The H.M.S. Third Eye is hovering over the
site of the alleged attack by the reindogs on Crazy Bob's campsite.
There is very little sign that this was ever a campsite. There is
a clearing here, and there might be some stuff scattered around, but if
so it's mostly all hidden in the grass.
The Marquis Marcus Crestworthy suggests a ground team. Crazy Bob declines, fearful of being eaten himself.
Meanwhile, Robert Morris checks the sensors and spots various metallic objects, including a pile of some equipment. Various organic stuff also shows up. None of the objects are readily identifiable. There isn't much in the way of lifeforms around here, either.
Marc takes the gcarrier out and pilots the away team (David Markland and himself) down to the clearing. Both are armed in case of danger. Misha Ravanos remains on the ship to keep an eye on Bob. Robert runs a mineral scan to see if he can locate anything of interest, now that they're several kilometers deeper in the crust of Pimane. Vonish Kehnaan continues his pilot studies, running simulations on the copilot console.
Down on the ground, Marc and David emerge from the
gcarrier. They choose to use respirators, of course. Bob tells
them that the site of the attack was the middle of clearing, so that's
where they concentrate their search. Marc seems to have trouble spotting
things through the grass, but David points out several items to him.
The search reveals several low tech single shot bolt action rifles, all with a round chambered but not fired. There are several metal backpack frames, as if the packs were stacked but have since fallen. There's some metal cooking gear, camping gear, and so on.
Very few organic items remain -- the largest is the remains of a boot. It doesn't look like it's rotted, but chewed, probably by several creatures of varying sizes. Marc bags the boot for later analysis. Other fragments of clothes are found and also collected, but there's nothing of any apparent significance -- a few scraps of cloth. There are no bones.
They return to the ship. Marc scrapes the gravcraft through the tops of the trees on the way, and parks it in the vehicle bay. David examines it but the marks are only cosmetic, easily cleaned off.
The next plan is to try to draw out some of the creatures.
They will put down some bait from the ship's stores.
Misha leaves the ship by the tail door, lowering the meat down onto the ground and then climbing down after it. He walks out into the clearing and places it in the middle.
Unfortunately he did this before Robert was able to ask him to take the sensor package, and Misha didn't think to take a communicator. Robert puts the package in one of the air/rafts and takes it down that way. Setting up the sensors proves trivial. Everyone returns to the ship.
Vonish pilots the Third Eye up to 500m in case the "freeze" range of the creatures is high. His piloting skills are clearly less rusty now; this maneuver was easy (just lift up on the contragrav) but is executed flawlessly. He locks the ship into position.
Vonish's cooking skills are proving superb. Another excellent dinner is served on board the H.M.S. Third Eye.
After dinner, the Marquis calls Vonish to a lab. Marc is performing forensic analysis on the boot and other remains. He tells Vonish that his performance on this ship has been most admirable, especially his cooking, and they would be grateful if he would accept an offer of employment for a three month trial. The position would be copilot, cook, and general crewman; the pay would be Imperial standard. There should be a normal meal rotation, with the occasional more formal and complex meal.
Marquis Marc performs his forensic analysis on the recovered materials from the camp. Somebody was wearing this boot when it was chewed up. There's traces of blood soaked into it, skin particles and so on, but the bones and so on have all been cleaned out. He prepares a report to give to Misha. Marc finds it interesting that there were no traces left, that the wildlife had apparently eaten everything, and that there's creatures which have a taste for human flesh and bones. The marks on the boot are consistent with one of the creatures chewing on it being one of the jackalopes. It seems to back up Crazy Bob's story -- at least, they were eaten by jackalopes. "There are animals that eat people down there." This comes as rather a shock to Marc, who had not believed Bob's story.
Meanwhile, despite it being a staggeringly difficult
procedure, Sir Bridgehead brings Mich around. He's still very groggy,
but conscious and capable of reasonable thought. He's been out for
a very long time, of course...
"How do you feel?" asks Sir Bridgehead.
"Fine," replies Mich.
"What's the last thing you remember?"
"We removed everything from the prow of the ship, moved people back, disassembled what we could of the turrets and pulled them in."
"Do you remember misjumping?"
"The jump bubble was starting to impinge upon the hull. That's not a misjump. You're calling it a misjump, I assume it did impinge upon the hull eventually and pulled us violently out of jumpspace?"
"Let me put it this way. You're no longer on the Anastasia. We have been rescued. The Anastasia is now at the bottom of a river."
"Let's raise it."
"Do you have any suggestions about how we might do that?"
"I'm sure we could come up with something to raise the ship."
"Well, you rest now, and we'll worry about that later. For the time being we've been rescued by a marquis."
"We are extraordinarily lucky. So we have a marquis to thank for our situation. It's good to be under a man of nobility. We are on the planet Pimane, in the Mora subsector, so we really misjumped."
"When did we come out?"
"Several weeks ago."
"So we did a jump-20 in five days?"
"Let me put it this way, though. These people are very inquisitive about what we're up to, and they're kind of hard to put off. Until I know how far we can trust them, be careful. Probably the less said the better."
They agree that they need to get reports to the Professor and the Archduke. Sir Bridgehead continues, "They're very interested in some crazy creature that devours humans. I've no idea why. They have one of these creatures running around on the ship, which doesn't make any sense to me"
"Well, how did the Anastasia come out? We crashed...?"
"Well, I doubt if it will fly again, but you're probably a better judge than I about that."
"So we need the computer logs..."
"Helen is dead. Linda Gregson is dead. Jill is missing. Teri is still here, and so are Alice and Avon. Brock, Jill, Joe, Vana, Varda, and many of the marines are missing. Mich, I really believe that you did the best that you knew to do in the situation we were in."
"People don't just go missing."
"We don't know where these people were. They may just have got thrown somewhere. The gcarrier and an air/raft are missing too. That is suspicious. And the contents of the Captain's safe is gone. Our money is gone." Although some of Sir Bridgehead's money (2MCr) was in the safe and has gone, Mich didn't keep his money there.
After Robert has retired for the night, the Marquis checks the sensor console. To his surprise, there is some data there. There's not much of value around, certainly nothing worth claiming and exploiting. He then sets up a computer search for laws on salvage rights and staking claims and so forth. He believes he can claim the Anastasia since it's been abandoned, but he wants to find out his legal position first.
While David is on the bridge watch, the first remote sensor picks up some fairly large animals moving around, munching on tree leaves. He cues it up on the captain's terminal for him to examine in the morning.
Breakfast is excellent as usual. Over the meal,
Sir Bridgehead asks the Marquis for permission to do some anatomical analysis
on their sample creature. Marc says it's a good idea, but to be careful
because it has sharp teeth; he suggests Misha accompany him. Bridgehead
agrees, pointing out that it seems comfortable around Misha.
A surprise arrival at breakfast is Mich, who has been transferred to a gravchair by Sir Bridgehead. The Anastasia's engineer still has very limited movement, but he can at least be sociable. Introductions are exchanged... "and we have a ship's pet that we haven't named yet."
David tries to ask the dog what it's name is by thinking at it, but they can't communicate at that level, it seems.
Marquis Marc wants to remain until daylight, to collect whatever sensor data they can. In the meantime he'll study the results of the law search.
Sir Bridgehead plans his examination of the dog. He can tranquilize it with his gauss pistol, he says, rather than get too close to give it a shot. He explains this to Misha, who is not impressed.
David tries again to think at the jackalope, to establish communications, sending a comfortable friendly feeling at it. The dog picks up on it this time, and sends back a "query" at David; the creature rubs up against the human. David continues to project warm comfortable feelings. The creature is still curious, but accompanies that with feeding back warm fuzzies too. They relax there happily for a while, basking in each other's friendly companionship. After a little while, David drops his end, but the reindog continues to feed him friendliness. A quick look around the room by the creature reveals that the old guy is somewhat suspicious, but no-one else has any negative vibes towards him.
Marc records his observations of the creature's behavior.
Later, Misha asks Teri Cralla if she's interested in working out with him. She is indeed, although of course she'll have to start with gentle exercise in her condition.
Sir Bridgehead and Misha start arranging the examination.
Bridgehead would like Misha to get the creature as close to sickbay as
he can so they won't have to carry it far.
Misha calls the Marquis: "Captain, are you aware one of our guests wants to shoot another of our guests?"
Marc gives the Admiral a quiet talk on suitable protocol with security folks, and suggests he use a lab to restrict potential damage. It is agreed that Sir Bridgehead will do his examination in Lab #1.
Misha says, "Come on" to the dog, and walks into
Lab #1. Sir Bridgehead follows at a distance. The dog picks
up on his worried and somewhat threatened feelings.
Misha says, "The doctor would like you to wait here for a little while."
The dog growls.
"I on the other hand don't care," adds Misha.
Sir Bridgehead comes to the door, but Misha wants to leave first; Bridgehead wants Misha to stay so that the dog stays there too. The dog feels something happening and dodges aside. Sir Bridgehead shoots and hits it with the tranquilizer. The dog feels something like an insect bite; he looks for cover to duck under, but there's nothing here -- he wants to use Misha for cover, but he's in the corridor now, with Bridgehead between him and safety. The dog charges the Admiral, who shoots (and hits) again. The dog is stung again, but keeps coming -- he has apparently scared off the nasty man, because Sir Bridgehead runs for it off down the corridor. The tranquilizers don't work!
The dog is now calm beside Misha. Misha calls the Marquis and says, "Don't do that again." Marc confirms that the animal was not affected by the tranquilizer. They agree to find the dog some food, let it relax, and not try it in that way again.
Misha talks with Mich about Sir Bridgehead.
Mich says, "I've known Sir Bridgehead for two and a half years. He was a very good doctor, was in the Imperial Navy. I'm not sure why he joined up, perhaps as a way to gain more money after retiring. We first made a bunch of money in trading, and then I was using that money to further some research into Jump drives. I'm very good at that. We did have a little bit of a problem on our last jump, so we did about a jump-20 in a week. I was refining some things on the jump drive, and ... now I want to work out exactly what happened on the Anastasia,"
Misha then visits Avon and for a chat. He opens
up with, "It seems like a pretty eccentric group of characters."
"To say the least," agrees Avon.
"Why did you join these?"
"Because I wanted to get out and see more of the universe, and found a nifty ship and was making lots of money. I like money."
"How did you make it?"
"Thorugh trading. Fostriades was really good at trading. We had shares, and helped with defending the ship and whatever else. I was mostly the ships gunner, sometimes pilot, sometimes I did stuff on the computer. I did the computer for a while but we picked up someone else who was better at it. We got into a number of scrapes, probably more than our fair share of scrapes."
"So what now?"
"I don't know, really not sure. I could go and collect some of my money and kick back, but it was kind of fun, running around the universe, but I don't think our ship's in very good shape right now, and I'm not so sure I really want to get back on that one anyway. My last experience on it wasn't real great."
"All the crashing and all that."
"Yeah. and it was always quirky. It had some sort of advanced drive something, it was unusual, strange technology. The engineers were always having to tinker with it to keep it working, and sometimes they didn't succeed. A more conventional ship that was less likely to have hyperspace envelopes going out of phase or whatever it was doing might be nicer."
"So where will you go now?"
"I don't know. I might want to stop by Spirelle, I've got a bunch of money that's been accumulating there."
"Is Spirelle your home?"
"No, home is a good way away from here. Other than picking up the money, I don't have any real plans. So do you do anything in particular? Go out and rescue people from worlds where everyone knows nobody could possibly be living?"
"No, in fact I don't think that finding you guys was part of the plan. We came looking for the whatever its name is..."
Mich and David chat about engineering. David thinks Mich might well be rather crazy. He has all sorts of strange ideas and strange experiences, which he seems happy to discuss. He defends his ship by pointing out the lack of ability to get it serviced, and says they only misjumped twice. The first time they had a phase mismatch in their antimatter generators... David glazes over, clearly Mich is quite crazy. Mich explains that when they got the ship (an all General Products ship) it had one large antimatter generator, and that he refitted it and redesigned the system with six smaller generators (and of course had to take out some of the zuchai crystals) for smoother performance and better fault-tolerance. Mich, on the other hand, recognises that David has enough skill to keep the ship form crashing, but is not very capable in his eyes. (David intends to look up information on Professor Farol later; he finds nothing.)
The law study results indicate that the Anastasia is not currently subject to salvage; it has merely been parked, rather than rescued from immediate peril. Legally the incident should be reported and filed with the appropriate authorities, of course.
At lunchtime Marquis Marc talks to the crew of the
Anastasia. "Legally you are still the owners of the ship even
though you have abandoned it--"
Sir Bridgehead interrupts, "We have not abandoned it!"
"I understand. You are leaving it in an untenable situation. As long as we do not do not report it on this planet you should have no worry about it being discovered and salvaged while we are away."
"This is something I wanted to bring up. Mich had mentioned the possibility of salvaging the ship."
Avon adds, "Yeah, that worked out so well the first time."
The Marquis continues, "Given that your ship outweighs my ship by a factor of three, I don't believe we have the equipment necessary to raise it."
"I don't mean do this tomorrow," Bridgehead explains, "But just sometime."
Avon suggests, "I was wondering if it would be easier to drain the lake than raise the ship."
Marc says, "It's a river."
"Dam the river."
The Marquis points out that there are implications of damming a river and altering its course, not to mention the possibility of dam failure making the ship's situation much worse. "I suggest that we do not have the skills and equipment necessary to do the salvage operation--"
"We never let that stop us before!"
"Obviously you haven't been working on properly funded expeditions. I suggest we return to Mora, file a report at that spot. That will keep the information out of the hands of the locals, and your ship will be safer."
Sir Bridgehead mentions that there is a significant amount of medical equipment that he wants to salvage from the ship.
The Marquis says, "I would certianly like to see this ship. And it's engines."
"I agree we should not try any sort of salvage operation until we've notified the Archduke about what we need to do. There's also another individual we need to send information to, I don't think it would be at all wise to try to salvage before then." He pauses, then changes the subject. "What I can not figure out is why this dog did not respond. With two tranquilizers, that should be enough to knock out a moose. This thing is the size of a german shepherd. One shot of that should have been enough to put him out for ten hours. He basically didn't seem to be even fazed by it."
Misha questions the gun, but Bridgehead assures him that the gun was fine.
Marc suggests they leave that study to a time and place where if that gets out of hand, the crew of the ship would not be in danger. Bridgehead agrees that is reasonable, but would really like to try it again soon.
The Marquis decides that they should wait here another
30-hour cycle, collect their equipment, and then leave. They can
refuel right here from the river. Mich would like to float the Anastasia
first -- that wouldn't be hard, he says. Marc points out it's better
hidden under water -- they are here in the first place because prospectors
wandered out here, and while the prospectors won't have much in the way
of sensors, if the ship is floating, they will see it.
Marc then addresses Crazy Bob:"In order to keep the location of this secret, I would like to hire you as Ship's Guest for three months. 20Cr a week, and room and board."
"You've got it," says Bob.
"And you'll have the opportunity to leave ship at any port we stop at that you wish," Marc adds.
The Ship's Guest is happy with that.
They top off the tanks from the river, and start
refining on the way up to orbit. Vonish wires his resignation to
the port at Hope's End. Robert Morris continues under evaluation
on the journey to Mora,
and the Marquis will decide on his employment then; if he does not sign
on then, he can return to Hell's Armpit or remain at Mora,
as he wishes.
Marc says, "Robert and Vonish, there is one small problem. It would be most efficient if we did not have to stop back at Hell's Armpit. Is there anything that you cannot leave behind?"
Vonish's only concern is additional clothing, and that can be covered by ship's stores. Robert has nothing to pick up.
Marc then asks if they need to send a recovery crew to the Anastasia to pick up anything before they leave. Aside from Mich, for whom they picked up what was obvious, everyone else gathered what they needed before leaving. The Marquis does provide Mich with the full scan data of the Anastasia. The ship is basically intact; a vehicle bay door is bent open, and that's about the only obvious damage. The main information he has is the location and attitude of the ship, and that's all he really needs to plan the recovery -- whether by skyhook or inflating balloons in the ship to displace the water.
Vonish tenders his resignation to the starport as per protocol.
Avon gets together a meeting of the Anastasia group. They should figure out what to do now that the ship is no longer operating. Sir Bridgehead says they should contact the Professor and the Archduke. Of course they've already forwarded a report when they arrived in the Imperium. They are not sure how much they can trust the Marquis. They cover the main topics, but haven't settled on a story yet. Avon points out that while he doesn't have any great attachment to the ship itself, he does believe they should get some of the pieces of scrap metal and so on off to the right people. He also suggests that perhaps the Archduke might do the salvage. They agree that a trip to Spirelle is in order, but salvage equipment would have to be dispatched from Mora or nearby.