(13) Welcome to the Crew
The Nightshade Campaign (194-1122 to 195-1122)
Marcus Crestworthy is at the Ling Standard
Products planetside yards overseeing the final details of the
construction of his new starship
Third Eye, this ship has wired in football sensors spread
the hull, hooked into the main sensor system with a feed to the
scientific module. The module is based on a biology module, with
holding tanks for lifeforms with environmental controls.
He's received some unexpected visitors -- a
delegation from Nightshade,
consisting of Misha Ravanos, Edward
"Shark" Teeth, Mich Saginaw, Helia Sarina, and Kalida Siena,
Marchioness of Nakege. The LSP technicians are no longer on the
bridge, working on other parts of the ship. With the vessel
completely powered off, they can converse securely. Just to be
certain, Shark does a scan for bugs and announces they're clean.
It's not a surprise -- LSP does have an incentive to respect the
privacy of their noble
customers, after all.
Shark suggests hiring the Marquis onto the crew as a
consultant, so they can bring him up to date on the ship and the events
surrounding it. They also want the Marquis to set them up as the
next official research team from the University of Mora to go to Victoria.
Marquis Marc of course wants to know why his old
crew would want to hire him. Misha says that they can't tell him
until he's hired, but that it is worth his time and he will find it
fascinating. He adds that once he does sign on, he'll be privy to
certain information which he is forbidden from repeating outside the
crew -- and that there is no question of breaking that contract.
Misha explains that this is related to Lap'da. They then go on
into an almost metaphysical analogy of an ancient dark box.
Still, Marc trusts his old first officer, and signs
on as a ship's scientist.
Marquis Marcus Crestworthy is told the whole long
story. After it is done, of course he wants to see the ship.
But first, dinner. They all retire to a local
restaurant to discuss, among other things, what logo Marquis Marc will
use on his new Witch-hunter. The ship is his own personal
property, funded by his benefactors (traced back to the Wonstar
through the University of Mora. In fact, hull #29 was originally
going to be a University of Mora ship until the Marquis' first ship was
lost, when the slot was reassigned to him.
The rest of them explain about the WDC, and that
they have an outpost on Wonstar
under cover of agricultural
research. They have large farm plots, but also have a large
underground complex with fusion plants and so on. They are
clearly involved in psionic
research, and are funded by the Imperial
government. They weren't able to get in to look around, of course.
Mich tells Marc that they've now done safe five day
leads to reminiscence of misjumps of times past, when
Mich was messing with the drives of H.M.S. Third Eye.
Mich explains that there are no misjumps now, that it's safe and
Mich then asks Marc if he'd heard anything more than
they knew about the firing of the planetary defenses, and reveals that
it was Nightshade they were actually used against. Marc
hasn't heard anything different from the official story as reported by
the TNS, but he does
observe that being around them is apparently not as safe as it
used to be.
What they do know is that they were fired on within
a few seconds of retrieving the data. They must have tripped some
sort of alarm, and there had to have been standing orders to fire under
certain circumstances. There could not have been a human in the
Marquis Marc is puzzled why the government of Mora
would do that. The answer, of course, is that it wasn't the
government. They do know that
there's a secret society -- INISO,
Imperial Navy Intelligence Special Operations -- that wants to have the
technology for themselves and will destroy any evidence of that.
They are pretty sure that the cache at Zett is run by
INISO. Then of course there's the Arden Society,
protecting the universe from the Enemy and from learning about the
black technology. INISO seems to be outside the government,
although members may have infiltrated the government or at least have
enough power to influence it. That same group also
sent a Midu Agashaam class destroyer to destroy H.M.S. Third Eye.
Sir Arken Hauther says that they are not
sanctioned by the Imperial chain of command.
Sir Arken Hauther they met on Regina; he
clearly knows a lot about what's going on in all sorts of ways, and
they've traded information to their mutual benefit.
At this point Helia tells Marquis Marc that Sir
Arken seems to be good friends with some of the mutual friends of the
two of them. Everyone on the ship has by now gathered -- if they
have thought hard enough about it -- that Marc knows the people who
people, which is why he was able to hire her on to his crew in the
first place. There is only one way to have contact with the
larian, and Marc knows those people. Shark smiles knowingly,
remembering she's talking about a group called the Brothers -- whoever
they may be.
Marc is relieved, however, that even though he's
officially a crew member he doesn't actually have to travel with
He'll be sure to travel a lot more safely on his new ship with his new
crew, even though he doesn't have the experts that are now on Nightshade.
His new crew hasn't seen Witch-hunter yet -- access at this
point is just available to the owner -- but have trained on mock-ups
and simulations. Marc will be wanted to look at sparkly pink
however, as it probably lies within his area of expertise. They
continue to discuss a few more technical details about the ship: the
power source, missile replenishment, air processing, filling out
stealth mode, unspace holes, and so on.
Nightshade's bridge would be hauntingly
familiar to Marquis Marc. It was on a ship exactly like this --
in fact, the other one in the Zett cache -- that the events
leading to his Starburst for Extreme Heroism took place. A failed
experiment lead to the deaths of all of that team except for Marc and
his friend Sir Geoffrey of Adabicci. They assure Marc that the
other ship is still there, complete with bloodstains although the
bodies had been removed.
Marquis Marc summarizes what they've told him about
INISO: "There's an organization which is not the Imperial Navy
masquerading itself as Imperial Navy using Imperial Navy resources,
acting as if it's Imperial Navy, forging or actually receiving orders
such that the rest of the Imperial Navy believes them, and lets them
get away with stuff."
"And you can't tell anyone about this?"
Misha replies, "That part we can talk about."
In fact, they've talked about it to a certain extent with Sir
Arken. It's the Arden Society, the black ship, and all black tech
that they can't talk about.
Mich points out with a smile that Akim Gavrolovitch's
last book, The
Arden Gambit, is actually true. It says the that Arden
Society has high technology that they're keeping from everybody and
making sure no-one knows it, and will hunt you down and kill you just
like the hero of his story. Of course, they didn't kill Akim,
that really was an animal that killed him in a hunting accident.
As dinner winds down, Marquis Marc confirms he will
continue to stay here -- at the hotel maintained by LSP -- at least
until the next morning. He needs to go back to the yards to work
on a few more details tonight first.
Tomorrow they'll see if Sir Arken has arrived on Mora.
He's certainly had time to do so, given all the sidetracking they did
on the way, searching systems, playing on the Rock, and investigating Victoria.
Dinner with him might be very useful indeed. Shark calls the TAS
office at the starport and asks them to put the appropriately worded
card on the
bulletin board to contact Sir Arken if he is here. They'll invite
him to dinner tomorrow night at a place of Kalida's choosing, a very
posh hotel in downtown Giyachii called the Bracker Inn.
In fact, rather than spend the night on the ship,
they decide to check into a hotel. After all, they're ashore for
once, and they'd best take advantage of the opportunity to relax.
In the meantime, back on Nightshade, Robert
Morris has been busy. He has managed to find his way into records
about the planetary defense incident. He's used the
information Sir Arken Hauther gave them on Regina to ease his
way carefully into the systems. Unfortunately for him, the
systems are very well designed against penetration and he therefore
only has limited access. Still, he can progress further than Sir
Arken's people: what triggered what, and why, and the tail end of the
The codes to fire and the target were inserted into
the regular firing authorization chain. It traces up from the
sites to fire control, through target identification, and it came in as
if it were authorized by the Imperial Navy here as part of the defense
of the capital. It did not come from the Imperial Navy. It
did not start out where planetary defense is authorized to fire: it
came down between there and the level at which authorizations are
accepted. It had all the correct codes. Everybody did their
job correctly, except that instead of the Imperial Navy saying "Fire"
someone else gave the command. That person had all the correct
of the day and it was totally integrated with the system. This
implies a physical hardware connection as well as having all the codes.
Robert himself does not have access to the planetary
defense codes. Not yet. It would be extremely hard to
obtain them. For once, he's encountering systems that are very
cleverly designed to be difficult to penetrate -- yet, somebody had
hardware built into the system to do just that. This hardware
does not seem to be a recent addition, but even just identifying the
hardware and where or when it was installed is far from trivial.
There are no records of such equipment whatsoever. To shut this
down, they'd have to remove it physically.
Robert would really like to disable this capability in case his
searches trigger a response again, but he can't figure out any way to
do that, not even knowing where to start looking.
Going through internal reports on the incident,
everyone along the line performed their job perfectly. There is
no indication that the system was compromised. The duty officer
ended up resigning, as it looked as if he authorized it.
Investigations showed he did not in fact authorize it, so he was
permitted merely to resign. They know he didn't do it, but they
can't prove anything, and he was the only one
with opportunity. The reports leave the mystery
unsolved. Furthermore, Sir Arken's information indicates that
methods of research developed by Wonstar Development Corporation were
used in the interrogation of the duty officer, and they are absolutely
certain he did not authorize it.
The day is spent relaxing. Kalida goes
shopping, updating her wardrobe. The styles here are a little
different from last time she was at a major fashion center on Rhylanor,
but she goes about the task with relish. Helia of course
accompanies her, getting some lady in waiting clothes as well as some
fun stuff. Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead also comes along,
getting himself some new suits, while happily paying for the whole