(4) Four

069-1117 to 084-1117

069-1117 : Iderati / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

At 18:57, the Anastasia arrives in the Iderati system.

070-1117 : Iderati / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

They reach the gas giant at 01:00, and are ready to start refueling when they are hailed by the Alert, a 10,000 ton Escort Destroyer (an ED-14). It informs them that this is a restricted zone and that they cannot refuel here. It is apparently ready to fire on them, and the crew scrambles around trying to find battle stations just in case. Captain Delaney tells the Alert that they have to take on more fuel. They are told that they can do that at the starport on the planet, and if they tried to refuel here they would be blown out of the sky as soon as they hit the atmosphere. Sir Bridgehead then takes over, and manages to talk Commander Albert Bunker into offering them a refuel at the naval base on the satellite, and also a hook into the naval computers. The Alert will escort them all the way.

They reach orbit over the base, where they refuel at no charge. Linda hooks into the base computers and warns them about the hazardous security system, also sending over a highly edited version of the ship's log. She sets up a monitor on all communication and computer links to see if anyone contacts the shore. The naval computer system is really high security, as they find out when they try to run a check on the retinal scans, but Delaney manages to talk the Navy people into running the check for them. Delaney says they have good brewers on board, and the base tells them that the place for that is Karin, where there is strict prohibition, and that they should take it to the scout base in orbit -- but don't land, because the ship will be put under seal and armed guard.

The computer check turns up some information immediately. The person is identified as Robin Sherwood, wanted for piracy by the Zhodani, but the Imperium doesn't have much evidence against her. The Zhodani have her for ambushing and destroying passenger liners, blowing up merchant ships, and she has been blamed for many ships that vanished. She escaped while fighting some Zhodani Navy ships a year or two back and they haven't heard a thing about her since.

The Captain and Miss Gregson tell Chiang Ho and Fostriades the results of the check, and that she's a very dangerous person -- the tape of the conversation with the base is replayed many times. Fostriades says that Helen has said as much to him, and that she told him she was operating under a Warrant issued by Archduke Norris, acting as a privateer with Imperial authority -- she was caught in a trap, had to jump in a hurry, misjumped, and lost her ship.

The conclusion of this Security Council is that she is not a threat to the security of the ship, but also that she should remain on the ship here since she is so well known. Fostriades tells Helen that they know her reputation, and that she should not leave the ship here.

071-1117 : Iderati / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

The ship lands at 19:39, which is 25:20 local time in the 26 hours 10 minute day. The spaceport is on the equator, but the planet is still awfully cold. They bring the ship in through the doors of the individual sealed heated hangar allocated to them. Traffic control is extremely strict. Linda sets up an alarm in case anyone tries to access the ship's computers; the computer security on the planet is very high -- they can access the normal trading system, but there is no physical connection between the starport computers and those on the planet in general.

Chiang Ho runs a simple scan on the beans, and posts a message that he will accept bids on lots of 100kg, to leave message with the ship. There is no way to mail directly to the pharmaceutical companies on this planet, so he posts it through the trading link. Anyone interested is to contact him by 075/13:00 at the latest.

The only bar here is the Flying Dutchman, a merchant bar. Fostriades heads there right away looking for anyone he might know. The bar is very quiet right now, but there is a Tukera lines Leviathan class ship, the Sumenojr, due to arrive in an hour. The captain is a young man who was a rookie line officer on a ship Fostriades served on -- the chap invites Fostriades (and anyone else he wants to take along) to dinner on the ship.

Midnight local time is 20:29 ship's time.

072-1117 : Iderati / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

00:00 ships time is 03:31 local. Fostriades comes back on board at 06:00.

Various people go shopping, but the only stores available are those at the starport, because (as they discover) visas for planet access have a 1000Cr fee (no problem!) and a 7-day waiting period (Ah! we knew there was a catch!). The Captain nevertheless buys: several suits of totally nondescript clothing (non-ethnic, non-tech-level specific); a battle computer (NOT with a General Products plate!); 1000Cr in jewelry (for a 10% surcharge over real value); a book on the Sword Worlds, their military campaigns and tactics (this is the standard textbook on the subject that he should have read in training but didn't -- it's very heavy reading).

At 19:15 Fostriades and Captain Delaney go to dinner on the Sumenojr. Fostriades flies the Pinnace to the merchant ship, which has just finished unloading in orbit. Fostriades gets a broker training program from the chap. The ship is heading out through District 268 to Glisten, and then out into exploratory trading expeditions. The Captain gives him some of the "coffee" that has been made out of the strange beans from Faldor. They return after a very pleasant dinner, during which very little is revealed except that the merchant (and Tukera Lines) had not been at all worried about some unknown threat.

075-1117 : Iderati / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

The Anastasia takes off from Iderati at 14:00. She goes into jump for Karin/Five Sisters at 18:16.

082-1117 : Karin / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

At 18:16, the Anastasia comes out of jump at Karin/Five Sisters, and goes into orbit at 21:57. Fostriades starts work on selling the cargo, and arranges for the cargo to be transported from orbit to the planet by starport transport.

The Naval and Scout bases are indeed in orbit around Karin, which is the only major object in the system--the others are the Stanley asteroid belt and the small planet Lianne, neither of which have a colony of any sort. In fact the horribly cold Karin is the only vaguely hospitable planet in the system, and with its -104 maximum temperature at the equator that is not exactly hospitable.

The orbital facilities include The Bar and the Travellers Aid Society.

083-1117 : Karin / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

The next morning everyone finds a note on their door that says: "I've decided to trust everyone. (signed) An Eye For An Eye." No-one can find out who put it there.

They post a message for Jack in the local newspaper, in the personal classifieds. It reads, "Jack, Bill Darani can't make it. Have information, greatly desire contact at TAS box 5614. Hope 30 years isn't too long to wait." The box is rented through William Avon, who is a TAS member. He was in a System Squadron Navy, and so is much less likely to be traced through service records. He rents the box (10Cr) and will collect the messages in person, taking one of the air/rafts. The message is placed that morning, before his watch at 09:30.

Fostriades purchases cargo and arranges for it to be shuttled from the starport to the Anastasia in orbit. They cannot, of course, try to get freight until they know their destination.

Chiang Ho advertises "exotic beans in sample quantities with possible medical applications" through a starport PO Box. Then Chiang Ho, Joe, NoName, David, William Avon, and Sir Bridgehead plan to go shopping on the planet (there are no malls in orbit).

Helen flies Sir Bridgehead down to the planet (the others will shop later when they are off watch). They land at the starport, in the assigned landing area. There is a lot of traffic, particularly since there are lot of facilities in orbit. They wait. The control tower is the only obvious building, 5km away, but there is a "call airport taxi" button, which they press. They eventually wait fifteen minutes until a 6-man grav vehicle arrives, with a uniformed person with a submachinegun who searches the pinnace (in the presence of Sir Bridgehead and Helen); it takes him an hour to go through it and then pronounces it clean.

Sir Bridgehead "convinces" the driver ("Gudday, mate!") to take him to the most exclusive shop in the area -- "Dunno, mate. Try tourist office." He says he'll take them to the starport building, where the tourist office is. When he refuses to wait outside, Sir Bridgehead offers him 1000Cr to wait, but the driver demands 5000Cr and gets it. The most exclusive shop is Jackson's, which is downtown - -it has everything. Sir Bridgehead tells the driver ("Hi, mate!") to take them to Jackson's. "Sure!" he says cheerfully, and hurtles off, shoots through the starport gate without stopping and flies into the downtown traffic, dodging in and out and up and down (think 3-D Boston taxicab) and stops outside a large building. He says he'll wait outside the building, in this no parking zone, for 5000Cr.

Jackson's is a high-class store, and they are met by a man in a fancy zoot-suit with a fancy hat that spirals up, and the 100Cr he is passed vanishes rapidly. For that, he escorts them from department to department -- although there are some people shopping alone, anyone who IS anybody has their own personal escort. Sir Bridgehead and Helen shop for some really good clothes. This is the Harrods of Karin, and it sells anything that is high-class and expensive. Sir Bridgehead spends 1MCr on clothes and jewelry for the two of them, raising their effective Social Standing one point.

Outside the store, they find some satisfied-looking policemen with submachine guns guarding the parking spot. Sir Bridgehead donates 100Cr to each of them -- "It will of course go straight into the Benevolent Fund, won't it mates?" the leader says, and so Sir Bridgehead doubles his contribution because it's for charity! They return to the Anastasia.

The other shopping group wants to outdo Sir Bridgehead, and so Chiang Ho contemplates buying a limo to get down to the planet, but they can't find any suitable place to store it on the ship. They therefore decide to rent one for 15:00 that afternoon, although the idea of buying one and just giving it away before they leave occurs to them. While Chiang Ho is talking to the starport, arranging this, there's a two-second communications glitch. Chiang Ho starts a recording to catch it if it happens again.

At 14:00 precisely, during Chiang Ho and William Avon's watch, the battle stations alarm goes off "BWOOP! BWOOP!" The computer says that the ship is being locked-on. Everyone scrambles to battle stations. The Jump Drive is not available at the moment, as Mich has disassembled a part where he has detected (and fixed) a potential future problem.

The lock-on is from a location in the asteroid belt. Chiang Ho runs the scanners -- opposite the lock-on, and a lot closer, is a scout-ship closing fast. The bridge crew arrive. Fostriades takes the engineering station on the bridge, while Mich rushes to reassemble the Jump Drive. Helen runs to the pinnace. Chief Gunner William Avon takes the beam weapons, while David Brock takes the launched ordnance systems.

The scoutship is about 100,000km away and closing. Sir Bridgehead tries to get some trivia information from the computer, but it says it's doing something more important right now. The gunnery displays indicate that the scoutship has a lock-on, and Avon locks onto the scoutship. Delaney tries to send out an emergency message to the Naval Base, but the Anastasia's communication systems are inoperative -- Helen sends out a Mayday from the pinnace.

There are missiles incoming from the scoutship. Sir Bridgehead postulates this as a computer glitch, but the gunners ignore that and shoot before Sir Bridgehead can see these tiny missiles through the windows. Brock gets the missiles with the sandcasters. Sir Bridgehead looks out the window and sees the missiles break up -- so they were indeed real. Helen (at the Captain's order) tells the scoutship to surrender or die (she says she's done that before!). The next message is to the Scout Base -- "Defending planet against incoming attacker!" Chiang Ho calls for everyone to get into vacc suits -- except Avon, who was already training in battledress!

The gunners are instructed to fire back if the scoutship fires again. The initial intention is to take the Anastasia under cover of an orbital base; Chiang Ho breaks the enemy lock-on as he flings the ship around. Everyone else gets into emergency vacc suits. Avon maintains the lock on the scoutship. The decision is made to close with the enemy to reduce the effectiveness of their missiles -- since they fired a full triple missile turret, they can have no other weapons on the ship.

The Captain says "We don't want to disintegrate them, we want to take them alive. Recommendations? ... Helen?" "Get in real close and do pinpoint targeting on the engineering section." Chiang Ho throws the Anastasia back on its path and attempts to close to visual range. Avon prepares for pinpoint shooting, and superimposes an internal scoutship plan on his display with the engineering section targeted.

Jump drive is now operational. Fostriades gets into battledress and collects Joe and NoName, similarly attired, and asks Helen where they should stand by in order to launch a boarding party -- she recommends the vehicle deck and taking an air/raft across. Avon gets a solid hit on the engineering section with the lasers, which knocks out the maneuver drive. Brock misses with one missile battery, so fires another and knocks off the turret, then again and causes massive damage to the engineering section. The target now has no power. There are no locks remaining from the asteroid belt or anywhere, but there are some fighters which have scrambled from the Naval Base.

The communication system is now back, so the Captain tells the fighters that they were attacked without warning and are now about to board the attacker to look for survivors. The Naval base heard the Anastasia's radio transmission to the scoutship and so confirm their story. The Navy did not pick up anything from the asteroid belt, but will send a couple of ships to investigate. Chiang Ho can't pick up any signs of anything in the asteroid belt. The Computer Officer tries to trace the earlier 2-second communication glitch, but can't find anything.

The Captain sends out Helen with a boarding party -- Fostriades, Joe, and NoName. She is to keep in constant contact during the operation. Chiang Ho matches the Anastasia with the scoutship's course -- it has no identifying lettering on the outside.

The boarding party flies across in two air/rafts -- Helen pilots one, Fostriades the other. Helen takes a snub pistol, Fostriades a laser rifle and a gauss pistol loaded with tranquilizers, and the TDS guys take their sticks. Fostriades will also take charge of the drugs provided by Sir Bridgehead -- he says that this cocktail is not just a truth drug, it makes them want to tell you everything.

The air/rafts are brought to the large hole in the hull at the engineering section. Helen is the only person with serious vacc suit experience (although Joe and NoName have picked up vacc-suit 0), so she goes across first to string a line between the air-rafts and engineering, and gives careful instructions for moving across on the line while avoiding the sharp edges. They move over -- Fostriades rather carefully, Joe and NoName with a lot more confidence. The TDS guys make it look easy -- except that NoName misjudges it, loses the line, and floats hard into the edge of the hole. His left arm takes the impact, and it rips the battledress at his forearm -- the suit neatly chops and seals just under the elbow. Helen fetches him and straps him into an air/raft seat. Sir Bridgehead is delighted at the prospect of growing NoName a new lower arm.

The remaining boarding party very carefully moves into the ship. Fostriades examines the engineering section, and by the time Helen returns from the air/raft he has determined that the maneuver and jump drives are wrecked, but that he could restore power to the ship if wanted. Helen suggests that he restore life support and gravity because they are not very good in zero-g or vacuum, and Fostriades duly obliges -- before Joe has a chance to reach the floor, so he falls hard, but fortunately not very far. The ship now has life support, lights, air, and gravity. There are some sparks from a cable in the corner, but since engineering is a vacuum, they're not worried about a fire risk.

Once again they call for surrender, but there is no response. The boarding party moves on into the ship, but finds no-one on board at all -- not even any furniture in the common areas or staterooms. The bridge is absolutely full of electrical and computer equipment, and in fact the entire ship is automated. Fostriades claims the ship as salvage, and Chiang Ho relays that to the Scout Base. Unfortunately, the ship is on a decaying orbit into Karin, so they attach some grappling cables to try to pull it into a stable vector. Helen helps to connect the straps to the scoutship, while the others search it. Fostriades determines that the ship is set up to take outside control -- it's a remote control scoutship -- and there's some pretty high-tech stuff here. Control is hooked up to the laser communications system. The transponder is missing.

Before he tries to pull this ship clear of the planet, Chiang Ho orders it cleared and all personnel returned to the Anastasia. He starts carefully, easing up the tension on the cables with as much help from the computer as he can manage. Two-thirds of the cables break, and the ship swings around on the others towards the ship. He tries to arrange it so that they release when the ship is swinging the right way, but he misses the call and it starts swinging in quickly. They cut loose, and Chiang Ho moves the Anastasia clear (barely!). The scoutship is now in a rapidly decaying orbit and will burn up in the atmosphere before long. There is no time to attach cables for another try, but Delaney orders a quick boarding party to recover some parts -- Helen has an air/raft ready to go, and Fostriades goes over with her. He pulls a couple of memory units from the ship, along with a missile. They return to the Anastasia and blow up the scoutship before it hits the atmosphere so that it will not cause any damage planetside.

Sir Bridgehead examines NoName (who has been pumped full of pain-killers by the suit) in the leisure of the sick bay. He is really in his element here. NoName will be out of action for 60 days, until 143-1117.

Chiang Ho is persuaded to postpone his limo appointment.

William Avon takes the missile apart, and finds it has no warhead. It was just a test to see what they could do, postulates Chiang Ho. The ad had been placed for just six hours or so when the attack started. So they're good too....

The Naval base wants a full report on the incident. Delaney tells them that it appeared to be a drone electronic ship, that it was carrying standard issue missiles, it was completely destroyed as it hit the atmosphere, and they were not able to hook up to its computers to extract any data; their assumption at the moment is that it was a pirate. The base says that they will step up their patrols. The Captain says there is no point in over-exciting the Naval base with their speculations. The Admiral's expensive binge probably didn't hurt their image, establishing them as being rich and able to afford those serious weapons on their merchant cruiser.

William Avon flies over to the TAS with Joe, carrying a dose of the truth drug cocktail. There is a message waiting at his box... "My! What a surprise!" he says. It says "Hi guys! I'd really like to talk to you. No doubt now you would really like to talk to me. How about dinner, 18:00 hours, Travellers Aid Society. Meet me in the bar. Jack." The message (on paper) is not dated.

The memory boards from the scoutship indicates that it had its designated target transmitted to it and was directed remotely. The boards themselves are custom-made, TL15, quite recently constructed by some good electronics people. The components are standard Imperial generic TL15. They could, for example, have built them from the spares on the Anastasia.

They decide who will be going to the meeting. Fostriades says that one point is that if they lost Delaney, Helen would be the next obvious person to put up as Captain -- the consensus appears to agree, but not without several pirate jokes. Fostriades suggests that perhaps Helen might benefit from some cosmetic surgery so that might be able to move around near naval bases a little more safely. She declines. Chiang Ho and Joe will reload the missile turrets while Mich monitors the sensor readouts and so on from his post in Engineering.

The Captain, Avon, Gregson, and of course NoName are staying on the ship, while Helen flies the group over to TAS on the pinnace; she will stay on the craft in case they need to leave in a hurry. When they arrive, they leave their weapons at the door (except Chiang Ho's cane) and head straight to the bar -- except for Sir Bridgehead, who goes to the hairdresser. Fostriades is wearing reflec under his Tukera uniform. At the door, as the group goes in, Helen buys membership in the Travellers' Aid Society for both herself and Threasis Fostriades (she has nothing else to do with her money!). Sir Bridgehead has taken a small suitcase with him; after his hair-styling session and manicure he changes into one of his good outfits.

They arrive at the bar around 17:00 (to give Sir Bridgehead time for his appointment). It is remarkably well-stocked -- ouzo and smoked seafood metze for Fostriades! It is basically a normal semicircular orbital station bar, like a fairly high-class passenger liner bar, with a large observation window that provides a view of a section of planet and up to the stars. They select a table that gives them a view of the Anastasia -- they are close enough that their communicators should be in range of the ship. They take a chair from the table to leave just seven chairs. Chiang Ho orders a bottle of brandy and some snacks. They have a good view of the entire bar and the door.

The clientele is mixed, as one would expect at a TAS bar. There's some young scouts; some ex-Navy people; a couple of groups of girls in late teens - early twenties, fending off the scouts; the usual sort of comfortable experienced traveller that one gets in TAS installations; and there's some merchant types.

Sir Bridgehead arrives, looking really good -- nice hair, good manicure, touch of make-up, good suit. He walks in looking like he owns the place. He orders a drink and sits down with the group. It is now about 17:50.

Chiang Ho is looking for a middle-aged gentleman who will walk in with a military-type walk; Fostriades is looking for someone older. Chiang Ho sees a chap walk in by himself, dressed in civilian clothes with a Naval cut, looks like a well-preserved 80, who then sits down at the bar. He looks around and orders a martini. Apparently he doesn't notice the group. They dither about who is going to approach him. Fostriades is of the opinion that they don't know this is Jack, but that Jack knows them, or at least their names.

Chiang Ho goes up to the bar (near the man), and tells the bartender that they are from the Anastasia and waiting for the last member of their party. He returns to the table. The man doesn't seem to have noticed them -- they deduce he must therefore be Jack!

A news program is on, but they are rather surprised to find it doesn't mention their incident with the scoutship. It does say something about a spectacular display of meteors, though.

At a little past 18:00, Fostriades goes up to the bar for his third ouzo, and says to the man "I hear a private spaceship was blowing up some kind of an automated missile launcher..."

"Damn Liberals again!" he replies, "Liberals all over the place. Ruined the Empire, if you ask me."

"What a most impressive statement. Would you mind if I bought you a drink?" He has a double martini.

They have a short conversation at the bar -- Fostriades hints at their mission and tries to pump the man for some sort of response. He, in return, mutters about raving Liberals and how in the good old days you could go out and beat up the fuzzy-wuzzies. He orders another martini.

Fostriades invites him to join their table. He is seated between Joe ("dressed funny -- must be a Liberal") and the Admiral ("looks like a nancy-boy"). He gives his name as Robert Walker. They talk for a while, but it becomes increasingly obvious that he is interested mainly in shooting "fuzzy-wuzzies" and stealing their beads -- they seem to have picked up the wrong geezer, as Fostriades puts it. Mr. Walker orders yet another martini. He used to command a destroyer, he says.

Chiang Ho goes up to the bar, and explains that they are waiting for an old-time navy type, but not this one. The bartender tells him that Mr. Walker came here about 6 months ago, and frequently hangs around looking for someone to buy him drinks. He arranges an "important phone call" for him in the lobby. Mr. Walker leaves.

Chiang Ho goes and sits alone at the bar. A group of girls starts giggling, and one of them comes over to him. "Hello, sir. Would you like to buy me a drink?" She looks about 17.

Chiang Ho suggests that there is someone who would like to meet her -- Admiral Sir Bridgehead. Sir Bridgehead gets a gleam in his eye and says, "This may be related to Jack. I have to check this out," and goes over to them.

Chiang Ho quietly questions the bartender about her -- he doesn't know who her father is, but she comes in here occasionally with other girls; the bartender also doesn't know anyone called Jack meeting Chiang Ho's description.

Sir Bridgehead invites the girl to their table for a drink. She doesn't seem sure what to drink -- the barman mixes a long tall drink for her. Chiang Ho says they're going to eat, and Sir Bridgehead invites her to join them. After glancing over at the other girls (who signal "Go on!"), she agrees.

Fostriades calls Helen to check everything's OK, and to tell the Captain what's going on.

They go in to the dining room, and Chiang Ho orders sushi ("Raw marine life? Yeah, we can do that."). Sir Bridgehead asks about local delicacies, but there aren't really any so he goes with sushi too; Mich gets leg of roast beast, with three vegetables of the day; Fostriades gets souvlaki; the girl orders a very large steak. Chiang Ho gets Avon to check the TAS box, but there's nothing new there; he takes a newspaper and looks for any classifieds that might address them.

Sir Bridgehead asks if she knows anyone called Jack -- she giggles. Is that her father's name, by any chance? She giggles a lot. Chiang Ho thinks she is completely flushed.

She asks if Sir Bridgehead does anything exciting -- he says he's a doctor, and that's exciting. "Has somebody been hurt recently?"

There was an accident with a vacc suit, they say -- a friend of Chiang Ho's was showing off. She questions them further -- Chiang Ho was piloting their ship at the time of the accident. The ship is the Anastasia, a merchant cruiser. She thinks that's boring, but Fostriades says it's not while you're fending off pirates.

Sir Bridgehead says he was an admiral in the Imperial Navy, but Mich says he was only a doctor, and being an engineer is much more important -- patching battle damage, fixing engines, and so on. She asks about the engines on their ship, and he says it can do jump-4, and pull 4 or 5 G.

Chiang Ho looks hard at her -- are her eyes as drunk as the rest of her (she looks drunk)?

Sir Bridgehead tries to assess her Social Standing and Intelligence -- she seems a well-dressed airhead. He asks if she's been here long, and she says she was born here. Her father is away a lot -- she doesn't give his name -- he was out on some scoutship somewhere, last she heard. It was a survey ship of some sort, the Aldrin, has Chiang Ho heard of it? (No, he hasn't.) He did a lot of things at the scout base here. His name? He was called Jack. Where is he now? Goodness knows, yonder somewhere. Fostriades picks up on Yonder, and she asks what he knows about it -- not much really, but possibly some trading prospects out that way he says.

The girl doesn't look drunk any more. The food arrives, and she attacks the steak with great relish.

"Are you sure he's out, because we were rather hoping to meet a man named Jack?" says Fostriades.

"I thought you might be," she says, "Actually, he's missing somewhere a long way away."

Chiang Ho suggests that they might take her somewhere on the way back to the ship, but she says this is fine and puts a box on the table. "We're secure here," she says.

Jack vanished a few years back. Fostriades finds that strange, because they thought that the incident that afternoon implied that he was in the area.

She compliments them on their job -- except for a couple of precautions that they should have taken. Chiang Ho says that her father must have told her a lot, and she says he's actually presumed dead and that she's been "Jack" for about five years.

Introductions are made. She has some information on them, but little on their chief gunner and nothing on their flight officer. She is introduced to David Brock and Joe (she even found something about the TDS people). They discuss their reason for being here.

Obviously, she says, they have neutralized the software or it would have blown up the scoutship before it had a chance to attack.

Fostriades says they're following up something they found on Spirelle -- the ship; Bill is dead.

They had assumed as much, she says.

Who's "they," Chiang Ho wants to know?

As regards the mission -- something is coming, it's still coming, we've still got a while, it's headed for Darrian.

The group volunteers to carry on the mission -- Sir Bridgehead thinks they should know more about it before they volunteer, but she says no; the group convince him to volunteer as well.

She tells them what she knows about the ship. At the time it was the peak of technology, but they could make some changes here to improve it. They don't know what Professor Farol put in the jump drives -- he hasn't made one since. Farol himself is now on Karma, which is a satellite of the Brod system in Tardele subsector of Yonder. The group asks if there's any point in looking for Jack, but apparently he was on a survey scout out at the far edge of Yonder, in a system when the enemy came in -- the ship was vaporized. He is assumed dead, but the ship that saw the battle jumped out instantly because they have yet to get a ship out of a system the enemy have taken. They haven't built any more ships like the Anastasia because the Professor assumed the ship had misjumped, and took his research in other directions.

As for the software, they had to destroy several ships with other versions of it. Version 3 almost started a war with one of their neighbors, and since then they have some better (safe) software. The software currently on the ship does not use the full capabilities of the computer, and here they can install some safe software that will work properly and safely.

The group ask her what they should do, but she doesn't have the latest information here any more. They have not captured one of the enemy ships -- she points out their lack of precautions with the scoutship if there had been, for example, 15 nuclear warheads on the ship that detonated while they were attaching the cables.

The information they have is that the enemy is probably lower-tech, but their ships are very strong and fairly powerful. They probably don't have better than jump-2, but there are some inconsistencies in that assumption (perhaps misjumps or carrying large fuel quantities). They're advancing slowly. They may send out some exploratory scouts first, but when they come in they do so with overwhelming force, and nothing comes out from then on. They tried sending in ships to the edge of systems to do a scan and jump out, but none have returned. They don't have many resources themselves, and in fact the Anastasia has a better jump than any ship they have -- they have no warships. She still does not tell them who this "we" are. The Imperial Navy cannot interfere there because the Zhodani would say that they were invading neutral space and send a fleet to attack them or perhaps even the Spinward Marches. She denies that they're a spy group, but more an extension of the Scout Service -- where the scouts stop, we take over, she says. Darani was assigned to them. They are fairly autonomous, but get their orders from high up.

The group starts to tell her about themselves. They understand a certain amount about the drives. There are two members of the crew who have expertise in espionage type work, says Sir Bridgehead, (she knows the Captain does, she says) and he adds that the other one is their Flight Officer. Sir Bridgehead is kicked hard under the table.

She says they will do a refit here (although not the jump drives, of course). They should then head for the Professor on Karma, then to their current center of operations at Karakus for up-to-date information. The group want to know who to contact on Karakus, and she says that when they get there it will be obvious. She shows them a chart of Yonder. They have very little information on the systems, although they have travel zones, gas giants, and political divisions. The only two stations they have in Yonder are at Karma and Karakus... their budget is not very large. Sir Bridgehead says that Archduke Norris has been informed of the recovery of the ship and the situation surrounding it.

Information about Yonder: The Hinay Protectorate will take Imperial Credits; the Lirian Conglomerate will not take Credits, but will take Protectorate Dollars; the Corona Foundation will take anyone's and convert it to anything else; Scorpionis will not take any but their own currency, and are rather insular and difficult to deal with. "Anyone will take bean mash," interjects Mich.

They invite Jack to the Anastasia -- she suggests taking the ship to their station on Lianne (the asteroid was just a relay station with LOTS of computing power).

Mich mentions that the jump drives run off a matter/anti-matter system, and Fostriades sighs at everyone's willingness to tell anyone anything.

When they refit the ship, they will replace a lot of the interior facilities, as the General Products stuff is rather crude. While that is going on, they will put the crew through the intense training facilities they have on their station.

Sir Bridgehead suggests that Jack might like to go with them on the mission, but she declines and says that the best she can do would be to provide an exploratory scout-type person to go with them.

They return to the pinnace, where Jack is introduced to Helen. "Don't I know you?" Jack asks, but Helen denies it. They go back to the Anastasia, where she meets the rest of the crew and the dogs. They take the ship to the small planet Lianne, where they take up orbit over the station, then transport Jack down to the planet.

They get a chance to ask some questions about the refit and so on. There will be a new sensor multiplexor to replace the box that they took out from the computer.

084-1117 : Karin / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

Everyone starts their intensive training period. In two weeks, they get one skill level in any skill (not characteristics). Joe, NoName, and Chiang Ho decline the training -- Chiang checks everyone when they come back to see if there have been any personality changes, or anything like that.