(42) The Reindog Returns

The Misha Campaign (242-1121 to 243-1121)

242-1121 : Pimane / Mora / Spinward Marches

    The Nightshade comes out of jump from Mora , on the way to Wonstar via Spirelle .

    During jump, the crew has been busy.  Robert Morris has finished several of the fake ID's, but has not yet had time to analyze anything from Count Walter von Hayden's database.

    Mich Saginaw had visited the sick bay for a brain scan from Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead -- his intention was to try sparkly pink mode, and return for another brain scan for comparison.  He then proceeded to engineering, sat down at his console without his hat and, as he had been told, thinks about Engineering.  He slips into sparkly pink mode.
    Mich is the ship -- and he feels good.  He could feel jumpspace flowing past him, the jump grid around him, and everything feels good.  He then started focussing on individual systems.  There's a lot to absorb, and the more he looked into detail, the more his head spun.  He dropped out of sparkly pink mode, feeling rather dizzy, and immediately goes back to sick bay.
    In sick bay, the Doc showed him that the before and after brain scans match.  Mich told him that sparkly pink could be useful to pick up general information about the ship.  This time, at least, it did him no harm.  Mich put his hat back on and returned to his duties.

    Pimane has changed since they were last here.  The Oz is no longer in far system orbit, the inhabitants having been relocated to the city of New Hope on the mainworld.
    The crew decide they want to take a look around in the system.  Robert, though, most emphatically does not want to leave the ship.
    Ed "Shark" Teeth's system scans are inconclusive as to any military presence in this system.  He suggests they could return to the trench, and not only look for anything left over from the Anastasia, but put the dog out for at least a walk.
    The Baron is very much in favor of returning the reindog to its natural habitat.  Permanently.
    The navigation beacons include a promotional message to visit the new city and class C starport , "brought to you by Imperiallines ."
    The library data about the corporation simply states that it's an interstellar shipping corporation serving worlds off the main trade routes of the Spinward Marches , serving most class C starports in the sector .
    Robert has in the past, however, come across rather more interesting information about Imperiallines.  He says, "It's really wholly owned by the Imperial family through a devious line of shareholders.  It's actual purpose is to provide covert courier and transport services to the Imperial government.  They use Jump-2 and Jump-6 ships that look the same."
    Shark says, "They're the people who are going to find out about us being alive first.  Guaranteed they also work outside the Imperium."  He smiles, "I bet they have really ugly dirty-looking free traders, with crisp clean engines."
    Robert says that they're probably better off not announcing their presence here.
    Shark agrees.  "The Imperial family built this, because they got the ship.  Of course, they had to make it look like they didn't get the ship."
    "Antimatter bombs are not typical Imperial technology.  But still, if they nuked the area, we'd understand where they got the nukes.  They used antimatter bombs, and we don't know where they got them.  While the Anastasia itself created antimatter, it never accumulated in an amount to make a bomb."
    Misha Ravanos asks, "So, they built the new city to cover up the fact that they blew up the old city?"
    Shark and Robert nod.
    "How does building a city cover up the antimatter?"
    Shark replies, "Because they destroyed all the evidence.  We looked at the blast site to find it was antimatter.  Now that the site is cleaned up and a city built on it, the evidence is gone."

    Now that they're out of jump, the power drain signaller is still not working.
    As Shark points out, "That does mean that the spot the station was transmitting to was reached without jump.  It doesn't mean it was close, just that it never went through jump to get there.  It also means we can't leave the ship's boat and jump out, because it will just die in space.  Maybe we should go back to Mora sometime and see if we can pick up the penlight."
    Robert points out that it might mean that the Marquis' PDA has been destroyed while they were in jump.
    Or, Shark says, twenty years from now the signal from the penlight will get here.  They never did any real time measurements.

    So what else might they want to do while they're here?
    Bridgehead immediately says drop off the dog.  This is met by varying cries of derision.
    Shark does point out that there are good reasons for investigating the Anastasia crash site.  Now they have a ship with good sensors, they can search for anything left from the ship, or any remaining bodies.

    Helia Sarina takes them in to the mainworld.  The new dome is indeed brand spanking new.  Gone is the old concrete pad, replaced by new landing facilities with enclosed berths, and so on.  It's a simple matter for the larian to fly them over to the canyon and dive into it, heading for the lake which was the resting place of the Anastasia.
    Neither Shark nor Robert detect anything artificial on the way to the lake.  Mich doesn't either, but once they reach the site, he picks up some objects -- an air/raft , and a couple of other objects at the campsite including a small grav crane/hauler, but nothing else.
    Helia brings the Nightshade to a halt over the lake.  At Shark's suggestion, she moves the ship closer to the shore and to the water, and parks it.  She extends the ramp from the airlock corridor to the shore.

    The air is thin but breathable.  Shark puts on his zack with the faceplate down, while Mich takes a respirator.  Bridgehead tells them to take the dog, and Shark replies that they'll let him out, but if he wants to come back he'll be very welcome aboard.
    It's been a while since the crew could relax ashore.  Helia takes advantage of this too (also with her zack and faceplate), while Teri Cralla stands guard in full heavy gear.  The bassalope sniffs at the air of Pimane , then eagerly trots ashore.
    The air/raft is from the Anastasia; it is pretty heavily damaged.  Shark and Mich walk over to the crane.  It's a standard Imperial grav loader, with a small crane and pallet, and seems in perfect working order.  There are several crates nearby.
    The camp looks like it was occupied for some time.  There is litter consisting mostly of Imperial MRE packaging.  The crates also contain Imperial MRE's, and are unopened.  Either they were intending on a longer stay and abandoned it, or just couldn't be bothered to take everything.
    While they're looking at the crates, the bassalope wanders off into the bushes.
    At Mich's suggestion, they retract the ship's gangway to make it invisible again.  They then return to examining the campsite.  Shark tells the others that it looks like everyone here packed up and left at the same time.  He's puzzled as to why the crane was abandoned, but not sufficiently puzzled to take it with him to examine.  There's nothing else of interest here -- nothing at the bottom of the lake, for example, but then anything that was going to fall off probably did so during the descent.
    As for taking anything on board, Mich wants a case of MRE's.  As an ex-Navy engineer, they are doubtless what he considers a palatable snack.  Teri carries it aboard for him, and puts it in his quarters.
    They return to the ship.  The ramp extends towards them, and they walk up.  Just before Shark gets to the end of the ramp, he throws a pebble at the ship.  It vanishes behind the stealth barrier, and soon re-appears splashing into the water below.

    It's time to leave for Spirelle to recover Mich's invested millions .  The bassalope is no longer in sight.  Misha walks down the ramp to call him, but he does not respond.  Helia goes down to call him too, but he does not come.  They leave him on his homeworld, as Helia takes the ship out of the canyon and out towards a jump point.

    As they head out, they notice a ship leaving the starport.  It is a regular 400 std Subsidized Merchant, plodding its steady course towards jump.  They're in communication with the starport, but not transmitting otherwise.
    Shark thinks they must be Imperial spies, and it might be worth hacking their systems.  On the other hand, if they detected that they were hacked, they would then know someone had been here.
    Helia brings the Nightshade within "Robert range" of the trader.  Robert hacks into their systems.
    The ship is the Paladin, independently owned and operated, on its subsidized route to Tivid , carrying eight passengers and some mail.  Robert grabs their passenger manifest.  The passengers are all Imperial citizens, none of whom have Tivid as their final destination.  None of them seem to be of special interest.  One is a TAS member on a High Passage.
    They'll need to get a good distance away from the Paladin before they jump, or their flash would be very obvious to the Imperial ship.  Helia hurtles them away to a more distant jump point.

243-1121 : Pimane / Mora / Spinward Marches

    The Nightshade jumps for Spirelle .

    Mich goes into sparkly pink mode for the jump transition.  It's a very strange experience.  It's a very gut-wrenching experience -- literally, as he throws up all over the engineering consoles.  Obviously he'll need to prepare before doing this again.  In the meantime, he has a lot of cleaning to do...  As soon as he's cleaned up and showered, he reports to Sick Bay for another brain scan.  Bridgehead tells him that once again, his scan is clear of external influence.

    During jump, work continues for Robert on the fake ID's.  He passes them by Shark to check them, and is very surprised when he points out a problem with Helia's.  Robert can't imagine how he missed such an error, but is glad to have caught it now rather than have their pilot arrested.  Robert completes the ID's, and moves on to analysis of the data.  It looks like it will take him about a week to get anything out of it -- it's in a very obfuscated form.
    The rest of the crew continue with their usual exercises.