(1) Dicing with Disease
The Crusader Campaign (323-1122 - 348-1122)
323-1122 : Curmudgeon
/ Fessor / Foreven
But that leaves open the issue of where to go next...
Mich Saginaw is eager to deposit his working
antimatter generators into the station at Zett, along with
service manuals (but no theoretical information).
Edward "Shark" Teeth has been idly wondering about
building battledress out of black hull material. Mich assures him
that while the hull is pretty strong itself, it gets most of its real
strength from the powered structural fields.
Of course the task they've been undertaking has been
following Santanocheev's fleet and trying to find out what it was
doing. Misha Ravanos says what they've all been thinking, which
is that they've run into a dead end with that and have pretty much
Their long term schedule is driven by the meeting
with Marquis Marcus
Crestworthy at Adabicci
on 085-1123 to
scientific investigation team for the Ancient site on Victoria.
This is where the statue that they scanned came from. Shark did
wonder if the pattern of superheavy
atoms in the statue was perhaps a
starmap, but it doesn't make any sense trying to interpret it that way.
Also, they can investigate the data caches that
Robert Morris found out about on Goose from
there. There were four marked, of which they have one. They
know that one is in the Carei
system, but the others
vague in his memory. One was in Whitestar sector, and the fourth
in the Spinward
Marches. Shark asks if they even want to put all
the parts together, but it's a question with no answer at present.
Another thing they'd like to do is visit Faldor
to pick up some beans for Mich and Grand Admiral Baron
Bridgehead. That seems rather out of their way at the moment,
although it seems likely they'll be passing near there in the future.
The decision is quickly made to head straight for Zett.
The route will be to 0405 / Fessor, then Plague, Wallneck,
Jake, and then
Plague of course has been chosen because it's a
Red Zone, and this crew
never could resist an interdicted
The warnings are pretty dire, but to them that just means there must be
a great deal to hide.
First, of course, Mich would really like to make a
spectacular exit and jump
from the surface. Some research by a
few of the crew shows that there is no recorded incidence of anyone
having jumped from the surface and survived -- or at least, if anyone
has done it, they haven't come back to report. Of course, if
you're desperate enough to jump from the surface, you might well not be
planning on coming back. As for collateral damage, there is a
record of a four story building on Mora being
destroyed when a
team from the University accidentally jumped their lab. There has
been damage at starports
from ships that are thought to have entered
some sort of jump field -- it's not extensive damage if there's open
space, just the effect of quite a volume of air vanishing. Still,
no-one is reported to have survived any jump from the surface.
So, with the locals thinking they're going to be
checking their references on Attica, Nightshade takes
off, heading sedately out to 100 diameters where they plan to jump in
totally the opposite direction.
324-1122 : Curmudgeon
/ Fessor / Foreven
At 05:00 they jump for the empty area 0405.
329-1122 : 0405
/ Fessor / Foreven
Nightshade arrives out of jump at
17:00. Callisto's initial scans leave her puzzled, with
absolutely no idea where they are. Shark teases Mich about saying
they were going to misjump. On the other hand, Helia Sarina
insists she knows exactly where they are, because the maths says they
had to come out in exactly the right place. It's going to take a
Shark tries to help Callisto out with the
sensors. He finds that it's harder to do than normal, perhaps
because Callisto has messed up the inputs from sparkly pink.
Robert tried as well, and now it's three of them who have no idea where
Helia insists they're exactly where she put them.
Shark asks the ship to reset the sensors to baseline
configuration. The ship, in turn, asks Mich who refuses because
baseline was before all the updates. The ship tells Shark it's
sorry but it can't do that.
Shark rephrases, asking to reset to the
defaults. Mich approves this time (not that Shark knew the ship
was asking him), and it's Callisto who resets them.
It's been three hours by the time Callisto announces
that they are indeed exactly where Helia put them.
Helia of course has been ready to jump for three
hours. At 20:00 Misha gives the command, and they jump for Plague.
335-1122 : Plague
/ Fessor / Foreven
At 08:00 they arrive insystem, in stealth mode with
the transponder emulator off. During jump, Shark has been
training in Instruction, with him and Misha and Helia helping Kalida
with her zack fighting. Shark was also planning to teach his
captain how to read, but Misha no longer wants to learn now he as a
computer to do it for him.
Mich has been making sure all his paperwork is in
order to leave with the antimatter generators -- the principles of
operations, not the theory of operations, how to tear it down and
reassemble, how to clean it, how to scale it up. This is the
antimatter generator with the correct Jane's enhancements for
self-calibration, not the one that blows up.
Shark has also been working on writing fiction,
continuing with his plans to write Akim Gavrolovitch's
There are strong beacons in this system, operated by
the Yonder Veterans' Network. There are no other
signals, but there are what seems to be normal emissions from the
mainworld. The beacons warn that if they're hearing this they
should not be here; if they are here, they should refuel at the gas
giant and jump out immediately.
Not discouraged of course, they potter on in toward
the mainworld and
its main sequence red star. Plague
itself is a small to mid sized world in the innermost
orbit, with the
dim secondary red dwarf (and its accompanying gas giant) in the next
orbit out. Beyond that is an asteroid belt, then another gas
giant. The world itself is on average cold but reasonable, the
temperature fluctuating a lot with the proximity of the secondary.
There are lots of radio and video transmissions,
regular onworld broadcasts in heavily accented galanglic.
Callisto and Shark get to work looking for black
tech's telltale spatial anomalies. They find nothing.
The other goal is to tap into the local systems and
find historical records and so on. This will require them being
atmospheric in the same way they do tapping into tightbeam ship
transmissions -- suspending Nightshade between two microwave
Getting into position is easy for Helia, of course,
and Robert finds it fairly easy to get into what passes for a global
net and get what information is available.
News from outside systems is practically
non-existent here, but there is at least some information about Plague
The locals know a few things. They know that
all offworlders die here within three days.
This inspires Shark to check the footballs, but they
show nothing outside the ship.
Autopsies of offworlder victims have not
revealed a cause. They have not been able to find anything
despite a vast research effort. Initial symptoms are vomiting and
diarrhea, difficulty breathing, followed by internal hemorrhaging and
breakdown of the blood. It does not affect anyone locally, and
there are no recorded instances of it happening to any natives.
That is pretty much all they know. They have attempted to find an
infectious agent -- it is clearly easily transmissible, because
everybody gets it -- but they have found absolutely nothing.
Robert stores everything away as he is sure the GrandAm will want to go
through it. All attempts to find it by offworld scientific groups
have led to the whole group dying, every time.
Robert suggests that they might want to leave.
In fact, they might want to go hypersonic on the way out to burn
Shark suggests it can be wiped off by the atmosphere
of the gas giant and they could do it there. Of course, they
don't have the shields up because of need to intercept transmissions,
so the hull was in fact in contact with the atmosphere. He adds
that they might infect the gas giant, but that wouldn't really be their
problem. He then muses that they probably have samples of tech at
least 13 here on planet because of the equipment left behind by the
dead offworlders, and the government probably has total control of it.
Mich checks for decontamination procedures for the
hull, but there are none.
Shark then says they could run through the
coronasphere of the sun. He's pretty sure -- and Mich agrees --
that the hull can stand it without the shields up, provided it's a
Kalida laughs that they need a planet with alcohol
Bridgehead very quickly announces it is clearly not
bacterial, fungal, or viral. Unless they're falsifying all their
data, which he's pretty sure is not the case. He'd love to stay
here and find out what it really is, but he's alone in that.
Helia takes them up through the atmosphere to the
nearby sun. Nightshade basks in the outer layers of the
star, taking a full day to wander around in the heat. A full day
turns into longer, as Mich is not comfortable if he can't monitor the
state of the ship in sparkly pink, and he can't be effective over the
whole day. The ship is very extensively broasted.
336-1122 : Plague
/ Fessor / Foreven
Helia flies Nightshade north to cooler
regions, and then out to where they can jump for Wallneck.
do so at 20:00.
342-1122 : Wallneck
/ Lirian / Foreven
In stealth mode with the transponder off, they
arrive at 08:00. The mainworld is the warmest place in the
system, but is very cold indeed. This is definitely not a good
place to visit for fun. Nevertheless, this is their best bet at
picking up news.
Navigational beacons welcome them to the Lirian
Conglomerate. This non-industrial poor world is declared to be an
unlikely market by Vonish.
Kalida has been reading the astrogational
information, and notes that there's a strong anarchist movement here
resisting the Conglomerate.
Ships in system are of the Lirian Conglomerate,
mostly freighters with several warships. Shark wants them to
shadow a warship and check their orders to see if Santanocheev has been
out this way.
This is a fairly routine maneuver at this point for
Helia and Robert. They pick up a cruiser in orbit and do their
Encryption for their tech level is better that
Robert would have expected, but by now this presents no problems for
the expert codebreaker.
The military is on a heightened but not full
alert. In practical terms in this system it means they're not too
concerned, but the military in general is a stage or two above
base. The main issue is a military conflict between the Hinay
Protectorate and the Imperium,
in a state of war
currently at armistice.
There is news, the most significant of which is the
Imperium's Tigress Battle Group, which has fought several battles with
the Protectorate. Finally they have found signs of where the
elusive fleet has been.
There was an initial fight on 081-1122 followed by a
serious battle around 230 to 240-1122. They came in to Hinay
and left through Sterrit and have gone
from the Protectorate. Each time they came through they fought a
battle in the capital of the Protectorate; there was no battle in Sterrit
either time. They came through twice and left.
Shark wonders why the battle group would have come
through the Protectorate and attacked. There was some news in the
Travellers News Service on 108-1122, which would have been after the
first battle. That announced that three Protectorate cruisers and
twelve destroyers were lost, along with other naval vessels and
fighters. Shark said they had thought the fleet had gone through
and on from there, but in fact seemed to have retreated and come back
There were at Sterrit from 070 to 074, Hinay
from 081 to 087 the first time, the second time from 229 to 243, and
back through Sterrit from 250 to 254. There are no other
records of their location; they have not been through the Lirian
Conglomerate. In both cases in the capital there was a battle;
the first was just a military action that petered out, but the second
was much more major and ended with an armistice.
"Why would the Imperium attack the Hinay
Protectorate?" wonders Shark.
Kalida corrects him, "The battle group, not the
Imperium, at least not the one we had left."
"What could they get out of it? They retreated
both times, with losses no doubt."
"They stopped fighting and they left," says
Shark suggests they should go to Hinay and
try to figure out where the battle group went for those days between
attacks. The Protectorate fleet would have scanned the Imperials
and have a record of what ships left and what arrived, and they could
get that information on their way back through there. That
assumes of course that the Imperials had not successfully hidden their
exact strength from the Protectorate. The group would be jump-4,
which leaves several options for routes -- but not that many.
Robert points out they could have gone to Oasis,
to Brod --
where Professor Farol's station used to be -- to Jilty
Brod is pretty isolated.
Shark says that at jump-4 with a fairly fast jump
cycle they could cover some distance, and they'd need to repair after
the battles. He adds that Brod was originally a base for
the Imperial FarSpace Service, one of the splinter organizations that
seem to be caught up in everything.
There's nothing here, however, to delay them on
their way towards Zett. Next is Jake, and so they
pull away from the mainworld and jump at 14:00.
348-1122 : Jake
/ Lirian / Foreven
Nightshade arrives insystem at 02:00.
Hopefully they won't kill this agricultural world three days after
landing. This time they'll be coming in openly with transponders
on and maltese crosses proudly displayed. They've been cooped up
on the ship for far too long, and it's time for some shore leave.
Mich and Bridgehead passed through here on Anastasia
five years ago. What Mich remembers mainly about the place is
that there are no good bars.
As usual, Nightshade handles the
bureaucracy, passing on the local welcome message which reminds them
they're very friendly to traders here. Finally they might have a
chance to move some of their trade goods.