Suddenly the general alarm goes off.
"Intruders! Intruders!" Baron Bridgehead's voice announces over the intercom. "Enemy on ship! Intruders on ship! I'm in the sickbay, they just stole my patient!"
Ed orders, "Close all hatches!" On a military ship that would be redundant, but even on a research ship like the Third Eye, Mich's naval instincts have prevailed -- he's already battened down the ship.
The closest exit to the sickbay is the vehicle bay. Ed goes to secure that area. Mich is there when he arrives, and tells Shark that no-one has come through here.
Misha heads straight for sickbay. Only the doctor is there, sitting in a chair breathing heavily. The Baron's clothes are rumpled.
Bridgehead says, between gasps, "Two men, came in, took him. Took my patient. I couldn't tell what they looked like, they were wearing dark robes. I don't know which way they went, they shoved me in a corner."
Misha says, "Are they still on board the ship?" This ship's systems are not equipped to determine that, Robert tells him. Still, all the exits are sealed -- except, of course, the vehicle bay where Mich still has the heavy equipment.
Misha meets Ed on the way from the vehicle bay to
the cargo ramps. Ed's working on the assumption that the intruders
must still be on the ship, and is expecting them to be trapped at an exit.
Ed updates Misha, then continues on his way. Misha starts searching
the ship for two men in a robe carrying an unconscious body.
Presumably the men would be heading for an exit. The main personnel exits from the dry dock are at the far end of the ship each side. Misha runs out of the ship and picks one -- the one heading towards the bazaar. He's still wearing his zack. He keeps going for a while, but sees no-one at all.
Robert has checked the camera buffers to see if anyone's entered or left the ship recently. To his surprise, no-one has passed in either direction (except the captain just now, of course).
Ed calls Teri. "How is the shopping going?"
The battledress comm works much better than the commdots. Reception and transmission are presenting no problems for the marine. "Fine," she says, "Vonish is negotiating delivery right now."
At this point Robert gets through to Ed and Misha, and tells them that no-one has used the exits of the ship in the last half hour.
Misha asks the Doc, through a rather spotty connection, "How long ago did this happen?"
Bridgehead replies, "I called you right away as soon as they left. It hasn't been long. They rushed in when my back was turned, then grabbed him and went out."
"Is it possible you were unconscious for a period of time?"
"I'd know if I was unconscious!"
Ed starts a full search of the ship. He hands
out weapons to all the crew, and gives basic instructions on how to use
a pistol to them. Helia remains on the bridge.
Ed's search is exhaustive. He finds nothing.
At this point Misha figures he'd just as well join
Teri and Vonish at the bazaar. He walks quickly, his suit drawing
no funny looks or anything. Teri and Vonish are among the food stalls.
The vilani is waving his arms
around with a seafood vendor.
Misha walks up. "Teri," he says, "How long has this been going on? Is he almost done?"
By now Ed has checked the data on the football sensors.
They show a big spike. The conclusion is obvious to him. He
calls the captain, via Teri's battledress.
Ed says, "The footballs, you know what they do? Well, there was a large occurrence -- two spikes with activity around them. I am now on the bridge." He is indeed on the bridge, crouched in a corner with his gun on his lap. "Mich," he continues, "Are you wearing your special helmet?"
Of course Mich is wearing his psi shield. He always is, these days.
Ed continues, "Someone popped onto the ship."
Mich says, "Zhodani commandos. Those mind-sucking Joes."
At the bazaar, Vonish is still negotiating. Misha tells him it's time to go, and he uses that as a tool to get price and delivery settled. They walk quickly back to the ship. On the way, Ed briefs the captain on the situation, and that the intruders have certainly left the ship.
Ed continues working with the football logs. There was a faint pre-spike in the records, located in the starport about 400m away and above the floor level, perhaps on a second story? The spike then moved here, some activity here, then moved back to the same location off ship. He downloads the information to Teri's battledress.
Once the shopping party returns to the ship, Misha
and Teri go to look for the location. It is clearly behind one of
the "Do Not Enter" doors, and up a level. Misha tells Teri to pick
a door and open it.
The door is locked. Teri tells Misha to stand back and look the other way. She opens the door.
Misha has never experienced the sheer noise, flash, and heat of an FGMP-15. He turns back, somewhat stunned, and sees the devastation that was once a door in heavy steel plate.
Beyond the hole is a corridor, with a little of a room visible to either side. Teri leads Misha through the gap, and up a staircase to the left. They go down the corridor there, and Teri stops in front of a door.
The door is not locked. Misha opens it to reveal a room about the size of a regular stateroom. Furniture is concentrated at one end. Two people in black hooded robes are standing in the room. The figures turn to look at the offworlders.
Misha and Teri step into the room. There is no sign of Jan Zustra.
Misha says, "We'd like to ask you some questions."
One of the figures turns to the other and nods. As the other vanishes, the remaining figure says, "What questions?"
"Why are you watching the ship?"
"Do you have any other questions?"
"What are they?"
"I want you to answer my question first, then that'll tell me what my other questions are."
"Why would we not watch your ship?"
"Because it's annoying?"
"Yes it is, but we have to do it anyway. It's our duty."
"Do you have other duties in relation to my ship?"
"What are they?"
"Why won't you answer that question?"
"Oh, I guess I don't have any other questions. Are you going to continue watching our ship?"
"I apologize for hurting your cohort."
Misha and Teri leave, and return to the Third Eye.
Misha says, to no-one in particular, "Well, that was less eventful than I'd thought."
Teri agrees. She likes her new captain's style.
Back on the ship, Ed picks up the one person leaving,
but there's not enough of a signal to locate a destination.
Misha announces that he's not in such a hurry to leave anymore. He checks with Mich about the status of the repairs, and gets a status report from the crew.
The engineer says that all that remains is to unload the heavy equipment, which will take about half an hour. The ship itself is ready to leave; he can complete the work on the gcarrier during jump.
Vonish reports that the supplies will be delivered sometime in the next couple of hours.
Baron Bridgehead reports that he's fine -- now.
Ed confirms that there has been some light football sensor activity on board most of the time the ship has been on port, but it was normal standard background level for the Third Eye. Activity increased a little while Robert was in sickbay, but they already knew that.
No-one has any issues, comments, or complaints. They will wait for the supplies, then leave immediately. The dock has been pre-paid, so that's not an issue, but Misha informs the dock supervisor that they'll need to have the dry dock flooded and opened in an hour or two.
Ed receives another spike from the football, in the same location. By now he has the sensors patched into a tactical holodisplay on the bridge. He and Helia remain on the bridge, while Teri guards the vehicle bay. Once the equipment has been moved out, Teri will then provide security for the loading of supplies at the cargo ramp.
Ed discusses replacing his artificial elbow by a real one. The Doc says that with these primitive medical facilities he'd be off duty for quite some time. When Ed asks what facilities he'd need, the Baron says he needs the sickbay on the Anastasia. According to him, that can't be recreated. He insists that even General Products, who built the ship, wouldn't be able to build another one.
The supplies arrive, and loading proceeds. Vonish has ordered a vast quantity, finding the local food to his liking. Apparently he has paid for these in local currency.
Mich runs pre-flight checks on the ship's systems. Everything is in perfect shape.
Suddenly Ed gets a spike on the footballs.
It starts off the ship in the same place as last time, and moves to the
There is a man in a hooded black robe on the bridge. Helia grabs her slingshot, and Ed his gauss pistol.
Ed opens fire, and is astonished when his shots miss. "Intruder on the bridge!" he announces to the ship. "Get off my bridge!" he shouts at the man.
Helia's slingshot missed. She knows she should have hit him, and says to Ed, "He's got some sort of a force field around him."
Ed abandons the idea of shooting the guy, and runs to tackle him to the floor. The man neatly sidesteps him. Ed stalls for time by keeping him dodging him, and continues attempting to grab him. The man keeps dodging, but at least he isn't doing anything else.
Misha arrives and tells Ed to stop. Ed steps back.
"Can I help you?" Misha asks.
"No," says the figure. "I came to wish you luck. Good luck!" He adds, "I know who you are."
"Will you tell me?"
"That is for you to find out."
Helia says, "Do you know who I am?"
"Not exactly. But I think this is yours." From under the robe, he tosses a package in her direction.
It's wrapped in brown paper and string, and when Helia pulls a corner open it appears to be a suit. "Thank you!" she says brightly.
The man tosses a package to Ed as well. "Maybe you can use it after all," he says.
Helia says, "What about instructions?"
"Life doesn't come with instructions."
"OK. Makes sense. Here, I've got something for you!" She tosses him a small packet of candy. He thanks her.
The man continues, "I appreciate what you did for Jan. He was wrong to approach in the manner he did. You are generous and considerate."
Misha says, "I was wrong to cut him?"
"His fault." He pauses, then, "Where are you going?"
Misha tries to point in roughly the direction they intend to travel, but realizes he has no idea where that is from here. He shrugs.
"Never mind. You know you have lots of practice to do."
Misha says, "So, did you want to go with us?"
"Is there anything else you can tell us about why you're here?"
"Perhaps you can tell me why I'm here."
"Well, if I haven't already, I probably can't."
Helia says, "Because it's time."
The man asks, "What time is it?"
"The time for things to happen." She pauses and tries again. "Just the right time."
"Close." He turns in Robert's direction.
Robert stares at him, thinking, "What do you want?" The man is not an image he saw in his dreams. Robert then says, "Good luck in your journey through life."
"Thank you. Good question." He glances around the bridge. "Anything else I can do for you?"
Ed says, "Teach me how you dodged my shots."
"You should learn."
The man turns to Helia and says, "Why do you laugh?"
"There's a lot of good answers to your question. A million credits. Something I'm thinking about related to home. A lot of things. There's plenty of things people want."
Misha says, "I know. Could you tell us someone who could train us in the use of the suits?"
Robert says, "Each person should find their own way."
The man continues, "There may be someone who can teach you. I don't know who that might be. We don't use them here."
"Why not?" asks Misha.
"We don't believe in it. We don't believe in fighting like our opponents."
"I see. Who's 'we'?"
Helia says, "You don't need to."
"Hm. We have not needed to. We may yet regret it."
Misha asks, "So why do you hand them out?"
The man's voice is cold. "We don't hand them out. These were made for you on the off chance that you would want them. So when we talked to the person who made them, we brought them here."
Helia asks, "He's not in trouble, is he?"
"That is not your concern."
Misha says, "Do we owe any money?"
"No. His compensation has been taken care of."
"Why did you bring them?"
"You are about to leave. I was not sure that he..." -- pointing to Ed -- "...could use one."
"Are you sure now?"
"No. But he could try."
"What makes him different from me?"
"Many things. You don't trust in guns. Good luck."
The man vanishes. The footballs show that he returned to the same room as before.
Helia says, "The suit's cool, but I want to learn to do that!"
Vonish's supplies are now on board. Misha commands
preparations to leave, and steps out to tell the dock supervisor that they're
ready to leave. He comes back aboard and proceeds to the bridge.
He turns to his First Officer and says, "Shark's Tooth, get us out of here
as soon as possible."
Ed smiles and tells Helia and Mich to get to orbit "as soon as possible."
The dock starts to flood. As the water level rises and the Third Eye floats, the outer doors open.
Helia taps her console, and Flight of the Valkyries plays over the external speakers. She backs the ship out into the ocean, spins it around, and takes off.
The Third Eye leaves the surface of Goose, racing to orbit under full power and aerolift.
Helia sets course for a jump point. Their destination will be Varsae / Reidan.
Mich plans to finish work on the gcarrier during
the jump. He starts planning a large-scale psi shield around engineering,
and then the bridge. If only he could incorporate it into the jump
The crew will be running gravcraft sim races in the evening, and training during the day, and back to normal jump activities. They are all glad to be on their way.