2949-06-29 – Tales from the Inbox: The Jericho Honeypot
I have found some interesting things about the story that has graced this feed the past few weeks. Though I cannot find evidence that the submitter is who he claims to be, one of my contacts in Naval Intelligence confirmed that several parts to an Incarnation Jericho bomber have been circulating on the Maribel black market in recent weeks. Since there have been no authorized salvage operations in battle areas where Jerichos were present, that means these parts came from at least one black-market salvage operation.
Naval Intelligence does not believe that these parts are any threat to the public – they're distinctive but ultimately not weapons-grade components – but is monitoring the situation all the same. As the newest known piece of Incarnation technology, and by far the most striking in appearance except perhaps for their cruisers, the strange arrowhead-shaped heavy strike units have been appearing in media quite often since they first appeared in the battlespace.
Though they are lumbering behemoths next to the agile, deadly Coronach interceptors, the bigger vessels seem to contain a lot more technology that can be adapted to Confederated strike designs, since the Coronach is at its heart essentially a large drone rig with a tiny shell for a pilot. Without the cranial implants of the Incarnation pilots, a Coronach would be impossible – after all, the craft carry no control interfaces save a connector helmet.
Hugh Apperlo found the safety catch securing one of the ovoid shapes to its rack, and with a clank the object jumped a centimeter up and rolled out of its cradle. He had to marvel at the smooth operation of the Incarnation technology - Even shot up and sitting upside down in his borrowed ship’s hold, the Jericho bomber’s rotary munitions racks worked so smoothly they almost seemed magical. He got his arms around the weapon and found it lighter than he expected – he could easily carry one under each arm.
“Four minutes to intercept, Hugh.” Varinia Villa counting down the seconds until they were intercepted by vengeful pirates reminded him. Given that Diane Dragović, the ship they’d borrowed from Hugh’s old friend Ellison, had no weapons, if he didn’t find a way to make the salvaged Jericho’s weapons work, they were about to be dead, and that was the best case scenario. Even outside the Silver Strand, pirates had a nasty habit of taking prisoners only as another commodity to sell on the black market.
Setting the first mystery ovoid next to the hatch leading back into the wrecked craft’s crew compartment, Hugh released a second, then hefted them both and scrambled out the way he had come, brushing aside twisted ribbons of metal and skeins of frayed wiring on his way. He couldn’t read the digital code-plates on the weapons, but he knew that, most Incarnation tech was digitally networked. All he had to do was arm them, then put them in an airlock. That couldn’t take more than three minutes, right?
Setting the two weapons down on the deck, Hugh flipped open his beat-up wrist computer and put it into discovery/interlink mode. Sure enough, a pair of foreign devices appeared in the list. He pointed the little scanning camera at the digital placards on each of the devices, and soon he was looking at a model number and illustrated instructions for the armorer. Thankfully, the Incarnation’s variant of Anglo-Terran wasn’t too different from the one Hugh had learned – he had in his hands a pair of advanced strike-craft seeker missiles.
"Aw, damnation.” Hugh hadn’t been looking at the instructions ten seconds before he’d seen the problem. In order to arm the weapons, a set of catches built into the mounting bracket needed to be depressed. The bracket was of a standard configuration – any war-armed strike asset in the Reach could have fitted those munitions. He could rig something up to trick that safety, but that would take time – more time, certainly, than he and Varinia had.
“I think we’re on to plan B, Vari.” Hugh grabbed a multitool and a vacsuit from the locker next to the workbench.
“We are well past plan B.”
Hugh couldn’t help but chuckle. “We do now. I’m going to get a suit on, then you’re going to vent this bay and broadcast a surrender. Keep them talking and get one of those bastards to come in and dock.”
“We’re going to surrender? Hugh, I won't-”
“I know.” Hugh knew that Varinia would rather die than fall into the hands of pirates. She’d been a commodity in their grim economy once already in her life, and had spent nearly every waking moment since escaping them trying to reverse the horrific fleshsculpting they’d inflicted on her. “It won’t come to that.”
“What are we going to do?”
Hugh pulled a vacsuit from one of the lockers near the workbench and began putting it on. “We’re going to use pirates to deal with pirates.” What he was about to do was insane, and it would only work on arrogant, twitchy pirates, if it worked at all.
Once his suit’s seals displayed green indicators in the chin display, Hugh threw the two missile pods into a mesh bag and clipped his safety line to the bag. “Evacuate the bay, then open the scoop just enough to let me climb out. Have you broadcast our surrender?”
“Just did.” The hiss of air jetting out into the void filtered through Hugh’s helmet. “I told them we’ll lock ourselves in the command deck and they can have everything else.”
“Their leader said I have a nice voice and he says he’ll pay us a visit up here all the same.” Varinia was doing a good job of keeping her voice calm – almost good enough to fool Hugh.
Despite knowing this was ideal, Hugh felt a snarl tugging at his facial muscles. “Lock a bunch of random compartments. Make sure their search takes time.” Fortunately, Dragović had only one working airlock mating collar – only one of the pirates could dock at a time. With three or four men ransacking the ship at most, he should have plenty of time. “And patch me in as a listener on your comms.”
With all the air gone from the cargo hold, Varinia opened the doors and extended their jury-rigged cargo scoop just enough that its nets and scaffolds made a sheltered tunnel leading out into the space below Dragović’s bow. Hefting his sack of missiles, Hugh clambered up into it until he left the influence of the ship’s A-grav axis and floated in microgravity. He hated microgravity, but less than he hated the idea of death or durance among brigands.
“The lead pirate is on docking approach and I’m extending the collar. Are you sure about this, Hugh?”
“No.” Hugh fought the butterflies in his stomach as he worked his way along the tangled netting of their hand-made scoop. “But it should work.”