(55) To Be Named
The Crusader Campaign (171-1123 to 176-1123)
This file has yet to be fully
This file has yet to be fully
Nightshade now has 329 missiles.
Robert asks Jack about the Brown Box she's been
working on. She says she might have come up with something.
Robert asks if they can overload their
communications systems by having it broadcast to every ship and set the
ships working on some problem to overload them.
Jack says she's working on something. It isn't
ready for release yet, but she might have something by the time the
fleets get here. Robert asks if he can help, but Jack says it's
more in her line than his, and politely turns him down.
Meanwhile, most of the crew is leaving Baron
Bridgehead, Lord Rorise's wedding reception. Four columns of
heavy smoke are rising over the city, and an Imperial Navy gcarrier
that wasn't there before has pulled up to the front door of the palace
of the Duchess of Mora.
Shark has asked Callisto to keep an eye on them and
their route on the way back, and Robert to feed him as much information
as he can on what's happening.
The main information, though, comes from a TNS news item earlier that
evening. Robert adds to that, however. The explosions were
all at apartment buildings, and although they don't recognize the names
of most of the minor nobility who lived there, one was Marquis Marc's
and another was Sir Arken Hauther's. Three or four nobles were
residents in each building; the total was about 15 apartments owned by
nobles. Apparently these were selected for an as yet unknown
reason, as there are many more apartments held by nobles in the domain
capital, more than the one device which was said to have been disarmed.
Robert wants to know how the list of bombings lines
up with their political leanings, but he doesn't really have access to
that. The Archduke would know, of course.
In fact, Shark suggests, they should go directly to
the palace now. They know the Archduke has called them on the Bat
Phone, so he should be expecting them. Helia and Vonish are in a
separate limo, going back to the ship.
On the way, Shark summarizes for Sir Misha: a bunch
of nobility has been assassinated, either directly or through blowing
up their residence buildings entirely. The news doesn't say how
they were assassinated, but Shark assumes it would be pistol or rifle
like the attempt at the reception. There were four bombs that
went off, and at least one was found and disarmed. Shark wants to
know how they found the one or more that they did, what can they tell
about the builders, and of course they'd just been talking about the
Kalida tells Sir Misha that one of those
assassinated was Judi Tarrassi, Countess of Maitz. The media will
no doubt be very disappointed that their alleged wedding won't take
place. They also know the Count and Countess of Nexine, among
The limo floats up to the gates of the Archducal
Palace. The platoon of Imperial Marines in battledress moves
aside to let them in, and they are escorted to the front of the palace.
Marines escort them directly to an audience with the
Archduke. This time it's an old-fashioned book library, a fairly
small room. Imperial Marines in battledress stand guard outside.
Kalida studies the Marines. They are tense, in
a high state of alert. These don't look like combat line troops,
more like ceremonial guard pushed into this role in an emergency.
Everything is well polished, and they're tense, but they are still
The group is welcomed in, and the door closes behind
them. They are offered drinks, and the crew's choice this time is
The Archduke asks them if they've seen the news, and
what they think of it. He wants to hear their opinion before he
gives them more details.
Sharks says that Santanocheev is trying to take out
opposition before the battle. Kalida adds that it will undermine
the Archduke ahead of time too.
Mich says the timing suggests they don't know that
they've delayed the battle. It was expected to go off very soon
before the Rebels arrived.
Shark wonders why they would put everyone on alert
the day before the attack.
Mich says that disrupting the chain of command would
be worth the alert.
Sir Misha asks who the target was in their
group. Shark and Kalida agree it was either Bridgehead or Kalida.
Mich reminds them that although Sir Arken Hauther
was targetted, they know he wasn't there.
Shark says that people who have worked with them, or
given other support against Santanocheev, were the ones targetted.
Sir Misha goes further than that. He says the
attacks were against confidants of the Archduke, advisors too.
The Archduke sighs, "That is correct. A lot of
my close advisors."
"Would those advisors be well known?" asks Sir Misha.
"No," replies the Archduke. "Some of them
would have been straightforward to assemble from fairly easy
intelligence, some of them would not. We are speculating that
this was set up well in advance. The operations on the mainworld
here were not INISO operations, they were independent cells."
"Mercenary cells?" asks Shark.
"Some known mercenaries."
"So clearly you had some counter-intelligence
because you got to one of the bombs before it went off," says Shark.
"I believe that the security measures in that
particular building were better. I believe you're familiar with
the place -- you've visited contacts there a few times since you've
Kalida asks if all the bombs went off at the same
"Yes. They all went off at exactly 19:00."
"We read between the lines, the other assassinations
were mostly handgun, rifle?" asks Shark.
"Rifle mostly, long range weapons."
Shark says their limo is moderately well armored,
but they might want alternate transport back to the ship.
"I was coming to that," says the Archduke.
Mich asks if any of them were caught, and what
information they obtained from them.
The Archduke says that they picked up a couple, and
that's where they found out that they were independent cells.
They received a message that coordinated their attack. He goes
on, "It was probably set up yesterday morning, because that's when the
meeting that was bombed on our flagship was arranged."
"Flagship?" says Kalida, wide-eyed.
Shark says slowly, "There was a bombing on a
"Yes, and also they've taken out the meson gun
installations on the moon of the inner gas giant as well. That
means we're going to have to send more ships out there. Yes,
Shark, it could be that it would make it easier to refuel there, but it
also might be that they want to divert ships that would otherwise have
been in the line of battle."
The Archduke pauses, then says, "The flagship attack
took out most of our command staff. It seems we missed one INISO
operative. He managed to get one missile warhead into
position. The ship is not capable of being a flagship any longer,
but internal damage control was sufficient that it can still fight to a
He again pauses, then continues, "Now this affect
you directly. I am recalling Baron Bridgehead to active duty."
The crew exchange glances.
Shark says, "I know where that puts some of us in
terms of command rank, but as a civilian ship..."
The Archduke says, "As a civilian ship, your role
has not changed, although you would probably be the most secure means
of transporting the Grand Admiral to his flagship -- once we have swept
the flagship, which we have been doing for a while."
Shark asks, "Is he the only Admiral left in the
"He is the only Grand Admiral left in the
system. He will be commanding the defense. But we are aware
of his personal skills, we will have substantially competent staff
officers to relay his commands."
"His tactics on the grand scale are impeccable,"
says Shark. "His personal tactics are..."
"Exactly," says the Archduke, "He will be officially
in command, he will be directing the operation, but orders that he
issues will be... filtered."
Shark turns to Sir Misha and says, "I'll put myself
down as Medical Officer when we get back on board."
The Archduke continues, "Technically, of course, he
would be recalled for a four year term. In practice, it is not
likely to last that long."
Shark observes, "It will start as a four year term,
he can always have an early discharge."
"He's already done one extra term during his period
Shark says, "Have we identified the person who
arranged the bomb on board?"
"Yes, we have."
"And they did not survive capture?"
"They did not survive the blast. Obviously the
news of the non-civilian targets will not be released. We will be
announcing Baron Bridgehead's appointment as some fantastic move, a
Mich and Shark speculate briefly on the nature of
The Archduke states, "The building devices were
small nuclear demolition charges. They also took out the secure
bunker underneath each one. We are not sure who was killed
yet. We are not sure of the location of Sir Arken, for example."
Mich assures the Archduke that Sir Arken is offworld.
Shark nods his agreement, and again observes that
the targets were not politically high placed people, but intelligence
The Archduke nods, "And certain other
advisors. A lot of my network is down. It was extremely
well done." He looks around at the crew, then says, "I also have
in mind a more long term civilian role for the current Baron. I
believe it would be a posting he would not refuse, so I am afraid he
will not be returning. Assuming, of course, that the appointment
is confirmed. I have already sent a message to the Emperor for
confirmation, so should Santanocheev take over, it would be hard for
him to counter it. At least one person who is on the right side
will be in a position of some power."
Shark smiles, 'Until their untimely demise."
"Yes, well you could help out there."
Shark asks, "What do we do in the short term?
What other things would Santanocheev do based on his projected arrival
time? Given he's already done a reasonable job on the military
side and the civilian side. I know your security guys must be
going over everything with a fine tooth comb."
The Archduke laughs. He says, "Fortunately
we'd already purged our own meson gun network here. That was
probably targetted as well, but we apparently took out who was intended
to target that. At least that's something."
Shark nods. "That was the inner gas giant?"
"Yes. The outer gas giant has no place to
mount meson defenses. It requires naval control. That's the
one we'd expect him to go for, of course.' He pauses, then says,
"So that's the situation. I'd like you to stand by to be ready to
transport the Grand Admiral to his flagship. I can't think of any
safer way of doing it."
"There will be more operatives out there."
"We would expect there to be. Fortunately
Imperial Intelligence was not disrupted, so they are fully able to
operate on this."
Shark says, "I'm not going to suggest that I won't
be recalled to active duty."
"It is unlikely that you would be recalled to active
"Or if I am, my post would be exactly where I am,"
"So, at least you will have access, I am sure, to
our strategic plans. The Grand Admiral's orders have already been
delivered, and I would like you to collect him at noon from the Ducal
Palace... today I suppose, given what time it is now. We will
have completed the sweep of the flagship by then. And obviously
your communications device works."
A brief discussion follows as to the safest way for
them to get back to their own ship. It is soon decided that they
will leave from the back gate in what appears to be a regular convoy of
Imperial Marines to the downport. It won't be as comfortable as
the limo, but it won't attract attention and it will be safe.
On the way to the starport, Sir Misha says they
should contact the head of security and explains that they have been
asked by the Archduke to protect the Baron, and to ask permission to
come and stay there. Unstated is his intention of taking the ship
itself to the palace in stealth mode, landing on the back lawn and
walking directly into the formal gardens where they would not be
Shark makes the call, as head of security for the
Marchioness of Nakege, and makes the arrangements to augment their
security. He says he might have some useful information for him
The security head thanks him again for his help
earlier, and says to ask if there's anything they need.
Shark says they will be arriving in the formal
gardens in two hours. When asked how they will be arriving, he
says simply, "On foot. We'll see you in two hours."
Back at the ship, it's time to do the usual
underwater disappearing trip. They head out over the ocean, so
the Marchioness can go fishing, perhaps? They dive down
underwater far enough to be lost to sensors, and then go into stealth
mode. Of course in stealth mode they will be unable to generate
Shark, Sir Misha, and Teri will be the shore
team. Everyone else will be at battle stations on the ship should
it need to go into action.
Helia flies them to the Ducal Palace. While
their sensors show that security is good, it's simple enough to move in
to the formal lawn in steath. They extend the walkway from behind
the bridge, and Shark, Sir Misha, and Teri exit into the formal
gardens. Teri leads in battledress in case the local security is
The head of security is there, doing a very good job
of not being surprised.
Shark introduces Captain Sir Misha and Captain Teri
Cralla. (Teri was a Leading Sergeant in the Scorpionis Marines
and prefers to remain an NCO; Shark still insists she's the Captain of
their shipboard marines.)
They proceed to the guardroom to discuss
matters. Teri takes up station in front of the Grand Admiral's
door alongside the two Imperial Marines in battledress already
there. It's clear that these Marines are elite troops, not from
the ceremonial unit at the palace.
Now they're settled in a secure location, Shark asks
the security head what he knows of what happened.
He knows there were various explosions across the
city, and a fifth device found. He knows a little more than the
news -- the general design of the devices, and that the security
bunkers under the buildings were targetted. He knows of only two
failed operations: the fifth bomb in the intelligence building, and the
assassination here. All others seem to have been a complete
Shark says he understands that the groups that
carried it out were professionals, but not within any particular
That matches what the Duchess's security believes.
Shark then asks about the weapon the assassin here
It was a small pistol firing explosive
bullets. It would very comprehensibly take out one target, not an
area blast. They have reviewed the tapes and can't tell whether
it was the Baron or the Marchioness who was the target.
Shark says there will be an announcement that makes
the Baron more likely.
The security head says that the Imperial Navy has
taken over security responsibilities for the Baron here. They
have been briefed on the Nightshade team's role, apparently.
Sir Misha has, meanwhile, been reviewing the
security plans. He finds a couple of holes in their coverage -- a
couple of large storm drains that could be used to access the area, for
The next step is to plan Bridgehead's exit.
The quickest way would be to move Nightshade up to the balcony
and retrieve him the same way that they did the Duke of Rhylanor.
Apparently he isn't using the room that adjoins the balcony, and all
they need to do is move the Ducal forces inside and no-one would
see. Sir Misha suggests that if they really need to obscure it,
they can pump smoke onto the balcony and hide it completely.
Most of the crew is pretty tired by now.
Shark's first action on taking the position of Medical Officer was to
go through Bridgehead's stimulant records. It's amazing what he
had available, and what the Baron would risk on himself is not quite
the same as what he would be prepared to give anyone else. He'll
have this covered if necessary.
Kalida has been doing a full analysis of the records
of the assassination attempt. She identifies the Baron as the
target -- a slight flick of the assassin's eyes to his target reveals
it under very precise analysis. The crew had been of course
provided with the full details of the attacks as they left the
Archduke, so that they could use the information to protect the Baron.
She then considers whether there are likely to be
more attacks. It does seem likely that since these were
independent cells, there could be others out there. The attacks
seem to have been coordinated at the top with no communication between
cells. The activity was prearranged, and the execute time was
provided by a classified ad yesterday.
Shark discusses all the information with Sir
Misha. The signal was simply the time, and the teams were in
place for maybe months, with their operation planned in advance.
They won't be able to find who set them up -- it'll be all fake IDs and
cash, not even worth looking into. Since the Duchess wasn't
attacked in the first wave, she's unlikely to be a source and probably
isn't very high on the list at all. If there was a plan to attack
here it would be a lower reliability team, probably no plan at all, so
they don't have much to worry about here now. There may be
contingency plans for spaceport or other facilities. So when they
transport the Baron -- and perhaps his wives, since he'll probably ask
to have them on Nightshade -- they should rendezvous at an
abnormal location with his flagship.
At 11:30, Sir Misha goes to talk to the Baron.
He congratulates him on his wedding and his appointment, and tells him
that his transportation to his flagship will be leaving at 12:00.
He then asks what Bridgehead's plans are for his wives.
Bridgehead says they could remain here at the Ducal
Palace, or they could be looked after on Nightshade.
Sir Misha says he would prefer they remain
here. With no other questions, he says that he will return at
noon to collect him.
At noon, all the guards are removed from the
balconies for a "shift change". They are to go inside and not
look out the window.
Baron Bridgehead bids his brides goodbye in the
inner room. He steps into the outer room with Sir Misha, Teri,
and Shark, closes the door behinds him, and walks onto the
balcony. He boards Nightshade on the bridge ramp.
Helia flies them to the ocean, drops out of stealth,
and emerges. They fly directly out to rendezvous with the Baron's
flagship, Pegasus, the dreadnought flagship of fleet MO-X-1
("Moxi" in Imperial Navy slang).
Robert transfers the Baron between ships on the
gcarrier. The Grand Admiral is piped aboard and takes up his new
command. He carries with him his own Bat Phone to Nightshade;
that will allow them to get advance notice of the Royallist movements
because it isn't lightspeed limited.
The question now is whether to tell anyone about the
Brown Boxes. The Baron knows that the Rebels have an uncrackable
communications system, so should they release the knowledge? They
decide not to do so yet.
It's five days until the first ships should arrive.
Bridgehead is fairly certain that the Rebels will be
out in the system. They will want to avoid any contact until the
body of their ships arrive.
Kalida asks Jack how her work on the Brown Boxes is
coming. Jack says that she doesn't have anything solid yet, aside
from the original option, and that work is coming slowly. She's
making some progress, but it's very slow and hard.
Mich has done a full check of Nightshade.
Everything is red and ready to go.
Shark sets up the football sensors for as much
possible. One goes into each outrigger, while a third goes far
the nose. It's a good thing Shark is a small man, because some of
spaces to get to them are very tight.
He also checks the medical records. Jack scans
as a normal human,
which answers one question. He also knows the one person who has
checkpointed, and after dinner he takes the several hours necessary for
the deep scan to checkpoint himself.
In the morning, Kalida goes wandering off into her
head to see if she can see anything different. Shark warns the
crew that if a Silver Ship will be triggered by anything, this will be
it. Of course their gunner might be out, and they really don't
have a good backup; Mich is probably the best.
Kalida ranges out looking for the fleets. They
are definitely coming here, and nothing's changed. She then
checks the Baron. He's a little fuzzy, but then everything is
fuzzy the day after tomorrow. She can't find Sir Arken, but he's
not here, and not dead.
She can't tell where in the system the ships will be
She then looks for any connections with the attacks
from a few days
ago in terms of attacks yet to come. Those attacks started from
somewhere else, too small and tenuous to follow a long way and long
time, but all end up in a dead end tangle here.
Kalida comes back out of her trance. There had
been no rustling of papers, nothing showing up on the football sensors.
The first rebel ships should arrive tomorrow.
Kalida explains about "Jack's option." The
Brown Box can't be decrypted effectively, so they can't use it in any
way directly. Nevertheless, Jack believes she can use it to
inject a virus into their communication systems that will then spread
through all their ships. The effects, however, would be extremely
Robert says they have a "virtual ship" to hook up to
the box and try to hook it into Santanocheev's comm network and get
access to it that way.
Shark points out that is what Jack says they can't
Kalida expands on unpredictable. She says,
"Imagine what a large completely psychotically insane fleet of ships
Shark says, "In terms of going off in random
directions completely out of control, or they could go berserk and
Jack says quietly, "Completely under control."
"But completely mad. Would they just go off in
a random direction, or...?"
"It's unpredictable. Based on what the box did
to the simulated ship..."
Mich says, "It killed all the crew of the simulated
ship, waited until there were no life signs, and then jumped."
Jack says, "Whatever's left of 15 fleets of ships
might decide to do something else. Yes, they probably would be
coordinating with each other."
Kalida says, "Maybe they'd want to bomb the planet."
Shark asks, "Is the box AI, or essentially a brain
"Something like that," says Jack. "You don't
need to know exactly what's in the box."
"Are any of the boxes more important than the
"So there's no switching center, or main trunk line,
that would be more disruptive to take out than any other?"
"They are lightspeed communication?"
Kalida says, "If you infect one ship, it will spread
to the rest. If you infect one ship in a small cluster away from
Jack says, "You can't stop the transmission that's
Shark sums up: they agree it's a dangerous option,
but can be used as a last resort to take out a certain percentage of
the bad guys. They can't use it on the first ships to arrive,
because they couldn't take them all out in the 24 hours until the next
Shark says, "So these are brains in buckets, then."
Jack says, 'I prefer to think of them as slaves."
Nightshade now has 431 missiles. This
might perhaps be enough to fight a Silver Ship, depending on how many
it takes to drop their shields.
Helia has taken them out to the outer gas giant in a
close orbit, where they can see ships coming in but won't be detected
The first Rebel ships pop out of jump at noon.
It's a mix of all sorts of ships, and definitely only ships that were
at Tussinian. It's hard to guess exactly how many fleets
they represent, but somewhere between eight and ten, probably more
likely the lower end of that. That's from the fifteen that were
at the Battle of Tussinian.
The Rebel fleets are laser scanning.
There is a broadcast message coming from them that
Santanocheev wants to speak to the Nightshade.
"Captain! It's for you!" shout Kalida and
Shark's first thought is a safe relay so they don't
show their own position. After a short discussion, they kick
their gcarrier out into orbit, take the ship away and down into the
atmosphere, and use a meson communicator to relay through that.
Sir Misha is not really in a mood to talk, however,
at least not at first.
After a while, Bridgehead calls on his Bat
Phone. He says that the fleets are arriving, and Santanocheev is
communicating that he believes there is a diplomatic solution to this
issue. The Archduke is, according to Bridgehead, "bloody well"
committed to a diplomatic solution if there is one. They do know
that Bridgehead is under orders not to open fire first.
That changes Sir Misha's mind. He opens the
channel and welcomes the arriving fleets to Mora.
A familiar face, that of Santanocheev, greets
him. "Thank you. I see there is a welcoming committee, and
you are at the head of it. Good, I had expected you to be."
Shark has a quiet word to Callisto to be sure to be
scanning for Silver Things.
Robert is trying to trace the signal back to
Santanocheev, and making sure there is defense against intrusions from
the Rebel end. At the other end, however, is a talent to
match. Everyone blocks everyone else.
Santanocheev says, "I would very much like this to
go down without a fight. Now I am willing to discuss a
compromise. In fact, I would like to discuss a compromise
solution that gives me some of what I want and avoids all the loss of
life and destruction of the Imperial Budget that is necessarily going
to follow otherwise. Now, depending on how much you'd be willing
to step aside from the upcoming conflict -- since I don't expect you're
actually in the Imperial Navy at this point -- we could figure out some
kind of compromise here.
"What I want, fundamentally speaking, is Norris out
of the Archduke position. I want to stop his pandering to the
Zhodani, his corruption of the Imperium, and I would like some access
to your technology, or at least some hints, as well as where you put
"Now what you have to realize is that at this point,
Norris is the unstable option. If you want stability in the
Imperium, if you want this to continue into peace, I'm the best option
at this point. Norris, if he wins, he'll go into a big
purge. There will be dukes falling, there will be military
officers falling, there will be witch-hunts. Norris will become
the thing you think I will be. He will be the unstable
option. He'll have a weakened fleet, he's going to weaken it
still further by his purges, and the whole Spinward Marches are going
to be under serious threat.
"I am the path of stability. I'm not
suppressing a rebellion, so I don't have to go after the people who are
defending the Imperium. They are doing their job, following their
orders. I don't even have to get rid of Norris entirely, I just
want him out of the Archduke position. I could forsee a situation
where he could continue his role as Duke of Regina, and either myself
or a suitable qualified candidate could take over as Archduke.
Best chance of stability is if the Archduke abdicates his authority in
favor of a more suitable candidate. We can discuss who that
suitable candidate might be.
"I represent the person who doesn't have to clean up
and prosecute all the rebels and topple the structure of the Spinward
Marches. I'm the stability. Providing this goes down
without a fight, you should be backing my side."
Sir Misha muses to himself that Santanocheev is
INISO, and it was INISO who took out the Third Eye. The
reason he is on this side is that Santanocheev shot at him, and now
he's going to shoot back.
Santanocheev says, "This is an initial point.
Can we at least consider this, talk about this?"
Sir Misha says, "We can talk. It was a
beautiful speech, but I didn't actually hear any offer."
"The offer is, don't fight on the Imperial side, and
use your influence to speak to the Archduke about the possibility of a
from now on bloodless and peaceful transition simply to another
"And for these actions you are offering?"
"Peace. Stability. What you want.
And we won't go after you and try to kill you. But in return for
that, you have to tell us something about your ship."
Shark says, "Let's see, we have two street thugs as
Captain and First Officer of our ship, and you're telling us you won't
kill us if we give you everything we have. I don't think that's
going to work."
"Basically what I am offering is for us to be on the
same side, and the Imperium to be nice and stable here. We will
stop what I suppose history will call a rebellion right here, with a
simple transfer of power of Archduke. Full immunity from
prosecution for anybody fighting on either side. We just all go
back to the way we were as much as possible."
Sir Misha says firmly, "No."
"I don't get anything out of it."
"You get us not going after you. You get your
Imperium, the Spinward Marches, stable."
Sir Misha says, "I think you are confused.
This is not my Imperium, and I'm going to die. I fully plan on
"Perhaps you might like to talk this over with your
Sir Misha turns to his bridge crew and gestures.
Shark looks at his captain and says loudly, "Off the
bastard." He seems to speak for everyone.
Santanocheev sighs, "This won't end well.
Well, it might, I still might be able to convince the Archduke."
Sir Misha says pleasantly, "Would you like to talk
to the Archduke?"
"I will certainly be doing so, if I can arrange it,"
says Santanocheev seriously. "At least don't fire the first
shot. Let's get a chance to do this without destroying most of
the fleets of the Spinward Marches, all the spacemen aboard, all the
civilians who would die, let's at least give me and the Archduke a
chance to find a solution to this without shooting."
Sir Misha says, "I tell you what. I will offer
this. You stand down one capital ship, and I won't take the first
shot. Send it back to the Imperium."
The conversation is over. Sir Misha wasn't
going to take the first shot anyway, he laughs to his crew.
After 20 minutes, a battleship from the Rebel fleets
pulls out of formation and starts heading towards the mainworld.
Sir Misha opens a channel to Bridgehead on board Pegasus.
He tells him that he has spoken with Santanocheev. He made
ridiculous offers, and in the end they agreed that Nightshade
would not take the first shot if they turned over one of their ships to
the Imperium. He assumes Santanocheev will be contacting
Bridgehead or Norris shortly.
Bridgehead confirms that a battleship is coming in,
Sir Misha tells Grand Admiral Bridgehead that he is
standing by and to keep him in the loop.
Bridgehead requests that as much detailed
information on the ships there, what kind of damage the ships have
sustained, what condition they're in, that would be very useful.
The Rebels will be coming in to refuel, and that should present a good
Sir Misha understands from the conversations with
their ex-Doctor that the Archduke wants to negotiate, to avoid any
fighting if possible. Apparently Santanocheev wants to negotiate
Bridgehead recalls the mythical Legend of the Fifth
Element, and quotes a translation from the original Latin, "Anyone else
want to negotiate?" Meson guns beat diplomacy in this situation,
That mission seems reasonable, but Shark would like
to stay outside laser scan detection range, of course.
They retrieve the gcarrier, and prepare to circle
the Rebel fleets at a safe distance in stealth. It will take
eight hours to get the level of information that Bridgehead probably
The Rebel fleets are in pretty bad shape. Some
are worse than others, and even the freshest ships show hastily
repaired battle damage. Some ships exhibit maneuver drive
problems and are not at all agile, weapons have been wiped off some
ships, they look like they've been through the Battle of Tussinian.
Nightshade compiles a detailed roster of
ships they can identify and the level of damage they show. Grand
Admiral Bridgehead should be pleased with this.
As the scan is ending, Sir Misha checks with
Bridgehead. The Grand Admiral does send them a briefing every now
and again through the Bat Phone, giving them realtime data ahead of the
lightspeed sensors of what happens near the mainworld.
Nevertheless he keeps the Bat Phone in a place where if Mich "forgot"
and had the push-to-talk work all the time, it wouldn't compromise
Bridgehead reports that the Rebel battleship has
arrived safely and peacefully. It's moderately damaged,
definitely not the worst off.
Shark is sure it must be a captain he doesn't trust
that much. Sir Misha is more generous -- one ship doesn't matter
that much to Santanocheev, he has a dozen more here already with more
on the way.
The transfer was apparently smooth. The
Captain is being debriefed, and the crew transferred to Mora
where they will be "peacefully restricted." It seems, at least on
the surface, that Santanocheev acted in good faith. The Captain
did have a message for the Archduke, but Bridgehead has not been
informed what was in that message.
The next thing Sir Misha wants to do is a straight
drive-by through the Rebel fleet. He wants to provoke them.
They aren't going to shoot, but if the Rebels get trigger-happy then
Bridgehead would be very happy.
Shark and Robert suggest various ways of making it
safer, but Sir Misha wants a straightforward cruise through the fleet.
Mich agrees they should not do this in stealth, but
with the shields up. That really is safer, and Sir Misha agrees.
Sir Misha points out they can even do active scans
while they're doing this. Bridgehead will be very satisfied with
the scans -- and delighted if the Rebels twitch and shoot.