(26a) Twenty-Six A

314-1118 to 315-1118

314-1118 (cont.) : Jax (L-0303) / O / ?

The Captain's opinion is that the Sir Walter Raleigh fell afoul of an automated self-destruct put in by the designers -- after the maneuver drive went down, the system thought the ship was in danger of capture, and therefore blew itself up.

The satellite probes they left last time are still in orbit and operational.

Brock studies their records of Dulu to determine the feasibility of overthrowing the government. It turns out that the computer has all sorts of programs designed to help with this very type of activity. He finds that the political system is very susceptible to takeover at a single spot, and that if anarchy were the intention, knocking out communications and power would probably cause revolts over the whole planet.

By eliminating about three critical people, he could substitute his own people and have them report to him, much as on their last visit the press agency reported to absentee leaders who probably don't even exist any more.

Joe thinks this scheme would be a good idea, and wants to contribute his skill in political intrigue. He points out a particular page of Brock's book to study -- it's something that helps one's understanding of motives and goals, and helps one manipulate lesser beings. He says not to tell anyone else about this page, including Chiang Ho.

For the time being, Brock wants to keep his plan quiet. Eventually it will be necessary to involve others, but for now... He is also looking for a shift in power from the Captain to himself, a goal that Joe thinks is excellent.

Joe then suggests that Brock talk to Jill. She might be very good at intercepting and substituting broadcasts, while at the same time introducing stuff to keep their security systems occupied.

Brock wonders about involving Jack. Joe thinks this would be fine, it's just that Jack has no relevant skills. Since Joe is Security Officer and covers the monitors, he can ensure that there is no record in the ship's systems of the consultation with her.

Brock wants to know how he can slip this past the Computer Officer; Joe says that he can fix the video/audio system so there is no feed, and Jill can fix it so there is a tame substitution.

So, later, Brock befriends Jill and visits her stateroom.

Jill is very amenable to the plan, but says that the main thing (as she sees it) will be stopping IFSS interference.

"Don't you and Jack have high loyalties to IFSS?" asks Brock.

"Yes and no, in that the IFSS's motives are not always done with the full information and with methods that are necessary. Rufus might be a problem. The IFSS's goals would be keeping a stable government, I imagine. They would probably not be happy about Imperial takeovers in this area. I suspect Rufus would not be happy about private takeovers with Imperial connections."

"...but once the government was installed, would they fight it, or support the new status quo?"

"A good question. Let me play with the computer a moment ... It takes a while sometimes to get around what Linda's put in to stop me getting into the computer. She really is very good. Anyway, it seems to me that the government would keep going whether there was something on top or not, and therefore by eliminating you they could put it back to the current state. Rufus is a definite danger. He's very good at diplomatic stuff and working out diplomatic moves."

"Well, we need to make sure that the IFSS doesn't know there's actually been a takeover."

"Yes, I think we need to keep Rufus out of action for that period of time at least. He is an IFSS diplomatic agent."

Jill says she'll work on it. She adds that it's a nice computer, and has some nice stuff that nobody's accessed, like for working out political movements, influencing politics, dirty tactics, and is good at working out plans for all sorts of unethical things.

Brock asks about communications, as in communicating with aliens.

Jill replies that there's nothing that will help beyond what they already have. If they had enough information, the computer could help them use that to maybe start a civil war or something, but that would take some extra work too. Perhaps Jack could help on that, he's the alien expert. She says the two of them have done some work in this field, but they still don't have handle on the cockroach philosophy. What they need is motives, what the society's based around, anything.

Brock asks if there's any more advice for "the team" that she can offer.

She counters with a question: "Do you know anything about Helen? I would guess that she's not worth ignoring, but I don't know. I can't find any records. The Doctor seems to be besotted and isn't asking the right questions, so he probably can't help."

Brock thinks that Helen is here for some sort of ulterior motive other than just that she "likes the old guy."

Jill can find very little about her. She knows when she joined the ship, and that she has an unknown past, as indicated at the parties, where she responded to "Christabel," so Fostriades may know something more. Jill suggests pinning Rufus' murder on Helen, but that would be a bit drastic ... she then suggests that Brock should try digging something out of Fostriades, as she hasn't had much contact with him.

They then agree that what they have been doing here is teaching Brock and Joe the game of Bridge with the assistance of Jack, and that she will doctor the records accordingly. She suggests that Brock study the game in his spare time so that he seems to learn it.

Jill also adds that the Captain doesn't have a lot of past, either. He came out of the Navy, but there's not a lot of records of where he was serving before that. As far as she can tell there's no connection between the Captain and Helen other than that they both joined the group at the same system, as did Avon (whose service record is available). Why not throw a party and see what comes out?

The orbital probes reveal that there are five large ships investigating the area of the explosion, but they don't seem to have picked up more reinforcements or anything like that.

Fostriades considers what work should be done to the Anastasia. There is not enough of the external systems left to justify refitting the main gunnery station, for example. He does intend to do some work when they surface for air.

Brock suggests a bean juice party, and since they're stuck under the ice for a while, the Captain and crew endorse the idea wholeheartedly. Brock rounds up the "usual suspects" (expect for the Admiral, who is busy, and Mich, who is in intensive care).

Brock suggests that they play an old game, which is called What Did You Do Before The Marines, which since they are not actually in the marines is to be what they did before they joined the Anastasia.

Avon says that he and the Captain used to move rocks around at Zaibon.

So what did the Captain do? He was Captain. Of what? Of a ship, like he's Captain of this ship now. How big? Not a particularly large one. And what did he do? He told people what to do.

"No, no!" says Brock, "you're ruining the game! You're supposed to tell an interesting story of what you did before you got in the marines. The marines being us."

The Captain seems to be getting drunk and confused.

"I remember back when I was working for Tukera," pipes up Fostriades, "We were on this mission and we were doing the normal ordinary jump-4 and then we had a misfire, and so there we were out in the middle of nowhere and..." He goes on for a while, expanding into a technical treatise on how to repair jump drives while in jump.

Brock moves on.

The Captain explains how he went to a party once back at one of the Imperial worlds at which high-ranking officials were present, and the daughter of some Duke was there and he really charmed her, and it was some party, and if her father hadn't showed up and been annoyed he might be an Admiral today with his great wit and intelligence.

Helen asks him about the "Admiral's Pink Pantaloons" story, but the Captain is still fixated on the Duke's daughter. Both have another drink.

Brock says he's having a good time. He asks Helen what she did before she joined them?

She says she used to pick people up in an asteroid prospectors' bar. That's how she got the Admiral. He's a gentleman.

"You used to be on a ship, but you weren't in one of the services," says the Captain.

"Yes, you know I'm feeling sort of odd, I think I'll go to the Sick Bay." Helen passes out.

The Captain looks at Brock oddly. Who served the bean juice, he wonders? "Helen doesn't pass out, everybody know Helen doesn't pass out."

A discussion follows as to whether she has passed out at a party before.

One of Fostriades' dogs pads over and starts licking Helen in the face.

"Boss, who's Christabel?" asks Brock.

"She is," Fostriades replies.

"Why is she Christabel?"

"She just is. It's her name."

"Her name's Helen."

"Yes, it is."

"How do you know about Christabel?"

"What have you been doing with people?"

"I haven't been doing anything to people! I'm at a party! I'm bored ,we have 24 hours to kill."

"Hey, quit it dawg, all right, I'll get up!" moans Helen. She gets up and is about to have another drink, but says she still feels odd.

Avon is next. Brock wants him to talk about pirates, but Avon wants to talk about the rocks. There were the asteroids, some of them would be BIG and some of them would be small, and they paid them money to blast asteroids into bits. He and the Captain were both on that world, that's where they hooked with the ship. The ship docked, and a whole bunch of people got off and started killing people or something, but it's all getting fuzzy, he says. "In fact, a lot of things are getting fuzzy," he adds. "Anyway, isn't that fascinating?"

"So how long did you do this rock thing?" asks Brock.

"Oh, only a few months," answers Avon, "I just thought it was, like, a strange job. Just had all these asteroids and to keep them out of the way of the space station paid people to haul them out of the way, or if they couldn't haul them out of the way then blast them into bits and haul the bits away. But I have to admit it was more fun killing the pirates."

For her part, Varda produces a stream of Scorpionis language. At Vana's insistence, she repeats it in Galanglic ... an appropriately-phrased description of what she used to do. What a colorful way to say "none of your business!"

Helen says it's a good time to leave, but the chant "Fight! Fight! Fight!" goes up, and Helen offers to bet 5Cr on the Colonel. An argument about odds follows, which seems to use up all the fighting energy because no contest materializes.

Avon suggests Helen should make up a nice story about rocks.

"Well, like you said, there were lots of rocks," she says, "Actually Zaibon itself was just a little hunk of rock, that just sat there as a target waiting for other hunks of rock to come in, and heroes like this guy here..." pointing at Avon, "...went out and shot them down and pulled them out of the way."

"And it doesn't get any more exciting than that!" says Avon.

Brock apparently agrees. He asks Helen "What did you do before you got to Zaibon?"

"Oh, geez, well I drank a lot at Zaibon, does that count? No? Well, I was on Zaibon for a while, wandered around on some tramp ships and worked passage occasionally, but nothing interesting. I don't have any really good stories, you know. Well, anyway, I'm going to go now. Goodnight guys!"

"All right," says Brock, "We've got one more person to go." He indicates the Captain.

"But I already told you what I did before I was in the marines," he says.

"Helen already told about the pantaloon story, so you can't use that one, and Avon told about the rocks story so you can't use that one. You have to come up with your own story."

"I told about the Admiral's britches, daughter..."

"Helen told that story."

"But I told my story!"

"Tell another one."

"Will it be adequate if I fall down and futzed around like Helen did?"

"Yes, but I get to carry you to Sick Bay, and who knows what would happen on the way to Sick Bay."

"Oh, you're threatening me now, on my own ship!"

"OK, OK, where did you get THAT ribbon?" Brock asks, pointing to the Captain's fancy uniform.

"Um, er, uh, fighting pirates. No, er... Oh, I don't know, that one's old!"

"OK, where did you get THAT ribbon? So where did you get the Purple Heart?"

"You don't want to know."

"I do want to know."

"Well, it wasn't actually in battle. It was afterwards. After the battle we were celebrating, and... That's enough! I've told my story. I was a very good Captain, I cut a very dashing figure and I still do."

"Well, what did you do before the Navy then?"

"Well, I went to school. Computers and Engineering. So now you tell your story."

"No, no, it's my birthday."

"You have to tell your story, especially since it's your birthday." All agree, then the argument about betting odds starts up again.

"Well, I've done a lot of things," says Brock, "I'll tell you about my first mission. We were on a planet in some unrest, and the natives..."

"You were on an undressed mission?" interjects Vana, "or was that undressed a missionary?"

"No!" says the Captain, "That was undressed natives on the planet."

"It was a missionary," insists Vana.

"We were missionaries in a sense, that was our position," continues Brock, "Well let me just say the natives are a lot friendlier to the Imperium today. We're like clowns, we make people happy!"

"Well what happened on this planet of undressed people?" asks the Captain.

"They were all cold, so you dressed them?" says Avon, "It's a great story."

Brock asks Rufus for his story.

"Well, the IFSS recruited me out of school," Rufus says. "I used to play football. Did you know there's a planet where the geysers in the ground give off bubbles? The bubbles float up, and one of the games we used to play was take out air/rafts, and race them around the bubbles. The trouble was, the bubbles drifted a bit, and there was this gooey stuff that stank. If you hit one of these things, you'd be covered in the horrible stuff like bubble-gum, and you can't see where you're going, you can't see anything, and it stinks, gosh it stinks! well, it was fun, we used to do things like you'd run real fast and run straight for one of these, but dip at the last moment and the guy behind you would go straight in. That was fun."

"Well, basically we have a ship," observes Brock profoundly, "full of different people. We have persons of all walks of life. we have the Captain, who is about as military as, well... We have Avon, who served in the military with a capital M and very straight letters. We have Mich, who is military with a lower-case M and big fat letters. We have Helen, who's military except they don't call it that. We have Fostriades, who's not really very military at all, military with a dollar-sign."

Fostriades and Brock discuss the meaning of "military."

The party breaks up, but the enlisted ranks party in the marine quarters continues rather longer...

315-1118 : Jax (L-0303) / O / ?

At 04:00 all the fuel is refined. Paula has now recovered from her injuries.

The satellites showed the five ships investigating the explosion site, then heading back out towards the gas giants.

Chiang Ho was on watch last night during the party, so at 08:00 Helen pilots the ship out from under the ice and parks it on the surface. She takes it out, up over the ice sheet, and brings it in to land. The ship drops the last couple of meters, and settles on its hull on the snow with a thud. This causes a minor power problem in Sick Bay, and both life support systems go off. Fostriades tries to reroute from the bridge, and succeeds in restoring power fast enough to avoid medical problems for Mich or Judith Watson.

Avon takes over the helm, lifts the ship off, lowers the landing legs, and parks the ship safely on the ice.

Helen is not sure what happened, and says the ship just got away from her -- it didn't respond properly.

Fostriades goes outside for an external survey of the ship, assisted by Paula, Avon, and Brock. They examine the hull from one of the air/rafts.

The hull is basically intact, but they will need more heavy equipment to effect any further repairs. They need shipyard facilities to repair the ship properly, but there is some work that can be done to make the current repairs more solidly reliable.

Fostriades and Paula start work on the ship, in parallel with air replenishment which they begin right away.