Hellhawk – Episode 19

<back to episode 18

Date: 1761110

Location: The Starship Urutu – 200 dton Yacht, emerges from Jumpspace in the Flammarion system.

Date: 176-1110

Characters

  • Martin Clairmont (Pete Cooney) – Security – Marine Lieutenant C65645 Age 30
  • Gaetan Boucher (Billy Lenoir) – Engineer/Navigator – Retired Navy Captain 835B8F Age 46
  • Drusill Telyn (Robyn Nixon) – Pilot – Navy Lt Cmdr 3455BB Age 42
  • Steac Malabru (David …) – Captain/Owner Hunter 9A88B8  Age 42
  • Kafla Thingvellir (npc) business executive Age 48
  • Shaki Khuudaarma (npc) – Commander – A79798

Crew








    • Kninaae ‘Chief’ Saghzror (npc) – Second Officer and Chief Engineer – 685845
    • Hephestus ‘Hep’ Tsizkaear (npc) – Engineer’s Mate – 796766
    • Taezllo Ouzra (npc) – Navigator – 565976
    • Ensign Asheaar Kamidaa (npc) – Pilot – 796778
    • Urkoksou Kharrghse (npc) – Security Detail – 89A654
    • Gzanggvek Kangso (npc) – Security Detail – A89565
    • Lloa Kferr (npc) – Steward – 123456
    • Azkorr Kferr (npc) – Steward – 123455
    • Director Earla (npc) – Administrator – 5A799D

Emerging from Jumpspace

Upon emerging from Jumpspace, the sensors begin to come online and collect data.  One of the first things detected because of it’s proximity is the Imperial Navy Frigate, Marlowe.  She is almost close enough to spot with the naked eye, very close, perhaps on patrol.  Almost immediately the ship signals and the communications screens come life with the image of a Naval Lieutenant repeating the statement, “Unidentified ship entering the Flammarion system, this is the Imperial Naval Ship Marlowe.  Please identify yourself.”

Martin grits his teeth and waits for Steac or Gaetan to respond.

Drusil looks over at Steac in the command chair.  “Well Chief I will hand it over to you next if needed.”
Drusil responds, “Imperial Frigate, this is the Starship Urutu, of Walston Registry.  This is Sir Telyn speaking.  We are a neutral ship, on personal business to Flammarion.  What is the Imperial Navy patrolling neutral space for?  Are there pirates about?”

A smile briefly crosses her face, as she responds, “Welcome Urutu.  While technically neutral space, I’m sure you know there is a large Imperial Navy Base here.  We drew the short straw and are on a standard picket, monitoring incoming traffic.”  Then she smiles a mischievous sort of smile and says,  “There are never pirates about when the Marlowe is on patrol.  One moment please…”  She consults a computer at her station and says, “I assume you are in-bound to Flammarion Orbital?  Urutu, you have clearance to proceed.  Flammarion Orbital will contact you with landing instructions.  Please remember, Dante, The moon of Flamarrion, is interdicted.  No civilian vessels are allowed to approach without prior approval. ”

Sensor readings continue to roll in and Gaetan and Taezllo work to process them.  The Marlowe has a sister ship, also standing patrol at the other easy transit point from Jumpspace.  The other ship has launched it’s ship’s boat and is in the process of docking with an incoming Freighter.  Closer to Flammarion, there is a lot of traffic.  Flammarion Orbital an O’Neill Habitat has shuttles and smaller ships around it in a steady stream.  There appear to be quite a few ships docked, and one is approaching the main air-lock at Flammarion Orbital.

Near the large space port is an orbiting platform processing X-boats with several ISS Scout vessels are docked.  There is also a tether to the planet surface near Flammarion Orbital.

Dante, the moon and Naval base is a flurry of activity, including a Carrier class vessel that appears to be conducting some launch and recovery exercises.  It is surrounded by a cloud of small fighters.  Gaetan checks the Naval base for some familiar ships quite closely.  He does not find the ships he is looking for, but ultimately decides he’s not close enough for the scans to be conclusive.

Drusil contacts Flammarion Orbital for berthing instructions.  He also scans for any indication of the Hellhawks transmitter among the jumble of ship identifier beacons in the system.  As Drusil finishes his conversation with Flammarion Ortital “… That’s affirmative control, berth A-3467-B12.  I have the coordinates and will proceed directly there.  By the way, we were suppose to meet another ship here, has she arrived yet?  The Hellhawk, Imperial Ship ID 272djktj3377x894xuu19.”  Drusil scans the lists of ship names that are constantly being identified, looking to see other ship names that he might also recognise from his time in the service.

Flammarion Orbital copies the Imperial Ship ID and says they will check.  To assist with immigration and import paperwork, they request a full listing of cargo, crew and passengers.  Transit time at full acceleration will be just under two hours.

Drusill quickly spots the transponder from the Hellhawk.  The Hellhawk is docked at Flammarion Orbital.  In addition, there are several ships among the Naval contingent that Drusill recognizes.  He does not see the transponder codes for any of the war ships they identified in Walston.

Drusil says to Gaetan and Steac “Well there is the Hellhawk.”  as he points to the location on the 3d chart.  “It is very close to where we are berthing.  By the way I recognize the several Imperial Naval ships.  The Frigate Saratoga and the Cruiser Abukuma, they are docked on Dante.  I served aboard those ships.  In addition, there is the Battleship Potemkin, orbiting Dante.  That’s the flag ship of the fleet.  The head of my order commands that ship.”

Gatean says, “I’ve got the ship’s manifests ready to send.  I figure the less we hide, the better our reception will be.  Does anyone object to me transmitting this or want their name omitted?  I’m sending my name as Gaetan Boucher.  That’s the ID I’ve got.  My other papers are… or were on the Hellhawk.”

As Gaetan prepares the manifests, Flammarion Orbital contacts Drusil again.  They say, “We have located the ship you’ve asked about, the Hellhawk.  It’s in impound.  We discovered some irregularities in the paperwork and we are currently looking for the registered owner.  Do you know how to contact him?”

Drusil double checks the authentication code that the transmission came in with, verifies it authenticity, then looks over at Steac “You want to answer that one chief?”

Steac tells Gaetan, “Go ahead and send the manifests, we don’t have anything to hide.”  Then he turns to Drusil and says, “I’ll take that call now.”  He steps up to the communications station on the bridge and says, “This is Steac Malabru.  I’m the owner of the Hellhawk.”

The watch officer at Flammarion Orbital looks surprised.  “Oh!  Your on the Urutu.  We were expecting to have to send someone to find you off-world.  Usually piracy like this doesn’t end well for the owner.  We have your ship in impound.  We suspect it was hijacked by pirates, based on forged paperwork and some statements by the one person in detention.  We would like to discuss this with you on arrival.  There will be an investigator at the docking ring when you arrive.  Please have your identification papers ready, he should be able to expedite immigration and customs clearances.”

Steac thanks the officer and agrees to have his identification ready.

Gaetan spends the rest of the trip to Flammarion Orbital, hovering over the sensors.  He carefully catalogs everything he sees and reports during the docking approach.  “You know, of the two other ships I’ve seen arrive in system, and the one example that apparently occurred before we arrived, we are the only ship they didn’t board and search.”  He calls up the records from the arrival boards at Flammarion Orbital for everyone to see:

Ship Anticipated Arrival Time Status
Private Freighter – LSP registration 04:45 Inspection complete.  In transit.
Private Yacht 02:31 On approach to Flammarion Orbital.
Private Far Trader – Registered mail transport 05:33 Inspection complete.  In transit.
Subsidized Merchant 06:00 (est.) Undergoing inspection.

In addition, Gaetan says, “I’ve seen some open chatter on the Naval channels that make reference to ships in isolation.  I wonder if that means they have ships hiding in the system?  The Didimer Maku, the Akia Maru and the Murgukir come to mind.”

On final approach, everyone on the bridge plainly sees the Hellhawk docked only a few positions over from where the Urutu will be berthed.

Drusil notes “It looks like they are having us dock in the Impound section!  Here we go.”  Drusil makes a perfect maneuver into the space designated by the authorities.  He powers down the engines, but maintains them in idle.  “Just in case,” he says to himself.

Arrival at Flammarion Orbital

Steac, Gaetan, Shaki and …  meet on the main deck.  The main air-lock on the Urutu is adjacent to the bridge.  The officer on Flammarion Orbital signals he’s ready to board and enters the main air lock once the hatch is opened.  He waits for the air lock to cycle, then he and an assistant, carrying a small hand computer emerges into the Urutu.

He steps forward and says, “I am Investigator Avix Wain and this is my assistant, Galak Kalranoos.”

He continues, “Which one of you is Steac Malabru?”

Steac steps forward and identifies himself.  Investigator Wain checks Steac’s identity papers, quickly then hands them to his assistant for further analysis.  He says, “Captain Malbru, In the few hours that your vessel has been here, we have boarded and thoroughly searched your vessel.  What were the circumstances under which your vessel was stolen?”

Steac quickly relates the story of Gasizu and the Delta Rae terrorists.  He tells about them taking Kafla and the Hellhawk.  The inspector rubs his chin in thought, humming quietly to himself.  He finally announces, “Well it appears they still had your patron in their company when they arrived.  Most of them left the ship before we realized their deception.  We were able to detain one of the crew who remained behind.  We are searching for the rest of them now.  This is a very large station.  It might take us several days to locate them.  We are concerned about their piracy, hijacking and violation of Imperial laws, any other crimes committed while on Walston will be outside our Jurisdiction.”

Steac presents the warrant from Walston to the inspector.  “You understand that Walston is a client state of the Imperium, so therefore this warrant gives its legal representatives the right of jurisprudence against criminals who might try to hide in the Imperium from Walston justice.  As a courtesy we are checking in with you, but we are legally authorized by Imperial law to capture and return these criminals to Walston for further justice.  By Imperial law, you must do all in your authority to assist us.”

Shaki steps forward “As a direct representative of the Walston ruling council, I am here to attest to the authenticity of this warrant, and to show Walston’s resolve in aiding these men in recovering their property and their client.”  Skaki shows the inspector his diplomatic credentials.  “As a fellow of the law, I can understand and appreciate the reasons why local authorities might not want to become involved in this incident, but the terrorist made this an intersteller incident, by flying the pirated vehicle here to an Imperial Base.  This is by the Imperial Interstellar accords of 973.”

Investigator Wain takes a moment to review the Warrant.  After a moment, he says dismissively, “I cannot decide issues of jurisdiction like this.  It will require review by the Imperial Judge.  While he is available, I wouldn’t expect a quick response.  This is a matter of Imperial Law, and he generally doesn’t rule on these matters without the advice of the Legate.  The Legate is away on a personal matter for the next 3 weeks, but I will forward this matter to him right away.”

He continues, “I have taken the liberty of completing your immigration paperwork, and issuing everyone aboard passes onto the station.  In addition, I’ve given you access to the Hellhawk.  We have finished our searches there.  The ship is guarded and still considered impounded, pending further investigation.  So please don’t try to leave with it yet.  You are free to travel about on Flammarion Orbital, if you decide to travel to the planet surface or one of the other stations, you will need to apply separately.  You are free to investigate as you see fit, but the weapon restrictions still apply here.  That would forbid Light Assault weapons, machine guns and portable energy weapons.  Weapon discharge in the ONeill habitat is generally frowned upon for safety reasons.”

He finishes with, “Should the Judge decide in your favor, I will give you all the information I’ve collected so far.  In the mean time, I will continue my investigation.  Since it’s apparent you have some information about those who took your ship, I would like to speak with someone knowledgeable about the crew.  The person we hold in lockup is a bit of a puzzle.”

He turns to his assistant and says, “I assume there were no problems?”  The assistant nods his head and smiles the two look as if they are ready to leave.

Gaetan says, “I would like to go to the Hellhawk and see if my things are still aboard.  Since Shaki has the most information about the hijackers, perhaps he should answer the investigators questions and meet us back here.”  He turns to Steac and says, “I’m certain you would like to see your ship, go with me and we will see what shape it’s in.”

Shaki says to Investigator Wain, “Let me get my files and I will tell you what I know.”  He returns to his room and comes back with a hand computer that contains his notes.  Shaki, the investigator and his assistant move into the air lock.  You hear Shaki ask a question, as the door closes, “Who do you have in custody?”  You can just catch the investigators response before the airlock clangs shut.  “I think he’s the ship’s engineer…”

After Shaki leaves, Gaetan turns to Steac and says, “Shall we go?”  Drusil perks up “Mind if I tag along.  I want to see how much of the bridge damage has been repaired from the fight at Walston.”

The Hellhawk

When the group arrives at the docking port for the Hellhawk, there are two uniformed guards on either side of the docking ring.  They ask for identification.  Once they have confirmed everyone’s identity, they say, “The investigator indicated you would be arriving.  He asked us to give you the new security codes for the ship.  They were changed as part of the investigation, obviously we don’t want the hijackers to be able to access the ship again.  Please remember the ship is still in impound.  It’s not allowed to leave.”  The guard gives Steac the new security codes and resumes his guard position by the docking ring.

Drusil gives a short snorting laugh “Like that would stop the witches from grabbing them from your mind whenever they wanted them.  They are a little clueless in this investigation it seems.”

The group enters the main airlock and waits for the system to cycle.  On entering the lounge the room looks starkly different. The furniture is all the same, a few of the chairs have been rearranged, but all of Steac’s trophies are gone.  The walls are bare.

Drusil stands stunned by the atrocity of the situation.   “They must have had lots of help doing this.  There is no way those bb…witches could have done this themselves in the time they have been here.  It seems that they have some contacts on this world.”

“While I don’t doubt they have assistance here, why else would they have come here.  I doubt they needed help to remove the stuffed heads from the wall.  They’ve had 2 weeks to do that.”  He turns to Steac and says, “Sorry about the trophies.  It’s good that you’ve gotten a new one from Faldor, to start populating the lounge again.”  Gaetan excuses himself and goes to what was his cabin to see if his belongings are still there.  He returns a few moments later with a case.  He says, “It appears they didn’t take too much.  There’s a little cash missing, but my weapons and the large cash denominations are still here.”  He sets the case down and removes some padding and pushes a couple of hidden buttons in the case and removes some paperwork.  He then announces happily, “I still have my real identification papers.”

Drusil moves to the second level and looks at the spot where he killed the witch.  He looks to see if there is any evidence of the body left on the spot, and then looks up at the smashed cockpit windows.  The windows still have their blast shields lowered to keep the atmosphere in.  He calls Steac.  “While they might have cleared out your collection, they don’t seem to have made many repairs from the battle back on Walston yet.”  Drusil sits down at the pilots console and begins going over the entries and logs from the last 3 weeks, to see what has been added or removed.

It appears all the internal video, from the cameras in the public spaces of the ship, are available for the past 3 weeks on the security system.  It’s also apparent they did not clear any of the records from the computer.  The course from 567-908 to Flammarion is still entered in the computer.

Gaetan checks the computer for video of the time everyone left the ship on Flammarion.  After searching for a long time, he finds the video of the group leaving.  Everyone is in the lounge, Eniira, Gasizu, Bernard, Axel and Kafla.  Although there is no sound with the video, it’s apparent the dark headed woman named Eniira is giving Axel some instructions.  She shakes her finger in his face several times during the instructions.  Then everyone else, Kafla included leave the ship, Axel remains behind.  Kafla seems very compliant.  He is perhaps dazed or drugged.  He generally only does something when prodded by Bernard.  After they depart, Axel quickly leaves the lounge.  Gaetan says aloud, “Interesting.”

“Interesting is the word” mutters Steac.  Louder, “I can see that Kafla could well be being psionically manipulated, but to what end.  Compliant in order to use him or simply to keep him nearby and quiet in order to get rid of him?”  Pauses and chews irritably on his upper lip, then “What’s your take on that interaction between Eniira and Axel?  She seems p***** at Axel… maybe It’d be best to head down to engineering and look about for any mischief having been done to ‘ol Hellhawk.  Gaetan, are you game for a look?”

“It’s unclear what was going on between Eniira and Axel.  We suspect he was coerced.  It may be that, or something else, but checking the engines is a wise idea” Gaetan says.  He heads to the engineering space to check for problems.  After 30 minutes of checking the engines and power plant, Gaetan finds no problems.  He says, “If they’ve left a trap there, I can’t find it.”

The capture tanks

Steac: “Huh” he replies while stepping back from the others. “C’mon… come out, come out wherever you are.  Hellhawk was needed for something, but, wait!  The capture tanks… Gaetan, lets go.”

Gaetan and the others go down to the lower level of the Hellhawk and unlock the right capture tank.  The lights come on as they enter revealing what looks like piles of junk.  As their eyes adjust to the changing light, it’s apparent, that the junk is actually the trophies from the lounge, and other things that the Delta Rae women found objectionable.  The trophies have broken horns and smashed features, from begin handled roughly, but checking closely, all of the  stuffed heads seem to be here.

“Errrrrr… that hurts.”  Steac mumbles. Louder;  “A lot of work went into that collection.  I’ll have ‘ta pull the horns of those B****** for compensation.” A moment of quite passes, Gaetan says, “Well I assumed they spaced them.  Looks like you might be able to do some repair and have the lounge back like it was.”  “Huh!” barks Malabru, and angrily continues,  “Still, I’ve not captured and mounted a Delta Rae, could well be worth the cost of dealing with this mess.”  Gaetan gasps as the idea suddenly occurs to him.  He immediately turns and walks quickly for the door, saying to those still standing in the capture tank.  “If they used this tank, I wonder what’s in the other tank.”

On unlocking the other tank and entering, it appears that this room was more carefully arranged.  There is a comfortable chair and a small side table arranged in one corner.  It appears to be setup for some type of vid recording.  There is cloth attached to the wall behind the chair as a background for the vid.  A tripod and camera are setup opposite the chair pointing toward the chair and side table.  Gaetan asks, “I wonder what they were recording?”

Shaki Returns

While everyone is pondering what they could have recorded, the sound of the airlock cycling can be heard.  After the airlock has completely cycled, Shaki steps into the lounge of the Hellhawk.  He looks around and nods approvingly then he says, “Investigator Wain and his assistant are outside.  I think they have some information you would find interesting.  If you would like to follow me?”

Steac closes his eyes to the request and evens out his breathing.  Hazel eyes open and a demure smile shows itself as he begins, “Information is always welcomed, though, why not all come aboard a talk over some cups a caff?”

Shaki says, “I’ll ask.”  He exits through the air-lock and returns in a few moments with the Investigator and his assistant.  Investigator Wain searches out Steac and says, “Thank you for inviting me aboard.”  He returns the Warrant to Steac saying, “I transmitted your Warrant to the Judge.  Based on my experience with such things, I really did expect it to take some time.  Almost before the transmission was complete, the response came back from the Judge.  This is your investigation now.  I want to apologize if I left an incorrect impression with you.  I have seen jurisdiction matters like this take years to resolve.  I’ve never seen one resolved so quickly.  I am prepared to give you all my notes from the case and assist you in any way possible.

The investigator pauses and gauges how friendly his audience seems, then continues, “This case must be very important.  Because of my experience, I’m usually assigned to very visible cases that need to be resolved quickly.  This seemed an ordinary hijacking case, until I saw how quickly the Judge responded, I didn’t understand why this case was important.  Now I see, there is a political element to this case.  I won’t try to pry, I’ll just work with you to resolve this issue as quickly as possible. ”

Drusil speaks up “Why of course its a political matter:  Psionic terrorist loose in the Imperium and acting with out fear on  Imperial client states.  Wars have occurred for less.”  Deflecting reasons that might involve nobility or noble houses. “I’m glad you are appreciating the seriousness of the situation.”

“You are correct, Sir Telyn.  Wars have started for less.”  Investigator Wain says, careful to use the correct title for Drusil.  He seems to be very concerned that he’s been misunderstood or given some offense.  He continues, “Please don’t misunderstand me.  I give all my cases the same emphasis, and my full attention.  It’s often useful for me to understand the underlying motivations for these cases.  I’ve only become aware of the Psionic element to this case in talking with Minister Khuudaarma.  Initially this looked like a simple hijacking case.”

“Fortunately here on Flammarion Orbital, we deal with Zhodani regularly.  We have procedures and policies to deal with Psions.”  Investigator Wain waves a hand at his assistant as if to explain.  “Perhaps I should begin sharing what we know.”

Steac says, “Dru, this war is on our doorstep.” his eyes not leaving Wain, “What do we know?”…

Investigator Wain takes out a hand computer and begins.  He says, “This is Axiashbuaiiu Cherushis, known as Axel.”  He displays a picture of Axel and shows you.

Wain continues, “A former Lieutenant in the Imperial Navy.  He arrived aboard the Hellhawk, and was the only one aboard when we seized her.  He is now in our custody.  He has stated during our questioning that he had no choice to go with the Delta Rae hijackers.  He said he saw them kill Doc and knew that they would kill him, when he stopped being useful.  It seems Minister Khuudaarma shared these suspicions based on his investigation on Walston.  We will hold him until the remaining hijackers are apprehended, for his own safety.  Unless additional evidence comes to light, he will likely be fined and released.”

Wain takes the hand computer again and continues, “The remaining hijackers were last seen leaving the port facilities in an air/raft.  We have followed up on the registration for the air/raft and found nothing.  We have our security teams searching for them throughout the station.  We know they are still aboard the station, but we don’t know where they are at this point.  It’s likely they are not in any of the urban areas.  They have not used their identification to access any buildings or facilites.  It’s lost on most people, that there is no concealed point in this station.  There is always someone, or something overhead.  Due to the unique geography of this station, there is really no place to hide.  We have surveillance bots searching the station now.  At this point, they really only have to show their faces outside of a private structure and we will have them.”

“All interesting…” responds Steac.  “Coupla’ things first.  One. Axel goes nowhere.  Not yet.  Two.  The investigation isn’t finished with him until I say it is.  Whiile some of his story does make sense, I’m simply not done with him.”  Steac looks down at his feet for a moment, then, “Just how do you deal with Psions based on you’re inter… intermin… hell, your experience with the Zhodani?”

Investigator Wain says, “We can release Axel to you at any time.  He is also available for your questions at any time.  Your writ takes precedence over Flammarion law.  We will fine him before he leaves, because he did pass forged papers.  He was under duress at the time, but that just lowers his fine.  I understand that Minister Khuudaarma has a laundry list of charges for him back on Walston.  He was involved in smuggling there.  There is no evidence of duress in that case.  It’s just I understand you have no facilities to hold him.”

Wain says, “Perhaps I should have started with this.  We usually assume that people know the laws about Psions, on Flammarion.  No Zhodani understands the laws when they first arrive, so I’m not surprised it is even more difficult to those who don’t regularly deal with psionics.  The laws about Psions on Flammarion are quite strict.  There presence is allowed on Flammarion Orbital, but no where else within this system.  They all must register and everyone that comes to Flammarion Orbital is given an instinctive test for psionic powers, trained or latent.  This test is not 100% accurate, and Psions do occasionally slip through.”  Wain pauses and then turns to his assistant and asks for his papers.  The assistant quickly takes out an identity card and some other papers.  He hands them to Wain, who in turn hands them to Steac.  “My assistant is a Psion.  He is registered, insured and bonded.  You have his paperwork.  It is quite illegal here to use psionic powers without the express consent of the person they are used on.  Were my assistant to use his powers on you, he would immediately lose a large sum of credits he has submitted as bond. In addition, he would spend a very long time in a specially constructed prison.  As a condition of employment, he regularly submits to scanning of his thoughts to insure he hasn’t violated the law with his abilities.  His sole purpose in being here is to insure psionic powers are not used on me, and if they are, the attempt is reported and punished.”

“Assuming anyone being the wiser.”  retorts Steac.  “However, I suppose that’s beside the point.  Could your Assistant, Mr. Kalranoos, use his abilities on Axel at our request and, with Axel’s consent to learn a deeper truth?”  Steac trades a glance and smile with the Assistant who remains impassive.  “Barring that, how much would it cost to rent say… two or three of your surveillance bots and server time to trail him by my authority under Walston law?”

Wain responds, “Assisting you with questioning would be up to Galak.  In general, suspects are not likely to give approval for such a technique.  I would suspect that would be doubly true of Axel, given that he’s just spent the past two weeks on a ship with two Psions.”  He continues after a pause, “The surveillance bots are a part of the station and my investigating crew.  There is no need to rent them, but I think if you give Axel his freedom, the first thing he will try is to book passage out of here.  Do you agree Minister Khuuudaarma?”

Shaki nods in agreement.  He says, “The only concern that I have is that he may have supported the Psions in the past.  It’s obvious he hates the thought of spending any more time with either of them now.  It doesn’t take psi powers to see that.”

Steac sits upright, “Dru?”  Drusil responds to Steac’s call, “Steac?”  Standing up, Steac responds, “Walk with me for a few minutes.. Gentlemen, if you excuse me for several, I’ve business to attend.”  Steac and Drusil walk briskly away and up to the upper deck of the Hellhawk and make their way to the ship’s storeroom.  They stop at the entrance, “Steac? what’s up?”  Steac smiles, “The back-up plan.”  Several quiet moments ensue, then, “The way I see it Dru, we clear out of the Hellhawk and re-set the ship’s security codes.”  Steac steps through the threshold activating the storeroom’s light.  “Clean-up the cups of Caff, hussle everyone off the ship and have the Uniforms outside go back to Station Authority with Wain and Kalranoos. “  The second wide grin of the day threatens to damage Steac’s face as he gestures at the storage compartments in the room, “I’m a Hunter by trade; rope, sharps, bungies, sensors… we lay traps through the ship and incapacitate the lot of ‘em, groat-tie ‘em, and keep the Psions out-cold: I’ve plenty of tranquilizers for those “knock-’em-out for photo-ops” Safari trips I run from time-to-time.”  There was absolutely no humor in Steac’s hazel eyes.  “What do you say Dru?  Is this a go?”

Steac’s body falls in line with his eyes on Drusil.  Heatbeats pass with no reply from the Navy Pilot and breath exits with a whoosh from Steac, his back slumps restfully against the doorframe.  “The way I see it, we sic the surveillance bots on Axel’s tail.  Whichever direction he takes is fine as I’m as likely to believe he has been forced into this mess, which does leave the rest of the group up to us to deal with in terms of the disposition of.”  Steac fishes something interesting out from between his left incisor and molar with his tongue.  Uninterested with what is deposited between his right thumb-and-forefinger, he continues.  “We’ve our Patron Thingvellir to consider and the sooner we scrub his mind clean of the Psions, the better… be all done with this mess and get back to the business of another relaxing safari.”

Drusil looks at Steac “Well, we have already accomplished the first goal, the return of the Hellhawk.  To be honest I really don’t wish to see those witches again, and if the local cops want to deal with them, and they are out of our hair, I am happy with that.  If I heard later that they had been executed for trying to escape from justice, I wouldn’t shed a tear on their behalf.  As for Kafla, get him, make him pay his bills, and be done with him.  There are definitely easier clients to work for.  I’m ready to get back to Walston and get on with life.  Gaetan is ready to blow a fuse with his inner deamons.  The locals seem ready to help and please.”

Drusil begins ticking off his fingers “The witches are an evil bunch:

  1. They have exhibited the ability to manipulate thoughts of others, most of their allies/accomplices were ‘convinced’ that their doing so was their own idea, Axel is a prime example of that.  They used him, and now that they no longer need him, he’s been discarded like a used banana peel.
  2. They read other’s minds, so no matter what codes you change, they have them, and no matter what plan you make to surprise them, they already know your plans,
  3. They Teleport at will, so no place is safe in holding them, that is how they breeched the Hellhawks defenses.  The only thing that permanently holds them is death, and that is beyond our abilities since they are in local custody.
  4. They wanted us dead, they interrupted and stole our lives.

I’m tired of wrapping my life around their agenda.  I’m tired of playing in their pool.  I want to move on.  Since I can’t kill them, I want to get away from them.”

Drusil looks Steac in the eye:  “Captain, we were a pleasure craft, hired to escort rich bastards on pleasure hunts in exotic locals.”  Dru waves his hand around, indicating the docks, the people and the situation they are embroiled in.  “This is not a pleasure Cruise and we are not Marines nor Psionic Bounty Hunters!”

“You’re serious…” says Steac, eyes roaming about the storage area.  Softly, “Teleport…”  deep breath.  “Your plan has merit in it’s speed, ‘an I haven’t much dealt with Psions in my line of work… that teleport thing just spoils all sorts a fun.”  Stepping outside the the room’s threshold, the lighting dims towards off.  “The station surveillance bots are tracking the lot- how’d you suppose we can get Thingvellir’s wits back to him and out of the hands of the Witches?”

Dru “I’ve heard of this before, the kidnap victim becomes so acculturated by their kidnappers, that they begin to think that the kidnappers ideas are their own.  The ‘Hurst’ syndrome, as purported to be named after some media heiress kidnapped centuries ago.  She had even murdered in the groups name, for their cause.  At what point does the victim cease to be not responsible for their actions?”

Steac “OK, so Thingvellir may be along for the ride with the Psion’s, though I’ve the feeling that he is being controlled and being used as a pawn to further the aims of the Delta Rae.  I’m running down to the capture tanks… follow me, stop in the lounge with Shaki and the Inspector and tell them I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

Drusil says “Ok boss” and follows him back into the control room and then into the Lounge to speak with Shaki and the Inspector.  He grabs their attention by speaking “So how about those tensor jet football team.”  and lots of other jibber to keep them ocupied until Steac returns.  Shaki and the Inspector look at Dru as if he is an idiot.

Steac flys by all like a storm down to the capture tank.  There, he starts fiddling around with the recording device Delta Rae had set-up.  Once the necessary controls are pressed, he looks into the viewfinder and sees…

The camera still seems to contain some footage of Kafla in the chair, being asked questions from off-screen.  He is not cooperating with the off-screen questioner, refusing to answer questions and giving false and sometimes humorous responses.  The most interesting part of the give-and-take is the questions being repeatedly asked:

  • “Identify yourself for the camera!”
  • “What is your position with Sterilon LIC?”
  • “What do you know about the Trane System? “
  • “Are you aware of the habitat destruction that occurred there?”
  • “Why did you cover it up?”
  • “What did you know and when did you know it?”

Kafla’s answers are useless, but the questions seem to raise other questions and with enough retakes, Steac is sure that the pieces could be stitched together to say almost anything that the videographer wanted.

Steac returns to the lounge and says, “Dru, based on what is on the recorder in the holding tank, I don’t think Kafla was a willing participant… go down and have a look yourself.”  To Investigator Wain; “Where does Flammarion law stand on allowing Mr. Kalranoos project a… ah, heck, some sort of “cloak of not-being-thereness” onto this group of Psions?”

“I’m not certain I understand…” Investigator Wain says, looking puzzled.

Gaetan offers, “We do have the Psi-Shields from Walston.  Is that what you’re talking about?”

Investigator Wain nods and says, “Psi Shields are the other method to deal with Psions.  We have a large population of Zhodani refuges that need an outlet for their abilities.  We chose a more labor intensive solution.”

The Investigator is finishing his cup of caff when his communicator chirps loudly.  He answers and listens for a few seconds then responds to the caller, “Excellent!  I’m speaking to them now.  We will be there shortly.  Send two air/rafts to the Debarkation Terminal.  We’ll met you at the Tintern Copse.”  The investigator turns back to the group, and says, “They’ve found them.  It appears that Bernard Smith couldn’t keep his head down and was imaged by one of the reconnaissance droids.  This is your case, so how would you like to apprehend them?”

Steac reacts quickly and says, “Drusil, comm the Urutu and ask them to have the ship ready to leave at a moments notice.  Shaki, I’d like Gaetan and you to accompany myself and… …Inspector Wain and Mr. Kalranoos to Tintern Copse.  Mr. Wain, I’d like a group of your security personel covered by (Mr. Kalranoos?) and stun the living daylights out of the entire lot, Kafla too.”

Steac says to Wain, “I don’t want Delta Rae and would as soon forget them.  You can do as you wish with them from the confines of their cells for violating Flammarion law.  My gut tells me Kafla didn’t wish for any of this, and I’d just as soon want to take our Patron, his money, a good dose of honor, and Run.”  After picking up his now-cold cup of Caff and downing it, he says to Drusil, “I understand you’ve been through enough with these bastards, you can sit this out here on the Hellhawk with the others and we can blow out of here in 45 minutes and go back to our regular relaxing lives.”

Shaki speaks up and says, “Steac, while I can appreciate your interest in putting this behind you, the people of Walston still deserve to see justice with these criminals, but Inspector Wain and I can work those details out.”

Gaetan quickly returns to his cabin and retrieves a side arm.  He says, “We can pickup the Psi Shields along the way.”

Inspector Wain says, “Then let’s go.  I’ll release the Hellhawk from impound, and we can release Kafla to you after we have captured the criminals.”  Steac, Gaetan, Shaki, Investigator Wain and his assistant leave the Hellhawk taking the two security guards stationed outside.  They are headed for Tinturn Copse.

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