(24) Twenty-Four

270-1118 to 289-1118

270-1118 (cont.) : L-0110 / O / ?

Both ships take off at 23:00, ascend to orbit, and head off to the jump point at a quiet 3-day cruise.

273-1118 : L-0110 / O / ?

They have apparently not been detected or pursued. The ships reach the jump point at 23:00, and jump for L-0106 immediately.

Sir Bridgehead has now managed to clone rabbits successfully, including apparently successful memory transfer.

280-1118 : L-0106 / O / ?

The Anastasia and Sir Walter Raleigh come out of jump from L-0110 at 23:00. They were last here from 095-1118 to 097-1118, and found a fair amount of military cockroach ship activity going on at the innermost orbit. The activity is much the same this time.

They are closest to the P2 gas giant, which is eight hours away, and decide to go there to refuel.

281-1118 : L-0106 / O / ?

The two ships start refueling at 07:00; the Sir Walter Raleigh finishes at 15:00, the Anastasia at 16:00. They head to the jump point.

Sir Bridgehead says he's tired of his rabbits, and he wants some primates. Yes, that's it, he wants some monkeys! Chimpanzees! A baboon or two!

282-1118 : L-0106 / O / ?

They arrive at the jump point at 00:00, and continue refining fuel until 07:00, when they jump immediately for Jax (L-0303).

While in jump, Sir Bridgehead gives a "rabbit show." He produces six rabbits, and reminds them he started with just two. Many of the audience decide to make this occasion more tolerable by drinking bean juice.

Sir Bridgehead, with Helen as magician's assistant in appropriate costume, starts his act. He shows them a birthmark on the rabbit, puts it on a table, and puts a cover on it. He then demonstrates Rabbit Teleportation -- "Alakazam! TELEPORT!" -- and then produces the rabbit from the other side of the "stage."

The audience calls for Dog Teleportation, but he says he can only do rabbits at the moment. The audience heckles him badly, but he just continues to Teleport that rabbit back, and even manages to Teleport a rabbit with a bandanna (from the Captain) around it's neck.

The audience really gets involved in the act, but Sir Bridgehead maintains a good stage presence throughout.

The Captain (with slightly slurred speech by now) wants to know if Sir Bridgehead can adapt this for large-scale use, but apparently it only works for rabbits. Well, could they arm the rabbits or something, or strap warheads to them?

Sir Bridgehead says that he would need to practice on monkeys, or perhaps if one of the crew were sufficiently injured that they were going to die, he could try it then.

Vana reminds him about his own adventures in injury, and implies that a way could be found to duplicate that.

"Can you teleport one into their fuel supply?" asks the Captain.

Sir Bridgehead thanks them for attending the rabbit show, and wishes them many more rabbits in the future.

289-1118 : Jax (L-0303) / O / ?

The Anastasia and Sir Walter Raleigh come out of jump at Jax, arriving from L-0106 at 07:00, 100d out from the P8 gas giant.

As they come out, the alarms go off. Sir Bridgehead laughs, saying he must have teleported those rabbits all over the place.

It quickly proves to be no laughing matter: someone has a lock on the ship. Everyone hurries to their battle stations. The Bad News is the opponent is 50kt; the Good News is there's only one of them. Sir Bridgehead says he should have concentrated on teaching bunnies to fight...

A great deal of fire concentrates on the Sir Walter Raleigh. Three missile salvos and four lasers are on target, in addition to the spinal mount Particle Accelerator against which the ship has no defense. Three nuclear missile salvos (each a 100t bay) and one laser, and of course the spinal mount PA, penetrate the defenses. Severe damage is sustained by the weapon systems, the maneuver drive is knocked back to 1G, and the sensors are totally destroyed. They also sustain a little damage to the fuel tanks and the hull armor. Fortunately the communications survived, so the Anastasia can help out the Sir Walter Raleigh with her sensor data.

It is rapidly decided that the Anastasia and Sir Walter Raleigh will jump out as soon as possible, and of course the Anastasia will have to do the jump calculations for the sensor-less Sir Walter. Unfortunately, after using most of their fuel on their last Jump-4, their choices of destination are limited to an insystem jump, or a totally unknown system one parsec away.

The Anastasia has incoming fire, too. 20 missile batteries (all nuclear) and 20 laser batteries are targeted at the ship. The Captain realizes (he says) how foolish it was to have his emergency station on the bridge, and not on the pinnace. Nine of the missile salvos are on target, as are two of the laser batteries. The gunners manage to stop all the incoming fire that the Anastasia's defensive batteries can, but that's not all of it.

The Anastasia shudders from the shock of four nuclear missile salvos, and the two laser patterns rake across the hull.

The damage to the ship is heavy -- fuel tanks sustain damage, and the weapon systems are almost totally disabled -- only one each of missile, laser, and sandcaster batteries are operational, and even the surviving equipment is of much reduced effectiveness.

It still could be worse. The drives are intact, and the computers, sensors, and communications equipment all came through without damage.

They have lost 40t of fuel from damage to the tanks.

The weapons systems have not just been blasted externally, but secondary effects have caused massive damage to internal components. Fortunately, no-one was reloading the turrets when they were hit...

Options are considered: jumping out; launching a counter-attack and then jumping (but neither ship has effective offensive capability); ramming the enemy ship in a suicide attack (Brock's idea). The Sir Walter Raleigh has not suffered any serious casualties in their engineering section, so they still have the crew to jump.

The Anastasia's weapon control systems are a mess. Reports start to come in of heavy internal damage at the main and secondary gunnery stations on 'C' and 'D' decks.

Fostriades suggests that they immediately jump insystem to a gas giant on the far side of the system. The P9 gas giant is currently almost directly opposed, so they will jump there. Linda Gregson, with Jill's help, calculates the jumps for both ships, and transmits jump instructions to the Sir Walter Raleigh.

At the 'C' main gunnery station, Avon is hurt. There has been an explosion in the laser gunnery console room, and the target acquisition section is also on fire. Avon, despite the battledress, has been injured by the blast and is in the middle of a raging fire. Avon's sense of duty takes over, and he stays to try to put it out.

At the 'D' secondary gunnery section, Brock is unhurt, but the consoles and equipment have shorted and started small fires. The ship's automated fire suppression system quickly extinguishes them, but the area is still full of smoke.

Brock sees that the situation is under control, and goes to the next-door CBT room to find an operational computer console. He checks the status of the systems, and at that point the ship stumbles into jump. The port and starboard missile loaders are safe, the computer reports, but the blast could have hurt Jeffry in the forward missile loading area on 'E' deck.

Brock rushes down, only to find Jeffry near the lift shaft. He had been on his way to his station when the ship was hit, and so is unhurt but in serious trouble for not being at his station on time!

As both ships enter jump, they of course lose communications with each other.

As the Anastasia jumps, damage is assessed. The main bridge is safe, as is the auxiliary bridge; engineering has sustained no damage; on 'C' deck the sick bay is intact, but the main gunnery station next door is in trouble. The pinnace is safe. The marine storage and crew areas are safe.

So the main damage is to the weapons systems, and there are severe internal problems at both gunnery stations. The forward missile turrets have been heavily damaged, but there is no breach in the hull, and the jump field grid is still intact.

The Anastasia has suffered no serious hull breaches, and the fuel tank punctures have self-sealed correctly.

Sir Bridgehead in Sick Bay hears the explosion to aft. He grabs his emergency kit and goes out into the corridor with NoName, his assistant.

They find that the recreation room outside has a lot of heavy smoke coming from the gunnery station. Sir Bridgehead shouts "Is anybody in there?" and asks NoName whether they should go in. Given there's a fire and somebody inside, he tries to go in, but the door and its controls are not operational. Sir Bridgehead and NoName try to force the door, but they don't manage it.

So Avon is trapped in the gunnery station, injured and fighting the fire.

Sir Bridgehead and NoName dash off to the machine shop to fetch some tools to break into the room.

At this point, damage control reports that there are fires in the main gunnery station and target acquisition systems. The computer reports that there is only one dangerous fire, and that is in the main gunnery station.

The engineers are too busy stabilizing the jump to help in damage control.

As Sir Bridgehead and NoName come back to the 'C' deck Rec. area, Brock and Jeffry (neither in battledress) emerge from the lift shaft. Several marines in battledress arrive from the lower decks with fire extinguishers (as directed by Vana on the bridge), and try to keep Sir Bridgehead out of the way.

Brock and Jeffry take over working on the door while the marines assess the situation. The door opens a little, and a gout of flame and smoke leaps out. Colonel Brock, in front of his marines, decides to act the hero and tries to pull the door open anyway. He is caught in the big burst of flame that bursts out, and collapses. The door is not yet fully open.

Two marines pull the unconscious Brock out of the way and into Sick Bay, while another grabs Sir Bridgehead to pull him out of the way. Sir Bridgehead slugs the marine, breaks free, and goes exactly where they wanted him to go anyway, to the Sick Bay.

The other marines start working on the door, but it is still hard to move. The fire inside is reducing somewhat, and that is helped when the marines fire off their extinguishers through the crack.

The door finally opens, and Avon comes staggering out, dropping a spent fire extinguisher. His battledress is in bad shape, and he stands in front of the door for just a moment before collapsing unconscious to the floor.

The marines bring Avon into the sick bay too. The fire is quickly extinguished completely.

In the sick bay, Sir Bridgehead tends the wounded. Brock has suffered heavy burns, but fortunately it is only a minor injury, so before starting treatment (required within 40 minutes), Sir Bridgehead examines Avon.

Avon is in a very bad way. Wounds caused by the blast and flying debris have been aggravated by the time spent in the flames. Surgery will take 50 minutes, which would take too long for Brock to wait. "Is there a doctor on the ship?" You see, the assistant medical officer is lying on a Sick Bay table awaiting treatment...

Fortunately Paula Harris comes to the rescue. She has Medic-1, and hurries from her station in Engineering to assist. Sir Bridgehead has already performed the initial preparation work on Brock. Paula then takes over, while Sir Bridgehead operates on Avon.

About an hour after entering jump, all the medical work is complete.

Brock needs eight days of total inactivity, and so will be able to move around a little on 297-1118.

Avon is unconscious for five hours, and must remain totally inactive for 60 days.

Sir Bridgehead intends to use FastDrug to speed their recovery, even though the lack of ship's weapons makes the lack of gunners rather an academic question.

In the aftermath, the Captain issues several memoranda. It is decided that they need to carry out drills to improve their response to damage emergencies, and also need to improve procedures for immediate post-jump alertness. He also states that any officers not in battledress are to stay out of hazardous areas. After protests by the engineers (Engineering is always hazardous, they say), another memo goes out clarifying that hazardous means unusually hazardous, like in the case of fire, explosion, or incoming invasion.

The engineers report that the Anastasia seems to be holding together. The jump drive is operating correctly and the jump grid is holding. They do advise that no-one go into the damaged turrets while the ship is in jump. After a couple of hours, the engineers relax somewhat and take a well-earned rest.

They check the sensor records from the 20 minutes they were in the system. They reveal that the system has a very large number of ships in it, all apparently military. The ship that fired on them was spherical, about 50kt, consistent with a BEACHBALL type battleship.

It is postulated that this is where the cockroaches were pushed back from the Yonder sector.

There was not enough data collected to determine much about the distribution of the ships in the system, nor whether there were any near the P9 gas giant to which they are now jumping.

Fostriades suggests using the Sir Walter Raleigh as a major decoy, evacuating it first. He does admit that their crew would be unlikely to just abandon it ... they could of course (not for the first time) use them as a decoy without telling them first.

The Anastasia's engines are undamaged, but the Sir Walter Raleigh was down to 1g (unless they have managed to effect some repairs in jump).

This is the first time they have ever used the "jump immediately" tactic. The cockroach ship did get the jump on them, but at least they did the best they could, with defensive weapons and so on. All they could do was defensive operations, and they were surprised practically as soon as they got their sensors up after coming out of jump.

The Anastasia will have 6 days of fuel when both ships come out of jump on 296-1118.