Convoy

 

The Ghost was ready at 1300 on 7 November 2518 bound for Highgate in the Georgia Quadrant. However, before they could depart, there was a port wide broadcast by the Alliance ordering all freighter captains to report to the port auditorium immediately. In addition, to ensure compliance, a land lock was imposed on all ships making it impossible to leave. Not having much choice, Chan took Cindy with her to the auditorium. An Alliance commander entered and stated “Due to pirate activity, a convoy system has been ordered. All ships will be under the protection of the Alliance escorts. Any deviation from the new rules will be considered treason!

 

Chan immediately waved Killian, who had already heard the news and was furious. He has been sent a schedule and the earliest the Ghost could depart was in three days. Knowing the delay was completely out of Chan’s control, he adjusted the delivery date so that it was still possible to earn the on time bonus. The down side was any further delay would eliminate the bonus as all the slack in the schedule was now gone. The delay requires William to have to restock the supply of protein, but the Lift Day meal was still covered from the supply given tp them by Davis Monk. The Crew was both furious and impotent at the delay, but ultimately, there was nothing they could do but wait.

 

Finally at 0500 on 10 November 2518, the convoy was unlocked and allowed to lift. The escort was a single Alliance patrol boat supplemented by the two ASREVs the patrol boat carried. The nine other ships of the convoy were a mixed bag of ship types consisting of a second Firefly, an old Cormorant, a pair of Armitage-Class freighters, a Cambridge-Class freighter, a Chariot-Class  Courier, a Treefrog-Class freighter, a Dodo-Class modular freighter, and a Dolphin-Class long range shuttle.  The first problem with the convoy is that speed was limited to the speed of the slowest ships and those were the Cormorant and the Dodo.

 

This new restriction meant that the Ghost would not meet the deadline and the Crew would lose their bonus. Chan contacted convoy Commander, Lieutenant Commander Wilson Owens and tried to either be exempted from the convoy or to have the two slower ships go with another convoy, but Owens was adamant, spewing regulations and Owens again stated that failure to obey convoy rules was treason. The Ghost would be stuck at the plodding speed of the convoy.

 

It took four days to reach Boros where four ships peeled off and three joined. Unfortunately, neither the Cormorant nor the Dodo left, keeping the convoy speed much too slow for all the other ships of the convoy. Chan argued again with Owens, but to no avail, despite being able to defeat his logic, she could not talk her way around the regulations.

 

Four days out of Boros, the slow, but uneventful trip was shocked by an explosion that rocked the Alliance patrol boat. Marsh was on the bridge as usual and picked up the blast on scanners, despite the very low resolution of the Ghost’s scanner suite. This was due more the size of the explosion than due to skill on Marsh’s part. Marsh immediately called for Chan and began edging away from the convoy. As the Ghost maneuvers, a pair of missiles lanced out and one managed to clip one of the ASREVs doing heavy damage. At this points all the discipline was lost and the convoy attempted to scatter.

 

When Chan reached the bridge, she barked that she needed to know what was going on. Xavier, hard on Chan’s heels, activated the scanners and picked up three ships closing fast with all three showing active targeting scanners. The three attackers fire on the undamaged ASREV an the stricken patrol boat as the damaged ASREV shuddered to a halt and began drifting. Both Alliance ships were hit, with the second ASREV staggering to a halt as well. The patrol boat sustained critical damage, but the hidebound Owens refused to yield.

 

One of the attackers had closed on one of the Armitage-Class freighters and was caught by surprise by a volley of short ranged missile launched from her cargo bay. Shocked by the resistance, the patrol boat got in a shot that managed to do some serious damage. However, the other two attackers swooped in to defend their comrade and their combined fire left the patrol boat drifting as well.

 

Chan knew what would be next and ordered Marsh to go to Hard Burn, but before Marsh could execute the order, the other Armitage freighters, running in blind panic blundered directly into a collision course with the Ghost. For several gut wrenching seconds it looked like Marsh would fail to avoid the other ship, but at the last possible moment, he managed to sideslip clear.

 

As Marsh pushed to reach a clear stretch of space, the comm crackled with a command to heave to by the order of the Neo-Browncoat Rebellion. Five ships in the convoy immediately complied, with the panicked Armitage, the lumbering Cormorant, and a heavily armored Gamura joining the Ghost in flight.

 

Figuring the Cormorant was the easiest to catch, the three Neo-Browncoat ships split up to pursue the other three fleeing ships, with the Ghost drawing a Humpback-Class freighter armed with a missile launcher. Chan ordered William, Cindy, and Li Ming to don suits and break out the Ghot’s supply of decoys and her single precious missile.

 

The Gamura took a hit that did no damage, but was enough to convince the ship to yield, which allowed the ship to peel off to catch the Cormorant. Marsh slowly began to pull away from the Humpback that Xavier finally managed to identify as the Grim Reaper. However, the Ghost was rattled by several near misses from Neo-Browncoat missiles. The Armitage took a hit that gutted her engine room and that left the Ghost as the only ship in the convoy still fleeing. Marsh continued to put distance on their pursuer, who continued to fire and only missed the Ghost due to her avoidance package installed by the late Harold Lattimer.

 

Li Ming donned her suit quickly, but Cindy and especially William struggled with theirs. Li Ming moved to help William as she could not handle the missiles on her own. However, the decoys became moot as Marsh finally managed to give the ship that was chasing them the slip. The Crew’s elation was quickly squashed as Willis reported that one of the near misses had damaged the Pulse Drive flow inverter. They could use Hard Burn, but it would cause damage that could not be repaired under power. This left the Crew in between a rock and a hard place as if they didn’t use Hard Burn, they could not escape.

 

Chan sighed deeply and ordered Marsh to go to Hard Burn. Willis reported they could run for ten hours, and then they would have to land for repairs. As no planets were in that range, it looked as if they would soon be on the drift, but before they could despair, Xavier found a moon still in the early stages of terraforming. The moon had a thin atmosphere and weak gravity, but was in range and that made the moon the only game in town and eight hours later, Marsh limped the ship with less than his usual flashy landing, but was grateful to be down at all. Unbeknownst to the rest of the Crew, Cindy had activated the tracker she’d been given as she figured it would a good thing for the Neo-Browncoats to know where they were given their desperate situation.