Helia Sarina, Helia Sarina, Sally Forsythe, Professor
Benshani Farol, and Mich Saginaw continue work on their jump
drive technology. In the process, Helia explains to Helia how
the matter phase inverters work; the larians' native language seems much
more effective at communicating technical details between them than Galanglic.
Robert Morris is curious about their language. He checks samples of their speech against the data in the computer, but finds it doesn't correspond to anything they have.
Shark, meanwhile, has been carefully studying the Helias to try to determine which is which. It's a very difficult task indeed.
The one to finally break silence and ask why they have the same name is Vonish.
Helia answers, "Because she's Helia, and I'm Helia. It's not the same. She's a different Helia."
"Are there more Helias?" asks Vonish.
"Names are name," replies Helia. "Everywhere you go, don't you meet people with the same names?"
"Are you related?"
The Helias look at each other and chatter in the fast high-pitched larian language. Eventually Helia nods, and says, "Way back."
"So you're like cousins?"
"Yes, cousins," agrees Helia readily.
"Cousins? That works," adds Helia.
"Absolutely," says Helia, "Somewhere there. It's just... way back."
Vonish asks, "Do you always go around together?"
Helia replies, "We saw each other growing up. We were in some classes together."
Helia adds, "We both had Advanced Mathematics and some other classes together. But in general, not since we've been grownups. You know, she's doing math and I'm doing astrogation. She's more into that theoretical, you know, engine stuff. Of course then there's Helia, the one that really got into math."
"Oh, Helia!" nods Helia.
"Yes," adds Helia, "She's into pure math, and we're into applied math."
Helia points out, "Then there's Helia the doctor."
"She was OK at math but didn't like it much," explains Helia. "You know, Mich is OK at math. Don't you have cousins?"
Vonish looks like he was sorry he asked. Now he knows why no-one else brought up the subject.
Shark and Vonish leave on their trip. They are travelling very light, with a portable shelter just for Vonish. Shark sleeps in the snow with his faceshield down. The weather gets a little colder, but that just makes the walking less slushy. They live off the land very well indeed for three days.
The engineers continue work on the construction machines, and then build several new matter phase inverter units, the same as the ones from Digitis. The tricky atom-by-atom part that Jane Southcombe did herself goes surprisingly smoothly, although it is quite unfamiliar to all of them.
Mich and the rest of the engineers have finished
building the matter phase inverters. There are four new units for
the Third Eye, with the two units remaining from the Digitis
build as spares. The Professor now has everything he needs to make
more. Farol is very interested to find out more about the woman who
helped him on Digitis,
but there really is nothing more to tell. The Sheriff of Cormor did
say that they wouldn't be using the units themselves. Mich resolves
not to use the new units until they hear more from Sally. Farol promises
that if they find out anything more, they'll leave a message at the IFSS
Helia has come up with some suggestions to improve Mich's jumpspace vortex generators. They'll work on that tomorrow, but she suggests that Mich should tell Helia about them too.
Sally has worked on the unspace problem, but hasn't got anywhere yet. She goes out to build snowmen, along with Helia. Helia builds one with an axe, standing beside another with its head on the ground.
On the bridge, the window shows a view of space.
Helia keeps saying "I told you so" to Mich and everyone else, but it's
clear she's very happy with it.
Mich is happy too. He immediately sends a coded message to the Professor with all the data collected from the jump, and Helia adds an explanation in her native language to Helia and Sally.
Helia points out that they will have to be careful about trying to hide their five day jumps. Mich says that they've already put together an enormous string of six day jumps, and given the military implications of guaranteeing a six day jump, if someone was going to notice, they already would have done so.
Helia adds, however, that five day jumps are readily noticeable by a ship taking the same route as they do, comparing it with their jump.
Shark thinks that in the Imperium it could be noticed eventually, but out here with so many different political units in the area, it is unlikely to be a problem.
The expert consensus -- Helia and Mich -- is just to keep going, and if it looks like there's be a problem, just run. Still, they might want to pay a little more attention to what's going on around them, who's coming and going, and so on.
Helia follows the nav beacons to the starport, and they come in to land.
Misha briefs his crew. He informs them that as far as they are concerned, they are going to Jake for their next jump. They will stay here just long enough to resupply, and then get on their way.
They consider what they might bring as useful trade
goods to a system that has no visitors. Unfortunately they can't
find any record of regular trade with Zett,
and the few records there are of trade visits say emphatically that there's
nothing worth trading there. After rejecting Mich's idea of booze,
they decide on high-tech entertainment systems and modules.
Robert investigates the local computer systems for records of ships heading there. The only real records are of IFSS ships that went there -- some of them came back, the ones that didn't were all listed as lost. He also checks for references to the symbols to Digitis -- Professor Farol had run across artifacts that must have been in this general vicinity, after all. He is disappointed to find no such references.
On his arrival, Ed tells Misha that they're to expect
a visitor shortly, bearing gifts. "Not sure if it's a large wooden
horse, but it's a technical gift that might be of use in certain planetary
systems that we might be visiting."
Misha asks, "Why would this person be giving us this?"
"Because I have promised to give him a technical report from my point of view of the system."
"And why did you promise him this?"
"I said if I'm going there, I'd be happy to, since I'm in the business of selling information. That's how I make my living. And stay alive."
Misha agrees, as long as his First Officer hasn't put them in danger. He tells Mich that there's a technical gift arriving that he should check over.
An hour after the bar meeting, the man arrives at
the ship. He is indeed alone, carrying a large suitcase.
Shark escorts him to one of the labs. Mich is already there.
The man pops open the suitcase. He hands over a tape with the installation and operations instructions, and a unit about the size of a briefcase. It has regular power connections and a small control panel, and mounting lugs.
Shark says, "To be explicitly clear, in return for the use of this device, you want a report."
"I want a full report to the best of your ability on what's going on there, what the situation is, and bring this unit exactly back here. I expect it in four weeks. If it's not back in four weeks, this ship goes on the... list."
"Mich, please review the technical information." He then turns to the agent, tells him he has to clear it with the captain, and leaves Mich to discuss the unit.
Installation is simple. Mich has to build a metal cage of certain specification over the zuchai crystal array, and mount this unit as shown inside the cage with connections to the cage and a standard power source. In theory it shields the zuchai crystals from the wave that comes out before the stellar material, so they can jump (a jump0 is sufficient) to safety. The Third Eye will in fact have one unit of fuel when they arrive at Zett. The unit is to be in place and powered on before jumping -- it has to attune to the size of the array and so on.
Meanwhile Shark has told Misha the conditions of the deal. In particular, he's quite clear that if they don't return it in time, they go on the "to be hunted down and shot" list. He says that the box is supposed to protect the ship, and in return he can provide them with a report.
Shark calls Mich. "Do we need this?"
Mich replies, "With the radiation waves that come through, yes we will."
Shark goes down to accept the deal, and escorts their benefactor off ship. He promises to contact him on their return.
Mich tells Helia that they have this unit that shields
the zuchai crystals from the waves coming from the unstable star.
He adds that they need to run with it so it can calibrate itself.
Unfortunately the instructions contain a warning that any attempt to disassemble
the suitcase would have disastrous consequences. It's shielded very
well, including PRIS binoculars.
Helia asks, "Who gave it to you?"
"A Shark tooth," Mich replies.
Shark says, "A specter. A spook, a ghost, a non-existent person."
Helia is unsure, "A non-existent person from what sector of space?"
"Imperium." Shark adds, for Mich's benefit, that it's Imperial Navy. "It's hand built by the best ghostly engineers in the Imperium."
Helia asks, "Are you an Imperium spy?"
Shark says, carefully, "No, I am not an Imperium spy."
"Do you have a history of working with the Imperium spy people?"
"I have worked with non-existent people in the past, yes."
"Are you still affiliated with these non-existent people that we get this toy?"
"Um... I have enough contacts left that they're willing to trust an expensive piece of equipment on the chances that I'll survive and return with information."
"I don't recall that you sent out any special notice that you were here?"
"I am part of the crew manifest."
"When do you think those people will start noticing we're doing five day jumps?"
"When they start talking to each other, which will be a hell of a long time from now!" laughs Shark. "There are so many little groups of non-existent people that don't talk to each other that we have nothing to worry about from them."
"As far as they are concerned, I don't exist. Understand?"
"Any more that they already know. And what we've been doing, in terms of time, does not happen. Must be a mistake."
On the way out to the jump point, Mich assembles the cage. The instructions are foolproof. He mounts the unit as specified, and turns it on. He sets up various sensors to see what this thing does -- it seems to set up an electromagnetic shield around the zuchai crystals.
They jump for Zett.