Vonish Kehnaan and Sagan are running the
H.M.S. Third Eye
, while everyone else is on board the
. The initial plan is that the black ship will go on ahead to
, while the Third Eye will wait two days and then
. The problem is coordinating the jump coordinates two days ahead,
which is pretty tricky. Helia Sarina insists they don't need to do
that, as they will surely take no more than six days. Perhaps, she
adds, this technology might even make it faster. Mich Saginaw says
not only has he seen no evidence of this, but jump science doesn't allow
for that. It's finally decided that they should both jump together,
and whichever ship arrives first will wait for the other.
Misha Ravanos settles on a story they will use when
they get to the next
. They will say they spent some time in the mining colony on
. They planned to jump out in time to meet the original rendezvous,
but misjumped. They'll have to figure out where they misjumped to,
to account for the correct amount of time.
is Helia's job. She counters that they don't misjump -- only if
they say Mich was working on the engines is she willing to go along with
it. Her reputation as an astrogator is on the line. With Mich's
agreement to saying it was his fault, she applies herself to the task of
figuring out their falsified route. She suggests
-- no-one in their right mind will check on their story, as there's a limited
nuclear war going on in that
Ed "Shark" Teeth's condition is still deteriorating.
He's still in a coma, under the care of Grand Admiral
Bridgehead. His rate of deterioration is dropping off, though, so
there is some positive news.
Mich starts work inspecting the drives of both
ships, making sure they're ready to jump.
To Helia's disappointment, Misha says she has to
stay near the Third Eye instead of using the black ship's full capabilities.
They proceed at a stately 2g to the jump point.
ship starts to wander off course. Helia points it out to Vonish,
who then makes it worse. Sagan intervenes to make the correction properly.
Helia thanks the
, and says that sie and the
make a good team.
The ships arrive at the jump point. Helia calculates
the jump for the black ship, while Vonish does the same for the Third
Eye . Helia checks Vonish's work, and tells him he's done a
good job. "See you there!" she says.
Mich finishes off his checks. The ships are
ready to jump. Misha suggests they jump the next day at 09:00.
At 09:00 both ships jump for
. Mich starts collecting data right away, so he can adapt his vortex
generators to this new ship. He also intends to study the modulation
of the virtual jump grid, as it has direct relevance to his jump space
The crew of the black ship look out the windows and
see the inside of the jump grid a few meters away outside the ship. It's
an unusual sight, but much less disturbing than the the channel zero patterns
of jumpspace itself. They can watch the grid flexing and moving a
little as it's adapted by the computers.
Mich observes a nice steady power output. He
carefully studies the movement of the grid, seeing it flex and move and
reform connections as well.
Robert Morris has been helping Mich in Engineering.
He tells Mich he's found something interesting -- a jumpspace profile.
This is new to Mich. The jumpspace profile
is a display, graduated by color, of the area about 100m outside the ship.
Various areas indicate density, viscosity, and some other parameters
which appear untranslatable. It shows that as changes happen in the
jumpspace readings, the virtual jump grid is manipulated in response. The
goal of the system is consistency, to provide a constant predictable state
of the jumpspace the ship moves in.
Mich had been working on this sort of system, but
working from energy consumption rather than direct jumpspace measurements.
This direct approach is much better.
Mich asks the computer when they're going to come
out of jump. He is relieved to find that the ship doesn't know --
to have it answer otherwise would threaten his understanding of jumpspace
The crew of both ships resume their normal jump daily
routines, mostly exercise and training.
Mich examines the manual for details on the starter
unit. He finds that all it says is to apply electricity to the terminals
behind the access panel until the power starts. The batteries are not
detailed; the implication is that one could hook up any type of electric
power source to those two terminals to start it. Mich rigs up a recharging
unit for the discharged batteries from the Imperial fuel cell unit in the
Attic. There are indications that the batteries could be recharged
from those terminals with the power unit running, but since they're in jump
Mich feels much safer doing it from the fuel cells rather than risk sucking
all the power out of the cube. He recharges all the starter batteries.
As he had already calculated, the power put into those batteries is
insufficient to move the ship at all, let alone at 20g.
At least now Mich knows how to start the power cube
-- hook up jumper cables from his fuel cell unit to the terminals.
Mich returns to studying the jump drive and power
unit, with Robert's help. They've run up against the limits of the
concepts they have in common. Most of what is left, such as the interior
structure of the jump drive and the power unit fall into that category.
Nevertheless, they can figure out which areas do what, roughly how
the feedback and control operates, and so on.
Robert's brain continues to charge up with klatrin
side-effects, but it's not dangerous at this point. Helia is pronounced
clean, and is told she can check in just once a day. Shark is approaching
stable; Bridgehead is now sure his patient won't have to be put into a low
berth. As for the Baron himself, he must surely be getting some sleep,
but since he's always awake whenever anyone visits Sick Bay it's hard to
imagine when he's doing it.
After six days in jump, both ships pop out simultaneously
in the Ferle
system. The two ships are quite close, within half an hour of the
Third Eye's travel at 2g. Of course it would only take a fraction
of that time for the black ship to get there at 20g. The Third
Eye's transponder is active, but of course the black ship has no transponder.
Vonish plots a course for the Third Eye to
head insystem, while the black ship approaches them to match up and perform
the crew transfer.
About half an hour after heading in, about the time
the black ship approaches it, the Third Eye is hailed from further
in the system. The message says to stop accelerating, maintain course,
and prepare to be boarded, under the authority of the system navy. The
source is apparently a ship now approaching them, although it's still a
long way away.
There is time to do a quick crew transfer. The
GrandAm stays on the black ship, since his patient is there. Robert
stays on the black ship. Helia remains on the black ship too, pretty
much running the vessel single-handedly. She does it from sparkly pink
mode, having been piloting up until now using the console controls. Everyone
else is now on the Third Eye. They decide that they'll say
that any missing crew had succumbed to jump sickness. Most of their
personal gear, except that necessary to back up their story, remains on the
black ship. Robert has, of course, already doctored the Third Eye
's logs appropriately.
Helia's task is to move away from the Third Eye
and not be seen. Robert is responsible for establishing and maintaining
communications between the ships as needed. In the absence of Shark,
their first officer, Robert is appointed in command of the black ship.
Robert notices that the approaching ship is accelerating
at 6g, and will arrive in about four hours. It's transponder indicates
an Imperial destroyer. They certainly didn't get a greeting like this
last time in the system.
Following a short argument in which Helia wants to
go fast and Robert doesn't, Helia takes her ship about half an hour away
from the Third Eye, starting at 5g and increasing acceleration rate.
The destroyer approaches the Third Eye and matches
speed. From this distance it's clear it's a Midu Agashaam class. It
Mich is in Engineering, while everyone else is on the
Bridge. Misha wears his zack, while Teri Cralla is in battledress.
Sagan operates the sensors.
The first "instruction" from the destroyer is three
laser batteries open up at Engineering. It was good shooting -- it's
taken out the maneuver drive, and there's a major hull breach. Mich
grabs for the vaccsuit next to him. Unfortunately he's being flung
around by the escaping air, and misses the suit. He knows he doesn't
have long before he goes unconscious, and desperately tries again to grab
Alarms go off on the bridge. Misha ponders briefly
the fact that this ship's weaponry is just one point defense laser, and the
ship has to be pointed in the right direction to use it. He announces
that they surrender.
On the black ship, they see that the destroyer has
fired on the Third Eye and hit. Helia flips around and hurtles
back towards the conflict. She wants to go just far enough to get in
Mich gathers his fading thoughts, stops reacting by
instinct, and falls back on his Imperial Navy training. The air has
mostly gone, so he's not fighting airflow any more. He pulls himself
to the nearest emergency locker and at last struggles into a vaccsuit. He's
still relatively near the hole, and there's debris everywhere. He
gasps for breath and hangs on.
On the bridge, they haven't heard anything from Engineering.
Teri goes aft to help.
There has been no response to Misha's surrender.
The destroyer moves closer slowly, perhaps as if they
intend to board.
Teri gets to Engineering and enters the vacuum beyond
Mich has managed to perform a first assessment on
the damage. The maneuver drive is a mess -- it would take at least
12 hours to get it working at all. There's nothing he can do right
now, so he heads up to the Bridge with Teri.
Misha calls Teri, who updates him. Mich reports
that the maneuver drive is down, repairable in about 16 hours, and there's
a major hull breach in Engineering. They can't jump with the hull damage,
and they don't have enough fuel anyway. As for himself, he is injured
but not seriously.
Misha asks, "Do we have any way to attack the other
ship? Do we have any weapons at all?"
There is a missile launcher, but it's designed for
launching scientific probes. Someone will have to go down and physically
carry a missile to the box.
Misha shrugs and says, "Let's meet our guests." They
prepare to be boarded.
Helia heard Misha surrendering. She is now within
range of at least missile fire.
Speaking of missile fire, that's the next development.
The destroyer fires a large missile salvo at the Third Eye.
No-one on the Third Eye really knows how to
use the ship's gun. Mich is the best; he grabs the controls for the
point defense laser. Perhaps he can shoot down some of the incoming
Robert drops into sparkly pink mode, starts a tightbeam
communication to the Imperial destroyer, and tries to hack his way into
Mich is somewhat successful. He manages to shoot
down three of the missiles, but there are another fifteen incoming...
Those on the Third Eye watch as the missiles
head towards them. There's nothing they can do but wait for impact.
Suddenly lasers streak out from behind them and the missiles
are destroyed. The last missile was really close -- it explodes violently
right beside the already breached Engineering. There is a big shock
aft which shakes the whole ship. Sagan has the advantage of more limbs
and manages to keep hir hold on the sensor console. Teri is trained
for onboard combat and has no problem staying on her feet. Most of
the others fall to the floor. Vonish is not so lucky -- he is jerked
out of his seat, slamming into the pilot console with first his shoulder,
then his head. He lies on the ground unconscious, bleeding profusely
from a cut on his head.
Misha tries again to contact the aggressor. "Look,
we know we're late, but we do have your box if you want it back!"
Mich tells everyone to get into vaccsuits as he tends
to Vonish. The vilani just has a broken arm and a concussion. The
scalp wound is minor and easily stopped. He starts helping the unconscious
man into a vaccsuit.
They get ready for the next salvo.
That next salvo never comes.
Out of the Third Eye's bridge window they can
clearly see the Midu Agashaam class destroyer very close by. It seems
to shudder visibly. There's a large blinding flash from the middle of
the ship, as if a star lit up inside the hull. Debris is flying out
in all directions. The bow and stern blow away in chunks, while the
midships section is no longer there at all.
After a moment, Helia's voice comes over the comm. "Well,"
Mich says they should transfer over to the black ship
and destroy the Third Eye. Misha has the same thought, but
wants suggestions for any way to save his employer's ship. Mich points
out that it has to be refueled to jump back to
, and anyway it can't jump without repairing the jump grid.
Helia looks around the system for fuel sources. There's
a gas giant in orbit P8, and the planet in P7 does have water but is a high
As debris rattles off the hull of the Third Eye
, rattling the ship and gouging the hull further, Helia asks if there's
any way the ship is going to be able to move.
Mich replies it'll probably take a day before it can
travel under its own power.
"Screw it," says Helia, "Let's blow it up. They'll
think it was a mutual explosion." She muses, "I think the thing to
do is to find the Professor and Helia, and start from there."
Helia says, "With the Imperial Navy ship possibly having
said that we showed back up, we don't dare go back where we got the black
ship. They're probably going to send their fastest ship there. They
may not have seen us, but they saw the Third Eye, and they probably
thought we went there. So if they were able to report that the
Third Eye was sighted and fired upon to anybody in the Imperial Navy,
they're going to be at the site that we picked up the black ship."
Mich nods and says that it's worth appearing as if the
hunt for the Third Eye succeeded.
Helia agrees. "It might keep them from looking
for us in this any time soon. They'd have to at least get out there
and check and see if we did take it. While right now we're just passively
on their hit list, if they find out we took the ship they're not only going
to try to capture us, but probably capture us alive. Or at least in
some sort of state they can control. So while before it was just a
matter of being dead, now it's worse."
Misha gives the command to abandon the Third
Eye . They'll transfer everything worth taking to the black ship.
Now to consider what's worth taking... They can definitely take
the air/rafts, and the gcarrier too, since it will just fit the cargo lift.
Obviously they'll take all the battledress and weapons, and the psionic
lab equipment. It's going to be a lot of stuff.
There is clearly nothing salvageable from the destroyer.
Sensors indicate radiation from the debris. It was no explosion
signature that Mich recognizes -- not antimatter, not nuclear, not a meson
gun. Something happened in the middle of the ship. Whatever that
event was, was followed by a large explosion.
Helia shakes her head. "I can't believe it just
exploded like that," she says quietly. "You know," she adds, "They must
have had some sort of test equipment on there and were testing a new weapon."