Mustered Out on Mertactor

297-1106

Departure to Noctocol

As it’s departure day, everyone is up early to make the final preparations for departure.

Autumn makes a last minute attempt to fill the two remaining low berths and manages to pick up an additional couple of passengers so that the ship is completely full for the trip.

Max oversees the loading of Jeri’s cargo. Talchek’s Life support parts are loaded first, and then the two lots of starship parts destined for Elixabeth. The life support machinery is non-containerized, on 2-ton and 4-ton pallets, and wrapped with clear plastic to prevent any particulate matter from getting on them. Max sees that the stevedores take exceptional care with their forklifts not to puncture the wrapping material, and do not stack the cargo pallets at all.

“You’ll need to chain them down,” the stevedore says as Max signs the bill of lading to assume responsibility for the goods.

“No worries, mate,” Max says. “Glad that time I spent in Merchant Academy was useful for something.”

The starship engine and electronics parts are both containerized and loaded by a different crew of stevedores. Max checks the cargo and sees that the starship parts have been properly packed in industrial cardboard, and labeled before the containers are sealed and locked by a Port Customs officer.

“How come there are two different crews loading the two different cargoes?” Max asks.

“Our Union rules say if you work one level of the warehouse ring, you pull cargoes from that area only,” the stevedore replies, pointing out the markings on the life support pallets right hand corners and the ones on the lower corners of the containers to prove his point.

“These here," he adds pointing at the life support equipment, “are marked ‘G1A3’ means Green deck level one, warehouse alpha-three.”

“Ours,” he continues pointing at the starship parts, "have ‘B1C2’, Blue deck level one, warehouse charlie-two.”

Max shrugs, “I don’t understand why they weren’t stored together.”

“All sensitive and fragile cargoes are all stored on Green deck’s warehouses," the now rather irritable stevedore explains. "The Green deck’s crews are the Union’s handpicked prima-donnas.”

The stevedore then cuts his explanation short from the scowls of his fellows, and grumblings of, ‘shooting his mouth off’, and leaves.

While Max busies himself with overseeing loading on the cargo, which takes much of the day, Autumn oversees loading of the passengers. Knowing that the Port Authority staff of the highport are as fastidious with embarking passengers as disembarking ones, she started the boarding four hours ahead of departure, at 14.00.

This proved to be a prudent decision as the Customs Officials are as much of a pain in the neck with checking the outgoing passengers and all of their baggage as the incoming ones. The only exception to this is Ms. Sunstein – although she has nearly as much baggage as the other passengers put together, she gets just a cursory check from Customs before being told that she is free to board. The same is with all six of the low passengers – one quick check of the passports and they are allowed on their way.

Once aboard and in their staterooms, Autumn is alerted by both Ms. Sunstein and Ms. Siena that Customs has two of their bags mixed up, and could she come and be a witness this ‘gross incompetence’ by the Dallian SPA. Ms. Sunstein says that she wishes to file a formal complaint with the Dallian starport authority. Autumn, however, manages to get the luggage transferred to its rightful owner and, showing her experience, brings Ms. Sunstein a bottle of champagne and a luxury box of chocolates as a bribe, knowing that any problems with the Dallian authorities at this late stage could result in the Princess missing its departure slot and incur fines.

With all passengers now on board, Autumn closes the airlock. She then helps the low passengers into their berths before heading for the common room in order to keep the high passengers happy.

As it gets closer to departure time, all of the other party members are in their posts getting ready for launch also, with Will, Arvor and Jie on the bridge going through pre-launch checks.

The Port Authority gives the Princess their departure slot for 18.00 and so Will pulls the ship away from its bay right on time, following the course set for them by the Port Authority until they are well clear of the Port. Jie then sets the course that will take the ship to jump distance.

On the bridge, Will and Jie spend a while discussing where to emerge from jumpspace in the Noctocol system. There is no fuel at Noctocol’s E-class starport and there is no water for skimming, so refuelling will have to be done from the gas giant closest to the planet. The skimming can be done either on the way to the world, or on the way back. They decide to do it on the way in to get it over and done with so that they can make a speedy departure away from the world afterwards. Jie sets the coordinates accordingly.

Once the ship is well on its way to the jump distance, the crew members can relax a little and mingle with the passengers in the common room while Autumn prepares dinner for everyone. It’s a very pleasant dinner and everyone seems to be getting on well with one another as they trade stories.

Shortly after dinner is finished and everyone is drinking port, the ship slips safely into hyperspace a little before 23.00. Everyone continues drinking for a while, until they all slip back to their staterooms one by one.

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NickPendrell

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