(9) A Pilot Found

The Regency Campaign (226-1123 to 241-1123)

This file has yet to be fully edited...

This file has yet to be fully linked...

226-1123 : Dinom / Lanth / Spinward Marches

    The crew of Nightshade have determined that Dinom must be a constructed system.  Oddly enough it hasn't been mentioned anywhere before that they can see.  The only place they know that is at all similar is the moon Albert around Victoria / Lanth.  There are certainly none as obvious as this, although perhaps the obscurity of the system kept it from too intense scrutiny.
    It's not merely that the planets are powered, but the bodies are prevented from tearing themselves apart somehow.  There is evidence they created the multiworld rosette at Tireen (Knaeleng 2910, in the Vargr Extents), but then a lot of things are attributed to the "Ancients" that they may or may not have been responsible for.
    "Fred Walker" (believed to be Lucas Fuentes) has also been using the computer -- surprisingly capable! -- to work up some equations on this system.

    The next step is to investigate more of these worlds.  At 10:00 they jump insystem for P8, to arrive on 231-1123 at 22:00.  They'll remain in stealth.
    Mich Saginaw continues work on shortening jumps to five days.  There's a lot of work still to go on that, but the possibility is definitely there.

    It looks like "Fred" is going to be stuck on board for a while.  At least he's stuck on board in luxury, and if he gets bored with the computer then he can read Mich's Jump Space for Dummies.  He finds it talks down to the reader rather too much for his taste, but it is easy reading.
    On the other hand, Sir Misha Ravanos has now decided that he does not present an immediate threat, and lifts the restrictions on "Fred" leaving his stateroom, so he has access to the Lounge and so on.  Sir Misha has decided that the circumstances of picking him up were too risky to be a trap or plant, and if he's not a threat he really doesn't care what he calls himself.
    Now that "Fred" can move around, he learns a little more about the layout of the ship.  Forward of the staterooms, in particular, is a short corridor across the ship with an airlock at each end.  At least he now knows a way out if necessary.

231-1123 : Dinom / Lanth / Spinward Marches

    Nightshade arrives at P8 at 22:00.  Edward "Shark" Teeth is still not sure what they expect to get from it, since they have found they cannot detect White Tech.
    Now there is another ship in system -- a standard free trader, heading in towards the mainworld.  That world is actually fairly close to P8 at this point, so it's not too far away, but with Nightshade in stealth it won't see them.  It probably wouldn't pick up their active scans, since it seems to be a perfectly normal free trader.
    Even so, Shark will be careful with the sensors to avoid exposure to that ship and to the spaceport on P8.  A beacon tells him where that is, of course, and it's not hard to avoid.

232-1123 : Dinom / Lanth / Spinward Marches

    In the morning, Shark starts his scans on P8.  This world has a consistent composition with P11, but not P11's moons.  There is nothing strange about the orbit that indicates anything weird is going on.  They move on to pick up scans on the moons.

233-1123 : Dinom / Lanth / Spinward Marches

    This world and its moons are really quite pleasant, and they all seem consistent with being natural and having originated in this system.  It now seems P11 originated in this system too, although its moons certainly did not and would appear to be an example of White Tech.
    Shark says he didn't think the White Tech people needed spaceships at the point in their development when they built the site at Victoria.  The corridors in there took them between planets in the system almost instantly.

    The tree trader has landed on the mainworld.  If normal procedures apply, then it should be on the surface for a week and well out of the way of Nightshade's activities.
    As Shark points out to Misha, that ship does open the option for "Fred" to be left here to get passage out on the free trader.  Misha is of the opinion that they have no need to kick him off while he's still comfortable on board.
    Shark wonders how "Fred"'s story on Regina about how he gets there should be interesting.  If they kick him off the ship, they are open to a lot of questions.  Even if they use their "don't look at these people" card on him, that too will pose more questions about them.
    Misha says that if "Fred" leaves the ship, then he will give him a speech about their need to stay below the radar.  He'll say that he can count on their ability to find him.

    With all the scans they wanted from this system complete -- Shark doesn't think there's anything new to find here -- so it's now time to revisit Wandering Pearl before leaving for Regina.  Mich sets them on the way to the wreckage.

234-1123 : Dinom / Lanth / Spinward Marches

    Robert Morris gives Shark an Imperial ID with the Lucas Fuentes name.  He thought it would be an interesting toy for the monkeys to play with.

    Nightshade arrives at the Wandering Pearl.  Mich can't really match the ships well enough to walk over on a gangplank, so they'd need to fly over with battledress.
    Then, of course, getting to the computer section they want to access really needs to be done out of a vaccsuit.  It's too small to get in there otherwise.
    They decide the easiest way to do this will be to slice off the front of the wrecked scoutship and take it on board, which will give them plenty of time to work on it inside Nigthshade.  If they cut off the bow just behind the bridge bulkhead, that would give them all the parts they needed and it would fit in the cargo lift.

    Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege, cuts off the bow section aft of the bridge.  It's a staggeringly difficult shot, and "Fred" watches with appreciation from the Lounge as she cuts his ship apart.  The sections start to drive apart.
    The problem now is to get that section on board.  Helia would just have moved Nightshade around the bow section to take it on board, but none of the current crew have the skill to do that.  They'll have to retrieve it the hard way.
    The best vehicle for this would be the Launch.  Mich of course will pilot it, but they'll need two people to attach cables so they can tow it.
    First, of course, Mich takes Nightshade and matches it with the bow section.  Then he takes the long walk to the stern, to the vehicle bay, along with Teri Cralla and Kalida who will be the cargo handlers.
    On the way Mich takes a couple of cables from the Mechanical Shop with what appear to be black tech clamps.  At least, they look like clamps, and have a blue button and red button that would presumably lock and release, along with some other controls that have unknown functions.
    Mich won't have an easy task.  Once the scoutship section is under tow, he'll have to direct it carefully between the ship's hull and the cargo lift, so they can drop it onto the lift with the grav plates.
    "Fred" watches the operation from the Lounge.  The Launch itself is strange, certainly not Imperial, with the apparent engine nacelles emitting nothing but a blue glow from the rear.

    With the launch in position, Teri and Kalida exit one at a time through the airlock.  Teri is moving around with precision, but Kalida misjudges her approach and is hit by the spinning bow section.  It knocks her away.  She's going to need to fix some scratches when she gets back.
    Unfortunately it's worse than that.  The hit damaged her grav capability and she's floating off into space.
    Teri is hooked up to the bow section and managing the clamps.
    Mich takes the Launch after Kalida, and with some difficulty she gets on board.
    She settles down in the Launch, assessing how much damage her battledress has taken.  The propulsion system is knocked out, and there are plenty of unsightly scratches that will have to be repaired.
    Teri meanwhile attaches the scoutship section to the Launch and gets back on board.  She checks that Kalida is fine, then settles down herself.
    Mich eases the Launch in the right direction, aimed to drift slowly through the cargo bay without trying anything fancy.  Teri goes outside again and stations herself at the clamps.
    As the bow section drifts through, Teri released the clamps from the Launch end and Shark fades in the gravity.  The piece of Wandering Pearl settles it down on the floor, as Teri flies herself aboard the cargo lift too.
    Mich flies the Launch back to the stern of Nightshade and docks it in the hangar.
    Shark pulls the cargo lift up, and the bow section is safely on board.

    It's now getting late in the day.  The captain decides they should rest tonight and jump for Regina in the morning.

235-1123 : Dinom / Lanth / Spinward Marches

    At 10:00 they jump for Regina at 10:00, to arrive 22:00 on 240-1123 in stealth mode.

    Sir Misha calls a crew meeting.  He points out that their difficulty loading the computer aboard has raising the possibility that there's a hole in their crew complement.  He proposes hiring someone in addition to the chef when they reach Regina.
    Shark says that, not that their crew has ever shirked hiring someone of questionable history, they do have a pilot on board.  They would need to check him out, of course.  Mich is working as their pilot despite never having formally trained at it.  Even if their guest has made only one or two jumps, he's had some formal training.  They can check his background at Regina, and in fact can try him out on board with Helia's battle simulations.
    Misha asks if there are other scores they desperately need.

    Shark sums up the situation:
    Mich has Engineering covered, but Pilot is 400 meters away from his station there.  Mich can cover Astrogation well enough from Engineering, his skill making up for any disadvantage of not being at the right station.  Even Robert would make a good Astrogator.
    They don't have anyone who is good at Sensor, although Shark has been covering it pretty well.  He's a good Doctor too, so that's covered.  They don't have much backup, but what they really need is a Pilot and a Cook.  A combat chef like in the holovids would be ideal, of course, and they could use another grunt anyway.
    Misha says that Robert was originally hired for sensors, so he could take that over.
    Robert gives him a look that even the monkeys realize is smugness at his fast talking his way on board.
    So they could use Sensors and a grunt, and need a Pilot and Chef.  Their guest already knows almost too much about the ship, so if he turns out to be any good then hiring him as pilot would solve a number of problems at once.

    Kalida and Mich start their own mechanical projects: the former repairing her battledress, the latter pulling the core from the computer of the Wandering Pearl.

238-1123 : Jumpspace (from Dinom / Lanth / Spinward Marches)

    Kalida has finished working on her battledress.  It's now fully back to parade standards as well as working properly.

    As for Mich, he finishes extracting the core from the nose section and hooks it up to the ship's computer so Robert can start work.  Mich goes back to his jump drive research.

239-1123 : Jumpspace (from Dinom / Lanth / Spinward Marches)

    Robert has retrieved what he can from computer panels, although it's far from complete.  The ship is about 200 years old, was originally a scoutship and sold as surplus about 100 years ago.  Since then it's passed through a number of hands, although the ownership trail is not complete.  It has come from the other side of the Imperium, but through multiple owners rather than one owner taking it all the way.  On the other hand, there are also records of it having the prescribed annual maintenance, which they are sure it has not.
    He is fairly sure that the vast majority of this information is fake, however.  Very little of it is genuine.  It's been faked over the years, lie piled on lie to build a false history.
    There are some genuine records.  The path through the Spinward Marches haven't bothered to have been changed yet, and the records from the attack in Dinom -- the voice records, the other ship -- all that backs up "Fred"'s story pretty much word for word.
    The genuine records pretty much correspond to the ownership of Fred Walker, a few months from the other side of the Spinward Marches to here.

240-1123 : Regina / Regina / Spinward Marches

    Nightshade comes out of jump at 22:00 in Regina.  It's certainly the busiest system they've seen for some time, since Mora in fact.
    If "Fred" didn't have a notion that jumps were strange on this ship, he's certainly got it now.  This ship isn't even following what he'd expect from Jumpspace for Dummies, although that book does kind of leave the question more open than the 6-8 day dogma.

    At a reasonable 6g it would take 7.5 hours to get to orbit, but instead of that they travel slowly to arrive at 09:00 next day.  They've decided that first of all they want to be discreet, and also it'll be easier on the crew if they get there tomorrow morning.

241-1123 : Regina / Regina / Spinward Marches

    Mich brings them into orbit around the mainworld at 09:00.

    They have beaten the news about the Santanocheev Rebellion and the establishment of the Regency, which won't get here until 274-1123.  Of course Norris, Duke of Regina, would be expecte to have sent word via a personal courier system, so the palace itself should know of the changes in the rule of the Domain of Deneb.  They themselves have spent long enough on the side trip to Victoria that their presence here is a plausible run from Mora.
    There is new news, however, an item mentioning a strange spatial distortion that took place in the Boughene system on 204-1123.  This is obviously the other end of the space portal that opened in Victoria.  The news mentioned some kind of distortion in space, an unknown energy field that disrupted the view of space inside a fiery ring.  It's been attributed to natural causes and research projects will be investigating it.
    Boughene itself doesn't look like an odd system, although it does fall within the area they'd estimated as the "other end" back at Victoria.

    Shark uses Robert's link-hopping comm connection to look into Lucas Fuentes.  There isn't a lot here.  He published a paper which they retrieve.  He was associated with Duchess Yolande University.  That's all he can get from here, so far away from the source.  There's no criminal record that's preceded him, and he's not on any of Shark's acquaintances' special lists.
    Robert looks into the origin of the "Fred Walker" ID.  His conclusion is that it was probably the work of a professional forger, but there is no particular detail to identify which one or where it originated.  There are a lot of areas of the Imperium where this could have been done.

    Before they go into land, Misha decides to have a conversation with their guest, whose real name Shark believes to be Lucas Fuentes.  Misha tells him that they are now at Regina.  Is this some place he'd like to get off?
    Lucas asks where else they are headed.
    Misha asks what he is looking for.
    Lucas pauses.  He then says that the cost of living at subsector capitals tends to be high, and he'd be more comfortable somewhere more low key.  He's just been rescued from a dead ship, after all, and doesn't have a lot of resources.
    Misha asks with disbelief if he doubts his ability to find gainful employment on Regina.
    Lucas says it might take a few days.  What should he do in the meantime, unless they're offering him free berth here?
    Shark says that most stranded people would be happy to step ashore in civilization.  They could have offered him safe passage to Dinomn, that would have been within reason.
    "If this is where you want to put me off that's fine, I'll make it work," says Lucas.
    Misha asks him what marketable skills he has.
    He says primarily he's a physicist.
    "I said marketable," laughs Misha.
    "Is there something wrong with being a physicist?"
    "I'm just not sure that there's actually someone willing to pay for it."
    "One generally works at universities and such, but that can can also take a very long time.  However, I have been spending the last several years travelling on the little ship, and I could get back to piloting a ship."
    "I would think you could find plenty of jobs piloting a ship in Regina.  In fact, I know of an opening."
    "You just got here, and you know of an opening."
    "We're very savvy," laughs Misha, then continues,. "But it would require significant skill piloting."
    "Well, I have piloted for several years.  Tell me about this position."
    "I've heard our ship described as a private luxury yacht.  Small crew, highly skilled crew, sometimes dangerous situations..."
    "Eccentric," says Shark.
    Lucas says, "Eccentric goes with the luxury private yacht, I'm not sure the danger part does."
    Shark and Misha both say something about it depending.
    "What kinds of places does this ship travel, mostly out here at the edges of civilization?"
    Misha says, "I would consider it more beyond the edges of civilization."
    Lucas nods his approval.  "I do like travelling and exploring interesting and odd places."
    Shark asks, "How long ago did you acquire your ship?"
    Lucas says, "Four or five years ago, it's been a while.  Looks scruffy but it got me all the way here."
    Shark says quietly, "It looks like it got a lot of people all the way here.  I'm sure you saw a large piece of Wandering Pearl was recovered."  He reads down the list of owner names, pausing at one and asking, "Why did this person have to sell the ship?"
    "Gambling debt."
    "And how did this person pay off the gambling debt?"
    "How do you think?  There's always something to sell."
    "So you have a... habit of leaving markers behind?"
    "Very rarely."
    Misha asks, "Would you be interested in applying for this position?  When would you be available for an interview?"
    Lucas says, "Yes, immediately."
    "Let's go on with it then.  Do you know a person called Lucas Fuentes?  I have an ID here in your name."  Misha hands Lucas the ID Robert made.
    "Where exactly did you find that?"
    "In one of the workshops on board this ship."
    "Interesting," he says.
    "So if you were to accept this job, under what name would you want to be entered into the books, and from where?"
    "So you found that ID just kind of laying around here.  Can I see it?"  Lucas looks it over.  "You can enter me under this name.  Nice ID, I'll keep it."
    "I'm told it probably won't let you into the Emperor."
    Shark says it might be dodgy around Archdukes too, but they'll vouch for him.
    Misha says, "There'll be a test.  We'll watch you.  Robert, would you set up the pilot simulation?"

    They walk up to the bridge.  The place is enormous, three decks high and all glass, pretty much big enough to park the Wandering Pearl inside it, almost 40 meters long.  The pilot console is set up much like a standard Imperial layout, with some variations.
    "I'd like to see the shipyard this came out of," says Lucas.
    "So would we," laughs Shark.
    "Who is the owner of this ship?" asks Lucas.
    "We can't tell you that.  Yet," says Misha.
    "That's a good question," says Shark.
    Misha says, "Is that an issue?"
    "No," says Lucas.
    "If we said it was Zhodani, would that be an issue?"
    "I'd rather not work for the Zhodani.  Is that an issue?"
    Misha smiles and shakes his head.

    Lucas takes his place at the console and starts the simulation.  The console isn't quite Imperial, but close enough, and the ship doesn't quite respond like standard.  It seems capable of responding very quickly to direction change.
    Robert has locked it on 6g and thrust inline with engines.  He keeps increasing the difficulty until Lucas makes a mistake, but he has to crank up the difficulty quite high before that happens.
    Misha is satisfied.  He says there is one more question before he's hired.  Is he willing to comply with the contract?  "The agreement says basically that anything you learn about this ship you will keep to yourself, for the rest of your life."
    Lucas says, "I could sign that."
    Misha says, "You're hired.  Let loose the hounds."
    There will be one more test, says Shark, smiling at Robert.  Robert unlocks the ship's full capabilities.  Now the console allows the ship 20g acceleration, able to be applied in any direction.
    Lucas smiles.  He'll like this job.
    Robert smiles too, knowing that the ship would not allow Lucas to use the pilot console if he couldn't do it.  It wouldn't feel right if he was at the wrong station.
    Shark asks if Lucas is an astrogator too.
    Lucas says he gets by.
    Shark says that Robert and Mich normally do the job here, and he'll learn why.  He adds that Lucas can keep his current stateroom, number 24.  He explains that the ship is registered out of Dulu, outside the Imperium in Foreven.  He'll learn the history at some point, Shark says.

    The simulations that Lucas can access now include the Battle of Tussinian, and the battle against the Silver Ship at Adabicci.  He can also now see how fast the ship really jumps.