(10) Ten

294-1117 to 316-1117

294-1117 : Staru / Scorpio / Yonder

The Anastasia comes out of jump eight days travel ahead of the Secondary, in its orbit, with the EMMask running. They spend several hours performing careful passive scans. They reveal: a few standard civilian beacons ("Welcome to Staru of Scorpionis, please transmit your cargo manifest, proceed to the starport, transmit the citizenship of all your passengers," etc.); no transmissions from the Secondary, but there are some very faint radio emissions (tactical communications from on-planet, perhaps?) from the gas giant in orbit 2 of the Primary.

Chiang Ho then focuses the scan on the Secondary's gas giant, and picks up a small amount of fusion power generation from that area, consistent with a spaceship. Chiang Ho suggests they blast in for a couple of hours to get them moving closer, and then make a fast pass with most of the power systems off.

With some fantastic luck they later get some better definition of the radio emissions. There seem to be two distinct sets of frequencies, shifting and encrypted as would be expected for combat communicators. Vana recognizes one of the sets as Scorpionis transmissions, but not the other. The computer starts work on breaking the encryption, but they don't expect anything for several days. The entire sensor input is being saved as much as possible.

295-1117 : Staru / Scorpio / Yonder

Given that there are ships in this system and no-one has jumped out, they bring up the possibility of Jump Dampers being used in the system, although that is unlikely given the likely tech level.

The source of the transmissions is discussed. Avon suggests that they might be Scorpionis people cooperating with the enemy. It is also postulated that there might be ground forces stranded on the planet.

Chiang Ho suggests that their pass should be to ID the ship they have located at the Secondary gas giant.

Chiang Ho starts the Anastasia powering into a tangent above the solar plane of the secondary gas giant.

299-1117 : Staru / Scorpio / Yonder

They power off all systems except BLS, EMMask, sensors and computers. Several people get bounced about a bit as the grav plates are turned off, including Jeffry Peterson who is hurt in the missile storage area -- Sir Bridgehead dashes into action. The marines suit up in battle dress for the duration. Fostriades runs into problems coping with zero-G; Lia helps him from his room to the bridge, where he straps down at the engineering station. Lia is then helped up to the marine/vehicle deck, where she straps herself down. The air up there is a little "blue" -- Varda appears to have been bruised a little, and educates Chiang Ho (who helped Lia up there) with some new swear words. Sir Bridgehead will help bring food to those who are having problems with the environment.

Further work with the sensors indicate that there is more than one ship in the area of that gas giant.

300-1117 : Staru / Scorpio / Yonder

Both William Avon and Jenny Roberts are injured in zero-G accidents.

301-1117 : Staru / Scorpio / Yonder

The sensors pick up quite a few power sources in this area, some on planet. Most of those are actually from the world in orbit 2 of the Secondary, which should have recoverable air in the frost. There are signals from on planet and in orbit.

They also pick up one ship in orbit around the gas giant, probably 2-4kt, generating around 10,000Mw. The only Visitor ship the numbers suggest is a Tube-S, but it is more likely to be a 3kt Scorpionis destroyer.

The Anastasia cruises on past.

302-1117 : Staru / Scorpio / Yonder

They turn a little (0.1) gravity back on so that no-one else gets hurt. Avon has been working hard on moving between his cabin and the gunnery station during the zero-G period, rigging up a rope to follow between the two.

The main problem with the radio emissions from the region of P3 is that they are just getting pieces of several simultaneous transmissions, nothing they can really grab hold of to decrypt.

303-1117 : Staru / Scorpio / Yonder

All the Anastasia's systems are switched back on. They run a final set of scans. Chiang Ho runs a careful scan of P4 but finds nothing there. They then jump back to Jusk.

311-1117 : Jusk / Scorpio / Yonder

The Anastasia arrives at Jusk, landing at 15:54. They are met by a full honor guard again, and this time the crew have their uniforms ready by the time they land. Several of the crew, including Chiang Ho and Kara, are taken to meet with Admiral Lhule and Rufus as last time.

Chiang Ho summarizes the scans: they recorded about 20 ships (a guess!) around the second world of the Secondary star, and around the gas giant in the third orbit is a ship which seems to match one of their destroyers. Sir Bridgehead fishes for military details, but Admiral Lhule merely admits it is indeed consistent with one of their destroyers. They also recorded a lot of coded transmissions from the P3 orbit on Scorpionis bands of which they have some samples; they are not sure whether it is captured ships or their people still operating. None of these were particularly clear, but on their next trip they could get a lot closer. The Anastasia did not seem to have been noticed during the mission. Chiang Ho suggests that they could use some help by getting some keys to the codes.

For the next run, Chiang Ho suggests that they should launch some scanner/relay probes, and it is indicated that such equipment could be arranged. It is noted that there are both "friendly" and unknown transmissions from P3, and that some of the regular civilian beacons are still operating.

Chiang Ho arranges free catering for the party via one of the waiters at the reception (but does pass out a few Imperial credits).

So what have they actually found out? The crew review the results of their mission. There are maybe (Chiang Ho's guess) 20 ships around S2, and one ship actually in orbit around S3, which doesn't really fit any Visitor ship considering the power output, but could be a Scorpionis destroyer. There are both bad-guy and good-guy transmissions from the mainworld, and during jump the computer has worked out a little about the Scorpionis transmissions: they appear to be tactical communications, including a burst of a spotter calling in artillery fire -- definitely Scorpionis troops of some sort (this is classified to the Anastasia).

There will be a party tomorrow night with the last of the bean juice. The actual bean plants suffered under zero-G but did recover. They are repotted so that they will cope better next time. Since most of the marines can cope very well under high-G, they confirm that the engineers could set up the ship so that medical was under one-G, but the rest as they desire. They have now improved on the normal grav-plate tuning, so they can, for example, change the gravity frequently with a short warning on the marines' commo frequencies before each change.

The ship is restocked and refueled.

Avon suggests going (vacuum) skiing somewhere here for a while, but security in the system is too good. He puts off the plans until later.

They discuss their next sortie. They can almost write their own mission at this point, as it depends so heavily on information they themselves presented to the TradeMain people. At their last meeting, Chiang Ho implied that they should use some proper scanner probes, and that seemed acceptable.

The Captain wants to know if there's another ship that wants to go with them, to make a fast (safe as possible) pass so they could monitor the enemy reaction. All ships here are under Navy control, of course, but the Marines know some other marines who would crew such a ship if they could get one. Coordinating the mission w.r.t. jump arrival times would be tricky, of course. They would have to rendezvous at one of the still-operating civilian beacons or some other location.

None of the Scorpionis ships have much armor. The smallest ship that would be safe enough for the mission would be a 5000t Fleet Escort, which would take a crew of 38. The real problem is that all their ships are just Jump-2, and so would have to refuel insystem before jumping out.

Methods of contacting the ground troops at Staru are discussed. The Marines can use a standard coded hailing transmission, but the crew would rather that they were provided with the actual TradeMain codes. Unfortunately, their attempts to drag it out of the locals fail. They can't contact Rufus directly at all, but have to go through TradeMain channels and they won't let them talk to him, although they would take a message or set up an appointment for him and the Admiral if they want. They do so for the morning after the party (that would be on 313-1117) in case he doesn't make it.

While they do this, Mich specs out the probes he wants. Mich and Fostriades like the idea of a probe emitting signals to simulate a ship. Meanwhile the Anastasia is being fully restocked and refueled.

312-1117 : Jusk / Scorpio / Yonder

The computer operator stayed up late trying to get access to the codes through the network here. She managed to penetrate some military computers, but it started to get hairy and she backed out rather than get caught.

The probes are ready at 08:00, and the ratings start to load them on board at 08:30. They are to be stored in the missile magazine. Mich checks them, and they are indeed to his specs.

They contemplate waiting until Rufus is on board and just jumping from the ground so that he can go with them.

In the evening, the party takes place. Rufus arrives with two women in IFSS uniform. Joe and NoName are promptly assigned to getting the women drunk and clear of Rufus so they can ask if he wants to go with them. Of course, if the Anastasia jumped from the ground right now, it would not be good for the health of the chauffeur and honor guard at the groundcar. The computer operator has calculated the jump, but is not at all confident about one so deep within a gravity well.

Rufus is invited to see the engines, but is more interested in the bean juice, so Mich takes him to see the bean plants and still. This has achieved the objective of separating him from the women. Rufus agrees that he's hard to reach and complains about the red tape, but tells them that if they call Jerry's Bar they can get his private number. He says that he would love to go in to Staru with them, but he's committed to helping out here. They ask him about the codes, but he says that he is not really in the chain of command on that and so can't help. He does, however, say he'll try to help. He doesn't feel it is necessary to jump from here, and anyway the ladies wouldn't like being hauled off like that. They arrived this morning with the intention of going into the wilds at some point; they looked a bit unwell, though. They rejoin the party.

The illness provokes fears of a space bug, but when Brock checks them out (Sir Bridgehead is smashed right now) they prove to be just "under the weather," with no infectious agent involved. They do look a bit pale and listless. (Mich thinks they look pale and shrunken -- perhaps they are already dead? But then he's been drinking bean juice...) Helen is asked to slip Sir Bridgehead some Undrunk Pills, so he comes around enough to perform an examination. He concurs with Brock's conclusions.

The ladies ask them about the ship, particularly the jump drive. Fostriades and Mich say that everything works just fine, and "explain the jump drive" in a very technical manner, spouting straight jump theory (nothing to do with the Anastasia's engines) but the ladies don't know the difference. They ask if it ever goes wrong, and the engineers dazzle them with science and space folklore. The stories make them look even less well. They ask where the Anastasia will be going next, but the engineers dodge the question.

Fostriades asks about the ladies' ship. It is an IFFS ship, the Sir Walter Raleigh. They just arrived from Joloch, which was where they think they picked up their illness. They haven't traveled very far -- with the walkabout alert they just thought they'd wander off somewhere and see if they could get into enemy territory, since that's what the ship is designed for. They obviously try to pump Fostriades and Mich about the next mission, but don't get anywhere; the bean-juiced engineers stare hard -- Fostriades thinks they may be very slightly out of phase, perhaps as the result of a misjump?

The Sir Walter Raleigh's journey started out at Karma, where Professor Farol put some of his most recent work into the ship. They left on 265-1117 (the Anastasia left on 195-1117). This seems too recent -- Fostriades and Mich think that the Professor has come up with another of his "bright" ideas...

Fostriades and Mich decide that they would like to check the ladies out with some of the equipment in engineering, and since they had expressed interest they take the higher-ranking one down there. It seems a low-risk thing to do since they apparently have virtually no grasp of engineering principles. The suggestion that Mich and Fostriades offer to look over her ship is squashed rapidly with transparent excuses. The engineering equipment, meanwhile, detects no strange fields or anything about her.

She says that some of the stuff in engineering looks like theirs. Is it an FFS drive? No, General Products. She has an FFS drive, which is supposed to be the new hot stuff according to Farol. They started trials "a while ago" which seems actually to be fairly recently. She says they're having no problems with maintenance, thank you, it's not like they've misjumped much. No, they haven't actually misjumped because they've always come out at the right place. Fostriades suggests that there are other signs of misjump, like a tired run-down feeling?

The engineers question her on her next mission: but they don't like her implied idea of accompanying the Anastasia. They would like to see some drawings of their ship ... and it turns out that her engineers are suffering from the same bug that everyone on the ship (17 crew in total) picked up on Joloch. The Chief Engineer is working on it, just keeping things in shape; it's all worked OK for the four jumps from Karma to Jusk. Yes, that is three jumps to Joloch. Fostriades and Mich pause, and look at each other meaningfully -- they say they would definitely like to take a look at those engines. Some of the cabinets here look the same as hers, does that help?

No they haven't had a misjump, but they have of course had a few teething troubles -- it just stutters a bit occasionally, that's all. There were some problems with the computer control on the first jump, but they sorted that out quickly and there were no really serious problems after that. Yes, they picked up their illness at Joloch apparently, where they left ten days ago. They don't really have much of an experienced medical crew on board, but you'd expect these space bugs to have six or seven days incubation. Fostriades and Mich don't like the idea of being accompanied by a ship with an ill crew.

The lady offers a limited exchange of information. The Sir Walter Raleigh is the latest hostile exploratory ship from Karma, a 3000t Experimental Destroyer, airframe needle configuration, with a lot of experimental stuff on board including the new FFS drive. The jump drives were essentially fitted to an almost-complete ship after the Anastasia had passed through. They had not really finished field trials when the walkabout alert came through. They are fairly heavily armored with some decent weapon systems. The FFS jump drive is apparently the result of Professor Farol's collaboration with a couple of other people, probably research students.

They left Karma on 265, reached Joloch on 299 via Ferle and Csarfar, left Joloch on 302 and arrived here today. The drive seems to be holding up well. The illness is probably just something they picked up at Joloch; the symptoms started showing about seven days after they left there. About the time they started to come out of jump? asks Mich. Well no, since they were in jump for ten days. That fourth jump, says Fostriades knowingly. So, are the engineers working on it now? No, not really, because there isn't that much problem with it -- besides the time, it was fine for the last jump. Fostriades and Mich strongly suggest that they should consult with their engineers, since they have experience with off-beat jump drives. Well, they've probably never seen one like this, she says, as it has this thing called a phase inverter or something.

They produce video evidence that they've worked with the Professor, but the lady still doesn't think they know much about it. They persuade her to let them talk to her Chief Engineer right now to see if he feels they should look at it. (The Computer Officer monitors the call to make sure that she doesn't give up any of the Anastasia's secrets.) The Chief Engineer comes on, looking in better health than the ladies. Mich asks him who the two other people were who worked with the Professor on the drives. "Fostriades and Saginaw, apparently, hence the FFS for Farol / Fostriades / Saginaw." They introduce themselves, and rapidly make an appointment to look at the Sir Walter Raleigh's drive tomorrow morning. The Chief Engineer looks both flustered and relieved, but warns them that the Professor may have changed a few things on his own. Only the two engineers will be allowed over, after assurances that they are actually working for the Emperor; they say where the Anastasia (nee Kinunir) was salvaged, repaired, and so on, and explain that a lot of high-ups in the IFSS trust them, so...

The Sir Walter Raleigh is planning on going in to hostile territory fairly soon. Mich says they will be ready to jump in a couple of days. The lady still won't acknowledge that a ten-day jump is really that much of a problem, but Fostriades and Mich are insistent. They then return back to the party, where the engineers are introduced to the other lady as well. The ladies offer to back up the Anastasia with the Sir Walter Raleigh's firepower, and then have some of the bean juice at last.

313-1117 : Jusk / Scorpio / Yonder

Fostriades tells the Captain about the Sir Walter Raleigh, in that it's a Jump-6 ship but their engines are not fully reliable. They have had one definite misjump and two possible problems, and Fostriades doesn't like that. He thinks they're on the level, but he intends to examine the ship tomorrow. Since the misjumps will not affect the Anastasia, they could act as the noisy decoy for them -- it could jump out without refueling too. Fostriades doesn't have a high opinion of their engineer, though, as he seems young and inexperienced.

The Captain suggests that if it would not be too risky, one of the Anastasia's engineers could go with them. They don't like that idea, particularly because the Sir Walter Raleigh's crew don't believe they really have a problem. The crew seem to know so little about the ship, and just took off towards the wilds in a hurry when the walkabout alert arrived.

The Captain also wants this information to be kept confidential from the rest of the crew, except Helen and Linda. He wants Linda to check the records for this ship, but since it arrived this morning there is no information. Fostriades (not Mich) will go over to the Sir Walter Raleigh to reduce the risk. It is also clear that they should reveal virtually nothing about the Anastasia herself. They will, however, provide their maintenance information.

The Captain, Fostriades, Helen, and Lia visit the Sir Walter Raleigh. In fact, only Fostriades and Mich were originally invited ... Lia is posing as a Damage Control person, while Helen is Captain Delaney's aide. They aren't let in at first, but they talk their way on board.

The ramp opens and they are met in the ship by the Chief Engineer (toting a cup of coffee). They go down to Engineering, where the Captain will meet them later. Delaney looks around carefully to see if there are any signs of fighting or anything, but everything looks brand new. Some of the internal fittings are different -- they are perhaps a little more compact and neater than those on the Anastasia. There is no company logo on anything.

In Engineering, Fostriades looks hard at the systems. They are very similar to theirs, and the maneuver drive and power plant look identical. The jump drive is a little different, as are the control systems. Fostriades starts a thorough examination of the jump drive components. The pieces are similar, but some of the way they interlock and are interrelated is different, and the computer control system is completely different. The ship's Chief Engineer is not much help.

It is very thoroughly based on the Anastasia's drive, but the main difference is in the matter phase inverter. The control system is set for automatic inflight computer calibration rather than the manual calibration on their ship. Fostriades is looking for a simple loose connection or something -- obviously if they had a major problem they would be dead, not just jumpsick. He checks the documentation for the computer calibration control system.

The Sir Walter Raleigh's captain arrives, in IFSS uniform. Captain Delaney introduces himself; she is Commodore Judith Watson. They discuss the future mission. The principle is to go in prepared to leave very fast. How quiet is the Sir Walter Raleigh? It has an EMMask, too, with an EMLevel of Faint and ObjSize of Large (the same as the Anastasia). So what does she plan to do in the other system? He is planning reconnaissance -- what is their experience? They came here straight from Karma after a week or so of field trials. No, they haven't been in combat directly, but they're well armed and have done a lot of training exercises.

Delaney lays out his plan. He wants them to go in "noisy" so that the Anastasia can observe the reaction. The Anastasia will jump in two days ahead of the Sir Walter Raleigh and will wait quietly. When they arrive, the Anastasia will fire a probe to pass close by them. This is the signal to start their approach, at which point they are to act like an innocent ship heading for the mainworld and see what reaction they can draw. They are not to get into a fight -- if they can draw a substantial reaction that gives useful information they should prepare to jump straight out. The Anastasia will not drop her EMMask unless necessary, so the Sir Walter Raleigh is to act as if it is alone. They will rendezvous back here afterwards. Commodore Watson agrees to Delaney's plan. If the Sir Walter Raleigh doesn't come out of jump in 16 days after the Anastasia jumps, they will assume that the they have had a problem and are not coming.

Commodore Watson declines the offer of having the Admiral come over to check them out.

The Captain's private opinion (as he later reveals) is that if they had to find a collection of suckers to do this for them, they couldn't have done much better!

Meanwhile Fostriades thinks the drives look OK, but he's not really sure about the calibration -- but his computer skill isn't high enough to analyze it properly. The Captain calls Linda Gregson over to check it out, and together they find that there's a software problem -- if the calibration swings in a particular way, it oscillates a bit before settling down, and that would cause an unevenness in the power supply which would cause the field to fluctuate. She puts in a quick-and-dirty fix, and will work on a long-term solution later (about 3 or 4 days work). Fostriades leaves the maintenance tapes, although obviously the sections on phase inverter calibration don't apply to them.

They return to the Anastasia, where Avon, Brock, and Mich are briefed on the situation. Fostriades asks Brock to check the computer for information about medical effects on the crew of misjumps and jumpdrive malfunctions, and he finds that nausea, weakness, and a nagging fatigue are the most common symptoms, which generally wear off after a week or so. That explains the state of the Sir Walter Raleigh's crew, which is a simple case of jump sickness caused by field fluctuations from oscillations in the power supply.

There are suggestions that they should provide some competent crew members for them, but the Captain vetoes that on the grounds that the rest of their crew is not good enough for them to be safe. They discuss the possibilities (hypothetical only!) of taking over the Sir Walter Raleigh, but although the Captain likes the Sir Walter Raleigh, Fostriades points out it has minimal cargo storage and is less versatile. Avon suggests that Linda could set up their computer to act like the Anastasia's did...

314-1117 : Jusk / Scorpio / Yonder

Both ships leave at 12:00 and cruise out to jump point together, at the Sir Walter Raleigh's feeble 3G. The latter will wait two days before jumping, while the Anastasia jumps at 16:33.

316-1117 : Jusk / Scorpio / Yonder

The Sir Walter Raleigh jumps for Staru.