(7) Making Progress

The Misha Campaign (317-1120 to 349-1120)

317-1120 : Jumpspace (from Goose / Fessor / Foreven)

    The H.M.S. Third Eye has just jumped for Varsae, after their unintended stopover in the Goosesystem.  Their journey to Brod / Tardele, the last known location of jump drive expert Professor Farol, is under way again.
    Mich Saginaw is completing repairs to the gcarrier, and thinking about ways of rigging psi shields around various areas of the ship.
    Helia Sarina, Ed "Shark" Teeth, and Misha Ravanos spend a lot of time practicing with their zacks.  Just how to practice with the suits is a problem -- they'll run out of furniture to throw at each other soon.  Helia is particularly concerned about whether she could hurt her wings, although she believes that the suit won't hurt itself.  As she says, "If you're afraid of the suit, it blows the whole zen of the suit."
    Helia and Misha get into an involved discussion of how the suit compares with a swordsman's weapon, and how it all depends on the attitude of the wielder.  Somehow they manage to sustain a heated discussion despite both holding essentially the same point of view.

    For the time, Helia just decides to wear her suit around the ship until Misha tells her something else to do with it.  Misha would rather she practice not cutting things up.  Helia is sure she won't cut anything up involuntarily.
    Helia's suit has a hood-like cover that she can pull down over her folded wings, or retracted so that she can stretch her wings and fly.  She does some practice flying with the suit on, and finds it feels no different from wearing anything else.

    Misha, however, goes on the assumption that a zack is a powerful weapon, and therefore dangerous in the hands of the inexperienced.  He practices in the exercise room, with the help of Teri Cralla.  At the moment he can be sure of triggering the suit at will and damaging something, but can't aim any part of it at all reliably.  He is starting to get a feel for which parts respond to certain actions.
    Something comes from under the forearm; he has claws that extend from the fingers (that's harder to activate); something similar to the forearm weapon is on the shins; he has toe claws; something from the knees; something from the heels.  The forearm and shin weapons are about the length of that limb, as if it were stowed along the limb; the claws (hands and toes) are about 3 cm long; the heel is about 4 cm.
    Helia watches his practice sessions from her hammock on the bridge.

320-1120 : Jumpspace (from Goose / Fessor / Foreven)

    Misha has been continuing to practice.  So far he has not hurt himself.  He decides to test Helia's theory that the suit will not hurt itself, and tries to cut himself with his forearm weapon.  To his unfortunate surprise, he cuts his leg through the bone.
    Fortunately the exercise room is just down the corridor from the sickbay.  In response to Helia's gleeful, "Medic to the exercise room!" Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead comes running to Misha's aid.  He quickly stabilizes the leg so it won't fall off on the way to sickbay, and transfers his captain to a medical station.  Misha does not allow him to cut the suit off, but opens it up normally and helps the Doc to get it off him.
    Bridgehead calls Ed to help him, since he was such a good assistant last time.  Ed is pleased to expand his medical expertise this way.  In fact the Doc allows Ed to do some of the work himself, and is impressed with his technique  Their prognosis is that Misha will be in sickbay for about three days.
    As to the issue of repairing the zack, Helia's contention is that it will repair itself.  Ed tries to push the edges of the cut together -- it seems to have lined itself up and stuck, although he things he could pull it apart very easily.  He checks with Vonish to see if he has any samples of the seawater along with his food -- he does not.  Neither does Mich have anything from the refining process.  So Ed just lays the zack out in the captain's quarters.

    While Misha is confined under medical care, Ed takes the opportunity to review Misha's work with the suit as much as possible.  He tries to find out how Misha can reliably trigger the cutters, where they are, and so on.
    Misha can't describe it too well, but does a fairly decent job.  He can activate it by thinking himself into a certain state.  Not activating it under threat is much harder -- it would have to involve blocking the physical reactions to such a threat.

    For the rest of the jump, Ed practices with his suit, also with the help of Teri.  She runs through the tapes of Misha's practice and helps Ed come up with a suitable practice regimen.
    One tool that Ed designs is to suspend a long heavy steel rod from the ceiling.  He sets it swinging and tries to block it.  The first time he tries it, it hits him in the arm and knocks him over.  The next time, he positions himself to have it swing by him, and tries to cut it, imagining a blade coming out of his arm.  That doesn't work, so then he gets in its way and practices blocking it.  The remaining pieces Teri uses as weapons to throw at him.  She refuses to swing staves and so on at him -- she doesn't think it's wise for her to do that.
    Ed asks Mich and Robert to set up a waldo for Teri to use in combat against him.  In the meantime, he continues with the swinging poles, lumps of metal, and furniture.  He does set up a pivoting figure with arms to practice with, but it hits him more than he cuts it.
    Ed takes notes after each short session, linking them with the videos to provide a lasting record.
    Next he asks the Baron for a basic EKG/respiration monitor that he can wear under the suit, to link that to the videos to work out what exactly triggers the zack.  Unfortunately he finds that with the monitors, the suit never works.  Ed gets bruised a lot.  The commdot doesn't affect the suit, but those monitors certainly did.

323-1120 : Varsae / Reidan / Foreven

    The Third Eye slips out of jump in their intended destination system.  The ship has performed perfectly on this trip.
    Despite Misha's problem, Helia continues to wear her zack most of the time.  Ed suggests she not do so on planet, in case someone startles her and she hurts someone -- or at least, until they know how to use it.  He convinces Helia to practice in the exercise room with them during the next jump.

    Misha is now up and around, and takes up the command chair during their approach to the mainworld.
    Varsae has a class A, high tech starport.  It's just as they would have expected coming into the Imperium, except of course they're not in the Imperium.  They request permission to land at the downport, and are allocated a landing spot under the advisement that it is expensive.  For the 600t Third Eye, it will cost 10kCr a day.  Highport costs are 100Cr a day.  Ed withdraws their request for downport access, and says they'll dock at the highport instead.
    Ed then taps in to the local visitor information channel.  It advises that personal travel for non-residents to the planet is very expensive, but they welcome visitors to their casinos.  Law level is 6, with a civil service bureaucracy.  The atmosphere is very thin, there's low gravity, and the world is exceedingly cold.  Much settlement is underground.  The planet orbits the innermost gas giant.  Tech level is E, on a par with the Imperium, but this very small world houses six billion people.  Weapons limited to no open carry, only recreational long arms permitted under certain conditions.  No open carry of blade weapons is allowed.  Ed suggests that Misha might consider taking up a cane.

    Mich has several spares he wants to restock.  They will cost about 2000Cr.  In addition, Misha orders new furniture to replace the stuff he has torn up, and some plastic scrap to use for zack exercises.

    Misha determines that they will move through these jumps rapidly.  They will take as little time insystem as is reasonable, until they reach their destination at Brod / Tardele.  The next stop is clearly going to be Torquin; after that, they have more choices of route.

    Ed hooks into the Yonder Veterans Network, to make sure the ship's information is all up to date, and to check on any news.  The YVN is a free service, of course.  There are also local papers, concerned mainly with local events.  Enough news is generated in-system, it seems.  They still mention some unrest to spinward, and that travellers should be careful in Corona and beyond.
    Military here is a strong system navy, high tech and apparently well organized.  In every respect the system seems on a level with the Spinward Marches, a typical border system military presence.
    Ed posts contact information in the usual way, mentioning the limitation on time.  As it turns out, he is not contacted before they leave.

325-1120 : Varsae / Reidan / Foreven

    The stop in this system has been hassle free and successful.  Everything on Mich's list, and the plastics, have been loaded on board.  The ship is ready to leave.
    Helia pulls the Third Eye out of orbit and heads out to jump.  Once again, jump transition is smooth and trouble free.

331-1120 : Torquin / Reidan / Foreven

    During the jump, more experiments have been done with the zacks.  Ed figures out that most medical monitors stop the suit from working, but that commdots don't affect it at all.  He also tries various cloth patches under his and Misha's suit to try to localize the issue, and finds that anything bigger than a commdot, or located on the skin of the body, prevents the suit working properly.  In-mouth or swallowed medical monitor units work fine; the Baron insists that Ed return the unit, cleaned of course.
    This research does lead to a "safety" for the suit: a handkerchief worn over the breast will prevent it triggering, and in dangerous situations they can just reach in and remove it.  Helia decides she'd rather use a necklace instead; she walks around with the necklace outside the suit, so everyone will know what state her zack is in.
    Misha's suit has healed itself.  There is a visible scar, but it is intact although possibly a bit weaker at that point.  He can now invoke the suit even on non-threats; threats invoke it if he tries to block, while if he doesn't block, the suit does not trigger unless he does so himself.
    Helia has also joined the suit practice, and gets fairly decent with it.  She is disappointed that the suit does not seem to improve her flying.  She takes some persuading to take part in the combat exercises, but does get into it.  She's the one who impales a plastic ball on her claws, allowing everyone a quick look at the claws in action.  It doesn't stay for long, as the claws slice through the plastic, not even long enough to get a picture of it.  They add new exercises like this to their program.
    Ed used the cut-up balls to try to measure the size of the claws, but didn't spend a lot of time on it.  He is more concerned with learning to activate the suit.
    During the days they have practiced with the suits, while in the evening they run gravcraft simulation races.

    The Third Eye arrives insystem and proceeds towards the mainworld.  The minimal starport on the vacuum world consists of a designated empty stretch of rock next to a large mass of water ice.  There is no sign of any local inhabitants, despite the write-up of the world indicating that they make their money on trade passing through the system.  They see no reason to land, and so Helia takes the Third Eye directly to the nearest gas giant (the outer one) for refueling.

333-1120 : Torquin / Reidan / Foreven

    The refueling and refining proceeded without problems, and allowing for rest for Helia. the Third Eye is ready to leave.
    Just as they're about to leave, a large freighter in the 2kt range enters.  The transponder indicates it's from Varsae.  It heads directly for the mainworld and the class E starport.
    Ed hails the ship.  It's from Varsae on it's way towards Lirian.

    They check on their possible routes.  Darfil seems interesting, although they won't be there long, and does have a class A starport.  The starport level makes it sound more desirable than the alternative, Wallneck.  Given the choice, Helia votes for the better starport.
    Once again it's a routine insystem transfer and jump transition.  Helia is getting a bit more comfortable with the state of her ship.

339-1120 : Darfil / Lirian / Foreven

    During jump, zack practice continues, as do the gravcraft races.
    Ed asks Teri if she knows much about short blade combat, which he thinks might be what's needed for the zack.  Maybe melee combat might be better, or both.  Teri, however, is a heavy weapons and demolition specialist, and aside from pointing out that there are analogies with battledress, she can't help.  She has been working on blade combat with Misha, but they'd be better off getting instruction from Misha himself.
    The best they can do is work on combat methods themselves.  Ed decides to approach it from the brawling point of view, his best combat skill.  Ed also realizes that it might really be good for him to learn a little vaccsuit skill from someone, now he's spending so much time on board ship.
    Oddly enough there is someone on board who is really quite accomplished in brawling and short blade -- the ship's cook, Vonish Kehnaan.  This would take his time out of gravcraft work, however, and Misha considers that a much higher priority.  As a compromise, Vonish suggests several movies for them to watch.
    It occurs to Ed that there might be some race that fights with weapons either attached to or naturally on their forearms and shins.  His search reveals no such known race.  The closest match is the Aslan, with their ritualized dewclaw combat, but it is not what he's looking for.
    The movies Vonish suggests are screened in the module conference room.  They turn out to be really bad martial arts movies.  They involve people jumping around with sections in slow motion, flipping over and landing behind people, tearing in with dual swords, moving so fast they seem to teleport -- all requiring a suspension of disbelief rather beyond that of the viewers.

    Mich and Robert Morris have continued to work on investigating the matter phase inverter units, but have drawn a total blank.  There is no reason they can see why they fail in such a fashion.

    The Third Eye arrives without incident in the Darfil system.  They proceed with the insystem transfer to the mainworld, and land at the starport.  The main starport is on the ground, although there are orbital facilities.  Costs are higher at the orbital stations.
    Ed's appetite for information leads him to look up as much on the natives as he can find.  There are not many humans on planet.  The alien natives are called urchins by the local humans.  They are egg-shaped, with the smaller end pointing up.  They are mostly white in color, about 2.5 m tall, covered in spikes or hairs, and walk on five spindly legs.  There is very little known of their physiology.  Tech level here is D, quite high.  The urchins have a substantial colony on the inner world of the system.
    Everything in this system is made easy for the visitor.  One agency of the local government handles all matters with offworlders, and unlike many bureaucracies seems to exist for the purpose of making trade easy, hassle free, and inexpensive.  While orbital transfer fees are above standard, there are no hidden fees.
    The atmosphere here is very thin and tainted.  They decide to purchase regular life support supplies here rather than go through the hassle of filtering the atmosphere.

341-1120 : Darfil / Lirian / Foreven

    From here, it's a simple Jump1 to their next destination, Crosspatch.  The description of the place doesn't sound promising, especially the abnormally high temperatures of the mainworld.
    An alternative would be Junian, but the advisories there mention something about cooperating with local officials of the severe dictatorship.  Ed says that sounds like the sort of place where Robert could get into trouble too easily.
    Their next stop in either case would be Vargoe.  That sounds most unpleasant too, but they have no reasonable alternative.  It is at least a class A starport, and it does sound a good place to restock food and so on.

    Helia takes the Third Eye up into orbit, then out to jump for Crosspatch.

347-1120 : Crosspatch / Lirian / Foreven

    The ship arrives in the system, and Helia pilots them to the mainworld.
    Nothing has been much different on this jump.  Practice has continued as before.
    Refueling in this system is cheaper at the orbital starport.  Prices for wilderness refueling permits are excessive.  While costs at the orbital station are standard, there are fees assessed for every conceivable extra.
    There is no reason to land on the planet -- it's well over 200 degrees -- and no reason to pay charges to visit the orbital facilities.  Everyone stays on board.

349-1120 : Crosspatch / Lirian / Foreven

    The Third Eye leaves orbit, and heads out to jump for Vargoe.