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IE Journal 5

Page history last edited by Michael 9 years, 11 months ago

back to the Index or to Journal Entry 4.

 

     On 82/597 the Spirit of Vinland arrives at Chemin after a 6 day passage. Chemin is a very minor holding -- just 90 people living on a large asteroid, mining and performing isotope separation on boron. The Kerrn crew recommend heading to Egry after refuelling ... it'll be a good place to get replacements and other technical goods that weren't available on Burano. The roughly 1-week trip from Burano to Egry will give Our Heroes a chance to make their experience checks.

 

     Thus the ship spends a day at Chemin, loading a bit of fuel, and then makes the 2 day trip to Egry, arriving on 85/597 ... just as the local military has gone to the equivalent of DefCon 1! The arrival of an unexpected, not-locally-known frigate gets all sorts of trigger fingers very, very itchy. As the Spirit of Vinland enters the Egry system, the following message is being broadcast on public channels:

 

Statement by Dwight Matsushita-Kun, Earl of Egry

       Yesterday we received word of a massive attack by Vaylen fleets on the fortress world of Parvana. The same day, courier vessels from the Darikahn Empire arrived here, with news of a similar attack near the fortress world of Hotok. Clearly, the two assaults were launched as part of a coordinated plan.

       Couriers have already set out for the other League capitals, and we expect reinforcements to arrive soon. Parvana's defenses are strong; our Hammer lords agree this attack is meant to prevent the League from interfering with a Vaylen takeover of several realms in the Void.

     The chancellor of Matsushita has announced that a state of war exists. We have ordered a complete mobilization of our Hammer and Anvil forces. We have taken other measures, here and offworld, which we cannot reveal at this time. Steps are being taken to safeguard our stocks of various supplies and commodities. All fit men between the ages of 18 and 41 may be liable for impressment into military service, if and when called upon.

      It now only remains for us to set our teeth and to enter upon this struggle, which we ourselves earnestly endeavored to avoid, with determination to see it through to the end.

     As long as the worms exist, there will be no peace. We shall merely pass from one crisis to another, and see one realm after another attacked by methods which have now become familiar to us in their sickening technique.
     We are resolved that the Vaylen must not succeed. Our fleets will defeat the worms at every encounter; this invasion will be repulsed. If out of the struggle we again re-establish in the galaxy the rule of man, then even the sacrifices that will be entailed upon us will find their fullest justification. 
     Ahmilakh's hand will guide us along the correct path, and strengthen us against the trials to come.

 

 

     There is high-speed debris passing though the system, a couple of light-seconds out from Egry ... the remains of a ship which was believed to be a Vaylen finger (aka Q-ship). Quarantine checks are in place and very thorough -- but once the local customs patrol boards your vessel and sees the Kerrn among the crew, the checks are much relaxed (though all the humans still have to go through an integrity scan).

 

     As the ship approaches orbit, an all-captains message goes out, summoning the lords-pilot to a conference on the surface. At nearly the same time, a tight-beam signal is received by the Spirit of Vinland, requesting that the captain take some high-status passengers as soon as possible, away from the Vaylen invasion -- this message is from an anonymous source, and sets a time and place for a meeting to finalize price and conditions. The ship docks at one of the large orbital stations, and the lords-pilot (Lords McClellan, Black, Burns and MacDougall) quickly put on their finery and board a luxurious passenger shuttle.

 

     O'Reilly, meanwhile, takes a jaunt onto the chaotic, anxious docks of the orbital station. Nobles and rich merchants are attempting to buy or bribe their way off-world; clearly, there is a lot of fear of a Vaylen attack. Hammer vessels are loading fuel, armaments, supplies and crew; civilians who don't expect to escape from the system are mostly heading for the planet's surface (there's a perception that the orbital stations may be attacked by the Vaylen). While sandbags aren't being filled, there's a definite air of emergency war preparations underway. O'Reilly and one of the Kerrn crew do some fire-sale buying of supplies for the ship (though items needed for Hammer ships is rising in price).

 

  • Useful note:  gold and platinum are worth about 1 Σ per gram; gemstones known to 21st Century Earth are of little value (being easily fabricated).

 

     The lords-pilot are flown down to the main city on the planet; the shuttle lands on a pad near the Marshal's Hall at the Earl's palace. Other Hammer and Anvil lords are arriving at the same time, or are already present; there's another pass through Calvaria integrity scanners, on the way into the Hall. The interior of the Hall is an impressive hive of balconies, all looking out over a hollow interior; the Marshal's Platform is mounted on a narrow spine of metal. There is lots of flashy holographic imagery, showing routes, news, ships, times, lists of names, etc. Each balcony (the Terrans get one) has seats with crucis interface plugs.

 

     After a short invocation by a Mundus archcotare (backed by a small clerical cadre), the Earl speaks to the assembled lords. It's clear that the Karsan League will call upon all domains to take up arms; the League expects the Darikahn Empire to cooperate in fighting the Vaylen, at least. "The oaths you have taken, the blood of your fathers, the destiny of the realm, all call you to arms against the invader."

 

     Count Drax, a Hammer Marshal of the League, steps forward to speak after the Earl; he looks a bit disturbingly like Christopher Lee (tall, thin, with a white beard - but a bald head). He mentions that all ships not part of the League's Hammer forces (i.e., the Spirit of Vinland, and various yachts and mercator vessels) should expect to subordinate themselves to the League. "Merchant vessels can serve as couriers or tankers; there will be no allowances or resources for evacuation." Much muttering and significant glances at this -- it's pretty clear that all the non-Hammer vessels are getting offers from wealthy cowards. The following information is provided:

 

SECRET - BRIEFING FOR HAMMER CAPTAINS

Situation

  • On 75/597 several minor acts of sabotage occurred in the Pretesh system, and apparently elsewhere in the Toptanishi Marches. None of these acts affected Hammer or planetary defenses in any way, but some members of the nobility were casualties. At least one finger departed, bound for the League. The Vaylen fleets attacked that same day, most continued immediately towards Parvana. A private vessel from Pretesh arrived at Parvana two hours before the Vaylen fleets, on 82/597. Count-Marshal Shigeru, Forged Lord of Parvana, dispatched a fast courier inwards that same day, with all the available intelligence about the invasion.

  • The Vaylen forces at Parvana comprise at least a dozen squadrons of capital ships, and three times that number of squadrons of destroyers. Based on ship types, signals analysis and other intelligence, at least several dozen major clans are involved. There are no reports so far of any unusual ship types or technologies; however, only a few hours of observation occurred before this report was compiled and dispatched.

  • Information on the attack at Hotok, within the Darikahn Empire, is scanty, but seems to roughly match the attack on Parvana.  The Vaylen fleets were first detected near Hotok on 47/597.

  • The soonest any strike could reach Egry would be about 91/597, if Vaylen ships can pass Parvana in force.

  • Present are the four frigates, two patrol cruisers, two corvettes and three gunships of the local Hammer, plus the squadron of the Brotherhood of St. George (four frigates). Two mercator vessels, and some small couriers and yachts, are also present. Large numbers of shuttles and other civil non-starships may be armed with missiles for last-ditch defense purposes.

Mission

  • Detect and destroy Vaylen infiltration craft; harass Vaylen fleets and destroy or capture their support assets and Anvil transports.

Execution

  • Even a single squadron of Vaylen destroyers would be difficult for the available Hammer assets to defeat. However, fingers, raiders, scouts and reconnaissance drones can be thwarted. Hammer vessels should withdraw in the face of superior forces; the use of gas giants and minor planetoids for cover is essential. If an invasion fleet appears, the main target of our Hammer vessels must be transports for ground forces.

  • Civil defense measures on Egry's surface, and on the orbital stations, will make invasion by conventional Anvil forces difficult.

Support

  • All available stocks of missiles and torpedoes will be distributed among Hammer vessels, as cargo if need be; these may be transferred to gunboat bases if possible.

  • Merchant and civil vessels will be pressed into military service. No transport of refugees or non-military cargo may take place without the express consent of Matsushita-kun or the Hammer Marshal.  

Command and Control

  • Captains of League Hammer ships are being given information about League fleet composition, locations and movements. Identification codes and encryption keys will be distributed by the Marshal's court.

  • The League Marshal, Count Drax, will coordinate the movements of any Karsan vessels; Matsushita-kun has every confidence in His Eminence.  

 SECRET - BRIEFING FOR HAMMER CAPTAINS

 

    The captains of the yachts, merchant vessels, and the Spirit of Vinland are called aside after the meeting, and are taken to see Count Drax. McClellan gets the role of "captain of the Spirit of Vinland." Quite a few courier pilots, staff officers, lords-pilot, courtiers and other people on important business have just seen the Count, or are waiting to be received into his presence after the group including the Terran.

 

     Obviously quite busy, the Count makes it clear that the largest mercator will be heading off further into the Karsan League, carrying the most powerful and wealthy persons of "little faith and less usefulness. Better to have them all in one place, rather than bribing you lot individually." He smiles and says, "Don't be too worried, there'll be plenty of fat contracts for the merchants and the transit guilds;" they seem a bit relieved. The yachts and merchants are dealt with and sent off with staff officers for details of their missions; Count Drax turns to McClellan. 

 

     There is a special mission for the Spirit of Vinland, he grumbles; the wife of Earl Matsushita-kun has a request:  "Rewarding, my lord, but not perhaps the best use of a frigate." The Spirit of Vinland isn't obligated to take the mission, but the Earl's wife might make things difficult if it is refused. "She has word of your arrival, and knows you are not part of the stated defense plans here. And of course, the women of the Marches are ... difficult to deny." Lord McClellan is taken (via a luxurious grav sled) to Countess Judith's palace.

 

     There are half-a-dozen titanic stumps of some synthetic stone, spaced around a circumference of 10 kilometers -- the remains of an ancient orbital tether, fallen more than 1000 years ago. The stumps vary from 100 to 1000 meters above the sea surface; around their bases are small islands, supporting most of the capital city. Some of the islands are formed on lumps of rubble from the collapsed base of whatever enormous structure the stumps supported. Cracks and gaps in the stumps, and the shattered surfaces on their tops, support a verdant growth of vines and trees; clouds pass by the taller portions. Atop the highest stump is the Countess' palace, amidst a riot of genetically-engineered fig trees; their roots crawl and wrap around the pocked and weather synthetic rock. The palace is placed on about 20 hectares of ground atop the ruined foundation; grav sleds dot the unpolluted skies, contrails rise towards orbit or fall towards the landing field, and the wide blue sea speads out to the horizon.

 

     The Countess' staff seem to be entirely female, dressed in very exotic and formal attire. Lots of ritual and etiquette; ritual washing, special shoes, doors being opened by kneeling maidens, etc. Lady Sokuda, part of the entourage, introduces herself and assists McClellan in preparing to meet the Countess. She makes a few statements about faith, ancestry, etc. which it becomes clear are indirect questions:

 

  • "Every lord-pilot has an interesting lineage."

  • "The almanac is sadly missing any mention of Vinland. A distant realm, indeed."

  • "Errantry is an excellent gauge of fate."

  • "Ahmilakh was the great flame showing the way forward."

 

     After a bit of chat, and after a few innocuous answers from McClellan, a bowl of strong rice wine is served -- in a bowl which is clearly also an integrity scanner. McClellan is then taken to Countess Judith's chambers -- more formality and etiquette. By this point McClellan has noticed that the staff and Judith are all tall, pale-skinned, red-haired, and left-handed. It's quite possible that some or all of this is from makeup, wigs, or other artificial effects.

 

     "Pretesh may already have fallen, my lord; the March cannot hold against this assault. My father, Baron Chan, has a secret bastion hidden in the Pretesh system -- he and my sisters and nieces, and perhaps other nobles, will have taken refuge there. I possess the coordinates of a secret route from Meles to Pretesh; the Kingdom of Uzun will hold for at least a few months. Lord Chan -- and my sisters and nieces -- would be most grateful for succor."

 

     "The Hammer Marshal is willing to accommodate my simple plea, if some military advantage can also be gained -- such as depositing a few sensor buoys among the Vaylen ships, and bringing back information about their fleets and schemes. In addition, the Count might allow you to purchase supplies from League sources."

 

    After a few questions, McClellan agrees to Judith's request. Lady Sukoda is to accompany McClellan during his stay on Egry, to ensure his every need is tended to. McClellan is flown back to join his friends aboard the Spirit of Vinland; a long discussion ensues! Lady Sukoda sits delicately in the lounge, apparently unaware of (or at least paying no attention to) the hastily-hidden evidence of "no women on this ship, not till now" about the vessel.

 

     The Kerrn point out a few things:

  • they can provide coordinates for the secret Kerrn route out to Zulfikar

  • the Terrans aren't vital to the Portal effort now (though the frigate is nice)

  • Kerrn are being offered large sums of money to act as crew on ships leaving Egry (and on Hammer ships staying at Egry, for that matter). The Terrans will have a Kerrn crew on the Spirit of Vinland as long as they want, but maybe not all of these Kerrn (they can get to Omshiip fairly quickly by acting as crew on courier vessels).

 

     Bribe offers have continued to arrive for the Spirit of Vinland; the largest offers are for about 1,000 Σ for a cryosleep berth ride to Agios or Keris, or 1,500 Σ for a proper "live" passage the same distance. A few other people have asked for secretive meetings, information about where the Spirit of Vinland comes from, etc. There's a lot of number-crunching about fuel supply, amount of space, number of cryoberths, etc. In the end, the Terrans decide to accept Judith's offer, and ask Lady Sukoda to pass the word. Simultaneously, 42 cryoberth passengers will be carried to Agios; some vetting of these people needs to be done, berths have to be purchased and installed, etc. The crew decides to leave in a couple of days.

 

     On 86/597, the Terrans are up to various things:

 

  • O'Reilly is buying supplies, haggling with quartermasters, and keeping a couple of the Kerrn busy with coming, going, carrying packages, and answering questions about technical issues

  • McClellan pays a short visit to Countess Judith, and generally plays the social part of "Interstellar Man of Mystery"; he also receives many bribes and attempted bribes, mostly for carrying people or data away from Egry. In the afternoon, Lady Sukoda uses her knowledge of Taoist lore and other ancient sciences to, hmmm, help McClellan avoid the depletion of his vitality.

  • Burns rents a very odd sailboat (very strong materials, advanced hydrodynamics, etc.) and takes it out into the bays and channels among the enormous ruins of the space elevator. He has a bit of trouble finding the boat rental people, etc. -- a lot of the population is heading for domes deep under the oceans.

  • Black is doing some shopping and visiting the Kerrn ghetto.

  • MacDougall is exploring the seamier side of commerce and opportunism, finding out how far his noble status and a war-panicked populace will let him gain an advantage for himself and the other Terrans.

 

     In the afternoon, while buying historical texts and other ephemera, O'Reilly and Vahlly (one of the Kerrn engineers) are ambushed by what appear to be two customs police and a couple of mukhadish (one with a very large gun). The two mukhadish end up dead, but both O'Reilly and Vahlly are rendered unconscious by the fake cops' stun guns - not before O'Reilly contacts his fellow Terrans by radio. The fake cops haul O'Reilly away ...

 

     Burns and Black rush to the scene (McClellan isn't near his communicator) and Black manages to track the phony cops to a warehouse near the starport. He and Burns call the authorities, but must sneak into the building to save O'Reilly from being hulled -- the fake cops are Vaylen! O'Reilly is saved, but the building is destroyed by one of the Vaylen setting off a bomb. The authorities suppress any information about the presence of Vaylen (to prevent a panic). The Terrans feel very lucky (but O'Reilly gets a more thorough scan than just a wave of the usual Calvarian integrity scanner).

 

     That night, the extra cryoberths are installed on the Spirit of Vinland, and the passengers are brought aboard with a fair amount of secrecy. The Marshal, Count Drax, clearly feels this process will help rid the planet of quite a few useless persons; but he'd also much rather that nobody knows about the cowardly cargo aboard the Spirit of Vinland. By the morning of 87/597, the ship is loaded, fuelled and ready to go. Lady Sukoda provides coordinates and crypto keys to locate and contact her father; the Marshal's office provides crypto keys and other info to allow the ship to pass through friendly lines. Watched intensely by many sensors, the Spirit of Vinland pulls back from the space dock, and accelerates towards the systems' fringes. Within a few hours, the ship engages its hyperexpansion drive and begins the trip towards Agios.  

 

     The ship arrives at Chemin on 89/597, and passes through without stopping; on to Aidin, arriving 95/597.  (The calendar passes from the Rising season to the Apex season on day 91).

 

Aidin                                                            

sole holding of Forged Lord Count Hiro Tul-Aidin, vassal of Earl Matsushita-Kun. Tul-Aiden's crest is a sheaf of wheat.

system

several worlds orbiting a single sun

enviro

the main world is a pleasant, fully-terraformed world, heavily dedicated to agricultural production. There are no known native forms of life. Temperatures are a little warm, but not unpleasant.

port

The main starport, Bowman, has only minor repair facilities; cargo and passenger shuttles are available, as is boron and helium. A small orbital station serves for quarantine and transfer purposes. Other landing pads exist on the planet, but are mostly used by non-starships.

forces

two battalions of Landwehr (Anvil) forces, an Iron company, and two Hammer frigates. The count's personal guard is an Iron platoon.

society

Index 4 world, population 7,000,000. Only nobility, Anvil members, or freemen may use grav/pressor vehicles, own firearms.

church

The senior cotar is John Nguyen. Chapters of several minor orders are present. The cathedral guard is an Anvil platoon, with a single Iron squad.

vassals Lord Cresbrouw (Anvil), and Lord D'Orty (Hammer)

 

     The system is in a frenzy, and a full inspection of the Spirit of Vinland is required -- only the Marshal's crypto-keys keeps the locals from waking up all the cryo-sleep passengers to perform full scans on them. Besides the news of the attack on Parvana, there are two more reasons for the local paranoia:  a courier ship arrived earlier this same day with news that a major Vaylen assault took place at Uzun-tra on 75/597; and three days ago, a courier arrived from Egry (having overtaken the Spirit of Vinland) with news that Kermian, capital world of the domain of Ekren, was apparently deeply infiltrated by the Vaylen before the invasion! The news is scanty, but apparently the nobility and Hammer forces were entirely suborned there. This was done no doubt to intercept couriers passing along the frontier worlds. The Terrans depart on 96/597.

 

     Passing though Stegaton without stopping, the Spirit of Vinland arrives at Agios on 101/597, and all 42 of the passengers disembark. Agios is the capital world of a minor domain; but it is also an important control point on space-routes towards the Void; League Hammer ships are beginning to gather here. More news:

  • Vaylen ships have launched unsuccessful raids on the Bianas and Daragas systems; scouts and fingers may have passed beyond those systems, into League space.

  • the Count-Marshal at Daragas has sent a Hammer wing (i.e., at least two squadrons) towards Kermian.

The ship fills its fuel bunkers while at this world.

 

     Again, there's a fair amount of delay due to security measures; the Spirit of Vinland doesn't depart until 103/597. The ship heads down to the belt system of Karal, and proceeds along the secret Kerrn route from there to Beilan (a world used by the League to hold exiles). From there, another leg leads to the belt system of Zulfikar, in the kingdom of Uzun; the Terrans arrive cautiously in that system on 124/597.

 

     Passive scans show lots of Vaylen vessels passing both ways between Uzun-tra and Meles; one of the two sensor torpedoes is quietly deposited in the fringes of this system. After a bit of monitoring, the Spirit of Vinland travels to Meles, and then (using the secret Toptanishi military route) to Pretesh, arriving on 137/597.

 

 

Pretesh                                                        

capital world of Forged Lord Count Albert Gomez-Singh, High Lord of the Toptanishi Marches. Gomez-Singh's crest is a spiral.

system

two small, hot inner worlds, Pretesh, and three gas giants with several moons.

enviro

13,000 km diameter, 1 G surface gravity, breathable atmosphere, 70% ocean coverage, well-established "garden world" ecosystem entirely of non-native forms.

port

on four commercial routes (plus a military route); the starport, at Everham, has excellent cargo handling equipment. Ship repairs and small craft construction take place at the port. Boron and metastable helium are available. 

forces

Hammer vessels include a patrol cruiser, 4 corvettes, 6 gunships, and 200 fighters (organized into 10 squadrons); the fighters are an antiquated 40-ton design of some renown. The largest Hammer vessel (currently the cruiser), by long tradition, never leaves the system. A naval base exists on one of the moons of the innermost gas giant world. 3 heavily-armored  and armed (including Q-beams) monitor stations orbit Pretesh. Anvil forces include 4 battalions of infantry and 2 armored battalions, plus various support troops. There is a high level of military training among the nobility, many of whom possess Anvil armor and weapons. The Count's personal guard is an Iron company; most of the fighters are also flown by personal vassals of the Count.

society

Index 3 world, population 88 million. GNP 500,000,000 Σ. Only nobility, Anvil members, freemen and guild members may use grav/pressor vehicles, own firearms or armor. An intensively farmed world, which exports large amounts of food to the Karsan League and the Kingdom of Uzun. There are a dozen cities; the largest is Everham (pop. 750,000). 90% of the population live in rural areas, as peasants. Industry and technology are concentrated in the cities, under the control of the pilotry and guilds. Strict laws and customs forbid peasants from using comm networks, possessing many kinds of manufactured goods, travelling without permission, using Standards, etc. A network of high-speed monorails connect the cities with each other. Imports:  technology, durable goods. Exports:  foodstuffs. The local nobility practice a particularly harsh culling custom, sending their youths to slay some of the peasants every year. Scans for Vaylen infestation are frequent; purgation (group punishments or exile) is common.

church

archcotare of the Mundus Humanitas is Simon Medina. A few of the civil orders are present, but no sodalities. The archcotare considers some of the lower classes to be part of a heretical rebellious cult. There is a temple guard (a grav-mobile Iron platoon, plus a Hammer gunboat), under command of the cotar fomas, Crinos Fantas. A scholae is present for instruction of cotars.

vassals

besides Barons Wallenburg and Mobeth on other systems, there are three Hammer Lords (Barons Ignatieff, Chung, Chan), and six Anvil Lords (Barons Lee, Butzi, Mead, Terekawa, Nemec, Iliff).

 

     (remember the above information is from before the Vaylen invasion)

 

     The capital of the Toptanishi Marches is swarming with Vaylen vessels, probably 500 ships are present. The Spirit of Vinland spends a day just monitoring transmissions, watching drive flares, and trying to locate gaps in the sensor networks. On 138/597 the Terrans begin slowly travelling towards the bastion, located on one of the moons of the outermost gas giant; again, they take their time and travel very slowly and quietly.

 

     A rough estimate of the ships in-system:

 

  • 1 cruiser squadron (5 ships total)

  • 2 destroyer squadrons (12 ships total)

  • 280 tankers (about 10,000 tons each)

  • 50 large cargo ships

  • 70 assault landing/troop transport ships (each about 2,000 to 5,000 tons, and probably armed)

  • 80 or so couriers, non-capital Hammer ships, scouts, fingers, captured small starships, and uncategorized craft under 1,000 tons each

  • 2 or 3 damaged capital ships, in low orbits around the main planet

     

     ... plus of course fighters and other non-starships; there are at least 50 Vaylen fighters present, and lots of sensor drones.

 

     By 139/597, the Spirit of Vinland has arrived at the surface of the moon; its surface is a mix of rock and ice. The coordinates provided by Countess Judith match a large ravine; the ship lands at the mouth of the ravine, and several of the Terrans (O'Reilly, Burns, McClellan, and Black) don vacuum suits and walk into the concealed entrance. A long, armored tunnel leads underground; it has blast doors and zig-zag sections. Eventually an airlock is reached; the Terrans are contacted by a speaker, which commands them to remove their helmets and submit to an integrity scanner (which is on a sort of robotic arm, mounted on the ceiling). Passing that test, the Terrans enter the bastion proper.

 

     Within a cavernous space are a Hammer gunship and twelve fighters; clearly there's another entrance to the bastion. For appearance of this bastion, think of the Rebel base on Hoth (but not so ice-ey); tunnels lead off in various directions. A couple dozen women, of two generations, are present; some are in Hammer combat suits, others are acting as mechanics, and some are holding guns on the Terrans. All the women are tall, handsome, have pale skin, red hair, and are left-handed; most are in their apparent 20s, but some are in their 40s. Baron Chan's crest (double chevrons) is prominent on the gunship, the fighters, and the women's uniforms. At least some of the women must be wearing wigs, since the fighters require a crucis to operate.

 


 

     Besides the gunship and fighters, there is some cargo stored in the hangar space (mostly the larger stuff), including a recon sled and a couple of armored utility sleds. The bastion smells of rust, ice, ozone, preservative chemicals, dust, and hot metal; it looks very old, but in reasonably good condition.

 

     After a bit of discussion, the Terrans are taken to see Baron Chan. They're taken to a deeper chamber, one of the main storage spaces; it's full of things gathered over generations -- statuary, mementos, sealed survival 'rafts', chandeliers, hunting trophies, decorations left over from events, wind turbines, no-longer-fashionable clothing, sports equipment, a thousand pairs of cowboy boots, drilling equipment, furnishings, sarcophagi, computer systems, surplus Anvil uniforms and field equipment, wedding presents, religious costumes and artifacts, preserved foodstuffs, artwork (including paintings of dogs in formal wear) and lots of tacky, gaudy stuff. Imagine Bob Guccione being in charge of filling the warehouse where the Ark of the Covenant gets stored.

 

     After a minute or two of waiting, the Baron comes into the chamber. He's confined to an anti-grav powered chair, more like a life-support throne; fat, unhealthy, and nearly incapable of movement, the Baron is a hideous sight. He's clearly using a crucis to operate a speaker system; the voice from the throne is clear and confident. His skin is gray and peeling, and no hair remains, so it's hard to say if he has anything genetically in common with the women of the bastion.

 


Your charming host:  Baron Walter Chan.

 

     He greets the Terrans pleasantly enough, and after they explain the reason for their presence (and present the encrypted introduction from Countess Judith), thanks them for their gallantry. He explains that besides himself, there are 10 of his "daughters", 25 of his "nieces", (those are the words he uses) and 2 boys present at this bastion. He asks whether the Terrans would be willing to visit any of the other bastions in the system; he knows of at least three that have probably not been discovered by the Vaylen. Probably is not certainty, however, and he certainly would understand if the Terrans were unwilling to travel further in the Pretesh system. He doesn't mention payment, but neither do the Terrans bring the subject up. At one point during the conversation the fact that some (or maybe all) of the women can speak the Vaylen language. The bastion has about 200 tons of boron stashed away (and the Spirit of Vinland is a bit low on boron right now, hint, hint). The Terrans ask for permission to return to their ship and discuss matters; the Baron assents politely. "Do let us know if there is anything we can do to help you come to a decision, my lords."

 

     The Terrans depart the bastion, and trudge back along the ravine to their ship -- the blue-green gas giant planet fills half of the sky above. Once aboard, they fill MacDougall and the Kerrn in on what they found. "Yow." Various plans and schemes are discussed; one of the boldest is the swoop through the Vaylen fleet, shootin' up the place plan. The Kerrn point out the possible usefulness of Vaylen-speaking women ... though the possibly-worm-infestedness of the women remains a thought, too.

 

     Book-keeping:  please knock off 1,000 Σ for operating expenses for this session (fuel at Agios, food, cost of running the ship, maintenance, etc.). The trip from Agios was 66 light-years; the normal fuel bunkers of the Spirit of Vinland (130 tons of boron) support a range of about 90 light years. So:  your fuel is about 3/4 exhausted right now (but I think you carried some extra fuel in your 12 ton cargo bay, which might add 5 or 10 light years to the remaining range).

     

On to Journal entry 6

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