(58) To Be Named
The Crusader Campaign (183-1123 to 185-1123)
This file has yet to be fully
This file has yet to be fully
Nightshade now has 521 missiles.
At about 10:00 a message arrives on Norris's Bat
Phone. He says this is the last message he'll give by this method
and will destroy the device immediately afterwards. He tells them
that the Duke of Rhylanor will indeed be Regent. They are to
pretend to have been direct agents of the Archduke, directly under his
command, and thus now under the direct orders of the Duke Regent.
The Duke Regent himself will not, Norris says, give them any orders
that would be uncomfortable. If the Duke Regent says anything
that doesn't make sense, they are just to go with it.
Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead has been giving
updates on his Bat Phone too. He is annoyed that a peaceful
solution has been found, and that the conflict is over.
Callisto reports that the Rebel fleets started
moving towards the mainworld at 08:00, transponders active, and should
arrive around 18:00 tomorrow.
Mich and Sir Misha have escaped major hangovers from
the Silver Mermaid the night before. Shark has medicated himself
to avoid it. All three emerge at noon. Kalida has kept
watch until then, and hands over when they wake. Teri emerges as
the others are at lunch, waving at Shark and pointing to Sick
Bay. Shark follows her there, treats her for hangover, she lies
down for a while.
At 16:00, as Shark had expected, there are several
separate announcements on the news.
The first announces that in the interest of
stability in the Domain of Deneb, Archduke Norris has voluntarily
suspended his duties as Archduke in favor of the new Duke Regent, the
Duke of Rhylanor. Norris will take up his duties as Duke of
Regina, and take up residence there. He will resume acting as
Archduke once certain legal matters have been resolved.
What is now called the Santanocheev Rebellion is now
over. There is no longer any threat of military action.
Five Sisters subsector is to be handed over to
civilian rule. The new Duke of Five Sisters is to be Grand
Admiral Baron Bridghead, Lord Rorise.
There is a pending alliance between the Imperium and
the Sword Worlds. Certain details still remain to be worked out,
but this is a historic shift in the power balance in the Spinward
Marches, assuring the Imperium's safety from the Zhodani Threat.
Gossip and speculation over the new noble titles
available runs rife. Sir Misha is tipped to become the Count of
Maitz, now that his unofficial fiance (according to the papers) was
assassinated a short while ago. The Galactic Enquirer says that
Bat Boy will be granted the title of Baron somewhere in Five Sisters.
They are determined to act "normal," whatever that
means. Instead of staying on the ship, they'll take up rooms in
the best hotel in town.
Nightshade now has 545 missiles.
First thing, Shark puts an ad up in TAS to arrange a
meeting with his contact. He plays the "pretend you've been
working directly for me" card to the full, saying he's a direct agent
of the former Archduke.
His contact opens up about what he would not
previously have told Shark. Among that information are the
details of the alliance with the Sword Worlds. This was
negotiated by Santanocheev and will be honored by the Duke
Regent. It involves the Imperium assisting the historical
Trilateral Alliance in staging a coup to take over rule of the Sword
Worlds Confederation. In addition, several Imperial worlds will
be ceded to the Sword Worlds: Arba / Lunion, Rabwhar /
/ Vilis, and in the Sword Worlds subsector the worlds of Caladbolg,
Caliburn. His contact is concerned about the possible
When Shark asks him, his contact says that the
proposal for the Regency came from Santanocheev. He is not sure
why the Duke of Rhylanor was on Santanocheev's side -- that went
against their intelligence, but clearly that was the case. He
should be an acceptable Regent to all parties.
INISO will be scaling down operations, and Imperial
Intelligence will be filling the gaps. They don't have details
yet about this, but expect to step up their own operations especially
as the Zhodani will not react well to the Sword Worlds situation.
At 16:00, a message arrives from the Duke Regent
telling them they have an audience
with him at 20:00 at the Archducal Palace.
When the time comes, Kalida, Sir Misha, Shark, and
Mich take a limo the the Palace. They are scanned before being
allowed in, and it takes a ten minute call to the Palace to get the
authorization for Sir Misha to wear his ceremonial sword rather than
leave it here with all their other weapons.
They are transferred inside the Palace grounds and
driven to the building in an Imperial Navy car with armed escort,
leaving their own limo outside the gate. At the front door, a
ceremonial honor guard (with fully armed weapons) escorts them inside
and to the audience room.
This is a different room from any they've seen
before. The Duke Regent sits at the head of a long table, and
waves them into chairs a few places down from the head.
The Duke Regent tells them that he has taken over
all aspects of the Archducal duties, and they are expected to continue
their loyalty to him as they were loyal to Norris, and to continue to
put themselves at his disposal. He says that on the long flight
here aboard the Jae Tellona fleet from Jerome, he had the chance to go
over Santanocheev's materials fully. He is convinced that his
action was legal, well motivated, and necessary.
He adds that he is acting only as Regent while this
matter is settled. Once Santanocheev's case has been proven
before the Emperor and Norris stripped of his title, he will stand down
and hand over to the new Archduke. There are several suitable
Dukes in the Domain of Deneb who could perform the role, and
Santanocheev and he have prepared a short list which will be presented
to the Emperor to help advise his choice. Once this matter has
been decided, the Duke Regent himself will step down and return to his
duties as Duke of Rhylanor.
In the meantime, Nightshade and her crew
will be expected to perform missions for the Duke Regent. He says
he knows that they have an advantage in fast travel: their jumps always
take just 6 days, and their advanced fuel storage technology means they
can perform several jumps between refuellings. Their first
mission will take advantage of that.
He is sure, he says, that they have heard about the
alliance with the Sword Worlds. He tells them that this
advantageous alliance had been negotiated by Santanocheev with full
binding authority, and of course he will stand by it as Duke
Regent. In addition to several Imperial worlds being ceded to the
Sword Worlds, Imperial Navy forces will assist the Trilateral Alliance
in ousting the current government centered on Gram, and the resulting
Confederation will ally with the Imperium for the first time in their
This is a vital alliance. With the Imperial
Navy weakened by the Rebellion, this will enable them to maintain a
strong position against the Zhodani and prevent the Consulate from
taking advantage of this situation. The main thing it has given
them is time to rebuild their strength. While he has every
intention of taking a strong position against the Zhodani, it will take
several years to rebuild and deploy the Imperial Navy to where it can
be a significant deterrent again.
Their mission will be to deliver a diplomatic
package to the Duke of Adabicci, and place themselves at his disposal
as he oversees the Imperium's obligations in this operation.
Obviously they won't be effective in the actual coup, but they are to
do as the Duke directs. They are to leave as soon as they are
ready. It is important to complete this alliance as quickly as
He then asks if they have any questions.
Sir Misha has one: Archduke Norris was to provide
them a cook to take over from theirs. Can they wait until they
have their new person on board before leaving, and can the Duke Regent
get a message to Norris about this?
The Duke Regent agrees they can indeed wait for
that, but that it is a personal matter between themselves and
Norris. The former Archduke is staying at the palace of the
Duchess of Mora, and they can contact him there.
In closing, he says that he is sure that they will
serve the Regency in exactly the same manner as they served the
Archduke. He can't, however, stop cracking a slight smile at that
technically correct statement. With a wave, he ends the audience.
The diplomatic package is handed to them on the way
out. They have seen no-one from Norris's administration during
By 21:00, they have taken the package back to Nightshade.
As they leave for the hotel again, Sir Misha contacts the Archduke's
people at the Ducal Palace and says they'll be by to see him tonight.
Norris, however, quickly calls back in person and
suggests a meeting on board their ship.
They turn back and prepare for the meeting.
Vonish will lay on a fine meal as his final big task as chef of Nightshade.
At 22:00, Norris shows up alone. He's taken on
board by the ramp from the patio into the lounge. Here he says he
suggested their ship because it's almost certainly the most secure
place in system at present.
He tells them he'll be heading off to Regina himself
soon, as soon as trustworthy transport can be arranged. He is of
course concerned that he actually make it to Regina alive. Once
there, his own people should assure his safety, but the journey does
provide opportunities to his opponents.
As for the chef, his preferred person is on
Regina. If they want, he can provide a temporary chef for them
here, but all he will be able to do is cook. When they can get to
Regina, they can then swap him out for the permanent crew member.
Sir Misha checks with his crew briefly, then says
they can wait for the chef until they can visit Regina.
Norris says that would be fine, and gives them a
hand written note so that when they get there -- undoubtedly before he
does -- they can pick up the person then.
Norris himself is confident that he will win the
legal case, particulary with the assistance of Vonish. He is
certain the Emperor will not pass up this opportunity to abolish INISO
He does add that having stepped down as Archduke
once, he is unlikely to have the popular and political support to
resume the title even when he wins the case. He and Rhylanor have
talked it over, and their preferred candidate is the current Duke of
Trin. Having proven he doesn't avoid the tough decisions by the
stand of his forces at the Battle of Tussinian, he'll be an attractive
choice to both the military and the nobility.
He apologizes to Sir Misha and says that the rumors
of his promotion to Count were never going to be on the cards.
Sir Misha is far from disappointed, he says, and
agrees with a confident smile that it was indeed never on the cards,
not if he had anything to do with it.
For Mich, however, Norris promises that once this
situation is over there would be a knighthood, if Mich would like
it. He can talk to him after the case result comes back from the
Emperor, and he will make sure it happens.
All sides agree that Bridgehead is a fine choice for
Duke of Five Sisters. Not only has his command here -- despite
the lack of action -- brought him to the attention of the Imperial Navy
again as a military leader, he has the civilian experience too to
oversee the transition of the subsector from martial rule. The
Navy and the people should support him, and he should be able to avoid
any resistance to the change. What is more, he has significant
experience in Foreven sector and can apply that to ruling the subsector
on the true frontier of the Spinward Marches.
Also, of course, Bridgehead will be conveniently
well out of the way where no-one else has to deal with him if they
Norris does have concerns about the handover of the
Imperial Worlds. He lists them, and says that of those he would
expect resistance from Caladbolg. The others probably won't be
happy about it, but they don't have the strength or significance to
present problems. Caladbolg, on the other hand, is a major world,
a rich agricultural producer, and is doing too well under the Imperium
to change allegiance easily.
Over the course of the meal -- a superb parting shot
by Vonish -- he reminds Kalida that he will be nearby now to her own
Land, and able to support her directly in ending the blockade.
Now he's no longer Archduke, he might even find his way onto the
independent commission investigating the situation!
As for the Duke Regent, Norris doesn't expect him to
make any tough decisions if he can put them off for a few years.
Now that he will be in residence as the Duke of Regina, that allows
Norris to handle the diplomacy with the Zhodani more directly.
That means the Duke Regent can be more aggressive in public, satisfying
Norris's opponents, but with no danger of it hurting the relationship
with the Consulate.
Norris appreciates them pretending to take
orders. It seems that one of the critical points in the
settlement was that Santanocheev had to believe that Nightshade
was under the control of his Duke Regent. In fact, the whole
reason Santanocheev started this Rebellion in the first place was to
have the resources of the entire Domain available to track down and get
Nightshade. Now he believes the strange black ship and her
crew are effectively under his command, that should keep him satisfied
with the outcome.
Eventually the Duke of Regina leaves to return to
the Ducal Palace, while the crew of Nightshade return to their
hotel for the night.
Nightshade now has 569 missiles.
Shark again sets up a meeting with his
contact. This time the response is almost instant, as Shark has
now clearly been given the status of a direct agent of the
Regency. At Sir Misha's suggestion, he plans to find out as much
about INISO as possible, and in return his captain will be very
INISO is handing over the vast majority of their
operations to Imperial Intelligence. Anything to be retained or
undertaken by INISO is only with the direct approval of the Regent
himself, and The Company will be informed of the areas of those
operations so they can stay out of the way.
One thing handed over is certain highly classified
research in -- of all things -- linguistics. While this will
remain secret, Shark's contact is sure that he would be cleared for it
and hands him a tape with the details. He adds that the one
continuing area that INISO will retain control is in the system of Zett,
and there are a couple of other places but he does not have details to
hand. Zett was the most immediate one of importance.
Shark asks about what The Company has been told
about Professor Farol and his assistants, Helia and Sally. His
contact looks it up, and says that they are all reported
deceased. The disaster that struck the research station world has
not been identified -- all potential asteroids are still in orbit, and
nothing else could cause destruction on that level.
The Professor himself was not working for
INISO. He was working for another government agency -- the
Imperial FarSpace Service? -- that has jurisdiction outside the
Imperium. INISO did however routinely feed him research and
components that he was to incorporate into his work.
As for immediate additional duties, The Company will
be providing security for the legal teams headed to Capital.
Shark drops off Sir Misha's "gratitude" to his
organization. It's a full transcript of the legal arguments in
the matter of the legality of INISO, with names redacted but otherwise
Vonish is ready to leave by late afternoon. He
has all his documents and gear together, and has ensured that Nightshade
is well supplied, and with as accessible a set of recipes as
possible. He says his goodbyes and leaves the strange ship for
the several year mission to the Emperor's court and back.
Nightshade will take off at midnight on
their first mission as an agent of the Regency.