(9) A Pilot Found
The Regency Campaign (226-1123 to 241-1123)
This file has yet to be fully
This file has yet to be fully
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Robert Morris gives Shark an Imperial ID with the
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Kalida has finished working on her
battledress. It's now fully back to parade standards as well as
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.
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
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
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.
Nightshade comes out of jump at 22:00 in Regina.
It's certainly the busiest system they've seen for some time, since Mora
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
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.
Mich brings them into orbit around the mainworld at
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
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
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
"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
"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?"
"And how did this person pay off the gambling debt?"
"How do you think? There's always something to
"So you have a... habit of leaving markers behind?"
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
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,"
"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
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
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
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
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.