Subsection: HMS Javelin Up Subsection: HMS Javelin

22 October 2017

Javelin is just out of refit, and the new crew will be joining her for a fair part of her trip out to the duty station at Fletcher.
Commander Austen, “Old Nick”, is perhaps a bit on the old side; he was a junior in the war and is now in his sixties. Going by his public record, there are obvious places where a normal officer would go into admin jobs; he’s instead stayed with ship duty.
The XO, Lt Commander Kernes, is new in the rank, and doesn’t seem to be planning to stay there very long. Chief Engineer Lt Commander Watkins is thinking about retiring and writing a book somewhere that doesn’t get so hot.
The colony at Fletcher was founded about twenty years ago, and given that it’s nearly surrounded by Novaya Europan systems it’s getting a significant naval base put in. So far it’s only a resupply depot.
Passage out takes weeks. Gretton’s fellow junior engineer is more specialised on the comms and electronic warfare side.
Emerging into the Leeuw system, Gretton picks up a brief duress code from a civilian ship in system (the Luton Conveyor, bound from Leat to Arbuthnot without stopping here); it flips back to normal after a few seconds. The only other civilian ship in the system is orbiting the main world. He alerts Keene, officer of the watch, who proposes an intercept, and to alert the Marines to be ready to form a boarding party. He proposes this to the XO, who agrees. Findlay gets what he can with passive sensors; there’s nothing unusual about the drive flare or other data, and no sign of any nearby vehicles.
After a bit of discussion, Gretton suggests a course for the Arbuthnot jump point, allowing Javelin to close the distance without obviously being on an intercept course; this should allow Javelin to give the merchant only half a day’s warning.
It’s Findlay’s watch when the course change comes up, and Keene makes an active scan. The Conveyor asks what’s up; Keene replies that it’s a customs inspection, and the captain wearily agrees. There’s no sign of immediate action by the Conveyor, though Morrish picks up some slightly warm objects down-acceleration from the ship and gradually drifting away. They’re about torpedo- (or human-) sized, metallic, very roughly cylindical at a guess, and about 90 Mm away from the merchant; if they haven’t manoeuvred then they might have been dropped out about the time Javelin entered the system.
The eventual plan is to launch both ship’s boats, one to board, the other (flown by Morrish) to recover the loose objects. Keene goes over with the boarding party, leading the Marines. This starts quite routinely, with Keene greeted by Captain Webster, who’s clearly letting himself go (even in a world with personal hygiene robots). Keene bogs Webster down in administrative details while waiting for the other ship’s boat mission (several hours before they can expect to hear anything) and the Marines search the holds.
The officers and crew of the Conveyor seem slightly ill-at-ease, though perhaps not unduly. The crew stay together, though the Marines are escorted on the search, by the chief of sensors and a couple of crew; Jones and Smith both notice one of the engine-room hands blinking at them, and work out the word “HIJACK”. Jones heads back to inform Keene, who’s digging down into crew vaccination records; she calls him outside to tell him about a “weapon power pack problem” and gives him the details.
She returns to the hold and manages to separate officer and engine-room hand, briefing the chief of sensors on the mythical weapon problem, while Smith gets the engineer’s story: the five hijackers were hiding in the cargo, killed the officers, and told the crew they might live to see another day if they didn’t make trouble.
Keene excuses himself to the head and subvocalises the plan: the Marines will take down the chief of sensors, he’ll call the other officers into the Captain’s cabin, and the Marines will move in to ambush them. He returns and tells Webster that his men are happy; “That’s a shame, because I’m not” he replies, pointing a pistol at Keene. He requires Keene to call the ship and tell them everything’s fine; Keene manages a duress code, then steps in to try to disarm Webster. He manages to evade the first spray of fire, but doesn’t manage to get Webster’s gun away from him.
Smith and Jones have heard the duress code, and Jones rifle-butts the chief of sensors (which with the strength boost from the powered suit causes him to lose interest in affairs).
Findlay powers Javelin’s weapons, and Gretton stands ready to boost power if needed.
Keene is shot, and badly wounded, but hangs on to consciousness. He grapples Webster, and tries to throw him out of the captain’s cabin, but fails in the latter attempt.
Jones secures the chief of sensors (leaving him with the engine-room hand), and the Marines head for the main crewed section of the ship.
As the captain breaks free, Keene dodges round him and heads towards the holds, getting most of the way there before he loses consciousness. The Marines pass him on their way into the crew section, and the ensuing fight is short and one-sided; after a couple of exchanges of fire, the surviving hijackers’ weapons are thrown out. Three of the officers survive; Webster’s datapad is blinking “please confirm secure erase”, so the Marines don’t.
The crew seem to be the original merchant crew. The chief of sensors seems to have mysteriously choked to death on his tongue while handcuffed. (Nobody looks too hard at that.) Keene’s taken to sickbay and comprehensively rebuilt about the lower torso. It turns out that microphones had been rigged about the merchant.
Morrish finds the five corpses, wrapped in low-reflectivity foil.
Once the informatics crew get a chance at the datapad, they reconstruct the plan. There’s a shipbreaker’s yard, Honest Septimus’ Ships and Parts, at Arbuthnot (orbiting the gas giant that’s also the primary of the habitable planet), where a ship can be conveniently “broken down for parts” and “reassembled” as a completely different ship with new registry. Captain Austen and the XO are enthusiastic about catching them red-handed. If only there were a freighter that needed an officer contingent…
It’ll be several months aboard the freighter, so it’s a volunteer mission. There are recognition phrases on the datapad, which argues that the breaker won’t know the pirates. Keene will have time to recuperate, and Javelin will go on ahead (and be conveniently nearby when things happen). Morrish commands the prize crew; the merchant spacers are happy to volunteer, and the Marines are mixed in.
It’s a fair old slog and there’s a lot of exercise and reading. The jump point is one of the more exciting ones, with radiant temperature well above water boiling point, so the ship’s spinning behind its sunshade.
The crew are “secured” in the hold, with a few Marines lurking around the crew section. Gretton stays on the bridge while the others get ready to greet their victim.
Honest Septimus clearly doesn’t spend a lot of time in gravity, judging by his obese form and weak legs. He expresses surprise that the crew haven’t been “dealt with” yet; Morrish explains that they’ll be taken off aboard a shuttle so that they don’t make a fuss before then. Septimus reckons he’d just vent the hold, but he’s getting soft in his old age.
The transaction goes through, and Morrish tells Septimus that he’s nicked. He’s thrown for a few seconds, then asks if Morrish is sure if he wants to do that, seeing as he’s giving up enough money for a nice retirement. But he is, and Septimus goes quietly; there’s clearly no profit to be had in starting a fight with armed Marines and a warship, and he’s a businessman.
Going through records shows a nice bi-directional trade across the border…