(2) Cold Salt Spray

The Misha Campaign (301-1120 to 311-1120)

301-1120 :  Goose / Fessor / Foreven

    The H.M.S. Third Eye has arrived in a system.  Helia Sarina has shut down non-essential systems in case they need to conserve power, while Mich Saginaw is standing outside Engineering in his vaccsuit wondering how bad the damage is.  That was an awfully large explosion.

    Helia turns to talk to Misha Ravanos about the problem she has with the engineer not reporting problems to her, or to the captain for that matter.  She brings up the discussion on Digitis with the Sheriff of Cormor, and reminds Misha that the Sheriff was not going to put those power units into production.  So why are they continuing to use those units on this ship, despite the problems they keep causing?  Since Mich doesn't listen to her, she wants Misha to talk to him about it.  She points out that the only people who affect the problems they're having in flight are her and Mich, and when the engine goes bad -- and then explodes -- there's a problem with Mich, not her.
    Misha is not sure that it's Mich's fault... while it's clearly not Helia's fault, it could be some random event.  He promises to talk to Mich.

    Elsewhere on the bridge the primary task is to figure out where they are.  It doesn't take long to find out that they're in the Goose system, in the Fessor subsector of Foreven sector.  Fortunately this time they haven't gone too far out of their way.
    Also they're in no danger of colliding with any objects in the system.  Everything is far enough away and nothing has an intersecting course.

    Now that their location is certain, Mich addresses his crew: "So, what happened?"
    Helia is quick to jump in.  She says, "Somebody's been screwing with the machines, the people on Digitis said they wouldn't use those drives, but Mich said he would.  This is the second time he's screwed us up by using them."
    "So it's broken drives?" asks Misha.
    "And then the drives exploded somehow.  I don't know that Mich has actually got into Engineering yet.  So we are basically adrift."  She is quite accurate; the maneuver drives are not working at all.
    Misha continues, "So what happened?  I don't mean whose fault is it, I mean what happened?"
    "Mich was using untested drives, they exploded, and at least this time we are not out somewhere we have no idea where.  But it's not where we wanted to be."
    Misha calls up Mich on the comm.  "Mich, tell me what happened."
    "Well," says Mich, "We're out of jump.  We had a power system fault two days into the jump which all the automatic system recovered from without any interruption of power as far as we are able to tell.  We've run full diagnostics on every system on the ship, and everything is nominal.  That was before we came out of jump.  Two of the antimatter generators, one started producing radiation and one was absorbing radiation, just like happened..."
    "The last time everything got screwed up!" interrupts Helia.
    Mich continues, "...the last time.  I rapidly got the appropriate shielding and bulkhead material around to prevent any sort of damage."
    "He didn't tell us any of this was happening until too late," says Helia.  "When I asked him if something happened he finally told me."
    Mich says, "And it's all right now, we're just checking the status of the engineering section so we can restore maneuver drive very shortly."

    Helia shuts down her console and goes back to her stateroom.  She turns everything off, shuts off the lights, and settles down to sleep in silence.

    Mich starts working on engineering.  It's a mess.  The new stronger boxes he had built have exploded violently and caused extensive damage.  In particular there's a large hunk of metal sticking out of a critical maneuver drive.
    With some help he'll be able to get the section back into shape -- except for the thruster plates -- in about eight hours.  At least three computer consoles are wrecked, and much other instrumentation and controls.  He calls in the whole crew (except for Helia, who's asleep) to help sweep and to install new components.

    It does indeed take eight hours to bring every system back to full status -- except, of course, the maneuver drive, which is critically damaged.  It will take heavy equipment at a starport to repair the drive.
    Mich has been thinking.  It might be possible to set up the grav plates to operate sort of as a maneuver drive, then land using aerolift, he says.

    Robert Morris opens a channel for Misha to talk to the starport.
    "Can we help you?" asks the starport official.
    "Yes, we hope you can," says Misha.  "We are without maneuver drive."
    "OK.  You want to buy one?"
    "Not at the moment.  At the moment we would like a tug to pull us."
    "A tug.  You want to buy a tug?"
    "No, I want to rent one."
    "Well, if you come down to the starport, we'll see what we can find."
    "We need a tug to get to the starport."
    "So you've got a tug but want to get it to the starport."
    "If you'll just come in to the starport we can see what you need."
    "Do you currently have any ships in your starport?"
    "Can you describe them to me?"
    "Pardon?  Why don't you just come down and take a look?"
    "Because we have no maneuver drive."
    "OK.  I got that.  You want to buy a maneuver drive."
    "Can we have it delivered?"
    "Where do you want it delivered?"
    "Where's here?"
    "I want a maneuver drive delivered to the ship."
    "Can't do that."
    "Why not?"
    "I'm not in parts."
    "You're not in parts?  Can you connect me with someone in parts?"
    "Uh.  OK.  Please hold."
    Very soon someone answers, "Yes, parts.  What do you need?"
    Misha hands it over to Mich.  "Mich, tell the man what you need."
    Mich says that what he really needs is shop facilities, heavy welders, machines that aren't on board ship.
    "We've probably got what you need down here," replies the parts guy.
    "The problem is us getting there."
    "What do you mean?"
    "Well, our maneuver drive is on the fritz at the moment, and we need those facilities to fix them.  So we either need those facilities brought to us, or we need a tug to bring us in."
    "Oh, OK.  Um.  Well, let's see.  There's... I've got a friend got a trader here, might be able to help you out a bit.  Let me see if he's around.  I'll get in touch."

    That satisfies Misha.  He directs Robert and Helia to see how long it would be before they run into something hard.  They report that they're fine, heading on a course which will eventually take the ship to the planet in orbit 7.  His immediate concerns addressed, Misha directs Mich to start work on the contragrav to configure it as a maneuver drive.

    Ed "Shark" Teeth talks to Teri about security when the trader approaches them.  She says she isn't a gunner, and all she can do is board their ship and blow them away, or let them board this ship and blow them away.  She does say that a small trader isn't likely to have much more armament than the Third Eye; but what they're really missing is a defense against lasers.  She promises to be ready to repel boarders when necessary.
    Ed reports to the captain that they have no gunner on board.  Helia corrects him -- she has gunnery.  "What point is there to steering the ship if you can't shoot the guns?" she says.  She configures the gunnery controls into her panel, and directs Vonish Kehnaan to the bridge to take the copilot - astrogator console.  Ed and Teri Cralla go off to load a missile into the launcher.

    Misha asks for a briefing on Goose.  Helia pulls up the data on the system -- it's a low population, non-industrial water world, with a military base.  Gravity is high, and the planet is cold.  Tech level is just 5, but there is a class C starport.  There is one other world which has water, but well out in the system, and there are also three gas giants.  There is a small colony on the planet Gander, which is the outermost satellite of the gas giant Meat.  That colony is very cold and has no water -- they guess it's probably a mining settlement or something similar.

    Six hours later, Mich has configured the grav plates to work as a 0.5g maneuver drive, but it does require shutting down the inertial compensators.  Helia immediately instructs everyone to strap in, and then sets the Third Eye on a course for Goose.  Helia is a wizard with the astrogation. It will only take them 10 days to get to the mainworld.  They will only have to stay strapped down for a short while, until Helia has the ship accelerating on its course.  For most of the journey they'll have the equivalent of a steady 0.5g, except for course corrections.

    Ed intends to take the whole time studying vaccsuit, and drilling in environmental combat, both under Teri's instruction.  The latest crisis has him concerned about his lack of skill in that area.

302-1120 :  Goose / Fessor / Foreven

    Captain Harvey of the free trader Dear John calls to see if they need help.  By now, of course, they're doing OK, and since it would take the trader two weeks to get to them, they're definitely better off doing it themselves.  They exchange pleasantries, but since the Dear John is well out from the mainworld, the opportunity to buy each other beer probably won't happen.

    Mich meets with Misha.  "So, what the fuck happened?"
    "I wish I knew," says Mich. " We started with eight antimatter generators, and we've destroyed four of them.  Originally it took six to keep the engines running, we reconfigured and now it only take three.  I'm going to reconfigure the engines not to use these until I've figured out exactly why they're failing in this manner.  I'll take one apart atom by atom, and I'm going to see what's different.  And I do mean atom by atom, that's how we put them together."
    Misha says, "Let me see if I understand.  The ship originally required eight antimatter generators?"
    "Well none originally."
    "Originally it didn't require any antimatter generators.  You reconfigured the engine to use antimatter generators as a power source?"
    "I see.  OK.  So why do we have to keep getting fuel if you have antimatter generators?"
    "Well, the antimatter generators require energy to produce the antimatter."
    "OK.  So the idea is that we wouldn't burn the fuel as fast."
    "It's more that we don't have to put as much stress on our zuchai crystals.  It makes our jump drive assembly actually smaller, so you could have more storage space."
    "So are we now dependent on these antimatter generators?"
    "After I get it reconfigured, no.  I did have a failure in our zuchai crystals and then we didn't have enough to make a jump, and then we were dependent on our antimatter generators, but then we purchased more zuchai crystals so we have a full complement and spares."
    "So you're now going to hook it up so that we're just using one remaining antimatter generator?"
    "No.  We will not use any antimatter generators."
    "OK.  And you're going to try to find out what's been going on.  Now my understanding is this system you've set up is something you invented."
    "Actually Professor Farol invented, and I and Fostriades fine-tuned some of the things and made it work reliably.  And then this has been an ongoing research project.  Now when we were on Digitis we made these antimatter generators, and these antimatter generators has some much better features than we had on the Anastasia, so I figured these would really be much more reliable."
    "But you don't believe the explosion actually caused the misjump?"
    "No, the explosion did not cause the misjump.  The explosion occurred simultaneously with exiting jumpspace.  It was a symptom, not a cause.  The cause of the misjump was the antimatter generators, where one became a perfect power source and the other a perfect power drain.  There were three antimatter generators but only two became defective; the failure only occurred in pairs, and they've always been side by side.  We'll reconfigure the power distribution system for the jump drive to be the industry standard, the way this ship was manufactured.  A junior engineer could maintain it," he says with disgust.  Mich does not mention that he intends to leave the jumpspace vortex generators in place, although that project will have to be on hold for a while as he investigates the matter phase inverters.

311-1120 :  Goose / Fessor / Foreven

    Mich has been examining the power level data from this failure.  It's exactly the same as the other time, in that everything was perfect until it failed.  There were no indications in advance of the problem.  They did catch this one much sooner, though, so it could be shielded in time.  There's no power spike or anything in the switchover to the zuchai crystal array, so there should not have been a misjump.
    Of course Mich doesn't have the equipment to tear the generator apart atom by atom -- he'll have to build that first, and also build the tools to build that before he does anything else.  He starts by disassembling all the components -- everything seems to be perfectly fine.  The only thing he can't take apart is the atom-by-atom part Jane put together; aside from that, everything else is quite clear with his own design.  He starts working on the tools...

   Finally the Third Eye approaches the mainworld.  There are two choices for landing -- they can get into orbit, then put the contragrav back together and land that way; alternatively they can trust Helia to land the ship under aerolift.
    Misha decides it's not worth spending six hours in orbit with the drives disabled to fix up the contragrav; he tells Helia she can fly it in.
    "Hang on!" Helia says, as the Third Eye starts bouncing at the edge of the atmosphere.  With the inertial compensators out, it'll be a bumpy ride.
    Baron Bridgehead straps himself into a seat on the bridge.  Once again, this is too much like the final landing of the Anastasia for him to be comfortable anywhere but the bridge.

    Robert calls the starport to get landing permission.  He gets information on the location of the starport and how to approach.  The starport is at the equator, and they are told to bring it down in the sea and they'll be guided in from there.

    Helia pilots the ship into a hypersonic glide, bleeding off speed on the way down, and ending with a perfect flaring splashdown.  The ship settles into the ocean, rolling in the sluggish waves of this 1.27g gravity world.
    As soon as they're down, Mich starts sucking water for refueling.  Ed turns on the Marquis' footballs.

    Helia cruises the Third Eye slowly in to the assigned dock (berth 13) at the starport.  Everyone on board feels the heavy gravity, and the rolling motion of the ship on the waves.
    Ed climbs up out of the airlock onto the top of the ship.  The strong wind is icy cold.  His home planet of Romar / Glisten drops to a planetary average of -2 degrees every 5 months or so, but even to him the wind here is bitterly cold.  He goes back in, and tells everyone it's cold out there.
    As the ship comes alongside, dock workers tie it up to the shore with magnetic clamps and line.
    Right now the Third Eye is not capable of taking off.  Once Mich has the contragrav back into its normal configuration, they could use the contragrav to lift off, but until then there's not much they can do but stay here.  Mich starts work, but first gives Ed a list of what he needs.

    Robert evaluates the starport computer systems.  There's very little, just a primitive model-1 equivalent that keeps track of what ships are in dock.

    Ed and Misha, with Teri as bodyguard, go ashore.  Ed carries a gauss pistol, while Misha takes his sword.  Teri suits up in battledress, but the captain vetoes her choice of an FGMP-15.  She reluctantly settles on a gauss rifle.  Misha leaves his dragon behind... he is fine in the gravity, but the cold wet wind is enough to keep him on board.
    Baron Bridgehead would be interested in going with them, but the gravity is too high for him to get around well.  He'll in fact be pretty much stuck on the bridge until the ship's grav plates come back on.
    The starport itself is a large floating construction, apparently made of riveted steel plates.  It's painted a dirty green; rust streaks adorn the sides.  They walk along the dock and through a large opening into the area beyond.
    This looks like a cargo area.  There's some people moving cargo around, and some dock workers lounging around doing nothing.
    Ed asks one of them where the repair facilities would be; he's pointedly ignored.  The workers speak a very heavily accented Galanglic -- it's barely understandable -- but there is no question that the man was ignoring him rather than not comprehending.
    Misha looks around and sets off in a direction he thinks will lead to a reception area.  Ed and Teri trail him, one on each side.

    In the reception area is a desk, and behind it is a man smoking some sort of a pipe.  Whatever is in it smells foul, like burning tar.
    The man looks up.  "Yeah.  Wot?"
    Misha wishes him a good day.  "We probably owe you something for the berth."
    "Which berth are you in?"
    "OK."  He makes a note.  "We'll send out a bill before you leave.  Don't leave without telling us."
    "We also need this list."
    Ed starts reading it.  "Welding facilities, ..."
    "Oh, you want a shop.  Do you want a dry dock?"
    Ed calls Mich; he relays that they don't need a dry dock, just the equipment.
    "Hm.  Better go in the dry dock."
    Ed asks, "Who do we talk to about arranging the dry dock?"
    "How big's your ship?  Displacement."
    "Six hundred tons."
    The man looks surprised.  "Hm.  Big one."  He looks at some papers on his desk.  "We have two of those, one of them will be free starting tomorrow.  3000 a day includes use of the tools, labor's extra, and you pay for anything you damage."  He says that Imperial Credits are just fine here.
    "Let us know tomorrow morning where it is, and we will proceed."
    "You got ten credits?"  He hands over a map printed on paper.
    "And which facility is it?"
    "Dry dock number two.  Tomorrow, that will be just one day in thirteen, that will be a hundred."
    "You want it now?" asks Ed, handing over the cash.
    "That's fine.  How long do you want it?"
    Ed calls Mich, who guesses three days.  Ed relays, "I think four days should be sufficient for us."
    "OK.  Pay when you're done."
    "There are some on board who would like to go to the local market, to shop."
    "It's on the map."
    "Thank you very much.  Have a nice day."
    They leave.  Teri walks out ahead of Misha, while Ed follows him out.
    The next plan, according to Misha, is to find a bar.

    The map shows that the starport is circular.  The dry docks are on the opposite side from the open berths; there's a cargo handling ring corridor just inside the port that runs most of the way around, and leads on to various warehouses and so on.  Inside that are various ship-related businesses, chandlers, stores, and a few bars.  Inside that are the real markets and so on.

    Mich has been working on the contragrav.  He shuts it all down, then reconfigures it in about four hours.  The ship is soon back to normal -- including, to Baron Bridgehead's relief, the grav plates.