(18) Computer Games

The Mora Campaign (316-1119 to 338-1119)

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316-1119 : Resten / Mora / Spinward Marches

    Misha Ravanos thinks back to the conversations between Mich Saginaw and his kidnappers.  They were facing down an armed marine.  Either they were really stupid; or they were really sure of themselves -- just because they weren't used to dealing with resistance, because say they worked for the Duke, or they were doing it because dying was less scary than whatever they might get from their boss?  It seems to Misha that they were acting very confident.  They were not scared, they were not upset by the person in battledress in front of them, they were just matter-of-fact "We're going to do this."  They don't strike him as stupid.
    Misha is sure that Teri Cralla and the Captain, Marquis Marcus Crestworthy, came over as convincing.  Teri had the confidence of overwhelming firepower.  The kidnappers were just confident -- they were doing their job, and were going to do it.
    Misha's theory is that they are used to working for somebody reasonably powerful.  They're used to getting their way.
    Vonish Kehnaan points out that it does no good to work for a powerful employer if nobody knows who it is so they can be afraid.

    Misha knows that Edward "Shark" Teeth wants to come along; at the least, he's supposed to bring along the watch/commdot device that the lead kidnapper was wearing.  Misha has mentioned to the Captain that it was OK with Misha, provided that he also agreed to allow him to come along with them.

    The Marquis points out that for his friend (Shark's employer) to be concerned about him, he would have had to have been concerned about a year ago.  The Marquis wasn't doing anything a year ago to be concerned about.
    Still, giving Shark quarters in the module and restricting his access to the rest of the ship should ensure a good level of security.

    The crew discuss ways of getting information on which ships leave with them.  They decide to pay for a berthing list to be sent to them at Mora.

    Robert hacks into the Archduke's courier ship, the Marigold.  Much to his disappointment, there is no record of messages carried.  The ship is just waiting for the eventuality that a message needs to go to Mora in a hurry.
    Marquis Marc wants him to dig deeper into the Marigold and the Baba Yaga.

    Marc sends out a message to Misha telling him to finish his errand soon -- if things happen, they'll want to leave immediately.  He then asks Mich to warm up the engines.  Which engines, maneuver or jump?  Both...
    Vonish is asked to resupply the ship immediately, so it would be ready to leave within four hours.  He places the order right away.

    Misha hires a reputable local PI to send them, at Mora, the list of ships docked in those twelve bays as of one week from today, which would be 323-1119.
    He then goes to visit Shark at his apartment.
    Shark answers the door.  "Hello, I thought we were to meet this evening?"
    "Things have changed," replies Misha.
    "So I take it I am to be ready to go...?"
    "Soon, if not sooner."
    Shark walks into a back room.  Misha overhears him say, "We have a visitor, he's waiting in the foyer.  I am leaving.  Give me the thingy in a shielded box."  Shark then gathers his personal possessions (standard suitcase #5 for short athletic, a light armored vest, and his weapons).

    Meanwhile Marquis Marc sends Teri with a note for Sagan on the Hiver ship Extraordinary Circumstances, berthed nearby.  It says: "We are leaving for Mora in just a few hours."

    Robert considers programming the Marigold and Baba Yaga with something to squawk the transponder in response to hearing the Third Eye's transponder.  This would be straightforward to do on his own ship, sitting at the console and not caring whether it was detected.  On other ships, it's nowhere near as easy, of course.  The program will expire and remove all evidence of itself in three weeks.
    The Marigold is successfully programmed.
    The Baba Yaga is next.  He penetrates into their computer system, and succeeds there also.  It's remarkably easy, suspiciously easier than he would expect.  Perhaps this isn't a secret service ship, but just claims to be one?  He starts poking around, but the ships log shows nothing new, and there are no apparent personal logs.  Anything else, like perhaps intrusion detection systems?  Yes, in fact -- his programming has been noted, and the relevant flag has been raised in the alarm indicator.  He tries to turn it off, but fails.
    Robert has never seen security like this.  It's remarkable.  His attempt to change the alarm has also been noted.  This is not what he'd been led to expect from his previous entries into the system.  This is not good.
    He scrambles and tries to back out everything he's done so far, clearing everything.  He again fails.
    But he does notice the counter-attack... he breaks the communications and shuts it out.

    The Marquis looks puzzled.  "Robert, why did my news feed stop?"
    "We had a little trouble with the Baba Yaga."
    "Does this mean I have to get Mich to completely warm up the engines?"
    "I think we're in OK shape," Robert reassures him.

    Robert brings the communications back online.  The attack is coming right back in.  He reconfigures to block out anything coming in from the Baba Yaga.  Next move is to break into three other ships -- the Hadrian, the Lobe Ranger, and the Adenoid -- and then launch a coordinated attack from all three simultaneously.
    Another attack is coming in -- it's piggybacking on the starport communications about the request for supplies.

    The supplies are currently loading.  Vonish rushes down to encourage the loaders to hurry up.  The Marquis comes down too, and slips each of the workmen 200Cr.  They hurry.

    Robert blocks the sophisticated attack, and responds by unleashing his three-way assault.  It's working.  He tries to shut down the Baba Yaga's attack on the Third Eye, and succeeds.  The Adenoid goes offline, though -- Robert's lost that relay -- but he has indeed messed up their outgoing protocols and countered the attack.
    Robert now tries to go back into the Baba Yaga.  There is a record of the Third Eye's intrusion, and he can't get at it to wipe it out.
    Now he goes back to the Hadrian and the Lobe Ranger, and inserts records to the effect that they were using the Third Eye as a relay earlier.  He adds records to the Third Eye to support that.

    As the loading sleds are moving away from the Third Eye, Misha and Shark arrive.  Misha escorts their visitor to the lounge in the module to meet with the captain.
    Marc starts to ask him a bunch of questions, but is interrupted when Teri arrives at the ship carrying a lot of luggage.  There's a hiver beside her.  The Marquis tells her to put hir in hir usual room, and tells Mich and the pilot to get ready to go.  He files a normal departure for six hours from now.
    Mich tells Helia to calculate jump coordinates from here, 1d, 10d, and 100d.  "Ready!" says Helia, not questioning the unusual request.

    The Marquis resumes questioning Shark carefully, checking his surface thoughts while doing so.  He passes the Marquis' criteria.

    Suddenly an alarm goes off: the starport is venting the bays in the "suspicious" arm of the port to atmosphere, as well as all the corridors there.  The Adenoid apparently has a hydrogen leak.  Emergency crews are being dispatched to that area.
    No other interesting activity has been going on -- the courier ship has not issued a recall, or anything like that.  Of course, right now nobody is entering or leaving that part of that port.

    They wait.  After a couple of hours, there are announcements that the starport arm will be reopening -- the source of the leak has been identified and rectified.  Marc orders the jump drive cooled down, while keeping the maneuver drive ready to go -- with a scheduled departure in four hours.
    Robert checks the starport computer -- the Baba Yaga is still in its bay.  The Adenoid is going to be charged with the cost of the emergency, since it seems to be their negligence that caused it -- delivering hydrogen through a faulty line, one where the components had been removed for repair.

    At the scheduled take-off time, the Third Eye leaves the starport and proceeds rapidly (at a remarkable 4g) out to 100d, where they jump for Mercury.

    Once in jump, the Marquis visits Sagan.  "To what do we owe the pleasure of your stay?" he asks the hiver.
    "The Extraordinary Circumstances was needed back on the hiver homeworld," sie replies.  "Since you needed me to answer the bureaucratic questions concerning the accidental incursion against the Gorram system..."
    "So why did you decide to stay?"
    "I was the one responsible for the ship at the time of the incident.  Besides which, this allows me to continue my research into human sexuality."
    "Other lines of inquiry might be more useful on this ship... but you're welcome to research.  There are a couple of college students on board, and Avon and his girlfriend.  I don't know about Robert and Jenny..."

322-1119 : Mercury / Mora / Spinward Marches

    The Third Eye arrives from Resten after yet another short jump.  The Marquis checks into arrival and departure dates for the ships that came through here on the way to Resten, especially the Baba Yaga.  Neither that ship nor the Marigold came through here, which is consistent with their route.
    The Marquis also notes that this is another short 6 day jump.  Helia always jumps in six days, it seems.  He determines to turn on his special equipment next time to see if anything strange is going on.

324-1119 : Mercury / Mora / Spinward Marches

    After a short stay to re-equip the Third Eye, they leave for Moran.  No other ships seem to have followed them from Resten.

330-1119 : Moran / Mora / Spinward Marches

    After six days, the Third Eye arrives from Mercury.  Marc's equipment had picked up nothing from the bridge during the process.

332-1119 : Moran / Mora / Spinward Marches

    Another couple of days turnaround, and the Third Eye leaves for Mora.

    Marc this time sets up to observe Helia carefully.  It pays off.  Helia didn't bother to use the computer to calculate the jump, just set it up herself from the nav console.
    He walks down to engineering.  "Hey Mich, how are you doing?  You guys are doing pretty well, rattling off six day jumps."
    "If the computer went out, could you manage the jump system by yourself?"
    "If the computer wasn't working the jumps, then no... well I mean there's the main computer, but then there's a computer that handles the jump grid, they're not directly tied to each other."
    "But you'd need that computer to handle the jump grids."
    "Yes.  And it takes the input from the main computer to set up the tumble and so on, but that's just the initial jump.  We have to take information as to our current position, and then that feeds into the special purpose computer to handle the jump and engages the grid.  So yeah, we need the computer system."
    "OK.  I just was wondering.  OK"
    "Now, when I did the antimatter jump engines, I needed an additional computer to handle the matter phase inverter."
    "I was just actually finding out what out minimum computer requirements were, not our maximum requirements."
    "Well the ship's got a couple of spare master computers.  If I remember right on the Anastasia, I took one of the spares to do the matter phase inverter.  But we still had yet another spare."
    The Marquis is satisfied.  He leaves to talk to his First Officer.

    "So, Misha," says the Marquis, "Assuming that someone is interested in getting their hands on Mich and his knowledge, if they tried in such an open fashion on Resten, I will assume that they will try again, maybe not so openly, on Mora."
    "Yes," replies Misha, "In fact I'm surprised they haven't tried already, although we haven't been stopped for long anywhere."
    "What can we do to make Mich safer, because he will not want to stay on board?"
    "Put a bodyguard on him.  But in the long run the right thing to do is give them a reason for not wanting him -- get rid of him, get rid of them, or something else.  One of those three things.  At this point, the best one is to give them an opportunity to try to get him again, because we need more clues about who they are."
    "The thing is, we need to check out Mich's theory that it was actually the Archduke that wanted him.  And I happen to know someone who knows him.  And he's actually on board.  And Mich can probably go see him himself."  Marc keys the intercom.  "Mich!  Why don't you go visit the seneschal and find out if they really did want you?"
    "Kind of a hoity-toity place..."  Mich turns back to his drinking buddy, Shark, and grins.

    While in jump, Mich continues his work on simulations, trying to recreate the Anastasia's jump drive from memory, in conjunction with Helia and Robert.
    Mich is definitely making progress.  The trick, of course, is the antimatter phase inverter; to a certain extent, it's almost a black box.  The rest of it is still way above standard Imperial tech, and he's getting some good work with that.

    The Marquis decides to move all his research data off the main system and onto separate hard storage.  For security reasons -- despite their system being well protected, it can clearly be attacked -- he suggests Mich keeps his research separate too, and that everyone should do similar.

338-1119 : Mora / Mora / Spinward Marches

    The Third Eye arrives from Moran.

    Along the way, there had been no "pings" from the Marigold's transponder, and neither the Baba Yaga nor the Marigold had been through there recently.  By now the "ping" program should have erased itself.

    The Marquis starts directing their actions...
    "Misha, watch Mich.  Mich, you and I are going to the palace of the Archduke."
    "OK," says Mich, reluctantly, "Really?"
    "Yes, really.  Because if they really want you, it's better we take you to them.  If they don't really want you, then they'll let you know, and we'll have a better idea of how to proceed.  We'll go the day after tomorrow, I think.  So you, Misha, will need to buy palace-worthy clothes."  Mich, of course, will wear his dress uniform, but Marc helps Misha pick out a suitable wardrobe.

    Vonish is delighted to be at a center of culture -- he intends to restock the Third Eye's galley with all the spices and ingredients he's missed on the last voyage.

    In the course of the jump, Ed had let slip that he knows about the Anastasia, and that it was bombed, not an accident.  "Did I say it had been bombed?  No, they would never have had an antimatter bomb on that planet..."