39. Kleister Beta
Date: 266-993 to 269-993 Imperial.
Location: Kleister Beta (uninhabited far binary companion white dwarf), 069-526 System (0721).
"Right, we're into polar mapping orbit. Scans ready?" Silea shot a glance at Sir David.
"They're working away. The system should squawk when it finds something. I'll watch it for a while, make sure it's tuned right."
"OK, I'm going for a kip. I think Maelcum's next on comm watch."
Maelcum looked out at the lonely gas giant, known as Lisiik Gara, and compared it to the one that hung over Liar's Oath. "It's pretty calm compared to home. Most of the storms are just big enough to lose a planet in. You couldn't get the moons in with them."
"If you want storms, the sensor log's got some real biggies" replied Sir David.
"We got a ping. There's something dense on radar down there."
It was two and a half days into the search, two thirds of the way around the planet, and Fish was doing a turn on the bridge when the sensors triggered their alert. The rest of the Avaricious joined him quickly, Sir David taking the sensor console.
"That pings like superdense. It's a ship hull."
"How big is it?" Fish asked.
"Pretty big. Bigger than us. Hard to say without characterising the gas for radar absorption. But it's of the right order for Vraidercalt, certainly."
"And how deep?"
"Deeper than we'd skim, but we can operate down there if we fly slowly."
"We'll have to treat it as atmospheric flight rather than vacuum ballistics" mused Silea. "It's on the equator, so it's probably on an equatorial flight path. So we're crossing that path at right angles. If we can plot its vector on this pass, I'll set up an approach for the next time around." Silea was already playing with wire frame orbital projections on the astrogation suite.
Four hours later they were ready to dive into the gas.
"There's some mucky weather coming" said Sir David, looking at his plots. "But it should pass us by unless it veers."
"Alright, lets go have a look. You folks prepare for boarding." Silea hit "go" on her de-orbit program and the Avarice Rewarded, which was flying upside down for better sensor visibility, arced in towards the dim blue gas giant.
They picked up a transponder signal halfway in. "It's definitely Vraidercalt", Silea sent over the ship's comm, "and it's got enough power for a transponder."
Avarice Rewarded closed within a kilometer of the abandoned ship. Fish and Maelcum got ready at the airlock in their heavy environment suits and other boarding gear. Sir David clomped back to the bridge to finesse the sensors. Luan put her normal suit on, minus helmet and gloves, and set up med lab. Silea made minute corrections in the shifting winds.
"Let's see if this thing works." Sir David fired up their upgraded phased array radar and got a picture of the Vraidercalt, which was still invisible to the eye. He spoke a running commentary to the rest of the crew.
"Affirmative, picture is clean and clear, unlike the Malfeasant... I can see combat damage on the hull. Must be from the pirate attack before they misjumped. I've also got a wobble, looks like their contragrav is not too stable. OK, Silea, let's do that ring around it..."
"Loading bay on this side looks undamaged, but we'll have to go EVA for that. Over the top we go... There's a dorsal airlock. Geometry is OK, we could dock to that. The bay for the launch is empty; there's probably an intact airlock in there but it's another EVA job. Other side now... Oh, that looks nasty. Big hole in the lower port side. I've no idea what made that. Underneath... Well. Now that's downright weird. You got any ideas on that Silea?"
"No. It's like something dissolved the bottom of the ship."
"I hope that's not where the loot was" Fish muttered to Maelcum.
"Let's come back around to the top and dock" Sir David decided. "Are you OK with that, Silea?"
Silea eyed the 1000 dtons of wobbly freighter, and said "let's do this nice and slow."
* CLUNK *
"We're docked. Attitude thrusters are moving us in time with Vraidercalt. Hang onto your lunch when you get through that airlock, guys, the deckplates may not be working on the other side."
Sir David made his way back to the airlock. The expedition team checked all their suit seals and cracked the hatch.