(17) To Be Named

The Crusader Campaign (073-1123 to 079-1123)

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073-1123 : Trin / Trin's Veil / Spinward Marches

    Robert Morris has been working with Mich Saginaw's old jump simulation in conjunction with the sensor logs and Helia's input to the jump 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 it itself.
    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 so it 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 language.
    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.  He 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 not.
    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 they want.
    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 repairable.
    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 damage.
    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 anywhere.

    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 the ship.
    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 her action.
    Helia uses 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 experience.
    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.

(still) 073-1123 : 0809 / Mora / Spinward Marches

    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 right away.
    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.

    They engage jump for Mora at 19:00.

074-1122 : Jumpspace (from 0809 / Mora / Spinward Marches)

    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 anything.
    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.

The Duke of Trin's Letter to the Archduke of Deneb via Misha Ravanos
(Referee and Shark's player only)

    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.

079-1123 : Mora / Mora / Spinward Marches

    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.