(12) Difficult Departure, Easy Arrival

The Nightshade Campaign (186-1122 to 194-1122)

186-1122 : Fosey / Mora / Spinward Marches

    Everyone is back on board Nightshade.  Helia Sarina flies them out of the Rock's military hangar and out into space.  They are now ready to continue the journey to Mora.
    Or, rather, they would be ready if the hangar door had shut behind them.  Robert Morris and Mich Saginaw had set the systems up to close the door and shut down, but apparently something went wrong.  They will have to go back and fix it.
    Helia moves them back into the hangar.  None of the docking systems are working -- in fact, nothing in the hangar seems to be working at all.  Robert speculates that the power ran out before shutdown was complete.
    Of course the rail transport between the hangar and the ship section of the Rock is not working either.  The only practical solution would seem to be to repeat their first exploration here, and go in the original airlock with the hand cranks.  It'll be slow, but it's the only reasonable way if all the power is indeed shut down.
    Helia pulls back out of the hangar and moves the ship over to the original entrance, locking Nightshade relative to the ground and extending the ramp to the Rock's airlock.

187-1122 : Fosey / Mora / Spinward Marches

    It's already the next day Imperial time when the team goes back into the Rock.  Mich has built a motorized unit to operate the handcranks, which will save them a good bit of time and a great deal of effort.  The team will consist of Mich and Helia to work in Engineering, and Robert and Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege, to operate the consoles in the control room.  Kalida of course uses her battledress, while the others stick to conventional vaccsuits.  As usual, Mich supervises the vaccsuits while Teri Cralla checks Kalida's battledress.
    The descent into the bowels of the Rock is straightforward.  They close the airlock doors properly behind them.  The place has not yet cooled down at all, and while air is not circulating it is still fresh.
    Once in the control room and Engineering, the four get to work.  The power system is on full standby, and so Mich and Helia must bring that up first before the console room can be made operational again.  Once that's done, Robert finds that the power plant shut down too soon, before the hangar could be closed.  There's no way to remote trigger the shutdown, which would be the ideal solution.  Robert and Mich decide that they'll shut down everything from here, and then go back out manually as they came in.
    It's a simple procedure to close the hangar door, then perform a controlled shutdown of all the Rock's systems into full standby mode.  Then it's just a matter of going back through the corridors and now-manual airlocks to the ship.  Robert is the only one to have trouble with the microgravity -- he misjudges a launch across a room and lands hard on his shoulder.  It's nothing the Doc will have to fix, but it will hurt for a while.

    Once everyone's back on board, they can finally get ready to leave.  Nevertheless, it's taken several hours to do the shutdown trip, and on top of the work they did yesterday that leaves several critical crew members exhausted.  Misha Ravanos, as captain, decides there is no harm in waiting a day or so until everyone's rested and back on the Imperial clock cycle.  They'll be more secure, though, in free space in stealth mode.  Helia pulls Nightshade away from the Rock and out into clear space.  The ship is parked.  Everyone rests.

188-1122 : Fosey / Mora / Spinward Marches

    Now that the crew is refreshed, it's time to head for Mora.  Mich runs a quick diagnostic, then goes into sparkly pink mode for the jump transition and beyond.  Unfortunately the exhausting time at the Rock has lingering effects, and three days into the jump Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead pulls Mich out for supervised rest, and he doesn't resume sparkly pink for the rest of the jump.

194-1122 : Mora / Mora / Spinward Marches

    Nightshade comes out of jump 3 hours early, about midday.
    When they visited Mora last time, they left Marquis Marcus Crestworthy with a ship power signaler attached to his puter.  It stopped being received when they went into jump, and indeed it does not restore the connection when they jump in.  Once the linked unspace holes have been broken by one end being pinched off into separate space, the connection is irretrievably lost.  They make a note to never leave the ship's launch behind in a system...
    They discuss where to land so that they'll be safe.  They consider diving into the ocean like they did in their last incognito visit, but on balance decide they should not really be at risk just landing at the starport.  They'll stay low key, but come in as an above-board private yacht.
    Now they can't tell the Marquis anything more about Nightshade than they have already told him; he is not a member of the crew.  They could hire him on and then tell him, but right now they can't tell him anything.

    Dropping out of stealth mode, Helia flies in towards the mainworld.  As usual, Nightshade handles all the interaction with the local starport and traffic control authorities.  Their transponder (simulated, anyway) says they're a private yacht registered at Dulu / Scorpio / Foreven.  They're a ship carrying a landed noble (the Marchioness of Nakege is the ranking noble on board), and so get a prime landing spot appropriate to her station.  Here in the capital the landed vs. honorific noble distinction carries more weight.  They are now in the part of space that thinks the Baron is dead -- news of his life is due to arrive here on 218-1122, 24 days from now, so to avoid unwanted attention he's going to stay in the background.  Even just being a few weeks ahead of the news would get more attention than they want at this point.
    On landing, they hook up directly to the local net.  Robert hasn't had access to something like this for quite a while, and is in his element.
    One more issue while they're here is to become officially affiliated with the University of Mora team that's going to be working on the Ancient site on Victoria.  Perhaps Marquis Marc will be able to help with that.

    Hooking up with Marquis Crestworthy is easy -- or, rather, hooking up with his office is easy.  He's out of the office right now and is expected to return in about two weeks.  On hearing that the Marchioness Nakege wants to contact him, the secretary tells her that he's at the Ling Standard Products yard.  His new ship will be coming online in about a week.  The secretary gives them all the information they need to find him, and tells her that he will be informed about her intention to visit him there.
    Rather than take the ship's launch to the LSP yards, they decide that hiring a limo is the least conspicuous way to travel.  Accompanying Kalida are Mich, Edward "Shark" Teeth, Misha, and Helia; the larian's outfit successfully echoes elements of the Marchioness' melon colored ensemble.  The Baron doesn't mind staying behind -- not only does he not want to attract attention, being dead, but he's never liked being on Mora because of the gravity.
    Helia has no trouble flying around in this gravity, especially with the dense atmosphere.  She seems remarkably nimble in the air; Shark notes the readings on his football sensors as she takes off and performs the tighter maneuvers.

    The trip takes several hours.  They finally arrive late afternoon Imperial time, about 4 pm.  Kalida has called ahead and made sure the yards know they're coming.
    On arrival they are met by an LSP escort to take them to Marquis Crestworthy, who apparently will be expecting them.  The yards are of course enormous.  Ling Standard Products does a lot of construction in orbital and space facilities, but the small production run of the specialized Zodiac class is done planetside.  A lot of smaller high quality ships are built on planet.
    On the trip to the construction sheds, their guide explains that LSP builds three Zodiac class ships a year, and this year's production is due to be commissioned on 203-1122, nine days from now.  One ship is going to NOW!!! Safaris, operating out of Trane / Glisten; one is for Marquis Marcus Crestworthy; and the third is for the Duke of Adabicci.  This is the Duke's first Zodiac class ship, although his son Sir Geoffrey owns one already.  The Duke has ordered a lot of special construction modules to be delivered with his ship.
    The ships are being constructed in the same facility, but isolated from each other.  They will only be permitted into the workshop containing Marquis Crestworthy's ship.  The guide explains that the majority of this class are built for government, especially universities.  Helia implies that the Marchioness might like to see what's available in this type of ship.  The guide replies that she could organize a tour of the full size mockup for her ladyship, if she would like that.  She also adds that Marquis Crestworthy might like to show her his, since it's almost complete.  This year's production run is unusual in that it is being sold entirely to private buyers; even though the Marquis is affiliated with the University of Mora, it is to be his private ship.
    Helia asks if the Marquis' crew is here.  The guide replies that crewing is a matter for the Marquis himself, and that he alone is present here overseeing the final details of his ship.  This time the ship is being built specifically for him, so he has had a lot of input into the design of the module section.  H.M.S. Third Eye had a generic module, being one of the first ships of the class built.
    The Zodiac class is designed so that the ship crew and scientific crew can be completely independent.  The idea is that a university (for example) can set up a module complete with scientist staff and supplies and just plug it into the ship (retaining the operations crew) when it comes in between missions.  The module can be self sufficient.  This way downtime is virtually eliminated and the science section can be optimized and rehearsed for the specific mission.  NOW!!! Safaris uses the same principle for different environments and game, and different clientele requirements.
    Marquis Marc's new ship Witch-hunter is hull number 29.  Construction boards indicate that it is ahead of schedule, and should be complete in about three days.  Mich in particular finds the name very amusing and appropriate.
    The guide introduces them to the construction foreman, who tells them that the Marquis is supervising the final interior equipment details.  As the foreman takes them on board, that's certainly backed up by what they see.  All the interior seems to be complete, and Mich notes that the build quality is excellent.
    The Marquis is on the bridge, engaged in a fast paced discussion with a couple of engineers.  As the team approaches, it becomes apparent that the subject of the discussion is the placement of the bridge coffee machine.
    Helia, in a raised voice, says, "It should be within reach of both the pilot and the astrogator."
    At the sound of her voice, all three look around.  Marquis Crestworthy is delighted to see Helia and the others.
    Helia says, "Shall I show them where, sir?"
    Marquis Marc nods, and Helia immediately gets into the discussion.  It doesn't take long before the matter is settled to everyone's satisfaction.  Helia follows up with asking about the candy dispenser, and concludes that by saying she'll send over a stocked one for them to install.  She plans to send over an old fashioned glass candy jar.  Mich, meanwhile, goes off to inspect engineering with its zuchai crystal array.
    Witch-hunter is remarkably similar to H.M.S. Third Eye in the operations areas -- where it differs is in the scientific module.  Marc introduces Mich to the technicians as the person who designed the special sensors he has had installed.
    Marquis Crestworthy is well.  Gavrolovitch's book is being a great success; there have been no threats or harassment about it since publication.  Marc asks if they've been getting his journal, but he's told that it stops as soon as they jump and so there's not much point in setting it up again.  Mich does want the special equipment back, though.