"I gave them a copy of the GC standard list of things you need on a spaceship." The Dusek pilot-captain was practically vibrating with outrage. "They were supposed to have their own skin suits."
"We never had to bring our own before." The bigger Kersa huffed, "That sort of thing is the responsibility of the ship company."
"We are not a cruise ship catering to tourists!" clicked the other Dusek, who apparently handled all mechanical and cargo matters. "We are a freighter."
"Where," the Ambassador stepped in between the Duseks and the Kersa, "were you going?"
The pilot answered, rattling off a GC identification number and ending with a gesture toward the big Kersa, "Apparently it’s got an almost habitable planet that could be mined. They hired us to take them there to collect and transport rock samples."
The Ambassador looked at the Kersa, "Governor Falumenarairat, I’m surprised to find you engaged in such industrial pursuits."
The big Kersa flapped his ears, apparently embarrassed. "Former governor, Ambassador. Former. We all do what we must. I have been bested on the Field of Challenge, and until and unless I return a challenge, I must find some other way to make a living."
The Ambassador’s almost palpable disbelief reflected the common knowledge that Kersa Governors were notorious for salting away sizable retirement funds. The few that were without resources generally challenged for a lesser territory, some times until the generally bloody and dangerous contests proved fatal. Falumenarairat’s position was unusual, if true.
Cat studied him curiously, He was easily double Doctor Domi’s size, being both taller and broader, muscular and perhaps a bit overweight. His age was showing in the thinning hair darkening along his bare arms, but he still a formidable figure, especially with the fresh scars crossing the old scars, crossing the ancient scars.
He was one of the largest Kersa she’d ever been near, and Cat tried to imagine the Kersa who could vanquish him.
Of course, being a Kersa he could equally well be a she. Even Kersa had trouble telling if it wasn’t breeding season.
The Dusek captain clicked his pincers. "I need to try and connect to my ships computer for a complete diagnostics download, then use of a fabricator and a floater."
Gyrm crossed glances with the Ambassador, who gave her a human nod.
"I’ve got your diagnostics on the repair comp down stairs," She told the Captain, "If you’d like to take a look right away?"
"Certainly!" Both Duseks followed her out of the room, apparently happy to be away from their angry passengers.
"Ter, could you whip up something suitable for the Governor and his aide?" the Ambassador asked. He turned to the Kersa and invited them to sit. Recognizing the start of an Ambassadorial charming session, Cat slipped out after her Mother.
"So, what do you think they were up to?" Cat asked her.
Ter frowned down at her. "If they were doing anything wrong, the Ambassador will find out about it, and deal with it. You need to start on your homework. Especially anything that is due Monday."
Cat grinned, "There’s no school on Monday, they close them for the County Fair Day Parade. The Marching bands march, and several groups have floats in it and the agricultural students have to get their livestock ready for the show." She looked thoughtful. "That gives me an idea."
Richie concentrated fiercely on Not Hearing his sister prattling away on the phone. Which didn’t help his game a bit. Chances were there’d be gaming scholarships by the time he was applying for college. Fern was practically ruining his entire future by talking so much. The Zorgon killed him and he gritted his teeth and reset the game.
""Hang on Angelica, somebody else is calling." Fern tapped buttons, cutting off one friend for another. Sheesh. Women! "Hi Cat!"
Richie rolled over and started listening. The Aliens were up to something. He could be a Hero, save the world from an invasion. He probably wouldn’t even need to go to college after that. Heck, maybe he wouldn’t have to finish High School! But would he be working for NASA or the CIA?
"Sure, lots of companies have floats in the parade. I don’t know what the deadlines is though, hang on a minute…" Fern trotted off to her room.
Parade? Richie abandoned his game and followed.
"They can tell you all about it." Fern clicked more buttons and picked up her conversation with Angelica without a hitch, tossing some papers back on her desk. "Sorry about that, Cat’s Uncle, the Elvis impersonator wants to have a float in the County Fair Day Parade. What? Haven’t you been down there? He’s all dressed up like Elvis, right down to the sequins. No guitar, thank God!"
Richie took a quick peek at the papers Fern had tossed on the desk. Flyers about the parade, with the names and phone numbers of the County workers to call for information. What were the Aliens up to? Were they going to Do Something to all the people that turned out for the parade?
How was he going to stop them? The Parade was only two days away.
"This data from your ship is showing multiple failures of circuits. I don’t see how that could have happened. It almost looks like a corrosive spill of some sort." Gyrm fixed a steely gaze on the two Dusek-Divers.
They exchanged looks. "I don’t think there was anything…" the engineer trailed off, and the Captain took over.
"Unless the Governor brought something onboard, but frankly they were so poorly prepared I can’t see them sabotaging the ship."
"They came close enough to killing themselves as it was." The engineer clacked. "No suits! I thought all you soft skins knew better!"
"Did you have any light cable repair material onboard? That could partially melt cables, if it spilled." Gyrm traced the damaged areas. "Although how it got around to so many areas beats me."
"We handle all that in station. With the smallest amount of solvent possible. The stuff is hard to store, so we rarely have any on board. I’m certain we didn’t have any, I used the last we had up on a comm repair back on Ferru, months before we started this ill-fated trip." The engineer studied the readouts on Gyrm’s holoscreen. "We’re going to have to replace the entire cable network on the starboard side."
"Hopefully after you figure out what went wrong in the first place." Gyrm told him pointedly.
The Captain clicked agreement. "Perhaps we can go up and take samples for analysis?"
"Yes." Gyrm agreed, "But first we have to get that lifeboat out of the lake and back here. Then we’ll start in on repairs."
"A float in the Parade?" The Ambassador considered the pictures she was displaying. "If we decorated it, and the antigravity carrier…"
Ter was watching an animation of last years parade. "We could all dress up, put on a bit of a show, and make it look like advertising."
"Yes," the Ambassador straightened up. "This will be the best way to get the ship through town. I will contact this parade committee about permits or entry fees, and call to see if I can reserve that camping spot at Brazos park. Ter, will you handle the costumes and entertainment? Gyrm, the disguising of the lifeboat and carrier?"
"Certainly." Ter was smirking, making Cat wonder just what she was thinking of. "Will you be part of our show, sir?"
"I wouldn’t miss it." He assured her.
Cat followed Ter out as he picked up the phone.
"That was an excellent idea." Ter told her, "This will be fun."
Fun. Did her mother have any idea how scary that simple statement was to a child?
Richie got into position early. He’d had no problem at all persuading his father that a solo camp-out was indeed exactly what he wanted to do on a Sunday night when all of his sister’s friends were descending on the house to decorate the band float. In fact Dad had looked like he wanted to go camping too. Thirty-six teenage girls. Shudder. The neighbors would probably call the cops on them for all the noise. He pictured himself bailing his Dad out of jail and grinned. Fern could stay and rot…
At sundown a Winnebago passed his lookout point and turned toward the northern lake. There was just enough light for him to see the big bruiser driving, and Cat sitting beside him.
He slithered back to where he’d left his pack, heaved it into position, and started north. There was barely enough light to make out the trail. With luck he could get into position without having to use the flashlight.
When he felt the wiggle under foot, he jerked himself back and looked to see if he’d squished a toad, but didn’t see any…thing…except that what he’d first taken for a white flower on a stalk appeared to be a wide-open mouth. He gulped. "Guess that’s why you’re called a cotton mouth, huh?" the fat dark snake’s tail trailed away from him into the weeds along the trail. "And I’m really sorry I stepped on your head, but not as sorry as I’d probably be if I’d stepped on your tail." He told the snake. He edged backwards a bit more and fished for his flashlight. He’d use it just for a few minutes.
After detouring around the snake, he had the trail to himself.
The Winnebago and its trailer were backed up to the lake half way down the campground. This was one of the more ‘civilized’ camps, with real bathrooms and a kiddie playground. The playground was at this end and sported a ‘fort’ to climb in. Dare he? As the last light faded from the sky, he thought about hiding in the weeds with his buddy the cotton mouth and decided he dared.
The space blanket had been his pride and joy in cub scouts. Reflective surface inside, camo outside. He wrapped it around himself, hoping it would confuse any infrared heat detectors the Aliens had. After all if a coat of mud…he kicked himself. This was no time to be thinking about movies. He walked slowly and carefully, stooped partly to avoid a silhouette, but mostly to study the ground. He couldn’t use the flashlight, and this would be a really unfortunate time to step on another snake.
In any case, no one seemed to notice him, and he settled happily at the top of the fort with a splendid view of the goings on. Which didn’t seem to be going on. They were all standing around, waiting for the moon to rise, perhaps? He could see them from his vantage point, dark shapes against the faintly lighter ground. He pulled his Dad’s old camera out of the backpack. He’d inherited it after Dad had gotten the fancy one with all the electric dodads, autofocus and so on. The telephoto lens was excellent, despite its age. He set the aperture to the widest setting and the shutter to 500. Any slower than that and he’d just get blurs, either because his own hands were shaking or the Aliens were moving about. The full Moon cleared the trees, and lit the lake. Perfect.
They arrived just before the Sun set.
Cat watched the lurid Sun sinking behind the trees she’d thought so beautiful in broad daylight and shivered. There were wild animals out there, and the Earthly alligator was just as dangerous as their Hisloxi twins. And swimming around with no controller implants at all. She jumped a bit at an eery high pitched keening from beyond the trees.
"Coyotes are out early tonight." The Park ranger commented, as he handed over their paperwork. "Have fun. You’ve got that part of the lake to yourself, the last weekenders pulled out a couple of hours ago."
Gyrm thanked him and drove the winding street carefully. Several time Things scurried off the road in front of them, and once she slammed on the brakes as a tall slender quadruped with elegant branching horns on its head stood transfixed in the headlights for a moment. As it leapt out of sight, Cat sighed. There really were some beautiful things on this planet.
The lake reflected the orangey sunset, little ripples from the slight breeze breaking it up into a shifting pool of fire as they backed the trailer as close to the shore as possible.
There was no one in sight, the sensors detected a number of heat sources, but they were away from the roads and were probably animals. Gyrm stripped off the clothes covering her skin suit, donned her helmet and waded into the lake as the last red reflections died and the lake became a surging darkness. They lit no lights. The bright stars shone down and it seemed to get even quieter.
Despite the warm humid air, Cat was nearly shivering with nerves, staring out at the forest. It’s not really dangerous. The animals have better sense than to mess with people, and the really dangerous ones, she glanced out at the dark lake, except the alligators, have been hunted nearly to extinction.
The planet’s single big moon rose in the east, and now the lake grew gradually silvery. And bulged and slowly and smoothly disgorged a sleek craft from a very distant and different shore. Noiselessly the lifeboat eased over the carrier, extended its landing gear and dropped with a thud.
Gyrm popped out and surveyed it with concern. "I think that’s as far as it’s going to get under its own power. Something’s shorted out, I had to route around all sorts of control circuits."
Pompelm set out lights, revealing the sleek moonlit craft as a muddy weed strewn mess. They quickly got out the sprayers and went to work.
By the time the Moon was high the lifeboat was once again a sleek reflecting teardrop.
Time for the appliqués. Translucent red lightening jagged the length, the bold black ID number on each side was, of course, the Arcade’s phone number. "The Brazos Belle" was emblazoned in electric blue on both sides.
Silver tinsel fringe trimmed the edge of the carrier, hanging nearly to the ground. Cat added red and blue balloons, with multicolored dangling ribbons every reach, and the Winny was now sporting advertisements for the "Intergalactic Repair Depot—no spaceship too small" in very large letters. With various large "rocketship" appliqués. And more balloons. And ribbons.
Satisfied, she caught a few hours of sleep. At dawn they were all awake and admiring their creation. It looked incredibly tacky. They dressed in their parade costumes, and headed for town.
Richie watched blearily as the Winnebago drove slowly past. He’d catnapped off and on since the Aliens finished their task, but was definitely short on sleep. It had been the most interesting night of his life.
So, a small spaceship had been hidden in the lake? It must have crashed, run out of fuel or malfunctioned and been unable to make it to base under its own power. Cat had called Fern for information about the Parade about noon on Saturday; had the ship crashed Friday night or early Saturday? Surely it had come down in the dark hours, in broad daylight someone would have seen something. So, the Aliens had come up with this scheme in less than 48 hours. He peeked through a crack between boards, was the Winnebago really a Winnebago? How about the trailer?
A crashed or disabled space ship put a whole different perspective on the parade float. The Aliens had no designs on the human watchers, they were just using the parade as a way to haul their damaged spaceship through town. Cleaver, really cleaver.
He shifted and peered carefully through another crack. The trailer was just passing behind some trees and out of sight. The spaceship was actually quite small, was it a long range craft? Maybe it was a shuttle, bringing people from a larger orbiting craft down to the surface. Had it brought people—Aliens—down? Were there dead bodies on board that cheerfully decorated and festooned craft? He shivered a bit and pulled a granola bar out of his backpack. He wanted very much to get a good close up look at that ship. He’d better watch the parade, then, because odds were that ship would be kept out of sight once it was back to the…good grief! Intergalactic Repair Depot! Yeah. These guys were incredible, hiding in plain sight. Advertising. How many Alien space ships crashed on Earth each year? Had this been going on for decades?
It was only six in the morning. His Dad wouldn’t be here to pick him up until eight. Plenty of time to get some close up pictures of the site and look for clues, or dropped objects.
He rolled up the space blanket, stuffed it into the pack, and left everything but the camera in the fort.
The Aliens hadn’t dropped anything; like good campers they had left nothing but footprints. Some of them rather oddly shaped. Richie grinned happily and started snapping pictures.
Gyrm and Cat were relegated to driving the Winnebago, or rather, Gyrm drove and Cat wandered from window to window reporting on what was happening. Which was mostly that her Mother and the rest of the Embassy staff were making fools of themselves.
The Ambassador’s usual costume apparently made him look like some deceased bard who’d gained nearly mythological prominence, since dying. The Winny’s sound system was blaring out some of his music, with the Ambassador on the roof of the Winnebago with a musical instrument pretending to be singing it.
Pompelm was pretending to be a group of humans pretending to be some weird space aliens. The six bodies were wearing tall black boots, pale blue pants and brilliant red shirts. They surrounded the carrier, dancing to the horrible music. Moving in perfect synchronization, of course.
Her mother and Doctor Domi were both were dressed up in some fashion popular for teenage girls at the time of the musician’s life. They were pretending to be swooning fans, and periodically broke off to throw candy to the children lining the main street.
"This is so embarrassing." She told Gyrm, who merely grinned and stopped the Winny to allow the float in front of them to pull a bit further ahead.
Pompelm twirled his silly shiny sticks in perfect unison, turning and jumping. Her mother faked an exaggerated swoon. The crowds all laughed, pointed or clapped. Except those doing all three.
"Just think," Gyrm said, "You could be out there swooning too, you know."
Domi blew the Ambassador a kiss, and the crowds howled with laughter.
Richie followed the spaceship along the Parade route, as unnoticeably as possible. He had bought more film when he’d dropped the old off for developing, and zoomed in on the Aliens. The ones he’d seen before, that tended to move in sync had left their wigs, beards and mustaches off today. He got some good shots of their hairless, chinless faces and oddly shaped heads. And the pig-bear, wearing what he thought his sister called a poodle skit. Talk about weird! He’d assumed the pig-bear was a male, but how could you tell? And Cat’s Mom. He watched carefully. The lower arms moved occasionally, when she forgot to hold them still. Cat herself was in the Winnebago. He caught a few glimpses of her, but she wasn’t, fortunately, scanning the crowds.
He used the entire roll of film, and most of another before the parade route ducked under the train tracks. The old underpass was narrow, and pedestrians were banned. By the time he’d scrambled over the top, the space ship was too far away to run down. He took a few more pictures from his elevated position, then gave up.
He took pictures of a few County Fair Beauty Queen Candidates waving from convertibles, refused to immortalize the Country precinct commissioners, took more snaps of a really cool band that did a break dance routine as they marched, and then used the rest of the roll on the Fossil High marching band.
As the end of the parade passed, he headed back to rendezvous with his father. He needed to get this film in for processing, and see what, if anything, had come of his night photography.
All the businesses along the parade route had closed for the morning, including the Repair Depot. But it would probably open again later. May be he could talk his Dad into stopping…or may be he shouldn’t. He should keep his Dad away from that Alien woman. Except, how was he to save the world from the Aliens, if he never went there?
He straightened his shoulders firmly. There were always casualties in War. If the Aliens were a pre-invasion scouting base, he would have to risk his father.
Ch10 Now the question is, what was the ship doing here, what went wrong with it?
"Good morning, Captain, you’re up early." Cat greeted the Dusek-Diver.
The little insectoid looked up from his Crispy Oats. "No need to be formal." He chirped, "Call me d’Flyo."
The barely voiced d prefix was appropriate for children or unattached males. As such he wouldn’t get much respect from other Duseks, although he had a lot more freedom than the w prefix male consorts, that were basically pampered…Cat scrounged around for an equivalent Earth term. Gigolo? Something like that.
"How did you end up with a client like Governor Falumenarairiat?" she asked, grabbing the cereal box.
"These Earth foods are pretty good." D’flyo commented, delicately picking up a crunchy sphere and placing it in his mouth. He continued ‘talking’ with his vibrating antennae while crunching the morsel. "Bad Luck. We delivered a cargo to a new colony and couldn’t pick up a return load, dirt poor place, barely making it. We thought we’d have to return empty, at our own expense when Governor Falumenarairiat showed up, offering money to get him off planet." He munched more cereal. "We should have known better."
Cat poured the traditional white liquid over the grain product. The original source was just disgusting, and best not thought about. The Embassy kitchen fab made an artificial substitute that she had come to like. "I’m surprised the Governor’s from an outlier planet, I’d have thought he was an inner system cityperson."
"He was." D’Flyo finished off his breakfast, but didn’t seem in a hurry to depart. "He had a several blocs in New Old Town on Prime. After he was beaten, he invested in a Colony venture. Then that demesnes was won away from him as well."
"So he really doesn’t have much money?" Cat was ashamed to be surprised, she might at least have given the big old Kersa the benefit of the doubt.
"Oh," d’Flyo clacked his pinches, "I suspect he’s still got enough salted away to avoid starvation, or even frugality. He just doesn’t seem to want to just sit around until he dies of old age. I don’t know what he planned to do, coming here, I mean," the Dusek hastily edited, "out this direction, but I’ll bet it had a good chance of seeing him back on Prime, strutting with the best."
Cat glanced at her CC. She had disguised it as a local product, a fancy bracelet timepiece, a function it could also carry out. She wrinkled her nose, "I have to go to school. See you later!"
The Dusek click a farewell. "When you return, perhaps you can come with me to my ship? I will have the first of the replacement cables ready tonight."
"That would be great!" Cat waved and headed for the door. The school bus waited for no one.
Cat matched velocity easily with the big freighter. It had about a hundred times the cargo space of the Buffo, and less crew space. The crew hatch was well forward, and she eased up to it carefully, feeling very overshadowed by the huge ship. D’Mant sent the personnel tube across to seal around the hatch, then clicked "Vacuum. It has lost hull integrity. I do not understand."
"Does it still have power?" Cat asked, wishing the more experienced Gyrm was along. The Ambassador had loaned the spacer crew the floater, but not personnel. Cat, being a dependent rather than an employee of the Embassy, was free to come and go as she wished. She was beginning to wonder if the Ambassador was counting on that.
"Some." D’flyo answered. "Shall I turn on all lights, to show the leak?"
"I suppose that’s the best way to start." Cat slewed around in her seat to watch, but stayed at the controls while the Duseks boarded the ship and returned
The holes were obvious, as soon as they’d backed off a few hundred spans.
"What has caused that!" d’mant’s antennae vibrated indignantly.
"They look almost like laser fire." Cat said, then remembered that Pompelm had thought them smugglers. "Did anyone ever shoot at you?"
"Certainly not!" d’flyo, waved his pinchers, then said, "Can we go out?" I wish to inspect."
"Of course." Cat pulled open one of the under seat compartments and handed out wrist rockets, low power thrusters suitable for maneuvering in suits. Not that the Duseks had suits as such. Their own hard carapaces protected them from the vacuum. Elastic bands around their joints prevented damage there, and their helmets were large clear spheres that didn’t interfere with their antennae.
Cat’s suit was customized for her, modeled on the Kersa suits. The tight stretchy fabric was honeycombed with mircobubbles full of a liquid that flashed into gas with the pressure drop. The pressure against her skin was more than enough to prevent blood blisters from the tiny capillary blood vessels breaking. The sealing ring for her helmet bonded to her skin with a wide flexible layer that allowed her to move her shoulders without popping the seal.
She strapped the remote control for the floater to her forearm and followed the Duseks out.
The holes were tiny, about a millimeter each.
"Hand laser." D’mant sounded sure. "From inside."
"Inside?" Cat and d’flyo asked together.
"Good grief, they weren’t shooting at each other, were they?" Cat asked.
"There wasn’t anyone else to shoot at." D’flyo said. "I don’t understand."
D’mant just opened his repair kit and pushed self-sealing plugs in each light beacon.
"I guess that explains your loss of air." Cat said.
"Yes, and why it was gradual." D’flyo quartered the ship, looking for other leaks.
When they’d plugged all they could find, they returned to the floater, and then back to the ship.
"Before we pressure up, I’m going to open the holds and pitch everything those Kersa brought on board." D’flyo announced.
D’mant squeaked agreement.
Cat looked thoughtfully at the ship’s orbit. They were further out than the Buffo had been, and were actually orbiting the Sun rather than Earth; for all their current closeness. The orbit it was an elongated ellipse, and if the freighter didn’t get power back soon, they’d have to bring up a bigger ship than her little floater and boost it into a more circular orbit, to keep it from getting dangerously close to the Sun. "If you can turn your ship so everything that you throw out is slightly slowed, it should all spiral into the Sun." She told them. "We aren’t supposed to leave anything for the Humans to find."
"Good plan." The captain said, heading down the tube.
Cat stayed with the floater, and brought out one of the local visual recorders. Getting a record of the discarded cargo was probably going to be useless, she thought as she zoomed in on a drifting cube. Everything—that tanalizing unknown, everything was crated and out of sight.
Grym was half hidden by the lifeboat controls, muttering something under her breath. Not disturbing her, Cat looked around the boat, wrinkling her nose. What a mess. LBs were pretty basic and straightforward, controls, seats, air recyclers, antigravity rings and power generator.
"A big mess." The captain clicked from behind her. "When we came down, the boat almost made it to shore. The water we splashed out of the lake was all running back in and dragging us deeper. Falumenarairiat and Graphyto opened the hatch and tried to get out. The water rushed in and we closed it quickly, and waited, all wet and soaking for you to come." He tapped his pinchers. "It was most unpleasant."
Cat pictured sitting around the lifeboat, in the damp and dark. "Sounds nasty. I’m glad you got as close to the Embassy as you did. We got there pretty quickly." A mosquito whined by, and lit on her arm. She swatted it instantly. A reflex she’d picked up very quickly after arrival on the planet.
"And those things." D’flyo added. "They got in and were eating the softskins."
"They’re not as bad as this." Gyrm edged out from under the controls and held out a small limp body. "It must have washed in as well."
"Is it dead?" The mouse certainly looked dead to Cat.
"Yep. We found out early that they like the taste of some of our synthetic materials, but they are poisonous to them."
"Poor thing!" Cat ducked out of the lifeboat and grabbed a disposal container that she held out to receive the mouse. "Is that why we had to have all our floater’s circuits coated before we came here?"
"Yep. All light cables have to be coated with something these little creatures don’t like." Gyrm looked thoughtful, then got up and loomed over the little insectoid. "Is that what happened to your light circuits, Captain?"
"Don’t be silly," he squeaked, "How could it?"
"If the damage occurred as you were leaving the system, not before you entered it, Captain."
"Nonsense." He clicked, backing hastily away. "Nonsense." He fled.
Gyrm shook her head regretfully. "Cat, will you watch this boat while I go talk to the Ambassador? I don’t want them leaving suddenly."
"Better lockdown all the floaters as well." Cat called after her. Gyrm waved understanding, veering over to the door controls. Cat closed herself in the life boat, and started thinking. Just what sort of trash had the Duseks thrown out of their ship?
Ch11 A day at the Fair. A bit of odd perspective and horror about the livestock show slides unexpectedly into fun on the rides with Richie and Fern. Maybe this planet isn’t a total loss…
Ch12 Discoveries about the castaways. They were _leaving_ Earth when the emergency occurred. They had smuggled in some Gal Tech, traded for exotic biologicals (for warfare) and left. There was a problem with the biologicals, one got loose on the ship, then another. When the ferrets chewed through control cables, they were fried. Both ferrets and control system, that is. Then the fleas escaped. Or maybe the ferrets had fleas. An attempt to tightly control water and kill the animals resulted in several chewed through water pipes and damage from water to more systems. The cascade into calamity continued with mice, rats, cockroaches and mosquitoes. Hence the abandoned ship.
Ch13 The Gal tech was mostly spy gear, bought by a politician. It is quickly tracked, and permanently set to record C&W music. A working ship goes out, rendezvous with disabled ship, finds that the lost atmosphereic integrity was total, and the biocontamination emergency is over. They consider shoving the ship into "termination orbit", for disposal in Sun, but cannot prove the crew/owners new what the Governor was smuggling.
/// Cat settling into the Repair Depot routine, and sort of adjusted to school, with a few friends, deciding that this trip was not such a total disaster after all. But she’s definitely not going to stay. No way.