On a Wing and a Prayer

Searching Steel System

More in hope than expectation, Dirk began scanning the gas giant for possible traces of the missing fuel shuttle. He drew a blank but, undeterred, repeated the exercise on the run into the gas giant. There was nothing to be seen and this remained the situation after a few hours in orbit and some very careful scanning.

Dirk had warned the crew that it may not prove as easy as he hoped, and that it was entirely possible that they would never find the shuttle. Secretly, however, he had expected to find the shuttle in orbit and had to work had not to let his disappointment show. He tackled his dejection with activity and was soon plotting the probable course the shuttle took and scanning the route when the Lodestar Phoenix was underway again, heading in-system for Steel.

Again Dirk’s hopes were dashed as they passed through the asteroid belt and there was still no trace of the fuel shuttle, despite Dirk’s best efforts on the scanner. Though Dirk had tried to remain optimistic throughout, the whole mood of the ship was one of despondency. In some strange way this cheered Dirk up as he realised it meant that the crew were functioning as a team and that they didn’t like being beaten by any challenge they took on. Still, there was no-where on the final leg from the asteroid belt to Steel for the fuel shuttle to hide and so expectations of finding it were low.

And so it proved, there was nothing of significance on the route into Steel. If there had been, Dirk couldn’t see how it could have been missed by anyone approaching Steel in any case. So it should have been found before now. Just to complete the search pattern, Dirk started scanning back along Steel’s orbit to where the fuel shuttle should have rendezvoused with the planet all those weeks ago. Suddenly a blip caught his attention, it was in approximately the right place and of approximately the right size – he’d found it !

Before long, Dirk had issued instructions to the crew to land and await his signal and was off in the ship’s boat to confirm the contact and make a salvage claim. A couple of hours later Dirk was alongside the missing fuel shuttle, and could see no obvious signs of fault. He donned his vac suit and went outside to secure a salvage buoy to the fuel shuttle. At first he couldn’t get the buoy to adhere to the shuttle, but after a bit more effort he succeeded and triggered the buoy into operation. He returned to the ships boat and contacted the Lodestar Phoenix.

By the time Dirk had re-joined the Lodestar Phoenix, the cargo had been off-loaded and was sitting on the spaceport apron under the watchful gaze of Damarcus, who was toting a serious looking rifle and at least looked like he knew how to use it. With the ship’s boat safely clamped on once more, the Lodestar Phoenix lifted off and went to retrieve the fuel shuttle.

Under Timbur’s careful direction, the fuel shuttle was manoeuvred into the hold of the Lodestar Phoenix and secured. The return to Steel was uneventful and once back on the spaceport, the delicate process of removing the fuel shuttle from the hold could begin. There followed much sweating, grunting, and swearing in the employment of many grav pallets and forklifts. Eventually, with most of the Lodestar Phoenix’s paint intact, the fuel shuttle sat on the permacrete, beside the Lodestar Phoenix. Despite their weariness, Dirk had the crew re-load the cargo onto the Lodestar Phoenix straight away, to ensure its’ safety.

The next morning Dirk met Gundarsa Olcan, the head of spaceport services on Steel (and it’s only employee) next to the fuel shuttle. Dirk found that Gundarsa was a technician by trade and either by accident or design was a wizard at keeping running old technology with what appeared to be parcel tape and string. Soon they were both inside the rudimentary cabin of the shuttle with Gundarsa popping access panels to peer inside and interrogating the on-board computers. Eventually she straightened up and turned to Dirk, who had been quietly trying to keep out of her way until she had finished.
“Well, as far as I cn see, the engine failed. Luckly, this was when she was perdy much at rest, expectin’ to be caught by Steel’s gravity and go inter orbit afore landing. With the engine failure, she couldn’t land, and didn’t make orbit, which is why she stayed where yere found her.

“I’ll need to get into the engine to find out what the trouble is, but I should be able to get her running again, if I’m allowed. I’m not sure what yere hoping for mister, but I ain’t got two creds to rub together and so can’t pay any salvage fee, and it’ll probbly take a year or more to get a decision out of the Government on Gram.”

“Just trying to be helpful Ms Olcan, and ensure I can get enough fuel to continue my journey” replied Dirk. “I can imagine what a blow the shuttle loss has been to life on Steel, and you don’t get much traffic to ask for help, so I thought I’d play the good Samaritan”.

“Yere sure you don’t want summat fere yere trubble ?” Gundarsa asked sceptically.

“I’ll tell you what” began Dirk, “Why don’t you join the crew and I on board the Lodestar Phoenix tonight, for dinner. Hopefully that will demonstrate my good faith, and you can enjoy a change of scene from the rather limited dining opportunities here on Steel ?”.

“Sure, see yere around seven local time ?”

“That would be fine, I’ll see you this evening Ms Olcan”.

That evening a pleasant time was had by all, as they swapped tales of space and their exploits. Dirk felt he had found a friend in Gundarsa and hoped she felt the same way. The following morning Gundarsa came over to sort out the re-fuelling lines and Dirk joined her outside the ship.

“Well Dirk, I can’t pay you salvage, but I can fill yere tanks fere free. So alls I cn say is thank yere again, and if yere ever back this way agin, call in tere see me wontcha ?”

“Thanks for the fuel Gundarsa, but it was not necessary, welcome, but not necessary. If I pass this way again I’ll be sure to look you up. By the same token, if you ever get tired of life in the wilderness, look me up, there’s a place for you in my little fleet anytime, if you want it.”

With that, they went about their respective jobs, and within a couple of hours the Lodestar Phoenix was ready to lift off. Lift off and travel to the jump point were uneventful and easy, with no other traffic being in system. Soon Dirk was sounding jump stations and, casting one last look back at Steel on the rear vid plate, translating to jump space en-route to Olympia.


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