Chapter 12: Philippia
We find our heroes jumping out of hyperstate after a journey of several hundred parsecs and about a century. They have arrived in the Philippian system, in the year 2616, for repairs. This is one year after their adventure in Martshaylaport. We are quickly approached and hailed by a smaller, sleeker version of the Munch. This turns out to be a ship of the Royal Navy, which recognized our transponder signal. Dafnord tells them we are here for repairs and denies that the damage was incurred in battle. (True. It was the moral equivalent of touching down on a land-mine, long after the battle.)
The navy ship then gives us the coordinates for the space dock at PL5, the Lagrange point that precedes Philippia in its orbit around its suns. We head out and pick up several additional escort vessels. They ask us a lot of questions about what we've been doing and how we got damaged. Not intrusive, fill-in-the-blank questions, but all designed to answer the fundamental question: Would repairing you involve us in any political entanglements? No. None you would believe, anyway...
When we get to PL5, it is a very military-looking place. Very utilitarian architecture. No adverts floating about. Nothing but military vessels in sight. And us. We're steered into an open dock, and our half-dozen escort fighters leave ... except for one.
Remote communications, it turns out, are jammed. Robbie calls the PL5 comm center and asks for net access. Sorry, you need authorization for that. Okay, how would we do that? Turns out you need authorization to get authorization. At this point, we call on Salimar to come do her job as KaiSenese Liaison Officer. While she hunts up her cloak of office, someone calls us, asking to board. Sure. Dafnord, Robbie, Gannar, and Braeta line up to meet them at the airlock. They are very prettily uniformed -- the Philippians love pageantry, or, as their detractors call it, "goop" -- and seem to want more personal space than we are used to giving. We accommodate them.
We politely exchange technical data. The Munch is presently registered out of ... Aondoar? They haven't heard of it. (Of course not. It's a stellar republic some millennia in the future -- or a territory in Faerie that oddly has the same name.) We smile blandly. Does it have any relations to His Majesty's Government? No. Are we importing anything naughty? (Phrased more formally, of course.) No, we aren't importing anything; just here for repairs. Does Aondoar have relations with the KaiSenese Association or the Grand Convention or the Terran Space Treaty Organization. No. Oh... They're rapidly running out of slots to put us in. Are we, by any chance, KaiSenese Associates? Yes. Oh, good!
Robbie asks why, since we're so much trouble, we weren't sent to a commercial shipyard. Because, we are a recently decommissioned military vessel, weaponed, of unknown registration, and we look combat-damaged. We see their point.
The next sticking point are our "aliens" -- the bogies and the gargoyles. They aren't from any known biosphere. (Well, they're fay, we think, which is probably quite Terran, but they'd never believe that. Either that, or they're forged out of raw Chaos.) They are understandably particular about creatures from unknown biospheres, so we rent expensive isolation quarters for ourselves and our menagerie to stay in while the Munch is being repaired.
About net access: We explain that we only want access to the commercial net, which we need to contact our bank, in order to pay for these repairs and things. That bank happens to be the KaiSenese Consulate at Martshaylaport; the Philippian Navy quickly accepts this as reputable, and we soon get to look over our bank balance.
We're rolling in dough, which is good, because this is gonna be expensive. Our investments have paid off well. Even Mr. D'Aubaine, the reporter whom we snared into administrating our fund for cases of death by unknown aliens, is still on duty. He hasn't had to pay out any claims, but we seem to have sucked him into a life of strange investigations. Good; we'll have company.
A bit after we make our financial arrangements, a chunky white ship docks, discharging med-techs in sever white protective suits. They are pleasantly surprised at how little contamination our "aliens" have caused. Later, they are a bit embarrassed that we have some vermin picked up when the Munch was decommisioned and refurbished a few years ago on Charlemagne, a Philippian moon. They apologize and promise to exterminate. They leave, and the first engineers come in to look over the damage.
More or less by accident, one of them also looks over the stray cat. He's very puzzled, because it doesn't give instrument readings like any cat. Tom isn't surprised, given what the autodoc found, but acts it, and asks for particulars. "Well, does it eat boron, sir?" "Not if I catch it."
The engineers' first estimate is that repairs will take 350,000 to a million lucre points, KaiSenese. A new ship would be about 600,000 points, so we will track the numbers closely.
We move off to the isolation quarters, leaving the AIs instructions not to chat with the repair crews about the "aliens," the cat or the parrot, or where we've been. On the way out, we meet more med-techs coming in, and they are really thrown by the animals. The cat and the parrot are not only weird, they are different kinds of weird. The parrot has no extra boron, for instance, but its bones appear to be slightly petrified wood. The gargoyle, though exotic, actually seems fairly normal for a silicon-based lifeform. But the "cat" and "parrot"...? And the bogies?
Tom shrugs, says we've come in from the Authority Zone, famed for weirdness, and that the cat and parrot were presented to him as ordinary animals.
Then there's Markel's dragon. It tests as perfectly Terran in metabolism, but it has six limbs. There are no six-limbed Terran vertebrates. Is it a construct? Tom shrugs and says that he guesses it must be. (And for all he knows, it is, though he'd bet the constructor was a naga wizard.) It belongs to Markel, who comes from some very remote human settlement. Hey, maybe the cat and bird and constructs, too. The med-techs ask, as a personal favor, if they could do some detailed scans on these critters. Um... sure.
Days pass. The med-techs bemused themselves. The kids and bogies watch TV. People and critters get antsy. On the fourth day, the crew chief calls Dafnord and tells him he might want to completely replace the #3 pinhole-effect generator. And there are all those warped struts to replace. Repairs to the ship will come to about 400,000 lucre points, if we want to be thorough. We want to. We'll pay for it.
While repairs to the ship proceed, Robbie pursues his own repairs. He's made friends with Chalmers, a robot who pilots the little shuttle-pods we use to commute from the isolation quarters to the ship, to oversee repairs. Robbie asks Chalmers if there's a good cybershop in the station.. Oh, yes, excellent shops here. Of course, the two robots will have to go through decontamination, but, personally, Chalmers likes the clean, totally inorganic feeling he gets. (Chalmers is a heavily-chromed, rather stick-figure-like robot, while a solid sense of Metal Pride.) Robbie concurs.
Once through decontamination, Chalmers takes Robbie to a nice little cybershop in the station mall. Robbie would like to get his hands tuned up, since the beating they took when he painfully interpenetrated that rock back on Destine. The cybersmith looks them over and clucks. Funny kind of electrical damage. He soon seduces Robbie into buying a new pair, upgraded (after all, we're a century in the future from when he bought his current body), with better touch and fine control. A little more talk, and Robbie is buying a complete new pair of arms, with a removable layer of Varichrome(tm) color-changing skin.
And remember his flying eye? He misses that eye. By day six of our stay, after several trips to the cybershop for "fittings," Robbie has also ordered a pair of flying eyes, nicely loaded with on-board psilencers, stealth gravitics, Maxwell Effect recharging (not compatible with the psilencers), sound pick-up, leather upholstery and CD players, or something like that. They're human-colored, though. "They aren't used, are they?" Robbie asks. (Used eyes. Yuck.) Oh, no. Robbie decides he could always get them re-colored.
The eyes arrive in a severely plain box, strongly suggesting that they are normally sold as spy equipment. Well, they're a bit much for bird-watching. They also see better even than Robbie's own installed eyes. Cool! The eyes and arms total 45,000 points.
Thanks to the telepathy net, Robbie can also go window-shopping on behalf of the poor, cooped-up organics. The mall, being on a military base, includes a nice little munitions store that several of us buy things from. Braeta buys herself a new computer.
Back among the biological, Ensign Longstreet, one of the med-techs, has become intrigued by Salimar. She asks if Salimar is from the same place as the cat. Tom tells her No, but she is very foreign and very psionic. He does not elaborate.
After a week, the ship is finally repaired. The crew has been really good, so Robbie buys them souvenir baseball caps with the Munch's nose-art on them. The grand total, for ship repairs, new anatomy, special accommodations, and sundries, is 450,000 lucre points.
We depart. They figure we were spies. They were right, but they'd never guess for whom.
Braeta looks over the ship's AIs. The crew didn't interrogate them, but she discovers that Edvard, the ship computer, has been obeying several orders from them. In fact, it was he who jammed our communications and denied us net access to begin with. He is, after all, original equipment, manufactured by the Philippian Space Navy, and it seems that, deep down in his algorithms, he's still partly loyal to them over us. Something to bear in mind.
We now set course for Hellene, a hundred years in the past, and thence to Faerie and a meeting with Daewen.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.