(29) Twenty-Nine

338-1118 to 349-1118

338-1118 : Dulu / Scorpio / Yonder

Now they have landed, they start air replenishment. The gravity here is a rather hefty 1.27g, so the Admiral will probably not want to go ashore -- crawling is not dignified. They consider cheap (i.e. free) ways of getting fuel, but it isn't raining.

Guards are stationed outside the ship, but no-one makes any attempt to contact them.

A while passes, and they consider who they know to contact. The starport seems to be occupied by the TradeMain Navy, of which they know the Commander-in-Chief ... but he is unlikely to be here.

Rufus suggests trying to contact the port authority themselves, so Steve calls them up. He tells them that they need refueling, and that they want to talk to Admiral Lhule. He is not here. Steve says that they have important information about the cockroaches, and asks who's in charge. The person says that he has instructions that they are to wait, and that they will be contacted. Steve inquires again about refueling, and is promised that someone will deal with that right away.

339-1118 : Dulu / Scorpio / Yonder

Eventually they are hailed, and the port requests that the officers of the Anastasia board the groundcar (waiting outside) for a meeting. The vehicle is large and can accommodate a lot of people. The Captain requests that they have a representative of the Sir Walter Raleigh, and asks the friendly one -- Janet Russell, the pilot -- but Janet wants the Navigator Chloe Masters along as well.

The delegation consists of Captain Delaney, Janet Russell, Chloe Masters, Rufus, Steve, Mich, and Vana.

Fostriades remains behind to make sure the fuel they receive is not contaminated or anything.

The trip is about half an hour. The ride in the vehicle is rather rough, although the furnishings are soft, plush, luxurious, and thoroughly overdone. It's hard to tell where they are going, as the windows are all blacked out.

The car finally comes to a stop, and the door opens revealing that they are indoors, in an area that looks like a hotel lobby with many potted plants. An honor guard waits for them -- matched heights, matched eye colors, and so on. In contrast, several of the Anastasia's crew are somewhat scruffy, although Mich did wash the oil off his hands before coming.

The Captain leads them down the line between the guards. The honor guards do not move in the slightest, but stand at perfect attention.

The door at the far end leads to a lounge. There is a waiter, a bar, comfortable chairs, and many more of the ubiquitous potted plants. There are three people in naval uniform waiting for them. Two of those are dressed in excessively overdone ceremonial uniform. The third makes the others look plain -- he resembles Idi Amin at his most pompous; the medals stick out, the gold braid shines, everything to excess.

The Captain walks up to him and bows slightly. None of the crew recognizes this stuffed turkey, and all manage to suppress their laughter at the spectacle.

They are asked to sit down, and are asked about their information.

"Ah yes," replies the Captain, "We have been traveling through the cockroach area. We have maps of their star systems." The Captain makes a mental note to leave Nexus off any maps they give this man.

Drinks are passed around. The Captain continues to describe, in general and vague terms, the other things they have found out. He promises that the Anastasia's computer officer will prepare a tape for them.

"So tell me," Mr. Subtle-Dress says, "What's out there?"

"Cockroaches," the Captain and Steve say, "Lots of them. Big system. Lots of cockroaches. Lots of big ships. They like to fight. They're smarter when they fight. Get them when they're not watching and they're pretty dumb."

The Captain continues to explain that they have met no new types of cockroach ships beyond those that were already described to them when they left. They have some frequencies, he says, and their doctor has examined some cockroach bodies, although he can't leave the ship here as he's rather frail.

Steve and Captain go on to tell him that the forces were in rather different places on the way back than on the way out, and there were some unusual troop fortifications in nearby systems.

"We've sent in scouts," says Mr. Tasteful Clothing, "But the lazy buggers haven't come back."

The Captain tactfully suggests that their failure to return might be due to other causes than laziness, and brings up the Sir Walter Raleigh incident as an instance of how strong the cockroach forces might be.

Steve Howard asks if there have been any attacks since they were last through here.

"Well, we fought backwards and forwards in a mighty campaign, and beat them back."

More drinks are passed around.

The Captain explains that their ship has suffered rather heavy damage, and that they are proceeding to the shipyards at Karakus to have those repairs made. In the meantime, they would like to be refueled, and go about getting the ships fixed. Mr. Fat Man orders one of the other officers to arrange the refueling; as for the repairs, the ship flies, doesn't it?

The crew (whoever want to) are invited to formal dinner in 18 hours time. A TMF officer will visit the Anastasia to see about the matter of the marines they have on board.

"Very well, sir," says Vana, "Have him contact my protocol officer." The crew smile at the thought that Varda will undoubtedly be the protocol officer.

More drinks are offered, which Mich accepts readily. They are offered supplies of drinks for the ship, which Mich also accepts.

They return via the groundcar to the Anastasia.

Vana takes the Captain aside and mentions that this is Admiral Cartha "The Butcher."

The Captain reminds the crew of their responsibilities to the ship. Admiral Cartha is quite capable of destroying inhabited planets for his own safety, so anyone who mentions the star trigger is clearly going off the deep end and will have to be committed to the doctor's care. The tape that will be handed over will carefully omit any mention of Nexus, the spider planet (Jax), and any other sensitive stuff.

"Vana," says the Captain, "Can you please identify whether or not any of the marines will be intending to return to Scorpionis?" He is concerned about possible contradictions between marines leaving the ship and the ship's log as given to the Navy.

"What, is anyone leaving?" says Vana, "Fuckin' hell no!" She assures the Captain that no marines will be leaving the ship. The reason for this is that they are under other orders.

Vana's orders, of course, came from Admiral Lhule, Commander-in-Chief of all TradeMain forces. The orders were to be assigned to the Anastasia. Vana is liaison to the crew of the Anastasia, and is therefore in command of all the marines; she reports directly to Admiral Lhule. There is no provision for her to be relieved of her duties by any other officer out-ranking her; further orders will have to come from Admiral Lhule himself.

The situation is further complicated in that the marines they picked up off Staru are technically still Scorpionis forces, as they have never been officially re-assigned to the TradeMain Foundation. They therefore can only be re-assigned by Admiral Lhule himself, and cannot be commandeered by any other officer.

Varda is informed that she is the Protocol Officer. She is suitably surprised. The Captain seems concerned that the Anastasia's crew may need to do things to help fend the TMF officer off, but Varda has other ideas.

"Just give me five minutes alone with him," she says, "And you can haul off the ashes."

The Captain says that the visitor should leave the ship in the same physical condition as he arrives. He suggests that the attache should speak with the Admiral first, but allows himself to be convinced to let Varda handle it. The Captain ensures that supplies of bean juice will be available should Varda need it.

The tape will be prepared: it will not include the ships logs, but only which places were visited, and reasonable details of the battles. All mention of Nexus, the spider planet, and Jack will be omitted. They don't really want to hand over the tape until they have refueled, just in case. Contingency plans are made for a hasty get-away.

Refueling completes. Mich taps a keg to celebrate. The marines cannot join in, as they are all on standby for the visit of the Navy representative.

The Captain has informed Mich he will be expected to wear his dress blues for the dinner, so he pulls them out and smoothes out some of the creases. He continues work on his jump drive simulations.

A groundcar rolls up outside. An honor guard disembarks and assembles, lining the route to the entrance ramp.

The ship is hailed, and Steve Howard informs the Captain and the marines.

A Navy Lieutenant steps out of the car. He is met, and told that the protocol officer is on the way.

Varda arrives in full dress Battledress, and greets him in proper formal fashion. "What is the nature of your business?"

"I'm here to discuss the matter of the marines."

"You have been expected." The visitor is escorted into the ship, and the door is closed behind him.

Varda offers him a drink, and he accepts. A simple beer is produced for him.

"Basically," he starts, "We are concerned with the matter of your assignment. What are your orders at the moment."

"Our orders are very clear and well-defined," replies Varda, "We are to accompany the crew of this ship until we are formally relieved by the Admiral."

"Ah. Yes." He pauses. "What about the Scorpionis marines that you picked up on Staru? I believe those should probably be handed over to our, uh..."

"Proper procedure for debriefing of Scorpionis marines before being admitted into the TradeMain Foundation has always been through the Admiral's office."

"Yes, well."

"Without a proper debriefing they cannot be reassigned, so we shall escort these marines until they can be properly debriefed."

"Yes ... yes." He sighs. "Well, um, of course this particular system is under the military command of Admiral Cartha at the moment."

"Yes, I had noticed that. Your point being...?"

"His jurisdiction surely extends to all forces in the system."

"All TradeMain Foundation forces within the system, yes, he has full rights and capabilities to any TradeMain Foundation troops under his command within the system. That is not a matter to argue about."

"Yes. Right."

"However neither the marines under my command, nor the Scorpionis marines, are under his command. We already have pre-existing orders from a higher command."

"Yes. What would you suggest I tell Admiral Cartha? I think he is a little concerned about forces within this system which are not under his direct command and can't be coordinated with his forces."

"I'm very sure I can understand that concern; however it's not my concern. I have my orders. My commanding officer has her orders. I don't believe those orders can be countermanded by your Admiral while in this system. Do you?"

"You have a good point." He has clearly given up. "Very well, thank you. I think this has clarified the position."

"I think you can fully understand that until I've received the proper orders from Admiral that it is really completely out of our hands."

"Yes, ma'am, I understand."

"Now then, now that all that formal stuff is out of the way, do you want to come down and have a drink with the joes?"

"I think I should go back and prepare my report for Admiral Cartha."

"He's going to be out partying all night long. I don't think it's going to matter."

Varda continues to encourage him to stay; he insists he wants to leave.

"Aw, come on, take your tie off and relax," Varda says.

"I really think I should be getting back."

"Come on. Right down this way. Besides, has anyone ever told you that you're cute?"

He looks very uncomfortable, and insists he leave. He is permitted to escape.

A courier arrives to collect the tape from the Anastasia. It is handed over and he leaves.

An hour later, a small truck turns up to deliver supplies to the Anastasia -- the supplies the engineer asked for, in large bottles. They are inspected carefully before being allowed on board.

340-1118 : Dulu / Scorpio / Yonder

Mich decides he is not going to go to the dinner. He is rather irritated that the fact that he had an option was not communicated to him earlier. Those who go are the Captain, Steve, Vana, Teri, Lia, 4 marines, Fostriades, and Avon. Teri commands the honor guard in battledress, which is comprised of Lia and the other 4 marines.

There is great deal of food, and although not marvelous it is substantially better than the generic food they have been subsisting on for a year or so. Steve and Avon stuff food in their pockets for later, and others may be doing the same but are more subtle.

They are not expected to engage in any meaningful conversation, but are expected to cheer when anyone compliments Admiral Cartha, which happens quite often. Steve raises a fork of beans in salute whenever this happens. Fostriades follows suit.

Steve asks one of the officers what happened to the mainworld. He says it was smashed during the war -- it was heavily bombed but has now been abandoned, after evacuating the people who were left. The cockroaches didn't land there, but fired at the TMF ships on the planet and at the ground facilities. He discusses food with Steve and Avon, and suggests they get a good cook.

They return to the ship. The port supplies them with a full load of food, but they are not authorized for military supplies and the crew can't convince anyone to stock up their nukes.

341-1118 : Dulu / Scorpio / Yonder

Finally they get clearance to take off, and are escorted out to 100d, one day's journey away.

342-1118 : Dulu / Scorpio / Yonder

The Anastasia jumps for Jusk at 12:00.

349-1118 : Jusk / Scorpio / Yonder

The Anastasia arrives from Dulu at 12:00.

While in jump, the Captain has determined that Commodore Watson has recovered enough to be woken, so Grand Admiral Sir Bridgehead does so.