Robert Morris has been working with Mich Saginaw's
simulation in conjunction with the sensor logs and Helia's input to the
drives. His intention is to be able to tell Nightshade to
jump from wherever they are to wherever he wants to go, without any
interaction from the crew. He'll be happy with the old jumpspace
science and six day jumps, as long as he can just tell the ship to do
Helia Sarina announces that she wants to send her
new work to Helia and
Sally. She gets clearance from Misha, and Robert will set it up
appears it's from someone else. That's pretty much impossible to
fake, but Robert is sure he can do it anyway. Helia tells him
that it doesn't have to be encrypted, as she'll write it in her own
It is interesting that Helia is talking as if Helia
and Sally are definitely still alive, and did not perish in the attack
on the Karma FarSpace Station in the Brod system. In
fact, she seems to know how to contact them. She says they'll be
very pleased to hear she's found a way around the Quilton
Limitation. She mentions that they didn't think of doing it this
way because they didn't have access to the dynamic jump grid.
Shark suggests that Helia should send a message home
too. Helia says brightly that Helia and Sally are there.
She clearly believes she knows exactly where they are.
Robert quietly starts working on trying to get a
handle on the larian's language, but even knowing the subject of this
message doesn't give the ship enough to work on. It's a very odd
language, and particularly difficult for the computer to
understand. The samples on her own handputer don't help much
without more context. The ship tells Robert that it would be very
helpful to have two people on board speaking the language to each other.
Robert tells Helia that her language is very
interesting and has a lyrical feel to the ear. He asks her to
read a passage for him, but she declines. He does, however, note
that her message is going to a drop box on Katarulu, just one
xboat hop from here.
Later, Robert initiates a search of the insystem
networks to see if there's any language like Helia's mentioned.
can't find a thing.
Shark checks into what delivery service would be
available here on at the Duke's mansion on the moon. It turns out
that he can get most things delivered within eight hours, but there
would be a hefty fee. There is no standard service, and
everything would have to be custom shipped. He observes that they
are planning to be in the open on Mora anyway, so he can wait
an hour or so for them to get there once they leave Trin.
Mich says that the fast jumps shouldn't really be
considered normal procedure. There's too much risk of damage to
the ship to make it a routine operation. It breaks things.
Shark is confident that Helia is working on the
mathematics to fix that, and is surprised when it turns out that she is
That's an engineering issue, the larian says, not
for the astrogator. She's trying to work within the limitations
of the ship's systems, of course.
This gives Helia an idea. She asks Robert to
hook her up with a big bookstore on Trin, somewhere that would
have lots of technical books that she can use to bring Mich's basic
understanding of jump drives up to an acceptable level.
Robert does so, hooking her up quickly to the
bookstore catalogs on the mainworld.
Helia types in some titles and authors, and none of
them come up at all. They simply do not exist as far as the
bookstores are concerned. She is very surprised, and insists
Robert check the connection. He does so, and Helia types in the
list again. Again there is not a single reference for any of the
books. Helia looks uncharacteristically disturbed, saying she'll
just have to try again somewhere else.
Mich asks how Shark is doing with his Jump Drive
for Dummies. Shark is doing quite well, progressing just as
an average non-technical reader would expect. Mich notes his
comments; no doubt he will take note of these for the second draft of
his book. Of course, he now knows that this is even more
simplified than he thought, before Helia brought on board even more
advanced science of the subject. He'll have to throw out the
outline of the next two books in the series and start again with how it
really works. In the meantime, however, the first volume is a
good approximation: it's like starting with Newton and Kepler before
going on to General Relativity. The second volume will be
salvageable, but the third will need a total rewrite.
Helia apologizes to Mich, saying none of the books
she was looking for were in any of the catalogs here. She gives
him her list.
Mich has not heard of any of them. He does
recognize one of the authors -- Sally Forsythe, to whom Helia has just
sent a message -- but has not heard of any of the others. He
hasn't even heard of the subjects of some of them, but clearly they're
intended to fill in his gaps in basic jumpspace theory so he can follow
Helia's reasoning all the way through. As it is, the larian has
too many places where she says "this follows from this" with a handwave
and naming of some unknown postulate or theorem.
Lunchtime comes and the meal passes with no contact
from the Duke. Shark is a little anxious, but realizes that
etiquette requires that they wait patiently. He so far outranks
them that it would be impolite to enquire. Anyway, since the Duke
knows it takes several weeks to get to Mora from here, another
hour or two is unlikely to be critical. Any Imperial ship would
have to take three jumps, falling just one parsec short of two
jump-6's. An xboat message would take six weeks, so a jump-6
courier would halve that time.
To keep himself occupied, Shark looks up sources for
robots. Naasirka would be the most well known megacorporation in
that business, of course, and conveniently they have a major branch
here in the Trin system. He hasn't yet decided whether
which he wants to make fly first, a cat or a pig. A pig would be
a special order item, but the local branch tells him that their office
on Mora will be able to fulfil his needs. They also
advise him the pig would have more room for sensor packages, and that
their representatives at the sector capital will be glad to work with
him to customize a product for his requirements.
Two hours after lunch, a notification comes that the
message is ready. Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege,
accompanied by Shark and Misha, go ashore to collect the message in
person, as seems appropriate. After a short wait, they again
proceed to the hidden room, where the Duke of Trin is waiting for them.
Trin offers drinks, fixing Nakege's bourbon and
letting the other two prepare whatever they want. As he hands
over Kalida's drink, he also gives her a small container. It's a
metal box about the size and shape of a spectacle case.
Shark says they want to make contact with the Duke's
agent on Mora. The Duke is a little surprised, but walks
over to a cabinet and handwrites a note on his official
stationary. He folds the paper, places it in an envelope, and
hands it to Shark. He has written a name on the envelopem
presumably of his agent.
Trin says he'll be setting things in motion
here. He'll be calling a meeting with Imperial Navy staff, and go
over Nakege's analysis with them to determine the details of his
preparations. He asks if anything else has occurred to them,
observing that they will probably want to leave immediately because it
will take almost a month to get there. He thanks them again, and
extends a standing invitation for any of them to visit him whenever
Trin pauses for a moment, then turns to Misha.
He says that he has something to give him too, and returns to the
cabinet and handwrites another letter. This time he seals it with
sealing wax, and hands it to Misha. He asks him to deliver it
personally to the Archduke.
Trin is clearly done with the business
matters. He appears willing to engage in small talk, but just as
clearly is not expecting to do so.
Nakege makes a polite but immediate exit, and they
return to the ship.
Back on board, Misha looks at his envelope. He
has of course been learning to read, and makes out the name Norris Aella Aledon.
There are no honorifics, just the name.
Misha then walks down to Engineering for a private
conversation with Mich. He asks him if he's concerned about the
speed at which Helia pushes the ship.
Mich says that when they come out of jump, the ship
takes damage. That is a concern. So far it's been
repairable, but he can't say with any confidence that it will always be
That satisfies Misha, and he returns to the
bridge. He broadcasts to the crew, asking how soon they can
launch. In particular, he asks if there is any reason they could
not launch right now.
Helia rouses herself from one of her hammocks on the
aft bulkhead of the bridge, flies down to her console, and announces
brightly that she is ready right now.
Shark explains to Misha that the Duke was referring
to normal Imperial ships when he said it would take about a
month. Seven days in jump, plus three days in each system, and
three jumps from Trin to Mora stopping in systems to
refuel. They can do it in two jumps, stopping in empty
space. For an Imperial ship to do that, there would have to be a
fuel cache already in place.
Misha asks Helia why they sustain damage when they
come out of jump.
The larian explains that it's just the sheer amount
of energy feeding back through, and while they might be able to figure
out how to avoid it, there will always be some feedback, and they don't
know how much because no-one has ever done this before. No-one's
every broken the Quilton Limitation before.
Misha says, "So if we don't break the Quilton
Limitation, we won't sustain damage?"
"Probably not," she says. She goes on to say
that the ship is designed for it, and as long as Mich keeps the ship
maintained -- which she is sure he does -- it shouldn't be
damaged. "But then we're slow," she says sadly, "And take five
and a half days."
Shark considers the concept that they can get to Mora
that way in eleven days when anyone else would be taking a month, and
that Helia thinks that is slow.
Misha asks if there's any way to reduce the risk of
Helia says that there will always be a risk, but she
doesn't think it will break anything that can't be fixed. After
all, it just knocked a few things out of alignment. "Mich can fix
it, he's really good!" she says cheerfully.
Misha's decision is that for the first jump they can
go as fast as she wants, and for the second they'll stay within the
Quilton Limitation. Helia is happy with that.
Shark is concerned that they'll be coming out in
empty space after the first jump, and his job as First Officer is to
point this out, and remind them that it'd be a very long way from
It's mid-afternoon. Shark calls in for the
hangar to be retracted, and Helia takes off and moves out towards 100d
at 4g. She slips them into jump for 0809 / Mora.
Mich has taken great care to make sure that the jump
drive and systems are absolutely perfect, not just within
tolerances. He hopes this will minimize the chances of damage to
Helia wants to let jumpspace stablize around them
for a few hours. After a while, she asks for
permission to go outside to see how it looks out there, and if it's
fine then to bring them out of jump right away. Misha approves
the port airlock in engineering, going outside quickly in her zack
since Mich still hasn't completed her new vaccsuit. She's outside
for 45 seconds and
comes back in, saying they could have popped out an hour ago.
Shark ponders this, and asks if that means that the
travelling is done when you enter jumpspace rather than while you're in
it. He was sure it was the latter.
Mich tells him that's the difference between volume
1 and volume 3 of his Jumpspace for Dummies series. The
traditional version says you travel through jumpspace -- modern
thinking is that you don't actually travel anywhere at all.
Modern in this case of course means since Helia's last klatrin
Helia trots over to an Engineering console.
She asks Mich to shut down all non-essential systems, and suggests that
no-one look outside during the transition. As soon as the Mich
has done his jump dimming, Helia goes into sparkly pink and does her
thing with the jump grid.
Mich is the only one observing. There is a
twisting of the jump grid into other dimensions, a brilliant flash, and
Nightshade comes out of jump.
Space will, of course, take a little while to
stablize. There is no fog, but the sensor readings are affected.
Mich starts immediate diagnostics and finds that
everything is within specification. Some components have shifted
from their perfect position, but still inside normal tolerances.
He announces it is safe to jump the ship again as soon as they're
stable, especially since this next one will be a normal jump. He
lets Helia know she did a really good job, and powers the systems back
up. It would take about an hour for Mich to put everything back
perfectly. There's not a lot to be done, but it's a lot of
crawling through access spaces to do it. He starts work on it
After 10 minutes, Helia and Callisto announce that
space has stabilized, and Callisto starts her measurements.
While they're doing that, Shark tries scanning
Misha's envelope to read the message. He doesn't have that degree
of control over the sensors yet, but keeps practicing. He then
asks if he can scan the metal box message, but Misha denies him
permission to do that at present.
Mich muses to himself that the long range
communications system that was installed on their ship at Goose
might have been logging and transmitting their position all this
time. If that is the case, then whoever is at the other end is in
for quite a shock.
After an hour Callisto announces that she has the
exact position and they are ready to jump. They have come out in
the correct place.
Mich is satisfied that the jump drive systems are
perfect. Even though they're only doing a "normal" 5-1/2 day
jump, he's still glad to have checked everything.
Misha asks Callisto and Shark about the messages
from the Duke of Trin. He's particularly concerned that the
Archduke might be able to detect whether they had scanned the messages
themselves. Since those two are the people who'd be most involved
in examining them, he wants their opinion in private before doing
That's Shark's area of expertise. First, he
says, you'd have to have black tech to tell because they're using a
black tech scanner. Secondly, he's not sure that a black tech
scanner leaves residue that could be detected even by a black tech
scanner. Callisto merely shrugs, but Shark is more confident that
they can scan them undetected.
Misha says that if he was the Archduke, he'd want to
have mechanisms in place to ensure that he could tell if a message from
a Duke had been scanned, even if it was encrypted.
Shark starts into a light unclassified explanation
of intelligence message systems, but Misha clearly isn't interested at
that level. Shark adds simply that if they're using a codebook,
they won't be able to decrypt it anyway.
So first they will start with the box that the Duke
gave to Kalida.
The box is heavily shielded from Imperial
technology. Callisto slips her viewpoint into it and says there's
a tape in there. She is afraid that if she tries to read it at
the level of gaining information, she would corrupt it. So they
leave that message unread.
Next they move on to the message that the Duke gave
to Shark. This is a simple handwritten sheet of paper inside an
envelope address to the Duke of Trin's agent on Mora.
Shark can't get his view in there, but Callisto can and in fact can
read it. It's a serious of nonsense words, presumably a coded
message. The envelope is lightly shielded.
Misha then hands over the letter that the Duke gave
him. It too is in a similar envelope, but sealed with wax and the
seal of the Duke of Trin. Much to the others' surprise, Misha
says he does not want to know the contents of the letter. He does
not want anyone to know the contents, as long as it does not reveal
negative consequences for the bearer or any of their team.
Shark fails again, but Callisto does so
easily. The two of them peer eagerly at the contents.
Now Shark and Callisto know what the letter
contains. They exchange glances. Shark is the one to
speak. He grins and says, "No, I can't tell you. It is...
um... not physically dire."
Misha nods. He is satisfied.
Once again, they now have about five days in jump to
sit around and do nothing.
Nightshade comes out of jump at 07:00 in
stealth mode. Everything seems to be normal here.
Last time they did an approach like this, they
parked in the ocean and came ashore by gcarrier. They don't have
their regular Flight Officer anymore, having left him for Marquis
Marcus Crestworthy on Adabicci, but they do have some crew
member who should be able to drive.
Shark wants them to use their alternate identities
here. They do have Imperial ID that even on Mora will
pass for an informal exam, although they will break down under high
tech examination. Robert has examined them and done any touching
up necessary while they were in jump, but his forgery is not quite up
to TL15 level.
Misha real concern is that news of their arrival
must not reach Santanocheev. They can pay cash for most things,
use their alternate identities for anything else, and thus they should
be able to stay under cover.
Helia brings them in to the mainworld, slides under
the surface of the ocean, and parks Nightshade in the same
place they used last time here.