It's been a strange trip so far, the strangest
perhaps being that Helia Sarina is still subdued and quiet. A
step in the return to normality, however, occurs when Kalida Siena,
Marchioness of Nakege, comes out of her klatrin trance.
The crew of Nightshade are at
breakfast. Suddenly Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead announces,
"Kalida's awake. I think she's getting up. I'd better
go." He grabs his coffee as he gets up and walks smartly towards
He meets Kalida as she is heading to her
stateroom. He questions her briefly on her condition, and is
satisfied when his hand scanner shows her as red. He suggests she
come up and join them all at breakfast for a while, just to "Make sure
that she's not too... strange." He admonishes her to taking the
klatrin and tells her that her brain chemistry has changed.
Bridgehead returns to the lounge accompanied by
Kalida. Korwin of course is not there, having been left behind on
Adabicci, but Helia is not there either.
Misha chats with Marchioness briefly and assures
himself that she seems mostly normal.
Kalida says she thinks she's normal, but as
Bridgehead points out her perception is skewed and she's not
necessarily a reliable source. He says that he'd like to check
her over -- and Helia as well -- at some point soon just to make sure
she's ok. Kalida agrees to do so after lunch.
Robert Morris asks Kalida how her experience
was. She just says, "Very interesting. A new view of
Edward "Shark" Teeth says, "They really are after
me. And now you guys know it too."
That afternoon, Kalida reports to Sick Bay.
Shark watches while the Baron explains to him -- and to Kalida -- what
he's talking about when she shows the changes. To his surprise,
Shark understands what he's being told -- the Baron really does want
him to understand it.
Kalida on the other hand lets him prattle on, and
when he pauses for a breath says, "So what does all that actually mean?"
"Well, it means what it usually mean. You have
unexplainable... er... changes in your brain chemistry and you
shouldn't have done it."
"So you've no idea what the effects are."
"Yes, you have these changes here, and..."
Bridgehead launches into his explanation again, word for word repeating
what he's just said.
Shark summarizes, "And what that means is, there is
a physiological effect and the actual changes to behavior or mental
capacities in relationship to the real world is not classifiable."
"Exactly," says Bridgehead firmly.
"Does that make sense?" asks Shark.
"Yes," says Kalida, "You have no bloody idea."
"No! We have an idea, we just don't know what
it... we don't know what the effects are. We don't know the
mechanism of the change."
Later that day Kalida asks the rest of the crew
about Helia's klatrin effects this time.
Robert says that aside from himself, she's had the
most klatrin of anyone here, and that it affects everyone differently.
Shark describes Helia as being "less focussed" this
time after her experience.
Kalida said that after previous trips she flew
around a lot more than usual, and asks if that's true this time.
Shark says that yes, she is flying around now.
She's making no attempt to hide her wings, often leaving them
unfurled. She's been spending a lot of time in her stateroom, and
in fact hasn't come up since well before supper yesterday. He
adds that this is Helia's third time. Robert has had five trips
so far, plus a period of flashbacks after the first one. Shark
himself has been fine after the first trip, but the feeling from that
has never gone away, which is keeping them safe. He assures
Kalida that it's usual to feel differently for a while after taking
klatrin. He says that it was after his third encounter, which is
when Robert and Helia shared the same trip with him and they met
Lap'da, that he started to understand more of the writing.
Helia doesn't turn up for dinner either, and that
makes three meals. That's not like her, and Shark encourages the
Baron to find her to check her out. He in turn defers to the
Captain, and Misha says that the pilot is due a visit from the Doctor.
It occurs to Kalida to ask the ship. She says,
"Ship, where is Helia?"
"Helia is not on board," replies the ship.
"Helia is not on board."
"Who is in her room?" asks Shark.
"Nobody is in her room."
Shark sighs, "She's gone Lap'da on us."
Misha just blinks. After a pause, he gets up
and goes to his console on the Bridge and goes into sparkly pink.
He checks the location of all the crew members, and verifies that
everyone is on board except Helia.
The ship confirms that she left the ship this
morning, via the port airlock in Engineering. All questions about
her location are answered with "I don't know." It does however
show where she left the ship, and her direction of travel away from the
ship until she exited the jump grid. She was wearing a vaccsuit
at the time. She went from her stateroom direct to Engineering
Misha returns to the Lounge and says what he's
Immediately Shark goes to her room and searches
it. It looks just as if she'd simply left. The ship's
computer shows nothing.
Kalida checks Helia's personal computer, which she
had left behind on a table. She turns it on, but her journal is
not in any language that anyone -- including the ship -- knows.
Shark thinks it's probably heavily encrypted.
Shark checks the recording of Helia leaving, to see
if she pauses to wait for a specific time before launching herself
away. That doesn't happen -- she exits, checks that the airlock
cycles properly behind her, and immediately flies off in a straight
line away from the ship.
Shark says she has the capability to recalculate a
new exit mid-jump, and she could have stepped out on her home planet,
taken off her vaccsuit, and been home. He says he was looking for
the hesitation that would show she was looking for the right moment
she'd calculated, and he didn't see that.
Misha searches Helia's room too. He's found
that the pieces of candy on her desk are arranged in a pattern that he
thinks might be a starmap.
Mich is astonished that someone would leave the jump
bubble. If anyone gets too close to the jump field they go
mad. Someone leaving the ship could even disturb the jump grid
and cause a misjump, if the piece of normal space she represented
interfered with the boundary. He hasn't noticed any effect, but
he can't rule it out.
Shark jokes that maybe she's out back pushing them
because they're too slow, or even perhaps she went on ahead and will be
waiting when they come out. He checks his football sensors and
while she was using a gravbelt, she did also "fly," but nothing out of
what would be normal for her.
Robert checks what Helia had been reading
last. She was going over schematics of the ship, and whatever
manuals Mich had put together.
Kalida suggests putting Misha's candy starmap into a
computer search. Mich works on it, and can't find anything that
matches well. There are quite a lot that are poor matches, but
nothing that is a significant match.
Robert tries to decipher Helia's journal, but comes
up empty. There is no language base for her native
language. The only other person who knows anything about her
race, the larians, is Sir Arken.
In the meantime, Shark searches the room for what is
not here. The only things missing are her vaccsuit and her
zack. She's even left behind the backpack she uses to hide her
wings out of sight.
Shark tells the ship that if Helia returns, he,
Misha, and the Doctor are to be informed immediately, no matter when it
Kalida remembers that last time she took klatrin,
she had a vision of a possible future. Perhaps that was where she
was trying to go.
Shark suggests putting all the airlocks under
command control, but Misha overrides him. The Captain says that
anyone stupid enough to walk off doesn't need to be on the ship.
If she didn't do it for a stupid reason, then there's no reason she
shouldn't do it. He would like it if anyone doing that left a
readable message, though.
Shark wonders how much air and supplies were in the
Kalida suggests that all the vaccsuit had to do was
to get her from the ship into jumpspace.
The crew go about their business.
Kalida tries gunnery simulations to see if her
klatrin experience has changed anything. The full missile salvo
takes 7.2 seconds, 100 rounds per second, and that's what it's designed
to do. She tries firing arbitrary specific numbers of
missiles. She finds that her minimum now is just two
missiles. She then goes on with more simulations against Happy
Fun Balls, experimenting with setting up specific missile numbers and
delivery time-on-target patterns. But that's for amusement
really, because the expander would finish the job. For a mission
kill, just 20 would be enough to wipe most of the sensors. There
would be point defense losses to account for, and screen ships from the
battle group that would get some of the missiles too.
To get direct access, the battle group would have to
be penetrated. With multiple Happy Fun Balls, they'd be deployed
in formation where the battle groups could support each other but still
separating the targets so that two could not fall foul of the same
This is useful. Robert is less confident that
his Blue Screen of Death Ray will work against the Happy Fun
Ball. The Imperium no doubt has their best people, the equivalent
of himself if they could find them, on board working against his
Mich tells them that hooking up the bigger power
cube would not help. They already have enough to run everything
at capacity, except perhaps restocking the missiles while running
everything else at the same time. But if they're in that
situation of running at capacity for that long, an extra dozen missiles
won't make a lot of difference.
As the crew sits down for breakfast, the crew
announce that Helia is approaching the ship. They watch on the
computer as she enters the airlock. Most of the crew get up
immediately and rush down to Engineering to greet her. They run
into each other on the walkway in Engineering. Helia is dressed
only in her zack.
Mich says, "Have a nice walkabout?" He's never
met anyone who's left a ship in jump and come back.
Helia says, "Yes. Can you fix my vaccsuit,
please? I left it in the airlock back there, it's...
sorry." She smiles.
"How was your trip?" asks Shark.
"It was fine."
"Where did you go?" asks Kalida.
"How did you get back, if you were at nowhere?" asks
"Oh, I just stepped out for a minute, that's all."
"You've been gone for a day."
"OK. Have I missed breakfast? Oh,
good! Let's go." The larian marches smartly towards the
Shark says, "Which Helia are you?"
"I'm Helia," she says, giving him a look.
While the others follow her on to breakfast, Mich
and Shark go to check her vaccsuit. The suit is better described
by "remains" than "vaccsuit," and is very badly torn up possibly to the
point of irrepairable. There's at least a week's work to restore
it to use, if that's possible. It's a pattern of damage they've
never seen before. Mich is of the opinion that it should not be
repaired. He'll build her another one.
Shark checks the football sensors, and notes a much
bigger spike from Helia as she came back. The gravbelt clearly
was not working. He collects the evidence carefully, and he goes
to catch up with her at breakfast.
At breakfast, Shark asks Helia, "Did you see Lap'da?"
Helia clearly thinks that was a very stupid question.
"I thought you'd gone on walkabout like Lap'da
does," says Shark. "So where did you go?"
"I just took a short walk, that's all."
"I wanted to see what it looked like."
Mich asks if the vaccsuit was damaged on the way
out, during, or on the way back.
"Sorry about that," says Helia hesitantly. "I
didn't think it would do that, but... I didn't think it would do
Shark asks her Mich's question again.
"Once I got outside."
"Was it during the transition? Transitioning a
jump bubble is quite an interesting problem."
"Well, it's not that complicated if you consider the
equations that govern it. Would you like to see them?"
"Yes, I would," says Mich enthusiastically.
Helia brightens. She looks around for
something to write with, and Mich hands her his hand puter. She
starts writing rapidly, saying, "You see, this follows from this.
Now this one only applies of course under those conditions."
Mich has no idea what she's writing. Yes,
they're equations, but what it could possibly be based on, he has no
idea at all. It's mathematical gibberish. He says politely,
"Well, it's impressive, but I don't quite follow. I guess it's
the initial conditions we need to work on, the frame of reference."
"Oh. Well, it just... follows. I mean,
it's pretty basic. You could try... look, here. There you
go. That's how it follows from the Bainsworth Postulates."
"Okay," says Mich slowly, never having heard of such
a thing. It still makes no sense. He's glad he can just
upload everything she's written on his puter. He drifts into
remembering that when they were figuring out the vortex generators,
they needed Helia and Sally to help. He asks Helia if she had any
"It's all pretty basic stuff, really."
"You want to help me with some other things, see if
we can decrease our transition time through jumpspace?"
Helia sighs sharply. She says, "You mean...
Hm..." She gives Mich a look that he last saw from Robert when he
was trying to figure out why this chimps were chattering around him,
meaningless sounds with no frame of reference or concept of structure.
Mich says, "We'd like to take the ship along with us
and everybody inside, and it takes five and a half days, and I'd like
to make it shorter than that."
"Oh!" says Helia. "Well, it's not really fast,
is it? It's not like you... move."
"If we could engage our jump engines and
instantaneously appear where we want to be."
"Oh, you can't do that, no."
"But if we could decrease that amount of time to its
minimum that's feasible with what we have available to us."
"Well, it's theoreticaly possible to get around the
Quilton Limitations, but..." She sighs, then continues, "I'm not sure
that there's enough energy to do that."
Shark interjects, "With the energy available, how
"You're not really going," says Helia.
Shark continues, "How fast can we transition through
this artificial environment?"
"Well, it's not artificial and you don't really
Mich and Shark chatter back and forth for a while on
the subject. It's not quite clear whether they're running with a
joke or trying to come up with something serious.
Helia changes the subject. "So what are we
Shark says, "You mean our current mission in the
Imperium? We believe that Santanocheev is attacking the Imperium,
and we're trying to organize defensive fleets by travelling to various
locations and telling them 'The Joes are oming, The Joes are
coming.' That's the general idea. The specifics can be
found on the timeline that Kalida projected based on your astrogational
abilities. If those have changed, then..."
Kalida says she'd rounded up to six days.
Shark continues, "So other than that, we've got time
to work on making the non-transitions take up less time, perceptively
interiorly and exteriorly, and/or the distances of the transitions be
greater. Instead of six parsecs, seven, eight, that's also a
useful possibility." He smiles sideways at Mich, "I did hear of a
20-parsec jump, but everyone was very sick."
Mich says helpfully, "We do have another power cube."
Helia says sharply, "That's not going to help very
much, is it?"
"Well, you said you thought we didn't have enough
Shark interrupts, "No, her statement was that there isn't
enough power. Like that old statement e=mc**2, if you get to the
speed of light you have infinite mass. Right?"
"Well," says Helia, "That's only valid for certain
values of c."
"But is it a reasonable analogy?"
Helia says brightly, "If it makes you happy, yes!"
"I like it because I came up with it." Shark
smiles. That's his parting comment. He stands up and goes
off to examine Helia's vaccsuit.
Shark puts on his environment suit, goes to the
Engineering shop, and sets up the clean conditions to start his
forensic investigation of this possibly highly contaminated
piece. He spends all day working on it, trying to figure out what
the damage was, whether a hard object, whether inside or outside, and
He determines quickly that the remains are not
harmful. There is no impact damage. There are various
effects on it. Some show distortions under great force.
Others show some sort of erosion.
It's been subject to number of different effects,
some of which were simultaneous. The erosion is not so much
external, as little bits missing, voids on the micro level, like the
object has been uniformly eroded throughout its mass, like small pieces
There's one initial trauma event which consists of
the distortions and some of the erosion, about 10% of mass
eroded. Not all sections were affected by all events.
Later, over a longer term, slightly larger voids eroded consisting
about about 5% of mass. The molecular scanner -- which Mich used
to analyse the statue artifacts some time ago -- enables Shark to
determine the order of the events.
He is sure of one thing: if this happened to a
living person, they would be dead. He makes a mental note for the
Doc to examine Helia at some point.
The vaccsuit itself was clearly not even close to
holding air as it came across and into the ship. While the
specifications allow for 48 hours of life support, it clearly lost all
the air at some point. Life support was probably lost very
rapidly, without about two hours of the sustained erosion. Enough
voids had opened up to let it sponge out.
He steps aside and checks the microatmosphere
outside the ship inside the jump bubble. There was no change, so
it's likely she had no air from about two hours into her trip, leaving
her with no life support for about 22 hours.
Shark delivers a summary report to the Doctor and
the Captain. Bridgehead looks at him like he's lost his
mind. He says that 15% of the vaccsuit had gone. Bridgehead
suggests weighing Helia, but Shark says the first thing to do is a
quick scan to see if she's red or blue.
Bridgehead finds Helia in the lounge and runs the
hand scanner over her. She's mostly red -- not bad for someone
who's held their breath for 22 hours. Bridgehead agrees quietly
with Shark that she should come down for an examination.
Shark catches up with Helia later. He says she
should report to Sick Bay for her post-klatrin examination. He
then asks where 15% of her vaccsuit went.
"Nowhere," says Helia predictably.
"How do we get it back?" asks Shark.
"And you, the rest of you?"
"I'm here, I'm fine."
"When the pieces of spacesuit were taken..."
"Oh, yes. Sorry about that."
"Why didn't the pieces of you go too?"
"The little swiss cheese holes in your space suit,
"Yes, I heard what you said, but -- it's
obvious. You don't know? Oh."
"See I'm just a cop. A flatfoot. You
have to explain things slowly to a cop. We still use gum and
"Well... there's equations for it."
"Yes. There's equations for ballistic
trajectory, but I don't have to know them."
"OK. It's basic stuff. See?"
Shark sighs. He'd rather eat a grilled swiss
cheese sandwich than see the equations for it. Well, her zack
looks intact. He gives up and asks, "Since we did the jump
without you, we weren't so sure of the calculations. Approximately how
long will we be in this transition?"
"The -- jump? -- will end tomorrow evening."
That would be five and a half days.
Kalida suggests to Misha that he might want to make
sure Helia stays on board for a while. When Shark and Mich also
arrive in the Lounge, she says adds that Robert took five trips to stop
speaking galanglic, and now Helia is speaking only in mathematics.
Mich says he's avidly recording everything she
writes, says, and does, and hopes to make something out of it.
Shark says that probably the best thing they can do
for her is to take her back home, to her own kind, who actually have a
chance of understanding her.
But, as Kalida points out, that will have to wait.
Shark agrees. He asks the ship to tell him if
she goes near any airlocks.
The Baron reports that he's done his examination of
Helia. He's not sure quite what's changed. It's very
difficult to narrow it down. There's an overall systemic change,
but the readings are returning more completely to red. Whatever
it is, it seems to be wearing off.
Mich wants to keep her churning out these equations,
and to explain them, but he's not sure how long she'll have patience
for their monkey brains and doesn't want to push it. There is
no-one else on board who might even come close to understanding it --
Mich is no slouch in this subject, after all, and he has no idea
whatsoever what she's talking about.
Much to Shark's private relief, everyone is at
breakfast the next morning. Aloud, he passes on that Helia said
they would come out of jump in about twelve hours.
Mich asks Helia what kind of suit she would need so
it would not be damaged if she did that again.
Helia says she just wouldn't bother with the suit
next time. She can hold her breath for a little while, and it
wouldn't take very long.
Kalida observes that apparently the zack would do
Robert has run a literature search on the keywords
Helia used yesterday. He finds nothing. There are no
Bainsworth Postulates or Quilton Limitation. Once Helia is
elsewhere, he explains that in his experience klatrin doesn't give you
more knowledge, it lets you see interconnects and expands your own
insights into things. A new theorem that someone else wrote
doesn't pop into your head.
Shark says she's extrapolating from knowledge from
her own homeworld.
Robert corrects him: she's extrapolating from her
Mich does try to get Helia to talk about unspace
with him, but she bores quickly. She seems to think he's missing
something very basic.
Shark gets his robot dog to fly with the built in
gravbelt. He is concerned about battery life, and Mich assures
him that he can replace the battery pack with a converter to run it off
Later that evening, they come out of just in an
empty area, right on time. Callisto takes an hour to
confirm what Mich and Helia already know, that they are exactly where
they intended to be. They jump immediately for Nexine /
come out in stealth mode.
Kalida asks Helia when they'll be coming out of
jump. The larian says apologetically that it will be five and a
half days, that's the best they can do. With that assurance, she
immediately goes to Robert who happily hands over her second 40cc of
klatrin. It tastes much better to her this time around.