(73) The Agreement
The Misha Campaign (090-1122 to 094-1122)
has arrived in system,
waiting at 10d off the mainworld
to see if anyone turns up.
Robert Morris took klatrin as soon as the ship had
jumped, and does seem
rather different now. It was apparently a
perfectly normal fish oil trip. He's lost galanglic now -- not so
much because he doesn't understand it, but because it's just too much
bother to wait and hear what these apes are saying. Everything
they say is too much of an irritation -- the droning of bees on a
summer day, the croaking of frogs, the bleating of groats in a high
pasture. It's a lot of effort to wait
for whatever it is they're trying to say in their stupid little
imprecise baby talk linear language. Fortunately the ship can
translate for him; it relays their conversations into script on his
Mich Saginaw's work with the vortex generators has
stalled. He has
not been making a lot of progress over the last few jumps. He's
longer getting nauseous jumping or in jump from sparkly pink mode, and
is in fact quite comfortable feeling the jump grid and jumpspace
viscosity, but changing the jump grid manually is quite another
matter. He has now discovered that Helia Sarina is no normal
astrogator -- she
programs the transition in a very complex fashion,
obviously taking into account more factors than would the normal
computer calculations relied on throughout the Imperium.
Their meeting is scheduled at Cormor Home on
094-1122. To get there, they
would have to catch the train from Center midday on 093 (morning 109 /
802 local time). A conservative allowance would be five hours for
the onworld travel. That would be the 1500 km from Down Port to
First City, then berthing at the yacht club, then ashore and taxi to
the train station, then local train to Center. Of course Nightshade
will handle all their paperwork for them in advance, so they won't have
to visit the customs offices.
Both sides involved in the meeting should berth at
the yacht club in First City. Callisto tells them that in fact a
black ship is already there.
There has been no sign yet of a Happy Fun Ball in
the system; either the Five
Sisters Tigress Battle Group has not yet
arrived, or it was going somewhere else. While the latter seems
most likely, Misha Ravanos decides that just in case the former turns
out to be the case, they will wait here in stealth mode until the
last possible minute before landing. In fact, during their wait,
they see no other ships at all. As Callisto points out, though,
there would be no way to see any other black ships in stealth mode
unless they came close to Nightshade.
It's time to go to the meeting. The journey is
perfectly routine and absolutely uneventful. With Marquis Korwin
Vanderfield on the crew, even gravcraft handling is straightforward.
Edward "Shark" Teeth remains on board in
command. Those going to the forest are Misha, Robert, Mich, Teri
bodyguard), Helia, and Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege.
The train ride has been uneventful. The
weather has been miserable -- dark skies, hard rain through the whole
journey. Still, they've been able to maintain irregular contact
with the ship through
Robert's backpack radio, and of course they have the flashlight panic
button as well.
Robert himself can't really communicate well with
the rest of the crew, now that he's out of reach of the ship. He
has to descend to talking baby talk, and hoping the words he uses are
picked up by the jannish translator. In that he has about as much
success as Lap'da. At least the apes' talk is translated to
jannish, although it's still such a pain wading through their linear
concepts. The translator is hooked into his commdot, and so it's
at least as painless as possible.
Finally they arrive at Cormor Home. It's still
raining this morning as the train pulls into the station above the
forest canopy. The lightning suppression system is obviously
working well, as there is no lightning (as if there ever is).
The crew are expected. They are welcomed by
the Steward, Frederick Houlihan, who escorts them to their usual guest
quarters and tells them that the other party is already here.
Misha is eager to get started. As soon as
everyone has settled in, he calls the
Steward and asks him to arrange a meeting as soon as possible.
In just five minutes there's a knock on
the door. One person -- yet another new person, not Mike or Mary
-- is at the
door. The man is fairly tall, red hair, probably in his early
thirties. He introduces himself as Erik.
Introductions over, Robert asks what has become of
Mary and Mike.
Erik says that Mike is back home, while Mary is on
Misha asks why Mary didn't come today.
"I'm the person in charge of this," says Erik.
"We seem to be moving up the ladder," laughs Misha.
"Mary could have
represented us here, but let's... call it my turn. So, you are
ready to sign an agreement?"
"We're ready to see the agreement, with high hopes
of being able to sign it."
"Can any of you read..."
"Ask him," interrupts Helia, pointing at Robert.
"...the ship's language?" finishes Erik,
acknowledging the larian with a raise of his eyebrows. "OK.
Here's the original." He hands Robert a hand puter, showing just
four script symbols. Erik continues, "I have here a
translation." He hands Misha the large stack of printed paper.
Robert notes that the agreement is simple and
straightforward. It's completely what they asked for. He
nods at Misha.
Helia has been looking over Misha's shoulder as the
captain pretends to study the paper. She says, "Shark needs to
read this, too."
Erik says, "I'd prefer we agree on the original
rather than the translation. The translation is less
precise. Lap'da has looked this over, and of course you're
welcome to talk it over with him."
Misha tells Erik that they'd like some time to look
over it and discuss it, and they'll contact him later.
Erik leaves, and the crew discuss the contract.
Basically the agreement is as follows.
makes no mention of their lives as a bargaining point, as Misha had
insisted. The main
reason the translation is so thick is that it is very tediously written
with all sorts of subparts enumerated to cover all sorts of cases; in
the original, this is a simple part of the symbol. The original
is specific and general, it covers everything, and does not have to be
The crew's primary responsibility is not to spread
the technology. Anyone who is or will be part of the crew (from
now; this agreement can't bind the past, that's obvious) cannot tell
anyone else about the technology, comment on it, talk about it, spread
it; this applies after anyone left the crew, too. This set of
people must never spread the technology. That includes anyone who
comes on board; it doesn't preclude passengers, provided those
passengers don't experience anything that would reveal anything about
Just saying that the ship runs without fuel, for
example, is spreading the technology -- spreading the concept that this
is possible. The paper-thin walls of the ship, on the other hand
(as a passenger might observe), aren't the technology. The power
system, ventilation system, all these systems of the ship -- they can't
observe that. They can even give them a flashlight from the ship,
as long as they aren't told how it's powered, but they can't give it
to a passenger if they have some reason to believe that they would take
it apart. It's OK to let people think it's advanced technology,
just not to tell them specifically or generally what that sort of
technology is. That lets them run the ship as a liner if they
want, provided they restrict passengers appropriately.
If from now on they come across anyone who already
knows about or is looking for the technology, or come across more of
the technology, they have a responsibility to report it at the earliest
opportunity. The chances are, of course, that this is pretty
unlikely to come up very often, but when it does they must report
it. If necessary, they will fly the message themselves.
The other party has responsibilities to tell the
crew who they are, where they operate, and enough about how they
operate. They will keep the ship upgraded in terms of sensors,
stealth, everything except offensive and defensive systems.
Everything except weaponry -- which is those systems the gunner would
normally control. Robert points out that's OK because they're
already very confident that "This is more capable than anything else
except a gorslacvaka" (=<<ref.ship-like-this>>).
Helia wonders aloud if the upgrade is anything like
the last time they carried a package for somebody.
The life span of the contract is "from now."
There is no end limitation, and nothing that discusses what might break
the contract or how such a breach would be handled. That is a
really simple and self-evident truism for Robert; there is no concept
of a contract breach in the language. To him, in scryptese, the
concept of a broken contract is an obscenity. That comes with the
language and the way of thinking -- it just doesn't happen.
The time frame also means, of course,
they don't have to report anything they've found up until now.
The other party will also support them, giving them
access to the support network. If they come across something that
needs help, they will do their best to help. The original doesn't
really say "their best," but carries the concept of balancing both
sides' resources and priorities, but within that assistance as complete
In the event of any contact
with the enemy, however, their ship will be upgraded completely and
they have at their disposal will be immediately available. It
does not say they have to stay and fight.
Helia observes that all their initial threats aside,
this is essentially a colleaguial contract of alliance.
Robert videos the scryptese contract to the ship; Nightshade
translates it for the benefit of those on board. In particular
Shark, Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead, and Vonish Kehnaan all study it
Misha then contacts the Steward and asks if Lap'da
is nearby. Fred replies that he's probably outside -- he's been
hanging around here for a while.
So Misha, Robert, and Helia go down into the forest
to talk to the jann. Robert just wants to talk to someone other
than these apes...
Lap'da is right outside the guest quarters.
Misha and Robert acclimate immediately to the dense atmosphere, while
Helia keeps the faceshield of her zack deployed so it isn't an issue.
Robert and Lap'da exchange greetings in
scryptese. The translators hum and whistle, totally incapable of
handling the language. The very short greeting summarizes
everything that's happened to each of them since they last met.
Misha says, "We've come to sign a contract."
"Yes," says Lap'da, "Robert has just told me."
Helia asks, "You've looked at it? What do you
"It is a contract. Is it what you want?"
"Depends on whether we can trust the other party."
"It is a contract."
"Doesn't mean the other party is going to be honor
bound by it. Do you think they will?"
"It is a contract."
"I understand that it's a contract, but some people
are not as honorable as your people."
"It is a contract."
"Lap'da, it's a contract and you think they'll live
up to it, or it's a contract and that's the way it is."
"Do you think they are trustworthy people?"
"Do you think they are trustworthy?"
"I'm not certain. That's why I want to know
"It... does not matter."
"It matters to me, which means it does matter."
"It does not matter if they are trustworthy.
It is a contract."
"So they must abide by it?"
"It is a contract."
"It is a contract."
"There are people out there that will sign a
contract without... and their signature on the contract is a lie."
"But they're just signing a contract. This is
"Ah. So this kind of contract is different
from that kind of contract."
"It is a contract."
Robert sighs and shakes his head. He
sympathizes with Lap'da, trying to explain this to children. He
admires the jann's infinite patience.
Helia asks, "Robert, what's the nuance between
contract and contract here?"
Robert replies, "It's a contract."
"Robert, you know that in most human society most
people would sooner stab you in the back rather than follow through on
"But this is a contract."
"OK. So, Robert, you feel very certain they will not
"This... is a contract."
"Is it like adopting somebody into your
family?" Robert stares at her, and she continues, "How much more
fish oil do I need to drink, Robert? Just tell me how much, how
many doses, and how big a dosage. We'll just stay here on the
planet until I understand."
Robert looks at Lap'da, then says to Helia, "If the
contract is not upheld, there are no parties to the contract."
"Got it," says Helia, "They can't kill us
necessarily, then. I guess we can trust them in that way."
"Contracts can only expire, they can't..."
"Does this one have an expiration?"
"It explicitly doesn't," says Lap'da helpfully.
"So it's like the old song, always and forever."
"It starts now and keeps going."
This has satisfied Misha, and he suggests they go
back and sign. Robert and Lap'da say good-bye to each other -- or
whatever complicated conversation they just had in those few utterances
and the remainder thank the jann in more conventional language.
Back in the guest quarters, Misha calls Shark and
asks his opinion. Shark says he's bogged down in it as it's
rather complicated; Vonish and the Baron are having similar
difficulty. Nevertheless, it really requires
nothing more from the crew members than Misha had required of them when
they joined the crew.
Misha asks Robert to explain it to the shipboard
crew. He replies that he can't explain it any better than the
many page translation. The captain then turns to Helia to try to
Helia says to think of the contract as a bond for
life. "If they try to do something to us that violates the
contract, then we're all fucked. So not only is it an alliance
against mutual enemies, but it's also a bit of what my people call a
blood pact. That means that by agreeing to this thing you now
become blood, you're more or less family. To translate it, you
don't violate the contract. If you do, something awful and bad
and terrible will happen but nobody thinks about the fact that you
could do that, so there's no 'if you violate it, this bad thing is
going to happen.' They're not holding a knife to our throat more
or less than we are. But where I come from, this is called a
blood pact. It means that we, even though we may still be
separate groups, are allied so tightly that everyone else is an
outsider to that alliance. Robert, is that close?"
Robert waits for his translator to spew that back
to him in jannish. He nods.
Misha tells Helia to explain that to everyone else
on the ship, including Shark. She does that.
Misha then gets verbal confirmation from everyone
that they're willing to accept membership in this compact. He
then calls the Steward and asks for another meeting as soon as possible.
Erik arrives in a couple of minutes. They
greet each other and get down to business.
Misha says, "We're ready to initiate the contract."
"Good. I believe you like to shake hands over
these things." Erik shakes Misha's hand and says, "We
agree. It is so."
Helia says, "Now we have to have the party!"
Misha signals her to hold on. He says,
"Actually there is a series of events which have to take place before
the party. One is that you, Erik, have information you need to
impart to us.
"Yes," says Erik brightly. "We are the Arden
Society. We run the Federation of Arden.
Our Society formed
the Federation as this area was settled. It's long been a neutral
place; recently the Archduke has
undermined that slightly in his
settlement with the Zhodani,
but we're still here, it's a good place to
Helia pulls up an astrographic map on her
puter, shows it to the group, and says, "The purple ones."
Erik nods, and continues, "We have agents out around
like Baba Yaga; we have three total in the Spinward
Marches. We have another five covering the rest of the
Imperium. We have two in the Zhodani Consulate.
ships, of which we have three, are kept at Arden.
are on alert all the time. The argument that happened with the
Imperium recently was... once we'd lured Mich here, we were ready to
move in and nominally take over with full fleets if needed. The
build up of forces in this area triggered the Imperial response.
Unfortunately one of our admirals was a bit too enthusiastic about
spouting his mouth off, otherwise it would have been a lot quieter."
Helia says, "Can I ask you a question? As
citizens of the Imperium being affiliated with Arden, could we be in
trouble with the Imperium?"
"No. Who would know that you were affiliated
"I don't know. Shark knows interesting people."
"We have no military designs on anything. When
we take over worlds,
which we do once in a while, it's to solidify our
"Are you going to take over Digitis?"
"No. That was a critical matter during the
Misha asks, "How much of the Federation knows about
the primary mission?"
"Just the Arden Society. The Society became
the Arden Society. We run everything, and nobody else knows
anything. I'll provide you with code you can use when you send
messages that will get the attention of our operatives, or you can
leave messages at certain locations with certain codes, or you can send
messages to Arden or to some other worlds. We have a
number of agents who aren't members, don't know who we are, but
nevertheless work for us. Those also will support you. For
example, the rest of the crew of Baba Yaga, aside from Miss
Elliot. She is a member, but the rest are just agents."
Helia says, "So what happened to the guy that
threatened us?" When Erik looks puzzled, she adds, "Your first
"Oh! He's back at his desk job. He's
much happier doing that."
"I'm sure he's much better at it."
"Yes. Jane is on board our ship. She'll
be ready to make modifications whenever you want. If anyone wants
to oversee her work, you're welcome to do so. There's a good bit
of work to do, so I'm not sure how much time she'll have for explaining
it. You will have a full record of what she's done."
Misha asks, "How much do you know about... the
"Very little. They went away, we haven't seen
"Do you have a name for them?"
"No, we do not. Those who went on after them
may have a name by now. We fought them in this area, but we never
got a name for them."
"How do you recognize them? How would we
"They've always attacked us on sight."
Misha laughs, "So anybody who attacks us is
obviously your enemy."
"Their ships were fairly small in general, but we
think it was a scouting force. They must have bigger, more
powerful ships somewhere. We had not encountered them at that
"What about the possibility that they've all died
off, or lost whatever they had that made them your enemy?"
"Yes, it's possible. That would be really
good. If we actually knew that we could relax, retire
maybe. But they were, at least, masters of the unprovoked attack."
"Anything else?" Misha is asking both Erik and
Erik says, "I suppose in terms of operatives, the
Sheriff would count as one to some extent, in that he liaises with the
for us. There are certain things that grow in the forest that we
like that we can't get anywhere else."
"Why do you need him to liaise? Why don't you
just contact the janns yourself?"
"Because... we're leaving them alone, to have their
own existence. Part of our contract is that we don't interfere
here. In return, we supply the Sheriff with certain things --
technology assistance, for example. He has defense systems that
help him protect the forest, and so on. He does not have any of
our power sources, so you can't discuss that with him. You can
help him with the technology he has, if you wish -- Mich, you worked
with Jane on some of his systems -- but you can't expand his technology
further. You can refine what he has, but not advance it.
Obviously you can incorporate Imperial technology if you wish, but not
advance it in terms of the contract technology."
That satisfies Misha. He asks, "How do we
contact you... until you give us the contact information?"
"I'll be here for a while. Whenever you want
me to travel back to the ship, perhaps I can do that when you do?
We can travel together if you wish."
"All right. Let's do that tomorrow."
"Very good. Yes." With that, Erik leaves.
Time soon for a hot tub party, but first to discuss
Robert reminds them, "We've already told them that
Wonstar exists and is interested in black technology; they acted like
they didn't know that. We told them that Goose was
expecting somebody else. And I think that if we get any kind of
reaction like we got at Goose, we need to let them know."
But the main question, as Misha puts it, is, "What
do we do next?"
"Want to go back where we got this ship to begin
with?" suggest Mich.
"Sure. To what end?"
"Either that, or go to Marquis Marky Marc, and let
him know we're still around."
Helia says, "He'd actually be bound by the contract,
sort of, wouldn't he?"
Misha says, "Not unless we made him a member of the
"But he's the owner of the ship."
Mich points out he's not -- he was the owner of the H.M.S. Third Eye, which
no longer exists.
"But I mean, we could make him a member of the crew
and tell him what happened. I mean, if there's anybody out there
to make a member of the crew, Marquis Marc is that person."
Misha says, 'I have no problem making him a member
of the crew, particularly for just being able to explain to him what's
Helia observes, "The problem is, he's in a place
that's so central to Imperial space, that us showing up in a black ship
is going to get a lot of attention from a lot of people. If we
did show up and very blatantly had some very serious contact with
Marquis Marc and leave, that's like saying 'Tag, you're it!' and let
all the bad guys go hunting him."
Mich says, "We can't show up there with this
ship. We know that's the central place for a society that's
looking for this type of technology, and is set up not to allow anyone
else to have it, so much so that they took over the planetary defenses
to try to destroy us. So we can't just go there and land at a
Helia nods. "We need to stay on the fringes,"
she says. That is what they did last time, after all. She
continues, "What we need is a small landing craft that's not a gcarrier, one that's
really spaceworthy. We could use stealth mode, park behind a
planet, and take the little ship in."
"We have one sitting right in the bay. There's
a 20 ton launch that we've never used. Why didn't you want to use
the gcarrier -- aside from that we don't have one any more?" They
left the gcarrier with Jaekovic Ils-Nevronne and Sagan in the Bowman
"Because nobody knows how to fly the damned
thing! I mean, those of us who know how to fly it have not had
good luck. But we have an alternative, that's good."
The launch is 20 std, with room for 6 tons of cargo
and seating for six aside from the three bridge seats for a total of
nine seats -- and of course they could use cargo space for more
people. The Kankurir class gcarrier was 11 std, so the launch is
almost twice as big. Helia's can fly that, even though it
technically falls within the skills of a Ship's Boat operator rather
than a Pilot.
Misha wonders whether they could contact Marquis
Marcus Crestworthy and tell him to meet them somewhere. The
problem with that is the quickest way by far to get a message to him
would be to do so in person, in which case they're back to meeting him
again. Also, his new ship is not due for delivery for about
another 90 days, on 203-1122, and he still won't have a crew then
As Mich points out, the TNS news item about them
being alive will eventually get back to the Marquis anyway, no matter
what they do.
But now, it's time for the hot tub party. In
addition to all the crew members, they'll be joined by the Sheriff and
the Steward. They also invite Lap'da, but he declines the
invitation -- he thanks them, obviously surprised; Helia flies up and
kisses him on the cheek. They also invite Erik, who also accepts.
Erik reminds them that if they want Anastasia,
they are welcome to her. He explains that years ago they'd
arranged agents on five transport ships of this class for just this
eventuality. The Tardis class was used for priority transport of
significant items, and they had anticipated that some day they might
want to divert a cargo from the Imperium to Arden. They used an
antimatter explosion to cover up the jump flash.
Helia says, "So the Navy was working on taking it,
and you all just stepped in and said 'Why, thank you for getting that
ready for us.'"
"Essentially," says Erik.
"Smart," says Helia.
Erik smiles. He adds that the Anastasia
seemed important enough to take.
"Why?" asks Misha.
Mich fields that question. He says, "Because
it has antimatter generators."
Erik explains to the rest of them that the
generators use related technology. Instead of just directly using
the energy generated from nothing, it shifts the phase of the
matter. Using it in close proximity like that is easier to do, a
much lower tech level but along the same path of knowledge.
Mich quietly observes that this might mean that the
potential weapon upgrades might include antimatter torpedos -- if there
isn't anything better, of course.
Erik just smiles at that. He says that of
course the purpose of the missiles is just to overwhelm the shield --
provided you can get enough through, of course. He suggests that
they make sure their gunner is trained in shooting down an approaching
cloud of missiles.
Mich comments that they've been training their
gunner mostly to fight against Imperial ships, to use a very small
salvo of missiles and not empty their magazine.
Erik is very amused by that. He cautions them
to make sure they don't hurt their gunner's reflexes -- a small salvo
would do nothing against a serious target. Neither would the
missiles themselves, of course. The expander is the main weapon,
and everything is just to help drive it home.
Mich asks if he recommends that if they're in a
battle with Imperial ships, to forget about the missiles and use only
"Sure," says Erik. "It takes a while to
restock the missiles, so if you run into something heavy in the
meantime, you might want those missiles."
The party continues into the evening on a lighter