In the context of the information he's putting
together the Archduke, Mich Saginaw reflects that quite some time back,
he sent off a paper with all the information about Anastasia to
an obscure trade journal. That should be hitting publication
right about now, in fact, as it was sent a year ago from Mongo.
Unlike the information they gave the Archduke, the journal paper
contains no deliberate errors. These days, of course, he also has
addition a very fine computer model of jumpspace and the jump process
He prepares a report include everything he knows
about jump engineering, antimatter generators, and so on. It
contains not only the work from Anastasia, but further
developments on H.M.S. Third Eye, and information on vortex
generators. Nothing about black tech will be there, of course,
but everything else will be.
Once lunch is over, Kalida Siena, Marchioness of
Nakege, heads back to her stateroom to consider matters yet
again. The result of that is that after dinner, she takes Sir
Misha Ravenos aside and has a private conversation with him.
After the meeting, Kalida goes off to her stateroom
for more analyses, while Sir Misha returns to the lounge.
Edward "Shark" Teeth has noticed that the two of
them had a private discussion, but trusts (as much as anything) the
tacticians on board, and the Captain's judgment. He has been
researching the Duke of Rhylanor and his family, of course, to have all
the background he can find on their future guest.
Nightshade comes out of jump in the early
hours of the morning, in
stealth mode. Shark and Callisto scan the system, but find no
abnormal activity. There's a lot of activity here, of course, but
that's to be expected. There are three fleets here, including the
Yathanyi battle group. They'll set Robert Morris to hack
the fleet for hidden orders right before they leave.
Shark concedes reluctantly that Sir Misha is better
people than he is, and asks if he wants to accompany him ashore to make
contact with the Duke. Sir Misha agrees.
40% of the mainworld is covered with water.
Fortunately the capital is near just such a body of water. Helia
Sarina brings them in to the world and into the ocean, then to about a
kilometer out from the city. She settles Nightshade deep
underwater for the shore party to leave.
Shark points out that they don't need a gcarrier for
just two people to go ashore. Picking him up is another matter --
perhaps they can pick him up with the ship from a park, or from his
house, at night. So they'll swim out with their zacks, carrying
their clothes in a waterproof bag, and the two of them will slip ashore
as inconspicuously as possible.
Shark requests that they use moderately good
business attire. Sir Misha, of course, has none -- he'd been
planning to wear his cape over his zack. Shark sighs to himself
and says they'll buy some for the barbarian when they get ashore.
It's 10:00 Imperial time when the Captain and First
Officer reach the surface at the shore, just after dawn local
time. They are pretty certain no-one has seen them land, choosing
a spot carefully. Shark puts on his suit over his zack, Sir Misha
wraps his cape around himself, and they walk on into town.
As they move into more populated areas, they find
that most people are ignoring them, although Sir Misha does get a few
surreptitious glances. They are relieved when they find a store
soon after getting into the commercial district.
Shark quickly steers Sir Misha towards the perfect
attire, and after stepping into the measurement booth, the suit is
ready for him. They pay cash, and soon the two of them are
dressed inconspicuously. They're no longer getting any looks,
fitting in perfectly with the locals.
Their next stop is a payphone to call the Duke of
Trin's office. Shark makes the appointment for Roger Jolly and
Edward Teach to hand-deliver in person a message in about two hours
time. He then finds the nearest netcafe, where he peruses the
want ads to see if there's anything going on here. Everything
seems to be normal. He then checks any local news of the Duke,
who is in residence at present and is scheduled only for minor local
engagements over the next couple of weeks. The Duke has a wife
and three children, also in residence now. The whole family is to
be attending many of the same engagements. Photos of the children
are clearly popular, plentiful in local news reports.
There's still an hour and a half to waste.
Shark downloads the local news into his puter, including all the social
and political news that might be used to build the Duke's engagement
calendar. To Shark's relief, it looks like the Duke is planning
to have most of the social functions at his palace. Then he
checks local tourist information for any details of the palace.
Shark considers where to pick up the Duke. There is of course the
open area outside the city where he was taken to the base in a gravcar,
but getting the Duke there might be rather too conspicuous.
Shark then suggests they hail a taxi and sit out the
rest of the time at a coffee shop near the offices of the Duke of
Trin. This proves easy and simple, and the coffee is good.
The two of them fit in just like natives.
Five minutes before their 12:30 appointment, they
arrive at the offices. The secretary immediately apologizes and
says that it will be another half an hour before the envoy can see
them, as he's caught up in business. The two of them settle down
Ten minutes into the thirty, a middle aged woman
comes bursting out from a door into the waiting room, apologizing
profusely and rushing them into her office with a dismissing wave to
Once inside, she introduces herself as Penny
Whistle. That is indeed the name on the desk, and from her job
title she's the person they need to meet.
Ms. Whistle has recognized Sir Misha as the man who
was so popular with the Duchess at his last visit. Shark hands
her the envelope. She opens it and politely excuses herself to a
She comes back into the office and gives them both a
very strange look.
Shark and Sir Misha cannot help looking a little
Penny seems to be disturbed and somewhat suspicious,
but conflicted. She says, "When were you on Mora?"
Sir Misha says, "A very short period of time ago."
Shark says, "And that is important only to our
mission. We have a letter we need to deliver to the Duke of
Rhylanor as soon as possible, hence the speed."
"This is very strange," says Penny.
Shark says seriously and quietly, "And very secure
information you now have. It is of that importance."
"Very well. How soon do you want the
"Immediately," says Misha.
"I'll see what I can do. Excuse me."
Penny steps out of the room again, and returns after a short while to
tell them that there is a car waiting downstairs for them. She
wishes them luck.
Shark makes a mental note to tell Robert that the
coded messages include a date, in case that helps him break the
code. He asks Penny to destroy the note, and to his surprise
believes that she will. Of course, if it had been him, he would
have kept copies...
Outside the building, a large black gravlimo is
waiting for them. Shark can't help being suspicious, but he and
Sir Misha climb inside. The vehicle rushes them off to the Ducal
Palace, lights and sirens blaring. On the way, Shark hands Sir
Misha the envelope for the Duke.
At the palace, they go straight through the gate
without being challenged, and pull up in the enclosed entrance
area. They are greeted by a staff member, who politely requests
they go with him as he sets off at a brisk walk.
After hallways and elevators they reach a lobby,
where the Duke of Rhylanor is walking towards them. "Good to see
you again!" he says to Sir Misha. "I gather you have some urgent
"I have a letter for you," says Sir Misha, handing
"It's for your eyes only, your Grace," says Shark.
The Duke opens the envelope and reads the short
message. He thanks them, then asks them to come with him.
He sets off at a brisk walk, faster than they've seen any noble walk
except while playing golf. Or tennis, maybe. Shark and Sir
Misha follow after him.
It's now about 13:30, a few hours after dawn.
Shark curses their timing, with it being so long until sunset.
The Duke leads them through a door past saluting
guards, and the three of them have stepped through to what must be a
residential area rather than offices. He leads them to a lounge
overlooking the gardens He asks them to wait, and leaves them
their while he steps out.
Shark looks out with a critical eye for how Nightshade
might fit here. There would be room to bring the ship alongside
the balcony. It would be an operation like their break-in of the
office block on Wonstar, but Helia will be up to it.
Unfortunately there are people in the garden, and stealth mode doesn't
include an edit feature -- they would see the Duke walking off the
balcony and into nowhere. Perhaps Helia could extend the walkway
so it goes through the door, but if it misses it would tear stuff up
and leave evidence.
After a short while, the Duke comes back in.
He asks, "What's the plan? When do we leave? How do I get
out of here? I have told my wife that I am to be considered ill
and will not be leaving my quarters. Until I come out, absolutely
no-one is to come in."
Shark steps out onto the balcony and looks back at
the building for other suitable access points. There don't seem
to be any appropriate windows. The roof slopes from the peak to a
one meter walkway to the parapet. He steps back in, and asks the
Duke if he ever takes walks on the parapet.
The Duke does not, no. He does have guards up
Shark decides that they'll walk right out from the
balcony, but they'll wait until nightfall. He tells the Duke that
they'll pick him up tonight from the patio, two hours after sunset.
Sir Misha says that they will leave now, and will be
back on this patio two hours after sunset. He assures the Duke
that he will not need to disable any intrusion alarms or disrupt guard
patrols. He adds that if he needs to disable something, they have
not done their job well.
The Duke looks at the two quizzically, but accepts
their plan with a nod.
Sir Misha and Shark return to the gravlimo, still
waiting for them, and ask the driver to drop them at the coffee
shop. They take a different route back to the shore, taking extra
care to make sure there's no-one watching while they strip down to
their zacks and enter the water. They swim back to Nightshade.
The sun takes a long time to set. Dusk is
long, as the large red star slowly works its way down below the horizon.
It's after midnight when Helia takes them out of the
ocean and over the
Ducal Palace. Stealth is the priority, but under that
consideration she goes as quickly
as she can.
On the way in, Callisto and Shark get a detailed
model of the palace and its surroundings. No-one is in a position
to overlook the balcony.
Helia brings Nightshade into position to
deploy the ramp as Shark has directed. She brings the starboard
side of the ship close to the building, and extends the ramp behind the
bridge down to the balcony itself. About two meters of
translucent ramp is visible outside the stealth bubble.
Shark walks down the ramp, dressed in his zack so as
to be relatively dark.
The Duke of Rhylanor is seated in the room, looking
out at the translucent object that has appeared on his balcony.
He starts visibly when Shark appears, but recovers quickly. He
walks over to the door and steps out to meet Shark.
"Do you have a bag, your Grace?" asks Shark.
"No," says the Duke, "I have no bag."
"Would you come with me?"
"Do what?" says the Duke.
"Come with me, please." Shark indicates the
ramp, and the Duke waves him ahead. He walks up into the bubble,
turns back, and offers a hand and arm back to the Duke.
The Duke takes a deep breath and steps into the
bubble. Clearly he's startled again, but follows Shark up into
the ship as the First Officer welcomes him to Nightshade.
The airlock door closes behind them.
Shark says, "We're aboard."
On the Bridge, Sir Misha directs Helia to take them
out of there. She does so with the same priorities as before,
this time headed mostly up away from the surface of the
mainworld. The Captain turns to Robert and tells him to direct
Helia to postition them to hack into the fleet.
Robert indicates a low-ranking Naval vessel in orbit.
Aft of the Bridge, Shark shows the Duke back into
the stateroom area. The door to the airlock corridor closes
behind the Duke as he steps into the passenger area. Shark gives
him a brief tour of the section, showing him his stateroom and back to
the Lounge, pointing out the Gym and Galley, and explaining the limits
of his restricted area. He tells the Duke that the Marchioness of
Nakege will be with him shortly.
Helia has positioned Nightshade to intercept
Robert hacks in, finding no change in encryption or
security, and bounces his route through half a dozen other Naval ships
before diving into one of them to pull out what they want to know.
The primary objective is dated sealed orders, as
found on the ships in Five Sisters, and any fleet movement
commands. The standing orders and crew complement is a given,
Robert pulling that down almost without thinking.
The ship he's hacked into is assigned to the
Rhylanor Fleet, based in this system. There are two other fleets
insystem, the Tigress Battle Group with its flagship Yathanyi,
and Expeditionary Fleet #2 which is currently in refit. There are
no hidden dated orders, no new codes, and everything seems perfectly
Next he pokes into the Happy Fun Ball Battle
Group. He drops in, slipping deftly past someone doing active
monitoring and blocking, and mines the computers for this fleet.
There are no hidden orders, but there is a scheduled departure on
145-1123 to Fulacin for ceremonial duties.
Robert breaks the communication link and nods to
Shark announces that the ship is now entering jump.
Helia hurtles Nightshade out to 100
diameters, where they slip into jump for 0409/Rhylanor.
Sir Misha has determined that they will do one quick
jump now, and then a normal jump so that they will be stealthy coming
into Mora. Mich has already checked the ship's jump
systems so that the alignment is perfect to minimize any damage or
delay when Helia slams them back into normal space.