"Well," she says. "They've clearly already taken out the IFSS."
"You think the Zhodani have done something to the IFSS?" asks Sir Bridgehead (from the Anastasia).
"Yes, obviously. Apparently they have some sort of a fleet there, and they've conned some renegade Imperial admiral into working with them. I would say things are very serious."
"Wait a minute," says Brock. "Jill, I thought you were opposed to the IFSS."
"Yes, but who knows what these interfering idiots are doing."
"So you're opposed to both the Zhodani and the IFSS," says Brock. "Is there anybody who is on your side?"
"Apparently very few people. This is our problem."
Sir Bridgehead interrupts. "Jill, I want to tell you something frankly. That is, I believe you."
"Good, thank you."
Vana calls for a psi meter to be waiting when they arrive.
Sir Bridgehead continues, "What do you think that the Zhodani's purpose is? What are they doing?"
"It looks like they're trying to take over here."
"And you think they're using the cockroaches as an excuse to expand?"
Fostriades points out it's possible they didn't know about the cockroaches until they told them. He corrects himself -- there is one thing the Zhodani said that they didn't tell them first, that Norris is aware of the threat.
Sir Bridgehead asks Jill what she thinks of Archduke Norris.
"He's generally reliable."
"Do you think it would be typical that he would contact the Zhodani to assist?"
"Why would he do that?"
"The Imperium cannot be involved this close to the Zhodani," quotes Fostriades. "Use Zhodani or Vargr bases if necessary. You are on your own."
"That was the message from the Emperor," says Sir Bridgehead. He asks Jill, "What do you think of that?"
"What message from the Emperor?" says Jill.
"One we received," says Sir Bridgehead.
"One Bill received," corrects Fostriades.
"You don't know Bill?"
"Not by that name. Perhaps I could see the letter?"
"No. Bill Darani. You don't know Bill Darani?"
"Not personally. I believe Jack mentioned him."
"Really? How long have you been married to Jack?"
Sir Bridgehead asks, "So you don't really believe that Archduke Norris contacted the Zhodani?"
"It's possible. I don't know, but if you were Archduke Norris, would you have contacted them?"
"I can see a reason to, if the Imperium did not want to get involved."
"The implication," says Fostriades, "Was that conducting a major operation in this area so near the Zhodani would be unwise. There are two ways of dealing with this problem. One of them is to use freelancers. The other is to tell the Zhodani what the hell is going on in the hopes of getting them to help rather than..."
"So presumably Norris wasn't involved in our operation, then, otherwise he would have known that we were out here. It's possible he contacted the Zhodani."
"Why would your presence out here affect his policies?"
"Because we're out here collecting information."
"On? Cockroaches? Zhodani?"
"Where did you pick us up? Everything."
Sir Bridgehead says they need to get back to the Emperor, or at least Karin / Five Sisters as soon as possible. He thinks it would be unwise to go to Karakus. He asks Jill what she thinks, whether it would be unwise to go back to the ship.
At this point Helen slips the pinnace into the docking bay.
"Back to where?" asks Jill.
"Do you think it would be unwise to go back to the Zhodani ship?"
"Probably not. I don't think that they are as dangerous as I first thought."
"If they were planning to harm us," says Fostriades, "They could have shot us out of the sky at the first opportunity. We couldn't prevent it -- we have practically nothing to defend ourselves."
"Why did you first think they were dangerous?" asks Sir Bridgehead.
The docking procedure is now complete. They disembark, and the doors to the pinnace bay close behind them.
"What do you think the Zhodani were here for?" asks Fostriades.
"Well..." says Jill.
Mich triggers his remote control.
There is a small muffled explosion. Jill collapses to the floor.
It seemed like some sort of explosion inside her suit. Sir Bridgehead starts down from the Bridge to deal with the medical emergency.
Brock rushes over and removes her helmet. For some reason the neck unit is sealing off the lower part of the suit from the helmet. He opens the body of the suit. Jill is dead. Brock starts to choke on the gas.
Vana grabs Brock and throws him away from the body; he lands surprisingly lightly. Vana starts giving orders. "Detain Mich! All available "C" Deck hands to pinnace bay and Engineering! Find and detain Mich." She addresses the other people in the boat deck: "Everyone evacuate!"
Zenobia has rushed over to the exit and is scrabbling at the door, barking like mad. Fostriades opens it, and follows his dog through. The Captain and Lia follow.
Vana continues to give orders. "Varda, alert security, locate Mich."
Helen walks over to the terminal and hits the general ship alarm.
Vana orders Lia to get Fostriades to the Aux Bridge.
Brock is breathing -- not well, but adequately. He leaves the boat deck with one last look back at Jill. He closes the iris valve and triggers the emergency atmospheric dumping system for that section of ship (the boat deck and the port section of Engineering).
Helen (still in battledress) goes over to Jill's suit and closes it up.
Sir Bridgehead arrives at the iris valve where Brock has started the repressurization sequence. Brock is wheezing and coughing, and obviously in much respiratory distress.
"Brock!" says Sir Bridgehead, "Is Jill alive?"
"I need to get in there immediately."
"I know. I'm doing my best."
As soon as the air is back, Sir Bridgehead rushes in. Helen and Vana are still there.
Vana says, "Go help Brock. She's dead."
"No, I am going to help her." He goes over to Jill, and starts to open the suit.
Helen stops him. "Wait a minute! You can't open the suit. There's some sort of gas in there."
"Believe me, doc," says Vana, "We made sure. She's dead."
"Why is there a gas in the suit?" asks Sir Bridgehead.
"I don't know why," says Helen, "But there is gas in her suit. To take her to Sick Bay you'll have to take her intact and put her into a decontamination unit or something."
Sir Bridgehead calls for some help. Sick Bay is on this deck, and Vana details a few of the marines to help carry her there. Vana and Brock accompany them. Brock is having surprisingly little trouble, giving how badly he seems to be hurt.
Jill is hooked up to a contamination unit and the doctor starts work.
Vana calls Kara: "Ask Mich if there are any secondary explosives." Mich is already under armed arrest in Engineering. He says there are none.
Sir Bridgehead begins his diagnosis. Jill is dead. Most of her internal organs were crushed by the explosion, and the hydrogen fluoride gas has taken its toll. "Someone wanted to make sure she wasn't dead, but very thoroughly dead," he observes.
Vana calls Kara. "Ask Mich if there are any booby traps." Mich says there are none. She tells Sir Bridgehead he can proceed, and tells Mich that the "booby" is operating on her body. Mich looks around, but the controls to shut off Sick Bay's power supply are too far away; his guards indicate that looking around is rather more movement that they are happy with.
Sir Bridgehead tries to resuscitate enough critical systems to keep her alive enough to repair. Unfortunately it has taken too long to get to her, and he can't do anything for her. OK, he'll fall back to Plan B: he gives up on the body, and tries to keep the brain going for long enough to read it with his special equipment. He also takes a tissue sample so that he can clone the body later if need be. He sets the brain scan running -- now it is automated and needs no more attention for a while. He attends to Brock, who has some lung damage, and stabilizes his injuries.
Vana and Brock have no idea what Sir Bridgehead has been doing, or what the equipment hooked up to this (ex-)psionic's head is supposed to do.
Vana is highly suspicious. "What have you done, and what does that machine do?"
"I'm not going to get into that," says Sir Bridgehead casually, "That's classified."
"That's classified information."
"Classified to whom?"
"To myself and one other person, whom I'm not revealing."
Vana calls Varda: "Please ask the Captain; Bridgehead has taken the stance that he is operating classified equipment aboard your ship. He is refusing to say who it is classified to, him and someone else. Is the Captain the other classified individual?"
The Captain doesn't know about this. His guess is Brock.
"Sir Bridgehead," says Vana, "You have four seconds to tell me who the other person is who is classified to this equipment, the Captain is not that person. If you do not tell me immediately, this equipment will be destroyed."
"Destroy it then," laughs Sir Bridgehead.
Vana relays this to the Captain. He tells her not to destroy that equipment -- it's a Tech Level 17 Sick Bay -- do NOT destroy it.
"Why was it triggered?" the Captain asks Varda.
"I don't know. Mich is being detained currently. I will assume that Vana did not trigger it since she ordered Mich detained. She has not said. However, given that this is your ship, shouldn't you know what the fuck Sir Bridgehead is doing?"
Brock leaves the Sick Bay and goes to Engineering. Engineering is a restricted area.
Sir Bridgehead reaches for the communicator to call Rufus.
"Sir Bridgehead," says Vana, "Do not touch any equipment."
"Wait a minute here!" he explodes, "I'm going to touch whatever equipment I want! Rufus!"
Vana pulls out her gun.
"Rufus! I have a question for you! Rufus!"
Blam! Vana shoots out the intercom. It is now a smoking hole.
Sir Bridgehead is furious. "Vana, you get out of my Sick Bay this minute. You understand me? This is not your territory."
"Keep still, sir, or I will restrain you. I want four marines reporting to Sick Bay immediately! Brock, get back in Sick Bay."
"Vana," says Sir Bridgehead, "I am beginning to suspect that you are the one that triggered this." He pulls his gauss pistol on her. "Vana, I respectfully request you leave Sick Bay immediately. Do you understand?"
"I understand." She smiles. He is pointing a gauss pistol at a marine in battledress armed with a laser pistol, and he expects her to leave? "Captain," she calls, "I suggest you report immediately down here at your convenience, otherwise we will be short one medical officer."
The Captain, not surprisingly, wants to know what is going on.
"Sir Bridgehead is becoming a nuisance," says Vana.
"What is going on?" repeats the Captain.
Fostriades has been monitoring the situation with the eye of an old Tukera Lines officer, and says "Captain, we're losing the ship."
"Captain," says Vana, "In the light of our conversation about individuals running around the ship without psi helmets on and acting strangely, at this time I inform you that security measures should be taken to counteract this. I am about to order my marines to take action against all crew members holding weapons."
Brock, meanwhile, has arrived at Engineering, where the marines reluctantly let him in. Mich is under armed guard. Brock orders them to step aside, but they say apologetically that they can't do that.
Brock addresses Mich. "Well, I was going to beat the shit out of you for doing this, but instead I'll just leave you with the task of telling her husband."
Brock leaves and goes to the workout room. NoName is already there. Their workout is dramatic, to say the least. Brock is highly motivated, and picks up a lot of skill in TDS Combat and picks up some strong insights into TDS Philosophy.
The Captain attempts to take control of the situation from his position on the Bridge. He asks Vana to give him a statement.
Vana says, "Captain, Sir Bridgehead is acting in a highly irritable and irrational manner. He is currently attempting to threaten me with a gauss pistol. Rather than wait for you to tell me what to do about him using equipment that you did not have a high enough security clearance to know about, which is what he told me... There is someone else aboard this vessel to whom this equipment is authorized. I told him not to touch anything, and he immediately tried to summon help. I then destroyed his communicator."
Vana allows Sir Bridgehead to communicate, relayed through her suit, with the Captain.
"Hi Captain!" Sir Bridgehead says, "Vana is behaving in a very irrational manner. Vana has just destroyed my communications when I was trying to report people about what was going on. Well, yes, I was using some equipment. I was saving a brain. That brain is stabilized. No, I do not need to use the equipment further at this point. But I did request that Vana leave Sick Bay..."
"Captain, this is an incredibly bad idea," interrupts Vana.
"Yes," continues Sir Bridgehead to the Captain, "The brain is stabilized. It is not in immediate danger. I have frozen the parts that need to be frozen. The rest of it has deteriorated quickly. It means that everything that needs to be saved has been saved... but we will never have Jill again, at least not as we know her. We may have her memory -- I mean that literally. Yes, sir, I will leave it at that for now, if Vana gets out of Sick Bay."
The Captain starts giving some instructions. He is suggesting to Sir Bridgehead and the marines that Sir Bridgehead retire for the night to his quarters, as he does not need to make further use of the medical equipment that night, and it would be difficult to do so anyway given the circumstances. The best they can do now is to have everyone clear out of Sick Bay -- except the brain.
Fostriades speaks to the Captain, "My statement is I think you should make very clear that you don't want any further accidents happening to what remains of Jill. Very clear. Very unambiguously clear. I have seen only one evidence of a security threat to this ship, and that is the situation in Sick Bay. Other than the original mysterious occurrence itself, that is."
Vana resumes the conversation. "One last point, sir. What should we do with Mich? He is currently located in the starboard Engineering section. Six of the more well-equipped marines, with Kara, are entertaining his company. To recap, sir, if you don't recall... When we originally decided to go across to the Zhodani warship, or whatever the vessel is, we had decided to take Jill with us. You had also said that you wanted to make sure that she didn't impact our security or escape our sphere of influence. Measures were taken with Mich to rig her suit. Well, it appears that the suit basically went off. No, sir, I am positive I did not cause such action to occur. I have only one conceivable suspect."
The Captain explains the situation to Fostriades; he points out that Mich could have been set up as a fall guy.
The Captain then discusses matters with Mich, and then directs Vana that he is to be released.
The Captain issues orders. He will meet with Mich and Fostriades on the Bridge. Sick Bay is to be sealed.
So... everybody has left Sick Bay, with all the equipment there left running. All services to Sick Bay are to be handled by Fostriades. Mich is escorted to the door of Engineering and told to go to the Bridge. Paula is left in charge of Engineering, and Jeffry is reassigned to assist her there.
Sir Bridgehead has arrived at the Bridge, where he checks with Rufus to make sure that the other ship does nothing. He wonders whether Jill did this to herself.
Fostriades instructs Lia on monitoring the power to Sick Bay, then leaves for the Main Bridge with Zenobia. He is seriously annoyed. Jill was murdered, he thinks. Just as she was finally starting to talk, too... But how can they prove who did it? He doesn't trust computer tapes -- he could sit down at the computer and generate a beautiful tape that showed him doing a striptease -- look what happened on New Year's Eve...
Vana makes sure that Medical is off limits to anyone except the Captain, and Engineering (and the power conduits to Sick Bay) are restricted areas. She believes that Sir Bridgehead has said, essentially, that he is beyond the authority of the Captain and that there is someone else on board who is also not subject to the Captain. Mich is in her eyes clearly guilty: he had means, opportunity, and motive.
Helen has cleaned up the boat deck, and checks the pinnace carefully.
The Zhodani are surely aware that something strange is going on: the
pinnace arrived, the Anastasia suddenly vented a lot of atmosphere, possible
they could have picked up internal explosions, and there was a lot of radio
communications on board. There has been no reaction from them yet, though.