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Kursis Charter

25. Administrative Oversight

Date: 176-993 Imperial.
Location: 069-526 system (0721), high above orbital plane.

They passed more doors on the way forward, but most were closed and unpowered. The only exception was the galley, where they found a tattooed man in an apron drifting amidst strands of frozen stew.

"Aren't those like Silea's tattoos?" said Maelcum.

"Almost," said Fish, "he's one of the Mmarislusant. They're Vilani people who live with the Luriani, kind of like me except I'm descended from the old Solomani garrison." He paused. "I can't imagine one of that lot as a pirate."

"He doesn't look it".

The bridge door was powered down. Fish popped an access panel and started poking around with a probe from his portacomp. Soon a power cell came out of his pack and found itself wired into the door. He hit the "open" button. Nothing happened. He sighed.

"Oh terrific, anti-hijack mode. Give me a minute..."

Out came a bizarre vacuum-friendly fibre crimping tool. Fish snipped away at the optical links inside the panel and spliced one into a trailing lead back to his portacomp. Soon he was running an anti-security programme of questionable legality (as used by all sensible spacers) while Sir David studied the ceiling. The door dilated. He checked his power pack. "That'll hold it open for months. In we go."

There was no light on the bridge save starlight through the windows. They played their headlamps around and clamped a couple of floods to the ceiling.

This time the bodies were vac-suited. Two of them had apparently chosen to asphyxiate in the privacy of their helmets, strapped into seats. A third had taken his helmet off to allow pistol access; his brains were all over the wall beside him. There was a data crystal, the sort that holds personal or media files and plugs into a portacomp, taped to the middle of the console in front of him.

"I'll have a look at it" said Fish.

My name is Eneri Louie-Tiemme. I'm the second officer of this vessel, the Cochrane's Burden. The hijackers killed the captain and the first officer when they wouldn't tell the console codes. They cut their throats, they did, and made me watch so I'd sing. Which I did, to be sure. Then they locked us in the belly bay, as hostages or slaves or some such. Which O'Gandy and I escaped from five days into jump, with the aid of Louisa distracting the guard. There was only four of them, so we took the ship back just fine when it was us with the surprise. We gave them the pleasure of our former accommodations, with Louisa doing the guarding.

We came out of jump with our boots laced and our flies buttoned, ready to hail, and found the scum had scragged the transponder and the voice twig. Which was a bit of a shame on account of the navy corvette which had come out of jump before us. The Emperor's fine lads and lasses sat there for ten minutes, watching us do nothing. I was thinking they'd send a boat over. No such luck. There was a big explosion aboard and every alarm in creation sang before the power went down, including the backup.

Now we're here on the bridge, with the door shut and no juice, and there's maybe eight hours of air. And I'm fucked if I know what to do.

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