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Old December 24th, 2015, 12:17 AM
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Default Recovery Mission 875-496

"Field Scout Adam Warren."

His eyes jerked open, he had been about to fall asleep. Relaxed, must be a good sign. He rose, unconsciously straightening his formal field dress uniform, and turned to the announcer. A young female, in formal administration uniform. More gray, less showy, but it exuded ... what? He never could figure it out. Mandarin officiousness? Made her look older.

She smiled and glanced him over, as if checking his uniform for propriety. "Sorry to keep you waiting, are you ready?"

"Yes. Lead the way," as he raised his hand towards the review bay and smiled slightly in return. She did, and he fell into step alongside her. A little bit of parade formality, admin liked that, though it was annoying to be led by a youngster. A bit much to check on his uniform too. An ancient design, it was both dashing and hard to wear incorrectly. Well, some field scouts could, and did, wear it incorrectly, so perhaps it was necessary.

Maybe she was looking for misaligned awards. Pilot wings. Lead pin. Wilderness Ribbon. Weapons Qual. Purple Heart.

He almost hadn't worn that last one.

She probably would have said something.

The access slid open and they strode into the review bay. By tradition, large and echoy, like a ship hanger. The far end was glassed in overlooking a magnificent view of the combined naval/scout base and the city beyond. Local star high overhead, beautiful blue sky, avian animals passing between the hangers. Marines in combat armor doing PT on the tarmac, an Alice on the flight line with bots loading it up with cargo, a Maus half out of a prep bay undergoing alignment checks. Beyond was the local port city, a bit small but expanding fast. Good to see people out-of-hull.

Was that his ship aligning? Looked like it. Test vehicles, reflectors, dampers, orange-clad ground techs scurrying around. Had to be.

Not yet though. Some formalities.

Before the bay window was a long table with the review board administrators. Admininstration Lead, Engineering, Ops, Personnel ... and a fifth? Who was ... medical. Psych. Here? Oh God, don't need this. Get through this, again, how many more times .... He relaxed. Think ahead ....

A chair faced the table. The youngster waved him forward while moving off to one side. He strode up easily to the table and they all rose to meet him.

"Scout Warren reporting for assignment."

"Scout Warren, pleased to see you here, I am Senior Administrator Harinkake," said the older woman at the center, clasping her hands in front of her in the ancient vilani greeting for females. He responded with his right arm across his middle and a slight bow, and she smiled at the courtesy. "This is Administrator Hourk for Engineering," the man leaned forward over the table expansively and offered his hand, "Administrator O'Mallard for Operations," the woman nodded, "Administrator Smith for Personnel," the man nodded as well, "and Doctor PringelHoeffer." This guy smiled that ... smile. Adam stood easy, greeting them all in turn as they preferred. No formality here, just the well-worn ways.

"Well, let's begin," Harinkake said. Everyone sat at the long table, Adam in the chair facing it.

"Scout Warren, this will be a review board to consider assigning you as lead to a ship and crew and assignment. The immediate mission is the investigation of an overdue vessel, the ISS Purdue. It is a standard S-class, crew of 4, overdue now by five months from Five Sisters Subsector System 875-496, the ship's last known destination. Its arrival in or departure from that system is unknown. Secondary consideration is the Purdue's original mission, a standard review and update of the status of 875-496 prior to the anticipated arrival of the ISS Lu Hao to conduct a full preliminary survey next year."

Harinkake went on for several more minutes further outlining the mission background. He knew most of it already - few secrets on a scout base. As for considering him, this was just a formality, the board did not seat without crew and lead decisions already having been made.

Except for PicklePicker there ....

"Do you have any questions?"

"Yes ma'am, I'm surprised at the length of time for the overdue declaration. Has there been a change in policy on that?" Smooth, lead off with a question regarding administration policy, they liked that.

"No, the Purdue had multiple missions and there was a communications issue at Gohature, all adding up to the delay. No change in policy." Adam raised his eyebrows - somebody at Gohature was getting a new assignment, probably long term research on a Kuiper belt object.

Next was Hourk. A big guy, leaned back in his chair, spoke clearly, his voice filling the review bay. "We've rehulled a Maus, ISS-SS18-1022-022A, with Jump 3 and matching tanks. We had to replace the landing gear with keel skids and downgrade maneuver drives to 1G but on the upside you'll have a model 4 sensor suite and a brand new fuel purifier. In fact almost everything on the ship is new except for the hull, built right here by Durhan Port of Karin. That's it down there." Hourk waved to the outfitting scoutship below. "It's not the lead boat for this alteration, it's number 3, so the kinks have been worked out ...."

Adam interrupted. "Was Purdue the lead boat?" Rude to interrupt an administrator, but clearly Hourk was an advance from the field and Adam didn't think twice about the question knowing that Hourk wouldn't think twice either.

Hourk grinned. "No it was the second. But the lead has been operating without incident for several months now at Candory and Andory, so we believe there are no issues in that regard. Lined up all three myself." Houk went on for a few minutes specifying the rest of the engineering features. They were fairly standard, though a tight fit with that fuel tank taking up so much hull. Missing a lot of cargo space. "There are four dtons configurable space available, two in hotel and two remaining from the old airraft bay, for equipment outfits, any of which can be installed in a few hours at your discretion. Questions?"

"What outfits are available?"

"We have a lowberth module - two berths, a laboratory facility, a grav bike garage, a damage control point, a pre-fitted machine/electrical shed, and a couple of robot berths. Oh, and a holobooth entertainment suite for those long lonely jumps. Not enough room for all of it, you'll have to pick and choose, and of course whatever you don't fill will be general cargo."

Adam nodded. "I'll have to consult my team first."

"Of course."

O'Mallard brightly and happily covered the assignment parameters and protocols. Launch tomorrow, flight window, calibration runs, supplies aboard, comms, span of regulations, target system specifications, preliminary navigation data, return date no later than two months, the works. "Rules of engagement," Adam perked up at that, what?, "you are to minimize contact with the indigenous population unless such contact contributes or is likely to contribute to locating the Purdue."

"Not a problem," he said, a little to readily he realized immediately. He saw Pifflepinger or whoever he was pretend not to take note of that. "But I don't believe I've ever actually seen such a parameter applied. Was the Purdue operating under a similar rule?" Genuine curiosity, smoothly expressed, good recovery.

"Yes they were, it's an uncommon parameter but we do apply it from time to time."

"Why at 496? The people are surrounded by multiple space-going interests, surely they should be told."

"Senior administration officials in the Indigeneous Office have decided that because the world is so far off of normal civilian routes and has no strategic value therefore it is to be left to develop on its own as much as possible. Agreements with Forine and Collace are in place to support that. In any case you may have trouble locating them at all, there are only several ten thousand of them and they all live on the coast of the great northern bay. That is, by last report."

"I understand, mission-relevant contact only."

Smith started into personnel. An older man, a little wooden. "You of course will be lead pilot. Your navigator will be Scout Natasha Sversk, a citizen of Aki. She is newly arrived this week from the top of her second tour class at the Glisten Navigation Academy and is able to drive the Jump 3 capability with no problems."

Adam thought about that for a moment. "Does she have any cyber interfaces or other alterations?"

"No. She is fully organic. You object to such?" A spark in the old eyes.

"You mean she is normal and being normal that question is not part of this review."

"I understand a citizen of Trin's objections ..."

"Glisten is always looking for experimental subjects from Aki ..."

"Gentlemen." Harinkake broke in, quiet but oddly authoritative.

After a moment Smith continued. "Your engineer will be Scout Kishsuumdadki-," Adam started counting off the syllables on his fingers, "-imku Laseiag Namuu-", he ran out of fingers, "-ishun, a native of Karin here, who is fully trained and qualified and experienced in all aspects of engineering. And yes, he is from a great vilani family."

"Sounds like he's an admiral." Adam grinned, meaning it as a joke and trying to restore some commity, but Smith had no sense of humor. "No, he himself is not. Will you have a problem with him?"

"That's ... we'll work it out," Adam finished confidently.
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