As soon as I woke I sent Hiro a message explaining what had happened; the message was encrypted thanks to a magic black box Derik had produced and fitted to the comms unit-some sort of trade security precaution I suppose.
In the meanwhile we needed to look to our own security. I decided to remove the two airlock cams and reposition them in the hanger to cover the four doors entering from the Docking Control area: Dmitri and Derik got to it, running them from the Forward Hab Units power supply.
Maria was resting up, and so I took Laura, Dmitri and Vincent to do a bit of scouting. We had decided on the previous evening that we needed to take a look in the other hanger-if only to ensure that we could secure this level of the Rig.
I opened the access door with Dmitri and Vincent –apparently now the Wild Bill Hickok of the Asteroid Belt, covering. Laura stood to the side and chanced a look in. Nothing-it was just pitch black.
“There’s a ship in there” said Vincent, “I can see it with my View Visor, there are assorted heat signatures coming from it.”
I moved up and took a look with the viewer on my rifle-I recognised the design. A 400 tonner of the obsolete Guardian A2 class-probably more than 30 years old. These were similar to the C1’s used by Customs vessals, though with less modern systems obviously. Laura sneaked in for a closer peek, and returned 10 minutes later.
“It’s an A2 all right. Two rail gun barbettes fitted, and it looks like its taken battle damage. There are stacks of metal plate and scavenged fittings around the hanger-my guess is they’re fixing it.”
This had been Vincent’s earlier theory and I imagined, rather than saw him, smiling smugly.
We decided to enter; the ship was a threat, especially as we knew it had weapons fitted. Probably the only reason it hadn’t flown out and blasted us was that a number of its systems were down.
Vincent unscrewed the keypad and spent 10 minutes fiddling with the circuitry: the airlock opened. We bundled in, closed the door and cycled it: we needed to get in fast before they noticed-fortunately we hadn’t set any alarms off as yet. Inside the ship there was a normal atmosphere.
We came up the ramp to a circular access corridor: Laura and I went left, and Vincent and Dmitri went right. Laura and I entered what appeared to be a galley area, with some evidence of recent activity.
We headed toward the corridor that led to the front of the ship.
“Lars. Dmitri and I are heading back to you. There are some kind of drones active in the central cargo area, and frankly I don’t want to disturb them. I don’t think they’ve noticed us.”. Vincent.
Laura flitted across to the other side of the corridor and signalled that someone was up there. She popped out and missed. I was luckier and caught him full on with a burst of autofire. We could hear shouting.
I stayed and at the end of the corridor, shooting up towards the bridge: another man appeared and started taking potshots at us. Laura fired a few times but the range wasn’t good for her pistol, and she started flitting between doorways in an attempt to move closer.
Meanwhile Vincent started yelling “Those drones-they’ re moving up!” Then we started to hear firing from behind us.
Another bad guy moved across and took position in a doorway, and we all blazed away without hitting anybody until I finally got lucky and my smg hit No.2 in the head, removing most of it. The guy in the doorway threw his pistol out “Ok! Ok! We surrender.”
“The Drones- deactivate them!” yelled Laura. He shouted at an unseen ally, and presently a smaller man in a technician’s overalls came out, hands above his head.
“It wasn’t us-the Captain made us attack you-it was all his fault!” He pointed at the man that used to have a head.
“Yeah, we were a passing Church Choir he captured. Shut the Fuck up Patterson.” This from the the one that first thrown his gun down. “So what now?”
I looked them up and down. I couldn’t really trust them.
“Suit up, and we’ll get you back to our ship”. Seemingly they were the only two crew left alive.
We took stock. Dmitri and Vincent had destroyed one of the Drones, but the other was undamaged and we found its control unit near the bridge.
The ship’s T Drive was inoperative, and it’s M Drive was in very poor shape (and currently offline). It did however, have salvageable weaponry and a working military grade sensor suite-that would all do nicely to upgrade the Bleriot. I suggested that we might get a fair bit of salvage from this. There were 4 tons of cargo too.
“Niet” said Dmitri, “Laws not work so. Owner of rig has right to claim salvage-Mucho Maas. They would put in claim, and owner of ship gets one year to reclaim it, in which case Maas could claim a recovery fee off them. If no-one claims-it belong to Maas. You need to claim as War Prize-say our lives all in danger unless we fight these men.”
When we got back to the ship we discussed it-after Sylvie had put the two crew in grav couch suspension. Derik suggested we inform Hiro-the LFC staff were in a better position to work out the legal wrangles.
A few hours later Hiro beamed back. “Dmitri is right about the salvage laws. If you claim it as a war prize then of course Maas will contest it, but to avoid an endless debate it should be possible to eventually reach a settlement with them. LFC would claim too-as of course you’re technically an LFC contractor at the moment, but I’d be happy to argue a 3 way split. “
“There might be another option however” he continued. “ My suggestion is you continue with the survey, and before you reactivate the T Drive transmit it to me. I will get right on it and try to fast- track the sale while you’re in transit. If it works out, it might be possible for us to complete the transfer deal and THEN you put in a report when you get back. That would put us in a much stronger position in arguing a settlement. Either way it’s probably going to be the best part of a year before we see the money from this, but if you swop the sensors and take their weapons I’ll underwrite that and we can deduct it from your portion of the claim. What do you think?”
I liked his devious mind: I knew he was a man to watch.
“ And what about the two crew?” I asked.
“Oh well; we can think about that later. Might be easier all round if we allow them to cut and run-say you killed all the crew. I’m sure life and liberty is an attractive proposition for them. Avoids official entanglements too-they can be very…distracting.” I could see he had thought this out in some detail. Wily devil. Still, potentially a good deal for us- and we got something out of it immediately.