It’s 06.30 when the klaxons sound to announce that Unguin’s Princess has emerged from jumpspace and so Will, Arvor and Jie are roused from their slumber to head to the bridge to plot a course to Elixabeth.
Within 10 minutes of starting towards Eos Highport which orbits Elixabeth, however, the ship is hailed.
“This is IINS Coralsnake. You are required to hold your course and prepare for boarding.”
Arvor immediately checks the sensors. It does appear to be an Imperial Serpent class Police Cutter, but as the last encounter showed, transponders aren’t always to be trusted. Twenty minutes later, however, and a visual sighting confirms that it really is a Police Cutter.
Autumn arouses all of the passengers from their staterooms and tells them to have their documents ready for inspection by customs. This appears to make Eneri very nervous again.
Within an hour, the cutter has come alongside and docked and a customs inspector comes aboard with two guards. They ask to see everyone’s passports. As was the case upon arrival on Tarkine, once they see the crew members’ Impie passports, the inspector seems at ease and the passengers’ papers and the manifests get just cursory glances.
The Inspector heads down to the cargo bay to check the contents against the cargo manifest. He is a little surprised to see the remnants of the fighter in the hold.
“So what’s the story behind that then?” he asks, seemingly more out of interest than accusatory.
The party members all look at one another to see if there is any reason why they shouldn’t tell the truth, but no one seems to have any objections.
“We had a bit of a run in with pirates at the gas giant in Nocotcol,” Will says.
“We needed to scavenge their fighter for parts because they damaged our M-Drive in the fight,” Max hastily adds.
“So did you manage to outrun the pirates?” the Inspector asks.
“No, we took them out,” Will replies, with no small amount of price.
“That’s excellent!” the Inspector replies. He is grinning broadly and patting all of the party members on the back.
“The local Imperial Ministry of Justice Marshal, Yuri Timenko, would love to debrief you about the experience. Anti-piracy activities is his main mandate here and the main task that the Navy Base here is responsible for, so any new intel that you have on their latest activities will be very valuable.”
“Will you agree to meet with him?”
“We are gonna meet the man?” Grim asks the other party members.
The others mostly shrug in response.
“I can’t see what we have to lose,” agrees Max.
“Best take the recovered hard drive along,” Taeva says.
“Excellent,” the Inspector says. “We will escort you to the Highport.”
The Inspector and his two guards return to their ship, it undocks and then accompanies the Unguin’s Princess on its journey towards Eos Highport.
Grim puts on his best formalwear GelCloth suit to meet with the Marshal. Following Grim’s lead, Max also puts his formalwear on too.
“I’ll get my best, er, cleanest sweater vest,” says Will. “I’ll open a new pocket protector too. Or should we iron the fancy duds? Might be better to look like fierce pirate killers. I’ll wear my stained prison-orange shipsuit.”
“No Capn’. This man knows of our darin’ exploits. That’s why we’re goin’ to see him. Lets get dudded up proper.”
Grim straightens the tie Arvor gave him as a present, then, reminding himself that it doubles as a garotte, he loosens it a bit…
There are still three and a half hours to get to the highport, so everyone gets back to work after getting changed.
“Dahdadadah, dahdadada…” hums Grim as he walks by Will after using the fresher…
“Daditdah, dadadah…” hums Jie a while later sa she passes Will in the corridor on her way to check the course of the Princess…
“Dahda…” Arvor is humming striding towards the port turret when Will cuts him off abruptly.
“What is that insidious tune you’re all humming?” Will demands.
“Well, last week Grim and I were looking over some of the holovids Kiiimmmiii and Laarrii had stashed away for the passengers. Seems the kids were collectors of old vids, I mean really old vids. Anyway we came across one we really liked, about a band of adventurers dirtside on old Terra. We’ve been passing it around, ask Grim where the copy is if you want to see it. Kinda cheesy, really, but with a very catchy theme song. Called the “B-team”, I think. Hey, have you noticed that Grim doesn’t wash his hands after he uses the fresher? Maybe that’s why he has trouble finding a date."
With that, Arvor resumes his march to the turret, presumably to calibrate his guns, leaving Will with a tune stuck in his head.
“Dahdadadah…” he begins humming.
Will then starts singing a tune of his own:
Come sit right back and you’ll hear a tale
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port
Aboard this tiny ship…
Grim, noticing that Will is singing a different tune, walks up and says, “Good on you Capn’! And where’s that catchy song from? Well never mind, I think we need a ship’s song, you know, just to pipe the passengers on and off with…and I think you’ve hit on just the melody,” with that Grim sticks out his hand for Will to shake.
“My Great-father worked for Glisten’s System Defence Department," Will explains. "He was a sensor expert. His role was watching for Zhodani activity, but he said the radio spectrum was flooded with ultra-low-level ancient Solomani stuff that they just broadcast into the ether millennia ago. Anyway, that was the theme song for a serial entertainment about a hapless crew and their passengers stranded on an alien planet. They built ground vehicles out of vegetation. Don’t know how they ever got into space with that level of thinking, but GP used to say that the show nicely captured an old empire in its declining days on Terra. Anyway, the jingle sticks in your mind.”
It’s 11.00 by the time Unguin’s Princess docks at the bay which the highport had assigned to the ship, one close to the Naval docks which comprise a significant part of the port.
With customs having already cleared the ship, there are no more formalities to be attended to and so the passengers are all able to disembark without being detained further. Autumn wishes them all goodbye, or a simple ‘adios’ to Gus and Valencia who will be continuing with the ship on its journey to Talchek.
The Inspector is waiting for them there. Once the crew has attended to the last of the docking activities, he escorts them all to the Navy’s section of the highport and then into the IMoJ offices within the section.
The Inspector asks the party to wait for a while and the party waits in reception for twenty minutes until a huge bear of a man lopes towards them.
“SO!” the large man’s voice booms. “HERE ARE THE GREAT PIRATE HUNTERS OF UNGUIN’S PRINCESS!”
He comes to each of the party members in turn and greets them with a large bear-hug which practically crushes the life out of them.
“COME, COMRADES. WE GO TO MY OFFICE TO DRINK VODKA!”
Everyone heads into Yuri’s office and he pours shots for everyone. Once the first shots are downed, he starts to question everyone on the events at the Noctocol gas giant in great detail, interrupted on a regular basis with more shots. He asks to see the evidence from the turret cams and from the ship’s computer.
Yuri laps up all of the footage as if he was enjoying the latest blockbuster holovid release with cries of “OTLICHNA!” every time that Arvor and Jie get a shot on the Black Panther followed by more vodka shots.
The meeting lasts throughout the afternoon, by which time the party members are struggling to remain conscious from the combined effects of the vodka. It doesn’t seem to affect Yuri at all though.
Yuri is a little disappointed to hear that the party members have given the captives to Roberta Fett as he would have liked to have received the glory of bringing them to justice himself. He is aware of Roberta though – seeing from his database that she is a loyal member of the Imperium and very good at her job, and so he is glad that the pirates will most definitely be brought to justice when she delivers them to Dallia.
So thorough is Yuri in his investigations that it is early evening before he has exhausted his list of questions.
“You are indeed great heroes,” Yuri finishes. “We would love to release your story to the media as an example of how we are winning the war on terror. Will you work with us on this?”
The party members ask for a few minutes to speak among themselves and Yuri agrees, leaving the office to see if there are any more bottles of vodka in the freezer.
“I vote no,” says Jie. “Let’s keep a low profile. One of the reasons we won the last battle was that the bad guys took us for easy suckers. Next time this scenario runs, the pirates may use three or five fake passengers to disable the crew and two fighters because of our super bad ass reputation. I’m all about looking small and weak.”
“I would shun it too,” says Taeva. “But the fact is the holovid already being crafted by our former passenger will have exactly the same effect anyway.”
“It might be an opportunity to squeeze something out of Yuri if we co-operate. A surplus beam laser for example- after all we can explain to him that our co-operation will make us desirable targets, and so if we are to co-operate we need to be able to Up our Game.”
“I agree with Taeva,” says Grim. “We can’t hide from our exploits. On the other hand, how we play this with Yuri needn’t be an invitation to ham it up for the general public and the press either.”
“So I vote we keep as low a ‘public’ presence as possible while also agreeing to help Yuri.”
“I fully agree with keeping as low a profile as we can,” says Will. “But maintaining good relations with Yuri, and so the Imperium, is important too. Since he seems quite enamoured of our exploits, perhaps we can ‘play’ him a bit and convince him to help us without being too public about it. Max or Autumn is probably our best bet if we want to go that way. Taeva’s, Jie’s, and Grim’s ideas could all be ‘help’ we ask for.”
And so it is agreed – no one is too keen on being known as famous pirate hunters (any more than they will when Jasya’s holovid gets released).
Yuri returns and Jie tells him that, unfortunately, they will have to decline his kind offer for their safety.
“Well that’s a shame,” he says with a little disappointment, “But I understand your reasons why.”
“If there is anything else that the MoJ can do to help you, then please don’t hesitate to ask.”
“Any chance of getting a beam laser from you?” Taeva asks.
Yuri laughs heartily and then shakes his head:
“That’s bold of you to ask. Unfortunately, my department is only a small one out here and we don’t have a large budget. The Navy would get upset if they thought the MoJ was giving their jobs to independents like you – they’d think that we thought they weren’t up to the job.”
“There’s always a lot of politics at play at this level.”
There is a pause.
“Well, I better let you get on,” he says. “But it’s been a pleasure meeting you.”
He hands everyone a copy of his business card.
“Just give me a call if there’s anything else I can do to help.”
Yuri gets up and gives everyone another big bear hug as they leave.
Such is the amount of vodka that they consumed during the meeting with Yuri that most of the party members can hardly stand. They somehow wobble out of the IMoJ offices and head back to the ship, before getting an early night so that they can sleep off its effects.