(21) The Sleeper Wakes

The Misha Campaign (122-1121 to 123-1121)

122-1121 : Ferle / Lirian / Foreven

    Everything has been moved from the H.M.S. Third Eye to the black ship .  That includes all personal gear, the contents of the armory, and the gcarrier and two air/rafts .

    Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead reports that Ed "Shark" Teeth has woken up from his coma.  His klatrin experience was clearly not as pleasant as the others'.  The Doc tells him to lie back and rest.  Shark needs no convincing -- he's extremely weak and tired.

Shark's Klatrin Experience
(Referee and Shark's player only)

    The Baron then asks him if he has everything he needs off the Third Eye.  Shark wonders why, and when Bridgehead tells him that they're scuttling the Imperial ship, that only increases his concern.  Bridgehead tells him not to worry about that now, as the Captain will explain it.  That doesn't alleviate Shark's worries.
    Everyone dashes down to Sick Bay to welcome their First Officer back into the waking world.

    Misha Ravanos tells Mich Saginaw to figure out how to rig the Third Eye to explode.  The engineer works with Teri Cralla to set all the missile warheads to explode on board it, as if a laser hit had caused secondary detonation.  It's not too easy to figure out how to do that, but working together they do a fine job.

    Misha asks everyone to leave the room so he can talk with Shark in private.  The Doctor and Helia Sarina wait immediately outside the door.
    Misha starts out, "We've returned to the place where we got the box, with the Third Eye and the black ship.  The black ship remained pretty quiet, most of us moved back to the Third Eye , and we left you here with the doctor and Helia and Robert.  The Third Eye got hailed by some military boat who ordered us to stand by and be boarded, and instead of coming aboard they just shot us."
    Shark replies, "We weren't supposed to come back.  Did they get any transmissions off?"
    "Not clear.  Talk to Robert about that.  The question I want to ask is, tell me again who gave us this box and why we took it."
    "It was a claimed representative of Imperial Navy Intelligence.  He said that he wanted a intelligence report of activities insystem.  Obviously he was booby-trapping us and we weren't supposed to come back.  Obviously they wanted us dead without publicity.  They could have arrested us just for asking to go to the Red Zone system , which we sort of did.  There are all sorts of things they could have put us in jail for and taken our ship.  But they jumped on the opportunity so quickly there were standing orders to get rid of us in some way."
    "OK.  I do remember that if we didn't get the box back in time there would be a standing order to shoot us.  I didn't take that seriously.  Now here's the question: is it within the realm of possibility that the ship that fired on us is under the control of military intelligence?"
    "Almost certainly."
    "The other question is, does the military intelligence have the... is there such a thing as a shoot to kill order, military intelligence just says 'shoot this ship'?"
    "Military intelligence will pin an admiral's bar on me, send me onto a ship, and the ship will do anything that I tell it to do.  Given that we're working in a semi-feudal society , no-one will ask questions."
    "OK.  Last question I want to ask you.  Did you sabotage the ship?"
    Shark laughs grimly.  "No," he says.  He pauses for a moment, then asks, "What have Robert and Helia described of their fish oil experience?"
    "Nothing.  All Robert's ever said is that it's pretty much indescribable, and everybody should have it.  Helia's said nothing."
    "An expanded view of the cosmos indicates that we on this ship may in fact be at the center of several conflicting conspiracies, actions, activities.  Of course, given my job, that could just have been a delusion, but I'm taking it very seriously.  Now, I've heard that we're abandoning the Third Eye, that we're going to destroy it."
    "I hadn't finished my story.  The Third Eye is pretty badly hurt.  We could probably put it back together again, but I like the idea of taking care of loose ends."
    "If I were Imperial Navy, and I wanted to make sure you were dead, I would find all the wreckage, biological and otherwise, and verify that the quantities correlate.  So if the Third Eye is here in pieces parts, and there's no bodies on board..."
    "Can they do that?"
    "With enough time and manpower, sure."
    "Would they do that?  I mean, what do they think we've done?"
    "They think that if we got back here and their ship blew up, that the Third Eye wasn't what it appeared to be.  They know exactly what the Third Eye was.  Something other than the Third Eye came back and blew this guy up."
    "Why wouldn't they just go and check out -- maybe they will now that..."
    "They probably will."
    "OK.  So you're saying they're not going to think we're dead anyway."
    "It's going to be hard.  The Third Eye could disappear, possibly, and they'd continue looking for it, and also be looking for something else.  I don't know whether this particular group has the authority to go in and investigate what's missing from the space station, but somebody will eventually find out.  So we can hide for quite a while, we can run for a long time, but we're going to get tired of running.  I guess we can blow up the Third Eye and it'll slow them down at least.  But eventually they're going to be waiting for us, just about everywhere.  In Imperium space, and a lot of other spaces.  I don't know what to do.  Short run, definitely let's get out of here."
    "Yeah.  If they spend enough manpower, whatever, they're going to be able to figure out what happened.  But we're not going to make it easy on them.  We're going to blow up the Third Eye."

    Misha asks Robert Morris to join the two of them in Sick Bay, and asks him what he can add.
    Robert says, "At the time our attacker was destroyed, I was trying to establish a communications channel to tell it to halt, and listening to all communications out of it.  It did not get a message out.  Other than that, I wasn't paying attention to what Helia was doing.  And then it didn't exist any more.  So no, I do not know what happened.  Helia was doing what she could to defend the Third Eye, that I do know."
    Misha asks, "Do you know what she was doing?"
    "She was in sparkly pink mode sitting at the console, just like I was in sparkly pink mode sitting at a command chair.  In another fifteen seconds the Third Eye may have been destroyed, but that destroyer would have been mine!"
    Shark asks, "Did the destroyer see us?"
    "No indication that the destroyer saw us, no."
    "So you hit it with a nuke, and it exploded."
    "I do not know what Helia hit it with."
    Misha adds, "Mich has already told me that he doesn't  recognize the energy signature.  It wasn't a nuke, it wasn't a meson gun , it wasn't an antimatter device, it wasn't anything we knew.  That tells me it came out of the black ship."  He then asks Robert to go help Mich work on blowing up the Third Eye, and asks Helia to come in.  The Baron asks pointedly if he's needed in the discussion, but the captain brushes him off.

    Misha asks Helia, "So, do you have everything you need off the Third Eye?"
    "I already had everything I need," replies the larian.
    "OK.  Can you tell me what happened to our attacker."
    "It exploded...?"
    "Can you add anything to the information that I probably already know?"
    "I was intercepting their missiles, and then they exploded."
    "In what way were you intercepting their missiles?"
    "You saw it.  I shot them down."
    "Did you fire on the ship?"
    Helia pauses.  "No," she says.
    "Did you cause it to explode?"
    "Can you expand on that answer?"
    "It's a definite maybe.  In the end, though, they probably exploded because they had something they shouldn't have had on there."
    "They certainly were doing something they shouldn't have, which meant they had someone on there who was doing the wrong thing."
    "There you go.  Maybe it was just god."
    "Maybe god was on there, yes."
    "No, no.  I mean, maybe god made them explode."
    Misha laughs.  "Maybe, but..."
    "Isn't it enough that it happened?  And it's not going to happen again unless it should?"
    Shark asks with a wry smile, "Whose point of view decides when it should?"
    "Yeah," says Misha, "I'd like to get a better handle on 'should' there."
    "If it's only Misha, or the human in command of this ship who decides 'should'."
    Helia says, "I guess.  I mean, after all, if I had anything to do with it, I did that under orders."
    Misha asks, "Can you explain your reluctance to talk about this?"
    "Is it a repeatable event?"
    "I don't know.  If I were you I'd be very very careful who was operating your weapons besides me.  And I don't mean that as a threat.  Do you understand what I mean?  I wouldn't let Mich, say, touch the weapon controls, because I don't think Mich needs to tinker.  You know how strange this ship is to us?  I think we all need to drink more fish oil."
    Shark has an unpleasant expression.
    Helia continues, "It's one thing for him tinker with the engines, but I wouldn't let him near the weapons.  And by the way... if you scan the debris, is there enough debris to measure anything?  The thing imploded, how much debris is there?"  There's not a lot.  Small bow and stern sections were blown out into the system, but of the midships section there's nothing at all remaining.  "I tell you what," she continues, "If you promise me that no-one else runs the weapons, I'll see if I can get the Third Eye to disappear as completely as possible."
    Misha says, "No, I want the Third Eye to go down by conventional weapons.  I want it to look like the other ship did it."
    "But they won't find any bodies."
    "That's too bad.  We aren't going to be able to do this perfectly."
    Helia nods.  She then asks Shark about his two-week bad trip.  "How bad was it, and what happened?"
    Shark explains, "My view of the universe contains that which... is not nice."
    "So does that mean I shouldn't take any more?"
    "Now that I've said that, probably not."
    Helia thanks him, and leaves him to rest under the care of the Grand Admiral.

    Robert Morris wants to wipe the Third Eye's logs before abandoning the ship.  He manages to access the ship's computers through sparkly pink mode and do everything from here on the black ship.
    Mich and Helia decide that the best way to dispose of the Third Eye is to set up the missiles so they will explode, as if a laser hit caused a secondary internal explosion.  Teri, the crew's demolition expert, rigs up the missiles where Mich indicates.
    His assignments complete, Mich finally reports to Sick Bay to get his injuries treated.
    Helia drops into sparkly pink mode, backs the black ship out to a safe range, and tags the Third Eye with a laser.
    The Marquis Marcus Crestworthy's ship blossoms with a large explosion in the missile bay.
    At Helia's request, Robert puts on some mournful music.
    They leave the area, keeping a watch out to see if any ships come to investigate.

    Out near the Oort cloud , six hours later, Misha calls a meeting of all personnel in the solarium.  Shark is issued a gravchair and attends the meeting in person.  There has still been no sign that indicates anyone else in the system noticed their activities.
    Misha opens, "It appears that Imperial Intelligence has blown up our ship, which is unfortunate because it wasn't really our ship.  So, if I had my way, I'd find a way to extract enough money to buy a new ship out of military intelligence."
    Shark says, "Well, given that you took out a military ship with no problem, we can just go take a couple of them out and sell the hardware on the black market."
    Mich says, "You mean we become a pirate, just like the other..."
    "A selective pirate -- a privateer."
    Misha laughs, "We declare our own little war, issue ourselves a letter of marque..."
    Shark continues, "It is entirely likely, and probable, that there are factions within military intelligence, and not all of military intelligence is aware.  You can run for a period of time, but when you're working with an octopus that covers the entire known space..."
    Misha asks, "Is there any way for us to track down the faction?  I mean, could we find the people who gave us the box originally?"
    "Possibly we can find them.  But would he know why he was told to kill us?"  Shark pauses for effect.  "We could start tracing back the chain of orders.  After some number of intermediaries we would probably lose the trail.  But we can try that.  The name he was using at the time was Artie Burca, he was on the mainworld, we can tap into their communication systems."
    Mich adds, "That's safer than pirating other ships."
    "That's true.  Physically safer.  We can sell information."
    Robert is all for selling information.
    Helia says, "Let's go visit Helia and the Professor.  It's the one place in known space that we might be able to go.  For one thing we can get into the main information networks.  They may not know that we were there, and that she's there and he's there.  Or they may not be able to do anything about it.  The Professor just seems to be outside of the realm of... touchable."
    Shark says, "He's only untouchable because he's useful."
    "If we sneak in and at least talk to them, then we can at least get information from the regular network."
    Mich says, "Parts of Digitis are much closer technology-wise to this ship."
    Shark agrees, "I wouldn't mind going back to the place with the trees, the living domes."
    "Then there's also the place where you got the zacks."
    Helia says, "I'd like to talk to Helia."
    Robert adds, "The more people we interact with, the more danger we're in.  We're safer on the ship."
    Misha says, "OK, this is what I want to do.  I want to just lay low here.  How much food do we have?  How long can we last?"
    Vonish says they have enough food from the Third Eye to last them a couple of months.  That's without going into the original supplies on this ship.
    Misha continues, "Let's tap into the information networks we can get into, whether that be ships, or planets, or space stations.  Let's lay low and try to figure out as much as we can.  When we get either totally out of our minds or run out of food, we'll start heading for one of the three suggested locations."

    Helia flies the black ship into the system in sparkly pink mode.  Robert works the sensors from the console, watching for anyone who might notice them.
    They are trying not to be seen.  So far there's no sign of anything out of the ordinary.

123-1121 : Ferle / Lirian / Foreven

    Robert ties into the regular communications channel and looks for any news.  There is a new Yonder Veterans Network news item, dated 090-1121 .  It reports the loss of the Third Eye over a month ago.  Clearly they expected the sabotage to kill them, and when they didn't show up, assumed it had worked.  It is a little surprising that they didn't send anyone to check that the sabotage worked.
    Shark points out that the Marquis will eventually hear that they're dead, but they can beat the message back, except that it's right into the heart of Imperial space.
    It's now been at least twelve hours since the Imperial Navy ship would have been missing.  On the other hand, unless anyone was actually observing the battle, no-one is likely to have noticed it.  And if the destroyer was on patrol, it will be even longer before it is missed.
    Shark wonders if the spaceport keeps arrival and departure records.  Robert says the public records indicate traders coming in and out, scheduled mail services, nothing unusual.  The Third Eye's arrival and departure is recorded.  They left here on 051-1121.  The Imperial destroyer is not in the records, but then this is just civilian ships.  They'd have to hook into a System Navy base to hack into military records.

    They're now getting into the range where they're seeing some interplanetary traffic.  Helia keeps them up above the solar plane and out of the traffic lanes.  They don't know any way to change the exterior appearance of the ship at this point.  It's ultra-black, of course, just with a blue glow from the  rear of the maneuver drive pods.
    Helia, in sparkly pink mode, wants to be unnoticeable.
    Mich notices power consumption suddenly increase.  It's going to some portion of the unidentified system components in the ship.  It's comparable power with running the ship at a couple of g's.  He calls to the bridge and tells them about it.  "Anybody make any changes?"
    Helia says, "Stealth mode."
    Misha asks, "What is stealth mode?"  Nothing changed on his command display.
    "I told it that we wanted to be as hard to see as possible.  Stealth mode."

    There are many military bases in this system.  They pick the closest ones to their path, around the gas giant P5.  Of the four moons, one has a research station, two have military bases, and the fourth is uninhabited.  The innermost moon and the research station are very small; the other two have some sort of atmosphere.  Robert suggests they get close to the research station, so they can perhaps use it as a relay.  At the very least, if the military try to trace the source, it will be in the area of the research station.
    There are several military ships in this area.  They are all fairly low tech ships in the 1000 - 2000 ton range.  Three are around the outer military station, with two around the inner one.  All are in parking orbits.  There are no ships around the research station.  The science base is transmitting a data stream; Robert taps into it and finds that it's routine traffic -- research data from some sort of autonomous research vehicle in the gas giant atmosphere.  The data is processed by the station and sent out to the mainworld; there's also personal communications, and administrative stuff.
    Robert slips into sparkly pink mode and taps into one of the orbiting military ships.  A little more work, and he has the encryption figured out -- it's pretty simple.  He checks the ship's logs.  This is what passes for a warship here, on standby for anti-piracy, to render assistance, or defend the system.  There is a record of expected flight plans, including whereabouts and movements of all System Navy ships.  The Imperial destroyer is mentioned -- it was escorted into the system 64 days ago, on 059-1121.  It was escorted to the mainworld as a foreign friendly warship.  There is no further information on its movements, including nothing about it leaving the mainworld.
    Robert tells Misha and Shark what he's discovered so far.  He could try to get more from the military base, but he says there's unlikely to be anything else here -- more would be available at the mainworld.  He tries it anyway -- bouncing from the warship down to the base on the planet.  Although he's not totally familiar with the system, it does seem to be using encryption derived from Imperial technology.  It's not too tricky to get in.
    There is more here.  After being escorted to the mainworld, the destroyer was assigned status of friendly, and permitted full movement.  "It could do whatever the hell it wants to," mutters Robert.  The order to issue it that status came from the civilian government to the navy.  Looks like they'll have to go to the mainworld.
    No other Imperial traffic has been recorded, and there are no standing orders to be on the watch out for anything in particular.
    Robert backs out of the computers.
    Helia puts them on course for the mainworld.

    Shark hears that Helia maintained a vigil over him, telling him fairy stories and so on.  "You wouldn't have told me stories about shadow, would you?" he asks her.
    "No," she says, "I told you happy stories.  And I talked to you about the places we were, and what I thought about some of them."
    Shark sighs, "OK."
    "I just figured the more we talked to you the more likely you were to come back."
    Shark still looks worried.  He resolves to read the ship's log to catch up on what he's missed.