(72) Corporate Ownership
The Misha Campaign (077-1122 to 090-1122)
It's after lunch, and all have assembled back in
the suite at the Nakege Room club at the starport complex.
Edward "Shark" Teeth tells everyone a little more
that he's discovered in his search of public records, rumors, and so
on. Creative Imports owns only one property, a floor of an office
building. To his surprise, they have no warehouse space -- but if
you want goods from Nakege,
you have to talk to them. Of course,
the only goods you'd want from Nakege are the size of a
bottle. The Nakege Room itself is outfitted in white oak
paneling and furniture -- the latter built on Nakege itself by
Traditional Heritage Craftworks -- but it's not like handmade wood
furniture isn't available from non-blockaded worlds. For the most
part, all you'd really want from Nakege is the bourbon.
For that, you don't need a warehouse, just a climate controlled
storeroom -- you could store a fortune in Blockade Bourbon in just a
single office. He adds that selling a large quantity would take
several years, what with making sure the price wasn't depressed and you
weren't shanghaied by Tukera
Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege,
says that what
she found out from the president of the Bank of Mongo was that once the
goods left the Nakege system, they were free and
clear of the
Shark asks Vonish Kehnaan what Imperial Law says
about such a blockade and the goods from a blockaded world -- what
about goods being confiscated off planet? Is that piracy?
chef replies that the law is fairly clear, although
it could have local slants which affect certain cases.
Nevertheless, he's been studying Imperial Law and the law books from Mongo,
and can offer Shark his opinion. Were it to be a legal blockade,
it is only permitted to affect trade from that one world (outbound and
inbound); anywhere in that system. It is not to be used to
restrict trade or ownership of goods once they have left the
system. If the blockade were multiple systems, the blockaded
worlds would count as one system -- you couldn't break the blockade by
shuffling the goods from one blockaded system to another, but once the
goods are out into a free and clear Imperial world, they're safe.
This could be countermanded by ducal fiat or whatever, but that would
be a matter of local law.
Shark briefly ponders the possibility of physically
launching small packages of goods from a blockaded world out of the
boundaries of the system, but then returns to his main point.
Tukera has no need to settle the blockade -- and neither does the
Kalida says that the problem with Tukera is that
they are not just insisting on being the only distributors, but also
on a 40% interest in the company. The origin of the
blockade is that Tukera says they had a deal for exclusive distribution
and 40% of the company, and THC says no such deal was ever made.
Shark adds that Tukera doesn't need that.
Right now, anyone who wants to sell anything, sells it through
them. He explains, "Anyone who's in the company who wants to make
money goes to the Tukera agent on the planet -- there have to be agents
on planet -- and sells through those agents. Maybe at a reduced
price, but they can sell. So the economic pressure for the
company to settle the blockade is relieved. Tukera is making a
profit because they're selling it, maybe through a chain of holding
companies, someone like Creative Imports. Creative Imports, from
your report, is not well searched on the way out. So my guess is
the economic pressure on the company is at least reduced, if not
eliminated, because Tukera has given them an outlet, if not a free..."
As Shark tails off, Kalida says, "Making some amount
of money, but not as much as they could be, and there is the matter of
the debt, which they aren't going to be able to pay off at this rate."
Shark wonders aloud who owns the Bank of Mongo --
officially and unofficially. He's sure he can find out the
official owners himself, and asks Robert Morris to find out the
unofficial owners. Officially, the corporate officers own a small
amount themselves, and there's a list of holding companies that own the
rest (a controlling interest). Now it's Robert's turn to work on
it -- he says it will take him quite some hours of solid effort, and
he'll get back to them when he's done.
Misha Ravanos asks why Tukera couldn't just sue the
"Because they'd lose," says Kalida.
Misha continues, "OK. So the Imperium has this
Shark interjects, "Megacorps have
their own armies,
their own security forces. Tukera has their own covert ops
And destroyers, and cruisers, and system
"So how was the blockade broken on Ianic?"
Kalida explains that the Duke put together the
council to review it. This is something that hasn't been done
before. But here there's no-one to intervene. She
says, "There is no Duke in this sector. The next step up is
and that's a big step." Technically, Norris has
the duties of Duke of Regina
(who has authority over Jewell),
responsibilities as Archduke of the Domain of Deneb make
to get involved in a local trade dispute unless it threatens Imperial
Misha says, "So, as far as the Imperium and nobles
are concerned, this blockade is a legal way to resolve this dispute."
Kalida agrees. "Essentially I am the local
authority, I think," she says, "But I'm not sure what I can do."
"Yeah, I guess that's my next question. How
much authority do you have?"
Shark answers, "A lot on planet, not much anywhere
else." Kalida could interfere some, but in practice they really
need someone higher up.
"So if she could make a case that some part of the
blockade, or some aspect of it, was messing with inside the
system, she could tell them to move back."
"Or humanitarian concessions," says Vonish.
"In terms of restricting trade, the next one up is the Countess of
Jewell, but to interfere with a megacorporation you really need someone
of the standing of a Duke. It's a really serious matter, legally
Misha nods. He then says, "So it's starting to
sound like Tukera Lines may well own the very company that's making
money off the blockade."
Shark says, "So there's two companies here where we
really need to find out the ownership. There is Creative Imports,
that's exporting to and from Nakege, and the Bank of Mongo,
making huge continuous loans to the whisky company."
"Traditional Heritage Craftworks," nods Kalida, then
continues, "And Creative Imports is the company taking supplies to the
planet, but they're not supposed to be bringing anything out."
Shark observes that their ships aren't being
inspected, or at least not as thoroughly as any other ships. Sir
William Edgerton operates Creative Imports; Shark's investigations
reveal it's a privately owned company, with Sir William owning
51%. The remainder is owned by a couple of other local people.
Misha wonders that if the blockade isn't actually
injuring anyone, and may in fact be the source of the value of the
bourbon, why not let it remain?
Kalida replies that it's the source of only part of
value of the bourbon: "Without the blockade the price would drop, but
it'd still be worth a lot because it's produced on a very small scale
and long term production, and it's exceedingly high quality and
production is always going to be low." She adds that it's also
her problem to solve and doesn't really have anything to do with the
rest of the ship.
Misha assures her that as long as the majority of
the crew agrees, they'll continue to support her.
Shark points it's be quite possible that they could
bring Tukera Lines and the Wonstar Development Corporation together
into an adversarial position. Then they'd solve one or other of
the problems and only have one left. Then, of course, there's the
group with Count Walter von Hayden's database, which has no obvious
connection with the WDC or any other organization that they have found,
but from which Shark's contacts did warn them to stay away.
Robert looks up from his work and says that the
database could be
the WDC. It could even be Mary's group, which given that they
have the Anastasia (and presumably the navy ship carrying her)
could go up all the way to the Archduke even.
They return to the subject of the THC debt.
Vonish interjects that legally, while the blockade continues, the Bank
can't foreclose on either side of it until it's settled. Kalida
says that if Tukera got fed up with the blockade, they could absorb the
loss easily -- the megacorporation is huge. The actual debt, as
of 1109, was 8 GCr.
After a total of six hours, Robert announces the
results of his
search. It was incredibly difficult to follow the trail --
someone tried to make sure it was impossible, but they didn't count on
someone of his caliber. The Bank of Mongo is owned by Tukera
Lines. Every single one of the myriad little holding companies
back to Tukera Lines. So Tukera itself is keeping the loan to THC
for whatever reasons they have.
Shark points out that means that Tukera will not let
Kalida pay off THC's debt, even if she came up with the money. He
adds as an aside that they can make the money easily enough by running
the blockade, even if it would take some time to come up with the full
Robert says it would be quicker to earn the money by
piracy -- take Tukera's blockading ships, then sell them. Selling
them back to Tukera would be poetic justice, of course.
Mich Saginaw does of course know good places to sell
Imperial naval vessels and their parts. He himself has fitted
surplus Imperial Navy turrets -- with serial numbers erased -- to Anastasia.
Robert says that Creative Imports is indeed
privately owned. Unlike the Bank of Mongo, this is a
straightforward trail with no obfuscation. Sir William Edgerton
owns 51%, with three other locals owning the rest.
Of course, as Kalida points out, Sir William is the
sort of person who could easily be himself owned by some other
entity. She adds that Tukera is big enough that this whole
situation might even just be the pet project of some middle manager who
likes the bourbon.
Robert idly wonders if they could take all the
information they've discovered about Wonstar and so on, feed it into
the computer, and get it to write a novel in the style of Akim
Gavrolovitch. That would certainly stir things up.
Vonish orders a full complement of supplies, even
replacing some stores already on the ship. The agricultural and
fishing products here are excellent. The fish is not as
interesting as on Goose,
of course, but they ran out of those quite some time ago.
That evening, the whole crew goes to see the pirate
show at the Attica Privateer. Helia Sarina wears her new
aubergine leather outfit, with a hat
with an enormous feather. Since they have nobles accompanying
them, they can carry weapons as long as they're discreet. Helia
points out that she is already carrying -- or rather wearing -- a
weapon in the form of her zack.
The show is spectacular, especially from the best
seats in the house. Spaceships fly in and out, pirates fight all
over -- and above -- the floor. Helia throws one handsome pirate
a handkerchief -- he catches it and ties it around his forehead as
Helia blows him a kiss. There's even a Robin Sherwood with her
flaming red hair, a cutlass in one hand and laser pistol in the
other. Shark smiles and reflects on the armament with which he,
Misha, and Teri Cralla are themselves equipped. Teri handles her
shotgun cane as if it were a simple cane -- she's been well coached by
Shark, and is perfectly discreet.
They follow up the show with a session at the
casino. Here it's all conventional gambling, no strange games or
anything particularly weird. Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead loses
a great deal at the gambling tables, while almost all the rest of the
crew win back his losses. They all return having had a very
satisfying night's entertainment.
Mich puts together a message with absolutely
knows about antimatter generators, jump engines, and
suchlike. It includes nothing of black technology, but does
include the work he did on not only Anastasia but also H.M.S. Third Eye, and
so even contains his work on vortex generators. Unlike the
information that he and Fostriades had sent to the Archduke a few years
ago, this time there are no deliberate errors introduced into it --
this is the real thing.
He wants it sent to someone specific, in someone's
hands, with instructions that if they don't hear of him for two years
they should publish it as a series of papers. Or perhaps he
should just send it to some obscure journal for publication right
away? That sounds like a very good idea, and after some thought
decides that one particular journal about a year's xmail travel away is
perfect. His work shall at last be published openly.
Helia discreetly sends a message home, in her own
language of course, while Kalida also sends messages to her
family. Shark sends to his contact on Ferle in
Imperial Naval Intelligence (the guy who set them up the bomb) a
simple "Ha! Ha! You missed!"
The SCUBA diving with the students is great
fun. Helia flirts mercilessly, and then amazes all the guys by
going diving in her zack with no external air supply. The need
not to decompress on the way up really impresses them. The
Marchioness of Nakege accompanies her, but doesn't participate in the
diving, just lounges around looking decorative.
The location is a very tall reef based on some
ancient volcanic feature. Wildly diverse colorful fish and sea
plant growth makes it a truly amazing experience. The gravcraft
trip from the town is also fun -- Helia tells them all how much fun
their next stop Digitis
is too, only with forests instead of oceans.
Meanwhile a TNS reporter
has contacted Baron Bridgehead asking to interview him about his non
death. Misha advises him to keep it simple, along the lines of
that he managed to survive, and any more details will have to wait for
his memoirs to be published. Misha is at the interview in case he
needs to intervene in what the Baron says, even though he has complete
confidence in the GrandAm's ability to say nothing for a very long
time. It's a much longer interview than the reporter wants, even
though all the Grand Admiral really says is that the ship was lost but
they survived, and after a long roundabout route this is the first
chance they've had to talk to anyone about it.
The ship files with the starport to leave that
evening; Vonish's supplies have all been loaded during the day.
Soon after those plans are filed, the Marchioness of
Nakege called by Sir William Edgerton, who says he's sorry she's
leaving so soon and assures her that whenever she returns, he'll be at
her disposal again. She replies that she'll probably be back
quite soon. She adds that when she returns, she'd like to get
together with him and the other owners of the company -- she might be
interested in buying into it. Sir William will put together a
portfolio for her to be waiting when she arrives next time.
After Mich runs a systems check, Helia takes Nightshade into
orbit and out to jump for Lysen.
They'll be following the same route back to Digitis, travelling
stealthily, and Mich will be monitoring the jump transitions and jump
state intimately from engineering.
Here they sneak in and pick up news by their now
customary piggyback method. There are in fact three new items --
those for 333-1121, 360-1121, and 042-1122. The first deals
with more about Akim Gavrolovitch, while the second refers simply to
The third is somewhat stranger -- a powerful Tigress
battle group leaving Iderati
/ Five Sisters.
Helia's first thought, of course, is that they might be after them from
their activities on Wonstar,
but Shark points out that the timing just isn't right.
The larian adds that Imperial Navy ships operate on
jump-4; if they were heading for Digitis, they could be waiting
when they get there. By now the battle group could be anywhere
within 24 parsecs of Iderati, if they were travelling fast, or
rather a little less to allow for refueling. More reasonable
progress would be 12 parsecs.
Shark thinks it's much more likely they'll be headed
against Norris; they know the black ship people control a part of the
Imperial Navy (enough to capture Anastasia), while it was
Imperial Navy ships that tried to destroy them at Ferle, and
the Wonstar Development Corporation uses Imperial Navy ships to protect
their sites on Wonstar. He then adds that he's less
concerned about Santanocheev going after Norris than him starting a
Fifth Frontier War
with an unprovoked attack on the Zhodani or Sword Worlds.
He observes that if they were headed to Digitis, a Happy Fun
Ball couldn't pass freely through the Sword Worlds without a major
confrontation, although they could probably do so through Darrian.
Helia considers this; they would take probably five
jumps minimum to get from Iderati to Digitis, which
means they would be getting there right before the meeting.
With help from the astrogator, Shark
determines that the news of the next meeting couldn't have reached Iderati
in time to send the battle group to respond to it -- in fact they left Iderati
twenty days before the meeting was set up. That means they're not
coming for them, but are definitely after something else.
As Misha and Kalida say, a battle group isn't
something to send after them anyway. Send a few Baba Yaga's
out to suitable ports and wait until they turn up, or send two black
ships. A battle group makes no sense.
Mich concludes sarcastically, "Send a Marquis out to
a bar and wait for us to pick him up as one of our crew."
After getting clear of their piggyback news host,
they jump for Digitis.
Right after jumping, Robert takes a shot of
klatrin. He's tired of talking to the apemen on the crew and
ready to move to thinking properly on a full time basis.
Nightshade arrives insystem from Lysen,
already in stealth mode and with all critical crew in sparkly pink
mode. Helia has brought them well away from a conventional
arrival point, just in case there's a battle fleet waiting for them.
In fact, the system is essentially empty.
Wherever the Tigress Battle Group is going, it obviously isn't here.
Helia says she'll be able to bring them to the yacht
club early the next day, in time for the morning train. Misha
says they should move in a bit closer -- like to 10d -- and wait here
and watch for as long as possible to see if anyone arrives.