(24) To Be Named
The Crusader Campaign (096-1122 to 107-1123)
This file has yet to be fully
This file has yet to be fully
It's about 13:00 on board Nightshade after the
excitement with Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege. She remains
stable, and should be brought out from the
induced coma on 098 or 099. They're
expecting to come out of jump at Dawnworld just after midnight
on the morning of 101-1123.
Robert Morris continues to work on his jumpspace
simulation, and also has Edward "Shark" Teeth's spare football sensors
and Helia Sarina's vaccsuit on his list. The last of those is
quite a high priority now that they're headed towards a dangerous area,
even though it's unlikely the Imperium is going to damage Nightshade.
If the shields were down, a Meson Gun might be able to damage the ship
although they're not sure about that. The shields themselves
could be brought down by coordinated Meson Gun blasts or, of course,
enough coordinated nuclear weapons.
Baron Bridgehead has assumed he simply fell asleep
through natural exhaustion. He has no idea that Shark spiked his
Mich finished making the spare emitters on 097, and
Helia's vaccsuit today.
Kalida has remained stable, but it isn't until 099
that Bridgehead decides she's ready to bring around. She's
brought out of the coma but still remains in the klatrin trance.
Robert works on the automatic astrogator.
In the evening, about 9pm, Kalida comes
around. Bridgehead immediately announces to the crew that she's
Kalida elects to stay here in Sick Bay for a while
to get her bearings.
Bridgehead confirms for her sharply that they are
indeed still in jump, due to come out in about three hours. He
adds that she has Shark to thank for being no longer dead, explaining
that she had a bad experience like Shark did.
Kalida says it wasn't quite like Shark, not the same
Bridgehead suggests she should talk to the Captain
and have him approve that she's fit to go back to duty. He says
she's physically capable of it, and that's his job done. He says
he's washing his hands of the whole thing.
Kalida leaves Sick Bay and takes the lift down to C
Bridgehead follows sufficiently far behind that he
doesn't have to talk to her. He's headed to the Lounge for a
large glass of whisky.
As Kalida passes the Lounge, Sir Misha greets her
and asks her how she is. She replies that she believes she's
fine. She's not sure about the rest of the universe, but she
thinks she's fine. The universe is stranger than she
thought. She then asks if anything odd happened during the jump.
"No," says Sir Misha, "It was smooth. Except
that our gunner died."
Kalida says she had heard she owed Shark a lot.
"Thankfully you got better."
Robert says there were bangs and stuff rattling
across the wall.
Sir Misha says, "Yes, there was a bit of a
"While I was dead?" asks Kalida.
"Yes, before and during. The details you'd
have to get from the Doctor and Shark."
"Don't ask me," says the Baron loudly. "It was
a mess. Trashed Sick Bay. Slammed a couple of people into
"Who did? What did?" says Kalida.
"You did," says Sir Misha.
"I thought you said I was dead!"
"Well, before you died. Or maybe. Maybe
during. You never know."
"You say I should speak to Shark?"
"Well, no. You asked what happened. I
can only say that Shark knows more than I do. He's in his
Kalida gets up and knocks on Shark's door. He
invites her in, and Kalida asks him what happened.
Shark says there were very large spikes on the
sensor readings, if she remembers those, and stuff including people
flew around Sick Bay.
He says that there were two events. She got
much worse at the first one, and at the second she died and that was an
enormous spike. That time she knocked out Bridgehead, the
Captain, and Robert.
"Right when I died?"
Shark says that at least, by the time he'd got up
off the floor, her monitor was flashing blue. It was a good think
she didn't knock him out too.
"How far apart were the two spikes?"
Shark says that they weren't very far apart.
Kalida wonders what it means. Apparently the
rest of the crew was hoping she could tell them. She says, "It
was very black where I was."
"Black like shadows?"
"Black like black hole. You didn't see
anything like that?"
Shark shakes his head. He pauses, and asks if
she got any new information from her experience, better dates or
anything like that?"
"No," says Kalida solemnly. "It was all
very... confusing. I could catch a small piece here and there,
but for the most part it was very tangled."
Shark suggests she give it a while to sink in.
"Thank you for my life."
Shark smiles and says modestly that it was his job.
"Jump has been smooth?"
He says it has, and it is just a normal jump
anyway. Everything's been smooth except for the episode in Sick
Bay. With a smile he wonders if she perhaps has anger issues
against the doctor.
Kalida laughs and says she doesn't think that was
the problem. She's not sure yet how it all connected together,
but she's sure it does.
Shark then asks whether she's capable of taking on
her duties as Gunner. He reminds her that they're jumping into a
She reassures him she is, and says she'll head up to
the Bridge now and check things out before they emerge in a few hours.
Shark says he'll go back and ask Vonish to send up
some food for her. Kalida heads to the Bridge, while Shark walks
aft to the Lounge. There Shark tells Sir Misha that his Gunner
says she thinks she's capable of doing her duties, and asks Vonish to
feed Kalida on the Bridge. Vonish says he will take it up there
101-1123 : Dawnworld
/ District 268 / Spinward
Just after midnight, Nightshade comes out of
jump in stealth. Callisto says immediately they are surely at the
right place, as it's a white dwarf - red dwarf binary system... and
there are masses of ships here. They are Imperial Navy ships, and
Dawnworld is independent, and so it seems almost certain it's
Sir Misha wants to know for sure, however.
Callisto tells him that the Llannamith
Tigress Class is here from Five Sisters. That's Santanocheev's
flagship. She adds that there are ten fleets here.
Kalida is completely shocked. That's more than
she was expecting, a heck of a lot of ships. "Ten?" she keeps
repeating. "Ten?" "Ten? I'm guessing there must be
Glisten fleets here, which we weren't expecting. It doesn't
change our plans any, of course."
Callisto can't answer that yet.
That underscores that what they really need is
information. First they want to pick up anything they can
passively, and the first is a listing of the fleets here from the
transponder and other identification information.
There are: the Llannamith Battle Group from
Five Sisters; all six fleets from Five Sisters: Iderati, Emape,
Mirriam, Jone, Raweh and Wonstar; and all three fleets from District
268: Elixabet, Motmos, and Mille Falcs. There are no Glisten
fleets here, but he has pulled everything from Five Sisters and
Glisten. That could be unwise since the Hinay Protectorate
probably considers themselves at war with the Imperium.
Robert sets to work analyzing the informal insecure
transmissions in the system, seeing if he can analyze them to pick up
any free information.
Next, of course, is Robert hacking into the
navy. By this time they're very familiar with the
procedure. Helia positions Nightshade to intercept the
communications of Robert's target of choice, a fleet tender. He
will start by taking over this ship, then set up a multiple relay to
minimize the chances of anyone intercepting it or tracing it back.
Robert is completely on form. He's moving
expertly and would have grabbed this ship completely were it not for
one problem. There is a new security system, and it does not even
slightly resemble anything he's seen before.
This fires Robert up, and while collecting a vast
amount of data starts work on decrypting it. He reports to Sir
Misha that they haven't been detected, and he has a good sample of
information and should be making progress shortly.
His first guess is to compare it with the Hiver
system, something he's worked on before but found difficult. But
it is competely unrelated to that, or anything else he's seen. He
has samples of the other (traditional) Ancient script, but he only has
an uninterpreted script and that just isn't useful.
The encryption seems unusually difficult. This
is as if Nightshade's computer architecture is not set up to
crack it. That was a problem with the Hiver system, a totally
unfamiliar way of thinking, but this is more so.
Robert reports to Sir Misha that this is a totally
alien way of thinking that they haven't seen. It's even more so
than the Hivers. It's almost as if this is an alien invasion in
Imperial ships. The Imperium wouldn't have thought up things like
The good news, however, is that the idle chatter
over the airwaves is paying dividends. Careless talk will cost
Santanocheev's fleets lives, it seems. All except one of the
fleets -- Wonstar -- will be jumping out in about a week, and the other
will be staying behind at least for a while. No-one has been told
their destination. The Wonstar Fleet is not happy about this
because there is absolutely nothing here. It's the perfect
rendezvous, of course, but recreation and shore leave are not options.
Robert is still confident he can break the new
encryption, but he doesn't know how long it will take. He works
on it for several more hours until 06:00, and since he still has not
the slightest clue he then takes a break.
In fact, the officers decide that everyone needs a
break. Sir Misha tells Helia to take them clear of the fleet, and
she does so quickly and effectively.
At 07:00 they are well clear of the fleet, and
everyone can rest for a while.
Kalida has picked up on Robert's idea of alien
technology, and meditates in her stateroom seeing if she can pick up
some sort of thread on that. She has no success.
Later, Sir Misha questions Robert on the alien
nature of this new system.
Robert explains that everywhere they've travelled,
he's collected security and encryption technology like Helia has
collected books and candy. At this point he can generally figure
out any new system quite quickly, knowing what to look for, what they
look like. This is radically different. So if there's a
culture basis in the ancient past, everyone creates the same type of
mathematical formulas, the same logic steps to go through. This
is totally different, taking radically different approaches, so this is
alien to the Imperium's way of thinking. The Hivers are a total
alien race; what Nightshade uses for communication today has
more in common with the Hivers than what they're looking at here.
He still believes it's crackable -- anything is
crackable -- but he has no estimate as to how long it will take.
Sir Misha wants to know if it's crackable in a week,
so it'd be done before the nine fleets move out.
Robert believes so, but he can't guarantee it.
Sir Misha widens this conversation to the crew in
general. He states that if the system isn't cracked by the time
the fleets leave, that they should get non-passive with the remaining
fleet. In particular, he wants to provoke a response to see what
else might not be Imperium.
Kalida points out that there are implications
regarding when Santanocheev's group might learn that a black ship is
involved. She promises to work on that in her meditations.
Sir Misha emphasizes that their primary goal is
gathering information, not to destroy the ships, and particularly not
to die despite acknowledging that they'll have to put themselves in
danger. In fact they may have to run, because the point is to get
the information back.
103-1123 : Dawnworld
/ District 268 / Spinward
For the last few days they have been following a
routine of going in, intercepting and gathering, and moving clear for
everyone to rest. Robert collects a vast amount of data, but
makes no progress.
In one of the rest periods, Kalida goes into sparkly
pink on the command dais and meditates on the ship movements and
patterns to see if she can get anything that way. It worked in Trin,
and she's hoping it might work here too.
She see that whoever is in command here, presumably
Santanocheev, is keeping a very tight rein on everything.
Positions, movements, activities, all look like they're being directed
by one person in particular. Santanocheev -- if that's who is
behind it -- is micro-managing his fleets. It's being run from
the Llannamith Happy Fun Ball.
Among the idle chatter, Robert catches an unsecured
fragment that indicates that theWonstar fleet will be here for a little
weeks, and then will be going to a different place from the
others. The clear implication in the conversation was that the
other would all be going to the same place.
Kalida of course is convinced that place is Mithras
104-1123 : Dawnworld
/ District 268 / Spinward
Kalida has been studying Santanocheev's historical
records, and concludes that if it's not him in charge then it's a very
exact simulation. She reports to Sir Misha that Santanocheev is
in charge, and he's personally present on Llannamith.
Sir Misha says that perhaps it's not aliens, but
that Santanocheev has found some alien tech.
Well, now they know where they might dump all their
720 nuclear missiles, and where to fire the expander. It would
leave them without missiles, but they would get them back in 30 days.
Mich adds that what they could do is move in stealth
right next to the ship, and then pop out and fire the missiles.
It would be much harder for the screen to intercept them. It
would of course also leave them out of stealth mode for at least 7.2
seconds as they completed firing. It's also not an ideal firing
position, as the missiles require some time to coordinate on their
Kalida reports that Santanocheev is running a screen
with the Iderati fleet as well as his own battle group. She
believes the ideal firing position would be between the second and
third defensive shell. It would minimize the number of defensive
ships while optimizing missile spread. She says she'll work on
that with Helia.
In the late afternoon, Robert gets his first
clue. It looks like not
everyone's running the same encryption scheme, but they are still
talking with each other. You could do that, he says, but you
would need to send more data than you'd need to. At least it's a
105-1123 : Dawnworld
/ District 268 / Spinward
Ships are starting to break out and move towards
formation. They are still continuing patrols, but refuelling has
ceased and they're starting to move.
Kalida slips into sparkly pink on the command dais
and notes the defensive
distribution. They look like they'll be set up for every single
ship to jump out at once. She also reports that Santanocheev is
being significantly more defensive with his ship than standard
"Like he was afraid of a ship in stealth mode?" says
Sir Misha with a smile.
Indeed, says Kalida. The inner spheres are
running a pattern that would make it hard to get close to his flagship
without a defensive ship getting close to the intruder.
Sir Misha observes that means that other parts of
the fleet are less well protected than standard procedure.
Kalida agrees. It does make the capital ships
in the Iderati Fleet an easier target.
106-1123 : Dawnworld
/ District 268 / Spinward
Mich has been working hard to make sure that not
only is the ship perfect to jump at a moment's notice, but also that he
has plenty of spares to cover any damage that could occur in a short
The fleets look like they're being careful to get
into a safe formation to jump out of the system tomorrow.
The crew still have no more information as to where
they might be going other than Kalida's wild guesses.
The Wonstar Fleet remains in the inner system.
107-1123 : Dawnworld
/ District 268 / Spinward
Robert realizes that they are not transmitting more
data than they need,
even with different encryption schemes. He's not sure what to
make of that, but that is surely useful information in itself.
At midday, nine fleets jump out of the system in
It's only three days later than Kalida's prediction;
she hopes they're going where she predicted, too.
Sir Misha is eager to start on the Wonstar fleet
immediately, but when Vonish suggests lunch first, he thinks that's a
better idea. So they have lunch, and will move after that.
His first idea is to do an active probe on an
isolated ship and see what reaction they get.
Kalida says that the fleet is just maintaining a
defensive position in the inner system, not doing anything special.
Sir Misha wants to know if there are any small craft
travelling between the ships.
Kalida says there are not many.
Sir Misha wants to hear opinions on whether they
could sneak aboard a ship. They would have to do it secretly, as
boarding openly and surviving might be difficult. What are the
odds that they would notice an extra ship's boat?
Bridgehead points out that their own launch is far
from conventional, as it came with Nightshade. They do
have an Imperial gcarrier, but as Kalida points out the fleet are not
Sir Misha concedes that active probing is probably
the best plan.
Robert points out that they can't do that in
stealth, but at that point lunch is served and his point is interrupted.
Sir Misha says that they need to know whether the
alien technology is just in communications, or whether they have other
things too. To find that out, they would ideally put themselves
in a position to be shot at, and draw them out.
Kalida puts it simply: "We want to be
attacked." She adds, "By something we can counter.
Something small and out of the way."
Bridgehead looks uncomfortable. He mutters
something about cockroaches and battledress and an ice world, and then
says loudly that it's a stupid idea.
After lunch, it's time to get active. Kalida
checks the Wonstar Fleet again, and says that while they're still on
alert and patrolling, they're more relaxed than when Santanocheev was
telling them exactly what to do.
They'll want to poke a ship that gets far away from
the rest, but that isn't going to happen in their current configuration.
Sir Misha suggests a ship suddenly appear, and see
how they respond to it.
Kalida would expect the fleet to send a ship or two
to investigate and challenge it, unless they have orders to shoot
everything. If they do attack, it wouldn't be hard to slip back
into stealth and get away.
Sir Misha then says, "What if something other than a
ship appeared over there?"
"Like a giant unicorn?" says Kalida.
"Something noticeable, a little interesting, a
little frightening, something that they might want to
investigate. A probe broadcasting. Something to draw them
out rather than shooting from long range. If they send a ship,
it'll separate once from the herd. What about a probe
broadcasting a recording of their own encrypted communications?"
Robert smiles at that idea. He and Mich
immediately get to work, the latter building the probe and the former
setting it up to broadcast.
At 16:00, they kick the probe off the ship.
They wait a little and then start it broadcasting.
After a while, three Chrysanthemum class Destroyer
Escorts break out of formation and head in the direction of the probe.
Kalida does not believe they would have any
difficulty taking out these three 1000 std ships.
After an hour, the trio start approaching the
probe's location and start challenging it on hailing frequencies.
Obviously the probe does not respond, just maintains broadcasting its
The three ships fire on the probe.
Back at the fleet, ships are firing their lasers in
random directions. They keep it up, firing and sweeping lasers
The probe is quickly destroyed, but as the three
DE's return towards the fleet, they too are firing lasers at random.
Sir Misha says, "Hit them with a couple of missiles."
But it seems they have already caused damage without
firing a shot. Back at the fleet, friendly fire is taking its
toll. Presumably the fleet hasn't been doing random fire
exercises -- at least, they haven't seen any in the last week, and the
fleet does not seem very safe at it.
Sir Misha adds that they don't need to destroy the
Destroyer Escorts, they just want to see a response. "Drop out of
stealth, fire missiles, pop back into stealth," he commands.
Nightshade drops out of stealth, Kalida
burps two missiles at the nearest DE, and Nightshade vanishes
again. At Sir Misha's command, Helia flies them rapidly towards
the three Imperial Navy ships, which are screaming communications.
The DEs are headed in a V formation. The one
on the port wing has not responded to the incoming fire, but the other
two have. Laser batteries open up on the missiles from two ships,
but the rapid acceleration of the black tech projectiles is clearly
messing up their targetting.
The ship on the starboard wing has started evasive
maneuvers, and between point defence shots is sweeping the laser trying
to find the attacker, starting with where the missiles originated.
The lasers take out one of the missiles on the way
in, but the second nuclear warhead makes it through for a direct hit on
Engineering of the lead ship. It is dead in the water, drifting
toward the fleet under no power at all.
Sir Misha directs Helia to move alongside the ships
and do this again on another target, intending to pass them and attack
from the side. Then they'll take the third from another
direction, between it and the fleet. He wants to spread fear and
The port wingman has taken off in a direct straight
line to the fleet, not attempting to evade. The starboard wingman
is working a search pattern, firing the laser battery to locate the
Sir Misha designates the starboard ship as their
target. Helia brings them quickly into position and Kalida rips
two more missiles at this one. As they fire, the DE returns fire
on Nightshade with their laser. For a moment the Imperial
laser plays ineffectually on the black ship's hull, and then Nightshade
is back in stealth and immune to laser fire. Nevertheless, for a
brief time they succeed in tracking the stealthed ship with their
laser, but soon lose it to Helia's evasive flying.
So far none of the Imperial ships have used anything
Bridgehead ponders the legality of using nuclear
missiles against Imperial Navy ships. He then recalls the letter
of marque, and reflects that they were ordered to harrass these
fleets. He is satisfied.
Their target take out one incoming missile with
their lasers, and bring their fusion guns to bear on the other as a
last resort, but the missile evades and strikes, taking out all their
weapon systems. The DE turns and runs towards the fleet.
Helia pushes Nightshade at full acceleration
to overtake the third Imperial ship. It takes a while -- short in
naval combat terms, but interminably slowly to the crew who are fully
involved in serious combat for the first time in this ship.
As they move into Sir Misha's designated position,
Helia swings the bow towards the target and Kalida pops another pair of
missiles from the launcher.
This ship has been running in panic, firing their
laser totally at random, and fail to respond to the incoming missiles
until it's too late. They manage a couple of wild point-defence
shots with just the laser battery, but they are wide of the mark.
Both missiles hit the running ship head on, and it brews up in a blast
of nuclear fire and secondary explosions.
Kalida reports, and asks Sir Misha, "More confusion,
or do you want them to think about this for a while?"
"More confusion!" says Sir Misha immediately.
"Head towards the fleet, and deep into the fleet."
The fleet is firing lasers in all directions, but
the ones on their side are headed in Nightshade's general
arc. That's opened up a weak spot in their coverage further
around the sphere, and at Kalida's tactical direction Helia heads them
to there for their penetration. They have about 20 minutes before
they'll be ready to move into close range of the Imperial ships.
The lasers themselve of course won't hurt the ship, not even if they
were not running stealth or shields, but avoiding them seems like a
The outer spheres don't interest Sir Misha, as the
smaller ships and fighter screens aren't so likely to have any alien
technology installed. He commands Helia to bring them
deeper. He tells her she is welcome to avoid the lasers, but
since they won't hurt the ship, it's not a priority. Her further
orders will be to get in to the second or third layer, then position
the ship between two moderately sized Imperial ones, then pop out of
Just as they approach the outer sphere, some lasers
strike across them. Suddenly a whole bunch of ships sweep their
lasers through Nightshade's area. Now they will know
they're coming in. They are using their lasers like a Crusader
would to locate a stealth mode ship. Laser, however, are all
This changes Sir Misha's plans. Instead of
stopping in the second or third layer, Helia is to take them all the
way in, still in stealth.
The Imperial ships continue to track them with
lasers. Sir Misha was expecting that they would not risk firing
in the direction of their own ships, but that is clearly not the
case. Occasional friendly fire hits indicate their committment to
their tactics. At this point it looks like they've taken out five
of their own ships.
Now the Imperial Navy has opened fire on Nightshade
with particle accelerators too. The occasional hit is not harming
them at all.
Sir Misha likes this. If they can do so this
safely, they can keep flying around and sow confusion and cause damage
without firing a shot.
Bridgehead calmly reminds him that in there --
pointing ahead of them, to the inner spheres where the capital ships
are positioned -- there are meson guns. They are not sure, but
they might be able to hurt them.
Kalida concurs that they should avoid the meson
guns. She also points out that they are currently advertizing
black tech capabilities. Also, they are attacking Nightshade
with nothing that they did not expect, standard Imperial technology
Sir Misha concedes her point, and that they have
perhaps found out as much as they can.
Helia is taking evasive action on her path inwards,
but a meson gun blast close to starboard indicates that they've come
within range of the heavy ships.
Sir Misha and Kalida quickly agree that they could
pull out and jump from here. Their next move is still to try to
find out Santanocheev's plans, and that means that following them is a
good idea. Kalida believes that he has jumped to Mithras,
and Sir Misha agrees that would be where they should go.
Helia says that even she is going to have to drop
into a steady course before jumping.
Sir Misha tells her to take them out of range of the
meson guns with an evasive course, and then she can take a steady
One more shot comes close, but wider than the first,
and then Helia is clear of the meson gun range. Only lasers and
particle accelerators here, and they can't hurt the ship.
Helia locks a steady course, does her calculations,
and they jump for Mithras.
The ship is undamaged, and they only used six
missiles, which will be replaced in just six hours. With those
six missiles (and friendly fire) they have destroyed or damaged at
least eight ships. They have not seen any non-Imperial technology
aside from the encryption and security.