Nightshade has just entered jump for Nexine
/ Mora from 0807 / Lunion. Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege,
has immediately taken a shot of
klatrin and gone into a trance.
Edward "Shark" Teeth sets up the football sensors to
alert him if there's any unusual readings. His robot dog can now
fly, and Mich Saginaw will set up a replacement for the battery pack to
run it off the ship's power. In the process, Shark decides he
wants to learn about black tech. He has no background in
engineering or anything relevant, of course, but that doesn't
Mich agrees to teach him about it, and the first
step is to hand Shark his new book, Jump Drive For Dummies.
Shark wants to know what jump drive has to do with
black tech. Mich gives him a vague answer, but it seems to
satisfy Shark for the time. Mich heads off to built Helia Sarina
a new vaccsuit. Shark's next project will be to make his old
prosthetic arm into what he
calls "It," a robot for parties.
In the morning, Helia asks Mich if she can use the
console to go into sparkly pink for a while. He agrees, and she
promptly does so
happily. Mich monitors her, wondering if she's just "feeling the
ship" again. It seems like she's just experimenting, doing little
tweaks to the jump drive systems to see what happens. Mich of
course records everything she does.
About half an hour before lunch, Misha
and Shark notice the lights blink.
Misha asks the ship what
happened. "Please stand by" comes the reply. He heads for
bridge at a run.
towards engineering from his stateroom. Mich isn't answering his
hail. He calls the Captain, but Misha simply replies that he
doesn't know what is going on.
Misha reaches the bridge and heads for his
console. Before he can sit down and go into sparkly pink, the
ship tells him, "All systems are normal." He drops into sparkly
pink mode and starts questioning the ship.
"Where is Mich?"
"Mich is in Engineering."
"Why did the lights just wink?"
"It was commanded from Engineering."
"From the Engineering console."
"Mich is at the Engineering console?"
"Helia is at the Engineering console."
"Can I speak to Helia?"
"Helia is not to be disturbed."
Misha shakes his head and laughs.
Mich starts to come around. As he does so, he
hears footsteps above him, and soon Shark jumps down to join him.
Shark sees Helia in sparkly pink at the Engineering
console, which Mich is sitting up groggily. He quickly runs a
medscan over him, and he seems fine. Shark says, "What were you
doing? The ship's power just blinked."
Mich says slowly, "I was watching Helia." He
shakes off some of the grogginess and goes into sparkly pink to find
out what she's doing.
Helia is just making tiny tweaks to the jump system,
a barely perceptible ripple running across the jump grid. She is
not to be disturbed, Mich is informed.
Shark briefs the Captain. Mich reports too,
although Shark puts it more sharply: "She's messing with the jump
system while we're in jump."
Mich says that the changes she's making are very
subtle and won't make any difference.
Shark wants to know what happened when he was
Mich rolls back and replays that time. He
promptly passes out.
Shark scans him. He's fine. He calls the
Baron and says they need a full brain scan and that he's bringing the
Misha overrules him, saying just to wake him up.
Since Mich seems to be coming around, Shark just
monitors him. "Good morning, Mich," he says.
Mich wakes. "Well, that was interesting.
Something like that has happened before." He puts his psi helmet back
on, and turns to talk with Shark. "When I was examining the
zuchai crystal arrangement on Digitis, examining the type of
construct was enough to make you go unconscious. I think she did
something that is beyond our mental understanding. That's kind of
neat." He grins broadly.
Shark convinces Mich to accompany him to Sick Bay
for a check-up. Mich makes sure everything is being recorded, and
then the two of them walk forward.
Misha asks the ship what Helia is doing. It
merely replies that she is adjusting the jump drive system. After
more unsatisfactory questioning, Misha gets up to talk to Helia in
Misha runs into the two of them in Engineering as
Mich tells him that most of what Helia is doing he
understands, but occasionally she goes beyond his comprehension.
He adds that they're probably better off looking at it later, and
there's no benefit from monitoring her constantly.
Misha then addresses Helia directly and asks her
what she's doing. She doesn't answer or react at all. She's
concentrating on something, moving slightly in a dreamy way, but
obviously conscious and very busy. He contemplates trying himself
to see what she's doing, but after some reflection just walks back to
the Bridge. He tells the ship to inform him when Helia can be
disturbed, or if she falls unconscious or otherwise can't take care of
Shark meanwhile has quietly checked his football
sensors. They don't show anything unusual, except they have no
readings during the glitch when power was cut to them. Missing is
a total of about 3.5 seconds -- half a second of no power, and three
seconds to power back up.. He resolves to put them on a UPS
system, and does so now that things are less busy.
Mich is released from the Sick Bay after a thorough
check by the Doc, who says he's perfectly fine.
Over lunch, Shark checks on the details of the
glitch. They did not lose gravity, although live support was cut
off. The ship's intelligence was lost. All auxiliary power
was lost, and of course the shields and weapon systems were not powered
up in the first place. But when he asks if the jump field was
affected by the power interruption, the ship says, "I don't know."
Mich suggests that Helia redirected all the power
for whatever she was doing.
Shark says he thought we could have all the power
Mich corrects him, "No, we can have as much as we
need. In a previous conversation with Helia, she remarked, 'There
isn't enough power.' I told her that we have a bigger power cube,
that we could hook that up, and her answer was, 'You don't
understand. There isn't enough power.' She was right, I didn't
understand. My guess is that she needed additional energy and was
taking it from other systems as an experiment. Everything she's
been doing was tiny incremental things, and she will not be
disturbed. I don't think it's a good idea to force her to be
Shark muses, "Yes, that's why I didn't just shoot
her." He goes on to tell the Captain what he found out about the
Fortunately the power glitch has not affected the
quality of the food. Everyone is very glad that Vonish Kehnaan
did not stay behind on Adabicci.
Shark reflects this is not the calm relaxing jump
they were expecting. "It's one thing to have people calmly walk
out the door in the middle of jump onto the back porch. It's
another thing when they start messing with your back porch in the
middle of jump."
Half an hour after lunch, the ship tells Misha that
Helia is now available.
In Engineering, Mich sees Helia drop out of sparkly
pink. "Was that a lot of fun?" he asks.
"Yes, lots of fun, thank you," replies the larian.
"At one point the lights flickered and life support
was turned off."
"Yes. I needed some power. If you could
hook up the other power thing you have, I think I could actually use
"Well, what do you want it interconnected to?
We'd have to start it up."
"Oh, um... put it all into the jump grid power."
Mich stares. He says, "Put it all into the
jump grid power. Okaaay."
Misha calls Helia. He asks her what she was
She says brightly, "I was trying some things out."
"What were you trying out?"
"It's not quite as simple as the stuff I was talking
about the other night." She adds, "It won't do any harm. I
don't think. But it was fun!"
"Next time you intend to be out of contact for some
time, please let me know."
"Oh, ok. I didn't think you needed a pilot."
"Well, we don't, but I was concerned for your health
"I know you are fine, I'd just like to know if
you're going to take a trip either mentally or physically, especially
if it involves the ship. Ok?"
"Yes, ok! I'd like to try it again. I
want Mich to hook up some more power."
"All right. If you can explain to Mich what
you're doing, that would be good."
"Ok. Want some candy?" Helia seems to be
back to her old self again.
Shark asks why Helia could not be disturbed by the
Captain of the ship.
The ship replies that Helia left instructions not to
Shark counters that Helia is not the Captain.
The ship explains, "Helia was affecting the jump
grid. It is not safe to affect someone who is concentrating on
adjusting the ship's attitude in jump."
Shark says that allowing someone to do that is
probably not considered safe.
"It has been considered safe behavior before.
Mich has done that quite extensively."
This satisfies Shark, but leaves him feeling rather
disturbed. He immediately goes off and tells the Captain.
He emphasizes that Mich doing this and not telling them is quite
Misha replies simply, "It's his job. I have to
trust him to do his job."
Shark accepts that, mentioning that it makes his job
a lot more difficult.
Misha points out if it was easy, it wouldn't be fun.
Shark says he job does not really involve fun, not
the paranoia part. Now, shooting the pilot in the back would have
been fun, but Misha wouldn't let him do that. He smiles that he's
been wanting to do that for at least a year.
Misha smiles back and tells him that as soon as he
does that, his fun will be over.
Shark crosses his fingers and hopes that they get
out of jump ok. Even though they've never misjumped in this ship
-- yet -- and there have been no signs of jump sickness -- yet -- he's
Helia's afternoon is remarkably uneventful.
After her adventure in the morning, she flies off to the Bridge, where
she settles into one of her hammocks and starts playing with some toys.
Shark is convinced that she's only doing that
because they don't have more power yet.
Mich explains that to get power, they have to remove
all stray molecules from the area of the cube and the jump
engine. That means evacuating all air from Engineering.
It's not hard to do, as it's set up that way, and Mich can do the work
in vaccsuit. He adds that they have to account for all matter and
its relative position -- but the position is relative, so even if
they're moving it doesn't matter. He says he'll get the big power
cube and bring it to Engineering. There is plenty of room for
it. It'll take about six hours to do that. He starts on the
Shark pulls out the scrabble board and challenges
anyone else to play -- anyone else except Robert, of course.
Robert notices this, and with approval sees the
players build a collective meaning on the board from the interaction
and positioning of the words and the board itself. It's the first
real sign of true intelligence he's seen since his enlightenment.
That takes them to dinner. The afternoon was
refreshingly free of drama.
In the evening, however, soon after dinner, Shark is
alerted to a reading on the football sensors. It's a faint
signature, barely above background, but it's coming from Sick
Bay. He walks down there to check, but Kalida is apparently fine.
Mich checks the alignment of the new cube. It
looks fine here, but he'll need to check it again out of jump, and
preferably well away from any massive object. There's going to be
a massive amount of power fed into the jump grid, and it needs to be
very precisely aligned.
In the meantime, he has another project. There
is the jump drive simulator. There is the record of Helia's
experiments. He replays the process through the model, and
immediately finds out that she's adjusting things for which the model
cannot compensate. He starts working on refining the model, and
finds it surprisingly easy. He still doesn't understand what
Helia was talking about with her equations, but it is significantly
improving their model.
When he tries to play through the power glitch, the
model crashes, breaking down completely. He continues his work
while skipping that moment. After a while, he realizes that
there's about ten minutes in there, a period when he's figured out what
Helia is doing. It's an isolated experiment, but during that time
she was manipulating the jump grid, throwing tiny variations rippling
through the jump field, using it as a kind of sonar to measure what the
jumpspace beyond it was doing.
This occupies most of Mich's evening.
The first thing that happens the next day is that
the ship comes out of jump. It has been only two and a half days
since they jumped. Of course no-one is ready for it, even Helia.
As Nightshade announces "We are now out of
jump," everyone scrambles to their stations.
Before he sets off, however, Shark confirms with the
ship that the transponder is -- as he wants -- not operating. On
the other hand, there is according to the ship, "A problem with stealth
The first thing everyone notices when they reach the
bridge is the view. It looks just like they would expect if
they'd come out of jump -- except for the fog. The ship seems to
be surrounded by fog.
Misha rushes to his console and goes into sparkly
pink. He looks around. It looks foggy here too, the fog
extending abour 400m. The sensors are having trouble penetrating
It really looks like fog. It's grayish,
slightly swirling fog.
Callisto says that it makes no sense. She can
see a system out there, but the sensors aren't working properly.
She can't see through it, aside from what they can see themselves
through the window. She reports that they aren't in a gravity
well, and are clear of any objects. Densitometers are out
Shark suggests they move the ship slowly in some
random direction. Perhaps if the fog is localized, they can leave
Helia moves them slowly. The ball of fog moves
Misha motions her to stop. He says, "Helia, do
you have any idea why we are surrounded by a ball of fog?"
Helia says, "Well, it's kind of complicated. I
Shark says, "Helia, is it our ball of fog?"
"Oh yes," she says brightly, "It's our ball of fog."
"Shall we get rid of it?"
"I don't know. It'll probably evaporate.
Fog does that. Would you like some candy? It'll help you
Shark sighs. He asks, "Helia, will the fog
follow the pinnace?"
"I don't know. I... don't know... I'm not
sure... I don't know if that would be safe or not."
Misha agrees they should not do that.
Robert asks Helia where she thinks they are.
She replies that she thinks they're where they were supposed to be.
Shark asks her if anyone else can see the ball of
"Outside the ship?" says Helia, "Yes, I'm sure they
can. It probably sparkles."
Misha rolls his eyes. He and Shark exchange
meaningful glances. Misha says, "Helia, did you realize that we
wanted to come out quietly?"
"And why did you bring us out like this?"
"Oh, I didn't, we just came this way."
Shark says, "Can you make it so we don't come this
"Well, if you want to be boring."
Misha adds, "I'd like to be quiet. Invisible,
so to speak. Can you make us invisible now?"
"No, I don't think so. No."
Shark asks, "What is the fog made of?"
Misha asks, "How soon could we jump again."
Helia says firmly, "I think we should wait for the
fog to go."
Shark thinks getting away from here with their ball
of fog would be a good idea, because they really don't want anyone
coming to investigate.
Callisto says they are probably days away from
anyone coming to investigate. They are pretty well out of the
way, and may not even have been seen yet. That of course assumes
there aren't any ships that happen to be near here. The good news
is that it's not a very populated system.
Shark seems to have an idea. Aloud, he asks if
it would be safe to open an airlock.
Helia says she doesn't know, but he probably doesn't
want to step out in it.
"What if I threw a tethered sensor through the fog?"
he continues, "Or flew a robot dog?"
"You could try. I don't know. I've never
seen this before. It's an interesting effect."
Misha says, "It is an interesting effect. Were
you aware that this was a possibility?"
"Um... no. Well, all sorts of things are
possible, but... I didn't expect this."
"If I'd have been expecting it, I'd have been
sitting in the seat when we came out of jump." That's certainly
Shark asks Robert for a sensor pack to attach to his
dog, and a cable link in case radio doesn't work.
Misha asks Callisto what she can tell him about this
fog. Obviously it's not really fog, he says.
Callisto can't tell him much at all. It's kind
of blocking gravity readings.
Mich has been checking the ship from sparkly
pink. To his surprise, everything is functioning perfectly.
Even the sensor systems are fully operational, they just can't
penetrate the fog or move a remote viewpoint through it.
Shark heads off with Robert to do his
experiment. He puts the robot dog in the forward port airlock
from Engineering, tethered to the ship with an old-fashioned 500m
rope. Robert provides a cable communications link. The
robot is to fly to the end of the rope.
The last thing Shark does before sending out the
robot dog is to see if the fog has changed in size. It has not,
according to Callisto. It's maintaining size at about 400m, and
has a gap between it and the ship of about 10-20 meters.
Shark cycles the airlock and sends the robot out the
The dog leaves the ship, trailing the rope and
cable. It gets a little way from the ship and starts shifting
direction, darting a little to and fro. The sensors show optical
and gravitic distortions, both shifting. There are no particles
out there, no matter that can be detected. It's recording a
temperature of about 150K, much warmer than space. The robot is
having trouble maintaining its course.
Shark directs the robot to coast. It does so,
but still jerks about.
It continues on, coasting out a couple of hundred
At about 250 meters, the sensor pack cuts out.
At about 300 meters, the robot vanishes in a
"poof!". It explodes, but if there was such a thing as exploding
without violence, this would be it. It simply comes apart, as a
Kalida says it's a good thing they didn't take the
Shark mutters aloud that they should have made the
pilot take it out. He shuts the outer airlock door, severing the
rope. The end of the rope exploded with the robot, but most of
the length is intact.
Shark reports their findings to the rest of the
crew. They ponder it for a moment, and Shark says, at the same
moment as Mich, that they brought some jumpspace with them.
Shark comments that the fog will probably hang
around for another three days, and starts a pool. He adds that in
three days, someone will probably come to investigate. They
should start moving out from the system, he suggests.
An hour after all the excitement, Kalida wakes up in
She lies there for a few minutes, alone in Sick Bay,
to collect herself, expecting the Baron to arrive when she gets
up. Bridgehead does not, however, and Kalida leaves Sick Bay and
starts walking forwards.
She soon encounters the Baron hurrying towards her,
looking extremely irritated and smelling distinctly of whisky.
She starts back towards Sick Bay, saying, "I suppose you want to check
me out again."
Much to her surprise, Bridgehead bursts out, "You
need to come and see what they've done! Bloody Mich has screwed
it up again. He's always tweaking the jump drive or something
stupid and not telling us about it, and he's just... PFFFT!!"
Kalida says, shocked, "How long have I been out?"
"Oh, a couple of days."
"Aren't we still in jump?"
"No! I don't think. Who knows? No,
we aren't, but... come up to the Lounge, have a whisky, and you can
"Is that where everyone else is?"
"Vonish is there. He's still drinking whisky."
No-one else is there, however. Kalida takes
off for the Bridge, sure that if the Doc doesn't want to check her out
right away, something awful must be going on. Vonish lifts his
glass in a toast as she leaves. The Baron sits down heavily and
pours himself another drink.
Kalida arrives at the Bridge. Everyone is at
their stations, and there is fog outside the ship. There are
signs of stars and the local sun out there, and the gas giant can be
seen 100 diameters away through the haze.
Shark is in the process of getting the ship to
project a Daffy Duck cartoon on the fog with the ship's laser.
Kalida marches quickly to her console, sits down
shaking her head, and says, "What the hell is going on?" She
slips into sparkly pink mode, and finds herself unusually blind.
She can't see much more than she could with her own eyes, aside from
Shark shuts off the cartoon. The after-image
persists for about five minutes.
Kalida says again, "What happened?"
Shark turns around and looks pointedly at
Helia. He says to her, "Yes....?" He pauses a moment, then
says, "I'll summarize here. if you don't mind, Helia." He turns
to Kalida, "Someone decided to play with the jump fields while we were
in jump. Again. But it was a different person this
time. With the intention of making it more efficient, I assume,
as we've done in the past. She did a very good job of making it
fast -- we're here in two and a half days -- only we brought...
something... with us. Now when I threw Rover out with a sensor
pack, he -- POOFed -- want to see the film?" He brings up the
"My condolences," says Kalida.
"Well, it was better him than me and Helia in the
pinnace, which was my first idea."
"Glad you went with the robot."
"I'm not sure I am." He looks pointedly at
"So we're here in two and half days, but we're not?"
"Right. We think we're all the way here, but
there's this glowing field around us so we're certainly not in stealth
Helia says, "It's probably sparkly. I expect
it's quite pretty from the other side."
Kalida says, "But we are in Nexine?"
Callisto says she believes they are.
Shark changes the subject. He says to Kalida,
"By the way, welcome back. I hope it was a pleasant trip, and
hopefully not nearly as exciting as hours has been."
A strange expression washes over Kalida's
face. She says simply, "Different."
"Maybe we'll talk about that later if you
like. Anyway, so we don't want to jump, because Helia thinks it
might be dangerous. Clearly it's dangerous to go on
walkabout. But the fog follows us when we move, we've already
established that. We could try to scrape it off on something, but
who knows what that would do."
Kalida says that if (as Shark tells her) the fog
extends 400m, they probably don't want to get that close to
anything. She asks how long they've been out of jump.
Shark tells her it's been about two hours.
Kalida continues, "But as far as we can tell we're
at least 100 diameters out?"
Shark confirms that.
"So we could just sit here for a couple of hours,
perhaps a day, and see if it starts dissipating."
"And in the meantime we're probably attracting
attention and they'll send someone to investigate, since we can't hear
their calls on the radio. Oh, and we've started a pool on when
this will fade away. I've put the 7 up."
Misha says that unless anyone has a better idea,
they can wait until the fog goes away. After all, it's no worse
than being in jump anyway.
Shark says that they should start moving if nothing
happens in about a day. He adds that given the effect on light
and matter, at least they probably have a very effective shield
up. He also tells Kalida about the unusual temperature.
Mich says he's gone through all the diagnostics, and
the ship is perfect. He doesn't mention the records of what Helia
did, even though it doesn't show anything -- aside from the glitch --
that could have affected jump exit by more than about five
seconds. He does say that a moving ball of fog is likely to be
Misha says that even if they're glowing, they have
enough experience on board to guess whether they could expect to be
The only populated world is close to the primary,
but with a Scout Base there. The mainworld is the other side of
the sun, but the gas giant is on this side of course, 100 diameters
Even so, there's no better plan than Wait And See.
Shark privately mentions to Kalida one small detail
about her klatrin trance, the strange readings he picked up on his
football sensors. The readings stopped just before she woke
up. He suggests they might mean that she is latently or possibly
developing some talent in the terms of the Marquis, and if he publishes
this they will probably arrest her. It hasn't happened to anyone
else while they were drinking klatrin, he says. He'll let her
know if it happens again.