(15) To Be Named

The Crusader Campaign (071-1123 to 072-1123)

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071-1123 : Nexine / Mora / Spinward Marches

    The plan on board Nightshade is to Wait And See.  It's been about two hours, and the ship is still surrounded by fog.  They have decided not to move, firstly because it would make them more obvious, and secondly because it is a little difficult to see where they are going.  Callisto is confident she can navigate, but entering orbit or any tricky maneuver would be dangerous.  She adds that in her stateroom she has some gear to make manual sightings and could navigate with that, especially since the computer is just fine.
    So while they maintain a bridge crew at all times, there is nothing they can do until either the fog disperses or something else happens.
    Helia Sarina chooses to stay on the bridge.  She says she'll be doing some calculations.  She's been experimenting with bypassing the Quilton Limitations, and there's some new formulas she has to derive.

    Vonish serves lunch with the background of fog outside, unchanged.  Mich Saginaw is expecting it to persist for three days -- to finish out the full jump duration -- or until Helia figures out how to disperse it.
    Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead is drunk and sleepy.  There's one empty bottle of whiskey and one half-full, although a glass in the galley indicates that Vonish has been helping him with it.
    Robert Morris contemplates slipping the Baron some klatrin while he's oblivious, but decides against it.
    Callisto reports that there has been no change in the extent or quality of the fog.

    By dinner, still nothing has changed except that the whiskey has been replaced by coffee, and the Baron is looking distinctly worse for wear.
    Helia has some equations she wants to run by Mich, for him to check her work.  He still has no idea where her basic premise comes from, but he can follow some of her lines of reasoning until she starts incorporating some extra-dimensional stuff that's not the normal extra dimensions of jumpspace.  The larian thinks she can get the fog to condense if they blip the jump drive with the grid in a particular configuration.
    Mich runs the proposed action through his jump simulation, which promptly crashes.
    Helia says that they will need someone in control in sparkly pink.  She explains that the jump drive control is simply not good enough to handle it.
    Mich agrees in principle, but says they'll have to run it by the Captain first.  He tells Misha Ravanos what Helia has planned.  He adds that Helia is confident it will work and they'll stay here safely, but he can't quite follow all of her calculations.
    Misha turns to Helia.  He asks her how confident she is that they can do this.
    Helia says she doesn't think it's been done before. "It should be ok," she says.
    Mich asks her if she thinks the fog will disperse on its own.
    "Maybe," she says, "It depends."  She pauses for a while, and says again that nobody's done this before.  "It should be ok," she repeats brightly.
    Misha tells her to do it.
    Helia leaps into the air happily with, "Come on, Mich!  Let's do it now!"
    The two of them hurry off to Engineering, where Helia and Mich go into sparkly pink.  Mich has made sure he's in a comfortable position that will support him if he passes out.

    Kalida, Misha, Robert, Callisto, and Vonish are on the Bridge, the vilani taking the pilot's chair in Helia's absence.  The Doc and Teri Cralla are in Sick Bay.  Shark positions himself in Engineering, with his gauss pistol.
    Mich shuts down all non-essential systems.  The lights go out all over the ship.
    Helia blips the jump drive.
    Mich, Misha, and the Doctor pass out.
    Those conscious see a very bright flash.  The ship resonates with an audible thud and a shake.  The fog collapses into a bubble, then everything ripples outside, like the desert on a hot day.  The ripples persist for a while.  It's very disturbing to watch, but no-one can draw their attention away from it.
    Kalida, in sparkly pink, sees a shockwave -- some sort of disturbance -- racing out from the ship.  All her senses are active, and she can see two ships heading in their direction about 23 hours away.
    Helia powers everything back up, as the unconscious crew members start to come around.

    Soon it looks perfectly normal outside.  Sensors confirm that they are where they expected, and that apparently they didn't move at the jump blip.
    Kalida asks Helia when they'll be ready for another jump.
    Helia says that they'll be ready as soon as it stablizes around them, but she doesn't know how long that will be.  She says it might be done already.  She waves to Mich and flies off to the bridge.
    Mich runs a full systems diagnostics.  The ship is almost all red, but the structural integrity fields need a little tweaking after the heavy shock that struck the ship.  He performs the necessary adjustments, taking about ten minutes to get it perfect.  He then checks the recording of what Helia actually did as opposed to what she said, and it matches pretty well.  She seemed to modify a couple of things on the fly.  Of course there is a gap at the actual blip.  The ship did take a force impact, and although the shields weren't up, the hull itself is pretty strong especially with the fields active, and they were in no danger.

    On the Bridge, Helia shoos Vonish out of the pilot's seat and takes over her console.
    Meanwhile, Kalida briefs the recovering Misha on the situation.  She has identified the two approaching ships as scout ships.  Stealth is off, but so is Nightshade's transponder.
    Misha questions Helia about the situation.  He drags out of her that she doesn't know how long it will take to stabilize, particularly since looking at it changes it, and that they can't go into stealth mode until it stabilizes.
    Although the fog has gone, Misha suggests that it might not really be gone, because it's still hindering them.
    "Oh, it's gone," says Helia, "I can show you the equations if you like.  I think.  I haven't worked them all out yet."
    Misha says the equations won't help.  He adds that he's not complaining, he's just trying to understand.  He then asks the crew if anyone would mind jumping out as soon as Helia says it's ready.
    Everyone but Mich is enthusiastic to jump.  Mich says that he wants to finish installing the large power cube while they're in normal space, which will take about three hours.
    Misha says that so far all they have are a couple of scout ships that might or might not have seen them.
    "They could probably see the flash too," says Helia.
    "What flash?" says Misha.
    "The flash!  We flashed."
    Mich says it was when they exploded the fog away.
    "Actually we kind of exploded it in," corrects Helia.
    Misha asks Mich if he can install the cube in stealth mode.  Since Mich can do just that, what they will do is go into stealth mode as soon as they can, move the ship, install the cube, and go into jump.  Misha directs Helia to tell them as soon as it's stable.
    Helia asks Mich if he's repaired her vaccsuit yet.  He replies that he can't repair it, so he has to build her a new one.  She apologizes and thinks for a moment, then goes into sparkly pink.  She starts to look like she's dozing off.
    Mich goes off to work on Helia's new vaccsuit.  On the way, he checks the sensor readings and notices that some of them are shimmering very slightly.

    Ten minutes later, Helia says she's thinks they're ready.  She wants to go out and take a look.  She says she wants to check that it's really gone.  "It won't take very long," she says, "I don't have a vaccsuit.  But it's ok, I've got my zack.  Can I use the one behind the Bridge, it's quicker?"
    Misha says that would be fine.  Helia dashes out of the Bridge to the transverse corridor aft of it, and cycles the lock.  She steps out, waves to the Bridge crew, comes back in and cycles the lock again.  In a moment she's back on the Bridge, announcing brightly, "It's ok, we're good.  Let's go!"

    Helia takes up her seat at the pilot's console and drops into sparkly pink.  She goes into stealth mode and moves Nightshade quickly away about 20,000 km.  That should be far enough away for the scoutships to miss them for a while.
    Mich asks Helia to put them into a drift.  While he could finish the installation under constant acceleration, he has to turn off gravity and that would be really messy at 20g.
    Mich sets up the power cube, and is about ready to power up the boombox when Callisto announces that the scoutships are broadcasting like crazy.
    Misha is resting, leaving Kalida in command on the bridge.  Callisto says their communication consists mostly of, "Oh shit! What was that?"  They've changed course slightly, as if they were knocked off course at the same time.
    Robert suggests that the shockwave hit them.  That might well be, as they seem to have sustained exterior sensor damage.  They're talking with each other and reporting back to the Scout Base.  None of them have any idea what might have happened, and the Scout Base is having some difficulty believing them.
    Mich has powered up the cube.  The small one is powering the ship as normal, while the large one is feeding its power connection solely to the jump drive.  The board is all red.  He calls up to the Bridge and tells Helia she has more power.
    Helia is eager to try it again with more power.  She thinks it will be much better, but isn't very clear on what "better" might mean.
    They are ready to jump.  Kalida calls the Captain from his stateroom, and once he is satisfied he gives the order.

    It is close to midnight when Nightshade jumps for Trin / Trin's Veil.  If this was a normal jump, they'd expect to arrive about midday on 076-1123.  They are way ahead of Santanocheev's fleet movements.

072-1123 : Trin / Trin's Veil / Spinward Marches

    Kalida says that while she'd like to take another shot of klatrin, it seems unwise these days.
    Robert asks Helia if they could do something with enemy jump engines with his blue screen of death ray.  She says that won't work with anything but a black ship.  An Imperial tech ship has to dump power into the zuchai crystal array and release it, and that would probably be too easily interrupted from on board the target ship.  They'd be better off just grabbing the conventional systems like they would do now.

    At breakfast, Helia asks when she can play with the jump drive again.  She explains that she's asking him because she was supposed to tell him when she was doing things with the jump drive in jump.
    Misha glances at Mich.
    Mich says they have a lot more power now.  The new cube is about 1.5m on a side as opposed to the 1m cube that powers their ship normally, so they have more than 4 times the power available now.
    Helia explains that there isn't enough power, as she said before, but there's a loophole in that.  It depends where you get the power from.
    Mich expresses some concern about channelling that much power through the emitters.  They really don't know, but he and Helia think they should be adequate.  Everything on this ship is meant to be durable and solid, everything is over-engineered.
    Mich gives his approval for Helia to play with the jump drive.
    The Baron, on the other hand, is not.  He stands up and goes into a long rant about how every time someone messes with the jump drive it leads to problems, explosions, crashes, or other evil things.  Now of all times, when they're doing something important, is the worst possible time.  He says that Mich only approves because he's had his tinfoil hat off too often.
    Mich says that in this case the danger seems within reason.  There is some concern, but it's within reasonable bounds.
    Helia is authorized to do it right after breakfast.
    The Baron explodes into a tantrum, berating the captain, Mich, and everyone else.  He sits down in a huff.
    Misha says he has noted the Baron's objections.  He asks if Shark feels the need to go down to Engineering and watch with gun in hand.
    Shark gives Misha a meaningful look.
    Misha, however, has been Shark's Captain for quite some time now.  With a few well chosen phrases, delivered with his best Captain authority, he explains that while what Helia is doing is dangerous, it is in the best interests of the ship and everyone aboard to enable -- even encourage -- her to do it.  He still expects Shark to keep an eye on the larian, of course -- that's his job -- but her experiments with the jump drive are necessary to their continuing mission.
    Shark nods.  Misha is a confident and convincing Captain, and what he says makes perfect sense.

    Helia and Mich go down to Engineering.  Shark goes down too, to make sure they are not interrupted.
    Mich makes sure he's in a position where he can pass out comfortably.  The two of them slip into sparkly pink.
    The first thing Helia wants to do is a power test, to make sure it's feeding through correctly and that the components will be able to handle it.  The jump grid brightens intensely as she runs her test, then drops back to a normal pattern.
    Helia is ready to go.  She asks Mich to power down all the unnecessary systems.
    Mich questions whether they need to do that given all the extra power.
    Helia, however, wants to play it safe.  She wants as much power as possible, just to be safe.
    Mich announces to the crew that they are powering down most of the ship's systems in preparation for Helia's operation.  He carefully leaves only essential systems operational, and tells Helia that the ship is ready.
    "This is going to be fun!" says Helia.

    No-one passes out except Kalida, who is still in her stateroom so no-one notices.

    It's a very strange and very disturbing sight, aside from the brilliant flash and sparkling light show.
    Helia takes the jump grid and by feeding immense power into it and flicking it around rapidly folds it into a few more dimensions.  As she does so, with all the power that is running through it, it picks up unimaginable power from somewhere else as well.  Whatever it's doing, the grid is interacting with jumpspace in different ways, sucking power from somewhere, and forcing the jumpspace to do something.
    For the first time, Mich can see that the way everyone has been thinking of travelling through jumpspace is totally wrong.  They are indeed not moving, just as Helia told him.  It wasn't totally wrong in that it was a decent first-order approximation, but Mich feels like he's made the leap from Newton's Laws to General Relativity.

    Nightshade comes out of jump.

    They've been in jump for less than twelve hours.  Misha asks for a situation report.
    Mich powers back all the systems.  There is some blue on the board -- he'll need to work on the alignment of the jump field emitters, probably about two hours' work.  There is no damage, but things shifted enough to need realignment.  Aloud, he tells the captain that he needs to do some work on the jump drive and it will be about three hours.
    Helia says that stealth mode won't be available until it settles down outside.
    Callisto runs a quick check and says they are in Trin / Trin's Veil as they had intended.  No-one is currently coming towards them, and the normal beacons are present.  She wonders vaguely if there's a shockwave rushing out from the ship just under the speed of light, ready to blow atmosphere off the planets and destablize the sun... but her readings reassure her that's not the case.
    Kalida wakes up in her stateroom and hurries to the bridge.  She says they don't need stealth mode here, as they are planning to visit the Duke anyway.
    Mich says they don't want to move or turn on the transponder until it's stablized.  He says they don't want to be scanned just yet as they are probably at the center of some sort of spatial anomaly.  Idly he wonders what they looked like when they came in.
    Helia and Mich have a cheerful chat about how much fun that was.  The transition time when she was manipulating the jump grid was about three seconds.  Mich heads off to do the repairs.
    Helia flies up to the Bridge.  She starts showing Callisto how to tell when everything stabilizes around them.

    After about 20 minutes, Callisto announces that they have stabilized.  Stealth mode is now available.
    Kalida again brings up the concern that they have been travelling impossibly quickly, but adds that at this point they are trying to outrun Santanocheev.  This will come back to bite them someday, but not yet as no word could get here about their departure time.  What is important, however, is that they need to give the Imperial loyalists as much time to prepare as possible.
    Misha agrees.  They will go as fast as they can, and if the question comes up they can say something like they're misjumping a lot.  They'll just have to divert the issue the best they can at the time.
    Mich points out that they can really take as little or as long as they like to jump now.  They don't have to exit right away if they want to spend four days in jump, for example.  He does wonder what can be done to automate the process.  He points out that 3 seconds damages the ship and leaves them vulnerable for 20 minutes, while 5-1/2 days does neither.