(41) Forty-One

017-1119 to 046-1119

017-1119 (cont.) : Garstez / Corona / Yonder

The discussion on where to jump continues. Fostriades has joined those who want to avoid Karakus. Another place that is technically capable of the repairs is Brod, but it's three or four jumps away. Fostriades says they haven't told the Zhodani about Brod, so as long as they didn't get it from the IFSS, they're OK.

The Captain says they should notify Jack -- has he been informed about his wife? There's been no official statement, although Joe and NoName will certainly have told him.

Sir Bridgehead suggests this route: Dorfle, Ferle, Lerruy, then Brod. Fostriades agrees that's better than going to Karakus and possibly getting arrested. Dorfle, however, is inhospitable because of a local nuclear war. Jake is a suitable alternate stop.

Looking at the chart, it suddenly occurs to them that they were supposed to be taking Alice to Lirian. The Captain proposes a slight detour via Streddu, to drop her off there. Sir Bridgehead is concerned about lengthening their journey -- he suggests taking Alice to Brod, fixing the ship, and only then returning her to the Lirian Conglomerate.

They examine the information about the systems in Yonder, looking for places with a suitable starport and tech level to fix the Anastasia there. Streddu, unfortunately, has a TL of zero, which would not only be unsuitable for repairs but would not be that pleasant for Alice.

The Captain points out that going through Lirian would only add one jump to the trip to Brod. Also, they would be going either through the Lirian Conglomerate or systems which are far enough from possible Zhodani contact. He wonders if there is anywhere in the Conglomerate that could make the repairs, as that would probably be safest of all. Lirian itself, though, only has TL-B, Crosspatch has TL-C, Junian is TL-B; none of these are enough. The highest in the area is at Vargoe, which is in that subsector but just outside the Conglomerate border -- Vargoe has TL-E, which in fact is the highest they know of in the entire sector. The Captain is also a little concerned at the prospect of the IFSS doing things to their jump drive.

Mich strongly recommends that if they are going to stretch the maintenance to another four jumps, that they head to Brod to get it done there. The Anastasia's engineers would, after all, be doing the overhaul with IFSS components, rather than the IFSS doing the work. Brod is also the last known location of the person who originally designed these engines.

The Captain asks Mich if he could patch the drives up at a lower tech level. Mich replies that yes, they could patch the drives... There are other problems with the ship, though -- has the Captain forgotten that half their armament has been scattered through space?

The Captain decides the route. Supposing they jump from here directly to Lirian? They can drop off Alice there. The next jump is then to Vargoe, which has a high tech level. At Vargoe, the can engineers overhaul everything they can at TL-E, including as much of the weaponry as possible. They then proceed to Brod, having wasted only one jump. This way they keep their passenger happy -- it's bad business to take customers so far out of the way.

Fostriades wants to get to Brod before the Zhodani, in case they decide to go there. The Captain compromises -- they can pick up parts and get some weapons fixed at Vargoe, then move on to Brod without a long delay.

The Captain instructs Linda to set a course for the Lirian system.

The jump drives have been kept warmed up for a very long time, but they are indeed still ready to go.

The Anastasia jumps for Lirian at 21:30. There is a heavy lurch as the ship enters jump. Mich and Fostriades check out the drives -- there are no problems now, but someone will have to keep an eye on it.

As soon as the ship is in jump, Sir Bridgehead calls a company meeting.

First, Sir Bridgehead announces that he has been conducting cloning experiments on rabbits, and passes around the results. He intends, with the Captain's approval, to clone Jill. There is an incubator in Sick Bay with Jill's body (what's left of it) being regrown. Since the equipment being used is the company's, he thinks this should be brought to the company's attention, particularly as there could be a profit involved.

Brock suggests that piracy would be a much more ethical business to be involved in.

"Secondly," says Sir Bridgehead, "I think this would be a very good time for Helen to tell us what she knows about Robin."

Fostriades says they should all know that Helen knows a great deal about Robin.

Sir Bridgehead continues, "Helen said that Robin could have destroyed this other ship with the resources that we currently have. Obviously that already indicates that Helen knows a great deal about Robin."

Brock and Sir Bridgehead argue about whether this is relevant. Brock says that they've known for a long time that Helen was a pirate.

Mich breaks in, "I understand why the Captain ordered me to terminate Jill -- so you could have a body to play with."

Sir Bridgehead ignores him. "Anyway, my question was to Helen. I think it would be useful to us if you tell us what you know about Robin. Or Helen, or whatever Robin's alias might be."

"Well, the Zhodani said something, didn't they?" says Helen, "Something about flaming red hair?"

"What I want to know is what YOU say. We're among friends here. Speaking for myself. The picture that the Zhodani were painting of Robin is somebody who liked to just come in and cause all this mischief, and I was curious if you had any further insight into what Robin was doing?"

Fostriades says, "I got the impression that mischief was not quite the word the Zhodani would have used to describe the Berlin's activities."

The Captain says, "I thought we were talking about blowing up passenger liners."

Sir Bridgehead says, "I know, that sounds like pretty serious business."

Helen says, "That would be really stupid."

"Yes!" says Fostriades. "Stupid is the word I would use. It isn't even good business."

Sir Bridgehead asks, "Was Robin blowing up passenger liners?"

Helen says, "That's an interesting question. I expect the Zhodani probably have that charge against her, among other things."

"Helen," says the Captain, "You know if Robin was blowing up passenger liners. Now. Was Robin blowing up passenger liners? ...and we know that you know."

"I know that you know that you think you know that I know that you know," says Helen. She pauses. "I don't think Robin ever deliberately blew up a passenger liner."

"I'm happy to hear it," says Fostriades sarcastically.

"Now," says Sir Bridgehead, "Of course Robin was involved in spy activities against the Zhodani, right?"

Helen says, "I don't think that's one of the charges that the Zhodani have."

"I know that," says Sir Bridgehead, "That wasn't my question."

Brock interrupts. "Wait a minute. Was there any other business for this meeting? Apparently it was called so that the doctor could quiz Helen in front of us all."

"The main reason was the information about the cloning," says Sir Bridgehead, "But I wanted to also ask... Do people not care about this?"

"I am very curious about Helen's previous life," says Brock, "But I'm sure all of us have a mystery..."

Helen says, "You might want to ask what the Captain was doing before he joined this ship, too."

The Captain responds quickly, "Let's get back onto more interesting subjects!"

Sir Bridgehead says, "One of the subjects I wanted to get to is this ship and the Berlin. What did the Berlin look like?"

Helen says, "I think it was a bit smaller than the one the Captain was serving on."

"Doctor," says the Captain, "Let's get to a point here!"

He tries. "Did it in any way resemble the ship we are currently on?"
The Captain says, "I believe we figured out that it is not technically possible that this ship is the Berlin. There's a problem with the dates."

"There's a serious problem with the dates," agrees Fostriades, "There also a serious problem with the fact that this is a type of ship that never went into public use."

The Captain says, "There were a limited number of them, and they were recalled for problems." He addresses Helen. "I think you could answer the doctor's questions just by noting whether or not you have served on a ship of this type before."

"I've served on all sorts of ships," says Helen.

Sir Bridgehead says, "What I'm not convinced about is that this ship is not the Berlin."

Helen says, "I think I can tell you safely that it is not the Berlin."

That satisfies Sir Bridgehead.

Brock gets up to leave. He dislikes this prying into somebody's history.

The Captain states, "I believe we have established that in so far as she has served on this ship, that Helen has served quite faithfully under some very difficult circumstances. Now, if the doctor and Helen would like to have a private conversation in their quarters, which goes into personal character references and so forth..."

Helen says quite forcibly that she doesn't think that is necessary. Sir Bridgehead agrees.

"I do have one question," says Helen. She asks Mich about the bad jump entry.

"It's OK," says Mich. "We'll be watching the drives during the jump."

"The ship NEEDS to be overhauled," Fostriades reminds everyone.

They discuss the decision not to go to Karakus. Brock does not approve of running away just because there's Zhodani there, but he does accept that the way the ship is limping along is a valid reason to avoid trouble.

They discuss what they will do after the overhaul. Mich and Brock agree that investigating the situation at Karakus would be good.

Fostriades points out that the original plan was to see Archduke Norris, but that it would be nice to find out what is going on at Karakus. He wants to know what Rufus and Jack think of all this. They know Jill's opinion -- she was fairly explicit, and said that she would not advise them going to Karakus.

Fostriades fetches Rufus from the Bridge. "Are you aware of the potential situation on Karakus?" asks Fostriades on the way. "The Zhodani are implying that at the behest of one Admiral Winchester the IFSS station on Karakus is re-evaluating it's need to exist."

"The IFSS isn't just one base," Rufus replies.

"It was specifically the situation on Karakus that was interesting to us, which is one base."

"They're probably right. Maybe the Imperial Navy didn't know of the IFSS."

Fostriades and Sir Bridgehead agree that this fits with what Jack Junior said.

"It shouldn't threaten the future of the IFSS," insists Rufus.

Fostriades continues, "My concern isn't so much for the future of the IFSS as the future of this ship. I want to know what you think is there."

"We've no reason to believe that the Zhodani should be making it up."

Fostriades points out that they did think the Anastasia was or was connected with the Berlin... a good reason to feed them nonsense.

Rufus suggests asking at Lirian -- the Zhodani said they were on a diplomatic mission to ask for permission, and to get to Karakus they surely went through Lirian space.

Fostriades says, "Let us assume the worst -- that the Zhodani moved in to take over the base with tacit approval of the Naval representatives -- how likely would the people at Karakus be to indicate the existence of the research station at Brod?"

"Not at all. It wouldn't be the first time an IFSS base has been discovered, although this time they seem to be convinced it's actually called the IFSS. They probably came in too fast, and there's too much equipment to dispose of in time. Standard orders are to try to make it look like some sort of merchant outpost or something. Most of the ships are out, though, since the walkabout order."

The walkabout was declared around a year or so ago, right before the Sir Walter Raleigh was commissioned. Mich says that means they should all be coming back in for their annual maintenance.

Rufus says they could be maintained elsewhere -- some of the ships might be coming in, but others may be out there for another four or five years. He also says that the Karakus base is probably doing its job -- let the Zhodani shut down the IFSS, and then it will cease to exist, yes?

They tell Rufus the intended route. Sir Bridgehead suggests that they could intentionally misjump and maybe make Brod in one jump, but he is not taken seriously.

Fostriades does not think it's funny to joke about misjumps.

Rufus retorts that this jump wasn't particularly smooth.

They discuss misjumps, with the example of the Sir Walter Raleigh. Of course they wouldn't know if they'd misjumped until day nine or so.

Rufus returns to the Bridge.

The Captain visits Jack, and expresses his regrets over Jill's current condition and tells him she is getting the best of care from the doctor -- she should be as good as new in several months. The Captain then tells him about the current situation. They are jumping for Lirian to let off the passenger, and are bypassing Karakus because of what the Zhodani have said -- they don't want to be taken for an IFSS ship in a system where the IFSS is in trouble. They will then head for Brod to fix the ship.

Jack suggests going directly to Karin instead of Brod, as it would be about the same distance. They could repair the ship there.

It would be six jumps to Karin from Lirian, according to Sir Bridgehead, as opposed to four to Brod. Fostriades does not approve of waiting the extra time. Mich says they were originally planning for Karakus because it was closer than Brod, and they will be really pushing it to get as far as Brod.

Fostriades suspects that the Zhodani may have known about the IFSS base at Karakus in advance, although he thinks the walkabout is a genuine response to the cockroach threat.

Jack doesn't think it is likely that the Zhodani knew anything.

Meanwhile, Paula has identified a weak area in the drives -- they will need to reroute the power and replace the unit while the ship is still in jump. The computer predicts it will fail in 36 hours, and will take about 30 minutes to fix. She and Mich perform the task easily.

022-1119 : Jump Space (Garstez to Lirian)

One of the drive components is a little on the dodgy side and is deteriorating, although it will probably last the jump. It cannot be replaced or fixed unless the jump drive is shut down. Since they can't do anything about it, Mich doesn't tell anyone, although he does ask Fostriades what he thinks of it. The unit is in the conventional part of the drive, rather than the anti-matter section -- they can probably buy a replacement at any TL-14 system, or perhaps even fix it from the ship's stores.

025-1119 : Jump Space (Garstez to Lirian)

It is now the eighth day of jump -- Mich's birthday! He has a private party down in Engineering, just for himself and some of the ratings.

Sir Bridgehead now estimates that Jill will take about 3 or 4 months to grow.

Brock has been studying TDS Combat and Philosophy intensively.

The ship does not come out of jump. They are now starting the ninth day of jump.

Ten minutes later, most of the ship's officers descend on Engineering to ask Mich what is going on.

"Well, you know we lurched when we went in," says Mich, "We had to reroute some circuitry." He explains patiently that no, he can't bring the ship out of jump, and there's nothing they can do about it. "If it lasts too much longer," he says, "We will start tranquilizing the crew... space madness. They'll get space sickness."

The Captain wonders if this will have any effect on the growing clone of Jill.

Mich wonders if the failing component will last.

026-1119 : Jump Space (Garstez to Lirian)

"I don't think we'll have to worry about the Zhodani presence in the area any longer," says the Captain.

"For all I know," says Fostriades, "We could be in the Zhodani Consulate now."

"It would be wild if we did come out at Brod," says Sir Bridgehead.

It's the ninth day. It's 21:30. Do you know where your ship is?

The Anastasia is still in jump. Sir Bridgehead now starts dealing with some sickness complaints.

The Captain checks his private food stocks in his cabin -- there's about a month and a half supply there. He starts working on a document for posterity, which he keeps in his safe with the money.

He also asks Sir Bridgehead about low berth capability. The Anastasia has the equivalent of four medical low berths in Sick Bay. He instructs Vana to lock up all the heavy ship-damaging weapons, in case jump sickness becomes a serious threat. The GCarrier gun is disabled by disassembling it, and the vehicle deck is kept under heavy guard.

Fostriades quietly wanders down to Engineering and together with Mich examine the failing component. It hasn't failed yet -- they estimate its service life as two days.

Brock makes sure that Vana has the marines on a full physical training schedule. There are some morale problems, but Varda deflects that by drilling them intensely -- can't have a slow salute again! At least if they go crazy and try to kill someone, they will want to kill Varda first.

027-1119 : Jump Space (Garstez to Lirian)

As the eleventh day starts that evening, jump sickness cases increase. Steve Howard is in bad shape -- rest and medication are prescribed.

028-1119 : Jump Space (Garstez to Lirian)

As the twelfth day starts, the Captain reflects that the longest survived misjump on record is 24 days.

The Captain asks the TDS people if they have anything that will help with jump sickness? They are having no problems themselves, and Chiang Ho and Brock are fine and well, but that's a function of their philosophy. They have nothing they can use to help the crew.

029-1119 : Jump Space (Garstez to Lirian)

Mich reckons the jump drive component will hold out for at least another day.

The Captain asks Fostriades and the doctor to work on setting up a mass low berth, perhaps a whole room?

Jump sickness cases increase. Some of the marines need to be sedated. Steve Howard is worse, and needs to be kept under medical supervision all the time now.

Sir Bridgehead himself is taken ill. He keeps going with the aid of some pharmaceuticals. He starts looking rather spaced out, and warns the Captain that Brock may be needed to assist in Sick Bay before long.

Fostriades and Mich, on the other hand, seem to have adjusted well to the odd feeling. Perhaps it's a natural understanding of jump space?

031-1119 : Jump Space (Garstez to Lirian)

The drive component has now stabilized and may last indefinitely. Steve Howard is moved into intensive care. As the stream of patients increases, Steve Howard is moved into a medical low berth.

032-1119 : Deep Space

After fifteen days in jump, the Anastasia emerges into normal space. The transition is violent, and the faulty drive component explodes.

There are no stars nearby. They have no idea where they are. Rufus is still feeling bad and is not up to resuming duties yet. Linda immediately starts working on the task of finding their position.

There are two stars at a distance of one parsec. If the jump drive worked, they could go there. Mich starts working on it -- he finds there are spares on board to fix it, but it will take a day or two to fix.

Sir Bridgehead is exhausted but still has patients to treat. Since the crisis is over and most of the cases are routine, he hands over to Brock. Sir Bridgehead starts coming off the drugs he used to keep him going, but even taking drugs to control the side-effects, the years weigh on him heavily. He is completely out of action for a day, and will need a couple more days to recover from the shock to his system.

033-1119 : Deep Space

Mich and Fostriades have finished replacing the component at 21:00, but they decides to go through the entire drive and refurbish as much as they possibly can.

035-1119 : Deep Space

Linda identifies the nearest stars. They are one parsec from Querion and Attica. The Anastasia has performed a Jump-22 in the direction of their original course, going from the borders of the TradeMain Foundation almost all the way to the Zhodani Consulate, back in the Spinward Marches.

Querion is a Zhodani system, TL-9, Agricultural, 4 gas giants, Zhodani naval base, and a district capital; Attica is independent, and has a C-class starport, TL-8, Non-industrial, Vacuum, no gas giants. The Captain says that Querion might be the best place to get repairs.

Helen quietly suggests that Attica might be better. "I think we might be able to get a few repairs there."

"Is there something at Attica?" asks the Captain. "Do you know the people there?"

I might know one or two of them."

The Captain decides that they will go to Attica. He asks Helen if there's anything they need to do in the system so the locals don't take action against them?

"We do have the transponder turned off, right? That'll help."

"Why?" asks Sir Bridgehead.

"Shhh!" the Captain tells him, "Do you want to look like a pirate or don't you?"

Sir Bridgehead points out that they are a lot closer to Archduke Norris now. Another couple of those jumps, and they would be right there!

"Does anyone want to apologize to our passenger?" asks Sir Bridgehead. Although they would be within their rights to dump Alice at the nearest planet, since they are nice people they will keep carrying her along at no charge, and won't even charge for the misjump.

Brock makes sure the military equipment is returned to normal duty.

036-1119 : Deep Space

The jump drive work is complete at 22:00. The engines are now in the best possible shape, given the facilities they have on board. Keeping them warmed up for so long alongside the Ste'saja at Garstez put quite a strain on them.

They immediately jump for Attica. The Captain makes sure that Helen knows that she will be responsible for what they do when they come out of jump.

They discuss where to go now. Regina is not far away, and they could certainly get the full maintenance performed there.

Mich continues his design work. He now thinks he could put together a prototype.

041-1119 : Jump Space (to Attica)

Sir Bridgehead continues to work with Linda to try to analyze Jill's brain patterns. It seems to be different from both the normal pattern and Rufus'.

The Captain immediately wants Jack scanned.

Sir Bridgehead tries to convince Jack he needs to be examined, but can't manage it.

The Captain tries, on the grounds that it's a ship's safety issue, and that doesn't work either. He calls in Joe and NoName as security, and asks the doctor to drug Jack.

NoName say they can handle it. Do they want Jack conscious or not?

Joe and NoName shut the door behind them. Five seconds later they come out carrying an unconscious Jack.

In Sick Bay, Sir Bridgehead performs the brain scan (results will be ready 045-1119), and takes samples and does other checks.

Jack is returned to his cabin, where he regains consciousness. He apparently has no idea what happened, and is convinced that he has persuaded them that a physical exam is not necessary.

043-1119 : Attica / Querion / Spinward Marches

At 22:00, the Anastasia comes out of jump with the EMMask on, the transponder off, and the gunner ready (with conventional missiles ready). Helen is piloting. The rest of the bridge crew sit back to see what she does next. She thinks they should wait for a while. Rufus picks out some regular merchant shipping in the system.

044-1119 : Attica / Querion / Spinward Marches

At 06:00, eight hours after they arrived in the system, Helen starts moving the Anastasia in to 10d from the mainworld, very quiet and slow.

045-1119 : Attica / Querion / Spinward Marches

At 08:00 the Anastasia comes to a halt, 10d out from Attica. They have to wait 15 hours for the right part of the planet to rotate into a position where they can communicate.

At 23:00, Linda opens a laser comm channel to the surface. The other end is not transmitting.

Helen says, "Hi, Bill! It's been a while, we're coming in. Open the doors for us, please."

The bridge crew mutters in the background.

Helen starts taking the ship in slowly, at just under 1g.

The planet seems to have a number of domed cities. They are approaching one of the smaller ones.

046-1119 : Attica / Querion / Spinward Marches

At 02:00 they reach the dome, and doors open revealing a docking bay. Helen sets the Anastasia down on the surface.

The Captain makes sure Vana is aware of the potential security problems of getting repairs at what is most probably a pirate base. The marines will be on a state of alert, and the Captain is to be informed about everyone who comes and goes. The marines will practice setting up and tearing down some of their heavier weapons, in a convenient place like the receiving dock.

Looking around, it seems like they are in roughly a D-class starport. Helen says that a few of them should go out and negotiate a deal. Sir Bridgehead wants to go -- he's good at Admin. Helen suggests strongly he not wear his Naval uniform.

Mich puts together a list of everything he wants -- everything he needs for fixes, supply restocking, all that stuff.

Sir Bridgehead's analysis of Jack's scan is now complete. It has anomalies -- like Rufus. The Captain postulates that this is "controlled," and Jill's anomalies indicate "controlling."

"Now we know what Jack saw in her," says Sir Bridgehead.