(11) As You Were

The Nightshade Campaign (186-1122)

186-1122 : Fosey / Mora / Spinward Marches

    Everyone is back on Nightshade relaxing and resting while the Rock warms up and the high freezing point gases evaporate again.
    Misha Ravanos has been practicing and can now zack fight without tearing up his cape.  In the meantime Mich Saginaw has explained to Edward "Shark" Teeth why they can't just put any color scheme on the ship, or put any image up using stealth mode.  Stealth mode doesn't actually project.  It runs unspace hole tunneling from one side to the other, with a maximum throughput that limits what can be transmitted.  So that means it doesn't actually display anything, so there's no display to change.

    It's now early afternoon Imperial time.  The next expedition to the Rock is planned.  Shark trusts there will be an atmosphere, and plans to go just in his zack without a vaccsuit.  He understands he won't be able to breathe for a short while, but he's sure he won't get any vacuum ill effects.  He's prepared to risk it for the 30 seconds of unpleasantness it will take the (now powered) lock to cycle.  If the ship's ramp is extended very close to the airlock, he should be just fine.  The rest of the team will be the Captain (also just in his zack); Helia Sarina; Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege; Mich Saginaw; and Robert Morris.  That leaves behind Marquis Korwin Vanderfield, Teri Cralla, Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead, Vonish Kehnaan, and Callisto.
    Helia moves Nightshade close enough to extend the ramp behind the bridge to the Rock's airlock.  Mich checks everyone's vaccsuit, while Teri checks Kalida's battledress.  Once errors are corrected and everything's in order, the team leaves the ship.
    Mich moves over to open the airlock.  Everyone else moves into the airlock after him, Shark and Misha launching themselves across the microgravity between the ramp and the entrance.  Mich cycles the lock and the zack wearers can breathe again.  Gravity is as Mich set it, one third g.  Most of the crew in vaccsuits leave the suit on, some of them opening the faceplate for comfort once the normal tests show breathable atmosphere.  Misha opens his faceshield too.  The air smells a little stale to them, but nothing alarming.  They move on down through the tunnel and receiving area to the octagonal lobby beyond.  Helia takes off her vaccsuit so she can fly around.
    Kalida again rings the bell.  Who knows, the bellboy might appear?  But nothing happens aside from the crisp sound of the old-fashioned brass desk bell.  Shark searches the room thoroughly but finds nothing new.  Concierge desk on the left as they come in, check-in directly ahead with another door behind that desk, service doors to the right, corridor to the left to the second large octagonal room.  It's pretty well agreed now that this could well be Imperial, if so then it's at least 300 years old.
    One of their main goals is to start up the computers.  That's primarily a job for Robert and Mich.  They move on down to the lower decks and the hidden access from the airlock into the "ship" operating areas.  Helia and Kalida accompany them.  Helia's motive is to look for toys, but of course at TL-11 there won't be much in the way of interesting tech.  While they're doing that, Shark and Misha decide to check the service area.

    Robert, Mich, Helia and Kalida go on through the octagonal lounge to the ramp stairwell.  On down 40 meters to the airlock at the bottom, and access the panel for the secret door in that airlock.  Now that power is on, the manual crank is disabled and they'll have to use the keypad to enter.  It presents no problem whatsoever for Robert to break in and obtain the keycode for future use.  While TL-11 is harder to take over remotely, the low tech security is quite easy to defeat -- for him, anyway.
    Helia asks for the keycode, just in case of emergencies.  After what Robert hears as her ape-like jabbering is translated through the commdot to a real language, he complies with the larian's request and gives her the seven digit code.
    They reach the control room.  This is set up for about 50 people.  Robert stays here while Mich and Helia go on through to engineering to power up the control room.  Even in Engineering they'll be impossibly understaffed -- he could easily put 200 people to work here, but could manage with 50.  Two will have to do.
    Likewise, Kalida helps Robert in the control room.

    Through the service door, Misha and Shark find first of all the four service elevators, apparently fully operational.  According to the numbers over the doors, there are twelve floors.  Here there is just one call button with a down pointing arrow -- they are on the top deck here.  After a short wait, the doors open on one elevator.  The two of them enter and trust to the centuries old equipment to work.
    There are twelve control buttons in the elevator.  The lowest one is numbered "12" -- they pick that, planning to start from the bottom.
    The elevator seems to be operating smoothly.  The car doesn't have its own inertial compensators, as would a modern one, so they can definitely feel themselves going down.
    They walk out onto the bottom floor.  Shark tries to call Robert, but can't get through.  Emergency lighting reveals that to the left is a large airtight door, 5 meters square.  To the right is what looks like a storage area for crates or something -- it is empty.  All the signs have been removed.  They literally cleaned this place out -- removing everything except the concierge's bell and the paintings in the lobby.
    The airtight door is solid and has no windows.  Aside from the elevator doors, there are no other exits.  The large empty room has another opening at the far end -- it leads to yet another storage room, and yet another.  The third has other openings to right and left as well, and some investigation shows that this deck is a whole sequence of large storerooms, without any obvious offices or suchlike.
    They return to the elevators and go up one floor to deck 11.

    Mich and Helia are working in engineering to establish power to the control room.  It's a daunting task, but the two of them are up to the challenge.
    Robert and Kalida are up to their challenge too.  The console down at the front to stage right would appear to be main security.  Robert immediately starts work breaking into it -- of course, it's in a language foreign to him, which makes it harder.  Nevertheless, he manages to get full security access.  He brings up the rest of the control room.  Two consoles show a hardware fault in the consoles themselves; these are the two relating to the particle accelerator weapon systems.
    The main screen comes up, projecting a logo -- an Imperial sunburst in the center, surrounded by eight stars in an octagon.
    Robert looks for historical records and logs; they indicate little except that the place was never put into service.  It was due to go into service in 502, about 600 years ago.  Other than that, there are some construction records and full blueprints.  There are no logs as such at all; the computer databases are empty.  There is no indication why it was abandoned, or what the function would be.  Everything has been cleared out.  The basic operating system is there, but everything else has been wiped.  It's empty, ready to download data.
    Technically they can claim salvage on this, since it's an abandoned ship.  If it was just a plain rock, they'd have to go through local mining rights to claim it, but as salvage it's clearly theirs.  They could sell it for a fortune, but it would have to stay inside the system of course.  Alternatively they could just commission it and run it as a hotel...

    Back in the service decks, the Captain and First Officer are finding exactly that -- the infrastructure and support to run a large hotel.  Kitchens, janitorial, links to residential hotel areas.  All the equipment has been removed -- there's evidence that it was installed and later stripped, rather than never put in.  They also find an engineering section, not running at all, and not that big -- it's a section off deck 8.  They have communications with Nightshade now, and explain to the others what they've found.  Everything is consistent with old Imperial technology.  Shark observes this is actually older than the pre-Maghiz Darrian base they found in the Bowman system.

    Mich says that the fuel reserves are very low.  The Rock could have kept running on standby for several hundred years, but at full life support levels it wouldn't last very long now.  The fuel tanks are truly enormous and would cost a fortune to fill -- or take forever to fill themselves.  He adds that the weapon systems are fully operational, but there are no missiles in stock.  The Rock has about 300 primary particle beam weapons, and around 500 missile launcher units.  All are concealed and would have to be deployed, about a 45 minute process.  In addition there's a mass of sandcasters and lasers as defense, and fighter launch tubes with a full fighter hanger -- with, of course, no fighters.  On deck 3 of the hotel section is where he finds access to the hangar, large enough to house several 600 std ships.  Nightshade would fit easily, albeit sideways.
    Mich -- with Robert -- takes a full inventory of the consoles and their roles.  Essentially the control room is the Bridge of the "ship" section.  Mich continues to shut down non-essential systems; for example, most sensors are showing "not deployed" status.  He says that he doesn't think this place is worth spending months and months restoring.  For once thing, all spares that might have been on board have been removed.  A lot of equipment has been stripped, yes, but the 300 particle accelerators alone would be worth a vast amount.  All their notes will of course be transferred to Nightshade, including the enormous schematics.
    Mich and Robert have now shut down every non-essential system.  Gravity in non-essential areas is off, lighting likewise, internal communications, and the extensive surveillance systems in the hotel area.  Every room in the hotel is bugged with cameras and sound, and those have not been removed along with the rest of the equipment.
    Mich suggests parking Nightshade in the hangar, either the hotel one or the larger military hangar (which has room for several destroyers).  The dry dock facilities in the military hangar are intact; everything is there, but of course there are no ships.  The hangar doors can be controlled remotely -- Mich and Helia route power to the area, while Robert and Kalida operate them from the Bridge to make sure they work.
    At the idea of Vonish piloting Nightshade into the hangar, Helia asks the ship if it can pilot itself instead.  Nightshade assures her it can.  It does.  As soon as the ship is inside, Mich powers down the door mechanisms to save power, but of course keeps the rail transport between the hangar and ship areas in operation.  He brings the power plant down to a slow boil, requiring minimal supervision.
    Misha and Shark are told about Nightshade and the status of the systems on the Rock.  Helia stays monitoring the main power plant while Mich checks the hotel power unit.  The notation in Engineering is that the hotel power plant is shut down.

    By the time Mich arrives at the hotel power plant, Misha and Shark have searched the hotel side fairly well.  The schematics from the "ship" side doesn't show the hotel floor plan, only the interface between them.  Shark confirms from his end that all the rooms are indeed bugged.  The rooms are very much as they would expect for civilian hotel rooms rather than barracks; there are barracks in the "ship" section, of course, for at least 2000 crew.  That would be a very small crew for something this size... automation level is very high, especially for TL-11.
    It's been a long day for everyone, but Mich presses on and examines the hotel power plant.  It is a civilian grade fusion plant, sufficient to run a luxury hotel, and has its own separate (and empty) fuel supply.  It is carefully arranged to look completely self-contained.  There is a very well concealed power feed from the "ship" section.

    As for the future of this discovery, obviously they don't have the resources to bring it online.  Even to strip it, they would have to bring in a large crew.
    There is not that much here in Fosey.  There's a class A starport, and about 6 million people on the mainworld at TL-10.  This would make quite a system defense boat for them, if that is the government could afford to run it as one.  The hotel side would need to be fully equipped from scratch.
    The catch is that to claim salvage, they have to maintain someone on board until ownership is recognized.  That leaves the question of whether to spend the time now to register it.
    The decision is really quite simple.  It has remained undiscovered for 600 years, and the chances are it will remain undiscovered if they just leave it as they found it.  They can always come back to it.  Technically if they leave it, they renounce salvage rights, but they can always claim it when they return.  They don't need the money now, and they might find a use for it sometime in the future.
    Mich and Robert say they can set it up so that they can open the hangar, leave, close the doors, and have the systems shut down to minimal standby as they found it.  They'll have to use the hand crank to enter again next time, of course.  So those two do their work, then everyone returns to Nightshade and takes their stations for takeoff.