(Referee and Jaek's player only)
(Referee and Kalida's and Helia's players only)
(Referee and Kalida's player only)
At 12:00 the Nightshade arrives at the gas
giant. Helia starts having fun, diving the ship into the atmosphere
and swooping it around in what could only be described as a dance. She
will continue to pretend to refuel for six hours, then they'll head out to
Robert has had further treatment from the Doc. Now he's pronounced fit enough for normal duties, and can move around very easily.
When there were stars outside, it was rather fun for
Jaek to watch out of the lounge window. Now that they're diving into
a gas giant, it's rather disturbing. Vonish Kehnaan looks up as the flight
officer shouts, "Shut the window! Close the damn window!" The
window remains transparent. Jaek kicks the wall, and runs out of the
lounge to his stateroom -- this is just too weird for him.
In the stateroom, the door closes behind him. He looks at the window in shock -- another damn transparent entire wall -- and after about ten seconds the wall opaques for him even though he has apparently done nothing to cause it. Surprised but relieved, he settles down to relax while Helia finishes her gas giant dance.
Shark invites everyone up to the bridge to watch as
Helia swoops the ship through the gas giant. Jaek declines the invitation,
but Bridgehead and Callisto come forward to enjoy the spectacular scene.
Helia does a lot of fast strange maneuvers just to try to freak out
the Baron -- she is only partly successful.
With Callisto on the bridge now, Shark asks her to run some scans of the gas giant. She does so -- she's at the very least competent at sensor ops. To test her full abilities will require more challenging tasks.
At 18:00, with six hours of fake refueling complete, Helia swings the Nightshade out towards a jump point. Their ultimate destination is, of course, Wonstar
, but it will take three jumps to get there. Shark wants to stay off
until they get to the end of the journey, and so Helia suggests
for their next stop. Misha agrees, and so orders. They're still
proceeding at a sedate 5.5g, and so it'll take about 8 hours before they
As the ship clears the gas giant atmosphere, the wall in Jaek's stateroom turns clear again.
At 02:00, the Nightshade slips into jump for Caliburn .
Outside Jaek's stateroom, the view of jumpspace is unusual. The grey blob is about a meter away from the ship, and he can see the glowing lines of a grid holding jumpspace away. The grid lines move, connect, and reconnect, in step with some strange flux in the jumpspace beyond.
Mich starts practicing with sparkly pink mode. After
his last bad experience with jump transition, he can only stand about fifteen
minutes without getting nauseous. The feeling of jumpspace around him is sort of creepy, but
he can handle it for short periods. After he's done, his routine brain
scan shows unchanged status. He continues to try this once a day to
acclimatize himself to it -- he's sure it will help greatly with his jump
Shark continues with his zack workouts, practicing martial arts moves with Misha. Helia works out with them from time to time. Shark also has a pet project of his own he works on in his stateroom.
Kalida joins in the fight training, sparring with her cutlass against Misha's sword.
Robert continues analyzing the database he collected on Mora.
Shark asks Jaek to help him carbon date the wood sample he collected on his hike.
Jaek has finished dating the wood sample. The
equipment was totally unfamiliar, but it didn't take him too long to figure
out how it works. His estimate is that the sample is around 800 years
old, plus or minus a hundred years.
That answer satisfies Shark, and confirms his suspicion that something weird was going on in that building. There were no signs of rotting or insect damage to the wood, and yet it's been exposed for over 700 years. The wood looks normal, like it was maybe five years old -- recently cut and cured, not hundreds of years old. This is in a building that's been cut out of the rock of the mountain.
Shark then has a question for Robert: "If you were going
to build a box that was going to beacon back to say, 'Hey, another ship has
come by," and you were running on black ship technology, would you actually
transmit any sort of signal, or would you just interrupt your power pull
back to your mother ship that's powering it?"
Robert says, "From what we see here, you just interrupt the power."
"So why would someone build a box that actually broadcasted in a broad spectrum BEEP!?"
"Because the people who were interested in the information didn't have the same technology level?"
"That's a possibility."
Jaek says, "It's wood, for god's sakes!"
"So the floor was put down at least seven hundred years ago. In the building, where the box was under it -- you know, Mich. From the physical age, I'd say that this wasn't cut more than five years ago. And I couldn't tell how old the lantern was. Less than fifty years, since it was still burning."
Later in the day, Mich brings some of Fostriades'
papers on gravitics for Jaek to look over. Jaek doesn't understand
them, which is unsurprising and doesn't reflect badly on his abilities --
Fostriades' level was way beyond what could be expected to be reached in
the field. It's sufficiently advanced that even Jaek knows it doesn't
reflect badly on him.
For the past several days, Helia and Mich have been
working together to build a climbing wall in the solarium. The work
is complete today. The larian is eager to try it out, and scrambles
up rapidly. Several of the rest of the crew are at the grand opening
-- including Jaek who also starts climbing up, presumably to attempt to demonstrate
that he doesn't have a simple fear of heights.
Helia reaches the top, then calls out, "Hey! I'm up here! How the heck am I supposed to get down?" She has deliberately waited until Jaek is about a meter off the ground.
"You climb," says Jaek.
"Oh, that's too hard!" says Helia. She jumps spread-eagled from the top of the bulkhead, way above Jaek.
Jaek buries his face in the wall, tensing for the expected thud as the girl hits the ground.
The thud never comes.
"Not again," says Shark.
Jaek slowly eases his way back to the ground, and slowly looks around.
Helia is not on the ground. In fact, she's still in the air, flying on gossamer wings with an enormous grin plastered across her face. Now she looks more like a meter high tinkerbell than she does barbie.
"That would explain the backpack," observes Jaek to himself. "She had it with her all the time, and never took anything out of it, never put anything into it."
Helia lands next to him.
"This crew gets stranger and stranger," says Jaek.
"Why?" asks Helia. "What's so strange?"
"Because you're different. I've been a lot of places, I've seen a lot of things."
"You've never seen anybody fly?"
"I've not seen anyone with wings."
"Anybody can get wings."
"But it appears that those... come with the model."
"Attached? Well, it's easier if they come that way."
Shark says, "They're not aftermarket with her sister either. She generally doesn't pull them out in public -- she only shows them to people she trusts. Or to mess with their heads."
"She's not my sister. She's Helia. I'm Helia and she's Helia. I keep telling you, she's not my sister and she's not my twin. And she's not a clone. Neither of us is a clone."
Jaek's natural scout curiosity kicks in. He'll just talk to her and figure this all out. He asks where she's from.
"Home," replies Helia.
Shark smiles, helpfully, "Where the other Helia's from."
"That's true. Well... she's from the same planet. She's from nearby, actually. We grew up together. More or less."
"They went to math school together. Only Helia's better than Helia."
"No, that's not true. Helia's different from Helia. It's just that we each had specific strengths. It's not that one of us was better. That's why we're not twins and we're not clones. That's how you know we're not. And we're not even siblings, I mean, obviously we have different strengths."
Shark grins and walks forward to resume his zack training.
Helia goes back to climbing on the wall; she'll practice zack with them later. Jaek engages her in conversation about paragliding, skiing, and scuba diving vs. flying -- he doesn't see the point of something being "like flying" when you can fly. Helia and Kalida try to convince him that the comparison is worth while. "Anyway," Helia concludes, "Buy a girl a beer?"
Back at the lounge, Jaek is surprised to find that the beer is actually very good. The Baron adds that it's quite nutritious, too. This beer was brought on board at Caloran , just the other side of the Federation of Arden in Vilis ; the even more nutritious beer from Goose has been finished for some time now.
Shark goes around the regular crew, telling them not to be surprised at dinner tomorrow.
Gravcraft simulation races resume today. Jaek shows his skill by blowing everyone away -- this guy can actually drive . Seeing the others at the simulation, he is not surprised that they crash regularly. Helia is not too bad, but the others pretty much suck. Jaek continues to push it -- he pulls more and more outrageous maneuvers, until finally he hits the wall while spiraling through the flight deck of a barrel-rolling carrier in a severe rainstorm with turbulent winds. Helia promises not to roll the Nightshade while he's trying to land in a rainstorm.
Shark is a little late for dinner that evening. He
calls from his stateroom, telling everyone he'll be down shortly.
After about ten minutes, Shark finally turns up. He announces, "All right, guys, now we can show our true selves."
Jaek and Callisto look around.
Shark looks very different. He's the same height and build, but it's clear he's not human. His head is squid-like, and has tentacles that are wiggling around. His four eyes now show clearly -- two on the sides, the other two frontally placed above and below the central mouth. The arms are plain tentacles, curling nicely at the end. The legs look fairly normal, but his feet splay out, flat and disc shaped.
Jaek has pushed his chair back and is looking very shocked.
Helia is delightedly yells, "Cthulhu!" then continues in a more normal voice, "And they said I was a legend! You're like, not going to suck our brains out? Why do they call you Shark, they should be calling you Squid?"
Jaek stares at the "true self" of his First Officer.
Shark turns to Misha. "Think this is enough, Cap?"
"Enough of what?" says Misha.
Helia adds, "No wonder Marquis Marc liked you."
Kalida says pleasantly, "Have some vegetable chips, they're really good."
"Actually I can't eat in this thing," says Shark, laughing, and pulls off his head mask. He pulls his arm tentacles off too.
Jaek shakes his head and sighs. Just until they reach the starlanes...
Helia is visibly disappointed. "Aw, that sucks. Is that tomorrow night's dinner, or is it just fake?"
Shark tells her it is indeed fake. "I just had to do it," he adds, "With this ship, and you people, I just had to do it."
The regular crew approve. Kalida says it's a very good look for him.
"What the hell was that?" asks Jaek.
"Fun?" says Shark, "At your expense, I apologize. And Callisto."
Helia reaches over and hands Jaek a 40 cc test tube saying, "Here, try a shot of this, it'll make you feel better."
The thick oily liquid smells of rotten fish.
The Baron says quickly, "If that's fish oil, don't drink it!"
Helia says innocently, "It's not fish oil, it's klatrin."
"Helia! You can't give that to him right before we come out of jump. He might need to fly."
Even Robert agrees, "No, not now."
Helia is not discouraged. She quickly hands Jaek something else. "Here, try this instead. It's a kamikaze. Wait! Wait!" She keeps pouring lime-containing drinks and handing them to him.
Jaek sighs, and knocks them all back at once.
"By the way," says the Baron, "I have an excellent hangover cure."
Jaek puts down the empty glasses and joins Mich in another beer.
The established crew prepares to come out of jump as if they know exactly when it'll happen. They're right. The Nightshade comes out of jump as expected at 02:00 at Caliburn . They're running in stealth mode with the transponder off.
They jump immediately for the empty hex of 0803 / Five Sisters
. That's the only way they'll be able to make it to Wonstar
in two jumps instead of three. It's the first time most of the crew have ever deliberately jumped for empty space -- the Anastasia
did it on a couple of occasions, so it's not new to Mich and the Baron.
Nevertheless, it's a more difficult calculation since there isn't a
gravity well at the end of it, and Mich runs extra diagnostics to be sure
everything will be running correctly.
While Mich finishes his diagnostics, the rest of the crew relax in the lounge. Over several drinks, Helia invites Jaek to come to the bridge to watch the jump transition. He accepts, and the two of them walk forward.
Helia sits down in her chair. She goes sparkly pink -- she's surrounded by a pink light with sparkles around her. After a few seconds, the ship goes into jump. Helia comes out of sparkly pink and steps down from the pilot's dais.
"That's it?" says Jaek incredulously. "When did you program it? I thought you were going to program this thing?"
Helia flies up to one of her hammocks. "It's already done," she calls down. She lands beside Jaek again, and hands him a pastry. "These are wonderful with beer, and they'll help with any hangover you might get. When did I what? Do the jump? Well I knew the numbers by the time we got here so I just went into sparkly pink, told the computer the numbers, and I was done."
"Back up. You knew the numbers. You didn't figure it out."
"I did. I figured it out before we left the lounge. It's just maths."
"So you're a savant."
"No, I'm not a savant. It's just math, it's not Calculations, it's very straightforward."
"I figure you're a savant. Another cultural anomaly."
"I'm no more of a savant or cultural anomaly than Mich is." They've been walking back to the lounge, and Helia's timed it so that she says it loudly just as they get back to the open area.
Shark casually mentions over breakfast that he's going
to drink some klatrin. Now that they're in jump, it won't be a problem
with him being out of it for three days.
"No!" says Bridgehead, "Remember the first time you had that stuff, you were out for about a week and almost died. Which is why you should never have any."
Jaek listens with evident interest.
"Not the second time," says Shark.
"You were lucky," says the Baron.
Helia adds, "I was fine, I took a nap."
"You fly, too," says Jaek.
"Maybe you'll be able to fly."
"I don't want to fly!"
Bridgehead continues, "It permanently changes your brain chemistry in ways I cannot predict."
"So does beer, but at least beer is over time."
"I can predict how beer changes things."
Helia says, "You don't know how it affects brain chemistry."
"No, but I do know it can be dangerous."
"You don't know that it's changed my brain chemistry."
"Yes I do. I haven't scanned you, admittedly, but I've seen it on other people." The Baron adds, "You act weird anyway. I've studied Robert and Shark very thoroughly, and with the latter I even have a pre-klatrin baseline. It causes irreversible brain changes. It is dangerous and can cause damage. Shark nearly died."
Jaek says, "We probably won't drink it then."
Shark and Robert say in unison, "It's good." Robert adds that he should drink it.
Jaek and Mich agree that beer is better.
Robert concedes that he'd like to have some more, but knows he should not have more than he needs.
Shark goes down to medical, drinks a shot of klatrin, and lies down on a bed. Bridgehead tells Misha that his First Officer is out; he adds that Misha should line up a replacement First Officer in case Shark doesn't make it one of these days -- preferably someone who doesn't drink fish oil.
Jaek checks out the gravcraft. The gcarrier
two open air/rafts
are indeed very new, and while they're in "as manufactured"
shape, there's always a few tweaks to adjust to get the best out of them.
The current crew have obviously not been paying much attention to them,
just driving the gcarrier rather than looking after it. At least the
air/rafts have not been used, but they get some tweaks too. LSP
's quality is very good, but there's always manufacturing tolerances.
Of course there's also the ship's boat, the launch. It is at least set up so everything's in galanglic , and the controls are now pretty much configured to Imperial standards. There's no power plant on board, just a couple of drives in the pods, but no-one on the Nightshade seems to think that's a problem. Just another weird thing about this whole situation.
(Referee and Robert's player only)
Now that Robert has analyzed the database, he needs to talk to the captain in private.The Captain has been in the lounge, discussing with the whole crew the matter of how to get out of this mess with the Imperium. A popular suggestion is to sell them back the information about who is the Department of Horticultural Fertilizer, if they're not Imperium, which will probably get them out if they contact the right people. Alternatively, contact or find out how to contact the people who built the black ship (in a friendly or non-friendly matter), and that information should then get them out of this trouble.
Shark comes around after the normal three days in a fish oil trance.
(Referee and Shark's player only)
"Did you have a good trip?" asks Robert.
"Yes, excellent," says Shark. "The realities of the universe are falling into place."
Robert explains to Jaek that klatrin expands your mind, and you're connected to everything. He then mentions idly that they should eradicate the script symbols that are printed on various things on the ship, in case anyone else comes on board. All the food stores, supplies, and missiles have the writing. All they need to do is stick labels in galanglic over them.
Vonish asks, "Are we going to let somebody on to examine it?" Of course, labeling everything in the galley and stores will make his life easier.
"Well, jeez!" says Robert, "We seem to let anyone on board who says 'We want to get off this planet.' Oh yeah, sure! Hitch a ride!"
"But we've always done that," laughs Bridgehead. "As long as they're the right sort of people. We never would have found Helen if we didn't pick people up in bars."
"Or Jill," adds Mich.
"Well, that was another matter. And they were the only humans in that sector , on a planet with ice spiders, and slugs, and so on."
"They weren't cockroaches, though, they were spiders. They would have been dead, I'm sure, if they were cockroaches," continues Mich. "Or the cockroaches would have been their slaves, which is even scarier."
Misha tell Robert to brief Shark in private on what
he told him; it turns out that even Shark has not heard of INISO.