(46) Forty-Six

106-1119 to 117-1119

106-1119 : Quare / Vilis / Spinward Marches

The Anastasia emerges very smoothly out of jump into the Quare system at 21:30. There is some civilian traffic. The mainworld orbits the innermost gas giant, and there is a colony on a satellite of the outermost one. The Anastasia is nearest to the large gas giant P2. They decide to call there and refuel.

The Captain questions the engineers about the jump failure. They explain that it was not really a problem. As for why the engines failed so soon after maintenance, the engines are not just repaired, they are essentially brand new. If this failure had happened with the old drives, they may never have come out of jump.

107-1119 : Quare / Vilis / Spinward Marches

At 09:30, the Anastasia reaches P2. Chiang Ho completes a flawless refueling in just 3 hours.

Fostriades considers the trade possibilities. He decides that it is not worth dallying here as the potential for profit is very low. They proceed immediately to a jump point at 100d.

108-1119 : Quare / Vilis / Spinward Marches

When refining is complete at 09:30, the Anastasia dims the lights and jumps for Frenzie / Vilis. It is again a very smooth transition.

Fostriades and Mich have made some progress with the Zhodani journals. It seems that the Zhodani were working on some alternate energy source, except that instead of an anti-matter system like the Anastasia's, they were trying to use a massive power-boosted plant.

110-1119 : Jump Space

During jump, Rufus is stricken with a strong migraine. He reports to the Sick Bay, but the condition does not respond well to treatment. He is taken off duty.

111-1119 : Jump Space

Brock wonders if Rufus' condition has anything to do with Jill. He asks the doctor to do a full mental scan of Rufus. Sir Bridgehead already has a good baseline, and thinks the scan results are a little unusual in addition to still having the evidence of tampering. He wants to keep him under observation for a while. He also adds that Jill will be ready soon, probably a couple of weeks.

William realizes they forgot to see whether Bill had any psi helmets for sale at Attica. They will no doubt regret that soon, when they have to resume paranoid anti-psi precautions.

116-1119 : Frenzie / Vilis / Spinward Marches

The Anastasia finally comes out of jump at Frenzie, back into the Imperium for the first time in a couple of years. The eight-day jump had a number of the crew rather worried, even though it was within operational parameters.

They suddenly remember to switch on the ship's transponder.

Rufus is still off duty, but other crew members fill in on the sensors. The system has a lot of ships: Imperial Navy, some Scouts, and of course civilian traffic too.

There is nowhere to refuel here except the starport, so they will have to pay for fuel and also life support. Since the last jump was a short one they won't have to fill the whole tank.

Fostriades immediately resumes his Merchant Officer duties, trying to find good trade in a direction they want to go.

They ask Alice whether she wants to leave the ship here, but she decides to stay for the time being.

Chiang Ho pilots the Anastasia to orbit around the mainworld. They are assigned a landing at 09:00 at an outlying area of the starport. Brock observes that they aren't getting the Conquering Hero treatment here -- it feels awkward to be classified as general aviation again.

117-1119 : Frenzie / Vilis / Spinward Marches

The Anastasia lands on Frenzie at 09:00.

"Welcome to Frenzie / Vilis, subsector Capital," says the recorded message. "Please keep all weapons on board ship and disable ship weapons while in port. Stand by for Customs inspection."

"Customs?" says the crew.

"Customs?" says Fostriades. "Oh, shit!"

There is quick discussion as to the legality of all the military junk on board the Anastasia.

Fostriades immediately deals with the matter of fuel and life support. He discovers that costs are twice as much as he would expect -- it all has to be shipped into the system. At least they can buy unrefined fuel, which is a little cheaper.

Frenzie is the coldest planet in this system -- the average temperature is 37C.

They have decided that they will continue towards Archduke Norris. Various messages will be sent now that they are back on the Xboat routes. Mich will send a message to Professor Farol on Brod, explaining what happened to the engines on the last misjump and so on.

The Customs Inspector arrives promptly within 15 minutes of landing. The Captain and Fostriades suit up and meet him in the receiving area.

"Welcome aboard, sir!" says the Captain. "It's good to see you. It's been a long time since we've been in civilization. What can we show you?"

The Inspector says he wants to start by getting out of this vacc suit, as soon as the area is repressurised.

The Captain and the Boss introduce themselves. Do they have the paperwork in order? Of course they do! (As Fostriades recalls, the last time they bothered to fill out a flight plan was a long time ago -- it was for a jump from Jusk to Staru almost two years ago.)

The Inspector suggests they should sit down and discuss what they have on board. They go to Fostriades' office suite, where the Captain presents the Inspector with the ship's papers. Fostriades explains they had a misjump and a good deal of maintenance beyond that. The Inspector asks for the maintenance records. Fostriades says that the long gap was because they were in an area where it was not possible to get maintenance.

The Inspector is very nervous about the dogs. "Are they poisonous?" he asks, and insists they be removed from the room before they continue. The dogs don't like him much either. Lia takes the dogs to the next room.

The Inspector relaxes visibly. The Captain serves him coffee. The Inspector runs through the simple formalities. What cargo are they carrying?

Fostriades says, "A large chunk of crystalliron."


"Alien scrap."

"I'll put down scrap."

"Space debris," adds the Captain.

"Scrap metal. Any diseases on board?"

"No," says Fostriades.

"We thought that Rufus might be catching the flu, but he seemed to get over it," volunteers the Captain.

The Inspector makes a notation on his clipboard. "I'll get the Medical Officer sent out. We'd better check that over."

Fostriades stomps on the Captain's foot.

The Inspector continues, "So, where have you been?"

Fostriades replies. "Foreign locations."

"Been in Zhodani space at all? No? OK. Last Imperial port of call?"

"Emape / Five Sisters."

"Long way from here."

"We did have a misjump getting back."

"OK. Carrying any arms on board, other than for your own protection?"


"Where are you planning to head next?"

The Captain fields this one. "We thought we would check out the local trade situation. We pretty much go where the business is. Not sure where the market for iron is... but that's mostly the Financial Officer's responsibility."

Fostriades adds, "The conditions of trade will determine our route, but we're headed generally back into the center of Imperial Spinward March space."

"So," continues the Inspector, "You're not carrying anything illegal?"

"No," says Fostriades.

"Religious materials?"

The Captain says, "I'm not a particularly religious man, sir. My mother wouldn't like to hear that, but..."

Fostriades says, "Only as used personally by members of our crew."

"Alien foodstuffs? Non-Imperial foodstuffs?" the Inspector asks. "Fine. What about your troops? Mercenaries, or...?"

"Currently under contract," says the Captain.

"Internal security," adds Fostriades.

"Do you have anything in the way of heavy weapons on board? Plasma, fusion guns? Armored fighting vehicles?"

Fostriades says, "We have a rather beat-up GCarrier."

"I'll need to take a look at that."

Fostriades says, "If you can tell us how to fix it, we'll be very grateful."

"Yes," says the Captain, "Maybe if you know some place we could get good trade-in on it?"

"So, I need to send round the Medical Officer..."

"Can't we just forward you the medical records on the fellow?" suggests the Captain.

"No. We'll also send round the Arms Inspector to check through all the weapons on the ship. Other than that, our business is done."

As soon as the Inspector is off the ship, the Captain tells Mich to do whatever is necessary to make the nukes look as innocent as possible. William and Mich think it will be less suspicious if they just leave it as normal. The Captain asks Rufus to return to his quarters -- he doesn't want anyone to see the Sick Bay.

Five minutes later the Arms Inspector arrives. William meets him, saying he's impressed by the efficiency here, and how wonderful it is to be back in Imperial space.

"So, you've been fighting outside Imperial space?"

"Oh, we've been quite some distance."

"What brings you this way?"

"A misjump."

"Where are you headed next?"

"We're actually headed back in towards the Imperium to get some stuff repaired that couldn't be repaired outside. Things like that. As long as we ended up unexpectedly near here anyway, we thought we'd go ahead and take care of that."

"Well. Why don't we start by inspecting your Gunnery stations?"

William shows them to him, explaining they may not look like what he's used to. "It's a General Products ship," he says, and adds that the engineers have made some modifications.

The ship's troops will need to be inspected too, along with the crew's personal firearms. William calls Vana and the bridge, and tells them what to expect. The Inspector will not need to search every cabin, but he will want to examine the ship's armory.

The troops are presented on parade in full dress uniform. All the personal weapons are gathered. The Captain reviews the troops as they assemble in the drill area, and is thoroughly satisfied.

Meanwhile, William has shown the Inspector the turrets, and moved on to the missile magazine.

"Keeping it full like this, you probably don't use very many," observes the Inspector.

He notes that they have a full complement of 2700 missiles. He counts the nuclear missiles -- 360 -- enough for about 10 hours of continuous combat salvos. He asks where these missiles came from, and William replies that they found them on the ship when they salvaged it. The Inspector presumes they have no plans to use them? William assures him that this is the case. They move on to review the troops and personal weapons.

The Marines have been standing to attention for about an hour. The Inspector seems impressed. He walks up to Lia. "Flashy uniforms for ship's troops, eh?"

"Thank you sir!"

"You hoping to see some action soon?"

"Not really, sir! We've seen plenty recently." Lia notices the Captain's pained expression, and adds, "Where we come from."

"Where's that?"

"Scorpionis, sir!"

"OK." He turns to Brock, and tells him to keep all the troops here while he inspects the armory. The troops treat him to a perfect unified Scorpionis salute.

At the armory, the Inspector notes that there are heavy weapons in the stores. FGMPs, rocket launchers, Imperial battledress...

Vana tells him that it was all on board when the ship was salvaged.

The Inspector replies that in that case he had better check the ship's papers, too. The armory is certainly impressive.

Vana says that they've never had any problems with anti-piracy or anti-hijacking operations.

Eventually the Inspector finishes his tour. William leads him to the Captain's cabin. The Captain offers coffee, but the Inspector requests scotch. The papers are examined.

The Inspector notes that this used to be an Imperial Navy ship -- that explains a lot, he says. He adds, "We'll need to know your destination as soon as it's determined. You can call me at this number." He hands the Captain his card. "Be certain that you call me before you leave," he emphasizes. "Obviously you won't be taking any of these weapons off the ship while you're here. Now what was your jump capability? Jump-4, I see."

Fostriades says that the ship has exceeded that greatly on two misjumps -- the one that killed the original crew, and the 22-parsec one they did recently.

"Have you been keeping up with the news?" asks the Inspector.

They explain that they haven't -- they've been outside the Imperium. What is the news? Is there something specific they should know about?

"I don't know, is there anything specific you should know about?"

"Is everything all right?" asks the Captain.

"Yes, everything seems to be in order. Where are your crew from? I'd like a list of your entire crew with their homeworlds, please."

Fostriades says they're all from the Imperium except the marines. He makes a mental note that he'll have to ask everyone because it's not on record.

The Inspector tells them to send him the list within the hour.

William escorts him from the ship.

Fostriades immediately asks Linda to patch into the news network and check for anything unusual, particularly with regard to religions and the condition of the Emperor, Norris, and the local governor.

Fostriades only knows the homeworlds of a few people. He himself is from Midas, Linda from Spirelle, Joe and NoName from Ianic. Rufus gives a world near Capital. Jack (and Jill) are fortunately not crew, so they don't need to be mentioned. Helen suggest he puts down Zaibon for her.

A quick scan of the Frenzie edition of Newsweek shows no reason to believe the Imperium has been plunged into civil war. The crew is still suspicious -- is there a tie-in between religion and Zhodani, or religion and a change of opinion about psionics? They also check the Spinward Enquirer.

Fostriades sends the Arms Inspector the list of crew members and their homeworlds.

The Medical Inspector arrives. Sir Bridgehead meets him in full Imperial Navy uniform.

This Inspector is more jovial than the other two, but his mood is quickly dampened when it becomes apparent that Grand Admiral Sir Bridgehead is rather offended that they felt the need to check up on him.

Sir Bridgehead stalks off to Rufus' quarters with the Inspector in tow. Brock, as secondary Medical Officer, will also attend -- actually, of course, he intends to make sure security is not compromised.

The Captain is worried that Sir Bridgehead might want to show the Inspector his Sick Bay, or -- even worse -- Jill! He asks Mich to arrange that the Sick Bay door should be jammed, and that when the doctor calls to get it repaired, he should take his time. He is careful to be quite specific about what he wants, lest Mich should get "confused" and shut down Jill's life support.

Sir Bridgehead is being thoroughly stuffy and obnoxious. The poor Medical Inspector is having a hard time thinking straight enough to complete the examination, what with the questions about the medical facilities on Frenzie, whether there are any decent medical schools here, to say nothing of what are the Inspector's qualifications and why does he think he has to examine a patient of the great Grand Admiral Sir Bridgehead, Imperial Navy, Retd.

Brock suggests that Rufus could be examined in private, but Sir Bridgehead refuses to leave his patient -- it just would not be ethical.

Finally the Medical Officer is satisfied. He is escorted from the ship.

Sir Bridgehead calls Engineering from the corridor outside Sick Bay and tells Mich the door is jammed. Mich seems unimpressed, so Sir Bridgehead appeals to a higher authority. "Captain! Captain! I can't get into Sick Bay. Somebody has locked me out of Sick Bay."

The Captain calls Mich to ask if they are having any general problems with the doors. Mich says they are not -- he'll send somebody up.

"I'm sure the engineering staff will take care of it promptly, Admiral," says the Captain.

"It needs to be taken care of right away."

The Captain quietly call Mich and tells him that the Inspector is off the ship, so he can open it any time now.

Mich gives the matter his personal attention. He determines that yes, indeed, the door is jammed, and starts disassembling the control panel. He says it looks like it should be working. He looks like he's settling in for a long task.

After 15 minutes, the Admiral storms up to the Captain and demands that something be done right away. He is absolutely furious.

The Captain promises to go down and look at the situation. "Admiral," he says, "Why don't you go and lie down in your cabin or something?"

"I can't possibly do that. I have a patient in there. The patient has to be attended to. I need to get back in there. This is a threat on Jill's life. This is the traitor making another attempt on Jill's life!"

The Captain calmly asks him how long Jill can survive on her own in there. Sir Bridgehead explains that this stage is very crucial, and he has to be able to monitor it.

The Captain goes down to see what's going on. Mich has panels off the wall and circuitry all over the floor. The door is still shut.

"Mich," says the Captain, "I believe a flash of genius is called for. Right now."

"It's going to take at least another 15 minutes," explains Mich, "I've got the door control circuits in a heap on the floor. After I do that, I'll have to change some things down in Engineering and we can get the door open... but I have to get this part back and working again first."

"Can you manually operate the door?"

"Oh, you want to manually operate the door! Well that's different." He pops off a panel and says to Sir Bridgehead, "Turn this handle."

The door opens. The Captain waits until Sir Bridgehead enters, and says, "Thank you, Mich. I'm sure you'll find out what's wrong soon. Admiral, is there a saboteur in there? See anybody?"

"No," says Sir Bridgehead, "But I'll have to check the equipment carefully."

The Captain requests a full report.

"Certainly, and whoever is responsible for the maintenance on this door needs to be reprimanded, severely."

"I'll look into it, Admiral."

Mich reassembles the door. He is puzzled. "All this checks out," he says. "Must be a circuit breaker, I'll go check that." A few minutes later he calls the Captain. "Yes, that's what it was. We just popped a breaker down here."

Fostriades considers the trade possibilities. The best prospect is undoubtedly Vilis / Vilis, a jump-2 away. Since they are now in the Imperium, they don't feel the need to fill the fuel bladders -- this increases their cargo capacity substantially. The cockroach ship debris takes up about 45 tons (the storage excluding the bladder), leaving 160 tons for cargo now. Fostriades buys 143 tons of goods at 6kCr per ton. They can save somewhat on fuel costs here -- they only need to buy one jump-unit because they left Quare with the tanks and bladders full.

The Captain calls the Inspector ashore and tells him that their destination will be Vilis. He thanks him, and says everything is in order for them to leave. The Captain is surprised that they aren't springing anything strange on them.