(10a) Addendum to (10)

The Crusader Campaign (061-1123)

Kalida and Geoff

    "How's this?" asks Kalida, holding up the wine bottle.  Sir Geoffrey indicates it's "interesting."  Kalida takes off her commdot, grabs a couple of glasses, and walks to the bookshelf.  Geoff follows to the private room.
    This room is an extension of the previous area's decor.  They sit down in heavy red leather chairs around a small table, on which Kalida sets the glasses.  She opens the wine.
    The wine pours a bright glowing flourescent orange, which after a short while settles out into green at the lower part of the glass grading through orange to yellow at the top.  The wine still glows after it's settled.
    "What have I done?" she says with a smile at her glass.  She toasts, "To old friends."
    Geoff returns the toast.
    The flavor is very interesting.  It is very fruity, but with a depth and complexity that indicates it has matured substantially.  Kalida judges it to have been made with a conventional wine making process, but from what fruit she cannot even begin to guess.  "Where did you find this?" she asks.
    "Actually a friend of mine found it and sent me a case," replies Geoff.  "I have no idea what it's made of or where it's from.  He bet me I couldn't find out, and we'll settle the bet at my birthday party."
    "Can always trust you to have something weird in there."
    Geoff smiles at that.  He then says, "So what's going on?"
    Kalida says, "I'm going to have to get all political on you, and for that I apologize.  Is your father still as close to Norris as he has been in the past?"
    "I'd say so, yes.  They certainly seemed to get on well enough when he was here.  I don't think it's diminished at all."
    "What have you heard about the Llannamith?"
    "I quote: 'What the heck are they doing what that bloody thing?  Probably some wild goose chase, somebody off on some private project.  I imagine somebody's head is going to roll over that one.'  That's about it."
    "Nothing about Santanocheev?"
    "Nothing at all about him.  Haven't heard anything since... pretty much since he vanished.  Dad hasn't mentioned him.  Which I guess is kind of odd, given he was actually mentioned in the news report."
    "Yeah, that caught my eye.  Have you heard anything about what's going down in Five Sisters?"
    "If I had to guess, I'd say whoever took the Llannamith stirred something up, caused some incident.  It's annoying."
    "I suspect it's going to be a lot more than annoying very soon."
    "They stirred up something big?"
    "They are something big.  What they stirred up is nothing."  She pauses, then says, "I came across some information that tells me that the fleet from Iderati, along with a few other fleets from Five Sisters, will all be meeting at Dawnworld in District 268.  For a large gathering such as that, Adabicci is two jumps away.  I'm pretty certain Santanocheev is in charge of it."
    "I don't know that they're coming to Adabicci.  They could strike directly at Norris at Mora.  That would take them longer to get to and be more obvious, but four fleets is a substantial force."
    "So they're revolting."
    "Looks like it."
    "Santanocheev is pulling a coup."
    "That's what it looks like to me."
    "Sounds like you need to have a word with dad."
    "That's why I was asking where he stood on this.  If he's still with Norris then I need to talk to him."
    "Depending on where Norris is on this," Geoff laughs.
    "That too."
    "Dad doesn't want insurrection.  He'd be opposed to a coup.  Norris isn't perfect, but he's the best we've had for a while.  Well, that doesn't sound good.  I guess I'd better get myself ready to get out of here if necessary."
    "I don't know where he's going.  He could be doing something else entirely.  All I know is it's two jumps to here, or about five to Mora."
    "Why?  Why?"
    "I think it has its roots back many years ago."
    "Doesn't sound very good."
    "All I know at the moment is that they're gathering at Dawnworld.  That's certainly coming this way."
    "Depends whether they strike coreward, or..."
    "If he's headed for Capital he's going to run into some resistance well before then.  But Mora is close enough that he could get there before."
    "If he could get to Mora and take over, and find some pretext for installing himself as Archduke... then he suddenly has a lot of stuff available.  It's not like there isn't a history of people with navies marching on the Emperor before.  There's an archduke or two who might swing in on his side, too."
    "People will start weighing odds and allying themselves with whoever is likely to win.  I imagine there are a few who already know and are signed on with him.  The rest will be trying to figure out which way to go."
    Geoff laughs.  "I guess in some weird way from Santanocheev's point of view this is all Norris' fault, because if he'd have not made peace with the Zhodani, you wouldn't be able to take the fleets and march on Capital."
    "I wonder if he had something like this planned that long ago, and it's just taken him this long to put it together again.  If you remember, at the time he had a lot of resources."
    "That's certainly true.  If he's got a subsector already, he probably has a lot of people on his side too.  You need to talk to dad.  Can it wait till tomorrow?"
    "Yes, it's not going to be here for a while.  I think they're probably all going to be gathering at Dawnworld around 94, and from there it'll still take them a little while to go wherever it is they're going.  But that's a very large force to counter, and we can't move quickly.  And while we're moving slowly, they're already moving, while we don't move at all."
    "On the other hand we might not need to be, necessarily.  Well, speaking personally, I might need to be," laughs Geoff.
    "If the come to Adabicci, the forces here are not going to be enough.  If they're on their way to Mora, however, we might be able to muster up a force big enough before they get there.  But what they're going to be doing on their way there, we don't know.  If they're going to stop off and wreak havoc on their way, or if they're going as fast as possible."
    "Yeah, they've got a couple of subsectors to go through, and they have to resupply at some point."
    "Right.  And there's no way they're going to get there without being noticed."
    "Yes.  News will travel faster than the fleet at some point."
    "That's why I'm sure they're starting from Dawnworld, pretty much the closest in they can get and still be hidden.  Not quite: whichever way they're going, I think they're going to stop off at Olympia on the way, and that's another neutral system, and it's one jump from here and four-ish to Mora depending which route they take."
    "Well, dad will figure it out.  These days Eduard has his nose in everything as well.  I'll give them a call first thing in the morning, if that's ok, and he'll figure out whether he wants to come here or us to go there.  Thanks, I really appreciate the ... information."
    "It seemed like the right place to start from, in more ways than one."
    "But in the meantime, we'd just as well relax while the skies are clear.  I'm sure dad will figure out some kind of early warning."
    "There are ways.  I don't think we'll have any trouble finding some way to get a message there fairly quickly."
    Geoff says, "It's interesting, because the Sword Worlds usually cause all the fuss out here."
    "They've been quiet for a while," agrees Kalida.  "That's one reason I was thinking they might come here first, because starting here weakens the border considerably with the Sword Worlds."
    "Yeah, if that's what they want to do."
    "It makes a lot more sense that other ways they could go to Mora.  It all depends what their real objectives are."
    "Well, it makes sense that they're coming here.  Marc is coming here, and wherever he goes, trouble follows.  He's quite the trouble magnet."  Geoff breaks the pause with, "There's all sorts of things I'd like to ask, but I'm sure I don't have the clearance for any of them, so I'm not going to."
    "You can ask.  I may or may not answer, but you can always ask."
    "No, I'm not going to put you on the spot.  I'm going to wait until this has all blown over, and we can talk about it then."
    "Fair enough," laughs Kalida.
    "Obviously they put their trust in somebody, and they know what they're doing with you, so."
    "I'm a free agent at the moment."
    "Uh-huh, yeah.  Like I said, I'm not asking.  It would be interesting to be here and see that ship of yours do its work."
    "Yeah, I'm kind of sorry about dropping it in on you like that.  I didn't think about it until after I'd already accepted the invitation."
    "They got it working, I didn't expect them to announce it.  I'm kind of surprised that you're in charge of it, but I'm sure they know what they're doing.  Any cooperation you need, just let me know."
    Kalida pauses, then says firmly, "I wouldn't say they got it working.  We got it working.  I'm also going to have to say that they'd really rather we didn't have it."
    "Are you serious?"
    "You haven't been assigned this ship with some special mission to do, or...?"
    Geoff bursts out laughing.  "Well, that makes some sense.  I'm not going to tell my security people, I'll let them think whatever they want."
    "Do you know who it was who put you on the one with the big hole in it?"
    "Not at all?"
    "Some kind of intelligence guys.  I've got kind of vague memories.  Marc can probably tell you more about it.  He's probably not allowed to, but none of us are."
    "He's seen the ship.  I mean, the one that we have."
    "Yes.  He's taken a tour of it, in fact."
    "I'd like to sit down and chat with him and fill in some gaps I have in the story.  It sounds like it..." He tails off into silence.
    Kalida says, "I don't think it was strictly Naval Intelligence who was in charge there.  There's a sort of a separate faction inside Naval Intelligence, and I'm quite certain that they're involved with this rogue fleet business with Santanocheev."
    "Do they have more of these?"
    "I don't believe so."
    "And can it do anything if it comes down to a battle, or is it just a private yacht, as it's registered?"
    "It can do some interesting things.  It could be an asset.  That's probably all you need to know."
    "That's fine," says Geoff quickly.  "That's probably more than I need to know."
    "Probably.  But you've already seen it."
    "Not working."
    "I'd still love to know what it was they were trying to do."
    "They were trying to find the starter button or something, I think."
    "I think they were trying way too hard."
    "Yeah.  Yeah."
    "Because it's really a very easy ship to run."
    "It's all a matter of knowing how to fire it up."
    "Well, I'll give my dad a call in the morning, see what he wants to do."
    "And keep this quiet."
    "Yes, absolutely.  No worries about that."

    They continue with small talk, sinking the bottle of strange wine.  Geoff asks Kalida to let him know if he can find out where it comes from.  He suggests she take a couple of bottles.  He has several cases, so it's not like it was his last bottle.
    They chat a little about the upcoming birthday party next year.  Geoff says he hasn't firmed the plans yet, but it will be quite something.  It will definitely be informal, which will give him a lot more leeway.  He's still trying to convince a couple of people to take part in the festivities.  He promises it will be interesting, and invitations will go out in plenty of time.  Kalida assures him she wouldn't miss it.

    Once the bottle has been finished, they leave the silent room and return to the main house.