(45) To Be Named
The Crusader Campaign (156-1123 to 157-1123)
This file has yet to be fully
This file has yet to be fully
Nightshade has jump-0ed to avoid a very
large incoming missile. The dogfight with the silver ship, and
the hasty jump, left some blue on Mich's engineering board. It
took him four hours to finish that work, and another two hours to work
on the green energy pulse that Helia barely dodged.
Kalida was feeling very bad once the danger of the
fight wore off, but she's had a good many hours now to recover.
With the Doc's help, she's feeling normal by the time Mich is done with
all his work.
Jumpspace stabilized when Mich finished his repairs,
so when they'll be ready to come out of jump when he's done with
analyzing the pulse. He's still concerned that missile might be
loitering waiting for them to come back. He suggests that they
should call this new tech Silver Tech, as opposed to the hypothetical
White Tech they would have called it before.
By then Kalida and Shark have checked the football
sensors again, and verified that they were not attacked psionically
during the fight. Shark is still expecting a black tech fleet to
turn up as a result of the signal being sent out by the box from Goose.
It's 08:00 when everything's done and ready to exit
jump. By this time, Nightshade has rebuilt 6 of their 720
Shark's vote is to pop right out now, even thought
they won't have shields or stealth. They don't know where in the
system they will pop out, of course.
Kalida points out the other possibility, which is to
wait five and a half days and come out with either stealth or shields.
Mich states the worst case -- popping out right next
to the 20 ton missile.
Shark speculates about the missile. They don't
know what it does, but it's likely it doesn't poke little holes -- it's
too big for that. He remembers that the swiss cheese ship was hit
randomly rather than radiating from a point alongside it, so it's
unlikely the missile generated them.
Mich's opinion is that it's more like swiss cheese
was used for target practice. It would have been incapacitated
well before many of those holes were drilled through it.
Shark then states what more of the crew must have
been fearing. Did Santanocheev or his people man the Silver Tech
ship? That would mean he could have deliberately drawn them back
here. If that was true, then they'll be facing a real problem in Mora.
Kalida wonders aloud if she could trace the threads
of the Silver Ship, even though it's been dead for six hours.
Shark picks up on that. If the ship generated
Kalida's black hole, they're safe. If it didn't generate the
black hole, they'll know whether or not to wait five and a half
days. He believes that is a very important data point to
gather. If the blackness of possibilities in this area has gone,
they'll know there's not another ship waiting for them. If it's
not gone, they'll need to wait and come in with full shields or stealth.
Sir Misha would be much happier with a full
complement of missiles, but his crew quickly tells him that it will
take 30 days, and they can't generate missiles in stealth or with the
"Not at this time," adds Mich with a grin. He
has plans involving the large power cube to run those systems full
time. He then points out that their own missiles are powered off
the ship's cube, so if they were destroyed, they would go dead.
He originally thought it was most likely that the 20t missile would die
when they destroyed the Silver Ship, but it was in fact self powered
The discussion then turns to when exactly they were
detected by the Silver Ship. They were headed towards the ocean
because the footballs had triangulated it. About the time it
broke the ocean would be when it picked them up.
Sir Misha asks why they need to be in stealth when
they come out.
Shark says that if there's another White Ship here,
there was a period of time when they didn't detect Nightshade.
It was only when they started moving closer that they were
detected. If they come in from a normal jump, they can choose
whether to use stealth or shields immediately. If it's a quick
jump, there's a period of time when they can do neither.
Kalida backs him up. If there's another Silver
Ship here, they need to be ready for it.
Shark brings it back to Kalida's abilities. If
the blackness isn't there anymore, that lessens the chance of there
being another White Ship. He repeats that she should go in again.
So at 08:30 Kalida goes to Sick Bay to look
again. Sir Misha is concerned about the danger to her, but she
believes they can do at least as safely as before.
Shark would like Bridgehead to be strapped in, but
Sick Bay just isn't set up for it. What he can do, however, is
spread some light pieces of paper around the room, and bring her out
immediately they start to move. He then rigs up a harness to hold
him right next to Kalida's bed, so he'll definitely be in position to
bring her out.
Kalida puts herself into her trance. She's
still in the hole, but the thing that attacked her is definitely not
there anymore. The hole is still there, however, and it's
sucking. She can't see the fleets, and in fact she can't see
anything. It's just the black hole. Even though it's
pulling at here, it seems like it might not be as strong as it used to
be. At least, it wasn't out there, but now that she's deeper it's
starting to pull hard again. She looks for residue of the Silver
Ship, but really can't make anything out. That distracted her
slightly and she started to slide in faster.
The paper in Sick Bay starts to rustle and move
around. Shark brings Kalida out immediately.
Kalida has her usual splitting headache, but before
Bridgehead gives her something to sleep it out, Shark debriefs
her. She says it's still there, but it's different. It's
like she started further out -- even though she couldn't tell where the
boundary was, or even in which direction it is -- but it just felt like
she was closer to the horizon. She tried to explain this to
Shark: "The edge I couldn't perceive felt nearer. But the thing
that attacked me there is no longer there for certain."
Shark nods, and tells her that they're going to wait
for her to recover so she can talk to the Captain directly.
Kalida lies back and rests, comforted by
Bridgehead's concoction. The drugs don't seem quite as effective
this time, but he promises to work on something else.
Kalida comes into the Lounge at 12:30, having been
out for four hours. The remainder of the crew has rested in that
time too. Shark has already given Sir Misha the quick summary,
and he agreed that waiting until she recovered would be the best thing
Vonish starts serving lunch when the Marchioness
Shark quickly questions her on her experience.
He assures her that nothing but her was on the football sensors.
He shoots a quick question to Helia about them being in jumpspace now
compared with when they were coming here, in terms of physical distance.
Helia stares at him like he's just suggested that
coffee puts you to sleep, and tries to explain how his simple idea is
pure imagination. She quickly gives up, just shaking her head at
the absurdity of his ideas.
Shark persists for a short while, but he too tails
off. He asks Kalida to confirm that there was no active
She does. There was none at all.
Sir Misha says this means the black hole is separate
from that ship, and separate from whatever attacked her.
Shark wonders if the black hole is persisting as
residual fallout. Kalida thinks that's plausible, but she doesn't
Sir Misha comes back to the main question -- do they
have to come out with shields or stealth up, or can they come out from
a quick jump?
Kalida says it didn't seem like the blackness itself
was a threat to them. It was the thing that attacked them that
was the threat, and that appears no longer to be there.
Shark thinks that given the objects in this system,
the chances are very good that they will be somewhere that won't be
dangerous. He asks Helia if it's reasonable that they'll be out
of range of the missile.
Helia says it is likely that they'll be several
hours away from where it could be, but it's hard to say.
Sir Misha makes the decision: they will come out
At 13:00, having rebuilt 11 missiles, Helia and Mich
do their thing and bring Nightshade out of jump. They pop
out at 100d from the gas giant, as Callisto soon tells them from visual
observations. She adds that she's pretty sure nothing is heading
this way. Mich's board is red all the way across -- the ship is
Shark formally tells the pilot, the engineer, and
the astrogator "Well done. Officially, well done."
It takes two hours for space to stabilize, and so by
the time they slip into stealth at 15:00 they have 13 missiles in their
By that time it's clear that the Sword World fleets
aren't around the gas giant anymore. They're all headed in at
maximum acceleration towards the mainworld. They started at
different times about 3 to 5 hours ago. They are not in a
Shark can't believe they're not in battle formation.
The Imperial fleets are still around the mainworld,
but they seem to be moving around in some sort of operation.
To hack into their communications, they'll have to
catch them up. While the Sword World ships have a large head
start, Nightshade has a lot more acceleration, so they will be
able to do it.
Helia drops them into stealth mode and heads off in
the fastest intercept course she can manage.
Shark and Kalida want to make sure that the football
sensors are watched at all times. Shark slips into sparkly pink,
takes the passive external psionic activity sensors of the ship and
hooks them into his alarm as well. He is determined that they
won't miss a thing. He is slightly surprised that the footballs
are better than the ship's sensors, and makes a point of telling Mich
It takes four hours to catch up. At 19:00
Helia brings them alongside the flagship of the Sacnoth First Fleet.
The fleet is not on a combat standing. Again,
Shark is shocked that they're not attacking. Why else would they
be on the move?
The command to move came from this ship, to all
Sword World ships in system. It directed them to move to the
mainworld as quickly as possible, and assist the Imperial fleets with
whatever they need.
Immediately the crew hammer Robert with
questions. Was there anything from the Imperial fleets, a
distress signal or something?
Robert ignores the agitated monkeys chattering away
around him, and tells them what they wanted to know anyway. The
answer is in personal communications between the commander of the Sword
Worlds fleets and the commander of the Imperial fleets. The Sword
Worlds commander called the Imperial commander to ask if they needed
assistance. The Imperials said they needed everything they could
bring, and to please come help.
Sir Misha's immediate reaction is to try to contact
someone in the Imperial fleets, but he takes Kalida's advice to find
out as much as possible first.
Robert breaks connection, while Helia pulls them
away and takes them in the direction of the Imperial Navy ships.
Kalida knows that Grand Admiral Winchester would be
Imperial Admiral here. She wants to find out what communications
might have been between him and the planet, anybody down there.
Robert points out that they have to get there
first. He'll also want sensor logs and communication records for
the period while they were gone. It's been about 17 hours since
Shark sets Callisto to searching for the missile
anywhere it could have reached in that time.
Kalida reminds them that they'll have the expander
this time to deal with the missile. In the dogfight they had to
reserve it for their opponent, but with the Silver Ship destroyed the
situation is quite different.
Nightshade arrives at mainworld at midnight,
with 13 missiles in the store. They've arrived well before the
Sword World ships, and there has been no sign of anything but those and
the Imperial ships. The footballs are silent.
The Imperial ships seem to be doing atmospheric
operations. Shark wonders quietly what they did to this world.
Something was done to this world. Where the
capital of Adabicci used to be, on the ocean shore, is now
obscured by a cloud of dust and gases, but it's fairly obvious that
there is a several hundred kilometer diameter crater there. This
seems to be the only thing that's different, but it's certainly
Shark's immediate concern was to be sure their own
missiles didn't do this, but their fight with the Silver Ship was too
far out for that to happen.
Sir Misha wonders if the ground defenses of the
capital could have fired on that ship as it came up out of the water,
although they didn't see anything fire on it except Nigthshade.
His theory is perhaps the ship took it out just like it cleared the
orbital area ahead of it. Perhaps it knew the city could fire on
it, and just took it out for that reason.
The crater also of course includes the Ducal Palace,
but not Sir Geoffrey's estates. It's deep enough to have taken
out any possible bunkers too.
Sir Misha observes that the threat to the Duke was
caused by them coming to see what the threat to the Duke was.
Kalida says that she told them it was their
fault. She reflects to herself that it is really all her fault,
as she didn't figure this out properly.
Shark says that all they can do at present is to go
in and see what is there. At least they know that one of the
successors is safely off planet.
Kalida says there should be two others.
Baroness Arahani should be on Ianic, and she checked that Sir
Geoffrey was at Victoria. They don't know where Eduard is.
Helia brings them in carefully. The orbits are
full of ships engaged in coordinated maneuvers, so it's not that easy
to get alongside Grand Admiral Winchester's flagship. It takes
her about twenty minutes to do so.
Kalida is wondering who's really in charge down
there now. Aloud, she says, "Here's my thought. With
Adabicci taken out, whoever takes over, whoever that might be, is
allied with Santanocheev and bringing the Sword Worlds in."
Shark says, "You don't think that Eduard is...?"
"It's possible. I don't know."
"Did not look like that."
"Didn't, and I would think not, but if I didn't know
of anything else and just came from seeing this situation, that's what
I would think. It could easily be someone else entirely took out
the whole thing"
"And is planning to take out the whole family.
They know where the daughter is, she was public about that, although if
there's anyone that can hide someone, the Black Things That
Spit..." Shark has certainly heard stories from Mich and
Bridgehead of the strange pair that travelled on Anastasia."
"You think she's probably all right?"
"Unless, of course, she's actually the instigator."
Shark has been quietly running the sensors on the
crater. It's not radioactive, but it is very deep. The
interior of the planet is coming up through it. Nightshade's
expander could not have done this damage, it's in a whole other
scale. They don't know the capabilities of the swiss cheese
ship's weapon, of course. It's also different from the damage
that destroyed the ecosphere of the IFSS research station, and
different from the antimatter bomb that destroyed the city on Pimane.
He says, "I know what happened. The missile
lost us, and went on to the secondary target. It's an automated
missile. The primary target can't be gotten, you fall back to the
Sir Misha asks why the capital would be a secondary
"You're Santanocheev. You don't like this
guy. Your primary mission is to get rid of the Black Ship, but
Helia now has Nightshade in position with
Robert hacks in. This should be easy because
it's Imperial, but it has been modified from the standard.
His attempt to get in has been detected and
blocked. Somebody in there is really good. It is, after
all, perhaps the most elite fleet in the Spinward Marches. That
channel is completely blocked up now, and Robert simply can't get in
Kalida suggests it would be much easier to get into
the Adabicci Fleet rather than SP-X-1.
Helia pulls them alongside the flagship of that
Shark's prioirity concern is to find out when this
happened in relation to when the Silver Ship blew up. The
Imperials should have sensor events for both of those.
This time Robert's hacking was unopposed. He
looks for communication and sensor logs for the past 24 hours.
He finds nothing interesting until Nightshade's
dogfight with the Silver Ship. The Imperial sensors don't pick up
as much as black tech, of course. In analysis afterwards they
located Nightshade, but didn't pick it up at the time.
This fleet at least did not identify them, just marking them as
Unidentified Ship. All they saw were the missile launches, that
pretty much appeared out of nowhere at the time, and then one laser
shot. They could not have picked up the expander.
Kalida asks if there was any communication with the
There wasn't, not through here, but after the
explosion on the mainworld there was a general broadcast to the planet
that was carried on all the Imperial ships too. It was from the
Duke, broadcast from Winchester's ship, telling everyone to remain calm
and that the Navy was carrying out rescue operations.
Tracking back, Robert picks up more of what
happened. After Nightshade vanished, It looks like they
sent somebody out to investigate the missile, which had come back and
took up station pointing at where they had left. When they
approached, the missile accelerated away and went straight to the
capital. It did blow up the capital.
That fits Shark's theories. It was waiting for
them to come back, and then when something approached, it took
off. Sharks asks the ship they they could have survived that.
The ship says, "I don't know." That wasn't the
answer he was hoping for.
Sir Misha looks at him questioningly.
Shark explains what happened. He says, "So the
missile came to where we were when we jumped. We weren't there,
it decelerated, came back and stopped there, waiting for us. The
Imperial fleet sent out somebody to investigate this object that was
floating in space. As they approached, it said, 'Na na na!' and
went straight to the capital."
Sir Misha says, "So it attacked the capital, not the
ship that came to investigate it?"
Shark nods. "Programming," he says. "I
didn't get my primary target, I will wait here until it comes
back. If you're interfered with, that's your secondary.
Imperial robotics don't do that, they don't trust things to take
"Wouldn't it make more sense to take out the thing
that's bothering you?"
"It hadn't given up on the primary yet. Then
someone interfered with its primary mission, I can't stay here, my
primary mission is in jeopardy, so..."
Kalida points out it didn't care about the ship that
"Right," says Shark. "It can't take out that
ship without destroying itself."
Sir Misha agrees. It was about to be killed,
so it gave up on the primary target and went after the next one.
Shark says, "So, White Tech did it to both of
them. Now I'm really worried that Santanocheev has control of
this. We've been here before, in this ship, and we were not
attacked. So this White Tech, Silver Tech, whatever you want to
call it, was not here before or not aggressive before. Why would
it not have been the first time, but was the second, or third, or
fourth, or whatever time this is?"
Kalida asks how long they've been here, and says
something under her breath about the state of the black hole.
Shark takes that as a request to go black hole
Kalida says that if it's gone, or at least not in
the way, they can find out more.
Shark turns back to Robert to ask him the current
situation at the mainworld.
Robert says they're evacuating from reasonable
survival distance outwards, evacuating to the other inhabited world in
Kalida asks him if there were any other broadcasts
from the Duke, and when Robert shakes his head, she wonders how generic
this one was.
The whole crew thinks about this, and agree that
it's most likely genuine. That means the Duke survived and is
probably right now on Winchester's ship.
As Kalida says, if that was really him they could
make real contact with him.
Sir Misha was thinking the same thing. Should
they perhaps to go Sir Geoffrey's estate to contact him from there?
Shark thinks that's a good idea. If they do it
from Sir Geoffrey's house, they can go there in stealth, go into the
house, and send a message.
Sir Misha wonders if his people would let them
in. Also, why would that be better than just going out at this
Shark says they were there in the fight when the
capital blew up, and a personal communique signed by Kalida to the Duke
would be pretty convincing. He can probably calm them down and
let them approach.
Sir Misha says they can simply send a message
addressed to the Duke from Kalida, saying they want to talk.
Robert shrugs and points out to his captain monkey
that he can do that easily from here. He's in the comm system of
the Adabicci Fleet flagship. He puts a comm link straight through.
Kalida soon has Grand Admiral Winchester's aide on
the line. He asks her what he can do for her. She says she
needs to speak to Duke Adabicci. The aide says he'll let him know
It's mere moments before the Duke of Adabicci
himself replies. "When did you arrive on our ships?" he asks.
"Recently," Nakege says. "What happened here?"
Adabicci sighs, "Well, you can see. Something
"I'm very glad to see you're here, rather than down
"Me too, but that isn't much of a comfort.
It's a mess down there. We're evacuating everybody we can,
priority outwards. I'm just glad everybody else is out of here."
"What about the Sword Worlds fleets?"
"They're coming in to help us. They dropped
all pretense of being a stalemate. They saw what happened, and
they called us and asked if they could help. They're coming in
right now to help us get as many people clear as we can."
"And you're sure you trust them?" asks Nakege
"Absolutely on this. This is just... one of
those things where... there's war, and then there's this. Whatever this
was. Do you have any idea what it was?"
"What was that thing you had a fight with?"
"No idea," says Nakege. "I still have
absolutely no idea. I've never seen anything like that
before." She pauses, then says, "We have to return to Mora
fairly soon. I'm not sure how long we can stay here, but is there
any way we can help you?"
"Depends how much you can carry," says
Adabicci. "If you don't have much capacity, we'll just let the
Navy organize everything."
"We can't carry a lot. If there's one or two
people you want out of the way, we can handle that."
"Well, Geoff's place has been evacuated
already. Obviously the Navy has taken the priority evacuees, so
I'd say we're pretty well covered. We have a whole ton of ships
coming in that are going to help us. The Sword World fleets are
about ten to twelve hours out right now."
Nakege says she's sure he's busy, so she'll let him
get back to it. She'll be here for a little while longer, and
will let him know before they leave.
Adabicci asks her what's happening everywhere else.
Nakege tells him that everything is converging on Mora.
"Everything was meeting at Tussinian. Trin's fleet put up
a valiant defense and delayed and disrupted them greatly. The
remainder are on their way to Mora, and they'll probably get
there on the scheduled day but definitely weaker than they would have
"Well, you do what you have to do. Anything
you need from me?"
Nakege says they have everything they need right
now. She says again that she'll get in touch before they head out.
Adabicci thanks her, and ends the call.
So they do have some time here to investigate before
they have to leave. Kalida wants to wait until at least the Sword
World fleets get here around 13:00, to make sure that they aren't going
to be hostile.
Shark says she could go investigate the black hole
again before those fleets come in. He adds that the problem with
looking for Silver Ships in the Mora system, is that if they
were coming in with the Imperial Fleets to attack someone, they would
come in on the first day of the Imperial ships arriving. They
wouldn't be there until then. They wouldn't be there to get
detected before that.
Kalida points out that the Silver Ship at the bottom
of the ocean wasn't very detectable.
Shark says that his passive scans out of the ocean
are better than theirs in. The ship moved before they saw
them. He doesn't think they'd be very effective at finding Silver
Ships there, until they went active.
Kalida says he knew they were there. He didn't
attack her immediately, but he knew they were there.
Shark says they triangulated him, but that doesn't
mean he doesn't have the ability to do that too.
Sir Misha's point was to check on the Sword World
ships, and then move on.
Kalida suggests she go into her trance and look
Shark says there is also the ocean to check.
There could be more ships there, which could be another fight. He
says they should not go active out here, because of all the trigger
fingers up here, but once in the ocean they'd have some more
freedom. He says they could take several hours to check the area
where the Silver Ship -- Silver Fish? -- came from.
Mich suggests something that would affect their
journey back. At some point in an empty area, they should take a
while to expose Engineering to hard vacuum and hook up the big power
cube to the missile manufacture.
Kalida is concerned at how long that would take, and
when Mich says it could be of the order of days, she at least thinks
they should not take that time from the journey.
Sir Misha suggests a compromise -- if all Mich needs
is hard vacuum, they could do it after getting back to Mora.
Mich says that he needs hard vacuum, and there must
be no shields or stealth.
Kalida adds that if they wait until Mora
they won't get much benefit from it, but then they don't really have
the time anyway.
Sir Misha says they should go to the ocean now, then.
At one edge of the ocean, of course, is the large
crater spewing volcanic gases and ash and clouds of steam. It's
not quite the ocean it used to be, the shores are messy, and the
atmosphere is turbulent. Helia picks her way through and down
under the water, and switches from stealth to shields as soon as she
Both Shark and Callisto stay on the sensors, looking
for anything at all. They see nothing, although as Shark says it
could just be sitting on the bottom.
Shark then suggests they do the trance down
here. It would at least be hard to missile them down here.
They set up Sick Bay again the same way. This
time, he suggests that Shark be in battledress. He can use the
grav capability to avoid being thrown around, and administer the
wake-up easily enough. Bridgehead himself
plans to stay out of battledress, just in case he needs to fix
something delicate. Shark suggests that the Doc stay out of the
room, which oddly enough is exactly what the Baron himself was thinking.
So Teri helps Shark suit up securely, and Kalida
drops into her trance. Shark plans to give her as long as he can.
Kalida is in the hole. It is weaker. She
looks for a way out of it, but can't see one. On the other hand,
she is not being sucked in, and won't be unless she goes deeper.
There are no connections in here still, everything outside it is
This is the first time she hasn't been sucked
in. She is in the hole, but its sucking force is weaker
here. It's as if she's in it, but not quite in it. It's
still blocking everything, no connections, but she can almost see
connections trying to poke their way in. It's definitely
Kalida tries to grab hold of one of the ends that's
trying to poke in. She can't get hold of it, however.
Paper is rustling in Sick Bay, small objects are
Kalida spins out her own connection and tries to
send it out. She pushes a hook outside the hole.
Shark gets shoved and buffeted, and stuff starts to
fly around. Kalida's monitor shows a great deal of stress, but
not dangerous yet. He himself is not in danger, so her condition
will be his cue.
Kalida tries again. She throws out a hook and
starts to pull herself out. It's like pulling herself onto the
land of a river delta, out of the river of the black hole.
It's getting rough in Sick Bay, and the footballs
register a strong, strong reading, climbing and ramping up hard.
Kalida is showing severe stress, including dangerously elevated blood
pressure. He wakes her up.
Kalida is immediately out and awake. It
hurts. She aches all over. She lays there and says quietly,
Bridgehead rushes in, takes one look at the monitor,
and insists she stay in his care for a while. He starts to put
her under right away, saying she can talk later.
Kalida gets out a few words as she passes into
unconsciousness: "Black... hole... weakening."
Shark leaves the Doc to his business, and heads for
the Lounge. He tells the Captain that if they wake Kalida in six
hours, as Bridgehead suggested, that will give them another four hours
before the Sword World fleets arrive at the mainworld.
At 09:00, Bridgehead wakes Kalida. She's in
fine shape now. He suggests she take it easy for the next couple
of days, if at all possible. The two of them join the others for
"Good morning!" says Shark to Kalida brightly.
"What did the footballs do?" she asks him.
"I'm letting them cool," he laughs.
"I'm far from the strongest reading you've had, so
it can't be all that bad."
"Well... not anymore. It was strong. You
were rocking my battledress, and that was probably just the side
effects of what you were trying to do, I take it."
"I threw out a connection, but I don't know what it
hooked to because you pulled me out too soon."
"It was a rocky ride," smiles Shark.
"I did feel like crap when I woke up. Thanks."
"Your blood pressure was..."
"I was working very hard. However, the black
hole is definitely weakening, so I think we can probably guess that
whatever it was here that we destroyed was creating it, and it's
dissipating now it's gone. So after a while it should be gone
completely. I was still in it, but I tried something new this
time, and it was working, I was actually pulling myself out, but I
don't know what I hooked." She makes a mental note to check what
she tugged while she was there.
Shark suggests they move back into space and watch
the incoming ships. There's probably a couple of days they could
spend here, long enough to see that. He asks Kalida if it's
weakening here, or it's doing so because it's moving somewhere else.
Kalida says it's weakening here. It's
retreating into itself. She pauses and then asks a question of
her own. What do they do if the Sword Worlds fleets attack?
The Imperial fleets are at a disadvantage in the gravity well.
Shark points out that while they have a robust
command structure, but they don't have meson guns and they don't know
how to find them in stealth.
Bridgehead nods. Nightshade is on the
other side of a force multiplier singularity -- the Sword Worlds can't
detect them in stealth, and they can't hurt them with the shields
up. Even if they landed simulataneous nukes to take out the
shields, they have nothing to penetrate the hull.
Kalida adds her assessment of how it would be if Nightshade
wasn't here. Given the strategic positions, she'd expect the
Sword Worlds to win, but suffer at least 50% losses. Judging from
what they achieved at Tussinian, they would have an absolute
advantage. They could destroy the entire Sword World fleets
without taking any damage. As she says to Sir Misha, they could
wreck the Sword World fleets enough in a couple of days that the
Imperial Fleets could mop them up.
Shark is still concerned about the rescue
effort. The damage to the mainworld could wipe out its
habitability for dozens of years. There are plenty of worlds even
within jump-1 of here to take some refugees, and they can probably use
the other inhabited world here as a staging point at least. At
least all the buildings here have their own pressurization
systems. Anything left standing should remain habitable until the
relief effort got to them. Of course nothing is going to be
standing within hundreds of kilometers of the blast.
The class A starport is gone, of course. The
only one left is the F-class insystem port on the other world.
The Xboat service might have to divert for a while.
Helia puts them back into stealth and takes them up
At about 13:00, the Sword World fleets arrive.
They seem to be coordinating with the Imperial fleets and engaging
fully in the operation.
Kalida is still suspicious. She insists on
waiting until 16:00, when the Sword Worlds are so intertwined with the
Imperials that they are not in a position to start anything.
They're a great deal of help in the evacuation.
Shark asks how much information Kalida could get
from here once the black hole is gone. He believes he knows what
Santanocheev did to them here -- he laid a trap for them. What he
really wants to know is, was that his only White Tech?
What Kalida would really like to see is what changes
this made everywhere else, because it is going to have a huge ripple
Shark agrees. He adds that once they jump, or
at least the second jump, they'll be out of the hole.
Kalida's thinking even further than that.
They'll have a real jump at the end of this journey, so there'll be
time for a real klatrin trip then too, without a black hole.
The next thing to do is contact the Duke
again. Helia and Robert hook them back to the same connection as
before, and Kalida makes her call. The aide patches her through
Nakege asks Adabicci how the rescue operation is
Adabicci says it's going as well as could be
expected. The Sword Worlds fleets are being a big help, but even
so they're going to be busy here for quite some time.
She asks him if he has an understanding with the
Sword World fleets after this situation is cleared up.
The Duke says they'll be talking about it, but
obviously the relationship with them is on a much more trustworthy
standing than it was before. They might go back to a rough
stalemate, but he's confident that there won't be any hostilities, just
Nakege says she's about to jump out on their way to Mora.
Adabicci says that won't be a problem anymore.
The Sword Worlds lifted that restriction.
She asks if there's any message he wants her to take
back to the Archduke.
"Tell them what happened here," he says.
"Maybe you'll figure out more about it on the way back there.
Just let him know the situation here. That's about it,
really. There's nothing active they can do to help there, they're
too far away."
Nakege says she'll check back in on them when she
can, but it will be well after things are settled at Mora.
Adabicci says that will be fine. He's
certainly going to be busy enough here in the meantime.
She says, "We believed that the Sword Worlds
originally arrived here in concert with Santanocheev's moves. Do
you know anything more about that?"
"Yes. Their statement here was they were
protecting concessions that the incoming Archduke will give them.
This world was not to be one of them, but they're just making sure
everything is calm here."
"Can you send us the transcript of that?"
"Absolutely," says Adabicci. He taps his
console and sends the data over. The two nobles say their closing
formalities, and the Duke closes the call.
Nightshade's business here is done. At
18:00 they jump for 0804 / Lunion.