(10) Meet the Girls

The Misha Campaign (026-1121 to 029-1121)

026-1121 : Brod / Tardele / Foreven

    The H.M.S. Third Eye is still sitting on the landing field at the IFSS base on Karma, in the system of Brod.  The blizzard continues in whiteout conditions.
    Misha Ravanos asks Robert Morris what they do here at the base.  He responds that it's a research station, run by a civilian, but they do service ships and so on here.  The research is mostly on jump drive technology, as well as some other high tech ship components that they put into the ships they build.  They build ships here involving interesting jump drive technology, and sometimes with some very high tech components on board of other types.
    Misha wonders why they would do this here.  Robert isn't sure.  The base is bring run by the Imperial FarSpace Service; the guy in charge is from Darrian, and apparently is some sort of jump drive genius.  Misha is still curious as to why it would be here, and not in the Imperium somewhere.
    Robert adds that there are some other people mentioned in connection with the high tech stuff.  Mich Saginaw, their own Chief Engineer, is one of them, having contributed to jump drive design.  Also mentioned in the same context is some guy called Fostriades.
    Misha asks if there is any mention of the Anastasia.  There is indeed -- it was designed here, then built by General Products.  It was originally named the Kinunir, and apparently it failed on its maiden voyage, and turned up years later here with Saginaw and Fostriades here.  It was refitted here then, while the base built another ship -- the Sir Walter Raleigh -- which they sent off to meet it later.  That ship is reported as destroyed by sabotage.  There has been no mention of either of those ships recently, although there has been a regular stream of updates from Mich received here.
    According to the IFSS computers, what they do is diplomatic, research, and survey work.  It's not supposed to be a military organization, although they do build ships intended for unfriendly environments.  The last one they built here was armed to the teeth.  Generally all the ships regularly through here are Donosev class survey scouts, with very limited military capability.  They do seem very interested in local politics, both observing and nudging local politics in an advisory capacity when it seems reasonable.
    Misha thanks Robert.  Robert asks if there's anything else he wants him to figure out.  Misha doesn't have anything specific.  Robert starts downloading the IFSS's new recruit orientation materials.
    Misha has another thought.  He walks back to Robert and asks if there's any mention of the Zett system.  There is indeed -- they send ships out there every now and then to investigate the situation, and they lose about half of them.  There's no regularity to these trips.  The cause of the losses is presumed to be falling prey to the unstable star.  Sometimes they arrive at Zett and jump out and are never seen again, sometimes they never arrive in the first place.  There's no apparent pattern to it, and nothing to contradict the official view of Zett.
    Why would they send ships at all, wonders Misha.  Robert says that they are volunteers.  It's their job to see what's going on.  In the service profile they seem to be looking at everything, gathering as much information as they can.  They have a mode where ship commanders can just say they're going off, and can take off and go wherever they want.  They don't do official duties, they just go off and do something, and when they get back they report what they did.  It's like they're gathering information for something, and they're gathering more than just local politics and survey.  They're gathering a lot of data but they don't seem to be doing much with it.  They just put the information in the IFSS data banks.  Their main base in this area is at Karakus, but they also have a base in Five Sisters, in the Karin system.  The latter is the Imperial side of their operation.  It's all supposedly secret, but it's very much an open secret.  The governments know they exist, the people know they exist, but they're not supposed to exist.
    There are reports of Red Zones other than Zett.  They do investigate them now and again.  In particular, the one at Plague is very much correct -- there is a disease there, and they haven't found anything that resembles a cure.
    They are also involved in projecting the future from current developments.  Robert says that he'd need to dig into the main databases on Karakus to find out what they're really doing.  Here it's very much just a research station, although they do gather data and refit ships here.
    Misha points out that this place is very much out of the way, if they had data they needed to get to Karakus.  That is true, certainly -- being out of the way is probably why they have a research station here.
    Misha concludes by telling Robert to keep exploring, and let him know if he finds anything new.

    Misha intended to invite the base commander to dinner.  Of course, technically the Professor is in charge of the base -- all the IFSS personnel are at his disposal.  There is a liaison officer who is in charge of the IFSS group here, the highest ranking officer, and that's who Misha invites.  Misha tells Vonish Kehnaan about the arrangements, so he can prepare the meal.

    Before he arrives, Misha reads through the beginner's guide to the IFSS.  All the IFSS personnel are Imperial citizens; there are some research people who are not.
    The overall stated mission of the IFSS is to observe and nudge.  Their intent in nudging is to improve stability and ensure a peaceful area -- as much as possible -- so they're free to do their observation.  As for the observation, notes to new trainees indicates that they're supposed to observe everything, whether it's important or not.  There are some atmosphere and background pieces that say that sometimes they'll feel like they're looking for something but they don't know what it is -- well, that's what they do.  If they feel the urge to go off and do something, take it -- it's amazing what one finds through intuition.
    The IFSS is an open secret out here, but it's not known within the Imperium.  It was founded in 993 by Emperor Gavin, shortly after the Third Frontier War (and during the Solomani Rim War).  Originally it reported directly to the Emperor, although subsequent Emperors have sometimes delegated that -- but always to a close member of the Imperial family.  Currently it reports directly to Grand Princess Iphegenia.  They're not supposed to bother her with routine stuff, but when any connections spring up, that's to be reported.  Everything from interesting combinations or directions of technology all the way to conspiracy theories, all that is reported.  There is no reporting through any other Imperial service, and no other Imperial service is supposed to know of the IFSS's existence.

027-1121 : Brod / Tardele / Foreven

    The snowstorm has now stopped.  Outside the ship it is now bright and sunny, and getting warmer.  The snow is starting to melt, although it's still piled up high.

    That evening (Imperial time; the local day is over 500 hours) a groundcar arrives with Captain Wendy Farradon aboard, driven by Ensign Ted Horlicks.  The Ensign is Ed "Shark" Teeth's bartender friend from the base -- apparently he did manage to arrange an invitation.
    Both seem relaxed and happy to be on board.  They welcome the crew of the Third Eye to their "little base," as Wendy puts it.
    Vonish's meal starts with hors d'oeuvres and drinks, and proceeds through a full set of courses with appropriate wines and drinks.  It is absolutely superb.
    Light conversation continues throughout.  The Professor is still working on his usual stuff, spending time fishing, and so on.
    Wendy herself has only been in charge here for about nine months, and wasn't here when the Anastasia last visited.  She replaced Captain Rickenbacker.  Her homeworld is Trin / Trin's Veil, not far from Ed's homeworld of Romar / Glisten.
    The presence of Sagan does not seem to faze the visitors at all.  They are quite comfortable with the hiver, despite them being so rare this far to spinward.  There are Vargr and some Aslan out here -- even some Vargr worlds in this sector -- but virtually no hivers.
    "So," Shark says, "You keep an eye on things around here?"
    "Well, we watch stuff.  Keeping an eye on is about right, we don't do a whole lot.  Our job here is just to keep things running for the Professor."
    "So what's keeping the bugs from coming back?"
    "Well, the Imperial fleet did something to Dulu."
    "What did they do?"
    "I don't know.  They don't tell me."
    "Did they leave anyone behind, do you know?"
    "As far as I know, no.  I believe all their personnel came back with them.  They just moved on out.  But with that in the way, supposedly we should be OK for another century or so."
    "As long as they don't figure out jump3."
    "We're pretty sure they don't have jump3.  Even if they did have it, they couldn't put together a big enough force to invade.  They'd have to come through the TradeMain Foundation, and their navy is pretty well sorted out now."
    "The got pretty much beat up, didn't they?"
    "Not really.  From what I've heard, the ones who got beat up were the Zhodani."
    "That's what I've heard too."
    "Basically the war's over for now.  We're going to start running some ships out into Roach territory."
    "Isn't that a little dangerous?"
    "Yes, it is.  But, you know, I'm sure that some of our ships have gone out there anyway."
    "Your ships jump pretty well, then?"
    "They're just standard Donosev class survey ships, the standard Imperium design.  They're non-threatening too, which is good considering we're not supposed to be a military organization."
    "Wasn't there a report in the news that the IFSS had made a raid?"
    "Oh, yeah.  That was a couple of the Professor's ships.  One was privately owned, subcontracted.  Yeah, that would have been the Anastasia, and the Professor's latest ship that he put together here, the Sir Walter Raleigh.  We told him not to send it out without some local trials, but he rushed it in and it seemed to work out."
    "By the way, did you have the news items we brought in?"
    "We didn't have the one from Vargoe, about the attempted coup."
    "Ground reports indicate that it wasn't suspected, it was successful."  Shark turns to Otto Harkaman, "Isn't that right?"
    "I don't think so," replies Otto.  "The same people seem to be in power with just a few people missing afterwards.  I think they were trying to take over the starport."
    "So basically the mid-level and down of the bureaucracy stayed, it was just the upper levels that... disappeared."
    "It appeared to be the opposite.  The governor of the starport area and all those people were in the same place, but people like the magistrate and lower, that were supposed to hear my case, those people disappeared."
    Shark explains to Wendy, "He ate too many of the chocolates."
    "Mints," corrects Otto.
    Shark continues, "So I understand you're mostly administrative here.  What do you do for fun?"
    Wendy replies, "Mostly we just hang about.  There's a lot of wilderness around here, we're very careful about the environment.  Actually that's how I took over from Rickenbacker.  He got caught for releasing some plants here.  They bumped him a grade, put him on a ship, and sent him on active duty again... which he was happy about."
    "Plants?  He put plants out?  Wait, I've heard some rumors.  It wouldn't have been a bean plant, would it?"
    "Yeah, I think it was."
    "OK, I understand from the rumors why, but you probably shouldn't allow them to grow anywhere."
    "Well, we eliminated what we could."
    "They're still out wild?"
    "We don't know for sure."
    "You're not cultivating them?"
    "Oh, no.  Absolutely not.  We eliminated all the ones that were being cultivated.  I think he got some with him on his ship, the Lost Sailor."
    "The Lost Sailor.  Do you know which way he was last lost?"
    "He just declared walkabout and he went.  I have no idea where he is."
    Shark tells Mich -- who was involved in a jump discussion with Helia Sarina and Otto -- that Rickenbacker has some beans aboard the Lost Sailor.  Mich is very disappointed that there are no longer any on this planet.
    Shark says to Mich, "So what was the name of the other ship, the Anastasia and the Sir...?"
    "Sir Walter Raleigh," Mich replies.
    "Is that ship around?"
    "No, the Raleigh was destroyed."
    Wendy adds, "That was the last one the Professor sent out."
    "Those nasty cockroaches, and Jill."
    "Jill?" Shark and Wendy ask.
    Otto asks, "Jill was a nasty cockroach?"
    Wendy says, "We had a report it was sabotage, but I'm not familiar with the details."
    "I strongly suspect Jill had something to do with the sabotage."
    Shark changes the subject.  "How did you guys get recruited into the IFSS?  Obviously you don't have a recruiting station..."
    Wendy says, "There are some folks around looking for people with the right sort of caliber.  People who don't fit in, are out there a bit."
    "We usually put those guys in the Scouts."
    "The people who are a bit too out there for the scouts."
    "I mean the special forces, the Marine recon, and so on."
    "Oh.  No, you have to follow orders there.  Too many orders to follow."
    "You've got to get the mission accomplished."
    "Well, we get the mission accomplished.  Of course it's a somewhat vague mission, but we get it done.  You've got to like a service where you can just, like, take a ship and take off for a while.  As long as you come back and say what you did, it's fine."

    After dinner, Shark offers gambling.  Wendy declines, but says they can probably find a game back in the station.
    Shark starts telling tales of planets -- like one that professes low technology but makes super high quality zuchai crystals.
    Wendy says that's the sort of place they look for out here.
    "Well, we found it without coming out here.  What was the name of the place?  Digitis."
    "We don't really have jurisdiction over there, but..."
    Robert says, "They had an antiquated phone system and yet through a couple of data links they were transferring data almost at the theoretical limit of the medium."
    Shark adds, "Digitis has the seven trees."
    Helia says, "They're not seven trees, they're seven forests."
    They argue over whether each forest was one plant -- Helia agrees with Shark that it was the case.
    Shark continues, "It's a low pressure world, and the trees built a natural dome where life developed inside it.  Very strange."
    "You think that's strange?" asks Helia.
    "I do.  I grew up on a desert world where there were no plants bigger than 10 cm, and to be inside a plant with thousands of animals and other people was very strange."
    Helia nods.
    "Oh  yes, they use steam trains.  Very strange.  And we've been to another very interesting world recently, a water world.  Very strange society there."
    Wendy asks, "In what way?"
    "After talking to people for a while, it turns out there are dozens -- tens, fifties, hundreds -- of secret societies, all watching each other.  No-one knows what secret society someone else belongs to, but everyone belonged to some secret society.  I don't know how it was governed.  So if you're looking for natural born spies that's probably the place to recruit them from."
    Wendy laughs, "We don't do spying."
    "Really?" asks Helia, "So what do you do for fun and games?"
    Robert adds, "They also had a drink that..."
    Shark interrupts, "You had some of that."
    "I still have some.  It's a tasty drink that knocks you out for days if you have too much of it.  But it gives you effective dreams."
    Shark changes the subject, thinking of their letter of passage.  He asks Wendy, "Have you dealt much with the Hinay Protectorate?"
    "Yes," she answers, "We don't do much out that way because they're pretty stable and in general have a good relationship with the Imperium."
    Conversation lapses into small talk, and eventually Wendy and Ted leave the Third Eye and return to the station.
    Late that evening, Robert finds a sample of the script he's been looking for.  It's in the Professor's data banks in the IFSS station.  It's a photograph of what looks like a warhead.  It is in a collection of objects of unknown origin.  Unfortunately a lot of the organizational structure of the data seems to be in the Professor's head -- the data in the computer is a random hodge-podge of stuff.

028-1121 : Brod / Tardele / Foreven

    It's warmer today, about 2 degrees.  Otto announces that he's running morning calisthenics outside today.  Shark goes out in his scuba suit.  Otto comments that the air smells odd, an absence of volatile chemicals and minerals probably.

    About 9:30, Mich gets a call from shore.  It's Professor Benshani Farol, who tells him to come on over, bringing whoever he wants.  Mich says that there's a few of the crew of the Anastasia that survived -- Teri Cralla from the marines, and Baron Bridgehead too.
    So that means it's just Mich to come over.  He says, "But I've got someone else you might want to talk to -- Helia."
    "What?  She's already here.  Come on over, bring whoever you want."
    Mich invites Helia, leaving Otto as duty engineer.  Robert would have joined them, but he hasn't heard about it and no-one told him.

    Mich and Helia walk over to the IFSS base in the bright sunshine.
    The Professor is in the lounge.  When they walk in, he stands up and waves them over enthusiastically.  He sits back down at his table.  He's dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, and is wearing sandals.
    Mich asks, "How have you been?  Have you got any of the message I've sent?"
    "Yes, definitely, most helpful."
    "This is Helia.  She's our navigator."
    "Oh."  Professor Farol looks surprised.
    Helia says brightly, "Nice to meet you, sir!"
    "Um.  This is Sally, Sally Forsythe, who's joined us recently,"  Farol says, indicating a tall young girl.
    "A mathematician?"
    "Sort of," says Sally, "That's what the Professor calls me."
    Farol continues, "Oh, and this is... Helia."

    The source of the Professor's confusion is now evident.  Another girl, very similar to Helia, looks up and squeals with delight.  The two larians leap to hug each other.  They start a stream of what is presumably their native language, high-pitched and girlish and very fast.

    Mich asks, "So, Professor, where did you pick up your Helia?"
    "Actually she came in the same group as Sally."
    "Sally reminds me a bit of our computer operator on the Anastasia, Linda Gregson."
    "You may have heard of Sally.  She solved the Lankmich Conundrum.  It was in the news."
    "Oh yeah, we saw that.  That was a sticky bit of math to go through."
    "Not if you see the solution," laughs the Professor.  "She's done some great things here, haven't you, Sally?  Yeah, we picked up a couple of new research people over in the Marches.  Sally and Helia came in that group."

    At the mention of her name, "our" Helia says to Mich, "It's so great that Helia's here.  Maybe she can explain the math to you.  She's a little better with people who are slow at math."
    Mich asks, "Do you know each other, or...?"
    "It's Helia!" says "our" Helia, as if that explains everything.  The "new" Helia looks very similar, but not quite identical.  They're obviously of the same race, perhaps even of the same blood.  They're both dressed in a catsuit and a vest.
    Mich says to Farol, "Our Helia has been working as our navigator.  She puts in the jump coordinates extremely rapidly."
    Helia says to the Professor, "You understand the thing about the constant, right?  Six days is a constant, you get the shortcut, you do the math, and you can do it in your head very easily instead of spending all that time pumping it out on the computer."
    Farol says, "We've been looking at that."
    "Has Helia been helping?"
    "Oh yes.  Helia, and Sally as well.  Maybe you girls can talk about it..."
    But Helia has turned back to Helia, and is talking rapidly, albeit in Galanglic this time.  "Have you been able to get it down to five yet?  I've been working on trying to change the constant to five, but I haven't quite been able to get that last little bit."
    The Professor says, "My specialty is power sources."
    "Yes, that's what Mich said.  I was hoping you'd be able to help me understand why we sometimes jump for two weeks and end up in strange places."
    "Really?" says Farol.  "What have you been doing to it?" he asks Mich.
    Helia jumps in, "It vaporized itself!"
    "Interesting, tell me more.  By the way, what happened to the Anastasia?"
    Mich says, "I was doing some augmentation of the jump system and the jump bubble impinged on the hull and we were thrown out of jump space.  I was unconscious when it crashed."
    "Yeah, Helia has worked a little on the viscosity stuff that you sent me."
    "I've set up some vortex generators to help with the viscosity problems, and that looks very promising.  Power systems...  When I got to Digitis, I worked with some people there and we worked on the phase inverter input selector, where we were selecting the appropriate particles to make sure our input buffers..."

    Helia and Helia have been chattering with each other again, and suddenly they unfurl their wings and fly back through the lobby and to the ship.  On the way, Helia tells Helia that there's a new guy on the ship, who has no idea about the wings.  In the high-pitched girlie talk of the larian language, they giggle about the possibilities.

    Otto is still standing watch in engineering when Helia calls him to check the bridge for her.  He walks up to the bridge.  Outside the window are two Helias, flying around on big butterfly wings.  They are waving at him.  Otto stands there, mouth agape.

    At the sounds above him, Shark looks up from outside.  "Asexual mitosis, or did you run into a friend?"
    "Friend... would not be quite the right word," replies Helia.  "How are you doing, sir?"
    The two Helias land beside him.
    "Pleased to meet you.  I'm Shark Teeth."
    "I'm Helia," says Helia, "And this is Helia.  Oh, you know Helia."
    "Yes, this is Helia," says Helia.
    "I'm Helia," Helia says again.
    Shark says, slowly, "I would have recognized her anywhere now."
    "Of course," says Helia, "She's Helia.  It was so lovely to see her, I didn't know she was in this part of the universe."
    "Yes," says Helia, "I had no idea you would be out here."
    "I thought you were like, back at the last place.  I didn't realize you guys had moved.  Boy, you guys have a cush spot.  I hear a lot of good things about the Professor.  Oh, you have to come inside, let's go!"
    Shark asks, "Did you just run into her in there, or...?"
    "Oh," replies Helia, "She's working with the Professor."
    "Well obviously."
    "Oh, not all Helias are mathematicians."
    "That's surprising."
    "And the same with everyone else who lives with us.  They're not all mathematicians."

    After a while on the ship, Shark suggests to the Helias that they have a dinner for the scientific research crowd.  The Helias fly back to the station to invite the Professor.  Helia is now wearing one of the regular suits, so they look even more alike.

Back in the bar, Mich and Farol are still talking, while Sally Forsythe listens.
    Farol is saying, "So who did you find to help you with this stuff on Digitis?"
    "Well, it was the Sheriff's science associate, Jane Southcombe I think her name was.  What they were doing at the time was using zuchai crystals to absorb lightning, or so they said, so it wouldn't damage the trees.  They would absorb the strike and then dissipate slowly."
    "Well I guess, it seems like overkill to me."
    "I thought so too.  The system that they had were of the finest quality zuchai crystals, just absolutely perfect.  They wanted my help to analyze their crystals to make sure they weren't having any microcracks or anything like that.  So for normal maintenance I was showing them how to tear it down and PRIS binoculars and stuff.  This was stuff they didn't have, but they had the technology to replicate just about anything you could describe."
    "Interesting, very interesting.  Where was this, you say?  Digitis?  Never heard of it."
    "So working with them I had the specs for the antimatter generators, with small tweaks that I'd been doing, and we built several of them.  Their power engineer looked at the matter input flow and made some subtle changes."  Mich goes on to describe the changes Jane made.
    The Professor says, slowly, "What is an unspace hole?  This is a new one on me."
    "Well that's what I said to her.  However, we worked it out, test benched it, and the input flow was much smoother than without.  So we built several of those and I was suggesting using them as a power source to help with their city and their lightning system.  They took a look at it and said... well my impression was that it was too new a technology for them and they would continue with the proving technology of their zuchai crystals.
    "Well I installed them in our jump engines and did very good successful jumps.  But in one occurrence, a pair of units started acting very strangely. One unit was acting as an energy source, and the other as an energy sink.  Once got down to absolute zero and froze all the atmosphere around it, while the other started doing black-body radiation, and went all the way to hard radiation.  These were two units that were totally out of the circuit -- I took them out as soon as they went of normal specs, and there were no connections between them."
    Sally interjects, "So they were feeding each other?  One was feeding the other one, through nowhere.  Perhaps the unspace hole?"
    "It only seemed to happen while we were in jumpspace.  All the test benches came through with no symptom like this in normal space, however in jumpspace -- it would always be a pair of them that would act like this.  And when we leave jumpspace, they would destruct violently.  They would disappear, basically.  As a point source at the exact center of both of them, would be a horrendous explosion."
    Sally says, "Well, they just looked like they weren't connected.  They were in the same place."
    Mich says, slowly, "They were in the same place?"
    "Yes, they were in the same place.  They just looked like they weren't connected, right?"
    "I did do things with physically connecting them, with a heatpipe and..."
    "Did you do any tests with spatial distortion?"
    "Perhaps they were physically really close together in the jumpspace area, and then when you came back into normal space it sort of flipped it all together and tried to pull them apart but they were connected too much."
    "Well that's an interesting idea.  What we need to do is make sure they don't become connected, don't get too close together in the unspace.  Is there an easy way to do that?"
    Farol laughs, "If we knew what unspace was!"
    Mich says he'll transfer all the specs.  "In fact, here they are," he says, handing a disk over.  "At the moment we don't have a full complement to run our jump engines, so it's back to standard configuration.  I have a couple already built, but I took one apart atom by atom to see if there was any problem, or out of alignment.  Included on that disk are the specs to build the machines to build them atom by atom."
    The Professor is delighted.  This will put them forward several years.
    "Included are the vortex generators that I've used, along with the preliminary results showing that it's helping reduce the effects of the viscosity."
    "Interesting.  I've have to tell Helia about that one.  She's been really interested in the viscosity thing."
    "Our Helia has been a wiz at these navigation points.  We've done six day jumps every time... except when we've had problems with the generators.  When we have a problem with those we have a misjump, even though the output never fluctuates, because I've reserve capacity and the ability to bring the crystals online because I've been running them in parallel."
    Sally says, "If there was a spacial distortion it would change the shape of everything so of course there'd be a misjump.  Actually changing the shape of the jump bubble and the shape of the ship in jump."
    "That would be bad."
    "That would be interesting,"  Sally says brightly.  "Wonder what that would do?  I'll have to ask Helia."
    "It would make us all extremely sick as we'd jump for about two weeks, and then come out in the middle of nowhere.  We did a 30 parsec jump when we were trying for a jump3."
    Farol says, "And old whatshername said it would never work.  Set us back thirty years on that one, she did.  Always wondered what happened to her."
    Mich and Farol reminisce about Fostriades.
    Mich continues, "As to the Anastasia itself, the Navy was supposedly trying to recover it after the crash.  They claim there was a gigantic explosion that destroyed it.  Going back to that planet, it looked like the city had been taken out by an antimatter bomb.  The Navy claims that the ship blew up while it was being recovered; the city itself on the planet was destroyed by an explosion from the very center of the city.  It had antimatter signatures on it."
    "So who's working on antimatter bombs?"
    "I don't know.  The phase inverters don't store antimatter long enough for the Anastasia to have caused any sort of explosion.  Looked more like a cover-up operation to me."
    Farol continues, "Here we've been working mostly on improving the Sir Walter Raleigh system.  And the girls have been producing some interesting results."
    "Again, one of the problems with both the SWR and the Anastasia was the computer power we needed to keep the generator flow even.  With the modifications that we had on Digitis, it was incredibly smooth."
    "That's very odd, because I didn't think anyone else was working on this."
    "They weren't working on it, I just showed them the generators and discussed it with one of the power engineers, and she immediately had the idea that if we just did this, it would solve it."
    "I wonder how she knew about it."
    "I don't know.  It was a strange place.  You arrived there, and they had all this antiquated equipment, until you went off into the far reaches of the forest area, and the sheriff was the center of the high tech area."
    "Actually it made a lot of sense," says Helia, walking in with Helia and Shark.  "If you thought about it."
    "Why?" asks Shark.
    She launches into what is presumably an explanation to Helia in their native tongue.  Helia turns to Shark and says, "It just does."
    Helia adds, "I'm sorry, there's just no words in Galanglic for it."
    Farol says, "Maybe Helia and Sally can figure it out.  Sally's very intuitive."
    Helia tries her finger puzzle on Sally, who solves it instantly.  Helia tells her to keep it to tease adults with it, and offers her some candy.  They keep talking.

    The dinner invitation for that evening is extended.  Farol, Helia and Sally will all attend.  Shark relays the instructions to Vonish Kehnaan -- three Helias and the Professor for dinner with the entire crew.

    At dinner, over a brilliant meal, Shark asks Sally how a thirteen year old girl got here from Harvosette.
    Sally says, "They recruited me.  Lots of professors looked at my stuff, and when they said yes it was right, the Professor contacted me and it sounded very interesting.  My parents said it was OK.  It is fun out here."  She talks about her home system.  It's a vacuum world, nothing there but the mainworld and two suns.
    Farol tells Misha he's lucky to have such a good engineer on his ship.  This is the first confirmation of Mich's ability since he's come on board.  They always thought he was strange, spouting odd engineering fantasies, but here is an expert in the field saying that Mich is brilliant.  Farol also says how impressed he is with the ship.  He is particularly impressed by the vortex generators.
    Robert of course has read the original paper that said the matter phase inverter system wouldn't work, along with personal details and a picture of the author.
    More important to Robert, though, is the script problem.  He shows Farol a sample of the script he came across on Digitis, and asks him if it looks familiar.
    "Vaguely," says Farol, "I've seen something like it before.  I don't remember where."
    "Could it have been on a warhead or something?"
    "Where did you come across this?"
    "This was on Digitis, as part of their communication network.  This is a sample taken from that.  Their outward appearance was low tech, but between a couple of points they were transmitting communication at the theoretical limits.  This is some of that transmission."
    "Yeah, it was on some nuclear warheads.  There was some stuff that someone picked up from somewhere -- they didn't tell us where -- I think they were sent out for the Anastasia.  Part of her weapons complement.  I was told to put them aboard, I don't know why."
    Shark asks, "You were told?  By who?  I thought you were running this place."
    "I am, but you know... I get experimental stuff to be put on things every now and again."
    "Who requested that?"
    "It was thirty years ago, I have no idea."
    Mich recognized it vaguely too.  It was indeed on the warheads that were aboard the Anastasia when they found her.
    Robert tries to get Sally interested in cryptography or, more importantly, interpretation of messages, but she's not interested.
    Farol wants to hear more about Digitis.
    Helia says, "It's a good place to go for a few months.  You ought to go there."
    "I was thinking I might."
    "The trick is to get out before it's too late."
    Mich adds, "You also need the invite from the Sheriff, because the normal city is not that interesting.  You take the steam train ride on the elevated rail up the central regions of the forest.  The forest canopy itself forms a dome holding the atmosphere, all one tree."
    Farol says, "So you found script like that there?  Regular use?  Any sign of nuclear weapons?  Jump drives?  Where did they come from?"
    Shark turns around and pulls up the file.  "The story is that they were a bunch of religious fanatics emigrating from a planet or for social oppression reasons thought they could form a utopian society.  For the most part they seem to be doing pretty well, but they did manage to destroy one of the forest trees before they learned what they were doing."
    Mich says, "Well there were people who claimed to be thousands of years old."
    Shark corrects him, "No, not the immigrants.  There were some other guys there that the immigrants claimed were runaways from the initial immigration, but who claimed to be ten of thousands of years old."
    "And he took you through a walk in the forest to keep you out of the way."
    "Yes, and if you followed the navigation you'd walk for one day and travel couple of hundred miles."
    "But then when you turned around to come back it took you even less time."
    "Or more, depending who you were with.  Have we confused you yet?  It's like he warped space somehow as he walked along.  Like a jump drive, but we weren't gone for six days."
    "Maybe you were travelling through unspace."
    "I didn't feel unwell," laughs Shark.
    "They had a firm grasp of how unspace worked."
    Shark asks Mich, "Was Jane a native, or a settler?"
    "She was a settler."
    The crew agree to give Farol a copy of the local information books on Digitis they picked up on that world.

    Dinner continues, with drinks to complement the meal.  There's a lot of discussion about jump calculations, and what constitutes proper astrogator training.  It seems like the larians believe in teaching a much wider range of potential situations, such as continuous jump calculations.

    During dessert, Robert slumps forwards with a strange expression, as if he's drifting out into the distance.  The Doc is not alarmed, and says to leave him alone to recover -- it's just Robert's fascinating but messed up brain chemistry, as a result of drinking the rotten fish juice.

Another Experience of Robert Morris 
(Referee and Robert's player only)

    Robert sits up suddenly.  He starts talking, slowly but a little incoherently, as he stays stock still, staring at his environment.  The Doctor walks over to him, and suggests sedation.  At that moment, Robert snaps out of it, and quickly agrees to the Doc's suggestion that he should lie down.  Shark escorts him to his stateroom.
    On the way, Robert talks a little about his experience.  "The world's an idea," he says.  "Everything's an idea."
    "You were having flashbacks from your fish juice," says Shark.
    "No, this is nothing like that.  And everything like that."
    "You're sounding like Lap'da, and I was too confused by Lap'da to be comfortable with that.  So please, don't sound like Lap'da."
    "It's just a little too much information at once to be really confident, but if I think about it for a while..."

    Back at the social function, drinks continue after the strange episode of the communications officer.  After a while, the party breaks up, everyone returning to their respective quarters.

029-1121 : Brod / Tardele / Foreven

    Robert has been drifting in and out of his experiential state all night.  When he wakes up in the morning, if he looks hard at something and thinks on it, he can just catch it in the right state.

    Misha talks to the doctor about Robert.  The Doc thinks it might be flashbacks, a residual effect on his brain chemistry.  Clearly he hasn't been drinking the stuff again or it would knock him right out.  There's nothing he can do about it, except observe.  Now, if he had a proper medical facility on this ship, it might be another matter.  The Anastasia had a proper facility, but this ship (or, as he finds out later, the shore base here).
    Misha then goes on to talk to Robert, who says he's just been concentrating too hard on the ideogram problem, because everything's starting to look like ideograms.  Misha tells him to stop doing that.  "OK," says Robert.

    Then Misha sets up a meeting with Captain Wendy Farradon, and asks if the IFSS has a task that they would want to subcontract to his ship.  She replies that she'll have to think about it, and talk it over, and get back to him tomorrow.

    Mich arranges with Professor Farol to use his facilities to build the machines to construct the antimatter generators -- that way they can start hands-on work finding out what an unspace hole is and what it does.