(20) Welcoming Committee

The Misha Campaign (115-1121 to 122-1121)

115-1121 : Zett / Klarn / Foreven

    Vonish Kehnaan and Sagan are running the H.M.S. Third Eye , while everyone else is on board the black ship .  The initial plan is that the black ship will go on ahead to Ferle , while the Third Eye will wait two days and then jump .  The problem is coordinating the jump coordinates two days ahead, which is pretty tricky.  Helia Sarina insists they don't need to do that, as they will surely take no more than six days.  Perhaps, she adds, this technology might even make it faster.  Mich Saginaw says not only has he seen no evidence of this, but jump science doesn't allow for that.  It's finally decided that they should both jump together, and whichever ship arrives first will wait for the other.

    Misha Ravanos settles on a story they will use when they get to the next system .  They will say they spent some time in the mining colony on Zett .  They planned to jump out in time to meet the original rendezvous, but misjumped.  They'll have to figure out where they misjumped to, to account for the correct amount of time.
    Astrogation is Helia's job.  She counters that they don't misjump -- only if they say Mich was working on the engines is she willing to go along with it.  Her reputation as an astrogator is on the line.  With Mich's agreement to saying it was his fault, she applies herself to the task of figuring out their falsified route.  She suggests Dorfle -- no-one in their right mind will check on their story, as there's a limited nuclear war going on in that Red Zone system.

    Ed "Shark" Teeth's condition is still deteriorating.  He's still in a coma, under the care of Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead.  His rate of deterioration is dropping off, though, so there is some positive news.

    Mich starts work inspecting the drives of both ships, making sure they're ready to jump.
    To Helia's disappointment, Misha says she has to stay near the Third Eye instead of using the black ship's full capabilities.  They proceed at a stately 2g to the jump point.
    The Imperial ship starts to wander off course.  Helia points it out to Vonish, who then makes it worse.  Sagan intervenes to make the correction properly.  Helia thanks the hiver , and says that sie and the vilani make a good team.

    The ships arrive at the jump point.  Helia calculates the jump for the black ship, while Vonish does the same for the Third Eye .  Helia checks Vonish's work, and tells him he's done a good job.  "See you there!" she says.

    Mich finishes off his checks.  The ships are ready to jump.  Misha suggests they jump the next day at 09:00.

116-1121 : Zett / Klarn / Foreven

    At 09:00 both ships jump for Ferle .  Mich starts collecting data right away, so he can adapt his vortex generators to this new ship.  He also intends to study the modulation of the virtual jump grid, as it has direct relevance to his jump space viscosity experiments.

    The crew of the black ship look out the windows and see the inside of the jump grid a few meters away outside the ship.  It's an unusual sight, but much less disturbing than the the channel zero patterns of jumpspace itself.  They can watch the grid flexing and moving a little as it's adapted by the computers.
    Mich observes a nice steady power output.  He  carefully studies the movement of the grid, seeing it flex and move and reform connections as well.
    Robert Morris has been helping Mich in Engineering.  He tells Mich he's found something interesting -- a jumpspace profile.
    This is new to Mich.  The jumpspace profile is a display, graduated by color, of the area about 100m outside the ship.  Various areas indicate density, viscosity, and some other parameters which appear untranslatable.  It shows that as changes happen in the jumpspace readings, the virtual jump grid is manipulated in response.  The goal of the system is consistency, to provide a constant predictable state of the jumpspace the ship moves in.
    Mich had been working on this sort of system, but working from energy consumption rather than direct jumpspace measurements.  This direct approach is much better.
    Mich asks the computer when they're going to come out of jump.  He is relieved to find that the ship doesn't know -- to have it answer otherwise would threaten his understanding of jumpspace physics.

    The crew of both ships resume their normal jump daily routines, mostly exercise and training.

    Mich examines the manual for details on the starter unit.  He finds that all it says is to apply electricity to the terminals behind the access panel until the power starts.  The batteries are not detailed; the implication is that one could hook up any type of electric power source to those two terminals to start it.  Mich rigs up a recharging unit for the discharged batteries from the Imperial fuel cell unit in the Attic.  There are indications that the batteries could be recharged from those terminals with the power unit running, but since they're in jump Mich feels much safer doing it from the fuel cells rather than risk sucking all the power out of the cube.  He recharges all the starter batteries.  As he had already calculated, the power put into those batteries is insufficient to move the ship at all, let alone at 20g.
    At least now Mich knows how to start the power cube -- hook up jumper cables from his fuel cell unit to the terminals.
    Mich returns to studying the jump drive and power unit, with Robert's help.  They've run up against the limits of the concepts they have in common.  Most of what is left, such as the interior structure of the jump drive and the power unit fall into that category.  Nevertheless, they can figure out which areas do what, roughly how the feedback and control operates, and so on.

    Robert's brain continues to charge up with klatrin side-effects, but it's not dangerous at this point.  Helia is pronounced clean, and is told she can check in just once a day.  Shark is approaching stable; Bridgehead is now sure his patient won't have to be put into a low berth.  As for the Baron himself, he must surely be getting some sleep, but since he's always awake whenever anyone visits Sick Bay it's hard to imagine when he's doing it.

122-1121 : Ferle / Lirian / Foreven

    After six days in jump, both ships pop out simultaneously in the Ferle system.  The two ships are quite close, within half an hour of the Third Eye's travel at 2g.  Of course it would only take a fraction of that time for the black ship to get there at 20g.  The Third Eye's transponder is active, but of course the black ship has no transponder.
    Vonish plots a course for the Third Eye to head insystem, while the black ship approaches them to match up and perform the crew transfer.

    About half an hour after heading in, about the time the black ship approaches it, the Third Eye is hailed from further in the system.  The message says to stop accelerating, maintain course, and prepare to be boarded, under the authority of the system navy.  The source is apparently a ship now approaching them, although it's still a long way away.

    There is time to do a quick crew transfer.  The GrandAm stays on the black ship, since his patient is there.  Robert stays on the black ship.  Helia remains on the black ship too, pretty much running the vessel single-handedly.  She does it from sparkly pink mode, having been piloting up until now using the console controls.  Everyone else is now on the Third Eye.  They decide that they'll say that any missing crew had succumbed to jump sickness.  Most of their personal gear, except that necessary to back up their story, remains on the black ship.  Robert has, of course, already doctored the Third Eye 's logs appropriately.
    Helia's task is to move away from the Third Eye and not be seen.  Robert is responsible for establishing and maintaining communications between the ships as needed.  In the absence of Shark, their first officer, Robert is appointed in command of the black ship.

    Robert notices that the approaching ship is accelerating at 6g, and will arrive in about four hours.  It's transponder indicates an Imperial destroyer.  They certainly didn't get a greeting like this last time in the system.
    Following a short argument in which Helia wants to go fast and Robert doesn't, Helia takes her ship about half an hour away from the Third Eye, starting at 5g and increasing acceleration rate.

    The destroyer approaches the Third Eye and matches speed.  From this distance it's clear it's a Midu Agashaam class.  It does nothing.
    Mich is in Engineering, while everyone else is on the Bridge.  Misha wears his zack, while Teri Cralla is in battledress.  Sagan operates the sensors.

    The first "instruction" from the destroyer is three laser batteries open up at Engineering.  It was good shooting -- it's taken out the maneuver drive, and there's a major hull breach.  Mich grabs for the vaccsuit next to him.  Unfortunately he's being flung around by the escaping air, and misses the suit.  He knows he doesn't have long before he goes unconscious, and desperately tries again to grab a suit.
    Alarms go off on the bridge.  Misha ponders briefly the fact that this ship's weaponry is just one point defense laser, and the ship has to be pointed in the right direction to use it.  He announces that they surrender.

    On the black ship, they see that the destroyer has fired on the Third Eye and hit.  Helia flips around and hurtles back towards the conflict.  She wants to go just far enough to get in range.

    Mich gathers his fading thoughts, stops reacting by instinct, and falls back on his Imperial Navy training.  The air has mostly gone, so he's not fighting airflow any more.  He pulls himself to the nearest emergency locker and at last struggles into a vaccsuit.  He's still relatively near the hole, and there's debris everywhere.  He gasps for breath and hangs on.
    On the bridge, they haven't heard anything from Engineering.  Teri goes aft to help.

    There has been no response to Misha's surrender.
    The destroyer moves closer slowly, perhaps as if they intend to board.

    Teri gets to Engineering and enters the vacuum beyond the hatch.
    Mich has managed to perform a first assessment on the damage.  The maneuver drive is a mess -- it would take at least 12 hours to get it working at all.  There's nothing he can do right now, so he heads up to the Bridge with Teri.
    Misha calls Teri, who updates him.  Mich reports that the maneuver drive is down, repairable in about 16 hours, and there's a major hull breach in Engineering.  They can't jump with the hull damage, and they don't have enough fuel anyway.  As for himself, he is injured but not seriously.
    Misha asks, "Do we have any way to attack the other ship?  Do we have any weapons at all?"
    There is a missile launcher, but it's designed for launching scientific probes.  Someone will have to go down and physically carry a missile to the box.
    Misha shrugs and says, "Let's meet our guests."  They prepare to be boarded.

    Time passes.

    Helia heard Misha surrendering.  She is now within range of at least missile fire.

    Speaking of missile fire, that's the next development.  The destroyer fires a large missile salvo at the Third Eye.
    No-one on the Third Eye really knows how to use the ship's gun.  Mich is the best; he grabs the controls for the point defense laser.  Perhaps he can shoot down some of the incoming missiles...

    Robert drops into sparkly pink mode, starts a tightbeam communication to the Imperial destroyer, and tries to hack his way into the computers.

    Mich is somewhat successful.  He manages to shoot down three of the missiles, but there are another fifteen incoming...

Helia in Sparkly Pink Mode
(Referee and Helia's player only)

    Those on the Third Eye watch as the missiles head towards them.  There's nothing they can do but wait for impact.
    Suddenly lasers streak out from behind them and the missiles are destroyed.  The last missile was really close -- it explodes violently right beside the already breached Engineering.  There is a big shock aft which shakes the whole ship.  Sagan has the advantage of more limbs and manages to keep hir hold on the sensor console.  Teri is trained for onboard combat and has no problem staying on her feet.  Most of the others fall to the floor.  Vonish is not so lucky -- he is jerked out of his seat, slamming into the pilot console with first his shoulder, then his head.  He lies on the ground unconscious, bleeding profusely from a cut on his head.
    Misha tries again to contact the aggressor.  "Look, we know we're late, but we do have your box if you want it back!"
    Mich tells everyone to get into vaccsuits as he tends to Vonish.  The vilani just has a broken arm and a concussion.  The scalp wound is minor and easily stopped.  He starts helping the unconscious man into a vaccsuit.
    They get ready for the next salvo.

    That next salvo never comes.

    Out of the Third Eye's bridge window they can clearly see the Midu Agashaam class destroyer very close by.  It seems to shudder visibly.  There's a large blinding flash from the middle of the ship, as if a star lit up inside the hull.  Debris is flying out in all directions.  The bow and stern blow away in chunks, while the midships section is no longer there at all.

    After a moment, Helia's voice comes over the comm.  "Well," she says.

    Mich says they should transfer over to the black ship and destroy the Third Eye.  Misha has the same thought, but wants suggestions for any way to save his employer's ship.  Mich points out that it has to be refueled to jump back to Zett , and anyway it can't jump without repairing the jump grid.
    Helia looks around the system for fuel sources.  There's a gas giant in orbit P8, and the planet in P7 does have water but is a high gravity world.
    As debris rattles off the hull of the Third Eye , rattling the ship and gouging the hull further, Helia asks if there's any way the ship is going to be able to move.
    Mich replies it'll probably take a day before it can travel under its own power.
    "Screw it," says Helia, "Let's blow it up.  They'll think it was a mutual explosion."  She muses, "I think the thing to do is to find the Professor and Helia, and start from there."

    Helia says, "With the Imperial Navy ship possibly having said that we showed back up, we don't dare go back where we got the black ship.  They're probably going to send their fastest ship there.  They may not have seen us, but they saw the Third Eye, and they probably thought we went there.  So if they were able to report that the Third Eye was sighted and fired upon to anybody in the Imperial Navy, they're going to be at the site that we picked up the black ship."
    Mich nods and says that it's worth appearing as if the hunt for the Third Eye succeeded.
    Helia agrees.  "It might keep them from looking for us in this any time soon.  They'd have to at least get out there and check and see if we did take it.  While right now we're just passively on their hit list, if they find out we took the ship they're not only going to try to capture us, but probably capture us alive.  Or at least in some sort of state they can control.  So while before it was just a matter of being dead, now it's worse."

     Misha gives the command to abandon the Third Eye .  They'll transfer everything worth taking to the black ship.  Now to consider what's worth taking...  They can definitely take the air/rafts, and the gcarrier too, since it will just fit the cargo lift.  Obviously they'll take all the battledress and weapons, and the psionic lab equipment.  It's going to be a lot of stuff.

    There is clearly nothing salvageable from the destroyer.  Sensors indicate radiation from the debris.  It was no explosion signature that Mich recognizes -- not antimatter, not nuclear, not a meson gun.  Something happened in the middle of the ship.  Whatever that event was, was followed by a large explosion.
    Helia shakes her head.  "I can't believe it just exploded like that," she says quietly.  "You know," she adds, "They must have had some sort of test equipment on there and were testing a new weapon."