(31) Overnight Express

The Mora Campaign (105-1120 to 107-1120)

131 / 800 local (105-1120 - 106-1120) : Digitis / Vilis / Spinward Marches

    Misha Ravanos steps up from his conversation with Lap'da and tells Marquis Marcus Crestworthy that apparently they are a thousand kilometers from where they started.  The Marquis, understandably, finds this hard to believe, but Misha says that Lap'da seems to have special powers.
    Their inertial tracking system tells them they only travelled as far as they perceive they have.  The Marquis, though, still wants to verify their location.  Helia Sarina fires up the radio equipment, and it seems to be working fine, but it receives only static and they can't raise a response.
    Marc then asks Helia to at least verify their latitude using a directional antenna to pick up the white noise from the sun; Sagan will help her put it together.  He then calls up Ed "Shark" Teeth on the commdot and tells him to find a place to rest for a while, as they think they're a lot further north than they had imagined.
    A physical check would be to verify that the forest wall is in fact a kilometer north of them.  Misha runs out and indeed finds the wall -- what looks like a tree trunk spreading out in all directions, merging into branch vines and leaves as it blends into the leaf canopy.  He runs back and tells the Marquis.  That's good enough for the Imperialnoble, and he recalls Shark to their camp here.

    The Marquis then looks over to Lap'da.  "This altering of distance, can you teach my navigator how to do it with our ship?"
    "Distance doesn't alter," replies Lap'da.
    Sagan asks, "Perception of distance?"
    "We came a different... route."
    Marc continues, "And are these alternate routes fixed in this forest, or can they happen anytime you want them to?"
    Helia adds, "Can I do that with my ship?  Taking a different route that would be shorter than the route that's normal?"
    "Yes," says Lap'da.
    "So instead of six days to get from one planet to another, I could do it in say three?"
    "No.  But you take six days to do a route that would take years."
    "You mean now?"
    "But can it be shorter?"
    "I don't know."

    The Marquis' plan is to wait until Ed returns, and then to get Lap'da to take them back by the shortest route possible.  Meanwhile, Lap'da has some questions of his own...
    Lap'da says, "What sort of information are you looking for?"
    Marc replies, "I'm looking for the animal that attracts... the animal that only hunts hunters."
    "I'm told that he does it using powers of the mind."
    "What powers of the mind?  Is this psionics?"  Lap'da uses the Galanglic word.
    "Yes," says the Marquis.
    "Can you show me this psionics?"
    "Yes."  The Marquis looks carefully at Lap'da.
    Lap'da bursts into loud laughter.  When he recovers enough to speak, he says, "No, it does not use that."
    The Marquis is puzzled at the Jann's behavior.  "And how are you certain of this?"
    "There is only one -- aside from yourselves -- one resident on this planet who uses that.  That is a Zlodtlan spy in the mining town, Sloriay.  The creature you talk about uses scent.  By eating these fruits, you carry the scent of their products in your system.  That is what makes you feel -- not food.  You seem not-food, like I am not-food.  It senses that there is nothing of that in the creatures it hunts.  By its scent, it is sensed like it is meat-to-be-eaten."
    "Did you know Cappy Starfugger?"
    "Has Cappy Starfugger ever been on this planet?"
    "I don't know."
    "When can we leave to go home?"

    At this point Helia breaks in, "Lap'da said he can take us directly to the ship."
    Misha says, "But we have to get Mich."
    "I would be curious to know if he could take us directly to our homes," says Sagan.
    "No, I cannot do that," says Lap'da.  "Maybe."  He sees Sagan's six eyes intently staring at him, and asks, "Do you need to breathe?"
    "Yes," replies the hiver.
    "Then no, I cannot do that."
    "If a means of dealing with the breathing could be resolved, then you could do it?"
    "Maybe.  It would take some time."
    "How much time?"
    "More than a week?"
    "I don't know."

    Misha asks, "How do you know only one resident of the planet uses psionics?"
    "Because none of the others do."
    "How do you know this?"
    "Slorby stallah?"
    "When you say there's only one resident of this planet that uses psionics, do you mean there are no animals and no people other that use psionics?"
    "No creatures.  No plants.  No people.  Just you."
    Helia asks, "Are any of us psionic?"
    Lap'da replies, pointing to Marc, "He demonstrated it for me."
    "What did he do?"
    Marc says, "I told him I don't like the color blue you usually wear on your vest.  Which was a lie, but it was a good thought to put in his head."
    "What?" Helia asks.  "Lap'da, what does he mean?"
    Lap'da says, "You have to ask him what he means.  How can we ever be sure we know what anybody else means?"
    Helia asks the Marquis, "You study psionics because you are one?"
    Marc says, "Sometimes.  I can send thoughts over very short distances."
    "Will people know it's your thought?"
    "Usually.  I'm not very good at this."
    "It could be useful, especially if you're in trouble."
    "But don't tell Mich, it'll make him very nervous."
    "I will not tell Mich," Helia smiles.

    Marquis Marc then addresses his team, "Before we leave, we have to decide.  Are we going to go get Mich, are we going to let him get himself out?  If he can't get out, are we going to go in with the ship, but they say they have missiles, so that probably won't be a good idea?  Are we going to try to get Mich out, get Lap'da to take us back, take Mich out on the train, be nice little people and say it's a failed mission?  Are we going to go back to the ship directly and get Mich to come home?  Or...?"  He runs out of words, finally.
    Misha says, "I propose we go back to the Sheriff's home, if only to ask him why he sent us here."
    Lap'da asks quietly, "Why did he send me to lead you here?"
    "That's what I want to ask."
    Marc says, "He has other guides.  Are they all Janns?"
    "I am the only Jann," replies Lap'da.
    "What were you doing before you came to guide us?  Did you have a specific assignment at that time that he took you away from?"
    "No, not from him, but then I do not get many assignments from him."
    Helia adds, "You said that he asked you specifically."
    "Yes," Lap'da says.
    Marc says, "Does he know how you can take other paths?"
    "He knows that I can, yes."
    Helia says, "Boss, I think the Sheriff knows exactly what the Jann can and can't do, to the extent of what the Jann are willing to show him."
    Lap'da nods.
    Helia continues, "And he may be able to do some of those things that regular humans cannot do and Janns can.  He can more than someone in the city but not as much as regular Jann?"
    Again, Lap'da nods.  "He has... an open mind."
    Marc asks, "Is he part Jann?  Does he have recent ancestors who would have been called...?"
    "What is... recent?"
    Helia says, "After the settlement."
    Marc clarifies, "After the landing on this planet."
    Lap'da says, "No."
    Helia asks, "Do they share ancestors within a hundred years before the settlement, with the Jann?  Were there any common ancestors three generations before the ships landed here."
    Lap'da says, "I think I know what you ask, but it is not what you ask."
    "I just want to know how close his blood is to yours."
    "A long time."
    That seems to satisfy Helia.
    Marc says, "How many generations has your family been on this planet?"
    Lap'da says, "Two."
    Misha looks up, very surprised.  "What?" he exclaims.
    Helia says, "So your grandparents came here, on the ship?"
    "Are any of them still alive?"
    Marc asks, "The ships that brought the Sheriff's ancestors, did they bring your grandparents?"
    Lap'da looks at Misha.  Misha stares at Lap'da.  Eventually the Jann says, "No."
    "How did your grandparents get here?"
    "They came on a ship."
    "Do you happen to know the name of the ship?"
    "Yes.  It was the Red Cross."
    Helia asks, slowly, "And the Sheriff's family came on one of the other ships from the same settlement.  The same group of settlers but different ships."
    "In a way."
    "At the same period in time?"
    "What period?"
    "OK," says Helia, "I was given to believe that your ancestors came 800 years ago..."
    "No, we came 1200 years ago."
    "They never told us that the Jann..."
    Marquis Marc mutters something and pulls out his pocket computer.  He starts converting local solar years into Imperial years.
    Helia continues, "And how long have the people in the city been here?"
    Lap'da says, "A little over three years."
    Helia asks, "Why did the people in the city think that your ancestors came when their ancestors came?"
    "They chose to believe that."
    "So what happened to the people who ran into the forest?"
    Misha and Marc have been deep in animated conversation.  Misha asks, "When you say years, you mean years on this planet?"
    "Yes," replies Lap'da.
    Misha looks incredulously at him.  He lets out something short in his own language.
    The rest of the team look at each other.

    Helia asks, "Lap'da, when they came here, some of the people came into the forest."
    Lap'da says, "Maybe."
    "No, they did."
    "Well, Misha understands about that."
    Helia says, "Lap'da, how long has the forest been here?"
    "Since we were here."
    "But not before.  So you and the forest are one civilization."
    "Can you live without the forest?"
    "Can it the forest live without you?"
    "It wouldn't be as good though, would it?"
    "It is not sentient, it would not mind."
    "Before the human settlers came to this planet, did your people look different?"
    "You looked the same?  Human?"
    "We all change."

    While they're talking, Marc has been saying to no-one in particular, "He claims that his people have been here for 1200 planetary years.  One planetary year is about 242 standard years.  Years -- not days -- years.  He claims that he is the second generation born on this planet of his people.  And that his family came on a ship to this planet."
    It may have been to no-one in particular, but he certainly has Sagan's undivided attention.  The hiver explorer has an interest in Imperial history, and this was a most unexpected and interesting development.
    The Marquis turns back to Lap'da.  "How many years old are you?"
    Lap'da says, "Me?  I am... about a hundred years old."
    "Planetary years old?"
    "Interesting," muses the Marquis.
    Sagan says, "The man claims to be..."
    "24,000 years old."
    "And you find that merely... interesting," says the hiver.
    "It's not my own line of study."

    Helia asks, "Lap'da, have you ever met the grandfather?"
    "Whose grandfather?"
    "The people's grandfather."
    "The people's grandfather?  I do not understand the question."
    "Sometimes there is a being that is called god, and sometimes he is called grandfather, and sometimes he has many other guises.  He may be the person that determined why my people look like them but we have wings.  Have you ever met someone like that, with those kind of powers?"
    "Maybe.  I have met many people."
    "Grandfather would be... unique.  He'd be so extraordinary he would be incredibly unique.  He would probably not be quite as human as you or I."
    Lap'da shrugs.

    Marc continues, "So, the city dwellers, the Sheriff among them, claim that people who travelled with them to this planet left the ships and came into the forest to become the Janns."
    Lap'da says, "Misha understands.  Go and look up the records of who arrived and who was in the settlements.  See how many cannot be accounted for."
    Helia asks, "Do your people have the blood of the settlers running in them?"
    Marc attempts to clarify, "Are you related to the settlers?"
    Lap'da says, "Slowbidah cah... coralla."
    Helia says, "That does not translate.  Have the settlers bred with the Janns?"
    "But they do have some shared blood?"
    Sagan says, "Technically yes.  It just goes back further than the characteristics that make the Jann the Jann."
    "You are correct," Lap'da says to the hiver.
    Helia asks, "Does that mean my people are related to your people?"
    Lap'da looks to Sagan questioningly.  Sagan looks back, the expression on hir hand unreadable.

    Misha and Helia discuss the idea that the settlers made up the story about some of their people running off into the woods to explain the people that were already there.
    Helia says, "Boy, I think Lap'da really is right about not having to worry about the people from the cities ever rising up against them."
    Marc points out that if he were the leader of some settlers on a planet, and some ran off into the woods, he'd strike their records.  Now if they could go back to independent embarkation records, that might be more reliable.
    Helia then asks Lap'da whether, if the settlers ever would find the Janns if they came looking for them, and eventually gets the answer she expected -- only if they chose to be found.  She asks him if he could teach her how not to be found, or to teach her people.  He says he does not know.

Private conversation between Helia Sarina and Lap'da
(Referee and Helia's player only)

    Marc asks Lap'da for a favor -- he wants him to stay with them when they return to the Sheriff's compound, so he can help them if they need to leave.  He agrees to do so.
    Marc asks, "If I lived here as you did, and ate what you ate, would I live as long?"
    Lap'da says, "I don't know."
    "Someday I may ask to come back here, and live out the remainder of my life."
    "You would be welcome.  You would have to learn our language."
    Helia asks Marquis for a sabbatical... he is not at all keen on the idea, and it would also not be a good time for her to quit.  He would release her from her contract once a suitable pilot and navigator could be found.  She says to Lap'da, "Perhaps I'll come back later."

    Ed arrives back in camp, tired and very much in need of rest.  He lies down for a nap, and then will want Misha to update him on what's happened in his absence.  Helia recommends he should meditate instead of sleeping.  She tries to teach him, but he falls asleep quickly.  Apparently it works...

    It's still relatively early in the evening when Shark wakes up again.  They all get ready to leave.  The football sensors are brought in, having registered only the one recent data point while they've been deployed.  The Marquis uses that to calibrate them and refine the triangulation techniques.  All the camp equipment is stowed in the backpacks.
    Sagan and Helia have completed more solar antenna observations, and have determined that their latitude is consistent with them being 1000 km north of Cormor Home.
    Helia says, "Lap'da, you can send messages to your people, right?  You can leave messages your people can get.  Can you pass on information?  We're afraid our friend Mich might be in danger and not know it.  Could you try to warn him?  No?  Then the only thing we can do is get there as fast as we can.  Lap'da, we really need to get there, it could mean his life."
    Lap'da leads them south, at his usual relaxed pace.  The offworlders know the drill by now, and eat on the way from the bushes they pass.
    On the way, Misha fills Shark in.  As to how they are 1000 km from where they thought they were, Misha says, "He knows another way."
    Shark asks, "Anything else that he said that would be useful?"
    "He's approximately 24,000 years old."
    "OK.  What else did you get about time out of this guy."
    "In talking to him I got the impression that it is very different from your time and mine."
    "If I was 24,000 years old I'd have a different impression."  He pauses, then says, "What did Helia mean about 'any of the others of us'?"
    "Lap'da and the boss had a conversation about psionics.  Apparently there is only one resident psionic on this planet.  Some guy who works in a mine somewhere."
    "Any of the other of us.  So that implies one of us is."
    "Who's that?"
    "Why is it important to you?"
    "I like to know who I'm travelling with...?"
    "Some number of us are psionic.  Until I get a better understanding of your view on psionics, I'll keep who they are to myself."
    "On this planet, there is no advantage to knowing one way or another, aside from just knowing.  In the Imperium you can use that knowledge as power because you can threaten to turn them in.  So having the knowledge can in some ways be empowering."
    "Yes.  It could be limiting, too."
    "Did he give a name to this guy?"
    "The miner?  Someone's spy."

    After a while, Lap'da suggests they stop for the night.  They settle down and make camp.  The Jann tells them they should all rest, as they believe they have a long day tomorrow.
    Shark asks Lap'da about the spy.
    "I do not know his name," says Lap'da, "He is a Zlodtlan spy."
    Shark recognizes Zhodani elements in that word.  So there is an Evil Mind Sucking Joe on this planet after all...

    Sagan has been musing on the implications of what Lap'da has said.  His grandparents arrived here around 300,000 years ago.  Lap'da himself has been around for the entire span of recorded history -- his grandparents would perhaps just have missed out on the Ancients' Final War when they arrived here.  His people's presence on this world is older than the Zhodani.

    Before sleeping, Ed pushes a stick into the turf beside his bed to see if he's moving overnight.  Helia ponders that she can't explain it to Ed, but she is sure the stick will be there because Ed wants it there, or if Ed doesn't want it to be there it won't be, whether they move or not, so the experiment is worthless...

    In the meantime, Mich Saginaw has been constructing antimatter generators.  Today he's testing the prototype he's built with Jane Southcombe.  It runs perfectly on the test bed.  They add tests with fluctuating loads, fuel impurities, and other abnormal modes, and everything still continues to work perfectly.  The unit is completely self-calibrating and runs without a flaw.
    Since the experiments work so well, tomorrow they'll start a manufacturing run.  Since Cormor Home can now build as many as they want, Jane suggests that they work on units for Mich's ship.  He thinks that the entire zuchai crystal array on the H.M.S. Third Eye could probably be replaced with just six of these units; aloud, he says that he'd like eight.  Jane will do the tricky part of each one, while the technicians will do the rest of the work.

    Robert is still trying to work out the encryption from the advanced signal between Cormor Home to Center.  It is an astoundingly difficult task.  He is thoroughly frustrated at his lack of progress.

132 / 800 local (106-1120 - 107-1120) : Digitis / Vilis / Spinward Marches

    Morning dawns -- with no change in the light, of course -- for the team in the Cormor Forest.  They start off on their trip, eating like a native from the bushes as they pass by.
    Misha remembers something else he hadn't told Ed: the reason the Marquis is so willing to drop the mission and go home.  "He discovered that the creature he was looking for is not psionic.  Furthermore, this creature picks its prey by what it smells like; if you eat the right food, you don't smell like the prey, so you're in no danger.  So eating what Lap'da eats is a good idea."

    They've only been walking for about half an hour when they reach the mushroom fields.  They're only an hour or two's walk from the Sheriff's home.
    Misha suggests that he or Ed should go on alone, and if there's no trouble, call the rest of them in.  In fact, it's Misha himself who runs on ahead, with his commdot set to transmit constantly.

    Misha finds that there is nothing out of the ordinary.  Everything and everyone he sees indicates that the situation is perfectly normal.
    He walks up to the front desk at the guest wing, and greets the person at the desk.  He then asks, "Is Mich here?"
    "Not right now, I believe he's working."
    "Where's he working?"
    "I'm not sure.  You'd have to ask the Sheriff.  I can find out for you!"  She suggests asking the Steward to come and help, and makes a call in the local language.

    At that point Ed has an idea.  "Mich, if you're alone, come back!" he says.
    "Hello?" replies Mich.
    "How are you doing?"
    "Oh, just fine!"
    "We've decided it's almost time for us to leave, do you have any problem with that?"
    "Well, it'll take a couple of days and the work here will be done, then we can go."
    "Work here?  What work are you doing?"
    "We're making antimatter generators."
    "With a Zhodani spy on the planet?"
    "There's a Zhodani spy on the planet?"
    "We should talk.  We'll see you later!"

    Ed then tells Misha that Mich has been building antimatter generators for these people.  If you are working for people whose attitude to the Imperium is doubtful, that could be a bad thing.  Ed confirms for Misha that Mich does seem to be working of his own free will.
    That isn't enough for Misha.  He calls, "Robert, connect me to Mich."
    "Ah, so you're all back!" replies Robert.  "Almost?  OK, I'll connect you to Mich.  Hold on."
    Mich comes on the line, "Misha's back at the ship already?  I though they would stop by here!"
    Misha says, "Mich, can you tell me where you are?"
    "I'm down in the lab."
    "So where is the lab in relation to, say, the guest house."
    "You go to the commercial section, down about five stories, hang a left, and go about 300 yards."
    "Well I will attempt to follow your instructions and meet you there in a few minutes."

    The Steward steps in, and offers to take Misha to see Mich.  They take a car to the commercial section, to one of the silos, and down an elevator.  There's no real sense of motion that would help him determine how deep they're going.  The Steward takes him to the lab.  In addition to Mich, there's a bunch of other people working on something.
    "Hi Misha," says Mich, "Did you come down to see what we're doing?  I'll explain to you how the antimatter generator works.  At this station right here,  we have to start building the outer casing.  We're laying that down molecule by molecule..." He takes Misha around station by station, showing him the assembly line and explaining each stage.  He says that by creating these antimatter generators they'll be able to replace their zuchai crystal array and get greater efficiency for the jump engine pulses.  In the meantime, the people here can replace their zuchai crystal arrays for their lightning deflectors that they use to protect the city.  The forest itself is naturally protected, but it's only the man-made structures here that are in any sort of danger.
    Misha asks, "Is the Marquis aware that it was your intention to build these wonderful machines?"
    "We discussed their concern with power systems, and he said whatever I could do to help them would be greatly appreciated.  What we've gotten out of it is some subtle changes to the original design that will improve this process, plus all the design specifications for the necessary equipment to build more."
    "OK.  Well.  The Marquis and company are almost here, we'll meet you for lunch."

    The team marches into town.  Shark also notices that nothing seems to be out of the ordinary in Cormor Home.  Nothing seems to have changed since they left.  They immediate proceed to the guest quarters and go to clean up.  Lap'da is still with them; he does not seem impressed with the glass room -- he says he has seen the top of the forest before.
    Helia invites everyone to take a bath in her hot tub.  Ed joins her, and Sagan goes too.  Helia arranges for plates of fruit, and drink.  She slips into a tiny bikini (two dots and a dash) in case anyone would be offended, and suggests that anyone who might be embarrassed can change behind that screen over there.  Sagan dangles hir feet in the water from the edge.  They all kick back and relax.

    Misha, meanwhile, goes to his own room, then contacts Robert.  He asks him if he could bring the ship here if need be -- Robert and Vonish could.  So if the away team's communication channel breaks down, they are to bring the ship here to fetch them.

    At the same time as Misha arrives back down in the lounge, Mich and the Marquis also arrive.  Marc comments that his trip was somewhat bent -- space, that is, Lap'da was bending space  (Lap'da, however, claims he was not).  Marc tells him that they went 1000 km in a few days, and came back the same distance in one day, walking.  Their inertial locator says that they are currently about 40 km north of here.  Mich says that's what jump space does, but Marc points out that no matter how far you travel in jump, it always takes 6-8 days.  (Marc keeps his sensor recordings going; they have still detected nothing more.)
    Mich asks Lap'da how they travelled so rapidly, how he covers so much distance in such a short time.
    Lap'da says he does not cover an unusual amount of distance.
    Mich says, "So that is normal for you.  Covering the distance in a short period of time."
    "We did not cover large distances."
    Misha suggests they skipped large distances, but Lap'da says they did not do that either.
    The Marquis asks Mich about his work, and he replies that the locals are happy with what he's done, and agreed to build antimatter generators that they could take with them.
    Marc says, "I thought these guys weren't very high tech?"
    (The rest of the crew arrive from Helia's suite.)
    "Well, in some areas they're not.  They do seem to have a level of craftsmanship with meticulous detail.  The technology I've seen them use is second to none in their implementation, however the level of technology is on par with the bulk of the Imperium.  There is use of computers in this area where there wasn't in the city.  This area seems to be much higher tech."
    "I noticed the glassteel floors."
    "Robert's been mumbling something about computer data transmissions, but I don't know what he's talking about there.  We have a link to the ship.  Robert sent a relay here, and we have full computer data access.  I've loaded all the plans and manufacturing notes."
    "So this technology that you're building with them is generically known within the Imperium, right?"
    "There's been a series of papers written on the subject."
    "Classified papers?"
    "The reason I bring it up is I wonder what the legal implications are of bringing a higher technology than our sovereign government."
    "Well, this world doesn't trade with the Imperium.  They don't export, and don't import much.  It's highly doubtful that they would sell the information.  I asked them about selling their zuchai crystals, which are much more valuable, and they said they wouldn't think of it.  They keep that to themselves and don't want it known that they even have it available.  So I think this is something they'd keep for their own direct purposes."  He further explains that zuchai crystals are not common, and that these are of exceptional quality.  "Oh, and you didn't run into any mind sucking Joes, did you?"
    "There's one in the mine, but that's a long way away from here."  That seems to relieve Mich.

    Misha thinks it would be a good idea to talk to the Sheriff.  The Marquis expects that he will call them tonight, so they let it go until then.

    Food is brought for lunch.  The Marquis goes back to reading, after asking Mich how long he wants to be here.  Mich wants to wait a day and a half so they can take back some generators -- the Marquis is a little concerned about him installing stuff in his ship, but Mich seems to be willing to wait until they get back to Mora.
    Marquis Marc is surprised -- pleasantly surprised -- to find that there is very little in the Zhodani literature about psionics in animals.  Many academic publishing opportunities occur to him...

    Back at the lab after lunch, Jane asks Mich about his friend that vistied him earlier.  He tells her that the team are indeed back already, and walked 1000 km to the north wall and back; they said they had a Jann guiding them.  They don't know how they walked that far, and their inertial locators said that they had gone about 90 km out and about 50 km back, yet they were here -- the system diagnostics checked out, so goodness knows what happened.  Jane suggests that perhaps they reset the equipment accidentally -- that's the most reasonable explanation.
    Jane has almost finished her part of the work.  Soon she'll be done, and move on to other tasks.  She's not going to start work on generators for the Sheriff just yet, because of bureaucratic requirements, so she'll just be doing some routine stuff.  She suggests that Mich just relax with his friends a bit, but he will supervise the work himself -- he's like that.
    Mich is confident that he has a direct technology transfer going on, especially with the special stuff that Jane does.  Neither side is holding back.

    Misha calls the Steward, and asks that the Sheriff speak with him tomorrow.  Frederick Houlihan explains that the Sheriff might not be available tomorrow, but that he'll be sure to leave a message to contact them as soon as he is.

    Misha then has a short private conversation with his captain.  He is concerned that they might not let them leave when they want to, and so if there's anything the Marquis can do to help ensure they can, without upsetting their hosts, they should.  The noble sets in motion preparations to leave suddenly.
    Ed makes sure that everyone is packed to leave at the shortest notice.  The cars are electric, with no keys.  The nearest forest wall is the one to the north.  The trains run on time, one per day, arriving in the morning and leaving in the evening.  The trains have a bunch of cargo cars, with two passenger cars and several engines.  It looks like it would be relatively easy to sneak on board the cargo cars at the loading dock; people only enter or leave the engines at the commercial area too.  The passenger cars are connected by a door, but the doors at the other ends are closed, as there are cargo units there.  If they wanted to get to the engine, they'd have to climb around cargo or fuel cars.  No windows open, and opening a door would be noticed immediately.
    On the other hand, being on the train might improve their chances of being picked up by their ship.  This forest, though, is supposedly protected by missiles -- they've seen nothing to indicate their location.
    On the final hand, Lap'da has said he can take them back to their ship -- if they trust him enough to rely on that, which they don't, quite...