The Sir Walter Raleigh lands about 500m away from the Anastasia after a slow careful descent through the atmosphere, and the pinnace lands after their satellite placement mission.
Chiang Ho wants to go hunting and find out whether any of the local life, such as the "seal" the GCarrier group saw earlier, is edible. The air is breathable, the water drinkable, and they may be able to supplement their food stocks here too. He teases Linda Gregson over her vegetarianism -- "Let's go get some meat!".
The hunting party is collected: Lia is invited, but prefers to save her skills for actual action against a real enemy. Brock of course will go along, having missed the previous action.
They will be hunting from air/rafts, landing close to the creature while Chiang Ho and Brock beat it to death (firing guns is uncivilized, of course, unlike eating meat).
The party takes two air/rafts: Avon flying one with Chiang Ho, Linus, and Lefty; Brock driving Joe and reserving space to carry the meat. Avon carries his gun, the rest of course will use only their sticks. All are wearing cold-weather gear, except the TDS guys who are in sandals and apparently not at all uncomfortable.
They leave the landing site and head towards a patch of black vegetation about 2km to the north. It is about 500m in diameter, and the ground is broken with scattered ice around the plants. A strong stem (2cm - 5cm thick) sticks out from the ice, and each plant falls out into two large fleshy almost-black leaves. This whole area is slightly warmer than the background, and there may be some creatures in there.
They land the air/rafts about 200m from the forest, and Avon remains on board (with Linus) while Chiang Ho, Joe, NoName, and Brock walk in, in a line about 2m apart. All walk in to the edge of the plants, which form a canopy about 2m off the ice. Some of the plants have a bud or flower of some sort in the fork between the leaves.
The ground is a little more difficult here, as each of the plants seem to come out of a small crater, as if they have sheltered the snow from collecting under their leaves.
Joe hears a rustling sound nearer the center of the forest. The group move quietly in towards the noise. Brock sees several creatures moving through the plants, but the bioscanner can't pick anything up here, as the creatures are crosswind -- it does pick up some pollen. They move downwind of the beasts, but they still need to get closer for the bioscanner to pick anything up.
They close, and Brock tries again with the bioscanner. He drops it in the snow, and it shorts out with a loud bang! Smoke rises gently from the casing. Whatever the creatures were, they have stopped moving now.
The group all drop to the ground as they hear something approach -- all except Brock, who is busy with the bioscanner and finds himself neatly silhouetted against the black plant behind him.
A creature approaches him. It is about 50kg, low to the ground, white furry body, walking on six legs, a cylindro-conical head-like appendage (30cm at base tapering to 20cm) sticking up from the front end, with a further two legs immediately behind the head sticking upwards. One of those arms is holding a stack of black leaves on its back, while the other arm does nothing much at the moment. It has sharp teeth in its mouth, which is on the lower side of the body underneath the head.
It is moving directly towards Brock, but fairly slowly.
Brock hails it: "Hello!" The creature stops, and moves backwards quickly about 5m, making some sort of clicking and clattering sound. Brock waits. After a short pause, it moves closer again, about 10m away now. Brock says "Stop!" It does, then moves about 5m backwards again, making the clicking clattering sound. Brock lays his stick at his feet, and stands with his arms outstretched. The creature runs away.
Chiang Ho says he didn't want to eat a spider anyway, so why don't they go find a seal instead.
Meanwhile, Linda Gregson and Fostriades work on finding a message in the neutrino source device. Indeed they find, in an obscure Imperial character code in a section of executable code, the message "Jack's gone native." They radio the hunting party and tell them.
Chiang Ho shouts out "Jack!". There is no answer, but a clicking and clattering and the sound of creatures hurrying away. Chiang Ho suggests that Jack would be near the equator for the free water, and probably near or in one of these forests, probably a larger one than this. He suggests sending the pinnace to look for them. The hunting party returns to the Anastasia immediately.
They discuss methods for finding Jack. The plan is to search the areas near the equator for life forms or unusual metal deposits, from maybe 2km altitude, and do it twice -- the first time Jack will notice the Imperial ship, and the second time he will wave at them.
Chiang Ho suspects the spiders were of animal intelligence. He then postulates that Jack may be down under the water where they can't detect him, but they eventually decide that ten years of that is rather unreasonable, and "gone native" does not mean "gone hermit."
They initially propose to take the pinnace rather than the ship herself. Mich then points out that since Jack's been here ten years, another day or two will not matter. Why don't they go after the wreckage of the SLIVER first, while they know roughly where it is. They will need to take the Anastasia for that, as they will need the 1km penetration of the densitometers -- not as good as the Sir Walter Raleigh, but that ship is busy being repaired.
They wait until the refueling and air replenishment is complete before undertaking the mission.
The Anastasia will have to travel about 13 hours at 1095kph to get to the splashdown site. It is decided to use the journey to scan the coastal areas on the path, looking for large quantities of metal or signs of power generation.
They plan the trip so that with the journey and time difference between the landing site and the third of the way around the world where the wreckage splashed down, they will get there at about dawn, at 06:.0 local. This indicates leaving at about 10:.0 local time, i.e. about 10:30 ships time with arrival at 23:30.
In the meantime, the Sir Walter Raleigh's scans indicate that the ocean is about 2.5km deep in this area. This means that, at about 1atm/10m, the ship would have to withstand a lot of external pressure. They have no idea whether this is within the design capabilities, but they will try it anyway but be extremely careful. On the other hand, they will have to do all of this from space vehicles because the battledress, for example, would not take the pressure.
So at 10:30 Avon pilots the Anastasia on her journey, but makes a navigational error. When Avon discovers the problem, Linda checks their position and finds they are 1000km to the north of where they should be. This will add an hour to the journey.
Avon gets them back on course, he thinks, but finds he has once again made an error and they are again 1000km out of their way. This will not make the voyage any longer in itself, but it seems that some of the sensors on the outside of the hull have iced up and they will need to land to clear them. Avon brings them down on a suitable spot.
Here it is around mid-day, and the temperature is only -9. It takes an hour to clear the sensors, so now they are 2 hours behind schedule. Guards are posted around the perimeter during the operation.
The guards notice a strong IR source about 800m to the north of the ship. It is not moving. Chiang Ho takes a look, but can't really tell at this distance.
With the sensors clear, Avon takes the ship up and over the IR source to see what it is. It looks like it is some sort of animal, around 50kg, radiating a lot of heat. They close to within 250m, whereupon it picks itself up and moves slowly away. It is moving on around a dozen long tentacles; it is octopus-like, with a very hot black extruded growth sticking up from the top. Chiang Ho postulates that this is its mating call.
They resume the journey, this time checking every 15 minutes for their position.
After six hours, Helen takes over the controls. Everything runs fine, until she suddenly looks most uncomfortable. They have run into a snowstorm, and then into the side of a hill. Actually, it's not so much the side of a hill as a 500m-high accumulation of ice, and they haven't really crashed into it but bounced off the top. The internal grav plates and inertial compensators have absorbed the shock, so unless someone looks out of the windows they can't tell that they've crash-landed.
How high are they above sea-level? She doesn't know. Above ground? Zero. The sensors show that they are in fact 600m above sea level, and that the sensors are not operating well at the moment, presumably icing over again. This seems to be a design flaw with the ship.
They have also, unfortunately, damaged the port forward missile turret and rendered it unusable. It should be repairable easily once they have a chance to work on it.
"Screw this!" says Chiang Ho, "Prepare for orbital transfer." Chiang Ho asks if they are spaceworthy, which they are, and so he takes the ship up into orbit eight hours into the journey and brings them back down at the splashdown location an hour later.
While in orbit, they can see that the wind from the sea was causing a large storm in that area.
They arrive at the location about 5 hours before local dawn at 18:30, about 01:.0 locally. Temperature here is about -5, although of course the water is above freezing. They confirm their position with a navigational check.
Chiang Ho takes them down into the sea. There is little current here, and it is easy to take that into account in their movement. They contact the Sir Walter Raleigh to tell them that they are in position and about to lose radio contact under the water.
The ship is making some strange movements. The sensors indicate that a 6-ton beast is attacking the ship, so they fire a sandcaster battery which drives it off. The sensors are reconfigured to show the major marine life, which is fairly prolific here.
By 1km depth, there is still no sign of the bottom. They keep going down, and find that the bottom is 2.4km down. They set up the holodisplay to show the sea-bottom, color-coded for type of material, and start their search at a depth of 2km at 19:00 after a half-hour descent.
They set the ship on an automated search pattern, under careful monitoring by the pilots. The pressure causes some more damage to the port forward missile turret, but it should not be too significant; the rest of the ship is holding up well so far.
After seven hours search, at 02:30, they find some wreckage. It seems that the SLIVER broke up and imploded, and scattered into small pieces of debris. They set the computer to analyzing the debris and trying to identify important chunks. They are mildly radioactive, but by no means dangerously so.
After two hours, at 04:30, the answer comes through: there are three fairly large pieces which were originally part of the bridge area. The question is how to recover those pieces: after substantial discussion, it is eventually decided to put together some electromagnetic grabs attached to the outside of the hull, and they can maneuver the Anastasia around to the right position to pick them up. They drop a probe from the starboard wingtip missile turret to act as a beacon to find the wreck again; Jeremy takes the risky job of loading the probe into the missile rack. Mich builds the grabs in the machine shop while Chiang Ho takes the ship to the surface.
It takes an hour to reach the surface and then attach the grabs and cables. They recontact the Sir Walter Raleigh and update them on the situation as of 05:30. To avoid tangling anything, they take two hours to descend again to the wreck, arriving at 07:30.
Chiang Ho positions each grab over each piece in turn, and the pickup of the three pieces proceeds perfectly. He takes the ship slowly to the surface, taking two hours, getting there at 09:30. Since the nearest land is 2000km away, they lift the ship slowly and carefully up to orbit, taking an hour to reach that altitude at 10:30. Here they use the pinnace to transfer the chunks from the grabs to the Anastasia's hold. Linda of course is the expert in this...
An hour later, they land safely alongside the Sir Walter Raleigh. The time is now 11:30, or 13:.7 local time, shortly after mid-day.
The three pieces of the SLIVER are examined. The hull was constructed out of crystalliron (TL10-TL11). There were probably a lot of bridge crew: ten heads-up displays; the control panels were dynamic linked type (TL10-TL12), and there were a lot of fairly crude control units. Not enough of the computers have been recovered to examine directly. Apparently this was the only bridge on the ship -- there would be no standby bridge. There is some writing on the controls but it is not decipherable.
Fostriades postulates that the cockroaches do a sort of communal linking, accounting for the increase in Fleet Tactic skill that they found.
The controls layout is extremely simple, like the whole thing could be run by total morons.
Fostriades suspects that the cockroaches are total morons until an emergency: they are remarkably insectoid, with a hive-like consciousness. The individual is fairly dumb, but in moments of stress or emergency the nest has a much higher intelligence; you can't really determine much about termite intelligence from a single termite, for example. Everything an individual is to be using is very simple and difficult to damage, but they are capable of very sophisticated things en masse. Fostriades keeps coming back to the Fleet Tactics thing, which worries him. Mich suggests the only way to combat it is to kill them off, real fast.
That's about all they can get from the wreckage. There is no holodisplay, there are grav plates with inertial compensators. Nothing indicates a TL of greater than 12. The grav plates are set for a higher than normal gravity. The electronics are rather crude, and everything is over-engineered, larger, tougher, and heavier. As Mich says, built to be run by idiots whose idea of "Strike any key" is to hit it with your fist. Like the cockroach GCarrier, some controls have protective covers over them.
Their goals are now complete with the exception of finding Jack, which they can presumably best do by assuming he will be keeping himself warm somehow. It is unlikely that he has taken up residence under the water, particularly with the reference "gone native," which implies he's adapted into a native lifestyle. What Fostriades would have done in Jack's place is take the cutter and park it under the ice shelf, powering down as much as possible, and then scuba dive. This would mean they would have to search for an extremely small energy emission, maybe 1kw instead of 10kw, Mich speculates, and they would have to do a low-level pass to do that.
Fostriades still thinks it might be easier to get his attention and get him to come out. Mich thinks it is likely that he already knows they are here. The nukes and fireball from the crashing ship should have been noticeable over half the planet or so; it was around the equator, so the chances of seeing it from a habitable area are even higher. Mich still does not want to use much radio because of the risk of it being detected from the rest of the system, although they could use low-power at the right frequencies, although Jack would have to have some fairly sophisticated equipment to pick it up. It is, however, unlikely that he would recognize the Anastasia as an Imperial ship from a distance at Mach 1... Mich thinks that the most likely thing he could pick up from them would be their energy emissions, so they could just fly around unshielded, at over Mach 1 to get the sonic boom, and signal as well, and he could see the contrail. Fostriades adds that if they can get him to contact them, that is by far the easiest method.
Of course, turning off the beacon may have had the effect of notifying him anyway. As Mich observes, though, it all depends on whether Jack wants to be found: "If Jack does not want to be found, Jack will not be found."
They should also work out some way to prevent the Anastasia's sensors from icing, which is clearly a design flaw.
During the day, Mich, Fostriades, Chiang Ho and Linda Gregson work on the problems with the Anastasia. They run a simulation of airflow over the hull to determine the nature of the icing problem, then work out a solution involving some small detail aerodynamic work. It takes them a mere three hours to fix it.
They also fix the missile turret that was damaged in the crash. This is a four-hour job.
Chiang Ho suggests that the cockroaches have just a rudimentary intelligence: perhaps the ten bridge crew all vote on running the ship by a mass captaincy sort of thing.
This is the day they will start their intensive search for Jack. They can travel around the planet leaving a contrail, but how would Jack know they were an Imperial ship? Chiang Ho suggests a laser light show, projecting an Imperial Starburst, or possibly charge the ionosphere so they could prevent radio signals from bouncing out from the planet (to answer Mich's concern at being detected).
Chiang Ho then comes up with the loony idea of skywriting a large IFSS high up in the sky by dumping water vapor out the back of the ship or something. He suggests that this might be rather difficult to do precisely so Linda prepares a program to run this from the computer.
The basic intention is to write this at local noon at each quarter of the planet, then shift it 45 degrees the next day to cover the whole circumference at the lower edge of the northern hemisphere ice sheet.
Mich configures more probes to look for IR activity and visual signals -- in case he lights a bonfire or something. They will set the satellites when they do their skywriting.
Chiang Ho takes the Anastasia into orbit and they perform the skywriting and satellite placement.
The satellites immediately pick up some forest areas but not much else.
The next couple of days are spent skywriting to cover the edge of the southern hemisphere ice sheet and the areas that were originally obscured by storms.
The Sir Walter Raleigh has finished their repair work, and joins the Anastasia in the skywriting operations -- but not before a simulation is run to determine whether the Sir Walter Raleigh will encounter similar sensor icing problems. It seems that they will not.
Chiang Ho again considers the possibility of stocking up the ship's food supply from hunting: Brock takes the sniffer out on an air/raft and finds that the local wildlife is eminently edible.
A hunting party of several marines will be assembled on the pinnace, and will gather some food while the starships begin the search for signs of Jack.
The two starships start a low-level circumnavigation of the lower 2000km of the northern ice sheet, which should take 3 days. The Sir Walter Raleigh will be using their better neutrino sensors to look for Jack's cutter.
Some local wildlife might mess up the sensing somewhat, like that octopus with the hot ball: was it really a mating call, or is it perhaps a lure to get creatures to come within its tentacles? An angler fish?
The hunting party on the pinnace consists of Helen, Brock, Vana, Varda, Kara, Lia, Teri, and Jeffry.
The pinnace sets out at sunrise (15:00s/06:.4), and after about 20 minutes travel there is a sequence of small explosions ahead. They climb higher and observe from altitude. There is a big scattering of ice, no smoke, not very hot -- not a regular chemical explosive. The explosions seem random, otherwise sort of like an artillery barrage. It is throwing the ice only about 5m up, so they take the pinnace directly above. The blasts are forming small craters over an area about 500m in diameter -- each one forms a small crater and then does not explode again.
"It's the plants! They're coming up!" says Vana. It is midsummer, at the warmest, and the plants will grow up, bloom, blossom, and die all in several weeks, they guess.
They then notice something moving about 500m to the north of this area, on a slightly more raised area. They move the pinnace closer, and see that it is one of the spider creatures. It is holding a tube-stick object on its back with one of the front arms. There is a short discussion as to whether it is likely to be intelligent.
The creature has noticed them, and scurries back away -- they move the pinnace in front of it, and the spider stops. Vana, Lia, and Varda suit up in battledress and prepare to confront it. They land the pinnace and step out slowly towards the creature, which takes the stick off its back and brings it round to its front, pointing at the humans. The humans stop.
"Hello!" says Vana. It stands still. Vana advances with her hands up -- it moves its stick to its mouth and Vana stops. Lia suggests that maybe it is hunting Vana. The creature makes a hooting sound. Vana hoots back, twice, mimicking the noise. It hoots differently, and Vana copies the sound again. It makes a few steps towards Vana.
Vana starts scratching in the snow. She draws one stroke, then another stroke, then two strokes. The spider hoots and moves closer. The stick appears to be a tube-like object, and the spider seems to be using it to cover Vana carefully -- perhaps a blowgun?
Vana pulls out a signal mirror, places it on the ground, and backs away to join the other two marines. The spider advances slowly to about 20m away. It puts its stick to its mouth and uses it to make hooting sounds. Vana thinks this is a sign of intelligence, using tools to make sounds.
At this point Lia spots about four other spiders on a further ridge watching them -- one of those also has a stick.
The marines back up towards the pinnace. The spider advances on the mirror, picks it up, and looks at it for a while, turning it in its hand. Vana notices that it is using it to signal with the sun to the other group of spiders.
The consensus is that they have messed with these creatures long enough, and that they are not here to do research. They are about to turn and leave when the spider flashes the sun in Vana's face. Lia flashes back at it. It walks up to the marines, and presents Vana with the mirror. "Intelligent," says Vana. "Polite," adds Lia, "I don't suppose you're Jack?" It makes a clicking-clattering sound.
Lia tries tapping out J-A-C-K in Morse code, and it clicks/clatters back (not in Morse code!). It hoots with its stick, and the other spiders on the hill start moving towards them. "Oh, Jeez, what do we do now?" mutters Vana. "We don't have a scout, but we have Helen..."
Helen relays what is going on to the Anastasia. Vana tells them they are, ah, in conference with five spiders. She thinks that they have seen people before, but she has no idea how to proceed. What about the scouts on the ship, do they know? Chiang Ho replies that they need to get some common ground, and with cooperation on both sides they can maybe start to get some gestures or something to refer to common objects.
Vana starts to use the snow to draw some pictures: her depiction of a man with three strokes beside it and a spider with five strokes beside it. The spider comes around to Vana's side of the pictures, and looks at what she's scrawled. It draws it's idea of a human and a spider, and the session continues from there...
Vana points to the nearest forest (several km to the east), and they soon agree on simple concepts like the forest plants, their exploding seeds, and so on. Vana draws Jack's cutter, then points in several directions. The creature adds a guitar (?) to the drawing of the human -- the group carries nothing resembling that, so it must be Jack? Lia makes strumming motions and starts to sing (very badly indeed). The spider hoots rhythmically. Guitar music is piped through from the Anastasia to the speakers of the pinnace: the spider clicks and clatters, then hoots with the music. Vana tries again to get them to point where Jack came down, but with no success.
Lia draws a tube under the mouth of the spider-picture. The spider clicks and clatters. She points to the tube and the guitar, and the spider rocks back and forth. Lia rocks back and forth. The creatures shakes hands with Vana. Lia points to the tube, to its mouth, to the guitar, and makes strumming motions. It rocks backwards and forwards.
The spider points to the cutter drawing, then points to the pinnace. Vana rocks back and forth, so does the spider. Vana points to the Jack figure and does not point. The spider copies her action.
"Anastasia," says Vana, "Spiders are intelligent, spiders draw pictures, spiders know of guitars, spiders know of spaceships, spiders know that Jack's spaceship is like ours, spiders are good artists." "Better artists than you are," adds Lia.
Chiang Ho asks Joe if he has any idea how to communicate with these guys. He is directed to page 23 of his little book. Chiang Ho understands a bit, but he has to be there to do it properly.
The other spiders arrive and exchange clicking and clattering noises.
Vana points at the pinnace and says ship. It points at the ship and makes a clicking and clattering sound. The computer starts compiling the language translation, entering the words for "ship", "human", "spider", "music"...
They have some trouble with the concept of "come".
Just as the marines are getting frustrated, Chiang Ho is convinced to bring the Anastasia so that he can come and help. The arrival of the starship at 18:00s/09:.4 is greeted by the word "ship" from the spider, and gives the opportunity to fill in the word "big".
Chiang Ho arrives on the scene in a simple environment suit ("human") and concentrates hard on page 23. He starts to look spaced out. He feels that maybe word#10 has something to do with their location or environment, rather than something specific like "here".
Guitar-man is at word#11 (a related word to word#10, says Chiang Ho). The spider draws an igloo, on a long line (word#11).
During further discussions, the spider draws some more pictures of interest: a picture of two humans (one with a guitar) on a spiky line, with a further human upside down in a crevasse. So it seems that the two humans have traveled from further north, and are now living in an igloo. [Actually the humans landed in the badlands, were rescued by the spiders, and traveled south to a smooth ice plain where they took up residence in the igloo.]
At this point Chiang Ho faints and falls over. Brock takes him inside and tends to him.
Vana invites the spiders to take a ride in the ship, and they come into the cargo reception area. The Anastasia goes to resume the search via orbit. The spiders don't understand the concept of the world from space, apparently.
They land by the ice edge at 20:00, which is near midnight at this longitude. Vana finds that the concept represented by word#11 would be to the north-west, according to the spiders, not here as they had guessed.
They travel along, landing occasionally to check. Word#11 apparently means a clear flat area of ice.
Fostriades says they need a word for "where." Chiang Ho has recovered by now, and drinks bean juice while studying page 23. To his bean-juice mind, they look like sheep. Several others also drink bean juice. Lia thinks the creatures look soft and furry, Varda thinks they have sharp teeth.
The journey continues, and they land at a forest for the creatures to eat. The spiders break off the stalks, gather the leaves (the part they eat), and put the blooms carefully on the ground.
They find a 300km flat ice plain, and search it. No sign of Jack. They resume the search, restricting the area to flat ice plains. The Sir Walter Raleigh continues the regular search.
Finally at 23:00 they find an igloo by its shadow in the starlight -- it's 03:.1 here, 11.3 hours earlier than the original landing site -- and land, displaying Imperial starburst insignia on the ship. They investigate, weapons ready.
The igloo is a standard Scout survival construction. They get no response outside it, so Lia goes in, knife at the ready. Inside are blankets and some simple Imperial clothing. There is no diary, and no high-tech equipment whatsoever. It is definitely of Imperial origin. It was probably in use about three days ago. There are none of the expected animal-fat candles for light and heat, and indeed no apparent light source inside.
Outside, there are several shallow trenches in the hard ice near the igloo, positioned as if to shelter from the prevailing wind. There is nothings else nearby.
The current spider/Galanglic dictionary includes these symbols:
|Symbol number or gesture||Anastasia's interpretation||The real meaning|
|5||forest-seed (exploding)||forest-seed exploding|
|rocking backwards and forwards||yes (or laughter?)||laugh|
|repeating a positive statement||(not noticed)||yes (human nod is also understood)|
|turning side to side||no||no (human concept)|
|10||wavy line?||rounded ice plain|
|11||flat ice||smooth flat ice plain|
|12||jagged (ice ridge?)||broken ice plain|
|14||fall? die?||mistake (fatal)|
|15||ice edge at sea?||near-coastal ice|