(14) To Be Named

The Crusader Campaign (068-1123 to 071-1123)

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068-1123 : Jumpspace (from Mora / Mora / Spinward Marches)

    Nightshade has just entered jump for Nexine / Mora from 0807 / Lunion.  Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege, has immediately taken a shot of klatrin and gone into a trance.
    Edward "Shark" Teeth sets up the football sensors to alert him if there's any unusual readings.  His robot dog can now fly, and Mich Saginaw will set up a replacement for the battery pack to run it off the ship's power.  In the process, Shark decides he wants to learn about black tech.  He has no background in engineering or anything relevant, of course, but that doesn't discourage him.
    Mich agrees to teach him about it, and the first step is to hand Shark his new book, Jump Drive For Dummies.
    Shark wants to know what jump drive has to do with black tech.  Mich gives him a vague answer, but it seems to satisfy Shark for the time.  Mich heads off to built Helia Sarina a new vaccsuit.  Shark's next project will be to make his old prosthetic arm into what he calls "It," a robot for parties.

070-1123 : Jumpspace (from Mora / Mora / Spinward Marches)

    In the morning, Helia asks Mich if she can use the Engineering console to go into sparkly pink for a while.  He agrees, and she promptly does so happily.  Mich monitors her, wondering if she's just "feeling the ship" again.  It seems like she's just experimenting, doing little tweaks to the jump drive systems to see what happens.  Mich of course records everything she does.
    About half an hour before lunch, Misha and Shark notice the lights blink.
    Misha asks the ship what happened.  "Please stand by" comes the reply.  He heads for the bridge at a run.
    Shark rushes towards engineering from his stateroom.  Mich isn't answering his hail.  He calls the Captain, but Misha simply replies that he doesn't know what is going on.

    Misha reaches the bridge and heads for his console.  Before he can sit down and go into sparkly pink, the ship tells him, "All systems are normal."  He drops into sparkly pink mode and starts questioning the ship.
    "Where is Mich?"
    "Mich is in Engineering."
    "Why did the lights just wink?"
    "It was commanded from Engineering."
    "By who?"
    "From the Engineering console."
    "Mich is at the Engineering console?"
    "Helia is at the Engineering console."
    "Can I speak to Helia?"
    "Helia is not to be disturbed."
    Misha shakes his head and laughs.

    Mich starts to come around.  As he does so, he hears footsteps above him, and soon Shark jumps down to join him.
    Shark sees Helia in sparkly pink at the Engineering console, which Mich is sitting up groggily.  He quickly runs a medscan over him, and he seems fine.  Shark says, "What were you doing?  The ship's power just blinked."
    Mich says slowly, "I was watching Helia."  He shakes off some of the grogginess and goes into sparkly pink to find out what she's doing.
    Helia is just making tiny tweaks to the jump system, a barely perceptible ripple running across the jump grid.  She is not to be disturbed, Mich is informed.
    Shark briefs the Captain.  Mich reports too, although Shark puts it more sharply: "She's messing with the jump system while we're in jump."
    Mich says that the changes she's making are very subtle and won't make any difference.
    Shark wants to know what happened when he was unconscious.
    Mich rolls back and replays that time.  He promptly passes out.
    Shark scans him.  He's fine.  He calls the Baron and says they need a full brain scan and that he's bringing the patient now.
    Misha overrules him, saying just to wake him up.
    Since Mich seems to be coming around, Shark just monitors him.  "Good morning, Mich," he says.
    Mich wakes.  "Well, that was interesting.  Something like that has happened before." He puts his psi helmet back on, and turns to talk with Shark.  "When I was examining the zuchai crystal arrangement on Digitis, examining the type of construct was enough to make you go unconscious.  I think she did something that is beyond our mental understanding.  That's kind of neat."  He grins broadly.
    Shark convinces Mich to accompany him to Sick Bay for a check-up.  Mich makes sure everything is being recorded, and then the two of them walk forward.
    Misha asks the ship what Helia is doing.  It merely replies that she is adjusting the jump drive system.  After more unsatisfactory questioning, Misha gets up to talk to Helia in person.
    Misha runs into the two of them in Engineering as they're leaving.
    Mich tells him that most of what Helia is doing he understands, but occasionally she goes beyond his comprehension.  He adds that they're probably better off looking at it later, and there's no benefit from monitoring her constantly.
    Misha then addresses Helia directly and asks her what she's doing.  She doesn't answer or react at all.  She's concentrating on something, moving slightly in a dreamy way, but obviously conscious and very busy.  He contemplates trying himself to see what she's doing, but after some reflection just walks back to the Bridge.  He tells the ship to inform him when Helia can be disturbed, or if she falls unconscious or otherwise can't take care of herself.
    Shark meanwhile has quietly checked his football sensors.  They don't show anything unusual, except they have no readings during the glitch when power was cut to them.  Missing is a total of about 3.5 seconds -- half a second of no power, and three seconds to power back up..  He resolves to put them on a UPS system, and does so now that things are less busy.
    Mich is released from the Sick Bay after a thorough check by the Doc, who says he's perfectly fine.

    Over lunch, Shark checks on the details of the glitch.  They did not lose gravity, although live support was cut off.  The ship's intelligence was lost.  All auxiliary power was lost, and of course the shields and weapon systems were not powered up in the first place.  But when he asks if the jump field was affected by the power interruption, the ship says, "I don't know."
    Mich suggests that Helia redirected all the power for whatever she was doing.
    Shark says he thought we could have all the power they wanted.
    Mich corrects him, "No, we can have as much as we need.  In a previous conversation with Helia, she remarked, 'There isn't enough power.'  I told her that we have a bigger power cube, that we could hook that up, and her answer was, 'You don't understand.  There isn't enough power.' She was right, I didn't understand.  My guess is that she needed additional energy and was taking it from other systems as an experiment.  Everything she's been doing was tiny incremental things, and she will not be disturbed.  I don't think it's a good idea to force her to be disturbed."
    Shark muses, "Yes, that's why I didn't just shoot her."  He goes on to tell the Captain what he found out about the glitch earlier.
    Fortunately the power glitch has not affected the quality of the food.  Everyone is very glad that Vonish Kehnaan did not stay behind on Adabicci.
    Shark reflects this is not the calm relaxing jump they were expecting.  "It's one thing to have people calmly walk out the door in the middle of jump onto the back porch.  It's another thing when they start messing with your back porch in the middle of jump."

    Half an hour after lunch, the ship tells Misha that Helia is now available.
    In Engineering, Mich sees Helia drop out of sparkly pink.  "Was that a lot of fun?" he asks.
    "Yes, lots of fun, thank you," replies the larian.
    "At one point the lights flickered and life support was turned off."
    "Yes.  I needed some power.  If you could hook up the other power thing you have, I think I could actually use it."
    "Well, what do you want it interconnected to?  We'd have to start it up."
    "Oh, um... put it all into the jump grid power."
    Mich stares.  He says, "Put it all into the jump grid power.  Okaaay."
    Misha calls Helia.  He asks her what she was doing.
    She says brightly, "I was trying some things out."
    "What were you trying out?"
    "It's not quite as simple as the stuff I was talking about the other night."  She adds, "It won't do any harm.  I don't think.  But it was fun!"
    "Next time you intend to be out of contact for some time, please let me know."
    "Oh, ok.  I didn't think you needed a pilot."
    "Well, we don't, but I was concerned for your health and safety."
    "I'm fine!"
    "I know you are fine, I'd just like to know if you're going to take a trip either mentally or physically, especially if it involves the ship.  Ok?"
    "Yes, ok!  I'd like to try it again.  I want Mich to hook up some more power."
    "All right.  If you can explain to Mich what you're doing, that would be good."
    "Ok.  Want some candy?"  Helia seems to be back to her old self again.

    Shark asks why Helia could not be disturbed by the Captain of the ship.
    The ship replies that Helia left instructions not to be bothered.
    Shark counters that Helia is not the Captain.
    The ship explains, "Helia was affecting the jump grid.  It is not safe to affect someone who is concentrating on adjusting the ship's attitude in jump."
    Shark says that allowing someone to do that is probably not considered safe.
    "It has been considered safe behavior before.  Mich has done that quite extensively."
    This satisfies Shark, but leaves him feeling rather disturbed.  He immediately goes off and tells the Captain.  He emphasizes that Mich doing this and not telling them is quite disturbing.
    Misha replies simply, "It's his job.  I have to trust him to do his job."
    Shark accepts that, mentioning that it makes his job a lot more difficult.
    Misha points out if it was easy, it wouldn't be fun.
    Shark says he job does not really involve fun, not the paranoia part.  Now, shooting the pilot in the back would have been fun, but Misha wouldn't let him do that.  He smiles that he's been wanting to do that for at least a year.
    Misha smiles back and tells him that as soon as he does that, his fun will be over.
    Shark crosses his fingers and hopes that they get out of jump ok.  Even though they've never misjumped in this ship -- yet -- and there have been no signs of jump sickness -- yet -- he's still worried.

    Helia's afternoon is remarkably uneventful.  After her adventure in the morning, she flies off to the Bridge, where she settles into one of her hammocks and starts playing with some toys.
    Shark is convinced that she's only doing that because they don't have more power yet.
    Mich explains that to get power, they have to remove all stray molecules from the area of the cube and the jump engine.  That means evacuating all air from Engineering.  It's not hard to do, as it's set up that way, and Mich can do the work in vaccsuit.  He adds that they have to account for all matter and its relative position -- but the position is relative, so even if they're moving it doesn't matter.  He says he'll get the big power cube and bring it to Engineering.  There is plenty of room for it.  It'll take about six hours to do that.  He starts on the project.
    Shark pulls out the scrabble board and challenges anyone else to play -- anyone else except Robert, of course.
    Robert notices this, and with approval sees the players build a collective meaning on the board from the interaction and positioning of the words and the board itself.  It's the first real sign of true intelligence he's seen since his enlightenment.

    That takes them to dinner.  The afternoon was refreshingly free of drama.

    In the evening, however, soon after dinner, Shark is alerted to a reading on the football sensors.  It's a faint signature, barely above background, but it's coming from Sick Bay.  He walks down there to check, but Kalida is apparently fine.

    Mich checks the alignment of the new cube.  It looks fine here, but he'll need to check it again out of jump, and preferably well away from any massive object.  There's going to be a massive amount of power fed into the jump grid, and it needs to be very precisely aligned.
    In the meantime, he has another project.  There is the jump drive simulator.  There is the record of Helia's experiments.  He replays the process through the model, and immediately finds out that she's adjusting things for which the model cannot compensate.  He starts working on refining the model, and finds it surprisingly easy.  He still doesn't understand what Helia was talking about with her equations, but it is significantly improving their model.
    When he tries to play through the power glitch, the model crashes, breaking down completely.  He continues his work while skipping that moment.  After a while, he realizes that there's about ten minutes in there, a period when he's figured out what Helia is doing.  It's an isolated experiment, but during that time she was manipulating the jump grid, throwing tiny variations rippling through the jump field, using it as a kind of sonar to measure what the jumpspace beyond it was doing.
    This occupies most of Mich's evening.

071-1123 : Nexine / Mora / Spinward Marches

    The first thing that happens the next day is that the ship comes out of jump.  It has been only two and a half days since they jumped.  Of course no-one is ready for it, even Helia.
    As Nightshade announces "We are now out of jump," everyone scrambles to their stations.
    Before he sets off, however, Shark confirms with the ship that the transponder is -- as he wants -- not operating.  On the other hand, there is according to the ship, "A problem with stealth mode."

    The first thing everyone notices when they reach the bridge is the view.  It looks just like they would expect if they'd come out of jump -- except for the fog.  The ship seems to be surrounded by fog.
    Misha rushes to his console and goes into sparkly pink.  He looks around.  It looks foggy here too, the fog extending abour 400m.  The sensors are having trouble penetrating it.
    It really looks like fog.  It's grayish, slightly swirling fog.
    Callisto says that it makes no sense.  She can see a system out there, but the sensors aren't working properly.  She can't see through it, aside from what they can see themselves through the window.  She reports that they aren't in a gravity well, and are clear of any objects.  Densitometers are out completely.
    Shark suggests they move the ship slowly in some random direction.  Perhaps if the fog is localized, they can leave it behind.
    Helia moves them slowly.  The ball of fog moves with them.
    Misha motions her to stop.  He says, "Helia, do you have any idea why we are surrounded by a ball of fog?"
    Helia says, "Well, it's kind of complicated.  I think."
    Shark says, "Helia, is it our ball of fog?"
    "Oh yes," she says brightly, "It's our ball of fog."
    "Shall we get rid of it?"
    "I don't know.  It'll probably evaporate.  Fog does that.  Would you like some candy?  It'll help you stop worrying."
    Shark sighs.  He asks, "Helia, will the fog follow the pinnace?"
    "I don't know.  I... don't know... I'm not sure... I don't know if that would be safe or not."
    Misha agrees they should not do that.
    Robert asks Helia where she thinks they are.  She replies that she thinks they're where they were supposed to be.
    Shark asks her if anyone else can see the ball of fog.
    "Outside the ship?" says Helia, "Yes, I'm sure they can.  It probably sparkles."
    Misha rolls his eyes.  He and Shark exchange meaningful glances.  Misha says, "Helia, did you realize that we wanted to come out quietly?"
    "Oh, yes!"
    "And why did you bring us out like this?"
    "Oh, I didn't, we just came this way."
    Shark says, "Can you make it so we don't come this way... again?"
    "Well, if you want to be boring."
    Misha adds, "I'd like to be quiet.  Invisible, so to speak.  Can you make us invisible now?"
    "No, I don't think so.  No."
    Shark asks, "What is the fog made of?"
    Misha asks, "How soon could we jump again."
    Helia says firmly, "I think we should wait for the fog to go."
    Shark thinks getting away from here with their ball of fog would be a good idea, because they really don't want anyone coming to investigate.
    Callisto says they are probably days away from anyone coming to investigate.  They are pretty well out of the way, and may not even have been seen yet.  That of course assumes there aren't any ships that happen to be near here.  The good news is that it's not a very populated system.
    Shark seems to have an idea.  Aloud, he asks if it would be safe to open an airlock.
    Helia says she doesn't know, but he probably doesn't want to step out in it.
    "What if I threw a tethered sensor through the fog?" he continues, "Or flew a robot dog?"
    "You could try.  I don't know.  I've never seen this before.  It's an interesting effect."
    Misha says, "It is an interesting effect.  Were you aware that this was a possibility?"
    "Um... no.  Well, all sorts of things are possible, but... I didn't expect this."
    "Completely unexpected?"
    "If I'd have been expecting it, I'd have been sitting in the seat when we came out of jump."  That's certainly true.
    Shark asks Robert for a sensor pack to attach to his dog, and a cable link in case radio doesn't work.
    Misha asks Callisto what she can tell him about this fog.  Obviously it's not really fog, he says.
    Callisto can't tell him much at all.  It's kind of blocking gravity readings.

    Mich has been checking the ship from sparkly pink.  To his surprise, everything is functioning perfectly.  Even the sensor systems are fully operational, they just can't penetrate the fog or move a remote viewpoint through it.

    Shark heads off with Robert to do his experiment.  He puts the robot dog in the forward port airlock from Engineering, tethered to the ship with an old-fashioned 500m rope.  Robert provides a cable communications link.  The robot is to fly to the end of the rope.
    The last thing Shark does before sending out the robot dog is to see if the fog has changed in size.  It has not, according to Callisto.  It's maintaining size at about 400m, and has a gap between it and the ship of about 10-20 meters.
    Shark cycles the airlock and sends the robot out the door.
    The dog leaves the ship, trailing the rope and cable.  It gets a little way from the ship and starts shifting direction, darting a little to and fro.  The sensors show optical and gravitic distortions, both shifting.  There are no particles out there, no matter that can be detected.  It's recording a temperature of about 150K, much warmer than space.  The robot is having trouble maintaining its course.
    Shark directs the robot to coast.  It does so, but still jerks about.
    It continues on, coasting out a couple of hundred meters.
    At about 250 meters, the sensor pack cuts out.
    At about 300 meters, the robot vanishes in a "poof!".  It explodes, but if there was such a thing as exploding without violence, this would be it.  It simply comes apart, as a dandelion puff.
    Kalida says it's a good thing they didn't take the pinnance out.
    Shark mutters aloud that they should have made the pilot take it out.  He shuts the outer airlock door, severing the rope.  The end of the rope exploded with the robot, but most of the length is intact.

    Shark reports their findings to the rest of the crew.  They ponder it for a moment, and Shark says, at the same moment as Mich, that they brought some jumpspace with them.
    Shark comments that the fog will probably hang around for another three days, and starts a pool.  He adds that in three days, someone will probably come to investigate.  They should start moving out from the system, he suggests.

    An hour after all the excitement, Kalida wakes up in Sick Bay.

Kalida's Second Klatrin Experience
(Referee and Kalida's player only)

    She lies there for a few minutes, alone in Sick Bay, to collect herself, expecting the Baron to arrive when she gets up.  Bridgehead does not, however, and Kalida leaves Sick Bay and starts walking forwards.
    She soon encounters the Baron hurrying towards her, looking extremely irritated and smelling distinctly of whisky.  She starts back towards Sick Bay, saying, "I suppose you want to check me out again."
    Much to her surprise, Bridgehead bursts out, "You need to come and see what they've done!  Bloody Mich has screwed it up again.  He's always tweaking the jump drive or something stupid and not telling us about it, and he's just... PFFFT!!"
    Kalida says, shocked, "How long have I been out?"
    "Oh, a couple of days."
    "Aren't we still in jump?"
    "No!  I don't think.  Who knows?  No, we aren't, but... come up to the Lounge, have a whisky, and you can see."
    "Is that where everyone else is?"
    "Vonish is there.  He's still drinking whisky."
    No-one else is there, however.  Kalida takes off for the Bridge, sure that if the Doc doesn't want to check her out right away, something awful must be going on.  Vonish lifts his glass in a toast as she leaves.  The Baron sits down heavily and pours himself another drink.

    Kalida arrives at the Bridge.  Everyone is at their stations, and there is fog outside the ship.  There are signs of stars and the local sun out there, and the gas giant can be seen 100 diameters away through the haze.
    Shark is in the process of getting the ship to project a Daffy Duck cartoon on the fog with the ship's laser.
    Kalida marches quickly to her console, sits down shaking her head, and says, "What the hell is going on?"  She slips into sparkly pink mode, and finds herself unusually blind.  She can't see much more than she could with her own eyes, aside from some magnification.
    Shark shuts off the cartoon.  The after-image persists for about five minutes.
    Kalida says again, "What happened?"
    Shark turns around and looks pointedly at Helia.  He says to her, "Yes....?"  He pauses a moment, then says, "I'll summarize here. if you don't mind, Helia."  He turns to Kalida, "Someone decided to play with the jump fields while we were in jump.  Again.  But it was a different person this time.  With the intention of making it more efficient, I assume, as we've done in the past.  She did a very good job of making it fast -- we're here in two and a half days -- only we brought... something... with us.  Now when I threw Rover out with a sensor pack, he -- POOFed -- want to see the film?"  He brings up the recording.
    "My condolences," says Kalida.
    "Well, it was better him than me and Helia in the pinnace, which was my first idea."
    "Glad you went with the robot."
    "I'm not sure I am."  He looks pointedly at Helia again.
    "So we're here in two and half days, but we're not?"
    "Right.  We think we're all the way here, but there's this glowing field around us so we're certainly not in stealth mode."
    Helia says, "It's probably sparkly.  I expect it's quite pretty from the other side."
    Kalida says, "But we are in Nexine?"
    Callisto says she believes they are.
    Shark changes the subject.  He says to Kalida, "By the way, welcome back.  I hope it was a pleasant trip, and hopefully not nearly as exciting as hours has been."
    A strange expression washes over Kalida's face.  She says simply, "Different."
    "Maybe we'll talk about that later if you like.  Anyway, so we don't want to jump, because Helia thinks it might be dangerous.  Clearly it's dangerous to go on walkabout.  But the fog follows us when we move, we've already established that.  We could try to scrape it off on something, but who knows what that would do."
    Kalida says that if (as Shark tells her) the fog extends 400m, they probably don't want to get that close to anything.  She asks how long they've been out of jump.
    Shark tells her it's been about two hours.
    Kalida continues, "But as far as we can tell we're at least 100 diameters out?"
    Shark confirms that.
    "So we could just sit here for a couple of hours, perhaps a day, and see if it starts dissipating."
    "And in the meantime we're probably attracting attention and they'll send someone to investigate, since we can't hear their calls on the radio.  Oh, and we've started a pool on when this will fade away.  I've put the 7 up."
    Misha says that unless anyone has a better idea, they can wait until the fog goes away.  After all, it's no worse than being in jump anyway.
    Shark says that they should start moving if nothing happens in about a day.  He adds that given the effect on light and matter, at least they probably have a very effective shield up.  He also tells Kalida about the unusual temperature.
    Mich says he's gone through all the diagnostics, and the ship is perfect.  He doesn't mention the records of what Helia did, even though it doesn't show anything -- aside from the glitch -- that could have affected jump exit by more than about five seconds.  He does say that a moving ball of fog is likely to be more noticeable.
    Misha says that even if they're glowing, they have enough experience on board to guess whether they could expect to be seen.
    The only populated world is close to the primary, but with a Scout Base there.  The mainworld is the other side of the sun, but the gas giant is on this side of course, 100 diameters away.
    Even so, there's no better plan than Wait And See.

    Shark privately mentions to Kalida one small detail about her klatrin trance, the strange readings he picked up on his football sensors.  The readings stopped just before she woke up.  He suggests they might mean that she is latently or possibly developing some talent in the terms of the Marquis, and if he publishes this they will probably arrest her.  It hasn't happened to anyone else while they were drinking klatrin, he says.  He'll let her know if it happens again.