JT pulls the fabric back together as well as she can and jets down to the floor to rejoin Tcho and the captain. She reports that not everything is going according to plan on the other side and delicately informs the captain that crew members are in that room and part of the ship takeover.
“Now, I suppose some of the crew is mutinous…” the captain says reluctantly.
“Those folks over there, definitely mutinous,” JT insists.
“How many are we talking? The crew loves me!”
JT describes the three she saw. Since the group does not include Adalat or FX-72, it accounts for most of the list the captain and Tcho put together.
Everyone over there is aware of Tcho’s actions, but no one is actively readying for combat. And the tension between shipjackers and mutineers and Zann folks is obviously building. Also, they do not have a significant cache of weapons; those were supposed to come with the missing reinforcements.
“So there are three factions in that room,” Tcho sums up. “Can we exploit them somehow? Maybe we take out one group, and then the others will fold, claiming they weren’t really with them.”
“That’s one approach,” JT allows. The room shudders again, and she frowns. “Are you sure we’re not under attack?”
“Well, yes!” the captain says, offended at what he perceives to be downplaying the threat to his ship. “Yes, we are under attack!”
“No, I meant from external sources. That just felt like a hit from a quad-laser.”
Tcho speaks up, a little uncertainly, “There was something screwy with the hyperdrive jump. The hyper jump? Hyperspace jump?”
“The hyperdrive…” JT lets out a long reflective breath. Whatever Tcho knows is likely bad news. “Something went wrong with the jump?”
“I overheard ship staff talking about how the jump didn’t seem like it was the way it was supposed to be and they were making modifications to it,” Tcho tells her. “But if the shipjackers made changes and that crewmember didn’t know what they were, that could have just made things worse.”
“Oh no! Are you telling me one person plotted the course, but another person plotted the timing? Oh, gosh, that’s the last thing we need. That’s always bad.” JT waves her arms about some, trying to provide a suitable analogy to illustrate their danger. “It’s like one person tells you what skiff to take, and another tells you what time to get off, so you get off in the bad part of town instead of just going through it.”
The room shudders again, this time accompanied by wrenching, cracking noises. Through the divider, they hear a shout from the other room. “Kriff! What is going on? What was that?”
“And the bad part of town is the Maelstrom. Okay. Got it.” The room rocks again, and Tcho takes a small measure of satisfaction from the fact that his equilibrium holds. The cocktail he gave himself earlier seems to be doing its job. “Is that going to tear the ship apart?”
“It could. That’s definitely a possibility. Depends how good the structural integrity of your ship is,” JT says, turning to the captain. “You haven’t been in a major battle lately. Is your hull made of vanadium alloy or just neo-steel alloy?”
“Now, the Dame is a premium vessel,” the captain starts, rattling off statistics from the tour. His ship was made with pride, but not hubris, so the materials involved are all top of the line. Rowan also details the safety features, including how all the sub-sectors are divided with bulkheads.
JT’s voice is still coming out through her helmet’s modulator, even though the volume is turned way down. It makes her muttered mental arithmetic seem more dramatic as she evaluates the pressures and torque involved. “Yeah, you’ll probably have a lot of localized hull breaches. The overall ship should be okay, but it depends on each individual section acting in concert to get their emergency bulkheads in place.” Rowan is confident his crew can handle it. They are specifically trained on this matter, with everyone having specific jobs during an emergency. “But what about the crew that aren’t at their posts?” JT says, nodding her helmet toward the partition.
“Well, I imagine they wouldn’t want the ship destroyed, either,” the captain replies with surprising practicality.
“Yeah, but they don’t seem like they’re going to do their jobs. They’re a little busy. We might need to deal with this section ourselves,” JT points out.
“Oh,” the captain says, paling a bit.
“But you know how to do that, right—” Tcho catches himself just before he says her name. “Right, Blue Streak?”
“I think so, but doing that while we’re under fire is going to be a challenge. So we need to subdue these criminals first.”
Tcho nods. “Well, on the topic of subduing… Do you think you’re going to be able to cut a hole up there large enough for you to slip through?” he asks, looking up and across the room at the spot where JT did her reconnaissance work.
“I think I can. I might not be the quietest when I’m on the other side, but we can do that.”
“Your jetpack was pretty quiet once you made those adjustments,” Tcho points out.
“Yes, but when I’m on the other side, I’ll be high up, way above everything, so it will be easier for people to see me. And, you know, glitter.” Even when not broadcasting dramatic announcements, the Blue Streak is visually noisy.
“So it sounds like we’re going back to you being a distraction while I’m taking people out?”
“That’s one place to start. But if I can get to that shipjacker, maybe I can convince him to help us deal with this in exchange for some leniency.”
JT barely gets the words out before Rowan objects. “No! There’s no dealing with these people. You let a shipjacker go, and then they just jack another ship. I wouldn’t wish that on any captain!”
“There’s a few captains that I would wish it on,” JT mutters. Rowan glares at her, and she clears her throat. “Uh, but they’re not here today. Okay, but what about the poor people he has hired to help him? They’re not really shipjackers. They’re just people who don’t have a lot of other options. What if we gave them an option? You’re going to have some openings on your crew soon, right?”
“Those people gassed my bridge crew!” Rowan objects.
“But your bridge crew is still alive and otherwise unharmed, right?” JT counters.
“She’s right,” Tcho agrees. “They clearly could have killed all those people, and they didn’t.”
“They got hired to do a job, and they’re trying to do that job,” JT says. “Yes, it’s illegal. But give them a different job, and maybe they can change. They’re not rebelling against you right now; they didn’t go back on a contract. And you know how hard it is to find good crew these days.” Rowan begins slowly nodding in agreement as JT’s arguments sink in. “Just, maybe have them work with someone other than the bridge crew. That might be a good idea.”
The captain authorizes the Blue Streak to offer leniency and potential employment to the group of spacers working for Shipjackers, LLC.
“All right, that means I’ll be heading to the front,” she points back toward where she was scouting, “to try to isolate them for a conversation. The shipjacker stormed off back to this end.”
“So I’ll cut a slit through here at ground level and slip through to get into position,” Tcho agrees. “If anyone else is on their own, I’ll do what I can to take them out quietly. Let me move in first, and I’ll comm you when I’m set.”
“Sounds good. Captain, you should probably stay in here until we give the all-clear.”
The Blue Streak jets back up to the ceiling, and Tcho starts cutting through the partition, all his unsteadiness now coming from the environment rather than his nervous system.