(28) Twenty-Eight

328-1118 to 338-1118

328-1118 (cont.) : Nicholai (L-0704) / O / ?

Fostriades notes that the Sir Walter Raleigh took on a crew member to replace an injured person right after the first couple of expeditions, when they picked up a replacement from William Rufus' ship, the Althea.

The Anastasia quietly cruises into orbit around P9-20. They pick a crater that will hide the ship from casual observation, and land in the center of it at 22:00. This moon has a 17-hour day, and so they can't pick somewhere that will never face the gas giant and its guarding ship.

Paula and Steve suit up and go out on the inhospitable moon to set up the refueling rig. Fortunately there is enough gravity (0.2g) to make movement relatively easy on the surface.

It will take 3 days for the Anastasia to refuel, and air will be replenished at the same time.

329-1118 : Nicholai (L-0704) / O / ?

Mich has now recovered from his injuries, and has been released from Sick Bay. The first thing he does is to work on the refueling rig so it will take 6 hours less. He then checks Engineering and rearranges it back to the way he wants it. After things are organized to his satisfaction, he continues with his new jump drive design in the boring hours of refueling.

330-1118 : Nicholai (L-0704) / O / ?

About 12:00, Steve Howard notices movement outside, at the ridge of the crater edge to the west of the ship. No-one can see anything there now, though.

A small select group will go out in the GCarrier to investigate. Brock chooses himself, Avon (as the forward observer), Lia, Varda, and marine#12. Avon's grav skills seem to be somewhat rusty: he runs the GCarrier into an air/raft on the way out of the vehicle deck -- the GCarrier is undamaged, but the air/raft is seriously smashed.

Rather than push his luck by flying NOE so they won't be seen easily, Avon takes the GCarrier to a reasonable altitude, and heads slightly north of the site of the movement.

As they crest the ridge, Avon spots something. They scan it from the GCarrier, and transmit the readings back to the ship. Rufus was asleep and is now making his way to the bridge, but Mich interprets the readings as some sort of equipment, possibly a tight-beam communicator.

The GCarrier crew locks the sensors onto the location rather better, and they now have a visual sighting of something moving, just poking its head up above some rocks.

Varda and Lia recognize the object as a cockroach anti-vehicle missile launcher, of the same type that shot down this same GCarrier on Jax.

"It's a bug!" says Varda, "Bail out and take evasive!"

Varda, Lia, and m12 bail out the back of the GCarrier, hit the ground, and slide down the rocks.

Brock says he is not going to shoot until he's sure what he's shooting at. He peers at the object and aims the gun at it.

On board the ship, Steve hits the General Quarters alarm. Everyone takes to battle stations, the marines filling in for the missing crewmembers.

Brock sees a missile heading for the GCarrier, and that is finally sufficient provocation for him to fire back. He blasts the launch site with the heavy gun, but he has been thoroughly beaten to the draw -- the missile hits the GCarrier on the port bow.

The blast rips through the armor and takes out the front grav plate. Avon loses control and the GCarrier heads down. Brock keeps firing all the way.

The GCarrier hits the rocks and slides to a stop. Avon and Brock are uninjured. The vehicle is mostly upright, but tilted to starboard, nose down, and because of the position Brock finds that the gun can no longer trained at the target. At Brock's insistence, Avon checks to see it the GCarrier can take off again, but Avon's first impressions are correct -- it is well and truly stuffed. He tries to communicate with the ship, but the systems are not working.

Meanwhile, the three marines are back on their feet, have wiped the dust off their faceplates, and watch the GCarrier crash. They have a clear view of the place the missile was launched from, and that area is now toast. Brock definitely hit his target. There's about 400m between the enemy and the crash site.

Lia heads for the ridge, to circle around from the crater side. m12 lays down covering fire with his grenade launcher, while Varda advances to the GCarrier.

Back on the Anastasia... They hear the marines shouting "Bugs! Bugs! Bail out!" The GCarrier shoots, the front end of it blows up, and it goes down, still firing.

The Captain calls the GCarrier asking if they need assistance. There is no answer. The Captain sends Helen in the pinnace to help them; she is ordered to get the marines back to the ship as fast as possible in case they have to take off quickly.  As Steve Howard says, "They're going to get mad so we have to leave."

The engineers they crank up the refueling equipment, no longer caring about emissions.

Varda reaches the GCarrier. There are people moving inside, and she reaches the hatch just as Brock and Avon emerge. The three of them take cover behind the rocks.

Brock uses the "Admiral's Tactic" and pokes his head up to see if anyone shoots at him. No-one does, although Varda expresses a desire to do so herself. Brock stands up and walks towards the enemy position.

Avon calls the ship using his battledress radio. "Avon calling, we're OK, the GCarrier needs a little work." He is assured that the pinnace is on the way.

Lia is now level with the enemy position. She observes that the site has been thoroughly taken out, and there are grenades landing in the general area every now and then, although the point of aim is drifting away.

Varda orders the marine to stop firing (and suggests calmly that he might like to engage in some remedial target training), and she and Brock arrive at the site too.

It's a mess. There are remains of maybe two cockroach bodies, and wreckage of bug equipment. Most is smashed beyond recognition, but they do find remains of the anti-vehicle missile launcher and other unidentified equipment.

The pinnace comes down and picks up the GCarrier crew after some bickering. They then hook up the GCarrier to the pinnace, and carry it back to the Anastasia at about 13:00.

They really work hard with the sensors to see if they can find any sign of other bugs, and are rewarded with small emissions on the ground about 5km away.

With the GCarrier safely lowered into the vehicle deck, the pinnace is sent to investigate the emission source. Helen takes Kara, Lia, Avon, and Brock.

When they get there, it turns out to be some unattended equipment. Closer examination reveals that it is a tight-beam communications relay; they go out to see if they can work out where it is pointing. The direction of the relay determined, they head off that way.

About 10km away, they find yet another relay at the ridge of a crater, with more emissions near the center of the depression. Sensor readings are inconclusive, but there could be a small fusion plant down there.

Steve Howard suggests they should leave, and that there could be another missile launcher down there. Brock agrees, and tells Helen to take them out of there.

Avon realizes the pinnace is being actively scanned, and his voice adds to the clamor.

Brock fires the pinnace's laser at the source of the scans, but without a powerful computer to aid him he misses wildly.

A missile salvo shoots up from the ground at them, and with no defensive weapons available the pinnace is hit in the stern despite Helen's best efforts at evasive maneuvering. The drive is damaged but serviceable, and Helen manages to scrape the boat over the rim of the crater and back to the Anastasia as low and as quickly as possible.

At 14:00, the pinnace arrives back at the Anastasia. Lia gets out, but everyone else stays on board for a quick run to orbit to check for approaching ships.

There are three BOXERs about half an hour away.

The Anastasia now has about 4/7 of the fuel she needs, but it's enough to jump to Dulu. The plan of jumping on to the system before Dulu has been abandoned, as they now wouldn't be able to jump from there to Dulu without refueling.

Helen takes the boat back down and docks hastily at 14:45. There are about 15 minutes until the BOXERs arrive.

The instant the pinnace is in the bay, Chiang Ho takes the ship up, reaching orbit at 14:57. Mich pulls 6g out of the engines for a while, and they hurtle away from the moon to where they can jump safely.

The BOXERs scan for the Anastasia, but can't get a lock. The ground station, however, does have a lock on them and fires a missile salvo at the ship. Avon, who had rushed to his gunnery station as soon as the pinnace docked, deflects them easily with what's left of the Anastasia's sandcasters. He requests and obtains clearance to shoot back, and nukes the ground station.

The Anastasia rapidly accelerates out of range of the enemy ships, and reaches 10d at 15:34. They jump immediately for Dulu. Linda makes a slight miscalculation in the jump coordinates, but catches the problem in time before the drive is engaged.

The engineers now settle down to fix the three damaged vehicles. The pinnace has damage to the hull and thruster plates. The air/raft is not badly damaged; the bent body panels are bashed back out; one grav module is replaced along with the windshield and one of the seats.

331-1118 : Jump Space

Repairs to the pinnace and air/raft are complete, and the engineers turn their attention to the wrecked GCarrier. A lot of the control modules are smashed, the front grav unit is wrecked, the hull is damaged; the worst problem, though, is the damage to internal components. It is repairable this time from spares on board, although the supplies are now really running low.

336-1118 : Dulu / Scorpio / Yonder

The Anastasia arrives from Nicholai at 15:34. They emerge from jump space with a bit of a thump, and the transition burns out a unit in the jump drive that will need to be replaced before the ship jumps again.

There are a lot of ships in this system, all apparently TradeMain Foundation warships. There are three different groups of ships heading their way. The Captain transmits who they are, and that they have important information concerning the roaches.

The TMF ships lock their sensors on to the Anastasia, and escort them in to the mainworld at a painfully slow pace. It takes two days to reach the mainworld, during which time the engineers fix the jump drive.

338-1118 : Dulu / Scorpio / Yonder

The TMF ships escort the Anastasia in to land at the ground starport, which is on a different world from their last visit. This one is another moon of the same gas giant as Dulu, and Dulu itself now shows no sign of habitation.