(31) Back to Digitis

The Misha Campaign (175-1121 to 181-1121)

175-1121 : Caloran / Vilis / Spinward Marches

    The Nightshade approaches the jump point for Digitis .  Helia Sarina slips them into jump, then drops out of sparkly pink mode.

    It's time to show the new crew member around the ship.  Helia and Mich Saginaw take Kalida Siena on a tour of the entire ship.  It is clear now that the ship has no fuel on board, except for a small tank in the attic to power the Imperial equipment stowed there.  Mich even admits he doesn't know how the power cube works, just how to start it.  Still, Kalida gets the grand tour, and aside from areas behind maintenance panels she sees everything there is to see.
    Vonish Kehnaan was certainly right when he said this was the best food she'd have on board ship.  He's a very fine cook indeed.  Kalida is getting the distinct impression that "research vessel" doesn't describe the Nightshade as well as "private yacht," given all the luxuries.  She's seen nothing to indicate where the ship came from, or who built it, except that it's clearly set up for humans -- the low berths, the emergency low berths, the seats, everything is human-sized.  The registered port is Dulu / Scorpio / Foreven, although since this crew salvaged it, that doesn't really mean anything.  The excess of space is apparently just because the builders wanted it this way.  It's so much bigger inside than Imperial ships of this displacement, because of the lack of fuel and compact engineering equipment, that the interior is more comparable with a ship at least five times this size.
    The other thing Kalida notices is that there are no door controls, and no locks anywhere on the ship.  She plays with this for a bit, going into her room and then suddenly dashing back out again, trying to fool the doors.  They learn quickly.
    The computer access in her stateroom is unfamiliar in design, but works as she'd expect it to work.  All the usual resources are available in the computer system, but it's still rather strange.  Oddly enough, there is no information about the origin of this ship in the computer.  When she turns on her own personal computer, it hooks into the ship's systems as she'd expect.
    The whole ship has that "new ship" feel -- everything seems to be brand new.  The technology is certainly weird.  If that little cube powers the entire ship, it's well ahead of anything she knows about.  It doesn't look at all like Ancient technology -- for one thing, it doesn't look 300,000 years old.
    Everyone eats together in the lounge, as Vonish prepares the meal for them.  These are major social occasions for the entire crew.

    During jump they continue the battle simulations, one per day.  Kalida gets plenty of practice at the gunnery console, but doesn't have sparkly pink mode, whatever that is.  Misha Ravanos and Kalida are the only two on the bridge who don't have a sparkly pink aura around them during the simulations.
    Vonish goes back to practicing gravcraft operations, glad not to be pressured to be sparkly pink.  He also performs a very valuable duty in bringing the crew lunch.
    Kalida continues to get her practice with the lasers and missiles, eventually getting her smallest salvo down to about 20 missiles.  The rest of the crew continues to be impressed with her performance.  On her part, she is still astonished that they continue to use 20 g acceleration in the simulations -- anything over 6g would surely need a g-tank.  It takes her a while to adapt to the rapidity of the Nightshade in terms of targeting, but she does get up to speed quickly.  There's still no sign of any defensive weapons systems such as sandcasters or shields; the ship does take "hits" during the simulation, but they are apparently ignored.  Helia can break sensor locks, at least.
    Kalida actually asks whether the ship has been hit by lasers in real life.  Helia and Robert both indicate it has.  As to what effect they had, Helia says, "Nothing," and Robert says, "Not much."  Helia adds that the thing that causes the bubble in the water pushes the lasers away -- it's either that or the material of the hull.  It just works.
    She also notices that a lot of the simulations are run with the transponder active, so the enemy ships can see where they are.  Kalida did notice the ship was military black, but it does seem a bit overkill to announce their presence to the enemy.
    Robert continues to work on his "new weapon" -- the ability to take over and shut down opposing force ships.  There are of course physical interlocks on Imperial military ships -- he can't blow them up like Mich tells him happened to the Sir Walter Raleigh all those years ago.
    After the first simulation, Kalida asks what the pink effect is.
    Helia replies, "Sparkly pink mode.  Think of it as communing with the ship.  Talking directly with the ship?"
    "And telling it to do...?" prompts Kalida.
    "Instead of pushing buttons or something, you tell it what to do.  And it does.  Do you want to try it?  Vonish can't do it, it doesn't agree with him.  We tried it, him piloting, me gunnery.  Yeah, you just have to want to try it.  What do you think, Misha?  Think she's ready?"
    Before Misha can reply, Robert says knowingly, "She's ready for everything?"
    Helia's face falls.  "Oh.  That's true.  Let's get to Digitis and try it after that.  Maybe you should get used to being on the ship and everything first."
    Kalida agrees.  Things are strange enough on this ship already without communing with it.
    Helia smiles to herself, "I can't believe we're going there.  It's cool."

    Mich spends a lot of his spare time working out how to integrate his jumpspace vortex generator system into the Nightshade 's dynamic grid.  He's not getting very far yet...

    Helia practices with her zack, and hangs around in her hammock.  She's added a rope from the hammock to the floor of the bridge, so she can use it to get in and out.
    She also asks Vonish to teach her to cook.  The chef is pretty busy, with lots of cookbooks to go through, but he's glad to help the larian learn the basics.  Helia says they don't cook much where she comes from.

    Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead tries to draw Kalida into a conversation about fashion and so on, and is delighted to find that she's knowledgeable and a good conversationalist.  The old GrandAm is so pleased to have someone to talk with about civilized matters.  Kalida's gossip from Rhylanor is a little out of date, of course, but nowhere near as out of date as the his last news.
    Helia tells Kalida about the library on board, when she hears that the new crew member enjoys reading.  There's certainly quite a collection of local history and other books on board.

181-1121  Digitis / VilisSpinward Marches

    After six days in jump, the Nightshade arrives in the system of Digitis .  They're running the transponder, saying they're from Dulu / Scorpio / Foreven -- there's no reason to be in stealth mode here.
    Kalida has read the local information they have on board about the planet they're visiting.  There's quite a lot of stuff that was apparently picked up on the last visit here.  She's a little surprised that the crew said the jump would be exactly six days, but everything on this ship is so surreal anyway...
    Nevertheless, Helia explains why jumps always take six days.  Her explanation suffers a little from the level of jumpspace maths of the audience, and Helia's quick happy delivery.  She explains why the computer sometimes gets it wrong, and how it is so much quicker and more accurate to do the jump calculations in your head.  Mich adds that some of the slack in the computer's calculations is due to tolerances in the jump drive, and a well-tuned ship will let the astrogator calculate more accurately.
    As they expected, there's navigational beacons and the usual starport transmissions.  They are apparently the only ship in the system -- at least, the only one with a transponder.  Robert finds no data beams are being transmitted in the native language of the ship.
    Helia takes them in to the mainworld.  The ship has already talked to traffic control, and advises her on the approach procedures.  Her approach is done at a quick but not outrageous rate. 

    Landing here is only permitted at the city of Down Port.  They're familiar with the restrictive approach procedure, having been here before.  Helia brings the Nightshade carefully and politely down through the atmosphere, and into a gentle water landing in the harbor.  She moves slowly over to the pier by the customs house, settles it into the water, and locks the ship relative to the dock.
    As last time, the approach gave them a beautiful view of the ocean.  Helia brought them over one of the shipping lanes, which she knows they prefer here, and so the crew could watch the view as the ship approached the harbor.  Clearly it's set up for sea traffic rather than starships.

    The customs house is a red and white building where the pier meets the shore.  Everyone is expecting the ship to be met with an official carrying paperwork, but that isn't the case yet.
    It's a beautiful sunny day.  The crew waits and relaxes while waiting for a bureaucrat to approach the ship.
    It's been a good while, so Misha sends the paperwork expert, Vonish, to the customs house to handle the procedures.
    Vonish and Helia go out the starboard ramp behind the bridge, and walk along the pier to the customs building.

    The reception they get is very different from last time.  Apparently the Nightshade's "administrative assistant" has already filled in all the required information in the local language, completely to their satisfaction.  "Everything's in order.  Your captain has an appointment here at 8 am tomorrow to discuss your plans while you're here.  Here's your docking assignment.  I am informed you already have charts, so you can find your berth.  Thank you very much, and please send your captain -- in person of course -- tomorrow morning at 8."
    Vonish is speechless at the ease of entry, leaving it to Helia to thank the customs officer.  They walk in stunned silence back to the ship.

    Helia walks onto the bridge.  "Robert, did you fill out any paperwork before we landed?  No?  Can you see if the ship filled out any paperwork with Digitis for us?"
    Robert tells her that the ship had a nice conversation with the customs officials, and dealt with all the necessary forms.  All part of the landing procedure.
    "I love this ship," smiles Helia.  She climbs up into her hammock.
    Vonish tells Misha he has an appointment tomorrow morning at 8, and they're to wait in their berth until then.
    Helia sails the ship slowly to the berth.  No doubt the locals are expecting them to physically tie the ship up to the mooring buoy, but Helia just locks the ship into position while floating naturally on the sea.