Helia pilots the ship out to jump point, while Vonish Kehnaan runs a concurrent simulation on the copilot console. Helia takes a brief glance at the computer and drops the Third Eye into jump for Gorram.
Gorram itself is just entering "winter." The primary star is a very dull red main sequence star, with the slightly smaller dull red secondary star (with one tiny planet) opposite Gorram's position right now. Orbiting outside the secondary is the system's only other body, the gas giant.
During jump, Teri Cralla discusses her status with
First Officer Misha Ravanos. While Teri is unwilling to join the
crew officially, because of her unclear status as a Scorpionis Marine,
she does agree to sign on for working passage on a jump-by-jump basis.
David Markland suggests that while she's on board, she should train the
crew; Teri is not enthusiastic about that, but does agree that Survival
might be a useful skill for everyone.
Marquis Marc discusses Mich Saginaw with David. David says Mich is either far, far more qualified for the job than he is, or far, far more nuts, or both. Marc agrees to checking out his background and service records next time they reach a good starport, but does point out that the Baron has vouched for him. Marquis Marc reassures David that his position as Chief Engineer is secure, regardless of Mich's skill and ability.
Helia pilots the ship to the gas giant and swings down into the atmosphere for refuelling.
Meanwhile, the Extraordinary Circumstances,
a Hiver exploratory vessel, arrives in the system.
On board, Sagan detects the 600t ship that's refuelling at the gas giant. "Akim!" sie says to hir human consultant, "We have arrived in Gorram system. We are headed to a gas giant where we will attempt to refuel; however there appears to be another ship here."
"I told you that there would be Imperium here!" says Akim.
"The vessel does not appear to be Imperial war vessel," observes Sagan. "One moment while I instruct the pilot to broadcast our transponder information to the human vessel."
"Well, they'll probably see us anyway. Now what's our story here...?"
Sagan turns to the other crew members -- in particular, to make sure the astrogator has hir information straight about the navigational data problem.
The human vessel's transponder identifies it as the HMS Third Eye, a Research Ship associated with the University of Mora, port of registry Adabicci / Lunion / Spinward Marches, captain Marquis Marcus Crestworthy. It's signal includes some sort of clearance code.
Helia looks up from her console. "Were we expecting
another ship, sir?" she asks the Marquis.
"No," replies Marquis Marc.
"There is another ship."
"Well, pull up his registry data on screen."
The transponder identifies it as the Hiver Federation exploratory ship Extraordinary Circumstances, captain Sagan. The 200t ship is clearly alien.
The Marquis says, "We should ask them what they're doing here. Not that we can do anything about it, but we can report them when we get back. Let's see if they'll talk to us."
Robert Morris opens a channel and hails the alien
The Marquis greets them, "Good day. My name is Marquis Marcus Crestworthy, captain of the HMS Third Eye. Am I speaking with Sagan?"
The hiver on the screen gestures, and a mechanical voice says, "Yes, I am Sagan, captain of Extraordinary Circumstances."
"You aware that this is an interdicted system? You should not be here."
"We are aware. We are experiencing a failure in our navigational system."
The Marquis glances at Helia. "How many times have you heard that excuse?" he says to her.
Marquis Marc turns back to the comm unit. "Do you require engineering assistance?"
"Our navigator will communicate with your personnel about the system at your personnel's convenience."
David and Mich tell the Marquis that Helia and Robert are the people to help them -- it's an astrogation and computer problem, not engineering. The Extraordinary Circumstances has suffered a core data loss in their astrogational systems, and will need to rebuild their data; the hardware is working. There will no doubt be difficulties translating the human data to the hiver representations.
The Marquis emphasizes that the planet in orbit 0 is inderdicted.
Sagan assures him that hir hiver ship will comply as much as possible with the Imperial interdiction. He also says he has a human passenger that would probably enjoy contact with fellow humans.
There's a brief discussion between Marc and Misha, and they agree to the visit. The Third Eye, just finished refuelling, will continue on to Gorram (in orbit 0), while the Extraordinary Circumstances will join them in orbit there after they have refuelled themselves.
Meanwhile Robert Morris hacks into the hiver ship's computer system, something that is considered pretty much impossible. Getting any further is just as difficult, but he continues undaunted. He picks up on some of the distribution of the data, but the hiver representation system is quite incomprehensible.
Helia swings the Third Eye out of orbit and performs an excellent transfer to the mainworld.
|Key to Terrain|
|Ocean||Mountainous||Hills or Foothills|
|Heavy vegetation||Rough or broken||Plain or Desert|
Several hours later, the Extraordinary Circumstances
joins the Third Eye in orbit. Marquis Marc calls the hiver
ship and asks them when their passenger wants to come over. Who is
"Our passenger is Akim Gavrolovitch," replies Sagan, "A human writer who wished the experience of travelling with our species for his writings. He would like to come over at your earliest convenience. For that matter I myself would like to come aboard if permitted, to discuss one of my interests."
"How about now?" suggests the Marquis. The initial surveys didn't reveal anything very useful, and so the Third Eye will spend the night (Imperial Time) gathering data. Marc makes a note to call a meeting tomorrow at 8am to go over what they have and to discuss a final plan for the research staff.
Now there's the matter of mating
the Imperial and hiver docking ports. Fortunately the Extraordinary
Circumstances has been travelling in Imperial space, and has a compatible
umbilical. Both ships have a GCarrier, but there's not really room
to put two in the hanger designed to accomodate one, so the umbilical is
the best option.
"Engineer, pilot," says the Marquis, "Get those people on board safely."
Helia suggests that the hiver ship hold position while she matches the Third Eye with them. She brings her larger ship alongside quickly and efficiently, and the hiver ship rotates to match up airlocks. The Extraordinary Circumstances extends their umbilical and mates it with an airlock on the Imperial ship. The human and hiver transfer across safely.
Misha greets the arrivals at
the airlock. It is his first sight of a hiver. "Welcome to
the HMS Third Eye," he says, "Are you carrying any weapons?"
The hiver carries a panelled orb of some sort. It flashes a bit while sie looks at it with a couple of eyes, then hir hand gestures and a generated voice says, "No."
Akim also replies in the negative. "My gun doesn't fit in my pocket," he explains.
Misha takes them to the lounge.
The crew meet them there, except
Baron Bridgehead who is in the Sick Bay. Vonish produces a meal suitable
to the tastes of all the visitors, including the hiver, and drinks are
Meanwhile, Akim has been explaining to David how he came to be on a hiver ship. "He came to Capon, and he told me that he was travelling around, and asked me what I did, and I told him I wrote adventure stories about the Imperium and all of their secrets and I told him that he could use me." He's wearing fatigues, boots, fatigue jacket with lots of pockets stuffed full of all sorts of stuff. He's neat enough, but there's grease spots on his clothes too.
Sagan has been circulating
too, shaking hands with everyone (with the hand opposite hir head).
Sie works his way over to the Marquis and introduces hirself. "It's
a pleasure to meet you, Captain."
"And likewise. I'm the Marquis Marcus Crestworthy of Pallique."
"I am Explorer Six Sagan, recently promoted captain of the Extraordinary Circumstances."
"Congratulations on your good fortune. So what brings you to this system? I know you said navigational error, what system were you trying to reach?"
"We were trying to reach Quiru. It is fortunate that we did not go further off course than we have."
"Very fortunate. How did the processing of our navigational database proceed?"
"Some of the data still needs to be further processed so my navigator informs me, but it proceeds apace."
"Well, you should make a report to Imperial authorities when you get back, reporting your involuntary stopover. Why have you come to this sector? It's a long way from Hiver space."
"We are actually exploring, but in a non-typical fashion. Those of us on the crew wanted to investigate human society. I am in pursuit of several of my interests: I have a fascination for Imperial history, and human reproduction mystiques."
David interjects, "Like romance novels?"
"I do not know these romance novels," says Sagan.
"I brought him some x-rated videos," adds Akim, helpfully.
"They were not quite everything we were looking for. We were attempting to understand the human and other species fascination with the whole process -- the association of taboos, and rituals, and relationships, and so on."
"I see," says the Marquis. "Well. We have another scientist on board who is studying reproductive activities. You should speak with Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead."
That gets Sagan's attention. Sie rotates two tentacles in Marc's direction. "This person is not presently here?"
"He's attending to medical duties at the moment," explains Marc. "He is the ship's medical officer."
"Is it not unusual to have one of your admirals acting as a... doctor?" asks Sagan.
Helia says, "Admirals do what admirals want."
Marc adds, "He's retired. But I am forgetting my manners... my crew." He introduces the others.
Helia is fascinated.
This is the first Hiver she's seen.
In return, she is the first Larian that Sagan has seen. She looks like a small human female, except that she has something on her back. Sagan says, "You are what is termed a human (harkland?)?"
"No, I'm not a human," she replies. "I'm a human relative."
"What then are you called?"
"I'm a larian," she replies. "We're not a very well-known race from a small planet. I believe if you ask the captain he'll explain that I share the majority of my genetic code with humans."
"Fascinating," says Sagan. "What are the differences between you and humans?"
"We have a gift for certain things like mathematics, and we can fly, and we're smaller than humans."
"Flight... that's an interesting thing."
"Yes, it's fun."
"Is this done through psionics?"
"No, wings. Would you like to see them?"
Helia unfurls her wings. It's the first time everyone (except the Marquis) has seen them. They're pretty.
Marc says, "Our pilot really flies."
Helia says, "They're kind of nice, aren't they?"
Sagan thanks her.
Vonish serves the food, including a plate of tofu cubes that he sets down on the floor. Sagan squats down over the plate. "I've done what I could," the cook says, "But I was not expecting to entertain a hiver."
"So have any of you guys caught
my books?" says Akim. His books are action and excitement books,
based on military and covert adventures. Vonish and Helia have both
come across them, and they also are just the sort of book Avon left homeworld
Akim continues, "You need to read this, about all the conspiracies and stuff that can and do happen."
Helia is not familar with the concept of conspiracies. The crew and Akim enlighten her about good and bad conspiracies, and so on. The conversation is stimulating and enthusiastic.
Akim wants to take notes about everyone -- so he can put them, with descriptions and changed names, in his books. Avon and Helia object strongly. He mollifies them.
Akim changes the subject.
"So why are you guys here? You've told us that we're not supposed
to be in this system, so why are you here?"
"We're studying the planet," replies Robert, "We've got permits."
"Permits! From the government."
"From the government of the Imperium."
Helia pipes in, "From the non-conspiracy part of the government."
"I can believe that," says Akim. "And you have on board a Baron, a Marquis, and a Grand Admiral."
Helia hands him a little metal box with buttons on it. "You might enjoy this," she says. It's some sort of a puzzle, apparently -- he accepts it, and pockets it for later. "I'm getting the idea of this conspiracy thing," she adds, "I think I'm going to like it."
David introduces himself to
Akim, and that leads to a discussion between David, Mich, and Helia as
to who keeps the ship from crashing. Avon says that from his personal
experience that's an important thing.
"Well, if any of us went to sleep at the job it would be a very bad thing," says David.
"Well, I don't know," says Avon, "The damage that caused our ship to crash happened in jump."
He's met with inquiring looks.
"The Anastasia," he explains.
Mich chips in, "More than likely that was sabotage."
"Actually there's every reason to believe it was sabotage at this point," agrees Avon.
"Sabotage?" says Helia. "Now that's part of the conspiracy."
"So you're a crew on a ship that crashed, probably due to sabotage," says Akim, "And you survived?"
"Yes, it was Jill that sabotaged," says Mich. "Her name was just Jill, and that's all we ever knew her by."
"There you go," exclaims Helia, "I bet it was her who did the sabotage!"
"Jill the mind controller who sabotaged the ship," says Avon.
That gets Akim's attention. No doubt this will be in his next book...
"That's that psi-word, isn't it? Psionics, that's them." says Helia. "We don't have those where I come from."
"That's good," says Avon. "Try and keep it that way." He mentions that they're illegal to use, but a little hard to enforce.
"What are they, exactly?" asks Helia.
"People think there are people who can do things with their minds, lift objects, things like that," says David.
"Control emotions," adds the Marquis, "Change your appearance, become stronger, become healthier, disappear and reappear elsewhere."
Helia asks the Marquis if there's anything in the ship's computer about psionics -- lots, he says.
David says that a lot has been written about it, and -- like Akim's works -- some of it is not always completely straightforward and true to life.
"I must have grown up on a very simple world," says Helia. "But wouldn't you say, Marquis, that humans tend to make things more complicated than they really are?"
"Always. Most definitely," he replies.
Helia concludes this is a human trait that the larian do not have.
"This is great!" Akim laughs. "I'm not sure I want to go back on the hiver ship!"
They get back to talking about conspiracy theories, and about how it can be dangerous to write about that sort of stuff.
Akim asks, "What are you studying on this planet?"
"We don't know," replies David quickly.
"The boss is the only one who knows what you're studying here?"
"No," clarifies Avon, "We have scientific experts who know what they're studying."
Robert says, "Some kind of life forms. We have sensor packages set up for it."
David says "I'm just here to keep the ship from crashing."
Akim smiles to himself. This is getting better and better.
The drinks flow, and the conspiracy discussion escalates.
The Marquis excuses himself early.
Mich explains about the beans, the fermented bean juice, and bean coffee. He laments their loss with the Anastasia.
They then discuss war wounds. Avon tells them he was wounded out of the Navy -- Akim tops that by being wounded out of both the Marines and the Army, before turning to police and SWAT team work.
The party continues on into the night...