Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Responsibilities & Consequences                        



286-1106, aboard Golden Dawn, in hyperspace between Benue and Rauma

>SHIPBOARD TERMINAL ON
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>WORKING. . . DONE – TERMINAL ONLINE
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>>TRANSCRIPTION MODE ON
>>BEGIN RECORDING
TABITHA: Hi mom.  Sorry I didn’t correspond earlier, but I haven’t been well the past few days.  The good news is I’m feeling much better today. Dame Diana is confident I’ll be ready to resume my duties here in another day or two.

Baronet Atopia has us making a charity run for Doctors without Orbits again.  It was supposed to be a routine shakedown cruise of her new starship with a cargo of fifty displacement tons of humanitarian supplies from Narmada to Rauma with an intermediate stop at Benue to pick up fifty d-tons of water ice.  But, as it always does with these “simple jobs,” something came up.

As you know, starships haul water to dry and desert worlds occasionally in the form of ice, which is easier to handle and store than the liquid stuff.  On Benue though, it’s not full service – a starship has to buy the rights to mine ice from the planet’s northern polar region.  After that, you have to hire a professional crew of miners who you have to haul out to a site so they can collect the ice using specialized vehicles and equipment – which you have to haul, also – placing the booty inside insulated cargo containers for shipment.

That was the plan, anyway.  Of course, it’s winter in the northern hemisphere of Benue, which means there’s no daylight to speak of for something like three standard cycles.  Another unwritten rule is that somebody has to provide protection for the ice miners while they work, since the region has a number of large carnivores with absolutely no fear of anything on two legs when they’re hungry.  That’s how yours truly wound up in a set of combat armor on an ice floe in the dark wielding a laser rifle that I’ve only used once before in a simulator.

Things went smoothly for the first two hours of the operation – until Lisa, our recently-hired assistant engineer who was snug and warm aboard the Golden Dawn with Hawk and Olivia – calmly informed us of four “larger than human” thermal sources about five hundred meters away and closing.  Atopia gets aboard the air/raft with Diana and Samantha, our newly-hired steward, while Valo and me are fighting our way to the top of a pressure ridge in the ice sheet through thigh-high snow.

The group in the air/raft intercepted the quartet of spider-bears while they were still about a hundred meters out.  Diana managed to take one out with her laser rifle while Samantha wounded one of the others pretty badly with her submachinegun.  Valo managed to finish the wounded one off with his carbine before the other two were on us.

I’ll be honest, mom; that monster has been fueling my nightmares this week.  Imagine something resembling a cross between a polar bear and a wolf spider with a vertical maw full of shark’s teeth and each of its eight feet armed with razor sharp claws that are venomous.  The one that jumped me slammed me into the snow so hard it knocked the breath out of me.  There was no way to bring the laser to bear on the thing as it hammered on my armor’s sealed helmet and tore at my chest with those claws.

I threw up my right arm to protect my head and one of the claws punctured it, giving me a nasty cut which burned like all Nine Hells.  I could feel the burn of the animal’s venom working its way up my arm as I futilely pummeled the thing.  I think I managed to poke it one of its four eyes once, for all the good that did.  Before things got any worse, Diana was there with her cutlass laying open the creature’s flanks.  The others dispatched the one on Valo, but by then my attacker’s venom was burning around my chest and heart.

It hurt so bad I could barely breathe, mom.  The acid fire of that venom was killing me.  Fortunately, Diana managed to get me into the air/raft and back to her medical equipment aboard the ship before it did me in.  I haven’t really felt like doing anything for the past five days except lay around in bed and crawl to fresher and back.  But I’m actually hungry today, so I’m taking that as a good sign.

I’m hoping you and dad are doing all right.  Let me know when you get the credit transfer that I sent from Narmada.  Her grace, Baronet Atopia, may put me in harm’s way occasionally, but she pays well and the crew bonuses have been pretty sweet!  Take care and know that I love you both!
>>END RECORDING
>ENTER COMMAND:
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] Landor: 2011 Narmada/Wayhaven; E371.AC68.F004.BA23; NOLE, Penelope
>WORKING. . . DONE.
>>FILE TO BE TRANSMITTED WHEN SHIP TRANSITIONS TO NORMAL SPACE
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304-1106, aboard Golden Dawn, in hyperspace between Benue and Narmada

To His Grace, Duke Darius Ingersoll,
Protector of the Narmada Subsector of Wayhaven Sector, Domain of Sol of the Third Imperium,
Ruler of the Imperial Autonomy District of the world of Narmada, and
Defender of Imperial Citizenry throughout Known Space and Beyond
Ingersoll Holdings, Imperial Autonomy District, Narmada

Your Grace,

It is my sad duty to inform you of the death of Sir Richard Worthington, the Imperial Liaison to Rauma.  He was murdered in his personal office on 287-1106.  As per the authority granted to me by you, Your Grace, I initiated an investigation with the blessing of Portmaster Alcon Koslo, who lacks any impartial and formal investigation personnel at that facility.

Dame Diana Sabatini and the other crew members of my ship, Golden Dawn, comprised the core of my investigation team.  As you already know, they are capable, honorable and dedicated to the Imperium.  I also commend the actions of eight other mercenaries who accompany me now.  They were hired to assist me take action against the man responsible for Sir Richard’s demise.

The Benue State Coroner, Dr. Winslow Carlson, examined Sir Richard within six hours of his discovery by Starport Authority personnel.  Sir Richard died from a 10mm pistol bullet which entered his body between the third and fourth ribs on his right side, passed through his right lung, severed both his aorta and pulmonary artery and lodged in the upper anterior of his left lung.  While his death was not instantaneous, Sir Richard suffered little in his final moments as he surely lost consciousness within fifteen seconds due to lack of blood flow to his brain.

Investigation into Sir Richard’s computer revealed that despite living a very frugal and austere lifestyle, he had amassed a personal fortune of nearly fifteen million credits in a personal savings account.  Since it was impossible to explain such a windfall accumulating in just six years of assignment to Benue on less than forty thousand credits’ annual income, I authorized my team to look into all aspects of his personal and professional life.

To my dismay, it was discovered that he was diverting at least part of each humanitarian shipment of water to a local crime syndicate headed by Brice Caldwell.  I am sure Your Grace is familiar with the Draconian water regulations imposed by the Benue Water Authority (BWA) and that water smuggling is a highly lucrative criminal activity on that world.  After cross-checking Sir Richard’s appointments with the Starport Authority’s security logs, it became apparent that Mr. Caldwell was very likely the murderer of a member of the Peerage.

To her credit, Dame Diana offered to become an interim Imperial Liaison until a replacement could be found, but I opted to close the office temporarily until proper security measures could be taken to ensure the safety of anyone Your Grace would see fit to appoint.  I conferred with Portmaster Koslo about the current political situation, and he corroborated reports in the Liaison’s office that indicated several key members of the BWA were receiving kickbacks from Mr. Caldwell’s syndicate to block or impede investigations and legal proceedings against him and his associates.

Believing that is essential to bring those who attack members of the Peerage to face Your Grace’s justice, I put a plan into motion suggested by Dame Diana and endorsed by Portmaster Koslo to mount a raid of Mr. Caldwell’s residence with an eye toward arresting him in Your Grace’s name and gathering additional evidence that would conclusively prove his involvement in the death of Sir Richard.

Using my personal funds, I hired a team of eight mercenaries and outfitted them with combat armor and laser rifles.  Dame Diana acted as the team’s commander.  Air/rafts from the Starport Authority were used to transport the team in the early hours of 289-1106.  To ensure that all parties involved would understand the nature of the operation, all personnel and vehicles were prominently emblazoned with Your Grace’s family crest.  No advance communication of the raid was provided to the planetary government or local authorities to prevent those loyal to Mr. Caldwell from alerting him to our actions.

According to local reports, fifteen people associated with Mr. Caldwell’s syndicate were wounded or killed.  Only one of the mercenaries of my team was slightly injured and has since made a full recovery.  Mr. Caldwell was captured alive with only minor injuries that were treated before he was placed in cryonic hibernation for transport to Narmada.  To avoid further complications with local authorities, we departed Rauma immediately after recovering the team.  The planetary government made no attempt to hinder or prevent our departure.

As to Mr. Caldwell’s motivation to murder Sir Richard, the gangster did not elaborate.  Understandably, he was uncooperative and combative.  I assume that once the full realization of his situation cuts through his indignation, he will be more cooperative.  My team’s best speculation is that Sir Richard may have attempted to extort “hush money” from Mr. Caldwell, as the knight’s stint as Imperial Liaison was due to end next year.

I understand that I may have acted beyond my authority in this matter, Your Grace.  If such is the case, I claim all responsibility for any and all violations of both Your Trust and my position.  My crew followed what they believed to be correct and proper actions to protect the empire, its citizens, and to enforce my interpretation of Your Grace’s will.

I am and shall remain Your humble servant and will be available at your convenience for any and all discussions and actions as a result of this incident.

Long live Emperor Strephon!  Long may He reign!

Baronet Atopia Kesslering

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