Chapter 2: Now You See It
Having taken aboard one of the chirp fighters and tucked the pilot,
Mueller, in an autodoc, we turn our attention to teleporting over to the
Jack B., where they have finished clearing room in a hold for the
Kate and Daphne get shot over, and are greeted by Capt. Gordon, who introduces Lt. Cmdr. Rogers (with no great enthusiasm, Rogers being part of the stowaway crew Gordon didn't know he had). Rogers has a technician, a lady named Blake, who very much needs an autodoc. We'll pop her over, along with Capt. Gordon. Would Rogers like to come too? No? Later, then...
We hustle Blake to the sickbay and send Gordon to our bridge, to meet Dafnord, whom he's "heard all about," mostly in relation to the Battle of Hanger 16, when our war for the nephilim leaked somewhat into Jumper Jacks.
Gordon explains how his ship was drydocked a few months ago, and, during the refit, was apparently endowed with more cabins than he was told about. He's understandably irked about them, and the stowaway crew they contained, even if said crew did save his bacon.
"Have you ever encountered those manta-shaped ships before?" Dafnord asks.
"This encounter was predicted," Dafnord remarks, referring to the prophetic message we got from Cantrel. Gordon replies that there were more predictions around; those chirp fighters were launched 15 minutes before the encounter -- he's told, though, for some reason, his ship did not observe them.
Dafnord asks about the mission of the Jack B. Gordon replies that he was supposed to be headed into the Diaspora on a standard trade mission. He's no longer sure how standard it is, and neither are we.
The next topic is repair time. It'll take at least 6 days to repair the Jack B. as far as it can be fixed out in space. The Munch will be done in 3, though in marginal condition.
We offer to escort the Jack B. top its destination -- the Diaspora planet Carmel. After all, the Grand Asclepius autodoc wants to keep Blake at least 4 days.
Repair work commences, under Robbie's supervision. Those who need sleep go get some. When they awake -- (Robbie over the telepathy net to Dafnord: "Good morning, Sunshine." "That's Captain Sunshine to you!") -- Dafnord meets with Capt. Gordon and Pilot Mueller in a conference room whipped up by the furnisher and well-stocked with Crackers of Discretion, for we smell time-tricks about. The Crackers take a fair bit of explaining, but the upshot is that choking on a cracker is a better timelock to suffer than, say, an embolism or catastrophic engine failure.
Dafnord tells Gordon about the message we got for the Johnny B. Gordon is disturbed. This is the sister ship of the Jack B. It was headed into the Diaspora, too, probably for Philippia. It was, we learn from Mueller, similarly fitted with secret cabins, crew, and fighters. The message suggests that it's in trouble at least as bad as Jack B.'s.
Perhaps we should take the escort ships with us, and go bail out the Johnny B. To get there, though, we need to leave soon, even playing time-travel tricks. "Soon" means "before the damaged pinhole generator is fixed," which means we'll go into battle with one generator down. Oh, well, needs must.
But about this secret set of fighters... Mueller explains: Recent events (meaning out little war in the hangar and the preceeding mixup with Rainbow) have made Cantrel even more security-conscious than ever, hence the clever little hidden backup.
They do work by time-tricks. There are hidden transtemporal communications circuits in Jack B's computers and comm system that send a message back through time to the systems in hidden section at a time prior to the first observation of the threat. That system informs Jumping Jacks Central and scrambles the chirp fighters, enabling them to leap out in their chirp fighters 15 minutes before hostilities begin. The Jack B.'s own computers are carefully programmed to be blind to the chirp fighters. All this secrecy is to avoid choking the system on timelocks.
And how are repairs going? Edvard says it'll take 18 hours to get navigation back to nominal. (The 3-hour estimate was for being able to jump into hyperstate and survive the experience; it wasn't even for being able to survive the jump back out. You have to watch these military-surplus computers...) Mueller suggests having Rogers help, and Gordon thinks inflicting anything on Rogers sounds fine. Rogers and his people shorten the time to 12 hours. Rogers recommends having Technician Blake help finish up repairs, once we're under weigh. After all, it'll take three subjective weeks to rendezvous with the Johnny B., so she'll be out of the autodoc by then.
Just before we jump, Dafnord fires a message off to Cantrel: "Rendezvous with Jack B. successful. Repairs being effected. Proceeding to rendezvous with Johnny B." There's a certain semantic tension between "successful" and "repairs," but Cantrel knows how such things go. We jump into hyperstate.
Next morning, over breakfast, Mueller remarks, "Of course! The moment I saw you, I should have known the Johnny B. was in trouble They were our primary backup!" So the system had to fall back on us. Lucky them. Lucky us.
A week later, still in hyperstate, the autodoc allows Blake out. She's wobbly but getting very bored of bed rest and glad to do something, like help repair the down pinhole generator. She's happy enough with the tools we provide, but baffled by Kate's home-made splicer for optical cabling. It oughtn't to work; there ought to be all kinds of integral reflections. But then she realizes who Kate is: "Oh! Kate Carter!" Part of the Odd Squad. Awe and hero-worship ensue, much to Kate's embarrassment.
Blake then works wonders on the pinhole generator, being familiar was lots of anachronistic machinery (the chirp fighters being based on such stuff), and makes much use of Kate's Magic Splicer, which she begins to feel she understands...
Soon, Blake begins vanishing from the scene, mostly to the machine shop, when she isn't in bed, healing and making furious notes.
On the day before our rendezvous with the Johnny B., Blake asks how dangerous tomorrow's encounter will be. We're basically all better now, and we have the Nimble, Mueller's fighter, so we're a bit better off than before the encounter in which she was hurt. But it's still dangerous.
She asks because she has an idea she'd like sent back home in case we don't survive. And she'd like to test it once we get back into normal state.
We drop out into normal state a few hours later and, while we're closing, Blake does her test: She brings out of the machine shop a platform with several upright metal rods on it, and a hand-blown light-bulb, plus an electric meter and some clockwork. With all of us watching, she turns it on. It disappears.
"I knew it!" she crows. "It shouldn't have worked! It makes no sense at all! It's perfect!" She exits triumphantly, leaving us to wonder about many thing, the state of her sanity included.
Fifteen minutes later, she's back with a data card. It has a message to send to Cantrel. All she'll say is , "It went away." And it was supposed to. Good?
We are a day's flight from our rendezvous with the Johnny B.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.