It's now 10:20, and Nightshade has moved
clear of the innermost moon and is about an hour away from the
mainworld. Robert has sabotaged communications in the rebel
fleets. There are several prisoners on board, captured during the
boarding raid on the courier on the moon's surface.
Callisto turns her attention to what has been going
on the battle. There really isn't much going on now. One
more fleet, Motmos, has come up to join the junkyard by the moon, and
there are only two places where fleets are in conflict, in quite
Von Krantzhoff's Tr-X-1 has put themselves into a
different orbit, and currently they have three fleets in position
around them -- Raweh, Iderati, and Llanamith Battle Group-- but those
are just standing off and not engaging. The rebels there are
probably quite concerned about fuel by now, having changed orbit with
At the other location, there is a big nasty furball
going on with probably Tr-X-2 and Glisten in a really close fight, too
intense to analyze. Gl-X-1 and
New Rome are standing clear, orbiting nearby but not getting
involved. Those two are the only ones fighting at the moment.
Tr-X-1 and Tr-X-2 seem to be the only remaining
There's one more rebel fleet (Gl-X-2) in a higher
orbit, but with the loyallist fleets split it would be harder for them
Darotukshi Battle Group is regrouping with Mille
Falcs and Jone, just cruising in orbit.
So of the four defender fleets they last saw, one is
in a dogfight, one in a completely different orbit being shadowed by
three attackers, Trin vanished some time ago, and apparently Murchison
In the parking orbit, the original Mirriam and Egypt
have been joined by Elixabet and Emape, with Motmos just moving into
They are two days into the five that the Duke of
Trin has ordered his fleets to delay. On the other hand, they've
inflicted substantial losses on the rebels out of proportion with the
number of defenders. The defenders started with just four fleets
and Nightshade. It will take the attackers quite some
time to reorganize their remaining ships, and that will also add to the
On board Nightshade
at 10:20, they're dealing with the aftermath of the boarding raid and
are about an hour away from the fight.
They have four prisoners, but the ship has
absolutely no provision for prisoners. Shark suggests that
eventually they should board a hulk left over from the battle, find a
working rescue pod, and dump them into it. Two of them are
unconscious, having had extremities blown off. The other two
regular crew members are definitely not Santanocheev.
They also have the communications encryption box
they captured from the courier.
Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege, announces that
she believes that the attacker fleets are not currently being directed
by Santanocheev, and all communications in the attackers is still down.
Sir Misha Ravanos issues orders for their next
actions. Robert is to take whatever resources he needs to figure
out what the brown box does. Helia Sarina is to get them back to
the mainworld as fast as she can -- she says she can do it in 40
minutes, by 11:00. Shark is to figure out what to do with the
Shark contacts the Doctor. He asks Grand
Admiral Baron Bridgehead to arrive with his interrogation medical kit,
in full dress uniform, to the lower cargo receiving area. Shark
believes that between his uniform and chemical encouragement, they can
scare the low ranking Imperial spacemen into cooperation.
The two walking prisoners are a Leading Spaceman and
Technician woman. Shark addresses them, asking where their fleet
operations is commanded.
The Leading Spaceman asks if they can take off their
vaccsuits. Shark nods.
Once in plain ship's overalls again, the man asks
Shark who he is -- aside from The Guy With The Gun, of course.
Shark says he could tell him, but he'd have to kill
him. He asks again which ship commands their fleet operations.
The man says he doesn't know, no-one told them and
no rumors had been flying about. "Well, it used to be on Llanamith,
but that blew up. Since then, we haven't heard anything. We
spent most of the time sitting around, not much to do." He adds
that command has really been secretive on this operation.
Shark points to the communications tech, and asks
who that is.
The man doesn't know. He says he wasn't on the
regular command crew, so he doesn't know who he is.
Shark tells the two of them to sit over there in the
corner, and they gladly comply. He and Teri then move the
communications guy well clear of them, and Teri disables all weaponry
in the two battledress suits of the unconscious prisoners.
Shark reports to the Captain that the ship had just
been sitting there, and the two crew were bored to death. The
only guy who might know anything, he says, is the communications
officer who wasn't normally on board. They'll wake him up when
the Doctor gets here.
It takes the Doctor about ten minutes to arrive in
the receiving area. In the meantime, Callisto has provided an
update on the fleet action around the mainworld.
At 10:30 Tr-X-1, Raweh, Iderati, and Llanamith are
together. There is no fire being exchanged at all.
In the other group, Tr-X-2 has totally smashed
Glisten. The rebel fleet has gone down hard in flames.
That's the first attacker fleet to go down completely, and caps their
lackluster performance in which they made several critical mistakes.
Tr-X-2 is probably at about 20% strength, but is immediately charging
Mille Falcs, while Darotukshi is moving ponderously out of the way.
Kalida is looking hard for any sign that
communications are being restored, any signs of coordination.
Still, right now it's clear that everything is still completely down.
Robert smiles. "Boy, that was a good idea," he
pictures to himself. He has warned Shark and Sir Misha that if
this box is anything like the communications device they picked up on
Goose, even scanning at the atomic level won't get through into it.
Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead, in full dress
uniform, struts in with Jack
carrying his Imperial Navy medical bag.
The two prisoners instinctively jump up and snap to
attention. Bridgehead tells the to stand at ease, and at Shark's
request turns to the communications person. He says it's nothing
too serious, just a leg blown off at the knee that he can regrow if
they want. He plugs a diagnostic unit into the battledress, and
announces they can take him out of the suit if they want.
Shark and Teri pull off the suit, and to their
surprise are looking at Santanocheev. "That's why I kept them
alive," Shark says, and then calls the Captain. He says, "Boss,
we have an excellent visitor." He sends the image to the crew,
and they agree that it certainly looks like him. Shark asks the
Doctor if he can verify it, thinking that they don't have the data to
do a DNA match.
Grand Admiral Bridgehead confirms that, but he says
he can run some other tests, consistency tests and so on.
Shark says that they'll take this man to the Sick
Bay so the Doctor can work on him, although he should remain
unconscious. Bridgehead quickly checks the other unconscious
prisoner and says he can be popped out and should be taken to Sick Bay
Shark asks Jack if she recognizes the man too.
She says, "No, should I?" Shark smiles and shakes his head.
Shark then asks Robert if he can undo the
communications disruption that he did, so that they can talk to the
rebel fleets. Robert says that is not practical. He also
points out that they've had half an hour to bypass the brown box, and
while the best hackers would have been on the two happy fun balls they
blew up, they had the crew to do it if it was possible.
Kalida agrees that they don't know who would take
over in Santanocheev's absence. Presumably it would be some INISO
Sir Misha wants to know how Santanocheev arrived on
the ship and when, that sort of information. He asks Shark to get
that from the other prisoners. Then they can end this war by
talking to the other fleets.
Shark is aware that Sick Bay on this ship won't look
Imperial, and they really don't want Santanocheev to see it when he
wakes up. As Kalida points out, of all people they do not want
him to see anything. Shark suggests a good old-fashioned
blindfold, and says he must not see anything when he wakes up. He
then helps Jack get the two unconscious prisoners up to Sick Bay.
On the way up, Jack asks Shark what's going on and
who this guy is.
Shark says it's Santanocheev.
Jack laughs, "You're kidding, right?"
"No, I'm not. I was right," smiles Shark.
The question is what to do next. They want to
stop this as soon as possible, because there are loyallist forces dying
out there. Shark asks Sir Misha if they should tell them what's
Sir Misha agrees they should. He then asks if
there's any chance the rebels will continue despite them having
Santanocheev. He considers it unlikely himself.
Kalida says it depends on who else is here.
The Rhylanor fleets are certainly continuing, as they have no clue, but
they could get Santanocheev to Norris and that should make a
difference. She says they believe that Santanocheev is
Shark would like to go back and search
Santanocheev's quarters on the courier.
Sir Misha says that right now they need to contact
the defenders and tell them they have Santanocheev, and that they
should get out now.
Kalida counters that they have orders to stay here
for the five days, and while they can advise them they can't tell them
to leave. She adds that they should tell them that the rebels
have no communications, although Tr-X-2 is clearly aware of it already.
Sir Misha says they should just open broadcast that
Santanocheev has been arrested, and take it on their own authority to
demand that the attackers stand down. They'll also tell the
defenders to stand down too, and disengage to a safe position. He
asks Kalida to send the message, being the highest ranking Imperial
Shark adds that they can say that they can invoke
the authority of the Duke of Trin, as they were told by him to help in
any way they could.
With that all cleared up, Shark takes off his
battledress and stows it away, promising Teri he'll clean it later.
Nightshade drops out of stealth, and Robert
opens a channel to von
Kalida tells him, "Under the authority of Archduke
Norris we have arrested Santanocheev and have him in our custody.
We believe that the rebel fleets have no communications
whatsoever. We are going to try to reach them and tell them to
stand down and surrender. Since we have Santanocheev we recommend
that you stand down if you can, disengage. That of course is up
to you considering the position you are in." She adds that they
are to repeat the message to the rebels to try to get it through by any
Von Krantzhoff respectfully says, "Yes, ma'am."
It's 10:40. Von Krantzhoff's Tr-X-1, Raweh,
Iderati, and Llanamith still holding in
Tr-X-2 is slamming into the Mille Falcs fleet, while
is climbing out and away.
Mich is concerned that Santanocheev might either be
not human, or psionically influenced. He asks Shark to check the
footballs, but they're clean.
Bridgehead says he'll have prelimnary results in 5
minutes, and request all details possible about Santanocheev, including
where he was born, where he's been, and so on. Kalida has a
substantial file on the man, and provides it to him.
Meanwhile Shark has been talking to the other
two. He asks them how long the communications officer has been on
They cooperate fully with Shark, answering all his
questions apparently honestly. They tell him that they brought
some people on board about a day ago. They don't know how many,
because it was all in officer country. They're keeping everyone
in the dark, only the command people know what's going on. The
new people were all housed on the upper deck. They can't have had
a lot of luggage because no-one was assigned to move it. He
doesn't know where the captain was staying the last couple of days,
somewhere in officer country, and why not his own stateroom?
They continue to answer. They don't know the
communications person, or the ship's troops. They don't normally
carry any ship's troops on board.
Shark muses that they brought three on board,
then. He asks if they know Santocheev.
Not personally, they laugh, but he's running this
whole show. They didn't explain his authority much, just that
Norris has committed treason and Santanocheev is relieving him under
official Imperial authority. From the officers it came down that
it was legit. They have no idea where Santanocheev is now, but
they don't think he was on Llanamith when it blew up because he
seems to be issuing orders.
Shark then considers where they can keep the
prisoners now. There aren't a lot of options. There's
always low berth, of course.
Sir Misha settles the issue. They'll simply
have someone with them at all times, and if they ever need the whole
crew to be active, the Doctor will put them in a low berth.
Shark sends down some sandwiches to the prisoners,
and then they go to interview Santanocheev.
Bridgehead reports that preliminary results suggest
it's plausible that he's Santanocheev. There's still some extra
tests he wants to run as well, genetic tests and so on. He's
human, the right age, from the right general area, but there are still
more tests to do. If it's fake, it's a very well done fake and
he'll be able to tell them in about 20 minutes, around 11:00 or so.
Sir Misha expresses that concern that he might be
under the influence of the Zhodani.
Bridgehead says he can do a brain scan to check
that, and he'll be able to tell them in five minutes.
Shark goes down to the cargo bay to join Teri.
"It's always better to have two guards," he says.
At 10:50, Tr-X-2 vastly outnumbered, down to about
severely hurting Mille Falcs which is routing in all directions.
Everything else is still the same. Shark resolves to name Tr-X-2
The Berserker Fleet, since that's essentially what they're doing.
Nightshade is 10 minutes out from the
mainworld. Bridgehead says there is no evidence of any psionic
or psionic ability.
Bridgehead gives Santanocheev a drug to blind him
temporarily, and then wakes him up at Sir Misha's request.
"Mr. Santanocheev," Sir Misha says.
"Yes," Santanocheev says dubiously, "Who's this?"
"My name is Misha Ravanos. I have arrested you
under authority of Archduke Norris."
"Archduke Norris does not have authority."
"Well, I've done it anyway."
"This is an illegal act."
"Well, we'll sort that out later."
"Certainly, but if you'd rather sort it out now, I'm
sure a suitable reward could be arranged."
"Oh, well, we're going to need some new nobles to
replace the treasonous ones, landed nobles."
"That all you're worth?"
"And substantial remuneration, of course."
"Well, I don't really need those things."
"What do you need?"
"I would like... the lives of all the soldiers that
died in the past twenty-four hours restored."
"They'll live forever in the glorious patriotic
history of the Imperium. It's not exactly my fault that this
illegal resistance has taken place. I gave them every authority,
I gave them complete evidence that what they were doing was illegal,
and we could have very happily just cruised on through and not hurt
anybody. We were forced to this move by the illegal actions."
"Yeah, see, but that doesn't matter. That's
what I want."
"Misha Ravanos. Who are you? Where am I?"
"I'm Misha Ravanos. You are on my ship."
"I kind of figured that out. What ship is
"This is the Nightshade."
"Then we might be talking Duke, if you were to ally
yourself with my legitimate cause. Rhylanor sound good?"
"No. I don't want to be a Duke. I don't
want to be a Count. I don't even want to be a Knight! So, I
would like you to order your troops to stand down. Those that are
still following you."
"Why would I do that?"
"Because you're a nice guy."
"Well. Yes. But why would I order them
to stand down? Are these insurgents going to stop us?"
Misha mutters an affirmative.
"Then we can't stand down."
"So, Mr. Santanocheev. I am going to have my
doctors render you unconscious again, and deliver you unto Archduke
Norris. Is there anything you'd like to say or ask before that
"If you insist on taking up the side of treason,
there really isn't anything I can say. What incentive can I give
you to take you away from this treasonous act?"
"Then it would appear to be a set deal, wouldn't
it? I guess I'll be talking to Norris."
"Do you have any evidence against Norris?"
"Of course! I have a vast body of evidence of
collaboration with the Zhodani. I have evidence of deliberately
weakening Imperial defenses."
"And where is that evidence?"
"I have that evidence back on certain important
ships in the fleet. There is also evidence elsewhere not carried
on this fleet, and there are copies of it."
"I don't need all the copies, I just need one."
"Well, I can get you a copy of sufficient
evidence. I certainly have the authority without the evidence,
but I can produce enough evidence if you wish. If you can let me
get back in contact with my fleets, or preferably deliver me because I
don't think they're going to just believe it that easily. I will
be glad to produce the evidence for you."
"If you would like to give the order through me to
whoever has a copy to deliver it to me, I will be glad to carry that
order for you."
"OK. If you let me talk to them, I'll have
them send out the evidence. That would not be a problem.
This is a legitimate operation, and I will be glad to produce what
evidence is necessary to convince you to turn to the legitimate side of
law and the Imperium."
"Send it to the fleet."
"The fleet communications are down."
"I'm sorry, the fleet's communications are down."
Santanocheev says in surprise, "The fleet's
communications are... down? That's not possible."
"Well, whether it's possible or not, it's true."
"Hook me up with any current flagship.
Flagship of the Mirriam Fleet, ideally."
Sir Misha asks Robert if he can get communications
with the flagship of the Mirriam fleet. Perhaps by flashing a
light at them?
Robert says he can flash a laser in their
direction. Whether they'll notice it is another matter.
Unbelievably he actually succeeds in making contact, opening a channel
of sorts. Misha tells Robert to patch Santanocheev through to the
comm officer of that ship..
Santanocheev wants a camera on him, because they'll
need to see it's him.
Sir Misha at first objects, but Robert assures him
he can get just the face with a synthetic background. He makes it
look as if Santanocheev is just sitting around normally.
Santanocheev says, "This is Santanocheev. I'm
currently on Nightshade. Misha Ravanos has requested the
evidence against Norris, would you please send the file over?"
The comm operator dithers and says, "Hold
on..." He vanishes from the screen.
A woman replaces him. She says, "Where are
you?" She's wearing a dark suit with no insignia. She's
dressed like the woman who arrested him on Rhylanor, but it isn't the
Santanocheev replies, "I'm on Nightshade.
Send over the evidence against Norris, please."
"Yes, sir!" the woman says sharply. "We'll do
whatever we need to do. Are you ready to receive the data packet?"
Robert is ready. He'll isolate and check it as
it comes in, of course.
Kalida reports to the crew that Mirriam and Eqypt
have comms back. She then reviews the woman's behavior and
demeanor, trying to see if there's anything off in how she
responded. Kalida shares Shark's view in wondering what order
Santanocheev just gave her. Kalida is absolutely certain that she
is hiding something, and that there is something going on.
The data packet comes in with layers upon layers of
viruses in it, but underneath, once that's stripped off, is the
promised data under the seal of Imperial Navy Intelligence, Special
Operations. Robert asks Sir Misha if he wants to retaliate, but
he waves him off for the time.
Sir Misha tells Santanocheev that they've received
the packet and asks if there was anything else he wanted to send.
Santanocheev shakes his head. He says, "Until
you've had a chance to read it and can see my side of things, I imagine
you'll be putting me under."
At Shark's prompting, Sir Misha asks him, "Under
what authority do you claim for this action?"
"Imperial Navy Intelligence Special Operations has
authority to do whatever is necessary for the safety of the Imperium."
"And whence do you derive that authority?"
"It's in Imperial Law. It's a little complex,
you'll have to dig to find it, but it's there."
"So who leads Naval Special Operations?"
"I am the head of INISO."
"And how did you become the head of INISO?"
"I've been associated with them a long time.
It's natural that I've lead them for a significant time."
"And who do you report to?"
"I report to the safety of the Imperium. I
work for the Imperium's interest."
With Shark's voice laughing, "He's the Pope of
Intelligence!" in Sir Misha's commdot, Sir Misha continues, "Ah.
You don't report to anyone in the royal family?"
"My duties are to the safety of the Imperium," says
"Not to the royal family?"
"Correct. You can look it up in law. The
data packet will contain references showing you that I have authority."
Kalida observes that he hasn't told them anything
they don't already know or had guessed.
"Well," says Sir Misha, "I must say I am tempted to
kill you right now, but I don't think I will."
"Good, because that would be unwise on your
part. At least look over the options, consider turning to the
side of law and the Imperium."
"Are you sure you don't know who I am? Are you
really that dense?"
"I... can guess who you are. You're Misha
Ravanos, of Nightshade, and I am sure you will come to the
correct decision given time."
Sir Misha orders Bridgehead to put him to
sleep. The doctor does so.
Sir Misha wonders aloud how long it would take to
get Santanocheev to Norris. They could probably do it in a couple
of days with fast jumps.
Shark points out that they have a problem.
These fleets are building their communications systems back. The
battle will begin again.
Kalida agrees. They are not going to give up
now. And they are going to win this battle. Santanocheev
isn't going to order them to stand down, and if he did she doesn't
think they would anyway. They already know that he's captured, so
whatever orders he gives are assumed to be under duress. Whoever
is second in command will be able to countermand his orders.
Sir Misha asks if there is any chance they can get
to actual Imperial Navy commanders, who might at least be willing to
stand down until Norris and Santanocheev work things out.
Shark says that these guys' only chance of survival
at this point is to win. If they don't, whoever does win will
hunt them down. They tried a coup, they have a secret
organization. Norris will hunt down INISO to the best of his
ability. For those Imperial Navy personnel who have control of
their own ship and aren't willing to mutiny against who claims control
now, yes, they might be convinced. "But let's assume that on each
one of the capital ships at least, they have one of their people with a
piece of paper that says, 'I trump you.' That's how they ordered
my arrest -- they had someone show up on base saying 'I trump you, do
this whole system-wide thing, arrest this guy.'"
Shark continues, "If we took our fleet out, then a
lot of the people that are in charge would probably give orders to stay
here for a while, hop on ships, and disappear. Now the poor crew
on whatever ship they hopped would die, but if it became clear that
their chances of winning was much reduced... Now if the overall
commander is another zealot who firmly believes in this action, he can
Sir Misha says he thinks they have to assume that
the rebels are going to continue exactly as they would have with
Santanocheev. Given that, is it better for them and the defenders
here to continue the delaying action, or just to get out now and let
them continue. "Have we disrupted this force enough?"
Kalida says, "How fast do you want that answer?"
Sir Misha says, "How long do you need?"
"A few hours."
"A few hours is fine."
Shark changes the subject and wonders if they've
completely knocked out the brown box communications systems, if they'll
revert to standard communications.
Robert's guess is that they'll go back to using the
brown boxes again. They took down the grid, and now they have to
build it back up. They'll take a while, but they'll do it.
Shark asks if this was just an encryption system on
top of standard Imperial communications.
Robert says that's correct, and as Shark says for a
while they were vulnerable to Blue Screen of Death. They don't
know whether they can disrupt them again, because they haven't tried to
analyze the box.
Kalida says that while she's considering things, she
won't be available to be Gunner. She asks Sir Misha what the
plans are for the next several hours.
Sir Misha says that she should look into her crystal
ball, while they'll keep things calm here as long as they can:
"Whatever amount of bluffing-slash-negotiating we can do."
Kalida goes to her stateroom to ponder.
Shark asks if they want to go back to the courier on
the ground, if there's anything they might get from it. They
should also warn the loyallists that communications will be back up
soon, if they haven't already figured it out.
Robert points out that they're already almost to the
Again, Sir Misha takes charge and lays out their
course of action. They'll position themselves between von
Krantzhoff's Tr-X-1 and one or two of the rebel ones. "At this
point, we simply want to delay anything happening for a few hours while
Kalida does her crystal ball gazing. And I'm willing to lie,
cheat, and steal to get those few hours. I'm willing to do
anything including negotiate a surrender. I don't care, as long
as we can keep down anybody from moving."
Shark says that if they parked in the middle, if
they don't have communications they might have standing orders to shoot
the black ship on sight.
It's now 11:00 and Nightshade has reached
The Berserker Fleet Tr-X-2 is still chasing Mille
Falcs, which is now
down to about 30%.
It's now clear that about two thirds of the rebels
have their communications back.
Sir Misha directs Helia to take them to join up with
von Kranzthoff's fleet. He tells Robert to open a channel to
whatever seems like the flagship of the three fleets surrounding
them. He will tell them that he's looking over the data that
Santanocheev provided, and considering his options, and leave it at
It takes another ten minutes to join up with
Tr-X-1. By then, 11:10, what's left of the Mille Falcs fleet --
about 20% -- has broken
clear and is heading for the moon. The 10% strength Tr-X-2 is
staying in orbit. There is now no shooting going on anywhere.
Robert opens the channel to the flagship of the
Llanamith Battle Group.
Sir Misha first confirms that the group commander is
aware of the situation with their overall commander. He goes on
to tell him that such commander has provided them with certain
information, and he is considering that information.
The Llanamith group's commander says he will hold
position and refrain from offensive action until Sir Misha has had a
chance to consider it.
Shark goes to put his battledress back on, and
relieves Teri from guard duty. She accepts, having a few bruises
that she wants checked up by the Doctor.
They have engineered the break they wanted.
They are making time. Not only is that delaying the rebels, but
it is giving what is left of the defenders a chance to repair.
The rebels will have a chance to do that too, of course.
Aside from the three fleets here, all the other
rebel fleets are leaving orbit, moving back up to the moon and
regrouping. Shark is delighted that they are burning fuel.