesting that naval hardware may be being constructed at something like twice the official rate…
 Subsubsection: 9 October 2016 Up Subsection: HMS Cumberland Subsection: HMS Raleigh