(22) Garden Party
The Nightshade Campaign (245-1122 to 274-1122)
If the crew of Nightshade want
to find out
the answer about the Tussinian
dispute, they need to wait here
at least two days. Certainly they would outrun any news too
quickly to find out that way, and this is news they want to hear -- or,
at least, Kalida Siena, Marchioness
of Nakege, would love to hear of a
second precedent-setting ruling against Tukera Lines.
They have pretty much decided that their next
destination will be Goose.
If it's on the way, they could
drop by Faldor
to pick up some beans for the famous bean juice
and coffee. Helia Sarina tells them however that District
268 is nowhere near their route, which would lead pretty much
spinward from here.
That also means that their base at the pre-Maghiz
site in Bowman
is even more out of the way, even though
it would be the best place to store the holographic data unit they
found hidden in the asteroid. Misha Ravanos points out that it's
a little irresponsible to be carrying it around all the time as it
exposes it to possible risk of losing it, if anything happens to the
In two days, after they hear the decision, they will
jump rapidly to Goose,
spending as little time out of jump as
Another priority they have is to determine where the
stands in the grand conspiracy the Dukes of Rhylanor and Trin
seem to have sniffed out. Several of the crew have connections
Sir Geoffrey of Adabicci, the youngest son of a Duke who has a close
connection with the Archduke.
Helia announces that it will take five jumps to get
to Goose, a little over a month at their rate of travel.
Tonight is the evening of the ducal garden
party. Misha is expected to accompany Kalida, of course, given
his regular attendance. Helia Sarina will join them too, dressing
"impressive" rather than "conservative." She decides on something
semi-flashy with big heels that match, a little sexy, covering
everything other than her cleavage (for a long definition of cleavage),
with full jewelry down to her navel ring and below, with a candy ankle
bracelet for fun.
Robert Morris is aware that the commdots will stop
once they reach the area where the shields will be turned on. He
again offers the flashlight emergency call, but Kalida assures him they
won't need that.
The party takes place in the garden they looked down
on earlier. The whole area turns out to be shielded, so not one
conversation at the party comes back through to Nightshade.
Helia immediately attracts an adoring circle of
attendants, hanging on her every word, bringing her drinks and food,
and being an audience for her tales as she poses by the fountain.
She looks a little like the fairy statue on the top of the
fountain. While she talks, she listens, and picks up a lot of
juicy gossip about the minor nobles on this world. She enjoys
herself thoroughly. She makes quite a splash here, but she isn't
a regular enough participant in the social whirl of the subsector
capital to make a lasting social impression.
Misha is approached by the Duchess of Rhylanor, who
engages him in a fascinating conversation about swords. It's
obvious she's very knowledgeable about their construction and use,
their design and balance, and from the way she talks and handles
Misha's sword, she can probably use quite a wide range very well.
When they return to the general party it's clear that his social
importance here on Rhylanor
is quite good indeed, significant
enough to be a genuine social attraction.
Meetings and paired conversations are going on
everywhere, all respecting everyone else's privacy. The Marquis
of Aramis has still not arrived, but Rhylanor, Trin, and Nexine are
making their decision anyway. With Nakege they talk about
anything but the topic, staying with light subjects as one would at a
Later in the evening, Trin buttonholes Nakege and
pulls her aside to a romantic nook. He says that they've come to
their decision. They're stopping Tukera from expanding in that
end of the Marches.
They've also made a resolution to investigate
situation. It doesn't necessarily mean it's
going to get anywhere because it's not under their jurisdiction, but a
commission will be appointed to investigate it. He explains
there's nothing Nakege can do to help it for a year or two, it will
take some time. He adds that if there's anything he can do for
her, she should not hesitate to ask.
Nakege explains they'll be leaving Rhylanor shortly,
but they will be returning.
Trin encourages her to return, and says that she can
come and visit Trin
whenever she wants.
They return to the party at large.
After staying for quite a while -- the last social
occasion they're likely to experience for some time -- they return to Nightshade
and get ready to leave this world.
Helia takes off into the sky and out to 100
diameters, and Nightshade goes into jump for 0509 /
Lanth (an empty area) at
It's three hours short of six days when they come
out of jump, arriving at 17:00. Mich is out of practice jumping
in sparkly pink and can't stay in there for much of the jump.
After an hour to make sure everything's good, and a
quick scan by Callisto to fix their exact position with no nearby
landmarks, they slip back into jump for Asgard / Vilis at 18:00.
Six hours short of six days, Nightshade
arrives in stealth mode at 12:00. Shark's guess as to why it's a
red zone is that it's a
low tech civilization and is interdicted to
Callisto does the half hour scan just for the sake
of it, while Shark does his own scans. Mich also gets a while to
relax between jumps.
Mich and Robert -- with some critical data provided
by Callisto's work on the sensor systems -- are close to running a
synchronous simulation to
see if the system will work. They could try it live, but that is
course running the risk of disturbing anyone else on the ship who might
learn of it. For some reason, everyone on board Mich's ships
be scared of misjumps.
At 12:30, Helia jumps for Zeta 2 / Vilis.
At 00:30, they arrive at their next step in the
trip, Zeta 2. It's 5-1/2 days since they left Asgard,
they have stealth mode running again.
Again Callisto runs her half hour of scans.
This time she finds at least something of interest -- there are several
heavily radioactive areas on the mainworld. She
can't tell why
that's the case, but it is at least something unusual. There are
no other ships in the system,
so Shark suggests they could run active
scans. Callisto does so.
Mich and Robert have verified their automated
system. Mich's most recent advances in understanding black tech
have definitely made the difference. Mich considers they are
ready to go live. To avoid any anxiety, he doesn't tell the rest
of the crew. In his experience that's a good precaution.
They jump for 0310 / Querion at 01:00.
This time it's another empty zone. It's 5-1/2
days after jumping, at 13:00, when they arrive nowhere.
The question, of course, is whether it's the right
empty space. For some reason, only Mich is actually concerned
about it. That is, until Callisto announces that an hour isn't
enough to be certain and she'll need another hour to try to confirm it.
Indeed, another hour and Callisto announces that
they are indeed in the right place. She wakes up Helia, who's
been sleeping for a couple of hours in one of her hammocks against the
back wall of the bridge.
Their destination should be just one jump
away. They jump for Foreven sector at 15:00.
Once in jump, Callisto throws a small party in the
lounge for herself, Robert, and Mich. None of them will tell the
reason for the celebration, but they are all relaxed and saw no reason
to make any adjustments before jumping out of the Spinward Marches.
274-1122 : Goose
/ Fessor / Foreven
The journey ends with a jump of 5-1/2 days.
They arrive in stealth mode at 03:00.
Everyone reminisces about the odd happenings when
they've been here before -- people appearing suddenly on the bridge,
strange conversations, strange people. Kalida listens with a
somewhat unreadable expression, as she's the only one on board who's
never been here before. Shark says that the people here rival but
don't quite reach the level of Lap'da in obfuscation skill.
Mich tells Kalida that this is where they picked up
the klatrin and where they bought the zacks. Shark adds that the
zacks were illegal. Misha tosses in the information that they
almost worshipped the crew last time they arrived here, or at least
respected them for no other reason than having a black ship.
Shark counters that the locals were very disappointed when the crew
walked ashore -- they were hoping for someone else, it seems.
Shark explains that the system is run by a complex
arrangement of secret societies. He figures the whole purpose of
the societies is to wait for the black ships and the people on board.
Callisto announces that there are no other ships in
the system. She tells Kalida that there's often a free trader or
two here, but this time Nightshade is alone.
They drop out of stealth mode and approach the
mainworld. The ship handles all the interaction with the
starport, which is a
very good thing here -- it's not the easiest of
worlds. As before,
they're running in the regular color scheme
with the red maltese crosses on the sidepods.
Goose is a water world with extensive ice
caps. The starport is a circular saucer-shaped riveted steel
floating city located at the equator. Helia brings them in to a
water landing at a pontoon sticking out from an open dock area of the
Teri is staying on board with Marquis Korwin
Vanderfield. Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead definitely remains on
board; the local gravity is too high for his comfort. Vonish will
want to come ashore to restock, and is most enthusiastic about the
seafood available here.
At the far end of their dock are six robed figures
ship settle in the water. Misha says that they won't appreciate
whatever they do, so they'd just as well dress however they like.
He suggests they all dress warmly; there's a nasty cold wind and a wet
salt spray from the ocean. Shark recommend to Kalida that she at
least get one of the local suits, even if not a zack itself.
As they walk down the ramp onto the dock, five of
the robed figures throw their arms up in disgust and walk away.
Misha laughs loudly and grins.
One figure remains on the dock, his face hidden
under the robe's hood. He sighs disgustedly, "You again?"
Misha says, "Who are you expecting?"
"We hoped it was somebody else, the real people,"
says the man in the robe.
"How would you know?"
"Well, we know you. We know you're not
"What if we wore kind of drab colored robes," says
Misha, waving at the man's clothes.
"I don't think you would be entitled to do that."
Robert greets him in scryptese.
The man almost jumps out of his skin. He drops
to his knee and replies in script. The gist of what he says is
that it's calm and has been for hundreds of years, there's been no
enemy activity. It's a very brief conversation, obviously, but
conveying a lot of information.
Robert improvises some fast talk to keep the robed
man convinced that he's the real thing.
It seems to work. The man asks if he's seen
any enemy activity. Or rather, it's a much more complex question
involving conceptual references to both their previous statements and
to an unspoken background.
Robert is up to the challenge in what is now his
native language. He states they haven't seen any, but are
planning to head off to dig through an abandoned enemy site (he's
talking about the Ancient
Site on Victoria).
The man asks him to come with him. He asks
Robert to communicate to them that they are welcome to whatever they
want here, which Robert does. The two of them walk off along the
dock towards the entrance to the next inner ring.
As the others follow along behind, Misha asks Robert
if he wants the company. Robert doesn't want to lower himself to
the level of the apes that are grunting at him, but he says tersely in
galanglic that no, he
doesn't want it. The pair walk out ahead.
The others discuss their plans for shopping.
They get some strange looks from the dock workers, who are obviously
watching while obviously ignoring them. Shark is a little nervous
because he's not carrying his gauss pistol -- it's improper to carry a
firearm with a zack because "it's not fast enough."
On the subject of zacks, Helia explains to Kalida
that you can't order one, you either get one or you don't. Even
if she doesn't, she should get one of the suits -- it resists pressure
differences, lets you breathe underwater, and keeps you at a
Robert and the robed man are met at the entrance to
the next circle by another man in robes. The three of them vanish
into thin air.
Shark commdots the ship and asks them to contact
Robert. Callisto replies that she has no contact, he's just
vanished. Shark suggests that she look for the black tech, and
she cynically replies that she's working on it. In the meantime,
he says, they're going shopping.