Subsubsection: 19 November 2016 Up Subsection: HMS Javelin Subsubsection: 18 February 2018 

28 January 2018

Things go calmly for a while; then there’s an incident at Fletcher, as a civilian courier ship arrives through the Arbuthnot jump point, and then just sits there for several minutes. The shore battery queries them, but doesn’t get a response; then it starts to accelerate towards the planet.
A few hours later when the light-speed signals reach Javelin at the planet, they plot courses: it’ll reach the planet in about ten days, and this won’t be great for the planet if it doesn’t decelerate. The ship sets off on an intercept course, plotted by Morrish. In transit, they look at photographs from the shore battery; the ship’s been shot at a little, but not very effectively.
The rendezvous is about twelve hours short of the half-way point. Captain Austen wants to get more information rather than just destroying the courier, which could be done easily enough. Findlay spots some slight hull radioactivity as well as the laser damage, not seriously hazardous but indicating it’s been near nuclear detonations.
The shore battery hasn’t heard any news of a battle, and no other ships have come through. The courier is coasting, but when Lt Gill takes a ship’s boat with Marine boarding party, it starts jumping around on attitude thrusters, making the docking somewhat challenging. There’s still no response to radio, flashed lights, and so on. Findlay teleoperates Smith’s battlesuit to try to get the lock open, but without much luck; a reinforced crowbar with battlesuit strength does better, and reveals that there was atmosphere inside the courier – the inner door was open.
There’s a message from Javelin – the courier’s just started transmitting. It’s video of the inside of the ship, with the crew trying to surrender and people in Marine armour shooting them. This is clearly not what’s actually going on – the Marines haven’t got to the main crew compartment yet, and in any case the ship’s now exposed to vacuum.
They come across a small laser turret clamped to a bulkhead; it might cause difficulties to a civilian salvage crew, but it can’t get through military armour, and disarming it is no problem.
Jones is able to disconnect the transmitter from the ship’s computer, which is playing pre-recorded video. Smith and Jones spot that there’s definitely been a gunfight on the bridge, plausibly the one that was being broadcast. The control interfaces have been lasered,
A message comes back from the jump point; Arbuthnot had its main communications array shot up by what it thought was a merchantman (another hollow shell full of pirates’ attack craft, as some of the crew have seen before). The same pirate force took the courier, then fled (via a different jump point) across the border to Pilyugin.
Jansen spots a mechanical timer connected to the drive. (Another one has already run down and triggered; that turned on the power feed to the computer, perhaps as a way of getting it through jump-shock intact.) It looks as if it might be going to dump the antimatter feed and blow the drive; Gretton is able to evaluate it as a four hour delay from the point when the airlock was blown, which would be well clear of the planet but might still be near Javelin. He’s able to make things safe.
The navigation software was set, if not intercepted, to crash into the naval base construction site. Various people are confused as to just what the pirates’ intentions might have been. As they’re speculating about that, a message is relayed from Utkin: the Novaya Europans are proposing a joint customs force, given how much the border jump points seem to be getting used by bad guys. Some time later it seems that they have some pirates to offer as an earnest of good faith.
Findlay, who has experience of Novaya Europan occupation, notices that this proposal is coming from the Administrative Police (who typically deal with licencing and similar procedural matters) rather than the Criminal Police (who have detectives, chase criminals, etc.). Various people feel faintly uncomfortable about this, but there are obvious benefits to the plan. The Novaya Europans are sending a Police Colonel Danvarde, who seems surprisingly reasonable.
The courier is retrieved and hauled back to Fletcher.
The hijackers claim to be unconnected with Novaya Europa, and politically motivated (campaigning against the militarisation of this virgin solar system – and what about the indigenes?)
With a general fleet inspection being arranged, a Lieutenant Commander Fenton arrives to look over the ship. Her second, CPO Archer, is more interesting; he’s spent his career in Logistics, he’s well-supplies with non-issue kit, and seems surprisingly open to the possibility of a bit of harmless corruption (and getting involved in it).
 Subsubsection: 19 November 2016 Up Subsection: HMS Javelin Subsubsection: 18 February 2018