(21) Social Responsibilities
The Nightshade Campaign (244-1122 to 245-1122)
Everyone is back on board Nightshade after
dinner with the Dukes
of Rhylanor and Trin. Kalida Siena,
Marchioness of Nakege, is still curious why the Marquis of Aramis
hasn't shown up yet for the meetings with the Dukes and the Count of
Nexine. Edward "Shark" Teeth observes that they seem to be caught
in the middle of all of this.
Kalida brings up the subject of whether they want to
talk about Sir Arken. She is in favor of telling the Dukes about
him, but not vice versa. As for the Adabicci family, it's not
only Kalida who
has connections with them. Vonish Kehnaan has a standing open
offer to be personal chef to Sir Geoffrey, youngest son of the Duke of
Adabicci, while of course Marquis Marcus Crestworthy (of course
presently not on Nightshade) served with Sir Geoffrey in the
Mich Saginaw says that if the Archduke was in on
this, it would explain some of his attitude towards Anastasia
several years ago.
He recalls that his answers were quite confusing if he hadn't been in
on it. Mich presented him with a research ship saying that they
were working on consistent six day jumps, and the Archduke
said that he
wasn't really interested.
Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead says that the Happy
Fun Ball battle groups are usually reserved for diplomatic missions, as
except in dire emergency they are too valuable to risk in battle.
Shark wonders what the battle group might be going
after. There is Karma,
the destroyed research
and Zett is
there too. They talked about both with Sir
Arken -- suggested he look into who declared the latter a Red Zone --
but without revealing anything important. He then reminds
everyone how close to treason the conversation with the Dukes really
Misha Ravanos says they don't know if these
activities they are questioning are as a result of actions of the
Imperium -- the Emperor --
or someone against the Imperium. There
treason going on here, but they don't know for sure if its "Us, or
Kalida voices the feelings of all of them: they're
The subject of what to do next comes up. They
could go Happy Fun Ball hunting, but they do have a rendezvous with
Marquis Marc at some point. Shark then asks whether the battle
group is going after something, or just abandoning Five Sisters
Kalida says that the fleets remaining in Five
Sisters would be sufficient to fight a delaying action until
reinforcements arrived, against a conventional enemy anyway.
Mich says that Nightshade is pretty much
invulnerable to the Happy Fun Ball. Roughly one hundred
simultaneous enclosing nuclear explosions are required to make the ship
drop shields, which exposes her to expander fire. A combined
spread of meson gun
shots from all their capital ships could have the
same effect, but they would not know to do that. No-one but the
knows the capabilities of the black ships anyway.
It seems very likely that it is indeed Santanocheev
who is responsible for the Tigress battle group leaving. Admiral
West, officer in command, would not have done it without orders, and it
is clear that there were no orders from the Imperial Navy through the
normal chain of command. The timescale of the conflicts at Hinay
are consistent with them moving fairly directly towards Zett.
Tracing the route from Iderati
is fairly simple, but not
certain. In any case, any further news about them won't be here
for a long time.
There are other places to go, of course.
Bridgehead's babble juice and Mich's beans were all obtained on Faldor
/ District 268,
and both of them would like to get their supplies
again. They have plenty of space in Mich's stateroom for the
still, or could even use the empty stateroom that theoretically is
assigned to Marquis Marc.
Shark points out that sooner or later one of these
nobles will catch them and know that they're doing jump-6 in ways they
shouldn't. Even if they don't care themselves, they'll tell
someone who'll care. In fact, they should even work out when they
are allowed to tell someone about anything on the basis of when they
should have been there, not when they actually were.
The Marquis of Aramis has still not arrived.
There is no word about him, either, he just hasn't shown up. On
the other hand, there is a reception at the Duke
of Rhylanor's palace for a couple of local dignitaries. Kalida
says she will attend -- that is how and where noble business is done --
and Misha will accompany her. As the says, the function itself
won't be interesting, but what goes on there might be.
The whole family of the Duke of Rhylanor is in
attendance this time, although the children will only be there through
the dinner. The Count and Countess of Nexine are here this time,
although the future Count of Fulacin isn't, of course.
The event itself is some sort of award for some
local government people. It's the sort of thing that goes on all
the time in the life of a major noble, and is as boring as ever.
The press are present, but not intruding.
The seating is all at one large table. The
nobles are distributed around, presumably to give the commoners a
chance to mingle and make it feel like an important event.
Everyone finishes eating, and the Duke of Rhylanor
gives some sort of speech. All move off to a hall for drinks,
finger food desserts, and general mingling.
Eventually Artur Milhelm, Duke of Trin, makes his
way to Kalida and after some small talk suggests the two of them, with
Misha, take a walk outside on the verandah. They pass a couple of
security guards at the door to the outside, who pretend to ignore the
three while making it quite clear that no-one will follow.
The verandah looks out over the courtyard
gardens. It's a good view, and from up here a discerning eye can
tell that the very formal gardens were designed with an eye to
providing secluded areas where those so inclined could talk in
private. It's the perfect place for a noble garden party.
"Aramis still isn't here," starts Trin.
"So I noticed," says Nakege, "You haven't heard from
him? He's how late now?"
"Several days. We had expected him to be on
"I would think so."
"I don't know why he's doing this, but at this point
it's obviously intentional."
"Was he coming alone?"
"That wasn't clear. Certainly the invitation
extended to his family."
Misha says, "How voluntary was this invitation?"
"He should be here," says Trin. "If he's not
here in two days, we're going to go ahead and decide things without
Nakege says, "And things would most likely not be
deciding in his favor."
Misha asks, "Does he have the clout to duck the
"Not really," says Trin. "We're pretty
confident that after the Ianic
precedent we can enforce
whatever we need to do, which is basically stop Tukera expanding down
there. Or at least require Imperial oversight."
"And that would be two precedents," says Nakege.
"One more and you've got a movement," smiles Trin.
"I would like to have one more."
"You would, I suppose you would, wouldn't you?
We'll see what we can do about that, I guess, although it's not really
our jurisdiction. It's a well established situation too, not a
"Yes, it has been going on for a long time."
"Basically we're trying to push Tukera's aggressive
trade expansionism out towards the border. We think that the
despite its reputation in the rest of the Imperium,
isn't quite the backwater of primitive worlds that Tukera would have us
believe, and their strong arm tactics aren't really welcome."
Trin pauses, then says, "Unless he knows something, has some reason not
to be here."
Misha says, "He clearly has some reason not to be
here. So what could be more important?"
"Something more profitable. Some larger
pending thing. As for this decision, we will make it in two
days. It's pretty clear if he's not here what it will be, and
while it won't affect their normal shipping operations it will severely
affect their exploitation."
Trin looks out over the garden and takes a sip of
his cosmopolitan. Without turning back he says, "So, we've been
looking into things we were discussing the other night, and we really
haven't come up with a lot yet. We're pretty sure there's just
one person in that line business here on this world, with a dedicated
backup automated system, and a good many resources we believe.
But in terms of where they're actually doing business, we don't know
yet. Darya Krelft went back to the same office as before.
What else is there to do, if you can't keep up appearances?"
Nakege says, "Have you heard of a certain person
called Sir Arken Hauther? We met him in Regina, and
claimed to be working on behalf of the Archduke. We were asking
him some questions about something else we were tracking down, and he
related it to something at Mora.
He knows that what
happened at Mora was pointed at us."
Trin nods contemplatively and turns back.
"That's interesting," he says.
"So you might add him to your list of things to look
"Yeah. Any feel for where he'd fall?"
"No idea. He was rather a mysterious
person. He was sponsored to the Eagle's Nest by Regina,
Adabicci, and Mora."
"Interesting collection. He does bear looking
into. Any idea where he might be?"
Misha says, "He said he was going to look into
stuff, and Mora would be the place to go."
Nakege adds, "We haven't seen or heard of him
since. That would about 120 days ago." She adds that she'll
send a picture of him. She then says, "There was one other person
of interest. Admiral Santanocheev. There are rumors that he
was seen boarding Llanamith right before it mysteriously left,
and he just seems to pop up once in a while in odd mysterious news
Trin ponders this. "I was sort of young when
he retired, but I gather that he and Norris clearly
do not get
on. Unless that's an act, but what I gather is they had a major
falling out on the ways of dealing with the Zhodani. Norris
thought they could manage a diplomatic solution, and Santanocheev
preferred a first strike."
"I don't know where he is now, but we can try to
figure out his movements. He's certainly someone to watch out
Trin and Nakege agree that they're still raising
more questions than answers. The Duke rejoins the main room,
where he's immediately accosted and drawn into the
circulation. Rhylanor is still fully tied up with the
locals. Nakege and her captain stay outside for a while, then
return to the main room. They politely work their way out of the
room and the palace.
Back on Nightshade, speculation about
Santanocheev continues. He could be making an end-run at the
If he did, though, he'd
have to go through Goose
on the way, which everyone finds amusing. Even then, the fleet he
has isn't going to be able to
do enough damage, just stir up trouble. It would, however, be
enough to face a serious Sword World
Shark suggests the mission might actually be
diplomatic at the Archduke's orders. It could be a diplomatic
mission to the Zhodani Consulate coming around the back door rather
than publicly through the Marches. He also points out, on the
other hand, that there are a lot of factions in the Imperium who don't
like the current peace with the Zhodani and would like to disrupt it.
Misha then suggests that perhaps they should
backtrack and investigate why the Marquis of Aramis isn't here.
Shark and Kalida both wonder what he's doing rather than being here, or
if he's been held up on the way for some other reason.
Shark wonders if the Zhodani might have some
intelligence about INI or INISO that they could use. It's
unlikely the Zhodani themselves would sell them the information, but
they could always try asking at Attica.
Misha summarizes. They have the Marquis
mystery, which they'll put aside for a while. There's the Five
Sisters fleet to consider. That's just a couple of the potential
paths they could follow.
Kalida adds that they need to sound out Adabicci and
see where he and the Archduke stand. That responsibility would
mostly lie with her, although Marquis Crestworthy and Vonish might be
able to help out with their connections to Sir Geoffrey too.
They then briefly discuss Darya Krelft.
she acted with confidence, and not with any inexperience that might be
indicated by her young age. If there had been any doubt about her
ability to act with authority, INISO would have set it up so she didn't
have as much freedom to act. Obviously her orders were to find
out why this person was looking for the papers, and make a call as to
whether they were basically harmless or not. They didn't know who
they were picking up in the car, and it wasn't until they got to the
Naval Base and Shark was already in the holding room that she would
have found out he had any sort of intelligence background.
Robert has a practical suggestion: kidnap her, take
a brain scan and a DNA sample, and let her go. At their leisure
they could then grow a clone, reimpose the brain scan, and interrogate
the clone on board the ship. "What's the problem?" he says, "We
have the technology, and the original would never know that we were
torturing the clone. Slow but relatively safe. And when
you're done, you dispose of the clone. The original would know
that they never talked, never divulged any information."
Misha asks what the chances are that she knew or
discovered that they're them and they have the black ship.
Shark slowly comes to the realization that she
triggered the alert and set everything in motion before she picked him
up, because she didn't make a call in the car. Also he observes
that the cabbie wasn't followed or shut down, even though he was surely
picked up on the fighters' radar and flew low and fast over residential
Robert confirms that the alert was triggered before
Shark was arrested, but after he asked for the books. It had been
just one day since the previous time he had visited a bookstore and
asked for it.
Shark speculates that the alert didn't happen that
time because he left before the call was done.
Misha thinks that given the level of action she took
the first time, she should have at least tried the second time.
Mich suggests that the first time put her on
guard. That alerted her that someone was looking. He'd
probably try again and she'd get him that time.
Kalida points out that they trashed the security
system the first time, which indicated they were dealing with someone
with skills, and so they overreacted the second time.
Misha agrees, this makes sense. She knew
somebody with skills asked for the book the first time. Even
though Robert made it look accidental, she surely thought it more than
a coincidence. He adds that she is sure that she or her
organization can find him again and re-interview him whenever necessary.