There is a full TL-F class A Starport hidden inside the planet.
Steve Howard gets them clearance to come into the underground IFSS starport facility, where they land at 06:27. Karakus itself is cold, but tidally locked to the primary sun. There are no gas giants in the system. The Tech Level is basically 8, but the IFSS starport is full TL-15 with class A facilities. Chiang Ho finds the piloting a little more difficult to get into the underground port, having a little trouble with the routine approach from orbit (half an hour delay) but has no trouble with the two extra Routine rolls to come in and land inside.
The starport is awfully empty. There are very few ships here at all; those that are here are quite possibly mail run ships.
Steve Howard's old friend is happy to tell them anything they want to know. The latest is really under the category of local news, as it basically concerns Corona. On 169-1117 an alliance was officially signed between the Corona Foundation and Scorpionis. The government of Scorpionis seems to have had a slight disagreement with their Oligarchy (who are conveniently somewhere else right now) and has decided to ignore them. There are currently unification talks in progress between what's left of Scorpionis and Corona. Lorkin and Stevvin are being recognized as independent nations. Federu is still intact, as the courier from Stevvin passes through there.
The new government is called the TradeMain Foundation, and it is taking over the military arrangements; Admirals from Corona have been sent to take over the fleets at Jusk. William Rufus is being retained as an advisor to those Admirals and is transporting them personally.
Further news is that an attempt is being made to hold Federu, as securing both that and Jusk will block a Jump-3 through the area. The IFSS knows that Stevvin (and the rest of the tail nations), Darthlaru, and Federu are OK, and of course there is a massive "friendly" force of seven fleets at Jusk.
The crew discuss their plans in the light of the new information.
There is now a little information on the enemy ships available, thanks to the TradeMain Foundation personnel that took over the fleet that was involved in the Battle of Dulu. The basic enemy ship is 1000t, a flat box configuration; there are several variants of that, frequently heavily armored and deployed in great numbers. They used conventional and nuclear missiles, lasers, and plasma guns. Almost all the ships were of this configuration. There were also a couple of very large ship types about which there is no real information.
The Captain rejoins the ship after having had a full briefing from the IFSS officers at the base, whom he knows rather well by now.
The crew have a conference to work out their plans. They decide to take a route through Lorkin to take a look at the mystery fleet on their way to Jusk. When there, they plan to take a look at Staru, as nothing has been heard from there for a long time. Chiang Ho wants to pounce on an enemy ship, strip it, and jump out, but others in the crew think that would be too dangerous given the visitors tendency to booby-trap things.
They try to negotiate the IFSS into giving them an EMMask (135MCr worth). It takes a while, and much haggling, but thanks to Avon's timely suggestions they finally manage to settle terms: the IFSS will give them the EMMask, if they perform two missions for them. The final terms are one mission to go in to scan and report back to their agent on Jusk (William Rufus), and then one more mission into possible enemy territory (deeper than just a jump in and out, possibly) as directed by Rufus based on the information from the first scan; the IFSS will give them the EMMask, and compensate their loss of merchant income. From the time they contact the operative at Jusk, until the second mission is completed and they have contacted the agent again (or until they are deemed to be lost in action), they will pay an amount equivalent to the monthly payment on the ship (pre-EMMask price). That is 6.4MCr per month. This mission can be aborted if superseded by a direct Imperial Warrant (!), at which point the payments will of course stop.
As it happens, they do need to hire more people. They need several ratings for tasks such as missile turret reloading, and several marines for boarding parties. The Captain would like people who have been in the Dulu battle, but those are all at Jusk. It is decided to hire five ratings here, and see if they can pick up five marines when they get to Jusk, as there is no-one with any combat experience here on Karakus.
The five they hire have general shipboard skills, with some ship gunnery skills as well. They are Richard Martin, Jeffry Peterson, Bill Wedgewood, Paula Harris, and Jenny Roberts, and are hired with the job title of Rating and a (high) salary of 600Cr/month.
Jenny Roberts then shows David Brock the local bars.
Chiang Ho pilots the Anastasia out of the underground base and to the jump point. His bean plants, by the way, are doing fine.
Brock is clearly having a wild hair day. He suggests marrying the queen of the aliens, and taking charge of them and then stopping the invasion.
They take off from the IFSS base at 12:00, and jump for Purr at 15:41.
During the jump, everyone has an opportunity to socialize with the new
crew members. To his disgust, neither of the women like Chiang Ho much,
but Paula takes a real liking to Mich.