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Airspace Confusion

Posted on Wed Jan 15th, 2020 @ 1:04am by Commanding Officer Mickey Serendipity & Pilot Allegra Jennings & Executive Officer Kenneth McTigue & Passenger Kol Wescott-Fitzgerald & Comm Tech Wulf Edevane

Mission: Port In A Storm
Location: SS Albatros, High Mars Orbit, On Approach to High Elysium
Timeline: One Week After The Eros incident

Mickey let out a long, slow whistle as he walked slowly around the navigation hologram being piped into the Op's Deck from the Cockpit. Simplified to a point, it showed the slender fragile-looking tether of the Phobos Space Elevator stretching from one side of the holo space to the other. The small rocky moon was hundred of kilometres above them in orbit of Mars, but the port of High Elysiuym clung to the tether at its 3/4 point. With the assistance of it being a tether station, gravity on the deck was Martian Standard 1/3rd Gee. Nice and bouncy.

High Elysium grew out of a connecting ring that gripped the nanotube cable tether. From that service core grew support modules, housing for station staff and transients, not to mention the myriad of docks and support industries needed to keep the port running. A lot of merchant traffic flowed through High Elysium, the main commerce port for Mars next to the larger military docks of Hephetaus that had cored out most of Phobos.

Not that the navigation plot was picking out many freighter IFF codes among the radar returns. Reggie could count on one hand maybe three or four big Vector Red Mercantile supercarriers in a trailing orbit behind the station. Standard parking slot for the kilometre-long supertankers carrying Helium 3 from Jupiter and Saturn, where drones could nip out from the station to peel off a gas pod when needed. There were also some other civilian ID codes flashing here and there, courier ships like the Albatross and the vanishingly rare Ultra Rich private yachts.

Everything else was a glowing red MCRN friend or foe code.

"It's not the MCR's Fleet Week is it?" Mickey asked as he reached out and plucked one of the holographic icons out of the air. The T shaped hammerhead profile of the vessel he was holding flickered as the projectors tried to keep up with his fingers. "Because the last time one of the MCRN's big Stealth-C's came into port, it was to show off the crust buster warheads to the public. Rumour every one of these things are named after the continent it's aimed at when on station."

With a flick of his fingers the holographic ship, easily a five hundred meters long shadow of night wrapped around 20 MRV warhead crust busters. MCRN Eurasia went back to floating in the dock along with what looked the entire Martian Home Fleet.

"If they're filling up the civvie docks with Navy ships, then the MCRN port up at Phobos must be heaving with tonnage," Mickey shook his head. "Allegra, sweetie, do not get us flashed by a speed camera. As I think the MCRN attaches those things to PDC turrets instead of a cash machine."

Allegra shook her head, not even thinking that Mickey was expecting more of a verbal answer than the light movement in response to his question. It was not Fleet Week, and this many ships only meant that things were worse than she had thought. Funny in a way, how much worse could it get. She gave her neck a roll, hoping to work out some tired kinks that had been steadily creeping in since Eros.

“Ya got it bossman.” She responded and actually meant it. Things had taken too much of a turn for her to say one thing and do another, at least right now. Allegra stretched forward deft fingers flicking a button here and there and switching a screen before settled back and giving her couch a quick pat.

Sat in his crash couch, turned around so he could gaze at the nav hologram, Wulf kept quiet and studied the ships. He felt the icy finger of foreboding at his spine as Mickey pointed out the sheer number of Navy craft, was briefly distracted by the ID code of a particular private yacht, and then turned back to his screen in order to check the open communication logs flying back and forth. He didn't mess with anything or disturb any outward conversations or files - yet - but Wulf did start to really worry. This was indeed a lot of MCRN craft...

"Looks like they're going to war," the tech said, accidentally speaking the words from his head out loud.

"First the MCR get's blamed for firing nukes at ice hauliers. Then an Earther Corp is highlighted as the real mastermind behind that, along with a side of genocide via alien goop," Mickey said with a shrug. "No offence to any Inners here, but I'd want to make sure my collection of sticks and stones were ready."

He titled his head, knowing his voice would carry to all.

"Does anyone have any questions about our cover story? We're out of Hygia Station, following picking up the Doctor to ship her back home to Mars. No clue who paid us to do that but hey here we are," the XO said and rubbed his head. "Anyone see any glaring plot holes we need to plate over?"

Wulf raised his hand. "The doc herself," he said, simply. "Allegra and I covered our tracks on the nav logs and made up some fake chatter between us and Hygia. But..." He looked worried, yet his next sentence was still a question, not a firm assumption. "Doc'll blow our cover soon as she starts talking?"

"True. True. But Hygia Station is the Belt's premier medical facility, second only to Ganymede and Earth. They also do a roaring trade in psychotherapy, which is where the Doc comes in. As for her story, well it's just that: a story. Folks go foamy at the mouth all the time out here in the black, one more being taken home won't raise too many eyebrows," Mickey said. "We dose her up as much as the AutoDoc allows. My only concern is if the MCRN is this paranoid, they might be doing the whole work upon the entry point. Passports, papers, DNA I-dents. They check the Doc's spit they're going to flag up her navy record and that she was on Phobos Station."

Mickey didn't look at Wulf, but he did point a finger at him.

"Do not try to hack the MCRN CentCom to alter her records. Unlike the UNN archives in Stockholm the MCRN surrounded their data stacks with packet gunners and counter missile batteries."

"What he said." Allegra agreed. Though, she was curious as to just how Mickey knew most of the information he did.

For a second, Wulf looked sheepish, then he turned back to his screen and swiftly deleted something. The fact that Mickey wasn't looking directly at him didn't stop that sense of clairvoyance, but Wulf tried to cover his tracks with a counter offer. "I could redirect instead?" He offered. "Y'know, just confuse the software behind the spit detection protocols and hook them up to a different medical record?"

"No, we're going to play this one with practical effects. The entire Martian home Fleet is in orbit and taking up parking spots on the docks we'll be sidling up to in a hour's time. That means MCRN will be watching the civi data net like a hawk. I doubt even corporate malware will make it through that kind of scrutiny," Mickey said thoughtfully. "No offence Kid but you do not want to go to a Pressurised Penal Colony. A few aluminium shacks out on Arabia Terra, with the only entry an airlock from a rover that only goes one way. You would not last long in there."

Wulf didn't argue, but simply nodded. Mickey had A Plan and that pretty much always worked. It would have been interesting, from a tech point of view, to test his skills up against the MCRN proper, but, Wulf had to admit, not with those odds. Risking the entire crew and a spell in a Martian Penal Colony? He held his breath for a second and tried to wipe the image of such an unhappy conclusion from his brain. "Practical effects? Gotcha, boss," Wulf noted, and he went back to simply observing the onscreen port chatter.

Mickey was about to say something else when the trilling tone of an incoming comm link filled the air. The navigation holo vanished as the Albatross's system was overridden, a feat that should speak volumes to the technical wizardry of the Martian Congressional Republic's insanely bloated military spending budget. The fact the incoming comm line had set off the alert also said something about Wulf's skills, even if the firewalls had only held up for a half-second.

The air between the crew lit up with a new hologram, the MCRN crest appeared in the air, slowly rotating. Above and below the crest were the words 'MCRN Hapehstus, BB-97612'. Not only a Martian battlewagon but a Donnager class Battleship.

"Private Courier SS Albatross this is MCRN Hapethtus airspace control. We have you on radar on track for docking at High Elysium. Please cease deceleration and zero your closing rate to the station at four hundred kilometres. Upon successfully attaining a trailing orbit behind the station you will dump your reactor core and run on battery power until a boarding skiff arrives to vet and process all crew and passengers. At which point tug's will be sent out to bring you into dock."

Mickey opened his mouth to reply.

"Failure to comply with this directive will result in both a denied landing permit and forfeiture of your ship to the Martian Congressional Republic. The legal filings have been appended to this comm burst for any legal defence you might wish to levy if you choose non-compliance. If your ship begins accelerating towards the port, or any vector bearing towards an MCRN tagged asset, you will be fired upon with lethal force."

With a squelch of static, the comm line died, and the holographic crest of the flagship of the Martian Home Fleet vanish into pixels.

"Somehow...that didn't feel like a request," Mickey said through pursed lips. "Allegra, you get all that? Park up 400 klicks in a trailing orbit of the tether station. Ken, get ready to dump the core in a controlled fashion. Wulf, before we do that use every watt the reactor's giving off to double and triple check every hard drive and flash memory we have. Anything remotely suspect that might get you a fine, fry it or toss the hard copy out the airlock. Mr Wescott, if you could help Wulf do that I'd be obliged."

"Of course," Kol said before stepping to where Wulf was, offering the tech a respectful nod once he was beside him. "I'll follow your lead" he determined with him not being acclimated to the Tross and her systems yet.

The open line from Engineering finally spoke, "Fucking hell, I just got her running smoothly after the last dump. I'll have her ready in a couple minutes." Ken replied with a thoroughly angry buzz in his voice.

Half a second. Fuck! Wulf's brain was working out all the ways he could potentially improve on that, while simultaneously congratulating himself on the fact that he'd protected the Tross even that long against what he considered to be the entire MCRN.

The official line from said authority gave the tech a ripple of ice down his spine, and Wulf sat, silently revisiting the unwanted thought of that penal colony until Mickey spoke his name. Then Wulf's fingers skipped over keyboard and screen, and his voice quietly called his terminal into life.

"One sec," he said, not unkindly, to Kol as the detective wandered over to stand beside him. "Zee - Initiate 'Mom's Home', and nuke drives Alpha through to Juliet." Wulf looked to the UNN man then, as in his right hand, the terminal chirped, a feminine voice reconfirming Wulf's request.

"Initiating...." began Zee, and progress holos projected upwards in 3D from the display.

"Okay, uh, Kol, if you can go to that locker - it's open," Wulf pointed out the Officer of the Watch's locker across the floor from them both. "And grab the Altoids tin from the top shelf. Yeah - that one - that needs to go out the airlock, please?"

Mickey watched the manic minutes of madness as every scrap of contraband and items of dubious legal providence were taken to the airlock or the ships gally where the microwave would do in seconds what cosmic radiation would be in hours. Data chips fried, and a small satellite constellation of packages and glittering 'I-swear-they-were-breath-mints' pills when into orbit.

The more things change, the more they stayed the same.

 

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