(56) To Be Named
The Crusader Campaign (176-1123 to 177-1123)
This file has yet to be fully
This file has yet to be fully
Nightshade has 431 missiles coming into
today. They are about to buzz the Rebel ships at 21:00. Sir
Misha wants active scans for Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead, and
desperately wants to find Santanocheev. Bridgehead has told them
privately that he would love it if they could provoke the Rebels into
It's not a safe run, however. The Rebels have
about ten capital ships in the system so far, and that is enough for
the nine shots to take down Nightshde's shields and open them
up to meson gun shots on the ship itself.
The run will be made under shields, but Sir Misha
wants an unpredictable path through the ships so at least the Rebels
won't have a simple target solution. From his point of view,
their goal is not to get the enemy to shoot at them, but to get a good
look at all the ships and by some miracle find the Santanocheev that's
in this system. Sir Misha is convinced that the one they talked
to was the real Santanocheev, not one of the duplicates. This one
spoke with a particular tone of authority that comes from knowing his
capabilities, while he recalls his duplicate -- although excellent
substitutes -- knew they were fakes.
It's late in the evening when they start their
run. The Rebels arrived at noon, and a lot has gone on in the day
since then. Helia dives them down into the gas giant atmosphere,
switches from stealth to shields, and takes them out on an approach to
the massed Rebel fleets.
The run is uneventful. No-one gets close to a
collision, no-one fires on them, and they aren't even doing the laser
scan, which they stopped as soon as Nightshade appeared out of
stealth. The Rebels just let them do their run without apparently
reacting to them. By 22:00, the run is complete.
Shark runs an analysis of the Rebel fleet positions
and movements, looking for a ship that subtly moves away from them, or
is keeping away from them. He does not find one, so that possible
clue for Santanocheev's location is a dead end. Shark also checks
the ships that arrived in the system and that are here now, and all are
accounted for. The location they came out of jump made it
impossible for him to have hidden quickly before the ship he was in had
been spotted. There aren't even any moons of this gas giant,
nowhere to hide. From this orbit 3 it would take the Rebels about
a day and a half to reach the mainworld.
Kalida from her sparkly pink gunnery position
focusses on the sensor information, but she can't smell Santanocheev
anywhere. He's not showing up on the sensors, that's
certain. He must have resisted the temptation to look out the
window at them.
The run is complete by 22:00. They move back
to the gas giant, drop into the atmosphere, and into stealth. The
Rebels track them with active sensors on the way, but of course lose
them when they get deep enough.
Shark has been thinking about checkpointing
people. They could build clones, imprint the brain scan, and put
them into low berth storage. There would be instructions that if
they don't check in every two years, the duplicates should be woken.
Sir Misha objects to that on cultural grounds.
He seems to prefer going down in a blaze of glory to dying and having a
duplicate come back.
Nightshade now has 434 missiles. All
that time with stealth and screens cut heavily into their missile
regeneration. Mich recalls that Swiss Cheese did not have a
missile launcher, which has interesting implications for its other
Helia repositions them in stealth mode near the edge
of the gas giant atmosphere. She keeps them in a position where
they can get the most information about the enemy fleets while also
staying away from the laser scans that resumed when Nightshade
went out of sight.
At Shark's request, Robert has packaged the scan
data on the Rebels and sent it out to Bridgehead.
At 1:00 Kalida goes into one of her trances.
Shark takes the usual precautions.
The first priority is to find Santanocheev.
She quickly determines that there is just one of them in this system at
present. She wants to find his location, but of course this isn't
a crystal ball -- she has to follow threads of causality. She can
tell that he's physically with the fleet, but that's all so far.
She follows the connection to Nightshade
first, and does determine that he's with what remains of the Llanamith
battle group, the one on which he originally took command back in Five
Sisters. That fleet is probably in good shape, as it didn't see a
lot of action at Tussinian.
Next to follow is the Norris connection, but that's
extremely fuzzy. The whole Santanocheev - Norris connection is
vibrating in fuzz, and it threatens to overwhelm every other thread in
this system. She backs out quickly, leaving a slight blip on the
This system is not a comfortable place to be.
How much effect is she having in this system? How much does
staying up and going into a trance tonight instead of resting until
morning effect events here? How many people is she killing by
deciding not to sleep first?
She tries another trace. From the Battle of
Tussinian, she weaves forward from that, but that leads only to fuzz.
Next is trying to hook up to the fake Santanocheev
they captured, but there's no connection there anymore. That
connection does not exist in this system.
More dead ends, and then she tries one more
thing. What does the thread look like tomorrow? She's
hoping that's close enough that it doesn't split out into too many
threads. But there is just too much fuzz.
This place and time in the web, this system, these
few days, is a definite thing. Having got here, however, it's a
mass of fuzz, a singularity in the web. So many possibilities
could explode out of here that the connections are all over the
place. Fuzz is drifting out of the system in several directions.
She tries to follow one of those directions, but
starts to get lost in the fuzz. It's so solid here, solid fuzz,
and it's pulling her in and she's losing her identity in it.
Paper is moving around in Sick Bay, objects are
rattling. Shark gets the hypo ready, touching Kalida's skin,
giving her as much time as possible but ready to pull her out in an
Kalida tries to find herself. She's losing
herself in the fuzz, becoming part of the fuzz, generating the fuzz
herself. She herself might be responsible for the destruction of Mora
at this rate. Maybe the whole Imperium will collapse because of a
breath she takes, or even someone else who does something to affect
her, like bringing her out of this trance.
Shark did not think it was worth being in
battledress. Suddenly he is across the room from Kalida, bouncing
off a cabinet onto the deck. He's had the breath knocked out of
him, but he's basically ok. He rushes back to Kalida.
The future of the Imperium lies with Kalida.
How can she pull out of this fuzz when she might be pulling the Emperor
down with her? She gets enough of herself together to hold still
and not touch anything for a minute.
Objects are flying, Shark is being shoved around,
but he makes to Kalida and gives her the shot.
Kalida wakes up. She realizes Shark may have
just destroyed the Imperium. Her head hurts, very badly. "I
wonder what I've done this time," she says to herself.
Shark goes to work as Medical Officer, setting up to
support Kalida. She needs to be here for several hours, he
Kalida says that not moving might be a bad idea
too. It's too dangerous.
Shark tries to get through to her, ask her if
there's anything she needs to tell the Captain.
Kalida says, "Llanamith fleet, but I don't
know which ship. And I don't know what else I might have done."
And Kalida is out like a light. Shark puts her
under, and she'll be that way for hours.
By the time Shark is done, it's 02:00. As Sir
Misha had requested, Shark buzzes him and tells him that it got
exciting down there, but Kalida is physically well and in Sick Bay for
a while. She's been given a sleeping draught, and the only thing
to pass on is that Santanocheev is on the Llanamith fleet, but
not sure which ship. With that, Shark pulls out the cot and
settles down. The ship will wake him if Kalida needs
attention. He knows that they have plenty of time, with a day and
a half to the mainworld it would be a long time before any fleet action
Sir Misha knows his crew needs rest. At the
time of Shark's call, Helia has been flying solidly for 17 hours.
Vonish could take over for a while, but Sir Misha wants everyone
fresh. The whole crew really needs sleep. Helia, Mich,
Callisto... that's enough to take the ship to a safe place where they
can all take a break. Provided no-one starts shooting, that'll be
Helia avoids the scanning lasers and takes them
rapidly to a safe place.
It's 03:00. Sir Misha orders the crew off duty
and to get some rest.
Bridgehead is fuming, and overnight has made it
quite clear over the Bat Phone. He should have been out here in
battle already, not hanging around a day and a half while the Rebels
get the rest of their ships into the system. He has not been able
to get approval to move his fleets, despite submitting requests to the
Archduke every hour on the hour.
At 10:00, Kalida up. Shark reports that she is
Vonish has breakfast ready. Nothing has
happened overnight, although Kalida is very worried that they can't
Sir Misha doesn't really care because nothing
happened where he could see it. He orders the whole crew to Eat
Breakfast. After that, he gives everyone specific orders that
will make sure everyone stays rested while nothing is happening.
At noon, two groups of ships arrive in a bunch of
jump flashes -- a whole lot from the Tussinian group, and about a fleet
and a half from somewhere else. Everyone is laser flashing.
This will be the first day for the Coreward group. It's the
second day for the Rimward group, who now have most of their ships here.
Shark suggests they get as much information as they
can again, but it's a lot more dangerous because they have a lot more
big guns here now.
Bridgehead is happy with the random sample
information he has already. He can extrapolate enough from that
and does not believe it is worth the risk for Nightshade to get
too close to that many ships.
Sir Misha asks for suggestions for what they should
do next. Eventually Shark suggests sending the legal information
Vonish produced to certain selected naval commanders who might be
receptive to it, to sow doubt among Santanocheev's forces.
Sir Misha calls Bridgehead and aks if there is any
military law that they could use to help convince commanders to turn.
Bridgehead says there is not really anything
legally, aside from asking them who really represents the Imperium
here. The Duke of Rhylanor intends to exploit that with his
broadcast to the Coreward fleets.
Sir Misha wonders if the Rebel fleets are following
Santanocheev because they believe removing Norris is the right thing
for the Imperium, or because they are just following orders.
Shark is sure he hasn't tried to convince all of his
captains, just the major fleet staff and selected resistant
officers. They've already been through the Battle of Tussinian,
which would have brought them together.
Bridgehead would like to know if any of them have
ideas of how to solve it without a fight.
Sir Misha says he wants to take their best guess for
which of their commanders he should approach first to sound them
out. What is there attitude, why are they doing this, is there
any room to talk at all? Who should he contact over a tight-beam
Bridgehead says that they most likely to turn right
now would be Admiral Nathaniel Kuyper, commanding the Jae Tellona
fleet. He's far and away the best bet, and is with a fleet that
has not yet been engaged in combat and so does not have lives spent on
the cause. It's less of a frontier fleet, stationed in a more
internal and stable system. Of course he may not be among the
ships that have arrived today.
Callisto reports he's here. The Jae Tellona
flagship is here. She also says that while most of the fleets in
the second group are undamaged, some do show battle damage. There
are no ships here from the fleet that was at Fulacin.
There are also no ships from the Rhylanor fleet itself.
Sir Misha orders them into the gas giant, to drop
stealth, and come out again so they can talk to this person. As
they appear, the fleets which are in their area drop their laser scan,
although the ships further away do not. Helia flies them away
from the gas giant to a good position to communicate with the Rebel
ships from coreward.
Sir Misha gets through. With his leadership
skills, his social standing on Rhylanor, and his knack for getting
things done, he gets a personal like to Admiral Kuyper. He greets
the Admiral, introduces himself, and asks how the Admiral is.
Admiral Kuyper replies seriously, "Ready for any
action that might be required."
Robert piggybacks the connection to defend their own
ship from hacking. He quickly finds that on the other end is a
team that is up to the challenge and both ends hack themselves into a
mutually respectful stalemate.
Sir Misha presents his case. He is a pirate
and a rogue and likes nothing better than a good fight, but Archduek
Norris has convinced him that at this point conversation is
better. He's come to Admiral Kuyper to ask what in his
perspective would it take to solve this without a battle.
Kuyper sighs. He says, "It would take some
accord between Santanocheev or his representatives and the
Archduke. This fleet is under command of INISO. It is
legally under their command. I am also given to understand that
Santanocheev is not insisting that he be Archduke. This to my
mind adds some legitimacy to his claims."
(In the background the crew laughs that Bridgehead
could be Archduke. Shark says that the girls must have known it
in advance and that's why they married him!)
Sir Misha says, "So from your perspective this is a
legal argument between INISO and the Archduke?"
"Like most legal arguments that involve military
force, legal arguments tend to descend into whoever wins the
battle. I'd rather it didn't get to that stage, obviously.
I am hoping that a show of force of this nature will force a
compromise. I will if necessary put my forces in, as directed by
INISO, but I would very much prefer it not come to that. I will
certainly do whatever I can to facilitate a suitable agreement and
"So do you have any opinion on what might be a
"Santanocheev is not going to stop with Norris in
office. In order to avoid a fight, Norris must not be in
office. Or, the odds have to stack enough against Santanocheev
that the military side of the legal question is more important.
As it is, looking at the fleets over there, we don't have the
overwhelming numbers that were promised us. We are only going to
outnumber the local fleets by two to one, which is going to make it
extremely messy. We figured that Santanocheev's group represents
about eight and a half fleets worth of strength, not the fifteen that
we were expecting."
"So in your opinion, are Santanocheev's grievances
worth the possible bloodshed?"
"As a Naval officer, it is not my position to
question whether they are or not."
"Ok, as a gentleman speaking to a rogue...?"
"As a gentleman speaking to a rogue, no-one is going
to win here."
"If it comes to a battle."
"If it comes to a battle, nobody will win
here. If it doesn't come to a battle, I guess we both win."
"Is there a legal authority that you would accept
above the INISO?"
Kalida reminds Sir Misha via commdot that the
Imperial Navy's allegiance is to the Imperium, not technically the
"I would accept word from the Emperor. I would
normally accept the Archduke over INISO, except that in this particular
case, the circumstances are such that I cannot do that."
"Forgive my ignorance, but what circumstances?"
"Essentially it is as if your First Officer decided
you were insane and relieved you of duty. You would not be able
to order him to not relieve you from duty."
"And you mean that Santanocheev is acting as the
First Officer in this scenario."
Kalida says to Sir Misha that what is needed is a
Medical Officer to back it up.
"Is there someone who might act as a Medical Officer
in this scenario?" asks Sir Misha.
Kuyper pauses, then says, "In this scenario I would
have to say that Santanocheev was the First Officer and INISO would be
the medical staff."
"And what if the First Officer on this ship didn't
agree with the Medical Officers?"
"They would figure out what to do before taking
action. Once the action to relieve command has begun, they would
relieve command and then sort it out afterwards if necessary."
Sir Misha says, "I agree."
"It's a difficult situation. It is going to be
hard for anyone to win."
"There are some who believe that the INISO is not
legally founded. Have you heard that?"
"No. That sounds like a legal matter, and for
a legal matter like that to be settled would probably take years.
We do not have that time. That sounds like something that would
have to go to Capital and that would take a couple of years to
resolve. I have to act as if they have the authority."
"I see that, and admire that. Is there
anything I can do in terms of delivering messages, or anything else I
can do for you?"
Kuyper sighs again. He says, "I know that the
Duke thinks highly of you, and the late Admiral Count of Fulacin
thought very highly of you. If I can help you negotiate a
solution here -- and you seem to be in a position historically to be
able to do that -- any support I can give, if there is a diplomatic
solution that the Navy can believe in that the INISO is not so keen on,
maybe I can tip the balance there. If we can on paper satisfy
what INISO has been ordering us to do, then maybe the actual practice
and effect, even if it is a little counter to their objectives, maybe
the Imperial Navy can go with that."
"All right. Thank you very much."
"Feel free to contact me at any time. I have a
superb communications team, this is a secure contact that INISO will
not be able to access recorded or live. That will not be the case
with every fleet. I will be glad to help this come to as good a
conclusion as possible."
"Can you recommend other commanders who might be
willing to act in this regard?"
"Not among the fleets that have come from the
coreward group. Lanth is a little wilder, they are less likely to
put the more stable view on thing, I can't recommend any of them.
In this group, I would say me. In the other group, they've been
through some heavy fights and I would say they're pretty committed at
"That was unfortunate."
"Yes. Although of course we've lost a fair
amount on our side too. The Rh-X-2 fleet that the Count of
Fulacin commanded, they took the Rhylanor fleet with them and knocked
the Tigress battle group down to 75% strength. So that would mean
that from our end we have five untested undamaged fleet, and one that
has fought but is at 75% strength."
The discussion is over. Sir Misha turns to his
While this discussion has been going on, Kalida and
Shark have a diplomatic solution -- propose a regency for the
Archduke. The Archduke steps aside, does not lose his
position. Santanocheev steps aside and stops hosility.
Someone takes control, holds status quo for the Navy more importantly
than the INISO, while both sides send a representative to Capital.
Conveniently, the Duke of Rhylanor is right here.
As Shark says, they need to balance out what
Santanocheev wants with what they can afford to give him, while the
Archduke steps aside. That's if they can convince him to do so,
and Shark thinks he will. He believes the Archduke will think
he's standing on moral ground and will be supported by the Emperor.
Sir Misha agrees, if they can get enough Naval
commanders to do the same thing, to feel like the situation is resolved
enough to be no longer willing to support the INISO, then "I get what I
wanted which is to rip the hell out of Santanocheev's fleets without
"Right," says Shark, "And I think the Rebel Navy
will feel like INISO has won, and the Loyallist side will have the
moral high ground and feel like the Emperor will support them -- the
Duke will say the same on his side. We don't really know which
way the Emperor is going to..."
Kalida says, "A lot can happen in two years.
People die all the time."
Sir Misha says, "That part I really don't care about
at all. In fact, my guess is that nothing will happen and that
the Archduke has enough savvy to move back in or at least take over in
fact if not in name, and the meantime I can keep kicking Santanocheev's
Shark says, "Right. We can go after him, since
he's blown up our ship and shot at us."
Kalida says, "It's a perfectly reasonable offer, and
if Santanocheev completly says no that's not good enough, that further
Shark says, "Especially if we broadcast, 'This offer
has been placed before both sides, and every Imperial Fleet be notified
that this diplomatic solution is on the table, your commanders will
choose,' there is no way the Archduke is not going to jump. He's
already jumped, actually, by telling us we can't shoot."
Sir Misha says, "I actually believe the Archduke has
the political skills to carry this off way better than we can do it, so
I'll just I think it'll work and let him go with it."
Mich asks, "What if we're requested to escort
"We'll have to politely decline, there are other
important things we have to do. We're much too connected to the
Archduke to be a reasonable escort."
The Rebels have not even finished arriving in the
system, and the crew of Nightshade believe they have solved the