Dirk strode up the gangway connecting Iderati High Port to the Lodestar Phoenix, noting with pride the freshly painted name on her nose. It wasn’t perfect, he would have to consider a full repaint during her annual maintenance – if he could afford it, but it was good enough to pass muster for now. He punched the security code and stepped aboard to be greeted by a fairly unpleasant musty smell. I must rustle up some cleaners he thought.
Dropping his luggage off in the crew lounge, Dirk made his way to the bridge and slid into the command chair. Logging onto the ship’s computer, he set about changing the passcodes and reviewing the security measures, and bringing the air scrubbers back on-line…….
A couple of hours later, Dirk leaned back, hands behind his head, contemplating a job well done. He was happy that he had set himself up with new master codes, new crew codes, and that the ship was safe from unwanted intruders. A review of the maintenance logs showed that the monthly maintenance had been undertaken by Kellogue and Brown Tank Transport and had checked that the fuel tanks were full. He had also booked a cleaning crew to come in clear the previous occupants’ possessions and perform a deep clean of the entire ship. The air scrubbers were beginning to have an effect as well.
After a short break to eat the lunch he had brought with him, Dirk set about exploring his new domain. He systematically went through the crew quarters and crew spaces, looking for anything of use or value. Apart from clothes and the usual entertainment cubes, there was nothing of any significance or worth, except for a small locked case in what appeared to be the previous captains’ cabin. The crew spaces were equally empty of interest, although Dirk was able to satisfy himself that the galley contained enough sealed comestibles to negate the need for restocking and allow him to jettison all of the open items. The ships’ locker produced the usual assortment of tools and gadgets, along with a shotgun and a couple of stun pistols. The passenger compartments only needed a brief walk round to ascertain that they were devoid of personal items, and simply set up ready for passengers. As expected, there were no vac suits on board, the previous crew had all been wearing theirs, but at least the emergency pressure suits were all present.
Dirk placed a call to a specialist cleaning company who, for a small premium, were able to come in to start clearing and cleaning the ship in the morning. Dirk fixed himself a small supper in the galley, and then settled down in the passenger lounge with the locked box. After twenty minutes, and a trip to the tool box, Dirk had prised open the box to discover a few personal mementos belonging to the previous captain, and an intriguing piece of plastifilm. Dirk could scarcely believe his eyes, he appeared to be the proud new owner of an Imperial Travel Warrant allowing the bearer to travel to Andor and Candory. Dirk didn’t know a great deal about these two systems, but he did know they were inhabited by Droyne and that the Imperial Navy presence in the sub-sector was largely focused on controlling these Red Zones. Authorised travel to these systems was extremely rare, therefore an official travel warrant, must be rather valuable. A thought struck Dirk, the operative point there was ‘official’. He got up and went to the airlock in the boarding corridor. Passing the document under the passport scanner, Dirk was rather surprised when the machine gave a small beep and flashed a green light – the document was authentic !
Dirk went to bed in one of the passenger cabins, trying to figure out what to do with the travel warrant, should he hand it in to the Imperium, or could he somehow profit from it ? The issue remained unresolved when the alarm went off, signalling an early start to what Dirk suspected would be a long and busy day.
Shortly after Dirk had showered, dressed, and breakfasted, the cleaning company arrived. After carefully checking their credentials, Dirk set them to work, starting with the crew quarters before working their way through the rest of the ship. Dirk was immersed with ‘paperwork’ and arranging delivery and loading of the freight, mail, and goods when the comm buzzed. ‘Hello, you’ve reached the Lodestar Pheonix” responded Dirk.
“Hi, Timbur Tollway, reporting for duty” said the image that popped up on Dirk’s screen “is the captain around?”.
“Hello Timbur, I am the captain” replied Dirk as he scanned the vid feed from the airlock. Seeing nothing untoward, he pressed the release to open the lock. “Welcome aboard. I’m on the bridge, but I’ll come down and meet you in the passenger lounge”.
“Aye, Aye, Sir” came the response.
A few minutes later Dirk and Timbur were in the passenger lounge shaking hands. Dirk explained the situation regarding the Lodestar Phoenix, and that the cleaning crew were working through the crew quarters, so it would be a while before Timbur could stow his gear in his cabin. As they were talking, Dirk’s tablet beeped, there was another comm call. This time the face of a young woman stared out of the screen.
“Morning, I’m Ester-Ann Davies reporting for duty. Is the captain on-board ?”. Dirk sighed, this could get repetitive. Hello Ester-Ann, I’m the captain, I’ll just pop down and let you in”. As he was leaving the passenger lounge Dirk said to Timbur “Stow your gear in one of the passenger cabins until the crew quarters are free and I’ll introduce you to our pilot”.
At the lock, Dirk once again looked at the vid feed from outside the ship, checking that Ester-Ann was alone and this was not a set up, before letting her in.
“Welcome aboard Ester-Ann, we met at your interview, I’m Dirk, your captain. Come on up to the passenger lounge and I’ll introduce you to our Engineer.”
“Thank you, Sah ! Glad to be aboard”.
“It’s OK Ester-Ann, this is not a military ship, we don’t need titles, and hopefully we’ll all become friends.”
They headed along to the passenger lounge where Dirk introduced Ester-Ann to Timbur. After a little chit chat, Timbur excused himself and headed off to engineering to review his new realm. Ester-Ann did likewise, stowing her bag in a passenger cabin before Dirk took her to the bridge where she started to review the set up. Dirk headed back to check on the cleaning crews progress, his tablet beeped and Ester-Ann’s face appeared. “Sir, I have the astrogator at the lock.”
“Thanks Ester-Ann, if the coast is clear, let Nizekanuu in and ask him to meet me in the passenger lounge please”.
“Aye Aye, Sir!”.
A few moments later, Dirk was shaking hands with Nizekanuu, a young nobleman who was working his way back to his family’s lands in the Imperium. Dirk was just finishing welcoming Nizekanuu aboard and sending him off to check the astrogation computer and charts when his tablet beeped once more.
“Excuse me,” said Dirk, “I’ll catch up with you on the bridge, later” and turned to his tablet, dismissing the astrogator.
“ Sir, I have a call for you” said Ester-Ann’s voice from the screen.
“Thanks Ester-Ann, who is it our medic or steward ?” asked Dirk.
“Neither Sir, they would not give their name, and they’re on audio only.”
“OK, Thanks Ester-Ann, patch them through and I’ll see what they want.”
“Hello captain, you don’t know me, but I had an agreement with your predecessor.” Said a deep, gruff voice. “ I wondered if you had the document in question, and whether I could still count on that agreement”.
“I am at least aware of the document” replied Dirk, thinking of the Imperial Travel Warrant. “What had you got in mind ?”.
“Meet me in the Drifters Inn in an hour and we’ll talk things through”.
“Fine, who shall I ask for ?”.
“Don’t worry, I’ll find you.” With that, the line clicked dead and Dirk was left to contemplate how to handle this.
Fortunately, the next calls that came in were the final two crew members, Billy Weedin and Damarcus Preston, and some confirmation of cargo delivery times. Dirk went through the welcome routine and also had them stow their kit in a passenger cabin. The “doc” sat in the passenger lounge, reviewing the ships medical supplies and equipment, whilst Dirk pulled Damarcus to one side.
“I’ve got a meeting off ship, and I need someone to cover my back, just in case. Are you up to the job ?” asked Dirk.
“Sure am Sir” replied Damarcus.
“Good. It shouldn’t come to anything, but I want you to go to the Drifters Inn for a cup of coffee, and just keep an eye out to make sure the man I meet hasn’t brought any friends. If he has, give me a nudge on my tablet and get back to the ship.”
“OK boss, should I be armed ?”.
Dirk noted the excitement in the young mans’ voice, but didn’t have too many options. “You can take a stun pistol. But don’t use it unless your life is in danger, clear ?”.
“Sure thing boss”.
A little later, Dirk walked into the Drifters Inn and scanned the patrons. He saw Damarcus, sitting towards the back surreptitiously glancing over the top of his tablet, but neither gave any sign of recognition. He ordered a drink at the bar, and took a seat at the table where he could watch the entrance. He turned at the scrape of a chair, and a man sat down at his table.
“Hello Cap’n” said the man. “I’m Dennis Hale, and your predecessor had something for me. Can you help me ?”. Dennis didn’t elaborate on why he wanted the Imperial travel Warrant, and Dirk did not pry.
“Well, that all depends” replied Dirk, “there has been a change of management, and that kinda negates previous arrangements. It seems to me that I have several choices. I know the location of a valuable original document, which by rights should go back to the issuing authority. But then, I’m sure there are several people who would like to own such an original, and would be prepared to handsomely reward an intermediary who could get one. So why don’t you tell me what the arrangement was and I’ll tell you whether I can work with that.”
Dennis gave a long thoughtful look at Dirk, finally, after apparently reaching a decision, he said “OK, that seems fair enough. You don’t look like someone who would mess me around. The arrangement I had was for 60,000 Imp Cr for the original document. I would need to verify the authenticity before I thumbed over any cash though.”
It was Dirk’s turn to pause for thought. “Deal” he said, holding out his hand. Call me tomorrow around noon, and I’ll tell you where to meet me for the exchange”.
“I’m glad we could do business” replied Dennis, shaking Dirk’s hand to seal the transaction.
Dirk returned to the ship, followed a little later by Damarcus. “Well done lad, that went well”.
“Thanks boss, it was fun”.
The cleaning crew had finished with the crew quarters, and so Dirk and the crew moved their belongings into their cabins and unpacked. That evening they gathered for a communal meal in the passenger lounge. Once everyone had arrived and introductions made, Dirk welcomed them all, formally, to the Lodestar Phoenix. He ran through his standing orders, at least one person on duty at all times on port or when passengers where aboard etc., ensured everyone had access to the ships computer and the crew security codes, and explained his ethos for running the Lodestar Phoenix. When he was finished he raised his glass and announced a toast to the Lodestar Phoenix and new beginnings.
The following day, the crew had settled into a routine, the checking over of the ship’s systems and the loading the cargo and freight as it arrived. Dirk once again established Damarcus as backstop for the transaction with Dennis Hale, this time at a venue of his choosing. The call came in and Dirk arranged the meet in the Yellow Hiver. This time Dirk was waiting for Dennis and spotted him, carrying a small case, as he entered the bar. Dennis briefly scanned the faces and made his way over to Dirk. “Are we all set ?” he asked as he sat down. Dirk just nodded.
Dennis placed the case on a chair between them and opened it, placing a debit cube on the table. A small scanner sat in the case. “If you would be so kind ?” asked Dennis, nodding toward the scanner. Dirk discreetly produced the Imperial Travel Warrant and placed it in the scanner. No sound emerged, but a small indicator light blinked green. Dennis’ eyes lit up and a feral grin spread across his face “Now we’re in business” he whispered. “That seems good” he said out loud and picked up the debit cube. Dirk produced his own, purchased that morning, a useful bit of kit he thought. Disposable finance cubes, load them up with currency, and spend away, electronic cash – no need for credit, no need for a bank account, practically untraceable, unless you registered them to an account. Dennis thumbed across 60,000 Imperial Credits and Dirk checked the balance on his own cube, sure enough, the wireless transfer had completed.
“A pleasure doing business with you” Dennis said as he pocketed his cube, the document, and packed away his scanner. A brief hand shake and he was gone. Dirk, collected Damarcus and returned to the ship satisfied with a job well done.
The next couple of days saw the cleaning crew finish, the ship crew sign off on all systems, and the cargo loaded and locked down. Dirk had also used some of his new found wealth to order in some extra supplies, fresh food together with a few cases or nice wine and a case of whiskey. Something to make the Cold Dark a little more comfortable, though the wine was at least in part in case they ever managed to get some High Passage business. He also repaid the 25,000 Cr he had taken from his reserve fund on Karin to buy the current cargo.
Finally everything was ready, the course to Asteltine was laid in, clearance was given from traffic control, and Dirk gave the order to release the station clamps and head out. The transit to the jump point was uneventful, a customs pinnace gave them a fly by, presumably checking the ship against its’ filed flight plan; and a Type M Liner jumped in-system when they were nearing their own jump point. Then came the translation to jump-space and the Lodestar Phoenix secured from Jump stations and settled into a jump space watch system on her maiden voyage.