The remainder of the time in jump was quiet and everyone is quite glad when, a little after 20.00, Unguin’s Princess leaves hyperspace.
Will, Jie and Arvor head for the bridge and Jie confirms that the ship has emerged where she planned it to do so, just a little further out from the usual 100-diameter limit. Jie plots a course to Weiss and then gives Will the heading and trajectory.
All is plain sailing to Weiss for the first four hours of the seven hour journey to Weiss highport when, with dull predictability, they are hailed over the radio. What was not so easy to predict, however, was the organization that is making the hailing.
“Type-A2 Unguin’s Princess, this is IMoJ Gazelle Strephon’s Eyes IV. You are ordered to hold your present course and trajectory and prepare for boarding.”
Arvor checks the sensors.
“The ship’s transponder ID matches the name they were using,” he says. “It certainly looks like it is an IMoJ ship.”
“Ach,” exclaims Arvor, “Won’t they leave us alone? I’m betting that somehow our friends at Sternmetal ‘got the jump’ on us, and have sent a message ahead. They couldn’t be doing what they are doing (whatever that is) without someone on the inside.”
“As before, let Karolina do the talking, we hide at at strategic points.”
Will radios back to the Gazelle and tells them that they agree to be boarded. A few minutes later and the Gazelle’s gig launches and starts to head towards the Princess. While the gig is on its way, the party members get ready for boarding. They rig up an explosive device that will go off inside the low berth area and then everyone hides in various parts of the ship.
As the gig is on its final approach, Will asks the gig to board on the port side, claiming problems with the starboard airlock (not really wanting the boarders to go directly to the bridge). The gig complies and so Max, Autumn and Karolina head over to the port airlock to await the boarding party.
The airlock cycles and the agents come onboard. Surprisingly, there are just four of them – two armed with laser pistols and two with laser carbines. They are quite polite, wishing the crew a good morning. Karolina asks them what the boarding is in aid of, but their response is that this is a classified matter. They ask to see the passenger and cargo manifests, which Max and Autumn show them.
They ask to see all of the people on the passenger manifest. The group of agents splits into two groups and Max and Autumn show them around the ship. They don’t seem to be concerned with any of the passengers, but check the ship carefully. It takes them an hour before they have searched all of the staterooms thoroughly – checking every wardrobe and anywhere else that someone might be hiding.
Once the rest of the ship has been checked, they head for the cargo hold, with Max and Autumn showing them in. They seem to be most interested in the 15 containers of venison.
“Don’t open those up, mates,” pleads Max. “They’re all sealed and the venison will go off if the seals are broken. They’ve all been checked and the paperwork is in order.”
The agents ignore him. Agent Kim opens the doors to one of them and two Sword Worlders rush out. The first instantly runs Agent Kim through with a claymore while a second one rushes past him and brings Agent Thompson down with a huge handgun.
The two remaining agents start shouting for the Gazelle over their commo dots. Max and Autumn alert the other crew members who grab their weapons and come rushing into the hold. Will tries to pass on the information to the Gazelle, telling them that they are under attack from hijackers.
In the hold, Agent Spencer manages to take one of the Swordies down with his laser carbine, but both Agent Shepherd and Max both miss as they try to take out the second one. The Swordie hacks into Agent Shepherd in response.
Jie, Grim, Taeva and Arvor all rush into the hold now with weapons draw. Will locks the iris valves behind them apart from Grim’s valve from engineering. Jie enters the hold just as two more Swordies are emerging from a second container. One of them is upon Jie with a gigantic hammer before she knows what’s going on and the mighty weapon crashes into her, dropping her instantly. Arvor and Taeva quickly manage to get some revenge though as they bring the two new arrivals down with a blast from their weapons. On the opposite side, the Swordie who took down two of the agents adds a third to his tally as he brings down Agent Spencer as well.
On the bridge, alarm bells sound in warning as Will sees that the Gazelle has unleashed six lasers at the ship. Despite his best efforts to dodge the rays, the ship is raked by the weapons which bite into the hull deeply together with the armor, the hold, the power plant and Arvor’s turret.
Will hails the Gazelle again on the radio begging them to hold fire as they have nearly got the situation in the hold wrapped up.
Unfortunately though, that’s not quite the case as more Swordies emerge.
On the other side of the hold, Max manages to hit one of the Swordies. Unfortunately though, the Swordie’s vacc suit absorbs much of the damage. The Swordie’s respite is a short one though as Grim gives him a full blast with his gauss rifle which finally drops him, seriously wounded. Arvor and Taeva are both able to take down a couple more as the Swordies surge towards them. However, while they are doing this, a final two Swordies emerge right next to them, slashing them down with their claymores.
Another Swordies launches himself at Max. Not being the most dexterous of people, Max is unable to dodge properly and is viciously hacked down, dropping him in a pool of blood. Grim realizes that he is the only party member left now (apart from Autumn) who is trapped between two containers trying to stay out of the firefight. Grim avenges Max by cutting down the Swordie who dropped him, but then realizes that he is not going to be able to take all four remaining Swordies singlehandedly and so bolts for the iris valve. Will sees Grim come through and locks the valve behind him.
Panting from the exertion, Grim comes around to join Will on the bridge and to try and figure out what to do about the situation. Upon entering the bridge, he sees Will monitoring the situation inside the hold from the cams.
With some relief, they see that the Swordies are allowing Autumn to see to the wounded – crew members, agents and Swordies together, although they cover her while she does it with gauss rifles. As Autumn patches them up in turn, the Swordies secure them together.
One of the Swordies, presumably the highest ranking of the uninjured, is looking around. He stops when he finds a cam.
“Achtung,” the Swordie says as he addresses the cam. “Do wass ich sage und no one gets hurt. Tell that ship that fired on us that Sie surrender and they can eskort Sie to dem downport.”
“Once Sie ist 10km von dem downport, Sie vill open die cargo doors. Alles klarr?”
Will cuts intercom to the hold, rewinds the recording of the Swordies demands and broadcasts it to the Gazelle.
“This is the situation,” Will says after he has played the recording. “What do you want us to do?”
“Errm …just wait a moment,” the pilot says.
It takes a few minutes before the Gazelle responds. Will can tell that the Gazelle seems to have no clue what they should be doing in these circumstances.
“Err … OK, so … yes, that’s probably best to go with them to the downport, but don’t open the doors for them.”
Will tells the Swordies that he agrees to their demands, which seems to settle them down.
It takes just 30 minutes before the Princess has entered Weiss’s thin atmosphere and Will is following the flight path that the downport authority has given him. The ship is getting close to the 10km point now.
Not knowing what to do, Will radios the Gazelle again:
“You incompetent bastards better have a plan or I’m opening these doors. They have four of our people and four of yours.”
“Errm …” the Gazelle replies again. “Just get them to the downport and everything should be OK. We have SWAT Teams standing by there. They’ll sort everything out … probably.”
The Swordies are all kitted up and ready to move out now. They have brought a lot of additional equipment from inside the containers, including thruster packs for their vacc suits. They are all kitted up.
“Open the doors, now!” barks the Swordie leader.
“They got damaged when we got shot up,” Will tries to bluff.
“LYING SCHWEINHUNDT!” the Swordie says angrily. “Sie hasst drei doors! Surely ein of them must open?”
Will looks at Grim trying to think of a way out of this.
“Ich vill kill ein von die kaptives every 30 sekunden until Sie opens die doors!” the Swordie says.
Will and Grim are still torn as to whom they should listen to.
“Sie hasst hat long enough,” the Sword leader says.
With that, he draws his claymore and neatly lops off the head of Agent Spencer. Autumn is screaming now.
Will realizes that he has to do something. He speaks to Grim who runs around and gets into Jie’s turret as Will speaks to the Swordies.
“OK, I can get the port loading doors open.”
“Das ist gut,” says the Swordie before urging his men to get into position.
Six of the Swordies are able to get out, but four of them are too injured to make the jump. The leader gives each of them a pistol of some kind and tells them that he will see them in Valhalla.
Will opens up the cargo doors. The Swordies all leap out through the cargo doors.
Grim hits the button for the sandcaster. However, it’s only when he is nearly blinded by a stream of red light that he realizes that he pressed the fire button on one of the lasers instead. He frantically presses all of the other buttons he can find, finally detonating the sandcaster barrel. By this time though, the Swordies are already too far away.
With the Swordies now gone (at least the majority of them) Will brings the Princess down to land finally to the assigned pad, which is surrounded by SWAT Team vehicles, ambulances and fire engines.
Realizing that the atmosphere here is poor, Will, Grim and Karolina all grab respirators before emerging from the airlock to find several squads of SWAT waiting for them.
“Get down on your knees with your hands on your heads,” one of the SWAT officers barks.
The three of them do as they are told and a squad comes forwards to frisk them and then cuff them. An officer comes over to ask what the situation is like inside and Will tells them everything he knows.
One squad drags Will, Grim and Karolina into a police van and then they speed off for the city while three other squads carefully make their way onboard the ship.
Inside the hold, Jie, Taeva, Arvor, Autumn, Max and the three agents see the hold starting to fill up with smoke as the SWAT team hurls in smoke grenades, and then everything goes dark.
When they wake up again, they find that they are in hospital – it’s impossible to tell how long they were out for. There are several guards on duty to make sure that they don’t go anywhere though.
Will, Grim and Karolina are all driven to a police station inside the city. Here they are taken straight into cells. The guards look after all three of them quite well, but they refuse to answer any of the questions that the three of them constantly bombard them with.
Hours pass. Mid-evening, the jail door opens and an exhausted looking Autumn comes to join them, getting placed in a cell next to Karolina’s.
With nothing else left to do, everyone just gets some sleep after the long and difficult day.