Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Quiet Shakedown

032-1120
A badge for the Boxing Kangaroo
Following the excitement of the Kaufmann incident, it returned to normal (more or less). The full crew, including the Marines had arrived by 300-1119, and simulations had run more or less successfully. The Boxing Kangaroo was complete, a few weeks earlier than planned. A week before, the yard had taken her up and all systems were good. Brickley had been aboard, but the test crew had done all the work, and he’d been little more than a passenger the whole way. To mark the occasion, the Navy decided a full-on shake-down of all systems would be appropriate. The ship would lift from Terra, jump to Ceres, and burn in back to Terra. A couple of asteroids would do for some target practice.
            Brickley looked forward through the iris valve to the bridge opened; seeing Zabiyah on the left, and Hassan on the right. Forward of them sat Chishan at a console set up for master weapons, and Able Spacehand Hall to his back. The ship was nearly rigged for lift, with all equipment in the hull, and hatches locked. The only thing remaining connected was the power umbilical.
            Brickley stepped through the valve, as Marine Yap stepped out from the ship’s locker and shouted “Attention on Deck!” taking their attention. The young man braced against the locker iris valve, as Brickley passed him in the narrow passage.
            “Carry on. Captain has the deck,” was Brickley’s mild reply, but heard throughout the space. He stepped up to the acceleration chair mounted in the center at the aft end of the compartment.
            “Captain has the deck, aye,” Hassan replies, noting the time in the log. “Sir, all departments report ready for lift. Clearance has been received from Alice Springs Central, we are scheduled for one hour from now.”
            “Very well,” Brickley replied as he plugged in his personal comm to the ship’s systems and keyed the general announcing circuit.
            “All hands, this is the Captain. We will be lifting in one hour. This is our first flight with the Boxing Kangaroo, and we will bring our new ship home. Our mission is simple here. We jump out to Ceres in the Belt, and then shoot an asteroid, and come back through normal space in time to get back to Terra for fixing any issues. I have every faith in you that we’ll make it without a problem. Carry on.”
            The bridge crew looked at him with the understanding they’d be lifting soon. The indicator for an internal call came on. Brickley pushed his answer button. “Bridge, Captain.” The idea of saying that still came as new to him.
            “Captain, we’re ready to start up the plant for this first time. Plant is in condition to start up in accordance with POP-1,” came Brand’s collected voice back to him.
            “Engineering, you have my permission to start the power plant in accordance with POP-1,” he replied. “Note that in the log, initial operation of the power plant under ship’s force control.”
            “Right team,” Brand spoke to her people when she got off the line with Brickley, “The skipper said it’s time for us to start her up. Maurer, you got the procedure up?”
            “Yes, MM1,” the small woman spoke up. The team entered in to the procedure to start the main plant. Brand began the operation that would start the power plant. As she brought it up, Kidd, her other assistant, disconnected the umbilical. Brand called the bridge, reporting the ship was successfully on internal power.
            “Sir, Central has given us clearance, we have 10 minutes to boost,” Hall spoke from up forward.”
            “Very well,” Brickley replied, after taking Brand’s report as well. “Astrogator, make checks of all spaces.”
            “Make checks of all space, aye-aye,” Hassan replied, then spoke into the main announcing circuit, “All spaces, make final reports to the bridge before boost.”
            He turned to a clear area of his console, and with a grease pencil, stood by for reports.
            “Bridge, common area,” Sergeant Valdez came across, “We are ready for boost.”
            “Ready for boost, common area, bridge, aye,” was Hassan’s reply. He got the same reports from Brand in Engineering, Owen in the Missile magazine, Castillo in the cargo bay, and Afari in the boat.
            Hassan turned and looked at Brickley, “Sir, final reports from all spaces report ready for boost.”
            “Very well, astrogator,” Brickley replied before continuing, “Pilot, stand by to boost on my mark.”
            “Stand by on you mark, aye,” Zabiyah replied.
            “Engineering, bridge make the maneuver drive ready to answer all orders from the helm.”
            “Bridge, engineering, make the maneuver drive ready to answer all orders from the helm, aye,” came Brand’s report. A minute later she replied that it was in fact ready. The readout for the timer in the corner of his HUD showed 1:30 remaining before the Kangaroo’s turn to boost.
            The slow wait got to everyone, as the ship felt unnaturally quiet. As the seconds clipped away, the nerves seemed to grow in anticipation. 15, 14, 13, 12….
            “Pilot, ready to boost….” 5, 4, 3, 2 1 “NOW!” Brickley spoke as Zabiyah’s hands got the ship off the ground easily. The thunder of the ship’s lift boosted them to orbit quickly. He knew it would be about two hours for the ship to get to the 100D limit.
            “All hands, this is the captain,” he began, “Relax watches until rig for jump.” Chishan stood up from his console, and walked aft, likely looking to get a quick snack.
            Two hours passed uneventfully, and shortly before the 100D limit, Hassan looked up from his console. “Jump plotted, Captain. Do you want to check it over?”
            Considering his basic astrogation skills, Brickley paused, and said, “I trust you here. It’ll be good enough.”
            “All hands, stand by for jump. Engineering, divert power to the Jump Drive.”
            “Power diverted,” came the response on the direct channel from engineering.
            “Pilot, take us to jump!”
            The INS Boxing Kangaroo shuddered for a brief moment, and the universe went to nothingness.
            “Astrogator, set J-watch, section 1.”
            “Set J-watch, section 1, aye, sir.” Hassan replied, “All hands, set J-watch, section 1.”
            For the next week, the ship was in the quiet rotation of a jumping starship, even though the distance was far too little to be really worth Jumping for. Each day was heavily involved in administration and prep for the upcoming commissioning. Marines First Class Appledorn and Fini were practicing their pipe and drums in the Ship’s Boat each day, and somehow working into a harmony. Brand and Valdez were working to ensure that everyone’s uniform would be nearly perfect, and it seemed everyone was working well enough to ensure a quiet trip. 161 hours after jump, the ship precipitated out near Ceres.
            “Senors, OOD?” Brickley asked Chishan as they precipitated in to N-space.
            “I show nothing, sir. Contacting Ceresport now,” was the reply.
            “Very well. Keep the ship fixed relative to Ceres while we wait.”
            Shortly, a text only reply was received, it told them an asteroid 400,000 km ahead in the orbit was what they were authorized to target with all weapons. It had long been fitted with a couple of beacons for target practice with powered down lasers, and few missiles were authorized for expenditure on it. A short burn got them in position.
            “All hands, Man battle stations for space engagement,” followed a gong of an alarm, rousting everyone from their places. The crew hastily donned their light vacuum gear, to plug into stations. Brickley took his location at the aft end of the bridge. Zabiyah at the right, Hassan left. Father forward, Hall and Castillo buckled into remote directors for the lasers, with Chishan and Owen taking the missile mounts. Brand and her juniors were ready to go in engineering, donning hardsuits. The Marines were standing by in the cargo bay, ready to either board the boat or the G-carrier.
            “Sensors?” Brickley asked.
            “Clear,” came Hassan’s answer.
            “Range?”
            “40,000”
            “Open-“
            “Wait, sir, I’m getting a jump emergence, range 50,000, bearing 358!” Hassan interrupts,
            “Transponder?” Brickley responds. Shifting gears, he calls down to Chishan, “Do we have any warshots?”
            “There’s twelve, sir. Three barrages per turret, and about 15 minutes for Owen and I to ready them by the book. We have to pull the telemetry”
I found this in my copy of the Traveller Book
Too good not to use.
            “Do it,” Brickley gives the implicit order. Calling to the boat, and Valdez, “We’ve got something. Get the Marines in the boat, and be ready to launch.”
            Before he could hear the reply, Hassan spoke up, “Sir, it’s the Free Trader Mudshark by the transponder. She’s Fenris registry.”
            “Ask them what happened to jump out here.”
            “Coming across now, they’re coming from Prometheus, and headed to Ceres with a cargo or robotic parts. Looks like a slight jump problem”
            “I’m sending the Marines over to ensure they’re legit, along with you as the boarding officer, XO. Draw a pistol on the way.”
            As Sub-Lieutenant Hassan and the Ship’s Boat made their way over to the Mudshark for a papers and quick inspection. As the boat came closer, they saw a battered, aging Empress Marava-type ship, with the exterior only showing a simple sigil. On the Starboard side, at the passenger deck, Afari expertly docked the boat. Checking the tell-tales, Sergeant Valdez told Hassan, “Sir, we’ve matched up and there’s nothing incorrect on the other side. Me and Appledorn’ll go first, then you. The squad’ll file in except for Corp and Franke, as the boat crew.”
            “Sounds like a plan, Sergeant. You heard him, we’re going.”
            The Captain of the Mudshark, a middle-aged man with the name “Thu” on his ship suit stand next to another in a cheap suit. Valdez and Appledorn step out to either side.
            “Captain Thu, isn’t it? Sub-Lieutenant Hassan, Imperial Navy, off the Patrol Cruiser Boxing Kangaroo. We’re going to conduct a brief inspection here, and ensure your ship’s safe.”
            “Not a problem, but I’ll be looking for a new astrogator soon. I like getting back to the wife and kids, here,” the Captain replies. “Mr Tazewell here is a robot seller, and is looking forward to getting to Ceres to sell his wares, while I get some ores to take home to Fenris.”
            “Thank you, Captain; Sergeant, start the inspection,” Hassan replied. “Are there any other passengers?”
            “Nope, only Oggie here. It’s me, my nephew running the plant, a cousin who’s the steward, and a couple of hired hands. A good one for my nephew, a horrible one whose Astrogating. Need to find a relative who can astrogate.” Thu claims as he thumps Tazewell on the back.
            “As the good captain introduced us, I’m Ogleston Tazewell at your service, my friend. I am a free-lance dealer in robotic parts. I sell Naasirka and Ling-Standard in the Sol and Dingir Subsectors.” Tazewell replies.
            “Right, did you get lishun?” Hassan asks.
            “Oh, free pratique, we cleared that at Prometheus. I’m sorry, you Imperials do prefer that term ‘lishun’.” Thus replies, and asks, “About how long will it take?”
            “Depends on if the Marines find anything. May I review your papers?”
            “Of course, you can. If you’d like, I can get Cousin Verda to get you something,” the Captian replies as he hands a data pad with the ship’s info on it to Hassan.
            “No thank you, Captain.”
            After his review of the papers, Hassan returns briefly to the ship’s boat, and informs the Kangaroo of the progress of the search. The gunners are all working to reinstall the telemetry packages on the missiles.
            After an hour docked to the Far Trader, Afari calls, “Message for you, sir.”
            Nodding in acknowledgement, Hassan answers, “Boxing Kangaroo, this is the boarding officer.”
“Boarding officer, Boxing Kanagroo. We got clearance back from Copernicus Down; this guy’s been check-mated, let him continue,” Zabiyah answers with near disinterest.
“Affirmative. I’ll get the Marines back here, and we can resume the shakedown. Boarding officer, over.” Hassan quietly walked back to the waiting Captain Thu.
“Sir, we regret the inconvenience, and you are free to carry on at this point,” Hassan states to him, offering a hand shake. “Once I call the Marines, we’ll get off your ship.”
“Of course, of course! At some point, I may have to bring the family along, on one last voyage. Many have not seen the wonders of Earth! I hope the other officers of the Imperial Navy turn out as professional as you!” Thu ebulliently responds, pulling the Sub-Lieutenant in awkwardly.
Stepping away, Hassan calls “Valdez, round everyone up. We’re letting this ship get on with her business.”
“Aye aye, sir,” Sergeant Valdez responds. “Marines! We’re clear.” The team is back aboard the boat with in a couple of minutes. “All present, sir.”
“Very well, Sergeant.” Hassan replies to the order. “Captain Thu, we’ll be clearing your airlock momentarily. Save travels as you shape your voyage home.”
“Of course! And the same to you.” Captain Thu replies, shutting the iris valve between him and the boat. Hassan walks through the air locks, cycling the boat’s as he head back to his seat just off the flight deck.
“Corporal, take us home.”
“Taking us home, aye,” Afari responds, in his Terran accent. The Marines are a bit more frantic than normal, seeing as were doing something rather than the nothingness of ship’s troops duties. Even a perpetually barely breaking even Far Trader with no interesting contraband is new compared to being locked into a starship with little to do. The trip back to the Boxing Kangaroo is uneventful, as is the docking. The Marines get to their post operation routine of equipment care as Hassan returns to the bridge.
            Strapping himself in, Hassan tells Brickley, “Just another fellow trying to make a credit. I think a robotics salesman had him chartered.”
            “I see,” the captain replied. “We’re getting back on schedule. I’m setting a modified battle stations here so the Marines can complete their work.”
            “Did it really relax?” Hassan asks rhetorically.
            “No sir,” came Zabiyah’s response.
            “Right then,” Hassan replied, as he keyed the mike and announced, “Naval personnel, man battle stations for weapons test.”
            The two junior gunners came up, and manned their stations forward of the bridge, setting them up to take the laser turrets. Chishan and his junior gunner reported the missile battery manned and ready, as did Brand in engineering.
            “Astrogator, range to target?” Brickley inquired
“30,000”
            “Open fire, Laser 1”
            “Laser 1, open fire, aye.” Spacehand Hall replied. Direct hit, and unaided.
            “Laser 2, open fire, with full fire control assist,” Brickley ordered.
            “Open fire with full fire control assist, aye,” Castillo, her counterpart at the other station acknowledged. Again, a direct hit, results similar to the first.
            The ship closed the range to 10,000 km off this rock, and repeated the procedure with the missile battery.  Chishan’s hit, as did Owen’s.
            The only thing left was the distance burn. All telemetry was sent to the Naval base at Theophilus on Luna. About a half hour later, the Kangaroo got her results back; pass in all regards, take the fifty-hour burn in back to Terra, and the ship and crew were accepted for commissioning. The impromptu boarding exercise would count for small craft operations.
            The return was uneventful, and Zabiyah stuck the landing at Alice Springs perfectly. A small crew was there to meet them, including Admiral Taugolo, informally congratulating them on a job well done. Next week would be the formal congratulations and commissioning.


RECENT NEWS
Fenris/Solomani Rim                  024-1120
Anti-Imperial sentiments have boiled over in a number of cities, as members of conservative Lodges took to the streets in violent protest. Businesses were looted, vehicles were wrecked, and offworlders and pro-Imperial citizens were mobbed. Rioters engaged in dozens of pitched battles with police, fading away only when Imperial troops arrived on the scene. Casualties have been light, almost entirely limited to unarmed civilians caught in the crossfire.
Imperial Army spokesmen dismissed today’s protests as an expected surge in mob violence. "On the Solomani calendar, today was the 7th of May," explained Major Eneri Enleshkaadshar during a press conference. "That's the anniversary of the final surrender of Terra during the Rim War. We see some unrest every year about this time. The Governor's staff is confident that these malcontents will crawl back into their holes soon enough. I also guarantee that they will do more damage to fellow citizens of Fenris than they will to the Imperium."

Muan Gwi/Solomani Rim                  001-1120
Archduke Adair announced today the Empress Iolanthe is due to visit the Solomani Rim during the upcoming Jubilee Year. Her itinerary has not yet been announced, but the Archduke confirmed that the Empress would visit Muan Gwi, Shulgiasu, Shululsish and Terra at some point during her tour. 

Sarpedon/Solomani Rim                  364-1119
Imperial Navy spokesman Lieutenant Gaamagin Cho has announced the defeat of a band of pirates on the outskirts of the Sarpedon system.
According to Lieutenant Cho, the liner Pleiades came under attack while approaching Laodemeia, the Sarpedon system's only gas giant. Fortunately a Navy escort squadron was performing readiness drills in Laodemeia space, and was able to respond to the liner's distress signal. Lieutenant Cho did not give specifics of the engagement, and refused to speculate on the identity of the pirates involved. She stressed that there were no casualties to Navy personnel, or to crew and passengers aboard the Pleiades.
The Pleiades is a 600-dton subsidized liner registered to the merchant line Silk Road Factors. Silk Road Factors is known to specialize in cross-border trade into the Solomani Confederation.

Dingir/Solomani Rim                  320-1119
Robert, Marquis of Beaudoin and once Duke of Dingir, emerged from seclusion today to announce a Grand Conclave of the sector’s nobility. The meeting is to take place on Dingir from 045-1120 through 050-1120. "I cordially invite all of my friends and kinsmen to join us for several days of talk and revelry," he said. "We have much to discuss regarding the future of our beloved Imperium, and in any case it has been far too long since many of us have seen one another in person."
The marquis’ daughter, Duchess Erika haut-Beaudoin, was not present at the announcement. Her office made no formal comment, although her seneschal stated informally that "the marquis is fully capable of making his own social arrangements without our assistance or advice."

Sarmaty/Solomani Rim                  273-1119
Accompanied by a number of aides and retainers, Duke Iwoahlarko has arrived on Sarmaty. After greeting planetary officials, he immediately traveled to his clan lands in the nation of Aorhtoi. Human representatives of the press were excluded from his audience with clan leaders, which lasted until well past local midnight.  

Terra/Solomani Rim                   260-1119
Imperial authorities have announced the release of a Solomani Army soldier who recently came out of cold sleep. His name has been withheld at this time, but he is believed to be linked to the so-called “Phoenix Project.” A ship with him aboard is headed to the Solomani Confederation at this time. Further information will not be released until much later.