Also in jump, Kalida Siena approaches Misha for a private
(Referee and Kalida's and Misha's players only)
Mich Saginaw has a private conversation with Grand Admiral Baron
Bridgehead. Mich asks the Doc if he knew that the ship was sucking
the brains out of everyone. "The sparkly pink mode is sucking your
brains," he explains.
"No, it's not sucking," says Bridgehead, "It's responding to. There's no actual transfer of brain material. I'm a doctor, so I know."
"There was a staff meeting where they said there was a psychic component to sparkly pink mode."
"Yes. It's like it senses, it doesn't do anything active."
"So it's a good thing?"
"It's a good thing. If you look at the brain scans of people before and after they've done it... If you recall, back on the Anastasia, we could tell the difference between people who had been altered. The scans before and after sparkly pink mode are identical."
"So it doesn't hurt you."
"It does not hurt you," says Bridgehead emphatically.
Mich is less sure: "I dunno."
"Nobody's asking you to do it."
"But it is not hurting anyone."
"Well that's why it uses more power when it goes into sparkly pink mode. I knew there was a power drain..."
"Now if anyone starts acting strangely and you suspect them, we can pull them in and do a scan."
"The whole crew is acting strangely," says Mich.
Bridgehead nods and smiles sagely.
During jump, personal training continues. Shark works
on pistol, and also with Misha on zack skills. Shark is concerned that
they may run into danger on Mora
. Vonish Kehnaan continues to work on gravcraft
piloting. Kalida practices with the gunnery console; she manages to
get the minimum missile salvo down to about ten missiles.
Also, Robert has been working on ways to pick up news without revealing their location. He's also been working with Mich on a power system communication unit.
The Nightshade comes out of jump in stealth mode in the system
It's a busy system, a thorough test not just of stealth mode but also of Helia Sarina's ability to stay out of the way of ships that don't see them. Both the stealth and the pilot are apparently well up to the task.
All the ships in the system are apparently running transponders. No "stealth mode" objects show up on the sensors, although the range of those scans is fairly small.
As for picking up news, Shark says their ship can take light in one side and send it out the other -- can't they just put themselves in the way of a tightbeam? Alternatively they could use the remote sensor and laser capabilities to "take over" a tightbeam communicator.
Robert says it would be sufficient to get close to another ship, and send their own tightbeam from there. After all, the base station would never guess that there's two ships so close together when they can plainly see only one.
Helia flicks the Nightshade rapidly towards the most recently arrived passenger liner -- just come into system from Garda-Vilis -- all the while saying cheerfully, "Slowly I crept, inch by inch, step by step..."
Robert reaches out and touches a communications channel. He says they could also just take over the ship's communications system and use that, but the consensus is to try this method first.
It's very tricky. The catch is that they need to be about ten meters away to generate the laser signals. That means that Helia has to bring them real close to the ship. He tells her so.
"Are you loco?" asks Helia. "Why do we have to be ten meters away?"
"To keep the carrier locked so that the signals appear to be from the other ship, we have to be that close. If we're any further away I can't keep the data stream in place."
Helia shrugs and moves in. She says, "If ever they're going to detect us, this is about it. If we're interfering with their particle wake..."
Robert has picked up the news. He laughs and says it would be much easier the other way. He tells Helia she can move out now; she does so.
There are indeed new items on the TNS
are entries for 020-1121, 041, 042, 063, 084, and 103. A silence descends over the crew as they read.
Helia laughs that it was she who started the rumor that Akim Gavrolovitch wasn't really dead. Now it's taken a life of its own.
Their mission to Gorram has had other repercussions. The Red Zone is being enforced by a light cruiser and two destroyers, based on Capon (coincidentally where Akim was from). There's a mention in the news item of Red Zone violations -- while the Third Eye had a permit, it's certainly true that the hiver ship and Brandon Asu's ship didn't.
The Berlin has struck again, this time in Denotam on a small far trader carrying "specialty plant material." Shark guesses that is mushrooms from Digitis -- the trader they met in First City the first time was on the Denotam run. Some time after that, she apparently was involved in a battle with another pirate ship.
Shark says that the Berlin is clearly capable of two successive jump-2's. Helia wonders if it's a black ship, but just doesn't look like it. Shark says he's working on being able to do that with the Nightshade -- they've just had their ship longer, that's all.
On the basis of the news reports, Helia wants to visit Ianic . It's just been reclassified as Green Zone , and sounds very interesting to her.
Shark laughs, "Captain, can we screw them up?
We have a copy of the unpublished book on our computer, as well as the next
one he was working on!"
Helia points out that Akim's Army would not have burnt the publishing house. "That's it," she says, "Break out the computer. We've got to find the manuscript, and we have got to let it out. Akim would forgive us for not getting any money on it. Let's release it now."
"They won't believe it," says Shark, "They'll believe it's some ghostwriter."
"It doesn't matter! Even better if they think it's ghostwritten."
Kalida says, "They'd believe that even if the publisher published the one they have."
"See? Even the level-headed ex-Brigadier General agrees with me. Let's do it. We'll send it to a couple of newsgroups, and every newspaper we can think of."
Shark says, "As former crewmates of Akim Gavrolovitch on his last ship, we are publishing this in his memory. All proceeds are to be donated to charity in his name."
Misha says, "Helia, aren't you the one who started the rumor he's still alive? So you have to publish it like he is."
Shark suggests an anagram of his name, in a different publishing house.
"Better yet," says Helia, "We follow it up with denials that it can be true, using an anagram of his name."
"We'll' think about it. We're on our way to Mora . What better place to publish it?"
Helia says they should drop it off everywhere on their way... but as she then points out, it would track where they went. She does say that they should drop off a copy here -- Akim would like that. Then they can find names in Akim's computer records for likely members of Akim's Army.
Robert suggests putting it on a data crystal, and physically having it sent to Akim's Army headquarters; also sending it out to some other publishing houses.
Helia says, "He probably used the one publisher for a reason. Perhaps we should send it back to them. Except they'll get bombed again. Let's look at his records -- his correspondence and stuff -- and see who there is."
Suddenly Shark points out that the Marquis can publish it in public, and he can honestly say he was a friend of Akim. He can deny whether it was a recent request or not -- he can say something like he's doing a favor for an old friend, and can't say anything about the date of the request. "An old friend," not "a deceased old friend." And all proceeds should be deposited in a numbered account in such-and-such a system. Seriously, though, he says they should let the Marquis do it, and wait until they get to Mora .
Misha says, "What if Akim's Army is really the government, who burned the thing down and blamed it on a group that wanted the book published."
Shark says, "Yeah, the Arden government, perhaps. Or maybe the government burned down the house trying to destroy the book, and blamed a real group which was protesting."
Helia says, "Of course, you know, if he was really still alive, it's the kind of thing he would have done. Burned down the publishers. So maybe Akim is really still alive, even though we saw his body."
Mich idly mutters that maybe Bridgehead could build a new Akim. He's probably got DNA samples, but not brain scans. He grew a new Jill, after all.
The next matter is to decide on a route. Robert suggests going to Arkadia , since that was where the pirate was last seen (and Bridgehead points out it was the real Robin Sherwood's birthplace). Helia, however, picks out a good route through to Mora -- since it was quite some time since the last news report, anywhere in the Berlin 's recent stomping grounds should be as good as any other, and Ficant fits that profile while being very much on their way. All agree.
The Nightshade jumps for Ficant .
While they're in jump, Kalida starts reading the
Arden Gambit, Akim's unpublished book. She says she's read all
his other books and found them entertaining.
Robert and Mich working together have figured out a simple power cube communicator -- it uses power responding to a photocell, so they can rig up any Imperial equipment with an LED to trigger it.
Everyone else works on their usual training, study, and research. They also continue the daily battle drills.
The Nightshade comes out of jump in the Ficant system. It is really quiet here -- there are apparently no other ships in system.
Kalida has finished reading The Arden Gambit . It's typical Gavrolovitch fare; a private investigator, looking into a local murder on the Imperial border, traces it back into the Federation of Arden. The further he gets into it, the deeper the conspiracy levels get, until he gets far enough to find that at the heart of the Arden Federation -- the Arden Society -- is a secret cabal of people who have higher technology. This cabal has a whole complete other armed forces sitting around in bases in deep space to back up the Arden military if needed. Anything who finds out anything about it is hunted down -- that's what the original murder was all about. The victim hadn't found out about it, but had stumbled onto something that could have lead him onto a trail, and even that was enough to get him killed. In the end, the hero gets killed too, right after he finds out the secret. It's a good book -- Akim's style and technique have improved with each book, and this one is perhaps his best. It's involving and gripping, definitely a good read.
Mich runs a quick diagnostic on the drives, then Helia pops the ship into jump for Arba .
The Nightshade arrives out of jump. Arba
is a cold world, with just 600 inhabitants (not including starport
of course). The system has two categories of worlds -- too cold, and
too hot. The mainworld is merely "cool," with an average temperature
of -25 degrees.
There is one ship in system, landed at the starport. It's a far trader. There are apparently no ships in stealth mode.
They jump immediately for Capon / Lunion .
They come out of jump, right on time at six days. There
are a good number of ships here, especially as there is an Imperial Naval
Robert hooks into the Naval base, by relaying through a network of ships. It's a formidable effort, but he has no problem doing that. Helia has brought the Nightshade near enough to a subsidized merchant for Robert to hack into it.
There is no news from the border -- they're travelling further away from any originating there -- but there is an item from further in the Marches . The starport on Pimane has re-opened; the system has been reclassified as a Green Zone, and the starport (being run by Imperiallines, LIC ) upgraded to class C.
The most recent information about the Imperial Navy is the three ships that have been moved in to guard Gorram . They're operating in concert; occasionally the light cruiser will take some time off, while the two destroyers are on station, but usually it's the cruiser on station with one destroyer, while the other destroyer remains here at the naval base -- the destroyers provide courier capability if required. All three ships remain on full alert at all times. The two destroyers are run by Imperial Navy Intelligence. The INI procedures are that any ships in the Red Zone are to be arrested immediately, the crew taken into custody and transferred to Capon for questioning, while the ship remains at Gorram . The cruiser is regular Imperial Navy, to provide the muscle, while the INI destroyers run the operation.
Base security here has been raised because of the local terrorism, but other than that it's pretty quiet. They have implemented the new encryption scheme that Robert picked up some time ago, but there's no new updates planned.
Robert then digs into the highly secure systems to look for anything on them, or the Third Eye. Their former ship is noted, because it's the private vessel of a noble -- Marquis Marcus Crestworthy, University of Mora, etc..
That's all they need to find out here. The Nightshade jumps for Maitz / Mora .
The ship arrives out of jump. There are ships everywhere in this system. Shark looks for ships that aren't using their transponder, or which are in stealth mode. He finds none; neither does Robert.
They've now been stuck on the ship for a month, with
no prospect of leaving the ship until Mora
. Of course the staterooms
are large, and there's the garden and lounge to hang out in, but it would
still be good to get off the ship. The bridge has sprouted quite a
number of Helia-sized hammocks at various heights.
Helia slips them into jump for Mora