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Still here, just assumed everyone was busy with your regular September shenanigans in addition to the second wave of Coronacalypse.
As soon as she got the green light, Astrid took to assembling the team needed to snatch the thing. In the time it took to get two pilots and three technicians to the shuttle bay, she’s had time to explain the operation to one of the sensor officers to guide them to wherever the Havi shuttle had scooted off to in the meantime. Teleporting the pilot directly to their medbay had the unfortunate side effect of leaving the Havi shuttle in uncontrolled motion through frictionless space.

Fortunately, the target ship was pointed in the Prize’s general direction, but not right at the Prize, so the shuttle could launch and then wait for the target to approach, match speeds and grab it all in the relative safety of proximity to the Prize.
“So, anyone else not looking forward to explaining this to the locals?”
“Sorry, Your Holiness, our boss is just so curious about your space jalopy.”
“You two want to walk home? Give me shit about it if it fails or after it’s done. Looks like whoever was gunning for this poor bastard is trying to catch the thing too, so let’s hurry. I’d rather not get two and a shootout for the price of one.”

With the wayward transport craft approaching, the shuttle accelerated, matching speeds and using maneuvering thrusters to inch closer, attempting to latch onto it with magnetic landing legs. To everyone’s chagrin, Havi ship hulls were made of a nonmagnetic metal, probably some Aluminium-Magnesium alloy to save weight, judging by the holes in it. That meant they didn’t suit up in vain after all. The engineers floated out the shuttle’s loading bay in pairs, one person of each pair hauling sheets of steel, the other a welder. Before long, the Havi shuttle was covered with said sheets in two places, allowing the magnetic landing legs of the Prize’s shuttle to latch on and carefully tow it back. “What’d I tell you? Let it never be said salvage techs have boring jobs.”

She only had enough time to get halfway through disassembling one of the shuttle’s engines - A standard-looking chemical unit using hypergolic propellant - when she was called to the Situation room. That was never a good sign, and this time was no exception. “She said she will consider reopening negotiations. She didn’t promise anything, what’s stopping her from putting the poor sod’s head on a pike and telling us that she considered but we were still free to go screw ourselves? Pardon my french.” Astrid added her two pessimistic cents when asked for more opinions. “Especially since - with your approval, Captain - We just nicked one of their ships. Speaking of, there’s a bunch of weird glowy bits in there I can’t even begin to understand from a glance and I’d like a second opinion before someone grabs a screwdriver and starts poking and hoping.” Astrid added with a glance at Beatrice and Robin.
‘I believe you mean what you say. But I do not believe you are true.’ Fuck was that even supposed to mean? ‘You’re not full of shit, but you are.’? Or maybe ‘Your facts are sound, but you’re still bullshitting.’? Hardly, since she glossed over Astrid’s PRC-USSR mixup. Funnily enough, you could argue Astrid was actually full of shit with that last statement. Guess Vei lumped all reds into the same, nationalized basket? Or she was just talking out of her ass like Astrid expected her to. Perhaps it was for the best they got kicked out of discount Birkenau before Astrid could say something inappropriate about it.

“So… this is it, then?”
The technician’s voice broke Astrid out of her thoughts. With the Prize now back in very high orbit and talks of the mission being scrapped circulating throughout the grapevine, she started reinvesting her time from the ship to the junior servicemen who thought this mission would open a lot of doors for their careers. After visiting an alien Pope, supervising a trio of rookie techs repainting the ship’s nameplate was nice to calm one’s nerves. And yet, she found herself staring at the planet where the recent events transpired.
“Looks that way, Lance Corporal.” She sighed and turned around just in time to catch two of the three shoving each other with their elbows, probably over something stupid one of them said on a different channel she couldn’t hear. But just as she was about to start chewing them out for being idiots in an environment where an electromagnet on each heel and a tether connecting you to your buddy were the only things keeping you from floating off into space…
“Prize to all EVA teams, return immediately. Unknown ship on approach, hot.”
“Team two copies, four coming in via the ventral fore airlock.” She gave the regulation reply and turned her attention back to her charges, “You two neutron stars, stop doing what you’re doíng, grab the rollers and skip along back to the barn.”

Having stowed away the three vac suits, there wasn’t much she could do for the fugitive. Well, aside from preventing Denise from reaching the med bay, but was she willing to sacrifice brain cells by interacting with the woman for the local? A resounding ‘No’. There was, however, something more in her line of work. Not wanting to bother Carabello directly, as he was likely busy with the situation, she simply sent a text message via the ship’s internal communication system, hoping he’d see it before the situation blew over.

To: CAPT Carabello
From: LT Faust
Captain, are we going to attempt recovery of our guest’s ship, or do we not bother because of the risks?

Wouldn’t be the first time she’d be catching a drifting derelict, and she was still curious about what made Havi stuff tick and how, but approaching any damaged and uncontrolled ship was dangerous in and of itself, not to mention how the - she assumed - Havi pursuers might react to the Prize stealing one of their ships after aiding a fugitive when they’ve been told to sod off.

By "transported", did you mean the (assumed) local would be teleported to the Prize or would he be docking with it/landing in the shuttle bay?
Aaaand the talks were already deteriorating, despite the fact she stayed silent and as inoffensive-looking as she could and let the people-person do the talking. This Holy Vei looked to have been sanctified via inserting a long, blessed object somewhere it shouldn’t be, because that would explain the stick up her arse. Not that Astrid hadn’t expected someone with the word ‘Holy’ in their title not to be so arrogant she might as well have been French. But perhaps worst of all, she wasn’t even completely wrong, and Astrid had to bite her cheek lest she’d say something about a prison colony in a stereotypical Australian accent.

Seeing Francesca briefly whispering something to the Captain, Astrid used the time to speak up, for one to try and mask the crew’s internal communication a bit and because she wanted to test something. “Exploration has been driven by more than just expansion. Columbus sailed West because he was sick of wasting time sailing around Africa, and Magellan sailed South because Columbus got lost. The Chinese crossed the entire continent along the Silk Road to trade. And let’s not forget the United States sending men to lady Luna of all places to stick it to the Chinese.” That last one was purposefully incorrect, as Astrid wanted to see if Vei would catch it or not. And with that done and Francesca again taking point, Astrid returned to being silent and inoffensive looking again, trying to think of a good way to weasel out of Vei linking her choice of attire and her point of exploring to conquer.
As they gathered to leave the Prize, Astrid’s gaze wandered between them - Herself, Beatrice, Francesca and Denise - and the Captain. “Think the locals might get some wrong message from this?” The engineer grinned. On a subjective note, she could see no way anyone would ever consider Denise to be part of a harem, but hey, weird aliens, anything was possible. And since anything was possible, Astrid decided to rather be safe than sorry and donned the Interior Maintenance Uniform - a combination of soft and hard armor meant to protect from the hazards of shipboard engineering, but Astrid figured it was better than nothing and certainly good enough if some of the flora they encountered on the way was prickly. While Daniels and Lan’thar would probably like to study exotic herbal toxins, she didn’t care one bit to be the guinea pig. And such a suit could be a good way of passively letting the aliens - fuck, they were the aliens here - the suit was a good way of letting the locals know antagonizing the Prizes’ crew would lead down dire straits. It also supported a holster for a sidearm and pouches for spare battery packs.

Not long after, Astrid found herself following the contact team into an alien shuttle. “Tall or overcompensating. Religious organizations and delusions of grandeur? Never before seen.” The sarcasm was almost dripping from her tongue as she spoke. “Hmm. Blocky, aerodynamics knowledge might be a bargaining chip with this lot. Must be a bitch to fly, or dependent on computer control. Windows. Structural weakness. Decent acceleration for its shape though, good thrust-to-weight ratio. It’s either light or boasting some monster engines. Chemical rockets or fusion drives. Mmmaybe not fusion drives given the look of the rest of their things.” She mumbled to no one in particular as she paced back and forth through the shuttle’s cargo bay, not even trying to look out the windows on account of her height.

She finally stopped pacing and turned to Nick and Francesca. “Sooo… What’s the game plan? Politely stand our ground, don’t mention anything about home field defenses and don’t share any information that could be weaponized?” Astrid did her best to try to sound calm, but her injury once again undermined her efforts.
Retcon it so in the hour between meeting the small ship and the large ship showing up, Cake/some other computer was working to decypher the language. Although now you have to explain how ISA and alien computers and communications are compatible... And telepathy is the same problem, but with biological computers...
Returning from their outing, Astrid caught a brief glimpse of someone she didn’t recognize wearing a technical patch. Could be good, maybe a new tech she could shove some of her more boring work onto. Or it could be bad, as it might as well have been someone higher up the ranks who would shove some of their boring work onto her. Either way, she hoped Ve’tame’s presence was enough to get the new arrival looking the other way. Their group of senior engineering staff, all out of uniform, in various stages of inebriation and needling each other like siblings was hardly a good first impression of the ISA’s pride and joy. Or maybe it was - there was good atmosphere and camaraderie on board!

For the engineers, the trip itself was mostly uneventful. Sure, they all had a minor, collective heart attack when Prize entered the wormhole and stuff started to fly off shelves - and in a few instances, people off their feet. But the transit eventually stabilised and they could all start breathing again. Astrid couldn’t be happier - Finally off to where they were supposed to be, wherever that was, and the patched up hull held as strong as Helvetic faith. She made sure to record the approach and trip through the wormhole, getting footage from several external cameras as well as one inside the engineering section. Should they survive to return home, those recordings would be worth the Prize’s weight in platinum. Well, maybe not the engineering section feed. A bunch of supposedly elite enlisted and officers breaking out into song in the middle of a historical milestone like this wouldn’t be good PR.
At least they all started acting the part when an alien ship showed up right on the other side of the passage, and an even bigger one not even an hour later. Fortunately, they wanted to talk instead of fight, at least for now.

And all that led to this moment - grounded on a strange planet with no backup, though that part was to be expected from the initial sales pitch, and with an alien ship they might have annoyed - actually, one they’ve definitely annoyed - hovering over them, the Prize completely defenseless. “My gut tells me to stay on the Prize, because this sounds like the movies where the characters are invited to a feast and wake up in a dungeon if they’re lucky, or a lab if they are not. Alas, I’m not going to learn much from a bunch of rock huts. One - I’m not a geologist and two - The most advanced things they have are going to be wherever their leader, or leaders, are going to meet us. You know, posturing. So that’s probably where I’ll be most useful. But I will of course defer to the proper chain of command.” That last bit with a look at Nick, wondering when or if he would realize torpid leadership rarely led to a happy crew and grow a spine.

Then the snake oil merchant spoke up. “Hey, we used to use wisdom to amplify the lives of others back in the day too, and parts of mother Terra are still a burning pile of shit because of it. You can’t just give neanderthals morphine and laser rifles.” Astrid stated flatly, “Figuratively speaking.” She added quickly, figuring she’d better be careful around someone who thought chakras made a lick of sense. Just hearing Denise speak made Astrid preemptively cover her injured cheek, disguising it as resting her chin against her palm.

“Specify ‘conservative manner’ Ambassador. I was thinking arms and armor, but either way, that which we consider moderate or in any way polite might be perceived offensive to the highest degree by these people.” She spoke up, admittedly out of her field of experience, but figuring it was better to ask then not. “Besides, as we seem to be dealing with theocracy, half of the stuff they do and say might be complete nonsense.”
"Engineer's log: Doctor Daniels requested we block the medlab door to only partially open. At first the request struck me as peculiar, until I relaized the new maximum width of the door was 20 centimeters less than the width of our resident snake oil merchant. I am recommending Daniels for an award."
As soon as she was done explaining to the follow-up team what was what with the Moray, Astrid hurried to the shuttle bay, eager to meet one of the combat engineers and her former CE colleague who accompanied Alpha on the mission. “Hey, Angus! Everything without a hitch like always?”
“The rookie almost got half of us cooked with an incendiary. Instead, he only got himself shot, so not as shite as it could’ve been.” The big Irishman grumbled, looking a bit glum.
“Crap. Is he going to pull through- Wait, Alphabet actually brought a damn grenade?” She shook her head incredulously, “Where is that moron? I’m going to beat some sense into that empty head of his.” She regretted her choice of words immediately after as four medics carried Rod’s lifeless body through the hall past them. She couldn’t make much out except charred and battered armor, fortunately for her. “Ah… Shit.”

As soon as the Prize arrived at the station and Astrid woke up from catching up on sleep lost due to the Pirate encounter, an engineer from Lt. Rong’s shift showed up to tell her she was needed on-board to oversee the hull repairs. Aware that she had a leg up in structural engineering over her colleague, she nonetheless went back to the Moray and came out a few minutes later with the half-disassembled bomb. “Take a look at this. I did. Quite up close. Back when it was still armed, not to mention on two hours of sleep. This is your team’s shift, not mine’s, therefore your problem. Better yet, let the locals work to earn their living and I’ll check the work the day before we set out.” She shoved the inactive bomb into the poor sap’s hands and walked off. “Say hi to Lan for me. Drinks later?”

One unnecessarily detailed report later, Astrid joined the engineering senior staff in enjoying one of Deep Solar 3’s bars near the bazaar or whatever it was. On one hand, they were happy they could kick back and not do anything for a few days or however long the repairs would take. On the other, no engineer was particularly happy about letting someone else poke around their ship or station. Then there was the case of Rod…
“To Rod…? Alphabet.” The Irishman raised his glass, the others following, “He may have been a pile of hair with a moron under it, but he was our pile. Wherever you’ve gone, I hope ye rest easy lad.”
“Sadly, Du-Vos will most likely live out his retirement out of taxpayers’ pockets. At least it won’t be our pockets.” At least Astrid hoped that was the case. If the authorities had the nerve to tax them when they were who knows where on the other side of a wormhole, she might just lose the last sliver of her faith in Humanity.
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