Again, just after midnight, Dvorcek calls to say that they are ready to finish off the job and so Will takes the Unguin’s Princess down from its orbit to the site.
The next six hours are a repeat of the previous day as the ship assists the teams on the ground to install the remaining two new ventilator hoods. It would appear that the rebels on the ground did not discover the fact that the weapons have been disabled as, once the job is complete, the pod pilot comes to dock with the Princess and the pilot hands over the signed bill of lading. Max checks it and confirms that it is OK.
Will turns the ship around and heads back to the starport as quickly as possible, arriving there just a few minutes later. There are no problems in returning to the port as the SPA opens up one of the huge airlocks once more and the ship descends inside it.
Everyone gets to work as soon as the ship has landed. Autumn calls up the warehouse where the party’s goods are stored to get them loaded back onboard as soon as possible, while Max puts in a call to Ms. Giada Tulleri of the NWC Bank.
Ms. Tulleri says that it will be possible for them to meet in her office in an hour’s time and so Max, together with Arvor as protection, heads off for the offices.
The bank manager is true to her word and is waiting for them when they arrive. She checks over the bill of lading, finds that all is in order and releases the agreed amount of 150k to Max. Max thanks her for all her help and then rushes back to the ship.
It takes another hour before the warehousing company has delivered the party’s goods back to them and Max has overseen the loading, and has settled up for the warehousing costs plus port fees but, by 10.30, they are ready to depart.
The SPA opens up the airlock and Unguin’s Princess rises into the toxic air of Talchek once more.
Once the ship is an hour away from the planet, Arvor opens up the commos and hail Lt. Commander Eulis aboard the Bright Spear.
She takes the call and Will tries to explain exactly what has taken place at the disused hab. Lt. Commander Eulis is a little skeptical at first until Will shows her some footage of them opening the crates.
“This isn’t really my department,” she says. “You really need to go back down dirtside and take this matter to the local IMoJ Marshall Bezalla bint Samara. That’s her business.”
None of the party members are that keen on returning to Talchek, knowing that the rebels could already have found out that the party members destroyed the weapons.
“We have a schedule to keep, I’m afraid,” says Will. “We haven’t got time to return to Talchek.”
On the viewscreen, Lt. Commander Eulis shrugs. “Well you’ve done nothing wrong, so you are free to go. I will pass on your information to her when I go off shift anyway.”
Glad that they aren’t going to be forced to return to Talchek, they thank her for her help and continue on towards the gas giant.
All is going fine for the first three hours until Arvor spots something on the sensors.
“There’s a ship heading on an intercept course for us,” he says. “Its transponder shows it to be a Type-R registered out of Dallia.”
Everyone looks around at each other nervously, but there’s not a lot they can do apart from to keep monitoring the ship’s progress.
“There’s something wrong here,” Arvor says. “A Type-R should only be capable of 1G, but this is approaching at 4G.”
The ship continues to close for another hour until it is within 15,000km when the party members’ worst fears are realized. Dvorcek’s voice comes over the commo channel.
“That was very sneaky, ratting us out to the authorities when we’d kept our side of the deal,” he says, his voice quivering with rage. “I think you owe us an explanation and some compensation. Slow down and prepare for boarding.”
Will alerts the Gazelle to the fact that they are being threatened. Again the Lt. Commander does not seem to be too bothered.
“If you are attacked then we will protect you,” she says. “There’s no rules about stopping one vessel from following another. Besides, we’re a good distance away from you.”
Communications are interrupted as four turrets pop up from the ‘Type-R’ and start shooting at Unguin’s Princess. The first volley from their pulse lasers are quite damaging, as the Princess suffers damage to its hull, armor and M-Drive. While Grim and Taeva rush around trying to fix the damage, Arvor and Jie strike back with the beam lasers and missiles.
The two ships trade blows with one another. The weak pulse lasers struggle to cut through the Princess’s armor, but they have numbers on their side. The Princess’s missiles also struggle with the Type-R’s thicker armor, but the beam lasers have more effect and begin chewing up up the larger ship’s hull.
The Princess seems to be getting more hits on the Type-R than it is receiving, but they are nearly all hull hits which doesn’t affect its fighting ability as it has a big hull. Taeva and Grim are repairing the damage that the Princess suffers in return.
The Type-R is closing all the time. Now it is at optimum range for its pulse lasers and is able to dodge much of the Princess’s offensive capability and things are starting to look pretty grim for the Princess’s chances. But then, in quick succession, two beams take out the ship’s sensors, leaving it pretty much blind.
The crew of the Type-R know that they are at a major disadvantage now. The combat has been going on for over 45 minutes and the Gazelle is nearly inside missile range now. As a result, Dvorcek decides to cut his losses and the ship jumps out, much to everyone’s relief.
Lt. Commander Eulis congratulates them on their excellent work and asks if they need any help. Will calls back to say that they should be fine from here.
Grim realizes that it is not going to be plain-sailing from here now. The temporary repairs that Taeva and he rigged up aren’t going to last much longer and there aren’t enough spares onboard to completely patch the ship up.
Sure enough, just a few minutes later, the M-Drive grinds to a halt and the ship is just slowly drifting in the direction of the far distant gas giant.
Grim and Taeva go and take a look at it.
Grim shakes his head: “She’s in a pretty bad way,” he says. “That’s going to take some serious fixing – and I’m not even sure if I have the right spares anyway. Even if I have, we’re talking days, not hours.”
He scratches his head.
“Actually the fighter’s M-Drive is a Type-A, exactly the same as the ship’s. I think it’s going to be quicker if we just swap them over for now. Then we can fix the other one up when we get to Grote.”
“We need to head to Grote now and not Lydia. There’s no facilities on Lydia and we are really going to need time and spares from a decent starport before we’re completely fixed.”
The others are a little nervous that they might find the Type-R waiting for them at Grote, but Jie checks the jump vector of the Type-R and thinks that it has headed rimward rather than coreward.
Grim asks the others to help him and so Taeva assisted by Jie set work on taking out the M-Drive from the fighter, while Grim and Arvor remove the Princess’s drive before they swap them around and then Grim starts to reconnect it.
Chief Engineer Grim is loath to have ‘Butter Fingers Jie’ help with any of the needed repairs. Even as she comes bounding down the p-way, banging a highly explosive demolitions torch off the bulkhead, his left foot begins to ache. However, it is much to his surprise that Jie is a natural demolitionist. Taeva and her work quite well together as the fighter opens its innards like a failed samurai committing seppuku. In fact, in the end, Taeva stands among the pieces of scrap fighter now littered all over the bay and says, “The M-Drive is totally disconnected, now all we need is a motorized hoist to very gently…”
“Pfffft!” Jie says as she grabs hold of the M-Drive’s Proton Deflection Manifold, sets her legs against the chassis and heaves. Much like a Huge Nobble turd, the bulky, glowing M-Drive unit plops out of the fighter and onto the deck with a thud.
“Hey Grim, you want me to install this?” Jie asks as she stands amongst the wreckage of the fighter.
“Noooo,” Grim replies sternly.
“Pfffft!” Jie replies.
The whole process takes many hours but, around 23.00, there is a satisfying sound of the engine turning over before spluttering into life. With relief, Will puts his foot down and carries on towards the gas giant as quickly as he can.