The Nightshade Campaign (244-1122)
Edward "Shark" Teeth is in the back of a gravcar
the Naval Base under
fighter escort. He's broken his bonds, but
he's too high and too fast to get out of the car safely. He
doesn't really feel like trusting his zack to protect him from
injury. Now he's a little concerned that he's broken his cuffs
-- and his shirt, and the seat, of course. They'll know he has
some way of breaking them. They won't let him put his zack back
on, and it will die.
Robert Morris is privately considering blue screen
of death ray on the fighters, just turning them off in mid
flight. That would cause them to crash literally as well as
figuratively, but Robert is not too concerned about that.
Unfortunately he can't do that through the Imperial networks,
only if Nightshade
is close enough to remote affect the fighters directly with a
precise location. Imperial tech can't
handle it; he'd need the ship with line of sight, perhaps in orbit
above, and good work from Callisto on the sensors. Starships
are much easier to crash, he reflects, and the gravcar carrying Shark
essentially impossible to take over no matter what.
Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege,
and Helia Sarina are headed back to Nightshade
from lunch to help with the crisis from the ship.
Misha Ravanos' taxicab has broken off pursuit away
fighter escort. He assumes that Shark will make it to the naval
base, but is following at a distance just in case something happens on
the way. Robert tells him that they can't do anything to shut
down the fighters from here. Misha tells everyone to work on
non-violent solutions to Shark's problem; if they can't come up with
anything else, they can hire a lawyer.
Shark is working on aspects of his problem
himself. He is carrying some adhesive -- actually for disguises
-- and will use that to try to glue the handcuffs back together so
they'll at least pass from a distance. The ripped sleeves and
seat of course will stay that way. He's hoping to avoid having to
answer any questions until he reaches the head of security and can try
out some of his old passwords to see if they still work.
Kalida's immediate response is to recall if she
knows anyone here she can approach. She was last here in 1121
when she mustered out of the Marines. She probably knows the
commanding officer of the Marine contingent here, assuming it's either
the same person or another officer promoted from his command. A
Major General should be able to exert pretty good influence.
Kalida, Helia, and Teri arrive back at Nightshade.
That leaves the only people still off the ship as Shark and
Misha. Shark is about 15 minutes from the Naval Base.
The first thing Misha wants to know is if anyone has
a non-violent plan that requires launching.
Helia says that if they launch, Shark might be in
even more trouble. They need to sit here and look innocent while
pulling what strings they can to request that their chief of security
be released. She says, "Sir, I know it's hard to believe, but
I've always found that playing innocent and dumb is better."
Misha agrees, and says, "I've never found you to be
dumb." Everyone is, however, to be at battle stations ready to
launch if needed.
Callisto announces that a Strike Cruiser has left
the Naval High Port
and is maneuvering into position over Shark.
This is an astonishing response.
Helia says that now is the time for the protests to
Kalida mentally runs down her list of people to
contact, as if they were totally innocent in every way. If it was
a Naval matter, that would be the highest ranking officer she could
find; if it wasn't a Naval matter, then the highest ranking noble
she could access. She chooses to start with the Naval commander,
and summons Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead to the bridge to stand by in
case his influence will help.
Kalida calls the Naval Base and asks to speak with
the commanding officer. She gets the reply that "the Admiral is
in conference and cannot be disturbed."
Robert is doing everything he can to keep
communications open with Shark. He reports that the Naval Base
has gone onto full
alert. They are locking down, scrambling fighter patrols, any
ships that are in any way capable of launching are taking off
immediately to avoid becoming ground targets. He reflects that
all this is because Shark was just asking about Professor Willi Marsh's
books and papers. The slim volumes they did get do talk about the
theory of possible languages in the same form as scryptese, and about a
hypothetical written form and its pronunciation. Robert notes
could probably have learned his native language without
difficulty. He was clearly already
capable of thinking in the right ways.
From his seat in the back of the car, Shark can now
see Imperial Navy ships taking off from the base. He says,
"They're not doing this parade for me, are they?"
"Yeah, it's all just to celebrate your coming in."
says the woman driving him.
"Ah, that's good. I hope there's cake."
Kalida is getting a priority personal message.
It's from the Imperial Navy, and says that there's a state of
emergency. She has the option of taking off into orbit, or a
naval team will come and collect her to take her to a bunker and she
should be ready to move in five minutes. She replies that they
will take off, but adds that the Captain and First Officer are not on
The navy captain talking to her says that in that
case they can escort her to a bunker.
Kalida says they'll be taking off.
"Certainly, ma'am," he says, "I'll send you your
flight pattern immediately."
The crew start takeoff procedures. Mich
"Oh darn, I always wanted to jump from planet."
The flight plan is a simple path up to the Naval
High Port. It includes details that they'll be getting a fighter
escort soon after takeoff, and that the fighters have been dispatched
and will rendezvous shortly. It may be a simple path, but it's
fairly difficult in practical terms, being a very restricted path and
not the usual sort of takeoff trajectory.
Helia takes off and Nightshade hurtles up
into the skies towards the Naval High Port. The fighter escort
arrives almost as soon as they take off.
Misha asks them to keep working on non-violent
solutions. Kalida tells him she can't get through to the Admiral
because of the alert. She outlines the other options she has, and
says she'll start trying those other avenues right away, although she's
not sure they'll do any good. She'll also see if she can find an
Misha says what he needs is information, that's
all. It might be that they can't get any more information while
the alert is on, and if that's the case, so be it.
Shark says incredulously, "Have you gone to a
planetary alert for me?"
"No, nothing's for you. This is for me."
"For you? Oh, my!"
"Yeah. You're not important."
"Well, I can see that. That's why I'm in these
bracelets being escorted by... someone. So what makes you so
important? By the way, my name is Edward Teeth. And you
"Ah. A chauffeur with her own parade.
Kalida's next obvious option is either the planetary
government, or to appeal directly to the Duke. Of course she goes
right to the top, and tries to get in touch with the Duke of
Rhylanor. His staff apologize and say it'll take a little while
to patch her through because of the alert.
Robert notes that the Navy is shutting down all
access, chopping off networks everywhere. It's virtually
impossible that anyone could stay connected, but through some rapid
work Robert keeps his full access. He reports to the crew that
the deep meson sites
are standing by ready to fire, should they be
presented with target data. Unfortunately the deep meson systems
are really secure, and he won't be able to intercept their data
stream. Now if he only had a little hardware box in a strategic
place, like there is on Mora,
it would be a different matter...
then he could even feed in his own coordinates. He may be able to
intercept a command to fire if it comes through a chain of command that
he can monitor, but even then he can't get targeting information
unless it's specified in that order. Even to Robert's skill, the
systems are impenetrable.
In addition to her attempt to contact the Duke,
Kalida also runs through possible lawyers they could use. By far
the best would be Jimmy Crannet. She calls his secretary, who
passes her through right away once she announces herself as Marchioness
Nakege. She explains that her First Officer has apparently been
kidnapped by the Navy, and she wants to know what she can do to get him
back, preferably unharmed. She adds that he was arrested at a
bookstore, and he's on his way to the Naval Base right now.
Crannet asks her for a few details -- the bookstore,
Shark's name, and so on -- and says he'll look into it right now.
He says he'll file whatever injunctions are necessary, and get back to
her as soon as he has more information. He'll be right on it, he
The Duke of Rhylanor calls Kalida.
After a few preliminaries, the Marchioness says that
Officer seems to be involved in this planetary emergency in some
way. She says, "He appears to have been kidnapped by the
Navy. I do not know why. I would very much like to arrange
his return to me undamaged. I was wondering if you could help me
look into this matter."
"Certainly. As soon as the Admiral returns my
calls, I will. I don't know what all this is about, they haven't
told me anything. It's something the Navy appears to have dreamed
up all by themselves and aren't telling me, which as you can imagine
has me pretty steamed off. There will be some serious discussions
after this. I will certainly see what I can do about your First
Officer as soon as I can."
"Thank you very much. I appreciate any help
you can give me with this."
"And if you can tell me anything about this I will
be very grateful. After all this is over, we must do dinner."
"Thank you, I would love to see you again, that
would be lovely." Kalida then tells the Captain what she has
going on with the Duke and the lawyer.
Now the lawyer calls Kalida. Jimmy Crannet
says, "I am sorry, ma'am, but I cannot take your case."
"And why not?"
"I have been told that if I take this case, I will
be arrested. I am not to pursue this matter any more."
"Is that all they told you?"
"They included some samples of charges and where I
might be transported immediately and so on. They told me it is
not an Imperial Navy matter, and that it is none of my business."
"Not an Imperial Navy matter?"
"That's what they told me."
"All right. Thank you."
"I am sorry I could not be of help."
Misha observes that what they've learned is that
this is not a matter for lawyers. The conversation with the Duke
has lead him to believe there might be an alternative.
Shark is now arriving at the Naval Base. He
has glued his handcuffs back together as best he can. He says,
continuing his sarcastic tone, "Don't take me into any deep dark cave,
now, I'm afraid of the dark."
The gravcar pulls into a brightly lit hangar.
Several squads of marines in battledress are at the ready.
"Thirty marines in battledress? Is that
all? I thought I deserved more! Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you
The woman ignores him and brings the car to a stop
on the ground. One wing of fighters has entered the hangar with
them and is hovering above.
She gets out, walks around, opens the door for
Shark, and in a friendly voice says, "Come on. Let's go."
Shark offer his arm to her, but she snubs him.
She leads while a few marines fall in around the prisoner.
They march through corridors to an elevator.
The elevator is compensated and there is no sense of movement.
Robert continues to maintain communications with Shark even now, and
tells him he's going down quite some way. The signal now has to
be bounced a little to get to him -- it's starting to get much harder.
Misha watches Shark and his escort vanish into the
Naval Base. The base is a large naval installation with a
perimeter barrier. Outside the barrier is about a kilometer of
open ground. He tells the cabbie he's getting out and to leave
him here, and doesn't need to wait. The man wishes him good luck;
Misha thanks him sincerely. The cabbie hands Misha his card, but
of course the barbarian can't read it. Misha isn't
concerned. He is sure that if his ship can contact a duke, they
can get him a taxicab driver if he wants him.
Shark and his escort emerge from the elevator into a
corridor. The guard post carries the insignia of Imperial Navy
Shark sighs, "INI. I expected that.
Who's in charge here now? Never mind, you can't answer
Good day, gentlemen!"
The woman responds to Shark's question: "I am."
He is escorted to a comfortable holding room.
Shark sits down. The woman says she'll be back shortly, and
suggests he relax. She leaves.
Shark walks around the room, looking into every
camera in turn and smiling.
Robert finds it's pretty much impossible to
commandeer enough relays to keep contact, but somehow he does, barely.
Shark says out loud, "How far down am I?"
Robert informs him he's about two kilometers down.
Kalida is informed that the alert is standing
down. She's asked very politely if she minds waiting half an hour
for traffic to disperse. Kalida says she'll wait.
Almost immediately she gets another call from the
Duke of Rhylanor. Kalida says she still doesn't
have her First Officer.
The Duke says, "I've been told that the Admiral in
charge can't tell me why the alert was happening, but he promises
he'll have his resignation on my desk within the hour. I still
don't know what's happening, and I haven't been able to get any answers
about your First Officer."
Kalida says, "I did contact a lawyer, in hopes that
one might help me out, and he was informed that he was not able to take
my case because he would immediately be arrested. He was also
told that this wasn't an Imperial Navy matter, although the alert was
apparently a naval alert."
"Well that narrows it down some. Of course, I
don't know what that would tell me."
"What would you suggest I do right now?"
"Right now, I think that preparing for dinner would
be a good measure. The palace staff will be expecting you.
Oh, of course Trin will be there as well. If you wish to bring
anyone make sure that they are... authorized at... a high enough
level. Certainly not all personal gossip can be handled over even
supposedly secure communication channels, you know."
"Thank you very much, and I will see you later this
"Thank you. I hope it will be an
After about 15 minutes, Shark takes off the cuffs
and lays them on the desk. He stretches, leans back, pushes the
chair back against the wall, and takes a nap.
Misha is still relaxing in the wilderness, waiting
to see what happens. When he hears of Kalida's plans, he asks
them to contact a taxicab to fetch him, preferably the one that brought
him here. The commdot doesn't do visuals so they can't read the
card, but Robert of course knows not only the cab company but the exact
cab and driver. He hacks into the company's dispatch network and
sends the cab himself.
Nightshade gets clearance to land. The
flight path is less direct and smoother, but again they get a fighter
escort, although this time it's ceremonial. There are no regular
civilian ships coming in yet, but the naval ships are landing back
down. Of course this is complicated because some of the navy
warships are not in good states of repair -- everything that could
possibly leave the ground is up in orbit, without regard to how to land
again. Nightshade lands at the same starport berth
Shark puts his hand puter and holstered pistol on
the desk beside the cuffs.
Someone enters the room carrying a fresh jacket,
fresh shirt, and a large flask of coffee. "Good to see you
again," he says, "Although not under such circumstances, I'm
sure." He's wearing INI uniform, and the insignia indicate he's
probably the officer in charge. Shark knows him from a previous
The officer apologizes for all the fuss.
"It was exciting," smiles Shark, "I've never had a
parade. I wasn't quite aware that was going to be the reaction."
"Reaction to what, if I may ask? Although I'm
not sure I want to know."
"Last time I volunteered the information I was told
they didn't want to know, so I can leave that up to you."
"Why don't you tell me? We have about... two
"I was asking for papers by Professor Marsh, a
professor of languages, who passed away 120 years ago, and all his
papers have been deleted."
"I noticed in one store when I asked that he
immediately made a phone call, so I left. Later on I decided to
find out who it was who was interested, I wasn't quite aware it was
going to be you."
The officer looks thoughtful. "I'm not
interested," he says.
"And the young lady who brought me in?"
"Is very interested, apparently."
"And she works for...? She was assigned to
work in the offices of Gerry Medford. One of yours?"
"Couple of things can funnel through there,
yes. He's not one of ours but he lets us use an office."
"His office was the one that apparently got
"Yeah, I guess so. Interesting... interesting."
"So if you're not interested, who is using you?"
"So who does she work for?"
"I haven't the slightest idea."
"I see," says Shark, "And she's conveniently left
"No, she's waiting to get a few things before
speaking to you."
"So should I continue playing this?"
"To find out what she wants."
"Oh. You could try. That's up to you."
"Do you want to know who she is?"
"I would love to know who she is," says the INI
officer, "I know the
name she's going by, but is sure as heck isn't her name."
Shark asks, "Are you familiar with Grand Admiral
his medical expertise?"
"Not directly, but I've heard of him."
"If nothing else happens, if she happened to end up
on our ship, we might be able to help."
"I have no authority over her."
"Oh. So how's that working?"
"It works that she says 'jump' and I ask how many of
us. She presented... documentary evidence that she outranks
me. She is obviously some sort of Imperial agent of some sort."
"Will she be privileged to these tapes?"
The officer consults his watch. "Not for about
"There seems to be more than one path of command and
they don't all lead to the Duke."
"That does not surprise me. I gather the
Admiral here has resigned over not being able to tell the Duke what was
"Well, thank you for the shirt."
"Shall I get rid of your old one, or does it have
anything special about it?"
"No, that's fine, and you can take these with you as
The officer looks at the cuffs appreciatively.
"Nice job," he says.
"I'll tell you some day," smiles Shark as the
officer leaves. He puts on the new clothes. He waits.
The same taxi arrives for Misha. The driver
observes that there are some hackers working for him. Misha
laughs it off, saying they don't work as much as enjoy it. He
asks the driver to take him to the starport. This time the taxi
goes slower, following traffic lanes and obeying traffic laws.
The woman enters Shark's room. She says, "So
what can you tell me?"
"Probably nothing you don't already know."
"I'm Edward Teeth, mustered out of the..."
"Never mind who you are, what are you doing here?"
"I'm First Officer on the Nightshade,
travelling on the crew for the Marchioness of..."
"Yeah. So what are you doing here? Why
are you here?"
"You brought me."
"Why are you on this world?"
"There is a meeting of the..."
"OK, never mind why anybody else is here. What
were you doing in the bookstore?"
"Acquiring pieces of information."
"What information are you looking for?"
"Obviously information you're interested in."
"What information are you looking for?"
"Let's see, I asked for a book, for papers by
"They looked interesting."
"Interesting to whom?"
"He's a linguistics doctor."
"OK. Interesting to whom?"
"People interested in linguistics. Why does it
"You? You're a linguist?"
"No, I'm more of a puzzle person."
"So who's linguistics?" she asks.
"He is," says Shark, "And they deleted his papers,
and I want to
"So who's interested in them? Why were you
looking for it?"
"Because they've been deleted."
"Who are you looking for it for? If you found
one, who would you give it to?"
"Probably no-one, just the satisfaction of finding
something that's hidden. When you're retired, you do a lot of
"I'm not retired."
"Well I am."
"We'll see about that."
"If I'm not retired, then you owe me a lot of back
pay!" says Shark.
(Robert tries running a voice print on the
woman. His search brings up nothing.)
Shark continues, "So you haven't been in that office
for 150 years."
"Why, thank you."
"But someone has."
"So what got you interested in Marsh?"
"Well... we have been a research vessel, until we
lost the research ship, and we always stumble across interesting
things, and research branches out, and one of that was linguistics at
some point, and we couldn't get to those papers, and so..."
"Hm." The woman considers for a moment.
She continues, "You found something that might be
relevant to his work?"
"I have no idea," laughs Shark, "I haven't seen his
"Then why were you looking for it?"
"Because it was hidden, and when I searched
linguistics it said he was a professor and I couldn't get any of his
papers... so this is a good puzzle."
"So... have you seen anything like this
before?" She holds up her hand puter, and it has a script
language symbol on the screen.
Shark does not react and says nothing.
The woman assures him, "It's OK, the recordings are
Shark hesitates, and says, "On, um... No, I haven't."
"Certainly not on a statue on Regina.
But then that would have been with the illegal artifacts, and we didn't
have any of those."
"Can you give me any names of people who also might
not have them?"
"I'm pretty certain that Imperial Navy Intelligence
did not confiscate those artifacts. At the time when they
disappeared, I wasn't around, so I can't say exactly who doesn't have
"Anyone who might be related to it? Any
avenues I could look into?"
"The old man who had it died, it was in the
possession of his nephew for a week or so, we got to see it, and it
"And this nephew...?"
"I don't know what happened to him, actually, I
Shark looks it up on his hand puter. "Trow
Backett," he says. He puts the puter down and forgets to turn it
off audio recording.
"OK. Thank you. That's very
useful. It's another thing to look into."
"Who wouldn't be looking, since the cameras are off?"
"Perhaps an associate of mine."
"Obviously if I continue to try to find these
unpublished papers I will continue to get into trouble. I would
like to know who I'm getting in trouble with."
"You are getting in trouble with the highest
authority you could get in trouble with."
"Duke of Rhylanor?"
"Yeah, right. No, we outrank him."
(Robert notes that's the motto of the group: "We
"I like that line," says Shark, "May I use it?"
"No. Because in our case it's true," says the
"So it was a setback when your teams on Karma
were blown up, and Professor Farol was killed?" Shark watches her
closely for reactions, and is rewarded when she doesn't hide it well
enough. He continues, "Well, thank you. Are you going to
give me a ride back to town, or will I have to hitchhike?"
"We're in an odd situation here. The commander
here tells me you're... trustworthy. Stop that area of research."
"OK. I think I can probably accomplish that."
"And if you come across anybody who is interested in
it, tell me. I do expect to hear from you." She hands him a
card. "Normally you would
vanish at this point."
"If anything appropriate comes up, I shall."
"Good. Normally I wouldn't care, but I'm told
by the commander that you probably won't cause me any further trouble
if I release you. Now I personally don't care what the
Duke of Rhylanor thinks, but to avoid having too many other people
looking into your particular activities, it will make less work for me
if I release you."
"I understand. The lesser of two evils."
"There is nothing evil about it. Just if
you're looking into the stuff again, next time we'll do the full thing."
"I accept the warning as given."
"Oh, and I'll take any names. We can vanish
anybody. If the reason the Duke is interested in you is because
he's interested in this project, then that will do. We'll vanish
him. This is not a problem. We outrank him."
"I can see how serious you are. I will
endeavor not to cause any more difficulties."
"Good. Thank you. Anything else you'd
like to... tell me?"
Shark shakes his head. The woman says one of
the guys here will give him a ride back, and she hopes she'll be
talking to him again sometime. She leaves.
Soon after, a flunky in INI uniform drops in to take
Shark back to town. He asks if Shark needs any supplies while
he's here. As Shark knows, however, they have better on Nightshade.
This time they leave by the INI front entrance, and
he has a much more comfortable ride back to the starport. It's an
Imperial Navy gcarrier
with official insignia. It even has a
drinks cabinet in the back, stocked well enough for Shark's enjoyment
Shark strikes up a conversation with his
escort. "So how long have you worked for Miss Smith? The
"Oh, I don't work for her. I don't know who
she is. I don't know what she's doing, but everybody thinks she's
"She spend much time in base?"
"Never seen her before."
"Ah, got to keep your lies straight there!
Never seen her before, but everybody thinks she's in charge!"
"When she turned up, everyone seemed to think she
was in charge."
"She certainly put on a good parade. The
"That was... her?"
"She hit the button."
"Wow. I didn't know you could do that. I
guess she is in charge."
"You just have to make them think you're in
charge. Walk in and act like you own the place and you do.
Don't they teach you this anymore? It's all an act of
confidence," Shark laughs. On the way, he sends a message
on his puter to Kalida saying that the woman claimed she could vanish
the Duke if he's interested in the writing, and she says she outranks
him -- she outranks everybody. She is definitely the people they
wanted to see. He scans her card, which just specifies in INI
code how to send a message that will get to her by the right channels.
It is late afternoon. Misha has arrived back
Obviously Kalida's meeting with the Duke won't get
them anywhere with Shark, since he's returning anyway. She asks
Misha if he wants to accompany her, or anyone else who he wants to go
with her? She's not planning a large number of people. one or two
probably. Misha says she should take Shark, and he would
accompany her too. She knows she could bring the entire crew if
she wanted, but it would be a gaffe to bring irrelevant people.
Kalida apologizes to Helia, but thinks it best if the larian remains on
the ship in case of emergencies.
Shark arrives back. Robert has found nothing
on the woman, and Shark's audio recording doesn't help. He tells
Robert that the local INI head doesn't know who she is, but she had
paperwork claiming that she outranked him and therefore had all his
resources. She clearly had enough pull with the planetary
commander to get the scramble, and threatened him enough that he
wouldn't tell the Duke, and he resigned because he couldn't tell the
Duke what went on. Shark has tried to replicate the script symbol
the woman showed him, but with no success.
Robert suggests packaging all this up and sending it
to Sir Arken Hauther. That will require figuring out who they
however. But they do at least know that she is the bad guy, they
just don't have any way to go beyond her at this point.
This leaves several questions. The Duke wants
to talk about something to do with this, but couldn't do it even over
encrypted channels -- but do they tell him anything that they
know? If the did, they will have to explain why Shark was taken,
and possibly something about the language that they know would get him
into trouble. Kalida says they'll have to tell him something,
since Shark has been returned, but they certainly don't want to to tell
Misha wonders if the language is part of the black
tech that they aren't allowed to talk about. After consideration,
they decide that it's not part of tech, it's a philosophy and a
language of communication. Misha says that as explorers, they
came across this language and have learned a good bit about it, and
they're seeking information on it. But they'd have to come up
with answers to the questions arising that are not lies but don't
reveal anything they can't.
Mich has the answer to that -- he says that the
script was on missile warheads on Anastasia when they found it.
Kalida says that if they tell him that, then they
need to tell him more about the woman.
Misha says he wants to tell him about it, at least
what she said to Shark.
Shark adds that they should say they believe that
the INI is not necessarily commanded through the correct chain of
command. He mentions that when she didn't believe he hadn't seen
the symbols, he had used Mr. Backett's name -- it was a total false
lead, as it was the other technology. Now of course Backett's in
Misha says they need to answer other questions
too. How did Robert learn the language?
Robert says that was by concentrating on it and
drinking klatrin, neither of which are outlawed by their contract.
Shark adds that he mentioned Professor Farol and the
planet that blew up, and she reacted to it. They know who did
that -- the Arden
Society -- but she did react to it. He says it proves
to him that she is part of the Imperial FarSpace Service, and that the
IFSS is the bad guy also, or at least part of it is.
Misha is satisfied that they have enough
answers. They have time to consider, however, and come up with
more if they want. He does want to know if by etiquette Kalida
can tell the Duke that there are things she can't talk about to him,
and the Marchioness assures him that she can.