After the trials and travails of the desert, the run to Caladbolg was mercifully uneventful. Being a little out of the way, there was no traffic in the Enos system to worry about, and arriving at Caladbolg meant a return to civilised traffic control. Therefore the run in was routine, just following the assigned approach lane and touchdown, nice and simple.
Once the formalities were sorted with the authorities, Dirk started to scan the market data for deals on his cargo. He spent the whole day in his cabin hooked into the local net, looking for brokers and comparing prices, only surfacing for lunch.
By the evening, however, Dirk was satisfied that he had identified the best deals he could. Consequently he made arrangements to sell all the goods on the ship, and make delivery. Over the next few days Dirk handled the delivery of the goods, their payments and the forwarding of the relevant taxes to the various authorities. He rounded up Ms Etye’s share from the sale of Arlana’s ores to the nearest thousand credits and paid a visit to her hotel to transfer the funds.
Dirk had relatively little downtime, and only managed a couple of evenings off ship to relax in a starport bar. He had been looking at his next port of call, Steel, and bemoaning the fact that Steel was pretty much uninhabited, and therefore had no trade to speak of. His companions for the evening agreed that Steel was best ignored. He found out that Steel was populated primarily by a small team providing refuelling services and support for the surveying work underway. Steel’s mineral wealth was to be exploited in conjunction with Imperial interests. One snippet of information that Dirk filed away for future consideration was that the automated fuel shuttle which gathered fuel from the local gas giant had gone missing, pushing fuel prices up as the supply became restricted and the extraction costs rose.
With Steel offering so little in the way of trade opportunities, Dirk decided to simply refuel at Steel without trading, and to carry cargo geared for Olympia’s markets instead. So after another intensive day at the computer, Dirk had secured a contract to deliver some freight to Olympia (with a suitable uplift on the standard fee in consideration of the unproductive stop at Steel), and determined that no passengers were looking to travel to either Steel or Caladbolg. He had also arranged to buy 60 tons of pipes and 15 tons of clothing with the ships funds and 60 tons of engine components with his own money. Dirk sat back and smiled to himself, for the first time since the Lodestar Phoenix had risen, she had nearly a full hold.
Over the next few days, the cargo was delivered, checked, and secured in the hold of the Lodestar Phoenix. Before long, the ship was lifting off and plotting a course for Steel, under the watchful eye of traffic control. Soon the Lodestar Phoenix was exchanging pleasantries and hazard information with an inbound Free Trader before making jump.
Once safely in the routine of jump travel, Dirk raised a topic he had been mulling over, one evening during dinner.
“I heard an interesting thing back on Caladbolg. The automated fuel shuttle that runs between Steel downport and the system gas giant has gone missing and Steel does not have enough resources to investigate. Now, I’ve done a bit of research, and I reckon the shuttle type most likely used by Steel has a tendency to engine failure – probably as a result of occasionally having to make use of the un-refined fuel it has collected. Therefore, it may well be still in orbit around the gas giant. It could of course have fallen into gas giant, or have been lost somewhere en-route. However, I think there is a good chance it is still in orbit, and if we can recover it, there are bound to be some brownie points in it for us. What do you think, are our instruments up to the job and could we recover the shuttle if we do find it ?”.
Timbur looked thoughtful. “I guess we could ferry it from the gas giant to Steel, but with our cargo hold so full we can’t stow her inside. We should be able to lash her to the bottom of the hull, but we couldn’t enter the atmosphere like that” he said after a while.
Nizekanuu spoke next “We don’t have particularly powerful scanners but, give or take atmospheric storms, we should be able to identify any anomalies and then use the ships boat to take a closer look and resolve them further”.
A general discussion ensued regarding the possibility and practicalities of finding and retrieving the missing shuttle. When the group broke up for the night, it had been agreed to try and recover the shuttle.
A few days later, when the Lodestar Phoenix emerged from jump in the Steel system, what preperations could be made had been made. Timbur had worked out the best way to secure the shuttle to the ship, and gathered the necessary gear together, Nizekanuu had run diagnostics on the ships sensors to ensure they were in tip top condition, and gone over the ships boat’s sensors to see what could be done to improve them.
Traffic control at Steel was of the basic variety, a couple of marker bouys and some old traffic news. It would not cause any problems to approach via the systems gas giant, in fact it would not even be noticed. Consequently, once Nizekanuu had completed a sweep of the area and ascertained the system was empty, he laid in a course for the gas giant.