(35b) Thirty-Five B


001-1119 : Jump Space (Joloch to Corona)

Avon walks in to the party, carrying his rifle. Alice is with him. He goes over to Helen and has a quiet word with her.

Avon tells Helen what he knows, and asks if she would be interested in helping him. Helen guesses that Linda set some things up when she was on the computer, at the Captain's instigation. They agree that Mich is responsible for the blackout. The door lasers on the other hand are a mystery -- unless Linda set that up too. Avon insists he saw something, but all Helen can confirm is that the door did indeed open and close. He does admit it is possible that the lasers and door were rigged, and the bean juice invented something to explain it, but it really did look like there was something there. Helen suggests taking the tape after the party, and going through it to see if anything shows up.

The Captain talks to Linda again. He tells her to stop the stuff with the door lasers, because now that Avon has a gun it could be dangerous. He asks Linda to doctor the tape of the party, inserting some humorous ghosts from stock entertainment footage; she could also add some more ghosts, like floozies for the Admiral, moneybags for Fostriades, whatever else comes to mind. She can then put that up on the screen and intersperse it with other stuff, like poker hands, or even poker hands that were never played.

Vana reports to him that Brock is fine, he just went to his room.

The hard-core of the party is still going. The video monitors have come back on and are playing a music video, one of a series the Captain particularly hates.

After a little the picture switches to replaying a tape of tonight's party. There's a slow-motion shot of the Admiral eating snacks, with his face going through most amusing contortions. It then switches to the door opening, and a ghost comes through.

"Yes," says Avon, "That's what I saw!"

Well, not exactly... the ghost is shaped like a sheet, and is neon pink with neon green chains dangling, and it's singing a happy song as it comes in. It wanders over to the bean dip.

There's a shot from another angle: the Admiral is sitting at the table, with ghostly buxom wenches offering him flagons of beer. Meanwhile, little ghostly moneybags dance around in a circle on the table in front of Fostriades. They all trot over to the bean dip, and toss the bean dip in the air -- it flies over and lands on Sir Bridgehead's head, and all the ghosts dissolve into one big happy fat creature which jogs and bounces to the door (which opens for it) and skips away down the corridor.

The video did not show the lights going out. Chiang Ho suggests that whoever turned the lights out also doctored the video. Fostriades agrees that, yes, he thinks the video has been doctored -- by somebody under the influence of bean juice.

"So," Chiang Ho says, "Some technically-inclined person who understands the effects of bean juice has managed to turn the lights off, dump bean dip on the Admirals head..."

There is applause and laughter in the crowd.

"...and come up with a video with ghosts and goblins in it."

Fostriades asks: "Does Brock vanish in the video? Let's play the video again."

"Mich turned the lights out," says Avon.

The Captain asks the computer to play the video again. It starts playing the music videos he hates so much. "Fast forward, no sound," the Captain says. There are more of the music videos he hates -- even in fast forward this particular one makes him feel ill. It continues through the music videos, without playing the party tape. The Captains shuts it off.

"Has anybody found Brock?" asks Fostriades.

"Yes," replies the Captain, "He's in his room."

"Is he OK? Does he have any idea how he got out?"

"He left."

"Having picked up the bean dip and dumped it all over the..."

"He didn't admit that."

"Shucks. Do we have anybody who can create force fields and project them?"

It is opined that gravitics might be the closest to that, and of course Fostriades is the gravitics expert...

"How about ectoplasmic psychokinetics?" suggests the Captain, helpfully. "Did you dump the bean juice over the Admiral?" he asks Fostriades.

"I most certainly did not!" says Fostriades. "Anyway, it was the dip."

"Oh, the dip! Oh, I'm sorry. So you dumped the bean dip on the Admiral. That was really very nice."

"I didn't do it!" insists Fostriades. "I wish I had thought of it," he adds. He notices that the Admiral has already left.

Avon has an explanation. "The whole crew's gone nuts," he says. He is rather concerned that Jack and Jill clearly have the expertise to do, for example, the video tricks. Perhaps they blinked in the right sequence to start it up...

Who else could have done it, though? There is somebody else in charge of security...?

"Joe," says Avon. "I used to play around with the security cameras with Joe fairly frequently, and that's been one of my specialties at parties...putting together party tapes and stuff. But that would point to me, logically, and I did leave the room just a little while ago..."

"In a huff!" says the Captain, "In a big huff. And the tape came on immediately after, after you'd been insisting that there was a ghost that no-one could see this fake tape shows that there was a ghost!"

"However," says Avon, "I didn't do it."

Fostriades staggers to his feet, picks up his dogs, one under each arm, and leaves. Lia stays.

"There are computer traces," continues Avon, "That indicate the lights were controlled from Engineering. That suggests Mich. They weren't switched off -- the circuit was overloaded -- but they were fixed from Engineering, at least. I think it was Mich -- especially as they went out twenty minutes after Mich left the room and went down to Engineering. I find the timing a little coincidental. But I have to admit that exactly the same timing logic would point to me having done the tape, and I didn't do that."

No-one has, of course, thought to call Engineering to ask about the lights.

"Well," says the Captain, "We're all tired and this party is winding down, so why don't we all turn in for the night? Come on, folks, let's clear out. We'll clean up in the morning. Come on guys, let's close it down. Everybody go back to your cabin, you can all sleep late tomorrow, goodnight!"

Next morning Avon wakes up. He takes some of the anti-hangover pills he got from the doctor last time, and recommends that Alice do the same. "Our parties aren't normally like last night," he says. "Everything on this ship has been so weird lately."

Fostriades has a lot of Turkish coffee for breakfast and not much else.

The Captain breaks out a bottle of liquor from his private store, and sends it down to a certain someone's room, for services rendered.

At 9:30, everyone receives a reminder from the computer about the meeting. Several of the crew have to be woken up. What meeting? The meeting of the owners of the ship at 10:00, of course. Of course. That explains it. Huh?

Avon gets an audible alarm to remind him. He can't shut it off because he has no computer access in his room, so he takes his gauss rifle and shoots out the speaker. He aim is a bit off, and the rounds mostly smash into the interior bulkhead.

His doorbell rings.

"Yes?" Avon says.

"Is everything all right in there?" It's the friendly marine from the corridor outside.

"No, I can't shut this thing off. Maybe you can help me with it."

"Certainly, sir!" The marine enters the room in full battledress, weapon drawn, looking for targets.

"I can't get that stupid speaker to... Oh, it's shut off now. Thank you very much."

"You're welcome, sir."

"You must have intimidated it."

"Yes, sir, I have that effect on people."

"Well, thank you!"

"Have a nice day."

"You too." He turns to Alice. "Sorry about that, Alice. I'm getting jumpy. It's been strange lately. I think we're getting space madness or something... Anyway, I'm not going to any non-existent meeting."

When the Captain gets his reminder, he calls Fostriades. "Did you call a meeting this morning?"

"No. I was just wondering about that myself. Personally I thought it was Linda who mostly sent out computer messages ... but she's not a member, she's on a salary."

"Listen, call the other folks and tell them that if they feel like attending a meeting, it will be in the ... uh ... officers' mess over breakfast rather than the location from the computer. You take everyone after 'S', I'll take the rest."

The Captain then calls Vana and sets her to work searching the originally scheduled location for any unusual circumstances. It was scheduled for the loading area on the lower deck. The Captain believes this suggests the marines should use the utmost caution. In return, Vana suggests that there be enough vacc suits in the mess for everyone in the meeting, should they be needed.

The Captain arrives at the officers' mess in his dress uniform. He sits behind the table, and he places his pistol carefully in front of him.

Fostriades and Lia arrive in battledress. Lia is fully armed.

The Captain calls up a view of the loading dock -- it is crawling with marines, searching every nook and cranny. He checks on Rufus' status, and the report is that he is just fine.

Brock arrives in battledress, also armed.

Helen turns up in a dressing gown.

Mich has not shown up, nor has Avon.

Chiang Ho turns up wearing a robe. He has brought Linus with him.

Avon has been told about the meeting by the Captain. He takes Alice and goes to the gunnery station, where he brings up a picture of the officers' mess. He tries to find out who called the meeting, but there is no record of who scheduled it or when it was done ... unusual. He finds that the meeting was actually called for the loading area, and watches a split screen of both locations. The loading dock is full of marines, apparently searching and scanning the place.

"Well," says Brock, "I think we have some things to talk about. The morale on this ship has plummeted..."

"As to the party last night," says the Captain, "The ghosts were mine, I admit it. I don't claim all the technical credit, it was a lot of fun, but I thought it was very much in the spirit of the parties with the videos and so forth, and I apologize if it, uh..."

"Who did the video?" asks Fostriades.

"Well, I can't claim technical credit for that which I didn't actually do myself, but..."

"You're responsible for the videos, though?"


"Does the video still exist?"

"Yes, I thought we could play it back."

"Good!" Fostriades suddenly looks a lot more cheerful, and Lia relaxes a little.

"Now I had nothing to do with the lights, and the reason the marines are crawling all over the deck downstairs is I hadn't scheduled this meeting, and I suspect Mich understands about the lights. As for this meeting..." The Captain calls Mich. "Mich! Call us up, please." There is no answer. He asks for a marine to go down there and get him to call on his suit radio -- the computer is suspect, thinks the Captain and Fostriades.

"Well," says Brock, "If he doesn't want to join in, that's fine."

"This is how the Sir Walter Raleigh went," says Fostriades. "The engineers were taken out first."

"Yes." says the Captain. "Find our engineer! Wait...isn't there a guard in Engineering?"

"Yes," says Lia. She calls Kara, who asks Mich to call in on his suit radio.

Mich calls. "Yeah, you wanted something?"

"Hi," says the Captain, "How are you doing?"

"Patching things together. There was a circuit overload last night."

"Yeah, the circuit overload. I thought you fixed it within ten seconds."

"I reset it within ten seconds, I didn't fix it. There's always a chance it will blow again. It looks like the contacts are corroded in subsection J of the..."

"Mich," the Captain says, "The Captain has decided that the games are really going a bit far. Now, it was lots of fun last night, OK? But those contacts, one doesn't get to be your grade of engineering without knowing how to keep contacts clean, so I'm going to presume that they stay very clean, and very intact."

"Well, we'll do our best."

The Captain exchanges glances with Fostriades. "Your best."

"We can't guarantee that a ship a year and a half out of its service is not going to have subsystems fail. We check it over and use baling wire and chewing gum the best that we can."

"Why didn't you attend the meeting this morning?"

"Enough weird things were going on last night... The first meeting had no advance notification; the second meeting changed the meeting place and I wanted to get a couple more hours of shut-eye. You said if we wanted to we could attend it, not that it was mandatory. I would have slept a little longer but I decided that while I was up anyway I'd come down here and start working on that."

"All right. Keep up the good work."

Mich starts work -- on generating enough physical evidence to support his story.