(18) Eighteen

088-1118 to 123-1118

088-1118 : Jax (0303) / L / ?

To reduce the load on the Anastasia's food and life support systems, most of the marines will be sent back on the Sir Walter Raleigh. The original five, of course, are retained, and the other ten that are selected are signed on to the crew as Ship's Troops.

Helen suggests that they choose a base of operations for their piracy -- ah, privateer, that is -- activities, and on the basis of that pick somewhere to meet with the Sir Walter Raleigh again. Of course, they won't be able to tell whether it's a suitable system until they get there... They pick out a likely-looking place at the rimward end of the sector and work out a route to it.

They hope they can find somewhere to stock up on food when they get there, but with all the F-class stars in this sector it is a reasonable assumption that such places should be fairly common. With the reduction in crew to 33 total, their packed-in food supplies should last about 135 days, if they resort to rationing at the end of that period.

The Sir Walter Raleigh will return to the IFSS base at Karakus for repairs, and also carry messages back that way. Fostriades mutters under his breath that the Sir Walter Raleigh is a much better ship for their purpose, what with their Jump-6 and all. The plan is that the two ships will rendezvous again at the system O-0207. Dates for this meeting are to be 200-1118, 250-1118, and 300-1118. The Anastasia will leave messages and as much information there as they can... Jill has experience in hiding messages in beacons. They will set the beacon at the north pole of the cool planet (or if there isn't one, as close to that as possible).

Speaking of Jill, they ask her if she knows anything about the area where they are going, but she doesn't because she went through the trailing-coreward edge of the cluster. She does add that systems at the end of dead-end paths do not normally have a strong cockroach presence unless there's something really interesting there.

Jill will help them set up the beacon, but someone else (such as Mich) would have to build the hardware. The intention is to set it up with a receiver/transmitter so that the Anastasia can come into the system, burst the information to store, and leave right away. They toy with the concept of leaving the cockroach GCarrier wreck in an orbit with the messages hidden in some special piece of equipment in it if there turns out to be no suitable planet in the system.

The crew transfers are performed -- Jack and Jill remain on the Anastasia -- and the ships take off, leaving the spiders of Jax behind. They head for a jump point.

089-1118 : Jax (0303) / L / ?

Both ships jump out of the system at 12:00. The Sir Walter Raleigh is bound for Romanowa, the Anastasia for L-0106.

On engaging the jump drive on the Anastasia, a critical component in the calibration unit fails. Fostriades and Mich, as the only people on board with at least Engineering-2, will have to work alternate shifts as the drive will need constant manual calibration for the duration of the jump. Fortunately this jump turns out to be a short 6-day one. The drive will need some time off-line after the jump to fix the component.

095-1118 : ? (0106) / L / ?

The ship comes out of jump at 12:00. The system has three planets, each of which is a gas giant, in orbits 0, 1, and 2. The star is class M3 V. P2 (the nearest) and P0 are small, P1 is large. Both P0 and P1 have a reasonable-sized planet around them. P0 has three satellites, P1 has 8, P2 has 6. All P2's moons are small with no atmosphere and no water. There is no water on P1's moons. P0's moons are not easily scanned because of the sun's glare, but there are some radio transmissions (cockroach) from that area.

They head for the gas giant P2 and start fixing the jump drive, a 1.5-day job. By 21:00 the refueling is complete, and they head right away to a jump point.

096-1118 : ? (0106) / L / ?

They reach the jump point at 03:00, but fuel refining continues until 18:00. Work on the jump drive also continues throughout the day.

Rufus picks up some major ship activity going on at the innermost orbit, near P0 (which has a planet with air and water) and out to a likely jump point where he picks up a TUBE-L in outbound jumpspace transition. From that lucky picture, it is a fair guess that the cockroach jump technology does not exceed TL-11.

097-1118 : ? (0106) / L / ?

At 00:00 the jump drive is finally ready, and they jump immediately for L-0110. The fix should be fine for a few months, but is not perfect and will need a proper reworking before, say, 150-1118.

104-1118 : ? (0110) / L / ?

They come out of jump at 00:00. During jump, Mich and Fostriades have come up with a much better part to fix the ship, and can install it in 1.5 hours. This new part will partially automate the anti-matter calibration, having been designed with the assistance of Linda Gregson (who fixed the calibration software on the Sir Walter Raleigh).

L-0110 is a system with two stars. The primary is a F8 V, the secondary is M0 D -- a small red dwarf orbiting the white primary in orbit 9. There are no gas giants in this system. The Anastasia has come in closest to P2.

The secondary has four planets; S0 and S1 are tiny, S2 and S3 are of reasonable size, and S3 may have a small atmosphere but probably no water.

The primary has worlds in orbits 0-4. P0 is very small, a little atmosphere, very hot, with two larger moons; P1 is small with a small moon, also hot, no atmosphere, no water; P2 is small and hot, no atmosphere, no water; P3 is fairly small, quite hot, no atmosphere, no water. P4 is the only vaguely habitable planet -- it is fairly small (size 2), has atmosphere, water, and fairly comfortable temperature.

There are cockroach radio transmissions coming from P4, but they have no choice but to refuel at that planet. It will take about a day to get there.

After a discussion of the concept of plunging into the atmosphere, trailing flames, pretending to be a comet or something, it is decided to come in fast but as quietly as possible. The average temperature is around 4 degrees, rather cool for cockroaches. They decide to come in over the pole, where it will definitely be uncomfortably cold for the creatures. There is not a great deal of activity here, though -- maybe two BOXERs in equatorial orbit, and one ground base at the edge of a sea, also equatorial. The idea of sneaking in sounds very good, especially as the descent should take only nine minutes.

As they come in, they scan the planet, determining the physical profile to be 255. There is only one place where the ice cap contacts a sea, so they plan to come in at the pole and travel NOE to that location, which is a long way away from the ground base.

105-1118 : ? (0110) / L / ?

At 00:00 they enter the atmosphere of P4 at the north pole, and reach the ice edge at 01:00. They descend into water, hide under the ice cap, and start refueling. At 02:30 the refueling is complete, so they move back to the sea, come to the surface, and start to replenish their air supply starting at 03:30.

There is life here, but it is fairly primitive, some plants and primitive sea animals, nothing of any size. A quick scan indicates that none of it is edible.

106-1118 : ? (0110) / L / ?

At 03:30 the atmosphere replenishment is complete. They take off, following the same path, but hurrying as fast as they can.

Chiang Ho does an excellent job of piloting, and they come up to orbit altitude right over the north pole at 04:30, when they suddenly find a very large ship coming over the horizon at extremely close visual range.

The immediate reaction is to try and jump, but they need to calculate a jump point and therefore they will try to get to a safer range (10d) while they do it.

The ship is a 50kt TUBE-L, and of course at this range they cannot use nuclear missiles against it. The odds in a straight fight look very bad.

Mich tweaks the drives to pull 6G out of them, and the Anastasia dashes away from the planet. The engineers are obviously quite busy, as when the call comes to engage the jump drive, they fumble with the controls for a while without getting it running, because they didn't allow for gravitational distortions and the high acceleration.

Meanwhile the TUBE-L takes advantage of this opportunity. It scans for the Anastasia with active sensors, but does not get lock-on, and alters course at the blinding speed of 1G to put the planet between the two ships. The TUBE-L is running away. Huh?

Encouraged by this news, the engineers manage to engage the jump drive at last, at 05:00.

113-1118 : ? (0803) / O / ?

The ship comes out of jump at 05:00, and they perform the usual system scans until 06:00.

The star is a yellow G8 V. There are planets in orbit 0-6. P0 and P1 are very small; P1 has two satellites (rather hot); P2 is medium size, atmosphere, water, probably fairly pleasant; P3 is a small gas giant, with a ring and no moons; P4 is a large gas giant, with two rings and eight moons, at least one of which is a reasonable size with water and air but probably quite cold; P5 is a small gas giant, with one ring and two tiny moons; P6 is a large gas giant with seven moons, of which a few are of reasonable size, and some have water and (frozen) atmosphere.

There are some radio signals from P2, which would appear to have a cockroach ground facility and some ships in orbit, much like the last place.

The Anastasia has come out of jump nearest to P3, and there being no sign of ships there that will be the refueling location. They reach it at 18:00 and are refueled by 21:00, whereupon they head out immediately to a jump point.

114-1118 : ? (0803) / O / ?

They reach the jump point at 09:00, where they remain until they have finished refining at 18:00, when they immediately jump for O-0405.

121-1118 : ? (0405) / O / ?

The Anastasia comes out of jump at 18:00, and performs the usual one-hour scan of the system.

The star is an orange K4 V. P0 is small, hot; orbit 1 (the habitable orbit) is empty; P2 is moderate size, fairly cold, some water, unusual atmosphere; P3 is a large gas giant, one ring, eight moons, some of which are of moderate size, some water, all quite cold; P4 is a small gas giant, one ring; P5 is a small gas giant, three small moons, no water; orbit 6 is empty; P7 is a large gas giant with seven moons, some of which of reasonable size, some water and frozen atmosphere.

There are no radio signals and in fact no sign of any artificial emissions in the system.

It is decided to make one more at least jump before replenishing the ship's atmosphere. Since the Anastasia is nearest to P4, they go to that gas giant to refuel.

122-1118 : ? (0405) / O / ?

They reach P4 at 01:00, where refueling takes until 06:00. They then head directly to the jump point, arriving there at 13:00 -- an hour behind schedule because of a slight bobble in Chiang Ho's piloting on way out.

123-1118 : ? (0405) / O / ?

Fuel refining is completed at 01:00, and they jump immediately for O-0207 at 01:00, the planned rendezvous point.