(7) Seven

132-1117 to 174-1117

132-1117 : Hinay / Urnian / Yonder

The Anastasia comes out of jump at 22:07 at Hinay, a trinary star system. They are greeted by the usual system broadcasts -- the system parameters, a welcome to the capital of the Protectorate, their assigned traffic lane, and so on.

During the jump, the test of the fuel bladders is mostly successful, but as a result they make a few changes -- there was a small gas leak into one of the staterooms for a short while. They also installed the EMS Jammer while in jump.

133-1117 : Hinay / Urnian / Yonder

They are granted permission to refuel at the large gas giant about which Hinay itself orbits, arriving at 06:55. After refueling, it only takes an hour to get to orbit around Hinay itself. They want to land here so they can check the outside of the hull. Chiang Ho settles the matter by landing too fast, and this damages some of the repairs to the weapons -- now they definitely have to work on things here.

The temperature on Hinay is -80F at temperate latitudes, but is rather warmer here at the equator. The place is cold, but livable. Gravity is 1.13. Law level is 8, TL-13, government is an Impersonal Bureaucracy. They will take Imperial Credits here, being the capital, but the exchange rate is rather unfavorable for the average tourist. The place does not seem unpleasant, so staying a week to get better trade deals should not be a hardship. Unusually for such a planet so far out, there is a Travellers Aid Society building here (where they take Imperial Credits and will exchange at the proper rate).

Mich contacts the starport for the parts and stuff he requires. It will take 2 days and 100 kCr ($180,000 actually) to complete the gunnery repairs. Mich adds a skull-and-crossbones with a line through it to the hull for each pirate they have destroyed. They buy the 66 missiles they need to replenish their stores. They also buy a translation chip for the local Protectorate language for $500.

Sir Bridgehead changes 100 kCr with Fostriades for $180,000; Chiang Ho also changes 100 kCr. Some of the crew visit the TAS. It has a more colonial atmosphere than most of the TAS buildings they have visited, and is more consciously upper-class. There is a good selection of bars and restaurants, and Sir Bridgehead (with Helen) is "invited" to the more exclusive areas -- the others are not.

It's a fairly pleasant place. The usual employment adverts are mostly from local companies, but there are some freelance traders looking for crews, and so on. There are also the usual Positions Wanted adverts, a lot of which are seeking working passage to the Imperium. Sir Bridgehead suggests filling out the crew here, but the consensus is that this is not quite the right place for it.

Sir Bridgehead and Helen go to the suggested restaurant for dinner. Sir Bridgehead, as usual, asks about the medical facilities -- the TAS has good Imperial facilities, and of course there are always the native hospitals. He asks if they have much contact with the Imperium here, and the reply is that they ARE the Imperium here. What sort of business is conducted here to bring such fine people here? "Most of us here, sir, are not in business, and we don't inquire as to the lifestyles of our members, sir," says the waiter.

There are no actual Imperial ships here, although there are some free traders from that area. Delaney wants to contact the local military to ask about unusual ships, and so on. The Customs and Trade Regulation organization is the suitable body here, and he does manage to contact them. There is not much pirate activity within the Protectorate, but there is quite a lot between the Protectorate and its neighbors, including the Imperium. There are, for example, not many ships that can make it from the Imperium to the Protectorate in one jump, and it is in the less regulated planets in between that most of the piracy takes place. There is no record of any particularly interesting unidentified ships. In general the impression is that the Protectorate has a pretty well established trade and passenger system. Interstellar commerce is well respected, advanced, and encouraged. Customs and trade authorities assist rather than hinder the progress of trade.

Fostriades tries to make some contacts here -- there's a fairly pleasant merchants' bar, but almost all the trade is internal Protectorate, and what does come in from the Imperium is mostly by independent free traders -- there is no scheduled Imperium trade. He looks for crew prospects, but no-one seems really outstanding. He tries to seek out dog people, but has no luck (export of livestock is discouraged).

Chiang Ho and Joe look for local martial arts schools, karate clubs, and so on, but can't find any. Weapons, violence, and so on are actively discouraged.

After Mich finishes the work on the repairs, he proceeds to check the rest of the ship's systems. He finds a few simple things that need fixing, and has everything sorted out within the week.

The planet in general is fairly boring.

135-1117 : Hinay / Urnian / Yonder

During their stay on Hinay, NoName becomes available for duty again. (Joe and NoName, by the way, have Instruction level 4.)  NoName suggests a party to celebrate his return, and the bean mash is handed out with great abandon with the usual results. Even Chiang Ho's rottweiler drinks some, gives everyone a funny look, then leaves.

Sir Bridgehead announces what he is doing with the rabbits -- he's trying to see if he can get them to make more rabbits. He's been putting his theories through the computer and just has a few more details to work out. All his rabbits are going to help them fulfill the mission. He has not made any new rabbits yet -- Helen suggests it would help if he put them in the same cage; Chiang Ho falls off his chair. Sir Bridgehead says it will revolutionize their understanding when this is discovered. Helen suggests that Sir Bridgehead ask that plant what it thinks, and it (Mich) wiggles its leaves and says it works for plants by fusion -- fusion plants! Fostriades leaves at this point, taking his dogs with their pretty butterfly wings. Chiang Ho gives Sir Bridgehead some raw beans and tells him to make more beans. Sir Bridgehead says he doesn't care about beans -- he really cares about people, because after he figures out how to do it with rabbits, he can do it with people -- more crewmembers! Chiang Ho asks if Helen might have something to do with ... "Making beans?" Mich suggests. Yes, that's right, beans. What does the Captain do, anyway? Sir Bridgehead doesn't want to use the Captain to make more people. The conversation degenerates further, and the computer is asked for rabbit recipes. Sir Bridgehead wants to try putting them in the same cage now, but when Chiang Ho suggests darkening the room and playing soft music Sir Bridgehead exclaims that he has to do the work, because the rabbits don't know what they're doing. He collapses on the floor, dissolving in laughter, then studies the horns on Helen while she contemplates the grapes in his beard. Sir Bridgehead reiterates that what he wants is more people, so that when they invade they will have a whole ship of new people. He leaves for a nap.

Afterwards, Sir Bridgehead can't remember what he said at the party, but he can of course review the tape, which as usual Avon has produced!

140-1117 : Hinay / Urnian / Yonder

The Anastasia leaves Hinay for Brod at 12:00. At 16:06 they enter jump.

147-1117 : Brod / Tardele / Yonder

At 16:06 the Anastasia emerges from jump at Brod / Tardele. It is a binary system, with a class C starport, mainworld in orbit 5. They go straight in to complete their trading, enter orbit at 18:59 and land at 19:13.

Brod is size 5, standard atmosphere but tainted, requiring a filter mask. The day is 29.6 hours, gravity 0.6, temperature 47 which is rather on the warm side. The starport is on the pole. Brod is an independent planet not really near any political group, but uses Protectorate dollars as currency.

They look up Benshani Farol in the phone book, but he's not listed. At the universities, there's a record of him doing a talk a couple of years back, and there's a starport PO Box address listed. The Computer Operator checks the email nets, particularly those involving warp drive technology. It seems there's some regular technical correspondence through a space relay network to a planet around the secondary star. They send a message saying "Greetings from the Kinunir."

About 20 seconds later they get a request to hook up through the space relay net. There is quite some time lag, as the other end is a planet of a gas giant around the Secondary star which itself is in orbit 11, so they just repeat the message with their return address, adding "Jack says Hello." The reply is a flight plan leading to the third satellite of the second planet of the Secondary.

They store the 32 tons of unsold cargo for $500 per week (paying in advance for two weeks). All gas giants are around the Secondary; they plan to refuel on the way out. They take on life-support supplies while the cargo is being unloaded.

148-1117 : Brod / Tardele / Yonder

At 07:20 the loading and unloading is complete, so they leave. They go into orbit around Karma's gas giant at 20:50, and check in with the people they are to contact calling themselves "the merchant cruiser Anastasia, formerly the Kinunir." Chiang Ho makes a perfect refueling run, which he completes at 23:50. They then head for Karma.

149-1117 : Brod / Tardele / Yonder

It takes half an hour to get from the gas giant to Karma, where they land at the spaceport just after midnight.

Karma is a large planet, has a breathable dense atmosphere, gravity 0.96g, and is a wet world. It is -9 temperature at temperate latitudes -- a really comfortable planet for once! Karma orbits the gas giant once every 10.5 days and the local day is 542 hours, so the planet is working on Imperial time.

They rest and wait until morning, checking in at 8:30. "Good morning," comes the reply, "This is the Imperial FarSpace Station on Karma. How can we help you?"

"We are looking for a Professor Farol. We have some equipment of his on this ship which we think he might be interested in seeing."

"Yeah, he's out on a fishing trip at the moment. He's due back in a day or two."

"I knew it!" Fostriades exclaims. "Can you communicate with him?"

"He does not like to be disturbed when he's fishing."

"He lost this ship 30 years ago."

"Yes, we've looked it up on our records. We were rather surprised to find it. Does this mean that something actually works?"

"A great deal actually works," replies Fostriades, "We think he would be sufficiently interested to justify interrupting the fishing trip."

"The catch is we can't contact him ... we don't know where he is."

They offer to find him, but it is suggested that he would not appreciate it no matter what the reason. "How old is she?" says Chiang Ho, "Oh, never mind. May we come in?"

"Certainly, come on in. Are you members of the Service, or are you guests?"

"It'll be easier to explain in person."

They discuss who to leave on board -- Chiang Ho suggests Helen and Linda, as they have a full complement of skills! The Captain also remains on board. Fostriades takes his dogs over with him.

They go to the reception building in the spaceport village. There is an insignia over the building -- an Imperial starburst with an idealized ship heading away from it towards the viewer. It is not a symbol they know.

Inside is a person with his feet up on a desk. He greets them. Introductions are performed -- he is Walter Rickenbacker, Lieutenant, Imperial FarSpace Service. He expects Professor Farol to call sometime that night, maybe. Chiang Ho asks about the IFSS, and Lt. Rickenbacker replies that they just keep an eye out here ... sort of. They aren't under any branch of service as such. Chiang Ho asks if he knows Jack -- he doesn't personally but only by reputation (the daughter, anyway). They still haven't heard anything about Jack the Elder -- but this research station is off the beaten track and so may not have been told.

Mich says they just stopped by because it's been 30 years since the engines they are running have been overhauled. He goes into details about the matter phase change system, but the Lieutenant looks confused and suggests they wait for the Professor.

Chiang Ho asks what has been happening about the visitors. Rickenbacker pretends not to know at first, but when they start mentioning where Jack (the Elder) was lost, he opens up a bit. Things are apparently getting worse -- they heard there was a fuss going on at the edge of Scorpionis -- the government is collapsing and the whole infrastructure is breaking down, including the armed forces. It's always been held together with a very strict military system and oppression, and with the pressures of things breaking in it's starting to collapse in the middle. That's the latest they have heard -- it's hard to get any news out, as Scorpionis is not exactly free with their press.

While they're waiting for the Doc, perhaps they have some training tapes? They have a few things, but not a lot of interest -- Survival, Hunting, Fishing, Advanced Physics, Jump Drive Technology -- although if the ship really works then those training tapes may not reflect current thinking.

They ask for a good local restaurant, cost not a factor. Where would Rickenbacker choose to eat? A luxury liner headed back to the Imperium would be real nice ... but if he had to stay here, there's not a lot, as this is just a village. "Billy Bob's Beast and Crustaceans" is good. He is invited back to the Anastasia's lounge for home brew after he comes off duty (8:00 that night) -- he will call them when he's ready. He asks what they are doing out here, and Chiang Ho replies "to get a service." Fostriades says "to make money." Also Jack said if they came out here it could be interesting. The IFSS has trade information on most of the planets in the political units, but not for the independents -- they will transfer what they have to the Anastasia.

Rickenbacker says he has heard that Scorpionis had one major victory (or claims to) -- Chiang Ho thinks that's at least encouraging, but the Lieutenant says they committed a large fleet, had that one major victory, and then everything collapsed, which has revised their estimate somewhat. They had thought they were going to hold out for ten years or so, whereas with the collapse that will of course be a lot quicker, even though the visitors have a history of entrenching to a certain extent. The IFSS is still working on a new projection. Karakus, of course, has the latest information -- they're trying to extract some sort of military information from the little that's coming through, but they still need some military ships to do something with. What is their ship like, anyway?

Comfortable, they reply. They mention their tangle with pirates in Scothe -- a planetary defense ship and a couple of Close Escorts. He wonders how they'd do against four or five thousand-tonners? They say they were only hit once in the pirate battle. Rickenbacker ventures the opinion that they have some real combat capability. Are they heading to Karakus from here? Possibly, depending on trade runs -- they may be convinced to go that way.

They look at the sector map. Brod is at least a Jump-3 away from anywhere. One of the reasons the station is here is that they are fairly certain that the visitors only have Jump-2; Karakus, on the other hand, is an absolutely critical point.

At this point, Sir Bridgehead asks what the Professor has been up to in the past however-many years. Rickenbacker says he's been working on some sort of experiments, but doesn't know anything about them. Sir Bridgehead also presses him for the latest information on the situation in Scorpionis. Now, the mysterious invaders have actually been attacking out Scorpionis way, right?

Well, yes. We do actually have some information from one of our people who was out that way a while back, and it looks like things are a mess out there. The invaders have not attacked any further in than Scorpionis, based on the latest information, but what the IFSS reckon is that Scorpionis is facing an internal collapse of the government and military. Scorpionis relies on tight control and oppression of the population, and with the military problems and stress of the invaders coming in everything's beginning to fall apart. The IFSS thinks they will fall by the end of the year. The latest projection is not conclusive, as there isn't nearly enough information yet, but what it shows is the invaders striking straight through, hitting Lirian in about 1119, and Darrian in about 1125. Sir Bridgehead says this doesn't sound like the invaders are following their usual pattern of consolidation and that it's a serious speed-up from any other estimate they've seen, but Rickenbacker points out that this is the best they can do from their limited information.

The Lieutenant starts to thaw out, and offers to find some more information on the computer. This is a personal account from one of their agents, who eventually reached Karakus (where the report was filed) on 122-1117 (25 days ago), and the information actually arrived here yesterday. He was in Scorpionis when everything started falling apart. Apparently his first report on the file is on 044-1117 (when they had just captured the Anastasia and were interviewing the computer officer!), and that's when he convinced the government that there was a threat coming in.

Rickenbacker refuses to give them an actual copy of the report, because it contains names which could endanger lives. He does, however, give them the essence of it:

On 044-1117 the agent (IFSS Captain William Rufus) was on Scorpiu, the capital of Scorpionis. He had been there for a while working hard to get an audience with the government. He finally found his way up through the bureaucracy and talked to the government through a teletype interface -- he never actually saw any of the rulers -- there was a time lag on the conversation, but it may have been an artificially introduced one. He convinced them of the threat, and a lot of fleet movement orders were issued that day. A defensive stand would be made at Dulu, which is the only system which is accessible by Jump-2 from the next sector. Some of the outlying fleets were recalled to the capital, while three fleets (from Faranu, Staru, and Darthlaru) were moved in to Dulu to reinforce the fleet already there. William Rufus decided to stay on Scorpionis and monitor things through his source in the state Press.

On 061-1117, two fleets arrived at the capital. Control of the population of Scorpionis is maintained through the Navy and the state Press, so the Press agency has free access to most information and acts as a KGB, controlling the Ministry of Truth. [Sir Bridgehead is impressed at the speed with which the fleets mobilized. It seems plausible that other fleets arrived at Dulu about the same time.]

On 076-1117, a message came in from Staru saying that they had lost contact with Faranu, and since their military commander was at Dulu with the fleet, they didn't have anyone authorized to make serious command decisions. [This confirms that the Staru fleet did in fact leave for Dulu.] One of the fleets from Scorpiu was dispatched to Staru to take command there, and to send some ships to investigate Faranu. [Scorpionis has a small number of Jump-4 couriers, but the fleets have Jump-2.]

On 077-1117, contact was lost with Staru. [The fleet that left the day before is unknowingly heading into a system where contact has been lost. Sir Bridgehead and Fostriades think this is scary -- they are moving very quickly. Rickenbacker is not sure whether he should reveal all the information he has to them, but Fostriades convinces him they're acting under direct authorization from the Emperor himself.] Some really secret information came from the Press agency -- as soon as contact was lost with Staru, preparations were made to relocate the central government from Scorpiu to Joloch (which is not part of Scorpionis). The actual leaders (the small ruling class) are planning a personal escape somewhere unknown. Joloch will be annexed by the crack troops of the fleets at the capital. Basically they have given up on most of Scorpionis, and are now planning a massive military stand at Jusk. Civilian populations will not be told of the invasion and will be abandoned to their own devices. The Ambassador to the Corona Foundation is to announce the new allegiance of Joloch on the intended date. At this point William Rufus decided to prepare to leave, but stayed around for a while to see if he could intercept any more messages -- the relocation will make his agent unavailable. The elite Scorpiu fleet left the system that day.

On 078-1117, one fleet arrived and another jumped out. The one arriving is presumably the one from Sting.

On 079-1117, a message arrived reporting a major battle at Dulu. The battle started on 069-1117 and finished on 072-1117, ending with victory for the Scorpionis fleet. The incoming fleets were destroyed, but the defenders suffered heavy losses so one of the fleets was disbanded and the remnants transferred to another fleet. Most of the fleets are under half strength. It is described as a major victory against the alien invaders; the message specifically says "alien," implying they are not human. Most of the enemy ships were fairly small, around the 1000 ton range, whereas the capital ships were in the 30-50,000 ton range. [Fostriades thinks this is a decoy consisting of expendable "fireships," while the main fleets bypassed through the system to attack the undefended systems beyond.] The invaders used mostly missile weaponry, including nuclear missiles. They apparently fight with ferocity and cunning, frequently using tricks where apparently destroyed ships were repaired, and sat quietly until a large ship came within range whereupon they launched a suicide attack. [Fostriades wonders how Jack could have found this out early enough to have warned them.] The invaders always inflict substantial losses and don't normally try to break for cover. [Fostriades wonders about the fuel sources at Dulu -- there are four gas giants; both stars in the system had gas giants. There is no information on the disposition of the four defending fleets before the attack.] The invasion fleet came out over several days, timed as if the entire fleet had gone into jump within half an hour. This spread in the concentration of forces was enough to enable the defenders to defeat them. It seems to be that Scorpionis commanders don't send information unless they know it's true -- they wait until something's resolved before sending it. [Big Mistake! the consensus is.] The Scorpionis fleets are very well adapted to putting down local unrest, which they do on a frequent semi-independent basis. There is no indication that any of the invaders survived the battle, and there is no information in the report to indicate what these aliens looked like.

When the news of this victory came in to Scorpiu, the decision was taken (by the highly paranoid rulers) to abandon most of their systems right away. The government is to relocate to Joloch with one of the fleets. Orders were also sent out to all the systems with which they still had contact for the Press agency to take control and to destroy any technology greater than Jump-2. The remaining forces at Dulu are ordered to form two fleets; one is to go to Jusk via Darthlaru and Federu, the other to Staru to reclaim the system, depending on what they find. The spaceport at Dulu is to be disabled along with all space vehicles and advanced technology. When the fleet reaches Staru, it is to take what forces remain and jump to Jusk, leaving Staru likewise useless and destroying all crops on what is a major agricultural producer for Scorpionis.

At this point, William Rufus left Scorpiu and jumped for Federu.

On 086-1117, he arrived at Federu, leaving there on 088-1117 towards Lorkin. On that latter date, one fleet arrived at Federu and one left.

The ship arrived at Lorkin on 095-1117. When it got there, it was surprised to find an unmarked battle fleet (TL-13 or 14), which totally ignored them, so they went in to refuel. [Fostriades thinks Scorpionis will take out Lorkin for the invaders, and actually make a stand in Corona. They will make a mess of Corona, then the invaders will be able to walk right through. Sir Bridgehead disagrees that the unmarked fleet is from Scorpionis]. They intercepted some messages which indicated that there is a daily courier going out somewhere. Lorkin is a planet of 200 people, which according to the FarSpace Service is a member of the Corona Foundation but has a strong resistance movement. It has now suddenly acquired a major battle fleet, and there seem to be some military exercises on the planet's surface as well. There are still normal communications with the Foundation. [Rickenbacker has some problems with the computer at this point, and Sir Bridgehead helps him answer his question about the Corona Foundation's military capabilities. They have a military force, but they are not a major power. They don't have to suppress their population, you see, and only have a couple of fleets.]

He jumped for Purr on 097-1117, arriving on 104-1117, leaving for Garstez on 106-1117, arriving on 113-1117, then jumped on 115-1117 for Karakus, arriving there on 122-1117 which is when he filed his report.

The IFSS projection of that date indicates an internal collapse of government and military in Scorpionis, and their total defeat by the end of the year. A rapid strike will then push through to Lirian by 1119, and on to Darrian in 1125.

The projected route of the Anastasia should keep them out of any dangerous areas at least until they reach Karakus, where they can get a more recent update. Rickenbacker suggest that they could use some military expertise on Karakus, and they could take the Captain to Karakus on the next ship to get an update while the Anastasia is being refitted. It will take at least a month to get the ship refitted here, so even accounting for the relative slowness of the Donosev class Survey Scouts that the IFSS uses, he should still have some useful time there. Fostriades suggests they would probably need some more crew in that case, even though they will have enough to run the ship without him.

Fostriades suggests a plan involving a full refuel at Dorfle (avoiding the local nuclear war), and a quick jump in to possibly hostile territory and right back out.

Sir Bridgehead asks about other facilities on the Karma FarSpace Station. Do they have any medical expertise? The Lieutenant seems to have decided they are totally trustworthy by now, and is freely forthcoming with information. Yes, they do have a biological warfare department, but not much else along biology lines. Basically they're a hostile environment exploratory research station. They're trying to engineer ships which are capable of working in a hostile environment and back out again.

On discovering that Sir Bridgehead is working on rabbits, Rickenbacker wants to impress on him that he should NOT let any of them escape, or it could really upset the ecosystem here. The vegetation is fairly "soft" and not well protected against herbivores.

That evening, the engineers discuss adding an EM-Mask, with its own fuel cell power supply fitted in a large block of staterooms. This would, of course, reduce their ability to carry both marines and cargo. Unfortunately, this would cost 135MCr ... they want to convince the IFSS at Karakus that it would be worth their while to give them one. It would fit in one section of the marine barracks, plus a part of one of the small cargo sections. This is really close to engineering, so the power cabling should not be difficult. It would, of course, be necessary to have full starport facilities to make the changes, but that should be available at Karakus. Mich suggests perhaps they should fit a black globe? It takes four times the money for a quarter of the space... He is not taken seriously. It is also possible that they could upgrade their sensors at Karakus.

They discuss the air replenishment equipment. If the air is not breathable because of contaminants, Sir Bridghead could probably work out something to make them immune to it, providing he knows what the contaminant is. That new equipment that cancels out specific things would make it possible to do that.

The progress of the Visitors is discussed. Fostriades is of the opinion that the sequence of events around Dulu and Faranu indicates that they used Jump-3, even if only by carrying extra fuel or by fuel caches in deep space.

Fostriades has planned a good trade route to Karakus through Lerruy, Ferle, and Jake, that also is well off the path of the Visitors.

They go to eat at Billy Bob's. It's not bad, cheap beer, lots of cheap fresh food, no objections to dogs in the place (they eat some beast -- the crustacea have very tough shells). After dinner they head back to the ship.

At 20:00, the Lieutenant comes off duty and goes to the Anastasia. Chiang Ho wants to know if there are any pretty women here, and the Lieutenant says they're on duty, and the research people are no fun anyway. The people who come in on the mail service run, on the other hand, are fun guys when they're in town. Linus comes and takes his usual one sample of bean mash, then stalks out. Sir Bridgehead passes out early. The Lieutenant suggests that Billy Bob might like this stuff, and offers to try to grow some of the beans they have -- Chiang Ho gives him a kilo. He tries some coffee. The station eats breakfast at Billy Bob's, so why don't they substitute it some day (perhaps on 151-1117)? Rickenbacker spends the night on the Anastasia, rather than walk back in this cold weather.

150-1117 : Brod / Tardele / Yonder

It is a mixture of rain and snow. Chiang Ho and Mich deliver some coffee to Billy Bob for use the next morning. There is still no sign of the Professor, which worries them a bit. Some of the ground crew work on setting up all the computer and power links and so on for the extended stay of the Anastasia.

While they are waiting, Fostriades and Mich start going through the records and research papers of the Professor's work at around the time this ship was built. He was working on a lot of matter phase change stuff at that point, but there are notes later on questioning the practicality of the system, and whether it will be stable -- there are conflicting papers and results from his assistants indicating that maybe on occasion the anti-matter stays around too long and builds up enough to cause drastic problems. About a year or so after the ship was produced, research along those lines stopped, and the Professor backtracked to some of his previous work. They get a full set of papers and start analyzing them with the aid of the computer.

151-1117 : Brod / Tardele / Yonder

The weather is much the same, some rain, some snow. In the morning (around 9:30, when the station wakes up), Lt. Rickenbacker calls them and says that the Professor checked in last night, and he is interested and will arrive tomorrow some time -- he's a long way away right now.

Chiang Ho is interested in buying beast skins -- the beast is heavy-furred, and blends in with the soft fleshy evergreen plants, and so is mottled brown (bear-sized). Fostriades gets one fur free when Chiang Ho buys two tons for 500Cr total.

152-1117 : Brod / Tardele / Yonder

At 08:30, Rickenbacker calls and says they've just had a new message in from Karakus. On 102-1117 at Corona, the Scorpionis ambassador announced that Joloch has been accepted for membership in Scorpionis, and it has requested that a major fleet be stationed there to discourage intervention by "outside forces," and that the elite troops of the Scorpiu fleet have been dispatched to protect them from any interference by outside forces such as any organization that might happen to exist a couple of jumps away. The tone is of thinly veiled threats to the Corona Foundation. The ambassador describes the major victory over the invaders at Dulu, and announces naval and planetary exercises at Jusk involving five fleets. According to the originator of the news, that was intended to impress the Foundation by having these five fleets just a couple of jumps away from them, but the impression that got through to the Corona diplomats was that Scorpionis was seriously concerned and had moved all these fleets back because they'd given up on everything further out. The ambassador also stated that in honor of its new position as a member of Scorpionis, all central government functions have been temporarily relocated to Joloch.

The new IFSS projection now shows a total commitment by Scorpionis to a defensive operation at Jusk, but on the basis of their past record they will just sit there and wait until someone invades, so the Invaders will take over the rest of Scorpionis, get the resource base established, and then come hammering through. They expect the invaders to do their usual consolidation, and to hit Joloch sometime in 1120, then straight through Hurnarey within 3 months of the original attack, and to conquer the Corona Foundation with the capture of Csarfar shortly thereafter. They should then consolidate again until 1122, pushing through again to conquer Lirian in 1125, and to Darrian in 1129 (four years later than the previous projection).

That news came in early with the mail-ship, which sent down a scout-type GCarrier. The ship will be returning to Karakus shortly if anyone wants to take a ride back on it. It will probably leave in a day or two, after the crew have had a few days R&R.

Fostriades and Mich spend a lot of time studying the papers.

At 19:30, they are hailed from the station saying he's on his way over, he'll be there in two minutes, he'll be really irritated if the door isn't open.

Fostriades and Mich meet him at the ramp. A man (aged about 80 with Darrian features) walks in, dressed in outdoor heavy-weather gear, a large heavy parka and heavy boots. He walks straight up the ramp, looks around him, and heads to Engineering with Mich and Fostriades. Chiang Ho offers him a mug of coffee from a tray on the way, and he chugs it on his way.

Professor Farol is rather astonished to see the jump drive as it was installed -- Alice somebody said it wouldn't work years ago, apparently. They can't take back her Ph.D., but... He asks them if they know how it works, and Mich satisfies him that they have a fair grasp of the concepts. It seems that Farol can't remember too much about it, but keeps being amazed that it works. According to their later research, it should have blown up on the third jump!

They reply that it was the computer and security system that caused the ship to be lost, not the drives. He asks for something to drink, and Mich offers him some bean mash, which he likes. The three engineers sit down to work out how the drive works, or rather why it worked. They start by taking apart a few panels, then Farol tells the "waiter" Chiang Ho to call the base and send ALL his students over here NOW! Chiang Ho arranges it. The engineers start pulling things apart with reference to the manuals, papers, and work Mich and Fostriades have done. The research students turn up a few at a time. The whole refit procedures are recorded for future reference.

Now that they've got through some of the superficial stuff, the Professor suggests that his students start on the maintenance of all the more conventional parts of the system, while the three of them go off and figure out what went wrong and why it works.

155-1117 : Brod / Tardele / Yonder

Fostriades sells the remaining cargo. The Professor starts reminiscing about his past students, but is talked back into the work.

Captain Delaney leaves Karma on the Althea, bound for Karakus.

156-1117 : Brod / Tardele / Yonder

The Althea jumps on its route towards Karakus.

161-1117 : Brod / Tardele / Yonder

The Professor notices that Alice's results were far too perfect. Now that they have data on the operation of the actual jump drive, it seems like the experimental data may have been fitted to the curve. He suggests throwing all her work out, and starting from just his work and the engineers' notes. They agree now that it works!

They are now much more optimistic as they start to follow up on their information to come up with a real explanation of how it works, and then they can work out how to do the maintenance (which it almost certainly needs by now).

Chiang Ho is told by the Lieutenant that they've managed to get some of the beans to germinate, but don't broadcast it because the "project" is hidden away somewhere where it shouldn't really be. A couple of the growing plants are brought on board.

165-1117 : Brod / Tardele / Yonder

Work finishes on the regular components of the drives.

172-1117 : Brod / Tardele / Yonder

More news arrives at Karma from Karakus. At Corona, on 112-1117, a J-4 courier arrived from the Peoples Revolutionary Government of Stevvin seeking recognition and support from the Corona Foundation. According to them, what happened was that on 086-1117, orders arrived from Scorpiu for the Press agency to take control and to destroy any technology greater than Jump-2, and the workers took over instead. On the ship's way here, they confirmed that Federu was still OK -- the Scorpionis government came through there with a fleet, and there have been a lot of other fleet movements through there recently. Stevvin has declared independence and so far has got away with it.

There is also a new IFSS projection (for what it's worth, adds Rickenbacker)! Since Stevvin and Federu still exist, it looks like the invaders have bypassed the main body of Scorpionis and are prepared to fight a multi-year battle along the Jump-2 axis from Dulu to Joloch. It is assumed they already hold Dulu and Staru. The abandonment of the resource base of Scorpionis will cause a rapid deterioration of their military capabilities, resulting in the fall of Joloch fairly soon and Hurnarey in a couple of years. It does push the dates of the last projection back a year or so. The IFSS on Karakus has sent a message to the Corona Foundation suggesting they seek an alliance with Scorpionis to supply them, while Scorpionis defends them both.

174-1117 : Brod / Tardele / Yonder

Once they have determined how it works, Mich and Fostriades manage to work out what is necessary to refit the jump drive, and show the Professor how to do it as they go.