(61) Chasing the News

The Misha Campaign (007-1122 to 043-1122)

007-1122 : Bowman / District 268 / Spinward Marches

    It's a week before the scans of the belt will be complete.  No black technology has been found so far, but they have discovered a pre-Maghiz Darrian base.  The rest of the sensor record goes into Callisto's database; she'll interpret it later to see if there's any promising resources among the asteroids.
    They have plenty of time -- they have to leave here at the latest by 051-1122 in order to get to their meeting on Digitis on 075-1122.  That means they have almost a month to spare.

Private activities by Shark; shared with Misha
(Referee and Shark's and Misha's players only)

    Misha Ravanos calls a meeting in the lounge.  He says that Sagan and Jaekovic Ils-Nevronne have approached him with a suggestion, and now want to put it before the crew.  He adds that both he and Edward "Shark" Teeth support the proposal.
    Sagan does the talking.  Sie says they want some cash, the gcarrier, and some of the ship's whisky.  They're going to fix up the base and stay there.  The whisky is to start financing the operation. They should be able to get a good price here, and they had just as well sell it here as anywhere else.  Sagan asks Robert Morris to insert into the Scout Base's system some claims to any promising asteroid resources they've found -- that will be another source of income, even if they just sell the claim rather than work it.  If at the same time Robert could add some records to lend hir and Jaek some legitimacy and background, that would help too.
    They will buy supplies and refurbish the base for the use of Nightshade.  They'll also start investigations not only in the base but in the system for rumors and information to figure out if the Darrians had found any black tech.  Sagan is a vastly experienced hiver explorer, while Jaek is very good at infiltrating local factions and getting anything they need.  Their plan is to buy an old merchant ship, take out the jump drive, and use it to scoop fuel and transport supplies.
    Shark announces a party to celebrate the establishment of the base.  He says they should name the base, but no-one comes up with anything that seems to capture the right spirit.  They'll no doubt come up with a name later.
    They decide to leave all the ship's share of the hundred cases of North Whipsnade whisky from Wonstar -- twenty cases -- with the pair.   Some of the ship's diminishing cash will be left with them too.  Perhaps they can even start up a legitimate belt mining concern, then expand it to the sites they found at 875-496.  Shark says they should contact Count Fostriades -- who he is sure is not really dead, despite the TNS report -- and borrow his Imperial Warrant to set up a completely tax-exempt company like the Wonstar Development Corporation.

014-1122 : Bowman / District 268 / Spinward Marches

    The scan of the Bowman Belts is complete.  They have found nothing more.

    Helia Sarina brings Nightshade close in by the Scout Base.
    Over the last week, Jaek has created a fictional history of himself and Sagan, which Robert will attempt to insert in the Scout Base's system.
    Hacking into the Scout Base is pretty easy by Robert's standards.  He slips the fake history in very easily, and also makes it look easy when he retroactively adds mining claims for several promising asteroids.  Jaek and Sagan are set for their project.
    There's also quite a lot of recent news:

Downport Dome Recovering After Disaster
Crisis In Arden?
Ine Givar Hijack Ship, Plot Foiled
Gavrolovitch Novel To Be Published
Archduke to Visit Adabicci
Karin/Five Sisters
Disaster Strikes Research Station

    "Well, this is us!" says Robert with a smile, referring to the so-called hijack on Mora.  So that's how they decided to cover up the deep meson site attack on Nightshade -- Kala's Gold Star was the ship he used to piggyback his intrusion into Count Walter von Hayden's database.
    Robert explains the incident to the newcomers -- Mora's planetary defenses fired immediately the database was accessed and the source of the intrusion traced.  He says it had to have been an automatic response -- they backtraced his intrusions very rapidly, and fired instantly on locating Kala's Gold Star.  They had been expecting trouble, which saved them from a direct hit by the meson guns.  He says that hiver technology might be able to automate that backtrace, being so different, and of course the computer on this ship could do it with work on his part.  He also says that the only other installation they've found that backtraced so effectively was the Baba Yaga, which seemed to be working for the Vilis Secret Service.  But he's quite clear that the response on Mora was almost certainly a human in the loop, working against Robert's intrusion.
    Mich Saginaw adds that it was very interesting that the second shot was exactly where they would have been had they been accelerating away at only 6g.
    Shark points out that the choice of the Ine Givar is an interesting political statement.  Everyone in politics or intelligence knows that the terrorist group was sponsored by the Zhodani and/or the Sword Worlds.  It's deliberately making the people in the know think that peace on the frontier isn't quite as solid as it seems.  He says that if he didn't want to make a political statement, he'd have blamed it on piracy.
    In response to a question from Shark about another news item, Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead says that Karin is where the IFSS base is located in the Imperium.  It's not where Professor Farol's research center is -- that's a couple of subsectors into Foreven, around the secondary in the Brod system.
    Robert laughs and wonders aloud if it's anything to do with Zett, where they picked up Nightshade.  More seriously, he adds, "That research station found out about black technology and was eliminated."
    "No," says Shark, "They set off one of the weapons -- the Other Weapon -- on the planetary surface.  Accidentally?  Probably.  We should take a look and see how it matches with our simulations, or check to see if it's another antimatter bomb.  That would be interesting."  He concedes that one shot of the Other Weapon from their ship wouldn't be enough to do the damage described in the report, but they don't know enough about the weapon to know how it would scale up on a larger ship.
    Mich Saginaw adds that the destruction of Anastasia and the city on Pimane was not done with this weapon.
    As for the Federation of Arden, oddly enough they have never actually been there.  They have had a hard time on a neighboring Imperial world because it bordered Arden, and they've been to an agricultural world right next door to Arden itself, but they've jumped past the Federation every time.  Digitis, too, is close to Arden.
    The Ianic affair would be a good opportunity to get to Adabicci to approach the Archduke, with the bottle of Blockade Bourbon if that seems a good incentive.  As Kalida Siena points out, they'd be doing this through the Duke's son, not the Duke himself -- the younger son, Sir Geoffrey.  As Shark starts to stumble on the household details, she explains that there is an elder son who's in line for the Dukedom, a middle daughter who's on the Ianic commission and tipped to become the Marchioness of Ianic, and the younger son who the folks on this ship (and Marquis Marcus Crestworthy) know.  Shark wonders if Sir Geoffrey might get the Marquis title, but Kalida points that he isn't really interested in politics.  Vonish Kehnaan agrees -- he says he's much more interested in his cooking that in any political matter.

    The gcarrier is loaded with supplies, whisky, and personal effects.  Jaek takes the controls as he and Sagan leave to restore the ancient Darrian base.  It'll take a couple of days to make sure everything's offloaded and set up for the two to start their work.  They say they won't need Nightshade to wait around for a while -- they'll be fine.

016-1122 : Bowman / District 268 / Spinward Marches

    Jaek and Sagan are set up in the old Darrian base.  They say their good-byes, and Nightshade jumps for Flammarion.
    Helia has chosen their route to pass through systems where news is available, so they can catch up on developments before they get to Digitis.  Because of the Abyss, news from the coreward and rimward areas of the Spinward Marches take a long time to get to each other.  Flammarion and Frenzie should cover those requirements.
    Mich experiences the jump transition in sparkly pink mode.  He finds it mind-boggling, but he has no trouble with it this time.  In fact, he can now slip in and out of sparkly pink during jump with no ill effects at all.  This is exactly what he needs to advance his jump field vortex work.
    During jump, Shark continues to study vaccsuit.  Robert continues analyzing the data he collected from the Darrian ship.  Marquis Korwin Vanderfield takes advantage of the ship's library.

022-1122 : Flammarion / Sword Worlds / Spinward Marches

    As Nightshade comes out of jump, Mich is in sparkly pink mode to observe it.  Again it is a useful experience.  If he keeps this up, he could well learn a great deal.

    Marquis Korwin Vanderfield asks to be allowed to try sparkly pink mode.  He has said he didn't want to do it during jump, but now they're in normal space he wants to experience it.  Misha says that he will not be permitted to do so at the pilot or gunnery consoles, or on the command dais -- not yet, anyway, until he's more trusted as a crew member.
    Korwin asks Helia about it.  She says, "What do you do?"
    "I fly your gravcraft," he replies.
    "Can you do anything else?"
    "Shoot people," says Korwin with a laugh.
    "Can you operate big guns?  Can you do astrogation?  We need something you can do that the ship would recognize.  Unfortunately gravcraft isn't one of them.  What about communications?  Sensors?  Pilot?  Engineering?  Gunnery?  So you don't really have any space related skills."
    "No.  None.  Zero.  I'm a tank driver.  I blow things up."
    Helia says that to go into sparkly pink mode, you have to be able to do the skill required by the station.  There's a pilot-astrogator station (those would normally be separate on an Imperial ship), a gunnery station (which can be run from the pilot station), and the consoles on the command dais for command and tactical.  Every other console is general purpose -- except that Robert's is covered in incomprehensible hieroglyphics, of course.  Callisto has a station she regularly uses, but on the occasions she's gone to another one the ship has set it up for her.  There are stations in engineering, but no-one except Bridgehead is aware that Mich has been experimenting down there with sparkly pink.
    Command and tactics are the jobs the Marquis could do on the bridge.  Bridgehead backs that up -- he could take a seat on the command dais as Assistant Tactical Officer.  Misha won't allow that yet, though.
    Korwin takes a seat at a regular spare console.
    Helia talks to the ship and asks it to see if there's anything Korwin can do, but don't let him do anything harmful.  Kalida goes sparkly pink so Korwin can't get to the guns.  Then Helia says to Korwin, "All you have to do now is talk to the computer and go into sparkly pink mode."
    Sparkly pink mode is not happening to Korwin.  He frowns and looks puzzled.
    Helia suggests he try very hard to think about trying to get information about their trip to Digitis.
    Korwin tries that.  No sparkly pink.  Nothing he does seems to help.
    Meanwhile, Shark has already gone into sparkly pink mode, and stays there through Korwin's experiments.

Shark in Sparkly Pink Mode
(Referee and Shark's player only)

    Korwin says aloud, "I should at least have been able to get to the computer...?"
    Robert says, slowly, "This is not an Imperial computing system.  The galanglic labeling is really hard for it.  It's an alien concept, if you will."
    Helia has tried a few more conversations with the computer.  Nothing has helped.  She says, "Robert, don't you think if he drank fish oil he'd be able to interface better with the computer?"
    Robert says, "Fish oil is it's... own... end.  It might expand his mind enough that he understands the symbols.  Whether or not he can go into sparkly pink mode is a whole different...  Sparkly pink is more a symbiotic relationship between systems..."  Robert seems to be stumbling over the words.
    Helia suggests that fish oil might help, as might developing some more ship related skills.  She says Callisto might be able to help him get started with the sensors, for example.
    Robert has, meanwhile, asked the computer if it can put him in sparkly pink mode when he needs it.  Along with the symbols that convey that it won't do that is the concept of an unacceptable invasion of privacy.  Robert smiles.  He returns to the conversation and says, "Now if you want some klatrin, we'll load you up."
    "Yes," says Helia, "We could definitely let you try the fish oil."
    This gets Baron Bridgehead's attention.  He stands up in his most officious pose, and says sharply, "No!  He is not to try the fish oil!  It is dangerous.  You could die."
    "Well, how's he going to die more than Shark?" says Helia.
    "Shark nearly died."
    "Yeah, but Shark's anal retentive to the nth degree."
    Bridgehead continues expostulating, "It knocks you out for several days.  It does unpredictable and not understood changes to your brain chemistry.  Permanent changes to your brain chemistry."
    "It opens your mind."
    Robert smiles, "Fish oil is good stuff.  Everyone needs a klatrin trip."
    The Baron continues, "...and it's extremely dangerous.  You are not to do it!  I absolutely recommend against it!"
    Helia turns to Korwin, 'Notice he did not forbid it."
    "I don't forbid it, because what good would that do?"
    Korwin hasn't ever heard of this stuff.
    Robert adds dreamily, "It will suck you over for life."
    That's a point on which Bridgehead and the klatrin junkies agree.
    Helia says, "If you have any questions about it, talk to Robert."
    "Yes," says Bridgehead, "And see how much sense he makes.  You know one time he came out and couldn't speak galanglic any more."
    Robert nods, "It took several hours to grunt like you ape men."
    Helia says, "When you first come out it's, like, the wrong language.  Because that happened to me too just a tiny bit."
    Korwin resolves to look up this drug and study it.  He will be disappointed to find that there is no information on it other than Bridgehead's medical notes.  Those notes do say it apparently tastes and smells like rotten fish.  It causes permanent changes to brain chemistry that are not at all understood.  Finally, if the drinker doesn't consume enough at a sitting, it builds up a chemical charge in the brain that leads to increasing frequency of blackouts.  A full dose -- and associated three day coma -- clears out that charge.  On occasion the trance can last much longer and result in near death or possibly death.  Korwin resolves to take the Doc's advice and avoid it.
    Robert explains how they found it.  They were on a world, in a bar, and the beer was not bad, so he asked them for the strongest stuff they had.  They gave him klatrin.  It comes in a round bottom glass like a test tube, so you can't set it down until you've drunk it all.
    At this point Helia sheds her backpack and unfurls her butterfly wings.  She starts flying around the bridge, looking remarkably like a fairy, then flies up to the top one and settles there briefly.

Shark, While Helia Flies
(Referee and Shark's player only)

     She rummages around in something, pops her head up and says, "Here.  If you want something that tastes like fish oil..."  She flies back down to Korwin and hands it to him.  "This tastes a lot like fish oil but it doesn't do anything that fish oil does.  Really, it doesn't do anything, it's just practice if you want to taste it."
    That seems to be the last thing on Korwin's mind.  He does accept a fizziewizzie candy from her collection, though.  He has not visibly reacted to her gossamer wings.
    "Taste?"  says Shark, "I don't even want to smell it!"
    Robert has acquired a taste for klatrin.  He tries the stuff Helia offers, and pronounces it good but without the "nose."  Klatrin tastes better.
    Shark mentions to Callisto that she should try sparkly pink mode; she is inclined to wait for a quieter time, since she's doing fine with the sensors as it is.

    Robert has had time to interpret some data off the computers of the ancient Darrian ship.  It is Rathzelmes, indeed a pre-Maghiz Darrian ship.  It's last flight was after the colony at Bowman didn't get their regular supply ship for thirty days.  This ship was dispatched from the colony to find out what happened, since it was the only jump capable ship in system.  They were just planning to drop off supplies at the belt base, but had suffered meteorite damage to engineering and docked for repairs.  That was the last log entry.  Robert can't translate the date yet -- the computer still hasn't got a handle on the old Darrian language and reference points.  There's no log entries about the small-arms fight.

    While here on the xboat routes, they slip in to pick up news again.  This has become fairly routine now, piggybacking off a ship docked at the highport.
    There are three new TNS items:

Gavrolovitch Novel Published
Archduke Arrives to Oversee Ianic Commission
Marquis of Ianic Announced

    The item for 357-1121 certainly gets Kalida's attention.  With an amazed expression, she whistles, "Arahani didn't get it?"  She sits there shaking her head.
    Korwin mentions that he was stationed on Ianic for a while during the civil war, protecting the starport.  That's where he picked up the war wound to his knee that essentially ended his active military career.

    That done, Nightshade slips into jump for empty space, location 0104.

029-1122 : 0104 / Sword Worlds / Spinward Marches

    Nightshade emerges into empty space.  There is nothing here.  Immediately Helia enters the jump parameters and they depart for Vilis.

036-1122 : Vilis / Vilis / Spinward Marches

    They arrive in system and do their usual stealthy news pickup.  There is just one new item:

Arden Fleets Redeployed

    Robert also wants to hack into local systems.  After his experience with Baba Yaga, a Vilis Secret Service ship, he is intrigued as to the level of computer security and development here.  To his surprise, it's easy.  This is nothing like the Baba Yaga, which not only detected him quickly and traced back, but responded by engineering a starport disaster.
    Shark guesses that ship wasn't really Vilis Intelligence.  That was their cover within a cover in case they were hacked.
    Robert checks the ship registry.  Baba Yaga is indeed registered here, as a 1000 std yacht.  He doesn't go any deeper into government systems on Shark's advice -- they're maintaining a low profile here.

    They jump for Frenzie.
    Mich again learns more about jump transitions; he is also reassured to find that the Doctor's scans come back clean every time.

043-1122 : Frenzie / Vilis / Spinward Marches

    Mich again observes the transition out of jump, and this time really makes a breakthrough.  Now he's covered both ends of the jump, as well as the jumpspace period.  This is really going to make a difference to his work on jump field vortices.
    Here again they check for news, but there's nothing they don't have already.  This is hardly a surprise -- to get here, news has to get around the Abyss, so if it didn't originate around here it would take forever to get here.
    Rather than mess around any more, they decide to jump straight for Digitis.  Extra time to prepare for the scheduled meeting is probably a very good thing.
    Mich continues to make progress.  Vortex generators can't be too far away now, surely...