Welcome to Hesch

(More log-to-post. Apologies for the less-than-polished nature)

Klem SteelhandFen HoanTrass'sschallDerrel TalbotDirk CaravanGorsnik Flashgit

                The bridge is half-lit right now, as about half of the crew is asleep. Klem sits at the captain’s board, his leathery, bearded face somewhat ghostly from the soft glow of the holo-display. Fen is on the bridge as well, watching her boards. A planetary mass is growing near on the displays, and they are entering medium-range sensor contact with the outer orbital defenses.

                Fen’s voice intones softly, “KH03.011, nearing contact range.”

                The lift hisses to a stop and the doors part. Trass’sschall steps onto the bridge now that his offwatch period is over. His steely, fierce reptilian face even more hardened by his slow mental state – his kind does not jump right to action unless there is a battle to set the blood boiling – so he is sluggish still and in a foul mood. The big xeno turns over with his offwatch sub at tactical and promptly, somewhat crudely, dismisses them from his post, then pulls on his solarthin jacket. The duty man gladly slips off the bridge to relieve himself. Trass sees the distant planet projected on holo-display, and Klem the XO nods to him, then looks back to his own boards.

                “How long until arrival?” the sathraas mutters. Taking tactical off auto and returning the sensor scans to manual, he begins making preparations for entering port.

                Fen responds, matter-of-fact, “ETA 4 hours to orbit. Receiving comm signal from monitor-ship now.”

                Trass’sschall nods and says, “Why are we here again?” while scratching a stubby clawed fingertip above one of his eyes. Not that it’s like him to forget; he just wants to be reminded of precisely what his duty will entail this time.

                Klem runs metallic fingers through his beard and answers, “Denarii2, my scaly friend. Lots of ’em.” The seasoned bounty hunter smirks a bit at the tactical officer’s frown of dislike for non-specific answers. “For now, we need to make sure the defense monitors and lance platforms don’t turn us into star-dust. What’ve we got incoming, Fen?”

 Fen has a hand over her earpiece, listening to a comm-stream, her usual signal that she is in process of finding out the answer to that question.

                Trass’ fingertips make an audible tap every so often as he touches the screen-display to select a new target to conduct sweep of – whether space-junk, merchant, or asteroid, passive and active sensors working, but the target-lock remains inactive – IFF set to normal mode. There is a defense monitor ship on scan, entering tactical range. A little further out, he sees telltales indicating a few other system-ships and a pair of small stations – lance platforms, most likely.

                Fen nods and speaks into her comm: “Ident confirmed, Duke Octavian. This is free trader Baron Frey, registered to Merchant Fleet Ultima,” she repeats the ship’s registry number and a stream of other relevant information. “Transferring full registry and charter data now. Our heading is for KH03.01.”

As they draw nearer, Trass notes the approach vector of the monitor ship. They’re coming pretty close, actually. He lets out a soft hiss from between teeth as he notes this – as a warning to the ship he lights up their board with a full-scale scan.

                “That ought to get their attention,” he murmurs. “Officer of the Deck, the monitor ship is dangerously near to CPA3

                Klem eyeballs the monitor’s position on scan and his reedy voice carries to Trass’sschall, “Takin’ no chances fer a little gnat like us, are they? Confirmed, Trass. Hoan, advise them of our current course and request direction for approach lanes. Register concern over proximity.”

                “Affirmative, OoD.” Fen then addresses the monitor over comm again, as they’re now close enough for direct beam communication with minimal lag, “Be advised, Duke Octavian: proximity is navigational hazard. Requesting permission to make planetfall, and approved lanes of approach.”

Trass’ instincts make him see the fight starting already – he likes being wrong, but just in case, one of his hands camp just above the Target Lock command entry.

                Klem notes Trass’s course of action and flicks an eye his way, “Steady, Trass. We ain’t aimin’ ta provoke ’em.”

“Just being prepared,” Trass’sschal shakes his head, as cool as the dead of space.

                “Confirmed, Duke Octavian. Lanes recieved. Complying now.” Fen feeds in their beamed response to the nav boards, overlaying it over the whole bridge holo-display. The prescribed course is promptly set in. Beyond the planet, a squadron of vessels is coming into sensor contact, previously blocked by their path in orbit.

“Someone important is on surface – or we just arrived in the middle of a tactical exercise,” Trass’sschall points out. “Military Ships popping up on sensors. Orbiting the Planet.”

“I see ’em, Trass. Fen, you got ident on those?”

The monitor alters its course to move further from them, wheeling about to escort them. Trass sees confirmation that their course shall parallel the Frey for 30% of the remaining distance.

“I have ident confirmation, OOD. Three frigates, Sword-class. Redoubtable, Fierce and Stalwart. Assigned to Naval installation KH07.034”.

                Trass leans back a small amount, relaxing his hand away from the command button and harrumphing.

Klem responds to Trass, “One’a them was our friend from back at Endger… and he’s brought help.”

“You mean the ship I witnessed departing without docking registry or departure information?”

“Nah. That was a lighter. Redoubtable there picked her up though, not an hour after she undocked…what was her name again?”

Harrier, sir,” Fen answers.

Klem purses his lips and goes on, “Thanks, Hoan… Trass, plot in their possible approach vectors and escape lanes fer us, in case there’s trouble.” Trass is on the task before the old hand is finished talking, “Harrier may still be in Redoubtable’s guts.”

Trass plots Hesch’s natural satellite as part of the escape route. “Course plotted.  I will feed it to your NavCom”

“Confirmed, Trass.”

“Are we expecting trouble?  Or is this just an ‘in case’?” Having come to know how things go on this ship at times, he feels it warrants this question with seriousness.

“Always pays ta be ready t’run fer it… if’n they fire on us… no way we c’n shoot our way outta here now.”

“Are we landing, or just approaching to communicate?” Trass notes during their approach that the squadron of warships is maintaining geosynchronous orbit over the coordinates of Julius Landing, the planet’s primary surface spaceport.

Fen responds without looking up, “Awaiting confirmation of permission to land. At present we’re on orbital course,” then adds, “They’re probably double-checking with those warships.”

Klem chuckles, “Wouldn’t wipe their backsides without permission with that there…”

 “Yes.  I would be correct in guessing that we will be landing at the main spaceport, correct?” Trass asks.

“Yeah, Trass. We’re going down there.”

“Roger,” Trass silences several alarms that alert him to intense scans of the ship – alarms make him edgy. He goes on, “We will likely be probed.  Standard Navy practice on approaching ships. Even with that monitor out there.”

The Frey passes into the calculated firezone of the second nearest defense platform overlapping the nearest, now.

“We are dead if we are unwanted,” again, that dry Sathrassian humor.

Klem chuckles at the Sathraas, “Wouldn’t be th’first time.”

“At least we would see it coming,” he nods heartily, crossing his powerful arms, “the way it should be.”

“Y’always wanna see it comin’ Trass. Where’s yer sensa adventure?” the older man quips wryly.

The frigates maintain their position, but the Frey is scanned more than once as it goes along its way.

“Comm, knock on yonder door again. I don’t fancy findin’ out the hard way there’s no more room at the inn.”

“Aye, sir.”

Trass’sschall then unfolds his arms and removes his sidearm, placing it from Condition IV5 to Condition I, and then reholsters it.

“Should I wake the Captain?” Trass’sschall inquires. “We are on final approach.”


                “He’ll want t’be awake fer this.”

“Permission to go below?” 

“Granted.”

Trass nods and looks to one of the standbys on the bridge to take his post. He stands, conducting a brief turnover with the man, who takes the position with alacrity so as not to lose a beat in case things get interesting, and then steps back onto the lift to go wake the captain – Trass always does things in person, if he can. He takes the lift to the command quarters level to wake the captain and informing him that the ship is on final approach.

Endnotes:
1: Hesch
2: The Denarius is the official unit of Imperial currency. Many parts of the Imperium refer to them as “credits,” or substitute some other unit for local use.

3: Closest Point of Approach

4: Byzmarkus
5: Condition IV: safety on, no magazine inserted. Condition I: safety on, magazine inserted, round chambered.

                  
                                    *     *     *     *     *

                A short while later the full mainday crew is on the bridge, entering orbit. Trass sits quietly, securely planted in his seat as the gravity shifts over from ship control to planetary ambient. Derrel monitors the descent, patching data from other boards across to his own to keep track of everything.

“Trass, keep an eye on those Swords for me will ya? I’m still not sure we’re out of the woods here,” the dark-skinned captain sips his mild stimm, brows furrowed.

“Understood”

The frigates are retaining their geosynchronous orbit, though one of them scans the smaller vessel as it plunges planetward.

“Another scan,” one of Trass’sschall’s boney eyeridges twitch.

“You’d think there was something important going on,” Derrel taps a few keys.

Meanwhile, Gorsnik is working his board and pausing occasionally to crack his knuckles while eyeing those ships. Half bemusing himself while he sits there, Trass can almost see the military posturing and launching fighters just to show they’re the toughest kid in the block – but he keeps this to himself.

Fen is intoning her conversation with plantary authorities, “Permission to land acknowledged, Hesch. Coordinates of port designated Julius Landing acknowledged. Final approach is along pre-designated lanes, status normal.”

Trass’s board shows the heat-shields functioning normally as they plunge into the upper atmosphere.

Derrel speaks through channel to Trass’s station, “Trass, switch monitoring of the Swords to Gor. I need you magnifying and scanning surface pheonema while you can. I want to know if there are any large-scale troop movements or battles underway. Anything blatantly out of the ordinary is something I need to know now.”

“Understood,” the big alien affirms. He does as directed, starting first and foremost with a scan most immediately of their landing area and anything he considers ‘tactically sound’ for staging a battle to capture the landing port – and works his way outward from there, zooming from micro to macro as the distance and importance of the area changes.

The planet has a fair number of population centers, but it’s still got a lot of frontier on it. Given the world’s population density, the port of Julius Landing is actually quite large and well defended… probably a sign of some strategic importance for this system. In fact, interestingly there is a huge craft on the surface, much larger than most ships equipped for planetfall. It easily dwarfs the frigates and system-ships hovering up in orbit. It’s at least cruiser and maybe of battlecruiser status. Zooming in, he does not recognize the craft’s class from any databank. Its general lines are fairly standard Imperial design, but its particulars mark it out as something unique.

“Commander, I believe I have found the reason for the military activity,” Trass’sschall says as he directs his scans of the unusual ship to be displayed on main vid. “It is not registering in the Databanks as any known class.”  Derrel looks over it, and everyone onboard does likewise.

Dirk scratches at his beard and murmurs, “She’s a right monster, allright. Vulnerable on the surface, but if she were up in space I’d lay money on her over that whole Naval squadron.”

Derrel responds, “She couldn’t take the entire planetary defenses though, even in open space.”

“I don’t recognize a lot of her configuration… she’s got Xeno modifications or I’m an Eldar,” Dirk mutters, shrugging.

Fen speaks then, in a lull of planetary communication, “She’s still intact and undamaged in spite of Xenotech.”

Trass grunts, a sign of dissatisfaction.

Derrel, Klem and Dirk then breathe simultaneously, “Rogue Trader.”

“There is a lot of military hardware for a trader ship,” Trass growls thoughtfully, “Rogue or no. I have never seen pirates this well equipped.”

Trass’sschall notes that there is a considerable amount of surface defenses emplaced around the spaceport, including the standard emplacements and portable materiel. Trass also notes that there seems to be a militarized border of some sort some twenty or so kilometers distance from the spaceport. Forces seem to be engaged in exercises on both sides. There is no sign of open hostilities, just buildup.

“Hrm. I am showing some military activity.  It would seem there is a defended border approximately 20 kilometers from the spaceport.  No sign of battle, but I am showing at least two distinct forces massing. In addition, it would seem they have added security to the spaceport for this unidentified ship.”

                “Seems they don’t trust their distinguished guests,” Derrel notes, checking a few other issues on his boards.

One of Trass’ yellow eyes momentarily slides to gaze upon the Ork at the mention of ‘added security’ then back to his scan-output. “Either that, or they are predicting a border skirmish and want to keep the opposing force out of the spaceport.”

“Or both.”

Trass’sschall nods at that, scanning other areas for further intelligence. Gorsnik is doing his job, his red cybereye glaring at his instruments. He’s got a tic in his face. Getting impatient after all this time in space without much to do… Trass recognizes the signs that the Ork is getting antsy by now.

The Sathraasian speaks up, saying, “Let us address the matter of the landing party while we are planet-bound.”

Derrel nods and responds, “Good eye. Initial surface contact will be Hoan and myself, with Jergins. We’ll need to keep the Xenos on shipboard at first, just to play it safe.”

“As always, I will express my concern that I would feel more comfortable with myself, Gorsnik, or one of my security team to accompany you,” the reptiloid tactical officer offers.

“Acknowledged, Trass. One additional man of your choosing.”

                “Smithwick,” Trass’sschall states and nods to the messenger, a cue to run off and tell Smithwick to get geared up. The runner vanishes in good order.

They are plummeting earthward, reducing speed for greater safety, communication with Julius Landing’s spaceport now constant. Trass notes what seems to be some small-arms fire somewhere in the city proper, away from the militarized areas.

“Looks like there is a sector you may want to avoid,” Trass puts it up on vid, “At least for now.”

“Acknowledged.”

They have braked to atmospheric speeds now and are no longer taking on heat. The closer they get to that spaceport, the bigger that interstellar vessel looks.

Fen’s voice cuts across channel, “I have ident for the cruiser. She’s the Deliverance, registered to one Baron Madrius Herrifydd, operating under Warrant of Trade1. You were right, gentlemen.”

Once they have landed, Trass sets most of the tactical systems on standby, keeping the weapon capacitors charged and the inner-ship security system operational.
 
                Now that they’re down, Derrel rises from his seat and speaks, “Time to go pay a courtesy visit to the port authority. We shouldn’t be long.”

From where they’re currently sitting, they can see the vast bulk of the Deliverance, and note a security detail near its main boarding ramp… including several black-armored Arbitrators. In short order, Trass’sschall is belowdecks organizing the watch rotation for boarding ramp sentry, per the captains orders, it does not include Xenos. The process is routine, for the most part.

One member of the detail he’s organizing comments to him, “We’ve got a squad of Arbitrators less than 200 meters from our ramp, sir.”

“Well, we are here on legitimate business. So if they want to board us, we really cannot refuse. We are presently outnumbered, and the only thing we would have working for us is the Law. And I cannot comment on how flexible that might be to work in their favor.  Orders are to keep all unauthorized people off the ship. Contact me if someone wants to board without consulting with the Captain first.”

“Aye, sir.” The detail takes up their positions, professional and alert. All seems more or less in readiness.

Trass’sschall adds, “Deadly force is not authorized at this time gentlemen. Do not forget that.”

“Aye, sir.” They double-check their weapons just in case, though.

Trass goes off to keep a low profile until the Captain returns with news, greatly wishing to stretch his legs from being in this cramped ship for so long. In time, Derrel returns to shipboard without incident, looking somewhat relieved.

Trass greets him upon his return, “What is the status?”

Derrel puts a hand on Trass’s shoulder, “It’s good news,” prompting the lift of a bony eye ridge. “Our ship’s small and light enough that local regulations permit it to function as an atmospheric vessel. In other words the Frey isn’t imprisoned here until our departure.”

“Are we not intending on remaining here at the spaceport?”

“Not permanently, now that we know local regs. We’ll be able to use local airfields, get about the planet easier… And out from under those Judges’ noses.”

            “I understand.  I would have figured if we wanted to land elsewhere, we would have just requested to land at a different spaceport,” Trass states. “Well then shall I go prepare for takeoff again?  Or are we remaining here for the duration?”

Derrel pauses for a moment, then answers, “We shall remain here for the time being as we take on fuel and supplies, and we need to meet up with some local security forces.”

“And the Xeno issue?”

“We can likely smuggle you out in a road car, or we can wait to hit a less heavily watched airfield. Local tensions have left this place fairly locked-down.”

Trass’sschall grumbles, “Then I will remain below and supervise internal matters until we are able to move from here.”

“That’d probably be the most prudent course of action. I hadn’t expected this place to have such tight security,” Derrel says firmly, and then adds, “The Judges are in a snit about something, apparently.”

“It could be that large massing of forces. I am going to double up on the security detail, just in case. I would imagine of all the stops we can go on this planet, this is not the ideal one for rest and relaxation, so with your permission I am going to short-cycle the men to reinforce the security compliment,” the xeno attacks the problems he can reach, making the best of an unpleasant situation.

“Agreed,” Derrel smiles concernedly as he speaks, “I’m thinking our next port of call will be Vinapest, the planetary capital. Should be a better place for recreation and for business… at least better than right around this port.”

Trass, brow ridges still wrinkled, responds crisply, “Understood.” With that, he goes off and does his security thing, probably taking a fair share of the watches himself because he’s perverse in that he lives for this kind of thing.

1: Warrant of Trade: a document granting an individual the extremely rare legal right to explore, have trade or dealings with worlds beyond Imperial control, including alien civilizations and regressed human societies… in effect, to operate beyond Imperial jurisdiction, a law unto themselves. Such individuals are most commonly known as Rogue Traders.

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