Helia Sarina pilots the Third Eye in to a perfect landing at the University starport. As soon as they arrive, the ship is put into full ready status, needing only to be powered up to leave immediately. Right after doing that, Mich plugs in his new power units to the jump drive circuits, making them switchable with the zuchai crystal array.
One of Vonish's first moves on landing at the sector
capital is to pick up the latest updates to Imperial
bureaucratic procedures, with commentaries.
Ed and Misha will switch off acting as bodyguard for Mich.
The Marquis' report focusses mainly on the fact that Digitis is a planet with no native psionics -- none -- either animal, human, or non-human. There is a non-human race whose age are reported in the thousands of years, and whose society stretches back almost a third of a million years, although communication is rather... strained.
The Marquis then sets up for Mich the passages in his book that describe the Zhodani devices for detecting psionics. Mich notices a couple of interesting things. First, the Marquis is actually ahead of the Zhodani in this field -- the evil mind-sucking Joes' approaches have some drawbacks that the noble has avoided altogether. There are some detail improvements he could incorporate, though. Also, it's finally spelled out for Mich what the Marquis has actually been doing, and Mich can use this information to build a better shield.
Sagan's report to the hiver homeworld also includes information on the other race on Gorram that actually managed to give hir a headache...
Marquis Marc and Misha go to deliver the report.
First of all, Misha scopes out the layout: there's a waiting room, with
a glass wall between it and the secretary's area where the pigeonholes
are. The pattern is that people come in, wait for some period between
5 minutes and half an hour; sometime between half an hour and an hour the
person waiting will either have seen the person they wanted, or given up
and left. No-one seems to be waiting longer than an hour, but there's
a steady stream of different people moving through. The secretary
does not watch the waiting room, only looking up when someone enters her
room; this means that Misha could probably watch all day without being
noticed as unusual.
So Marquis Marc drops his report off at the pigeonhole. Misha is already in the waiting room, and intends to stay there until he sees someone pick it up. The Marquis then goes to his office and starts researching the original settlers of Digitis, their society, their religion, and so on. Aside from the immediate answers, he also sets up some pending queries that will report back to him on the ship.
The Marquis maintains a fairly luxurious penthouse apartment on Mora, three blocks from the UoM Department of Parapsychology. It has three bedrooms, large living room, formal dining room. It's funded by his estates on his homeworld. Even so, he returns to his ship.
His research backs up the story of the people of the cities of Digitis. It was settled by a group that left from Vilis. Vilis was settled from the Sword Worlds; this group disliked the government structure that was emerging on Vilis, and left there too. The ships left Vilis as had been described by the city dwellers, and there is not much information after that. There is, however, no record of an indigenous population on Digitis.
A simple query on the psionic percentages of Vilis reveals it is Imperial normal. There is no evidence that there was any selection factor for the Digitis colonists other than their dislike for the government. There was not a religious factor.
(Referee and Shark's player only)
Ed "Shark" Teeth returns to the Third Eye,
and immediately seeks out Robert Morris in private. "Robert," he
says, "You know approximately who I used to work for? You know what
my job in the past was?"
"People who are to me what I am to the general populace are interested in what you're researching. Languages in particular. So if you do that, you can do two things: you can succeed, and get too much interest drawn upon yourself; or they can come in and talk to you and they might not be very polite. You should consider that and its effect on the rest of the crew."
Robert contemplates this briefly. It will slow him down a bit, but shouldn't affect his work too much. At first his plan is to spread his requests around, coming from various scattered sources. Then he realizes that it's more complex than that -- he's going to have to make it look like there were no requests, and cover up every single request immediately as it's happening. Nevertheless his approach is working -- slowly, but it is working.
Meanwhile, after waiting about three hours, Misha
observes someone arrive to collect the Marquis' report. It's a man,
sunglasses, blond hair, dark suit. He walks past the secretary, takes
the stuff from the box, slips it inside his suit jacket, and walks out.
The secretary does not even look at him.
Misha slips his head into the secretary's office, and asks, "Was that Professor Crestworthy?".
"No," she replies, offering no other information. Her expression leaves no room for other questions.
Misha thanks her, then leaves. He starts tailing the man.
Much to his surprise, Misha has no trouble following
him. Even when he takes a cab, Misha is able to hail another right
away and tell the cabbie to follow. The cab stops at an outlying
faculty building of the University of Mora. The building is the Department
of Horticultural Fertilizer. From the outside it appears that the
department is thoroughly under-funded.
Misha follows him into the building, in time to see him step into an elevator. Noticing that there is no way to tell from the outside where the elevator is going, Misha slips into the lift with him. The elevator goes down from this floor to the basement, and the door opens.
In front of the two occupants is a fairly dark receptionist area. The man walks past the receptionist and quickly steps through a door, closing it behind him.
Misha walks over to the receptionist and says, "I'm here to see Professor Brown."
"There's no Professor Brown here. I think you probably want another floor. Try the receptionist up at street level."
Misha thanks her and leaves.
Up on the street level, there is a directory showing
what offices are on what levels; the basement is not mentioned. Misha
finds a convenient place to sit outside where he can watch the door.
The building probably has multiple exits, like a service entrance at the
back, but this is the most likely one.
It's early mid afternoon. Misha calls Robert and asks him to look up the Department of Horticultural Fertilizer, and find out who owns the basement, or has offices in the basement.
Robert brings up the information quickly, and tells Misha that the entire building is owned by the DoHF, and there are no offices in the basement. There is a basement, but no offices there. All the mail to that building is addressed to people who have offices on the first floor or above. Likewise all communication billing only happens above the basement. The pattern is of an under-funded slow faculty.
Based on this, Misha decides to wait and watch.
Robert continues looking into this on his own. He finds some references which lead into a really high security and very well monitored facility. He thinks there might be useful information in there, but can't access it without being detected. He could get the information, but someone would be on the trail immediately. The level of monitoring and security would probably even trace back through highly indirect accesses. Someone there is really serious -- this is a level Robert hasn't even seen from the Imperial Navy.
Before he leaves the building behind, Misha checks
around for alternate means of entry. The only access to the basement
he's found so far are the elevator and the stairs. There is no direct
external entrance to the basement. The first floor is open around
the clock, apparently, with a receptionist on duty at all times.
It's not unusual for University facilities on the Domain
capital world to be staffed at all times. The only other entrance
would seem to be a loading dock in the rear.
Misha calls Robert. The latter confirms that the building plans show only an elevator and a freight elevator going to the basement. The stairs do not go down from the street level. The freight elevator goes into the loading dock area in the back.
Misha takes a look at the loading dock. It looks like security is non-existent back there -- if he walked in with confidence, he thinks, it's unlikely anyone would question him.
Misha walks into the loading dock, past the poker
game, and takes the freight elevator down. There is one button marked
for the basement, and it apparently has no security built in.
The door opens to reveal a freight receiving area. There's dim lighting, and no-one here. The only doors are large double doors, which are locked.
They start out locked, anyway, as Misha easily opens them.
On the other side is a receptionist at a desk. He's a man, apparently in his late 20's. He's dressed in a dark suit -- probably the same tailor as the guy who picked up the package. His hands stay below the desk. "Good evening," he says.
Misha says, "I have a delivery for Professor Brown."
"You can leave it outside."
"OK, thank you." Misha walks back out.
He decides he's had enough excitement for the evening, and goes back to the ship. On the way back, he sees enough of the nightlife of Mora to have a very good idea how it works.
Back at the ship, Misha leaves a message for Robert. He says that the basement seems very interesting from a communications standpoint.
In the morning, about 10 am, Robert and Misha attend
breakfast at Marquis Marc's apartment. Misha confirms for him that
there is not supposed to be anyone in the basement, and both receptionists
seem "well trained."
Marc asks Misha if there is any danger in pursuing this course of investigation.
Misha doesn't know.
Marc's next question is whether there's any benefit to be gained by knowing who's paying his bills. Clearly the Department of Horticultural Fertilizer is a front. For one thing, there are no psionic plants.
Robert explains that all communications and package deliveries indicate that there is nothing going on in the basement. The upstairs seems an above board department for, as the Marquis puts it, "dirt-grubbers."
Marc says that if he hasn't seen anything through the normal channels to the University, then the basement operation does not exist to the University, and so wouldn't show up on University systems.
Robert confirms this, and adds that he's cross-checked the standard communication systems and so on, and it all supports that there is nothing in the basement. The plans of the basement that are on record match what Misha saw. He suggests setting up some passive recording equipment.
Marc then asks Robert about how his rosetta stone research is going.
Robert replies that he believes that what he wants is available, but it's in a fairly secured area. The area itself is monitored extremely heavily. He can't even find out who is monitoring it. Now they can probably get the information, but they'd have to leave immediately afterwards. He's still working on the problem.
Marc asks if the two groups might be related, but of course no-one can answer that with this limited information.
Back to discussing the building... Misha says that when shifts changed, the basement receptionist did not leave with the others. They could of course have left through the back door.
If the basement area were split up into offices, there'd be room for maybe a dozen suites down there.
Marc suggests asking Ed if he knows any of those people. He also asks them to invite the starfish to stay at his residence in town.