(52) To Be Named
The Crusader Campaign (168-1123)
This file has yet to be fully
This file has yet to be fully
Nightshade now has 257 missiles. The crew is
expecting everything to be stable here until 173-1123. That's
when Kalida's experiences expect Santanocheev's fleets, in a severely
weakened state, to arrive. The Rhylanor fleets have been just too
fuzzy to guess so far. Shark thinks that it would be bad if they
had been delayed as well, but according to the Archduke, the Count of
Fulacin had apparently tried to do just that.
Shark has been keeping careful eye on what might be
arriving in the system. It seems like it's just been normal
traffic, liners, traders, merchants, and so on. Nothing that
looks like it might be a military courier has arrived. Some ships
have been leaving, no doubt people getting out of the way of what might
be a battle, but obviously Mora itself could not possibly be
There is a little local news about the fleets
here. All over the news in the morning is that the Heavy Cruiser Solomon's
Tooth of the Hexos Fleet was lost overnight in a training
accident. There are no details about it, however, and the
Imperial Navy has commented that there have been very few incidents
considering the scale of the exercises here. Of course, the loss
of a Heavy Cruiser is very notable, rare incident or not.
The tabloids are also buzzing about the Countess of
and Sir Misha Ravanos. Photos of him arriving and his entourage
leaving are all over the news. Photos of Sir Misha leaving with
his entourage are notably absent -- perhaps they wouldn't have
supported their story well enough. Everyone seems to be expecting
a wedding announcement any day now.
Kalida suggests she do her trance thing and try to
find out some real news. Everyone agrees that would be a good
idea, so she and Shark go to Sick Bay to set up the usual
precautions. Shark's footballs are of course recording throughout
the whole procedure. Less usual is that Shark is currently Acting
Ship's Doctor, with the Baron occupied onshore.
First threads Kalida follows relate to the Rhylanor
fleets. She really wants to know anything about what's going on
The overall impression is that there are Rhylanor
fleets headed this way. They're spread out, with a fuzziness
about whether they're actually coming. Something is coming,
though, no doubt about that. The fuzziness seems to be centered
around something else going on. It's not just the Rhylanor
fleets, something else is adding to them and it's hard to tell what.
But some careful tracing shows that perhaps there's
something from Lanth joining them. Numbers are too indistinct,
but timing is dominated by the synchronicity of all events moving here
at the same time, much as Tussinian was a time-space nexus of
A further look, and the part of Lanth that is adding
to the spinward-most Rhylanor fuzzy lump is making it about four times
This unexpected news about Lanth prompts Kalida to
take a look further afield, at Vilis. To her surprise she finds
something strange going on there. It's totally unrelated to this
rebellion, and not related to Digitis either, but that's about
all she can tell about it. There is something very strange about
Vilis. But Vilis is not involved in the rebellion, even though it
is involved in something.
Back around here, she suddenly notices a familiar
thread right here. It's Bridgehead, and he's somehow hooked into
this stuff arriving from Lanth. She leaps onto that.
The Bridgehead connection is giving her an avenue to
follow, a way into the fuzziness without losing the way. With
luck and some work, she might be able to resolve some details.
Three fleets from Lanth are linking up to 3/4 fleet
from Rhylanor at Rorise. They're meeting there right now,
about three days away from leaving to jump straight to Mora.
That would put them here around 178-1123, with the first ships arriving
on 177-1123. They have definitely been delayed, running about a
week late. That timing goes for the rest of the fuzziness of the
Rhylanor group, moving in a coordinated way.
It's also pretty clear that these are the only
fleets in Lanth that are coming this way. There are other fleets
in Lanth involved in this affair, but they aren't coming to Mora.
Of course Kalida knows people who are currently in
Lanth. Marquis Marc and Sir Geoffrey are at Victoria on
that archeological expedition. She can't, however, even tell what
is going on there. They are isolated, and she can't even tell if
they are there or not. The threads are weakening, with no real
outside influence. She's lost any reasonable means of finding her
way in there.
She returns to the Rhylanor fleets. Looking
for a thread, or collection of threads, that can be tugged to change
things is not successful.
Back to Santanocheev's fleets now. They're
still spread out into three groups, running about a week late as they
caused at Tussinian. They will be jumping directly to Mora
in about two days, which would bring them here at 177-1123.
Again, she looks for a thread or group of threads
that could be pulled to change things there. Again, she can't
She then tries to follow the Countess of Maitz in
the same way she followed Bridgehead. She finds that nothing is
at Maitz, and that the Countess is not directly connected with
either group of fleets. She has no real connections with
Santanocheev himself, either.
Kalida tries an experiment. She stretches her
abilities, shifts herself out of being rooted in the web and sees if
she can follow possibilities. She finds that she can't. She
can't do "what if" scenarios, or really do anything active with threads
aside from tweaking them at times.
Finally, she looks back over at the Adabicci
area. The black hole is still there, still stable, right where it
was when she first encountered it.
She comes out of her trance.
It's been a routine voyage. Shark hasn't
noticed anything unusual on the footballs. While everything is
fresh in Kalida's mind, she calls the crew to the Lounge to discuss
what she's found.
The quick summary is that they've delayed both sides
by the same amount, to arrive at the same time. There are also
three additional fleets on their way from Lanth.
The 3/4 fleet would presumably be as the result of
whatever the Count of Fulacin did with the fleet he'd taken back from
the INISO. Alternatively, as Shark suggests, perhaps he's the 3/4
fleet meeting up with the Lanth group to divert them.
Shark says they need to talk about this to the
Archduke. Also, should they give him a box he can use to talk to
them, to give them orders in such a rapidly changing political
situation. They can of course receive the normal fleet
transmissions, but this would be unable to be intercepted. It
would be a direct secure line from the Archduke to his wild card.
Kalida wants to know what Shark suggests if the
Archduke gives them an order they don't want to follow.
Shark says they can simply pretend they didn't get
it. It's a one-way box, and he would have no way to know whether
they received it or not.
Kalida suggests they should not use the word "order"
but something more like "information" or "suggestion." The
Archduke may be accustomed to his suggestions acting as orders, but
he's been very good about them working on their own so far.
Shark checks with Robert and Mich that they can give
him such a box. They say they can, and agree with Shark's
assumption that if they jump, the connection will break and the box
won't work. It would have to be reconnected all over again by
Mich in microgravity and hard vacuum. He says that they should
put a light on the box to show to the Archduke whether it's working or
Kalida asks if they can turn it off or on.
Mich says that they can cut it off permanently and
break the connection, but they would have no control over anything
other than the feed of power. They can provide a switch in the
box for the Archduke to turn it on and off -- not that he would trust
it -- but all they can do from Nightshade's end is break the
By now it's time for lunch. Vonish serves that
while the crew relaxes and enjoys the food. They'll call the
Archduke to set up an appointment to visit the Archduke that afternoon.
After lunch, Shark sends that message to the
Archduke, and is told to drop by whenever he wants. At Kalida's
suggestion they won't be bringing the box this time, but they will
mention it. This will give Robert and Mich plenty of time to
build it, which they say will take about 3-1/2 hours.
So Shark, as Roger Jolly, heads out to meet the
Archduke. Kalida and Sir Misha accompany him, with Robert driving
Before they leave, Shark just runs a paranoid check
of the sensors. He's looking for anything interesting that might
have been happening in the system. Fleet movements and exercises
show up, and also a collision between a heavy cruiser and an asteroid
at high speed in the asteroid belt. It looks like they were
practicing close flight maneuvers and got it wrong. The ship was
completely destroyed. Shark is relieved that it was a "normal"
accident, and nothing to do with a black ship, white ship, or even an
accident loading an Imperial antimatter bomb.
Finally, the announcement of Baron Bridgehead's
upcoming wedding hits the papers. Or rather, the paper, which had
an exclusive interview with the Marquis of Rorise in which he made the
announcement. Baron Bridgehead will wed Angela, Lady Rorise (22)
and Dame Erica (19). The wedding is set for 170-1123, a mere two
days from now. It will be held at the palace of the Duchess of
Mora, and will be a small private ceremony. The paper has a short
discussion of the unusual situation of the Baron marrying two sisters
at the same time, along with the implications for the title both as a
result of the wedding and should the titles pass on.
After the wedding, they will be "Baron and
Baronesses Bridgehead, Lady and Lord Rorise." Should the Marquis
and Marchioness pass the title, they would then be Marchionesses and
Marquis of Rorise. Angela would be Marchioness of Rorise by
inheritance, Bridgehead would be Marquis of Rorise by marriage, and
Erica would be Marchioness of Rorise also by marriage. Now if
Bridgehead died first, Angela and Erica would be the Baronesses
Bridgehead, and still being married, when they inherited the title they
would be Marchioness and Marchioness Rorise.
Shark's concern of course is what this will do to
the crew and their operational capability. He could take over as
Ship's Doctor on any ship in the Imperium, but with Bridgehead on board
of course he's been just a flunky.
The trip by gcarrier to the Archducal palace is
straightforward, and they are let in and escorted to the front door as
usual. There are of course no paparazzi at the Archduke's palace.
This time the Archduke receives them in a drawing
room, panelled in dark wood in centuries-old fashion, with reproduction
period furniture. He is drinking coffee, and informally offers
them some too.
Nakege says that they have some updated
information. She believes that Santanocheev's group of fleets
will be jumping for Mora in about two days. She also
believes that the Rhylanor fleets will be jumping for Mora in
The Archduke is clearly disturbed by this.
When Nakege adds that there are three Lanth fleets also joining the
Rhylanor fleets, he shakes his head and laughs. He asks, "Was
that the good news or the bad news?"
"That's all the news I have," says Nakege.
The Archduke nods. "That doesn't sound very
good," he says.
"At the moment I can't think of any way to delay one
side or another."
"How reliable is this information?"
"I suppose as reliable as all the information I've
"OK, we'll set up for the first ships coming in on
176, then a whole bunch on 177 and 178." He sighs, "Thank
you. Well, we have a date now, right? A little over a week."
"Looks that way." She pauses, then continues,
"As we discussed before, with our ship we are planning on being your
wild card, without any real connection to official movements.
However, we can offer you a direct line of communication to us.
It is absolutely secure. It is one-way -- you can talk to us, but
we can't talk to you. There is also a chance it could break down
and not be functional again. There will be a little indicator
light to tell you if you're online. If you're interested..."
"Of course. Now, you say secure, in what
way? A very strong encryption?"
Shark says that it cannot be intercepted in any
way. "We couldn't intercept it if someone else was using it."
The Archduke looks puzzled. He says slowly,
"So it can't be intercepted? There is no signal to intercept?"
"Not that I can understand in any way that our
mathematician has explained."
"So we won't see it transmitting anything?
Will it work from inside a shielded zone?" As the crew nod, he
adds, "Has your entire ship been listening to our conversations?"
"No," the crew assure him simultaneously.
"Thank you. Yes, I would like this."
Shark says he will deliver it personally tomorrow.
"With any extra news we might discover," adds
Nakege. She asks if he has any more information for them.
The Archduke says he doesn't have anything
new. When Shark asks, he says that he has heard nothing more from
Fulacin. He takes that as bad news.
There being nothing more to discuss, the crew return
Back on board, Kalida looks for Jack. She had
been sitting in on the earlier meeting in the Lounge, so she heard what
Kalida had found out. Jack is in the Lounge when Kalida enters,
with Vonish sitting quietly in a corner enjoying a glass of whiskey and
staring out the window over the downport landing field.
Kalida says carefully, "Considering the news from
this morning, if you could come up with anything interesting, now would
be the time."
Jack says, equally carefully, "Interesting...?
What do you need? Do you need the option that I outlined before?"
"Possibly. Or if you could come up with
something more certain."
"I'll see what I can do. We've got about a
week, right? I'll see if I can come up with something, yes.
I can't promise it, but I'll see what I can do."
Kalida thanks her and leaves, heading forward
towards her stateroom.
Tonight there are no social activities on. It
has been kind of dead socially the last couple of days. Perhaps
the impending threat to the system is being taken seriously by the
upper class after all.
There is some social news, though. The crew's
invitations to Bridgehead's wedding have arrived. The whole crew
has been invited. The wedding will be at 15:00 Imperial time.
That settles their activity for the afternoon.
Shark starts it, by asking Kalida to help him pick out a wardrobe for
the event, and soon others in the crew are also asking the ship's
fashion authority for advice. A shopping trip follows, and all
are outfitted suitably. Some, like Mich, will be attending in
Imperial Navy dress blues, but he is in the minority. Kalida will
no doubt be spectacular. Helia is likely to be spectacular too,
but in rather different taste.