out of jump from Frenzie. They
have about a month here before the scheduled meeting. Two messages
set up that meeting -- one through the Sheriff of Cormor for Jane Southcombe
to meet them here on 075-1122, and one directly from the egg saying, "This
is the Nightshade, contact us." Both messages were, of course,
sent through the egg: the first one via phone from Cormor Home to Center,
thence by tightbeam to the egg; the second by Robert Morris, in script directly
entered at the egg's console. The egg itself "transmitted" by one-way
black technology power use -- there's no way to tell where the recepient was,
or even if anyone got the message.
Misha Ravanos has spent some time reviewing the
they've picked up recently. He muses on the fact that the deep meson site attack on
Kala's Gold Star at Mora
was totally out of proportion to their simple hacking job, even if the files
they found revealed the existence of INISO and some information on black
Robert has been practicing speaking the script
language with the computer. Now he's really starting to make it his
native language -- when he speaks galanglic, he has to pause
first to compose the concept in the language everyone else understands.
Mich Saginaw has been in and out of sparkly pink
the whole jump (including the transitions), and is really beginning to
pick up how jumpspace actually feels as it slips by, eddies around the field,
varies in viscosity, and so on. In time, after feeling how the ship
manipulates the virtual jump grid, he'll learn how to do it himself. After
that, he'll be able to start playing with vortex generation. Once
he's learned how to do it, then he can work with Robert to try to program
it into the ship. Until that's complete, vortex generation will have
to be handled by someone in sparkly pink.
Misha muses also on the IFSS, of which he's heard
a good bit from Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead and indirectly
from Edward "Shark" Teeth. He thinks the research station
mentioned as being destroyed could well have been the one where they met Professor
Farol and the girls, but that isn't an opinion held by the rest of the crew.
Since the TNS report came from Karin / Five
Sisters, where the IFSS maintains a base inside the Imperium and liaises secretly
with the Scout Service (who made the announcement), he thinks it is quite
likely to be the Professor's base in Brod. Why,
though, did they announce something to forestall rumors but not say where
it was? Perhaps several research stations experienced disasters? They
could estimate a minimum radius from Karin for the
location of the base by calculating travel time for the message, given the
information about when the disaster was discovered.
This time Nightshade is not stealthy,
red cross showing proudly on the maneuver nacelles. They've always
been completely open in this system before, and see no reason to do any
different this time.
Once again, the ship has arranged all the paperwork
for them. Helia Sarina takes them down into the harbor at the city
of Down Port. It's soon after dawn on 059/802; the large red sun has
risen in the thin air. She cruises over to the customs pier, and parks
alongside so that Misha and Vonish Kehnaan (as his administrative assistant)
can sign everything. The paperwork is indeed all in order; the two
inform the officials that they're planning to visit the First City area
on a vacation.
The trip to First City takes three hours, following
the sea lanes and keeping to a sedate pace. When they get there it's
raining hard, with a strong wind blowing from the southwest across the
entrance to the harbor. Surface ships are finding it difficult to
go through, with the heavy seas and wind outside and the calmer swell inside.
As they pass through the harbor entrance, they notice
a surprising sight -- another spaceship floating in the water. It's
almost certainly Imperial, about 1000 std -- 2/3 the size of Nightshade.
It's not running a transponder, but doesn't have the look of a military
Robert asks Misha what he wants them to do if they
get actively scanned. Should they leave? Should they attack?
Should they absorb it? Do nothing?
Misha first asks how long a densitometer scan would
need to be to get internal detail. Robert replies that it would
take several hours, and so they'd have plenty of time to respond. That
of course assumes that a densitometer would actually penetrate this hull...
Misha emphasizes that an active scan could be quite
innocent -- but if they scan Nightshade, just scan them back!
Robert adds that Nighshade doesn't emit neutrinos,
which would confuse someone expecting a fusion plant. If they were
just floating on the water rather than holding position, however, that wouldn't
be such an anomaly -- maybe they just had their plant turned off.
Helia pulls up alongside the customs pier so that
Misha and Vonish can go ashore again. They're recognized and welcomed,
and are given their usual berth near the yacht club. Helia cruises
over, and they moor in their assigned spot, floating naturally in the water.
Of course with the grav plates and inertial dampers engaged, it's
a bit of an odd view outside as the ground rolls up and down with the swell
while there's no feeling of movement in the ship. On this ship in
particular, where the inertial dampers can handle at least 20 g, there's
nothing to give a sensation of anything other than a rock solid floor.
Misha asks Robert to put in a call to the Sheriff.
Robert finds that Nightshade has already arranged a radio
telephone link through the yacht club, and billed it to their account.
The Sheriff's phone answers with the usual message,
telling them that if they want to contact him they should do so in person.
Since last time they were here he'd offered his place for the meeting,
they're not at all concerned about turning up unannounced.
Once she's satisfied the ship is moored correctly,
Helia comes out of sparkly pink mode. She stares out the window for
a minute, then says, "We need to be careful with the lady that owns
that ship, and don't be surprised if it stands up on chicken legs," she
says. "It's Baba Yaga."
Robert says -- after his customary pause -- "We've
encountered the Baba Yaga before."
Helia calls out to Mich, "Hey, got any spares of
those helmets? The name makes me nervous!"
Mich says he could make her one. It would take
some time -- the larian is quite a bit smaller than everyone else.
Misha asks, "Is this the same Baba Yaga?"
Robert points out that underneath the name is the
ship's port of registry -- Vilis / Vilis. It's clearly a 1000
std yacht. It's the same Baba Yaga.
Robert says that last time they tried to break into
it, it wasn't from this ship. They were on Third Eye. Here, however,
there aren't any other ships to bounce the intrusion, so it would be really
dangerous to try it. He explains what happened -- that Mich was kidnapped
briefly, but Shark and friends rescued him. The likely suspect for who
plotted the kidnapping was Baba Yaga. So they were checking
to see who was on board that ship -- the crew manifest, and any other information.
He got down far enough to find out that it was Vilis Secret Service,
and at that point a backtrace raced back as far as his first hop before he
could break off. Baba Yaga engineered a hydrogen leak in that
ship's bay. It responded faster than humanly possible, so it was an
extremely advanced computer system. It was faster than he knows how
to do with Nightshade's system.
Shark says that given that nothing they actually found
on Vilis was remotely
as advanced --in fact it was all wide open to Robert -- he's pretty sure
that Baba Yaga was not actually from that system.
Mich points out that it's an interesting coincidence
that the ship is here, just in time for the meeting. He wonders if
that's who they're here to meet.
Misha suggests that they could have intercepted the
message and decided to join the meeting.
Robert says that since the messages went by black technology,
that would be pretty much impossible. It's either a remarkable coincidence,
or they are responding to the message.
Misha says that the next thing to do is to pack their
bags and take the train to the Forest.
Staying behind will be Shark, Vonish, the Baron, and
Teri Cralla. Shark, as First Officer, will be in charge. Vonish
will probably want to do some shopping for local foodstuffs while they're
Robert still has his suitcase-sized communications relay
unit, so they can use commdots to communicate with the ship from Cormor
Forest. It's unreliable and weather-dependent, but it's the best they've
got considering they can't put anything in orbit here. They also have
the two-button emergency one-way communicator using the power draw of a
flashlight. He points out that they could even use it for Morse code
or low rate digital data transfer.
Misha says the only communication that they absolutely
need from the box is the "come now" message. The box will do that now.
The train to Cormor Home will have already left today.
That means they have pretty much a full day to waste before heading
out in the morning.
Everyone agrees that dinner at the yacht club -- the
best restaurant in First City -- is a must. Helia reminds them all
how good it was, and how Vonish was not only impressed but spent quite a while
sharing knowledge with the chef there. Robert reminds everyone that
they have a substantial supply of local currency on board.
Luckily Imperial and local time correspond within a
few hours. It will be easy to switch over to local time. Recreational
shopping is not very good here at First City -- it's much better in Center,
a short commuter train ride away. Nevertheless it's decided to stay
here with the ship today.
Misha says that Mich is not to leave the ship without
a bodyguard. No-one can take weapons ashore here, but there's no reason
not to wear a zack. That means that Misha and Helia will essentially
be Mich's protection for the trip. For tonight, pretty much everyone
will be at the yacht club -- there will be no lack of muscle.
Everyone is ferried ashore from the starboard patio
by Marquis Korwin Vanderfield in one of the air/rafts. The ship is
left locked up, with instructions not to let anyone else board.
As they walk into the yacht club, they see what is unmistakably
the crew of Baba Yaga. They look up as Nightshade's
crew walk in. Here are two young women and three men, all human. They
don't look zhodani. Helia
is careful not to look either of the women in the eye. She whispers
that one of the young ladies is surely Baba Yaga herself -- the mythical witch
could disguise herself, she says. The two crews nod acknowledgment at
each other as the newcomers are shown to their table.
As they're ordering dinner, Misha (at Helia's suggestion)
sends over a nice bottle of wine to Baba Yaga's table.
The meal is excellent indeed. After dinner, Misha
suggests that some of them retire to the bar as a neutral ground in case
the other group might try to strike up a conversation. Of course, this
crew has never passed up an opportunity to go to a bar...
Mich is disappointed that the bar has no beer. It
has an excellent wine selection, but he has to make do with gin.
The other crew walk over to the bar too. This
could turn out to be an interesting evening after all.