(23) All That Doesn't Not Antimatter

The Mora Campaign (026-1120 to 043-1120)

026-1120 : Jumpspace (from Pimane / Mora / Spinward Marches)

    The Marquis Marcus Crestworthy wonders if the 248th Squadron is really what it claims to be, or if it's just a faction of the Imperial Navy using that claim to cover its actions.  They could go back to Mora and check it out now, taking a month or so, or check it after their trip, in maybe a year.  According to Mich Saginaw and Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead, there was extremely high tech stuff on the Anastasia.  If those were in fact antimatter explosions, they were not Imperial people who did it -- they must be someone else.
    Mich points out that while the nukes on the Anastasia (about 100 missiles at 10kt each) could have been used to obliterate the city of Hope's End, the resulting crater would not be consistent with what they've observed.  That also means that standard ortillery bombardment would not have resulted in that hole in the ground... especially since it would not normally have been done with a ground level burst.  Mich and Robert Morris have not yet finished analyzing the data from the crater to determine whether the blast was nuclear or antimatter.
    They are pretty certain that the Anastasia was not in the Pimane system when they were there.  It was not present itself as far as they could tell, and there was no freighter large enough to be carrying it.
    The Marquis decides that they will stop at Adabicci to check with his friend, the son of the Duke there.  Anyway, if they stop on an xboat route the Grand Am can send a message that is sure to reach Archduke Norris -- just something simple about there being no construction going on to rebuild the city, perhaps, with a note about the 248th Squadron overseeing the operation.
    Misha Ravanos says he believes that something weird is indeed going on, and the Archduke needs to know about it -- but that decision rests on the Marquis' shoulders.
    Helia Sarina points out that if he does know about it, they could just be getting into trouble by mentioning it to him.
    Marquis Marc decides that the next time they reach an xboat stop, they will send a message to the Archduke.  That should be just as effective as returning to talk in person, and won't take any more of their time away from their planned mission.

    During the jump, everyone continues with their normal activities.  Ed "Shark" Teeth is teaching brawling to Misha and Teri Cralla (while Helia amuses herself by watching); Shark himself will be instructed in vaccsuit by Teri; Vonish continues to work on his gravcraft skills.

029-1120 : Jumpspace (from Pimane / Mora / Spinward Marches)

    Mich and Robert have the results from their study of the ground zero bomb site.  It was an antimatter explosion.  Given this, says Mich, it makes sense that the Imperial Navy would be looking into it, since it isn't Imperial technology.
    Marquis Marc points out that if that were the case, why isn't there anyone on the planet looking into it?  Or if they had already examined it and moved out, why weren't they continuing with the construction on the planet?  He would have expected to see either a Navy presence around the planet, or construction going on.  There were neither of those.  If there were information to be obtained on the planet, and it would take an extended period to gather, they would ship the residents with a Navy vessel to some other system for recolonization.  Why did  they evacuate everybody and then let the aliens blow up the city?  Would the Navy be working with these aliens, in which case surely the Archduke was in on it?  And why wouldn't they just ship the residents off to another planet?
    Mich reminds them that the Archduke's story is that the Anastasia had been recovered, and was being hauled off in a freighter, and the freighter blew up with an antimatter explosion.  He then evacuated the city, and the city blew up.
    Marc says it might be that they decided to evacuate the planet because the ship was only a couple of hundred kilometers from the city, and would be visible from there.  The small Anastasia crashing might not have been noticed, whereas a freighter large enough to carry that entire ship in its hold would be another matter entirely.
    "So," says Misha, "The Archduke's agents evacuated the planet under the cover of the solar flares story to secretly recover the Anastasia;  pull in this fleet to do all this..."
    "...get the ship to orbit," continues Marc, "And a saboteur or external attack -- probably a saboteur..."
    "...took out the Anastasia," finishes Misha.  "Why would they take out the city?"
    Marc says, "So.  There's a fleet here that's doing a secretive operation and everything's going off fine, when suddenly somebody blows up the ship.  Three days later the same somebody blows up the entire city.  Your reaction as the Navy is to get the hell out of dodge, keep everyone here who could have been the saboteurs under surveillance...?"
    "No, you know what," says Helia, "If they were trying to keep everyone here who could have been the saboteurs under glass, they they wouldn't have let us go wandering in there blithely without putting us under suspicion and detaining us."
    "They were watching the heck out of us!" says Marquis Marc.
    Mich says, "It would have been easier to say, evacuation of the planet has started, oops, boom!  Everybody died!"
    Marc replies, "But then you don't know who did it, and why."
    "Doesn't matter," says Mich.
    Misha asks, "So do we know for a fact the city was blown up three days later?"
    "No," replies the Marquis, "But we do know it was blown up by an antimatter bomb."
    "Ah.  So the three day later thing could have been a total fabrication."
    Misha says, "What about this possibility?  They evacuate the planet in order to hide the Anastasia.  They get the Anastasia off planet..."
    Marc interrupts him again, "Strip it of everything they want, and want to dispose of the carcass.  So they drop it into a high-speed impact... but it wouldn't look like an antimatter bomb, would it?"
    Misha continues, "Somebody sabotaged, the Anastasia blows up.  Debris is scattered across the planet.  They want time to clean up the debris.  So they blow up the city, to give them time."  He pauses.  "But they wouldn't need it -- they could just say that solar flares are still happening."
    "There's no reason for the Navy to destroy the city," agrees Marc.  "They might have wanted to fake the explosion of the Anastasia."
    "They pick up the Anastasia," says Mich, "They're bringing it to the city to work on for some reason, and while it's in the city..."
    Vonish points out that  there's no way to get a ship into the city.  The explosion was in the city, not just adjacent to it.
    Misha wonders if there's any way to detect the antimatter in space, particles flying away or something?  Well, they could jump several light-months out from it, and observe the explosion as the light gets there, but they'd be too far away to pick up much.  They'd need a really good sensor operator, which they don't have.
    "Why would they want those people here?" says Marc, of the population on the Oz.  "Other than if you believe that the saboteurs were still on that ship."  He turns to Sagan.  "Hiver.  Sir.  I have a question for you.  Can your computers control an antimatter explosion?"
    "No," sie replies.
    "So hivers don't do antimatter... bombs.  Zhodani don't.  We don't know of anybody that's higher technology than the Imperium.  Darrians were, and there's still some pieces of old technology around.  But their big field was gravitics, and they didn't have antimatter tech."
    Mich says, "Now Professor Farol, he built the ship..."
    "But was it based on antimatter... was it?"
    "Yeah.  The ship originally..."
    "I thought you did the antimatter?"
    "I changed the way in which it did the antimatter.  It used to have one big antimatter generator, which was then immediately annihilated and produced energy, and that was augmenting the fusion reactor.  All this energy would then go into the zuchai crystals, and the zuchai crystals would release the energy into the field plates as needed.  The zuchai crystals are basically a big capacitor bank, a storage bank.  So we could charge the capacitors up, and do a quick dump of them.  What I changed was I got rid of half the zuchai crystals, and the energy storage that they would have was replaced by six smaller antimatter generators, in a redundant configuration so that we could lose one or two of the generators, bring them off-line during jump, and still live; whereas before if the antimatter generator screwed up, we were really badly screwed.  Now  I needed additional computing power to control the six separate antimatter generators, so that there was this feedback controlwise handled by a secondary computer."
    "So he was working with antimatter, and he was working for whom?"
    "Himself.  And he did the Anastasia's design over twenty years ago, and the ship vanished and one of his graduate students presented a paper that basically said Farol's ideas of antimatter were totally wrong and this was the wrong direction to go, and he abandoned that thread.  The main reason was the Anastasia just disappeared.  They did have a misjump.  They also had some flaws with the security computer system that they installed, and the security system took out the crew, basically."
    "OK.  So there is the possibility then that there is a person working for the Imperium -- he did work for the Imperium, right? -- Farol?  Where was Farol last time you saw him or heard from him?"
    "This was several years ago.  It was outside the Imperium, but it was right on the edge.  He had moved from his last known location twenty years ago.  There was an engineering school, and he was teaching a lot of people, all the grad students.  We had our yearly maintenance done, and then... I've been in contact with him, even exchanging data on how it had performed.  So this is his last known address: Brod, in the Tardele subsector of Foreven."
    Helia pulls up the chart on the bridge holodisplay; the Marquis considers where they are heading, and where all these locations are relative to that.  Teri also shows them where she's from: Sting (Foreven 0720; E67A3C3-8), a long way from the Imperium.
    The Marquis Marcus Crestworthy continues, "So we could go where the engineer was -- I'm sure Mich would like that.  The question is what would we learn?  Would he be willing?  Would we be able to find out that he has or has not developed said weaponry?  Would that give us anything?"

    Marquis Marc leaves the discussion hanging, and states his plan.  "So.  Let us continue on our mission.  We'll stop by Lunion, check there to see what data we can pull up on Professor Farol while we're there.  We'll continue on our way, we'll do the research at Digitis.  Once we finish there, we can decide whether we want to continue on or nearer to the Zhodani areas."
    "Where's this Robin Sherwood?" asks Misha.
    "Last news reports had her out in the area sort of between Lunion and the Zhodani.  Didn't the Zhodani want her at one time for piracy against them?"
    "OK, then let's just keep going."
    Helia looks up the news services: "Here they are. Stellatio was the first one, on 244-1119.  Then a little bit later, in the Denotam system.  So on our way to Digitis we're going to run into her anyway.  She's jumping around that area.  She only took stuff -- 'sealed cargo shipment.'  You know, I wonder if that sealed cargo shipment was put there and she knew exactly what it was.  So we're not a cargo ship, so we may not be a target.  Interesting..."

032-1120 : Sharrip / Lunion / Spinward Marches

    During jump, Mich has disconnected the shield around the transponder.  When the Third Eye arrives in the Sharrip system, it is broadcasting normally.

    It is a class C starport here.  The Marquis orders a quick two day turnaround.

034-1120 : Sharrip / Lunion / Spinward Marches

    Helia takes the Third Eye out to the jump point, and they jump for Lunion.

040-1120 : Lunion / Lunion / Spinward Marches

    They arrive in Lunion, the subsector capital.  Here the Marquis intends that they should spend an extra day or two to relax.
    Marc had hoped to find out about Professor Farol here.  Both his and Robert's inquires, however, come up blank.  All they can find is that Professor Benshani Farol was a faculty member at Darrian University.  There is no other information at all about him.

    There's a new TNS entry here: dated 355-1119, it indicates that the Zhodani have lost a fleet somewhere.  Everyone finds this very interesting news indeed, and speculate on what could have happened to it.
    Perhaps it ran into the cockroaches, suggests Mich, but that gets blank stares from the rest of the crew.  He doesn't elaborate.

    A computer search on "cockroaches" doesn't turn up anything except references to the pervasive pest insect -- surely that's not what Mich meant?

    While in the system, Shark visits some of his old acquaintances.  They're of the opinion that someone clearly dropped the ball big time, because not only do they not know anything else about the lost Zhodani fleet, the news announcement was a complete surprise to them.  A casual mention of cockroaches draws nothing.

043-1120 : Lunion / Lunion / Spinward Marches

    The time at Lunion has not been as productive as they would like.  Still, the Marquis has hopes that his old friend, Sir Geoffrey Pears, the youngest son of the Duke of Adabicci, will be able to fill him in with more useful information.

    The Third Eye takes off from the subsector capital, heads out of the system, and jumps for Adabicci.