(4) To Be Named

The Crusader Campaign (355-1122 to 022-1123)

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355-1122 : Zett / Klarn / Foreven

   Mich has a plan for the remaining ships in the station, One-Hole and Swiss Cheese, as they've named them.  One more point is that they should get Swiss Cheese's ships boat out of the bay before they leave them drifting.  When they jump out carrying the big cube, it will be totally dead with no power, and take extremely major work to resynchronize every single system related to it.  The only things worthwhile on Swiss Cheese are the ships boat and the big gun, and the power cube which they plan to take with them.
    They have also discovered one more interesting point: no matter the size of the ship, there is pretty much the same deck layout and exactly twelve staterooms.  Of course, on the larger ship the staterooms are absolutely enormous, but they're still apparently just for one person.
    Swiss Cheese has two weapon systems: the lasers, and the main weapon which consists of both sponson guns.  The main weapon system is even operational, although targetting systems are not.  It would take bringing the whole computer system and ancillary weapons support systems back up to get it fully working, and that is seriously major work.
    Nightshade is due to meet Marquis Marcus Crestworthy on 085-1123, which gives them about two months.  That does mean they have a month or so that they think they will need here, and still plenty of time to get to the meeting on Adabicci.
    Mich does some careful consideration and figures out that they can probably, over a couple of hours with careful monitoring, bring Swiss Cheese safely up to 2G.  He'll also need to monitor it very carefully when bringing the acceleration off as well.  He also considers changing the security authorization pattern while they're here to give them even more warning of an approach, but to do that they'd have to visit every single physical component of the system, and they haven't even mapped out all those yet.  So that idea is abandoned.
    Removing the big guns and fitting them on Nightshade is out of the question.  It has become clear that aside from the size issue, the two guns are very closely mated to the hull, and from the way the hull reinforcement works, they require a very precise spatial alignment with each other.
    So they start stripping the ships for anything useful, in addition to all the Imperial supplies they have already restocked from the station itself.
    Edward "Shark" Teeth out of the blue reminds them that they have a hotel.  They can power it with the large cube.  They can supply it with the most expensive drink in the universe.  They can have the most exclusive hotel in the universe.  Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege, adds that they have the nobility to pull it off, and the right contacts to make it fashionable.  Shark adds that this is the sort of enterprise where they would simply hire the best management staff, just supplying the Blockade Bourbon to them and letting them handle everything else.  It would be a very profitable enterprise.  Of course, they'd have to have fuel delivered.  Kalida suggests they should deliver their own fuel, and simply pump it into outgoing ships to deliver again.  Robert adds that they could sell fuel to visitors.
    Shark says they could very easily avoid any sort of audit of the books, as no-one would really care about it anyway.  At least, as Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead adds, no-one who couldn't be bought with a bottle of Blockade Bourbon.

    All the stripping will present no problems, but the whole operation is going to take about a month regardless.  They'll be taking all the control equipment to Nightshade so when they transfer the big power cubes to their ship, they will still work to power Swiss Cheese.  They will take everything of interest from the two ships, hich is not much.  They will put a patch on the hull of One-Hole, and update those computer systems from Nightshade to bring it up to the same level.
    The updating, under Robert's direction, is fast and easy.  One-Hole is set up to just faster than it would before because of the vortex generators, but Helia Sarina tells them that it will not jump as quickly as she can.  As soon as the updating was complete, the new communications device on Nightshade started sending a signal.  Everyone asks Robert what it's transmitting, and he scrambles to figure it out.  He tells them it's sending an identifcation glyph for One-Hole, which will take a few days at the very low bandwidth of the communications system.  Nightshade and One-Hole are talking to each other, and Nighshade is broadcasting information over the new comm system.
    Damage to One-Hole is actually fairly light.  The hole passed through the hull at the bridge and through the bridge deck, taking out console #5.  In addition, it's damaged some of Avionics and Sensors, and the Laser system.  Of these, the hull is the only thing they don't have the capability to repair.  The ship itself has worked around the damage to sensors and avionics, and while performance is substantially degraded it is plenty enough to work, especially since Nightshade can fill in all the gaps for One-Hole.
    In response to learning the communications started up spontaneously, Misha Ravanos goes into sparkly pink.  He soon finds out that Nightshade herself doesn't know who is at the other end of the new communications system.  Even asking why she's sending these communications prompts the standard answer of "I don't know."  That of course is a generic answer they themselves taught the ship, which could also mean that Nightshade knows but can't explain the answer.  Misha asks if she expects a reply, to which the answer is a simple "No."
    Shark would love to know if Nightshade were told to do something over this link, if she would do it no matter what they said, but he knows the answer to that cannot be trusted.
    Misha tells Nightshade to stop sending the message, to which she replies that the transmission must be finished.  He asks if it can be paused, and she says "I don't know."  Misha comes out of sparkly pink and briefs the crew on his conversation.
    Mich plans to repair what he can on One-Hole, and since #5 is a generic console he does not plan to replace it, even though he could take one from Swiss Cheese.  The main thing that's gone with the Laser -- and the piece of equipment that works with both that and the Sensors -- is the remote viewpoint capability.  It will take quite some time just to patch up the hole in the hull enough to hold air -- about three days because of the disparity of materials.
    There's a brief discussion as to where to leave One-Hole, but Mich points out that it really doesn't matter where they drop it -- an empty hex is an empty hex.
    None of their other points of interest are on the way to Adabicci, so that doesn't influence their path.

001-1123 : Zett / Klarn / Foreven

The New Year party is brief and subdued this time, with all the work that needs to be done before they can leave here.

018-1123 : Zett / Klarn / Foreven

    Everything is stripped and ready to go.  This is the the day when they start to repair the hull on One-Hole.
    Swiss Cheese can be sent out today.  The pilot's console is operational on the big ship, and enough autonomic systems are running that a good pilot can move the ship on the one remaining maneuver drive.  The pilot can transfer through the door behind the bridge.  Teri Cralla suggests that she could accompany Helia to make sure the larian was OK.  While some of the engineering can be done from Nightshade, which now has some control systems and the power cube, hull structural integrity will have to be managed from Swiss Cheese.  That means Mich, Helia, and Teri will have to be on board the other ship.
    Robert says they can do the security response through repeaters on the other ship.  He assures everyone that the setup he and Mich will arrange will definitely work.
    Teri motions Kalida aside and mentions that if Robert is fixing up the box that is supposed to make sure they don't get fired on, then Robert should be on the ship when they go out.

    So Teri, Mich, and Helia will be on board the Swiss Cheese.  No-one else relevant has enough vaccsuit experience to look after themselves.  Once they have it set in the right direction at 2G, they can leave it alone heading out of the system.
    Robert's box is about the size of a suitcase, built into a strong unit by Mich that makes it suitable to be carried and bashed around by someone in battledress.
    The skeleton crew board Swiss Cheese.  Mich works on the structural integrity field, and then they remove all the grav bracing that the Imperials had put on the ship.  They drop gravity in the bay for this, but put a little artificial gravity on Swiss Cheese where they can to help the crew.
    The ship creaks and moans as Helia gently eases her out of the station arm on the one maneuver pod.  The three of them feel every movement with the inertial compensators off.  Helia turns around and accelerates slowly outwards.  Swiss Cheese starts to build acceleration, taking half an hour to get up to 1g.  They've decided to stick with that rather than try to pull 2g without compensators.
    Mich holds everything together as the forces build, and breathes a sigh of relief when Helia sets a steady acceleration at 1g.  Swiss Cheese is headed out of the system.
    The challenge and response of the security system works exactly as Robert promised.  While a meson gun hit might not take out the ship, it would certainly be somewhat disastrous for the crew.
    The crew now transfers to the large ship's boat, and Helia pilots it back to the station without incident.  Again the challenge and response are seamless, and Helia pulls the boat back into the bay and parks it.  Gravity is back on in the bay by now.

    Swiss Cheese is now accelerating out of the system at 1g.  Now they need to get One-Hole, the ship's boat, and Nightshade out.
    They work on the plan for the rest of the operation.  As Mich says, someone other than Helia will pilot the cheese boat, so that Helia can park Nightshade close to the cheese boat so the gangplank can be extended for the pilot of the boat to transfer across.

021-1123 : Zett / Klarn / Foreven

    The hull on One-Hole has been fixed, and by now Swiss Cheese has been accelerating out of system at 1g for three days.  They are ready to leave, but of course still have to dock at the center hub and erase their records first.  Shark has spent his days cleaning all the other arms as effectively as possible, and he'll finish off the other arm once everyone is aboard the various ships.
    Vonish Kehnaan takes the helm of the cheese boat.  He pulls it just outside the bay, out of the way of the other two ships.  Nightshade is next out with Helia at the helm, with One-Hole following on its own.
    Shark gets into sparkly pink and tells One-Hole to wait here for a few minutes and they'll be back.  Helia takes Nightshade to the center hub, where Robert does his trick of erasing the fact of the visit from the records, at the central computer and at each of the four arms, and finally at the center hub on his way out.
    Nightshade and One-Hole head out from the station in tandem, with Vonish taking the cheese boat with them.  They have no problems with any of the security -- Robert did indeed get it right.
    The trio head out after Swiss Cheese at a full 20g.  Helia is delighted to be running at full speed at last.

022-1123 : Zett / Klarn / Foreven

    It's the next day when they three vessels catch up and match velocities with Swiss Cheese.  Vonish misses the rendezvous, however, and hurtles out beyond their target.  The vilani chef takes 6 hours to get back to the others.
    Slowing down Swiss Cheese needs Helia and Mich (and Teri) back on board to maintain structural integrity.  Helia locks Nightshade with her gangplank matching the door behind the bridge, making it easy to transfer over.  They back the acceleration off to zero, then they wait for Vonish to get back with the cheese boat.  The three of them transfer back to Nightshade.
    Swiss Cheese is on course with the maneuver drive shut down. The large power cube now on Nightshade remains on until Vonish gets back, since it powers the cheese boat too.
    Once he's back, Helia takes Nightshade's launch and locks it to the cheese boat.  She then matches the cheese boat exactly to Swiss Cheese, far enough away that a cargo ship could scoop it up without gravitational interference with Swiss Cheese's trajectory, and she and Vonish spacewalk back to the launch.
    Vonish is not having a good day.  He misses the launch, and Teri retrieves him from turning into another piece of space debris.
    Callisto measures the trajectory of the two abandoned vessels precisely so that they can come back and pick them up someday.
    Mich shuts the large power cube down gracefully.  He has all the batteries from either ship.

    Once everyone's back on board Nightshade, the two crusader ships jump for 0610 / Lirian.  They hope that One-Hole will follow them successfully.