(12) Looking for the G Spot

The Regency Campaign (249-1123 to 252-1123)

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249-1123 : Boughene / Regina / Spinward Marches

    Space has stablized and Nightshade is comfortably in the Boughene system, transponder running.  The main reason they are here is because this is the other end of the portal that opened in the Victoria system.
    This is a class A starport system, with as much starship traffic as might be expected from that and the scout base here.  Perhaps they might find a retiring scout who could fill their open position of sensor operator, but Chuck still insists they should be looking for a pirate for that.
    The mainworld has a corrosive atmosphere, and it just isn't worth landing there.  The main starport is the highport anyway, for that reason of course.

    There is an advisory that G band communications have interference near the gas giant Komesh, and Shark is interested to see if Nightshade can find the source.  They head there, and Shark starts his scans.  As far as he can tell, the source is definitely from the gas giant, but he can't figure out where from here.  It could certainly be natural in origin.
    Nightshade is really not set up to use probes.  To do their usual technique of fixing a sensor unit to a missile, they'd have to pull one off the feeding mechanism, shove it through the maintenance hatches, and bring it back to the engineering shop for the sensor package, then drop it off the cargo lift.  That's as complex and nasty a task as it sounds, and they really don't need anything that complex anyway.
    All they really need, as Shark points out, is a sensor package that can be dropped and is buoyant at the right level.  They could almost certainly buy those from the starport here.
    Misha suggests taking the ship into the atmosphere and doing it directly.  Shark is concerned about whether the ship can stand it, even given Nightshade's special capabilities, but is sure they can at least go some way and monitor the pressures and temperatures to make sure they're safe.

    Lucas dives Nightshade into Komesh's atmosphere.  Shark isn't able to locate the source at this level.
    Lucas dives deeper still. The strength of the interference is getting stronger, but whether from reflective effects or something Shark still can't get a location.
    Nightshade goes deeper.  At this point they are hailed by a system navy ship in orbit asking if they need assistance, since they're deeper than normal, but Misha assures them they are fine.
    Shark knows the source is here somewhere, but he can't locate it.  It is, however, not behaving like it's originating from natural sources.  He tells Robert he doesn't think this is random static.
    Robert confirms that it is like static, but isn't as random as that would indicate.  He can't make any sense out of it with the way it's bouncing around, but he says it's consistent with being an artificial signal.
    Shark then asks Lucas about determining the extra-dimensionality of a signal source.  "Since all your papers are dealing with theory, let's put them to practical use."
    Lucas reminds Shark about the time his pig sort of folded.  That's what he's looking for.  He's looking at secondary measurements, effects on the environment around, across all spectra.
    That gives Shark something to look for, inconsistencies in particle flows, wind patterns in a large scale to see if there's a distortion there.  He gets as much data on that as he can, and will pass that on to Robert to find the multi-path distortions.  He then asks Kalida to fire the lasers out randomly to see if they can find something that way.
    As everyone starts to feed their own contributions into the systems, Misha on the command dias starts to pull together the overall picture.  It's getting somewhere at last, although he needs better sensor data to clarify the view.  He says there's definitely something in the lower atmosphere that's causing this, or so his gut feelings say.
    "Lower?" says Shark.
    Misha nods.
    Lower it is.
    But the picture still doesn't clear.

    It's clear that they're going to need some long term data.  They'll need to set up a lot of sensors, and maybe add interference data to the picture.  Regular Imperial data should be fine, although firing the lasers isn't helping at all.
    Suddenly Robert remembers their first visit to Victoria, when he picked up some sporadic G band interference near the Ancient Site on Albert.  That reinforces the idea that there's something here too.

    The shields are still holding fine at this level.  Gas giants get incredibly hot and high pressure at lower atmospheric depths, and while an Imperial ship would be on the point of failure now, Nightshade is handling it.
    Lucas drops them deeper still, and the scan data pours in from this altitude.  They've dropped below another boundary layer, it seems, and the signal is now definitely above them and weaker here.
    They're lower than they intended, however, and Lucas is having a lot of trouble with the wind shear.  The buffetting is approaching the ship's maximum airspeed.  Lucas can barely keep control of the ship, as it keeps getting pushed lower.  He pulls up, but can't break through the wind shear level until he just ignores the wind, points the nose straight up, and thrusts straight in line with the ship.
    Nightshade blasts up out of the lower levels, and as she reaches the calmer air Lucas takes them back into controlled aerolift.
    The conclusion from the scans is clear: the source is in the more comfortable levels, but they will need a lot more data to locate it.  A lot of Imperial floating sensors dropped around the atmosphere should do it.

    Lucas pulls them up out of the atmosphere and into orbit.

    It's been a long hard day.  It would only take them about an hour to reach the mainworld at 6g, but even so Sir Misha declares they will rest here in orbit for the night.

    After dinner, Shark checks the football sensors of their dive into Komesh's atmosphere.  To his surprise, he sees occasional light sources passing by, although he doesn't have enough solid readings.  Putting together 30-40 football sensors to get coverage, however, would be the work of weeks or more.  There really isn't any opportunity to do it now.  Perhaps if the regular sensors reveal nothing, they can try footballs next.
    Shark idly wonders if the ancients are using Komesh to power the base on Albert.  What with the portal, and multi-dimensionality, and so on, perhaps the energy in the gas giant atmosphere could be transmitted?  On consideration, however, he thinks that much power transmission would show on the sensors.
    He catches Lucas aside, and tells him he should look at the log entries of their visit to Albert, and also of the visit to Adabicci on the occasion of the Silver Ship.  Lucas especially needs to know about the latter, and how to handle it if something like that happens again.

    Also in the evening, Kalida goes into one of her trances.  She and Shark set up in Sick Bay as usual, taking all the normal precautions.
    First she looks for signs of the other end of the portal.  She knows there must be a connection between here and there, so she looks for it.  She notices the hard to see strange connection that she noticed first on Albert.  It phases in and out, and when she looks at it, she can't see it anymore.  The connection is always here.  The more she tries to think about the connection, the harder it is to see.
    She then focusses in on the gas giant.  There is nothing there that does not belong there, it seems, and it seems naturally part of the system.
    Obviously it's hard to see the connection while the portal isn't active.  She tries to see if it has been more active in the recent past, but although there's certainly something, she can't see it when she looks at it.  From the point of view of the web, too, the nature of the connection doesn't seem to change whether the portal is currently active or not.
    Not a lot has been learned, but she has come out of the trance without any side effects.  Shark calls that successful, and there was no football spike which confirms a smooth trance.
    Shark wonders if her correspondence course is in something else, and learning how to control that perhaps is helping her control this.
    Kalida says that no spike would be normal for a smooth trance.  She offers to go back in and look for trouble, but both of them dismiss that as not worth it as presence.

    Meanwhile, Chuck's access is still restricted.  His battledress and accessories are in the Armory, but he is pleased that he has been allowed to keep his case of hunting weapons in his stateroom.

    Shark then sets up an alert for any psionic activity outside the ship within 100m.  It's something he hasn't normally monitored, but now feels he's filled in yet another gap in his security paranoia.

250-1123 : Boughene / Regina / Spinward Marches

    After breakfast, Lucas takes them into the mainworld at a sedate 6g, arriviing at 11:00.

    Once docked at the Highport, Kalida looks for a vendor to make the sensors to the specifications that Mich has put together.  He's specified off the shelf Imperial parts to keep the costs low.
    Kalida gets a discount rate of 10k credits per unit -- 300k for all 30 -- to be ready at 14:00 on 252-1123.  The company is Pixie Technical Systems.
    Shark looks into PTS.  They do a lot of contract work with the Scout Base here.  He can't find any evidence they do business with pirates.  Actually, he can't find any sign that the Associated Surplus Distribution Company does any business in this system at all.
    While he's thinking about pirates, he does some research into the New Berlin.  He is surprised to find that it doesn't seem to have been stolen -- nothing of that size has been reported missing.  While Robin Sherwood has been most active in Vilis subsector, she's pretty close to this area.  That's close enough to do some research here into the ship.
    It's Imperial technology, certainly, and it's a non-standard hull design.  The design, or a similar one, doesn't even show up in the last few centuries.  There is simply no record of a ship of this type of design.  It's a pretty large ship -- big for a pirate since it's in the 2200 std range -- and there would be a record if it was constructed in a reputable shipyard.
    Shark then notes that the new Robin Sherwood appeared in just about the right timescale to be Jill, who vanished off Anastasia in the jump catastrophe.  She is of course assumed to be dead by anyone not as paranoid as Shark, but it is true that the timing certainly would work out.  On the other hand, Anastasia could not be either the Berlin or the New Berlin -- they know where it was for the former, and it would have showed up as a standard design for the latter.
    This prompts Shark and Kalida to go through all the TNS reports about Robin Sherwood's activities.  Those raids at Saurus are particularly interesting, with just a single 20t cargo shipment for the Department of Agriculture taken along with a researcher for that same department.  Shark notices that the raid at Denotam a year and a half before took 45t of "specialty plant materials" -- since it was also uninsured, that screams "illegal drugs" to him.
    But he really wants to find out who Dr. Farloo was and what she was researching.  That was such a brazen operation, not only staying in system but attacking a ship in orbit around the mainworld, that it must have been important.  Of course it also shows up the complete inability of any Saurus System Navy to protect against piracy.
    Shark then investigates Dr. Jiin Farloo.  He is surprised to find there are no papers published under that name.  So either it's a false identity, or something very strange is going on.  They will have to visit Saurus to find out.  He puts that on their list of destinations.
    The New Berlin, then, was custom made.  It had to be made in an Imperial based shipyard, but which one?  Almost any high tech enough ship building facility could have put it together in that time, but it would have to have been, as Shark puts it, "on the down-low" or it would have shown up in his search.
    That brings to mind their long term plans to put together a black tech shipyard on their asteroid hotel.  They could put some serious pirate ships together with that if they wanted.

    Kalida sends off a progress report to Marquis Marcus Crestworthy through the TAS network.

252-1123 : Boughene / Regina / Spinward Marches

    When the sensors are ready, they pick them up from Pixie Technical Systems and disperse them around Komesh in an optimal pattern.  They'll come back in a few weeks to see what they can get from them, and with a little luck locate the actual source of the G band interference.

    In the late evening, Nightshade jumps for Nakege.  This will be a regular jump to come out in stealth, expected arrival at noon on 257-1123.