(26) To Catch a Fish
The Regency Campaign (29/1573)
It's evening of Day 19 of Nightshade's
visit to Nakege. The after dinner discussion with their
Inquisitor is done, as is Blue Cross's data pull from their ship.
Everyone is on board.
The ship is in stealth mode, keeping track of the
Seneschals but not paying too much attention to anything else,
although the ship would alert them to a spacial anomaly, of course.
They are hoping the Seneschals did not look up and see the black
ships, but that is very unlikely since Nightshade is far
enough away so that the gcarrier can come
and go without vanishing and appearing in mid-air.
Speaking of the gcarrier, Mich Saginaw takes some
time to check it over quickly. It's not just dented, it's tweaked,
and there is internal damage too. It will take a couple of days work
to repair. It's not too bad, but it could definitely be better.
Robert Morris is trying to get a feel of how the
other ship's language has diverged from Scryptese, and is not
surprised to find that it has diverged a very long way. He also has
in mind their promise to hook the communications box from Goose into the
ship's systems, so they can use it bi-directionally. All they know
right now is that it is extremely low bandwidth, and is capable of
communicating over extremely long distances. His conjecture is that
it's power system linked, but in such a way that jump does not break
Everyone has settled down into their own
activities. It seems like it will a quiet evening now, quite welcome
after the earlier excitement.
The ship does alert Robert to something that
isn't really in the scope of their concerns, but it apparently
considers of concern. There are some nuclear blasts in the upper
atmosphere about a third of the way around the planet from the
Lodge. He passes this on to Kalida Siena, Marchioness of
Nakege since it's her planet.
There's nothing significant underneath the blasts
-- it's not the Palace -- but they can tell they were in the 10kt
range and most likely standard Imperial
missile. It appears to be a spread of half a dozen nukes, all in a
They clearly need to investigate. They inform the
Seneschals what has happened, and this emergency is why they had to
leave so suddenly from dinner. They also inform Blue Cross that they
will be leaving station for a while.
Lucas Fuentes takes his pilot station and pulls
away from the other ship, taking a course very rapidly towards the
location of the blasts.
As they get closer, Edward "Shark" Teeth
determines from his sensor station that the blasts were very likely
to have been missiles fired by Tukera's orbital
Suddenly Shark picks up something fast and low, a
small object moving very rapidly back the way they have come. It
looks like an Imperial style fighter, flying a couple of hundred
meters off the ground, travelling very fast.
Lucas pulls Nightshade around in a quick
turn and shadows the craft. It makes a slight course change, and is
now headed exactly towards the Forest Lodge. Robert would love them
to match with the fighter so he can break into the computer. That
isn't possible, however, as the fighter is moving around too much,
almost as if it's not quite under control.
Shark tries to get a closer fix on it, to have a
chance of matching, but in the process loses his lock on it. Lucas
will have to follow it himself, without Shark's help.
The fighter descends and slows a little, still on
the same heading. They decide to break ahead of it and be at the
Lodge before the fighter gets there. Lucas takes them past the small
craft, while Shark manages to pick it back up on the sensors. It's
headed towards the landing field, but it looks like it might miss an
The craft starts to break through the treetops.
It is coming in too fast for a good landing, and now definitely
looks like it's not under full control. It descends lower, crashing
through lower branches, and breaks into the clearing. It levels out
its wings, flares, and hits the landing field hard. It bounces a
couple of times, then a wingtip digs in and it starts to flip,
leaving a trail of dust and dirt as it gouges the grass. Finally it
comes to a stop.
They need to see if the pilot is alive and can be
rescued, but they can't let the Lodge see their ship. The Lodge
staff will take some time to respond, of course, so that combined
with stealth mode should give them a few minutes. Lucas brings Nightshade
into position, while Robert has the gcarrier ready to go. Robert is
really resenting all the chimp grunting today, but he complies with
their chattering. Teri accompanies in battledress, while Shark is
there as Medical Officer.
Fortunately the wreck has landed the right way
up. It looks like a very modern Imperial fighter, but it carries no
markings. The landing is not as bad as it could have been. It
appears structurally intact, although of course it's sustained a lot
of damage. The pilot is not moving.
Robert opens the hatch quickly, and steps back
for the others to deal with the ape.
The pilot is in a combat vaccsuit, slightly oddly
shaped, but with Imperial Navy markings. The rank insignia are those
of a Commander.
Shark goes in, takes one look at the pilot, and
says, "Let's take him back as he is."
Teri also does a double-take when she sees the
pilot, but picks him up and carries him back. The pilot is very
obviously not human.
It's not anything any of them have seen before.
Robert reaches in and grabs the black box module,
and they return to the gcarrier.
People are starting to file out in front of the
Lodge, peering in this general direction. Robert takes the gcarrier
back to the Lodge, but Shark says they need the medical facilities
on Nightshade, since he has no idea how to treat this alien.
He briefly steps out of the gcarrier to explain to the assembled
crowd that there was a battle in the atmosphere, this fighter
survived, and that they're going to take the pilot back to their
ship where they have better medical facilities.
Beatrice wants to know if there is any threat to
the Lodge, but they assure her there is not. She seems satisfied.
Robert knows there is no threat to the Lodge.
After all, Nightshade is here.
Lucas has taken Nightshade into the
original position, so it's easy to get back aboard. Shark and Teri
take the alien directly to Sick Bay, while Robert takes the computer
module for investigation.
In Sick Bay, Shark manages to get the alien out
of his vaccsuit and under treatment. He was carrying a puter, money, and a
pair of short blades; Shark puts the latter aside for the time, but
will give him his puter and credits back when he comes around.
Robert finds the history in the computer has been
completely wiped up until a few hours ago. The fighter accelerated
hard in to the main world, dipped into the atmosphere, sustained
damage to several systems which caused loss of control. Contragrav
and inertial compensators were knocked out, while the thruster
plates were knocked out of alignment and became increasingly worse
during the descent. That must have been quite a landing. There was
no indication that the fighter fired any weapons, or even acquired
any targets. The registry and assignment to the ship are completely
blank. There is no history, no records, nothing whatever -- very
unusual. He notes that it was manufactured by General
From what they saw, they only know they saw nukes
in the atmosphere, then they saw this thing coming in. It is an up
to date Imperial fighter, and looks like it would have been brand
spanking new before it was wrecked. Robert reports back to Shark,
Sir Misha Ravanos, and the Marchioness.
Shark, meanwhile, reports that the pilot was just
knocked around a bit. The ship could analyze its anatomy better than
Shark could have done. He says he's taking it to the Lounge.
Mzrk Avnchnzl wakes up in a Sick Bay, but it's
nothing like any sick bay he's ever seen before. The doctor looks a
little weirded out by him -- nothing Mzrk isn't used to, of course
-- and says, "Hi, let's go to the Lounge for a bit and find out
what's going on." He leads Mzrk out of the Sick Bay, across to the
lift, and down to the Lounge.
The Lounge is full of humans, with one vargr. He notices
immediately a woman in full marine battedress, armed to the teeth,
leaning nonchalantly against the wall. Other than that, there are
two human men, quite short -- the doctor, and another man with a
slight military bearing in scrubby overalls -- and a human woman.
The person they have rescued is not human. It's
best described as fish-like, bipedal, bluish with scaling on
shoulders and around the back. It may be humanoid, but the
overwhelming first impression is that's it's a fish. It's wearing
Imperial Navy fighter pilot fatigues. None of them -- Mich, Kalida,
Teri, or Chuck -- have seen anything like this before.
Mzrk lets them gawk for a while, then says,
"Where am I?"
Mich tells him he's on Nakege.
Mzrk nods. He says, "Nakege, ah. That is
helpful. I know where Nakege is. Relatively. That's not bad.
Anybody know how I got here?"
The crew look at each other. "By fighter?" says
"Uh, noooo. I seem to recall being on another
planet, not Nakege, when I fell asleep."
Mich explains, "Nakege is under blockade."
"Is it really?"
"Other ships are not... allowed, and the blockade
shot down something."
"OK. Great. Anybody know how to get off Nakege?"
Misha laughs, "That's harder than getting in."
"You said you saw a craft that had been shot
Mich says, "No, we never saw a craft shot down.
We saw nuclear detonations in the high atmosphere."
"Oh, I see. Yes, that was... probably... You
didn't happen to know where my wreckage was, did you?"
"Yes, we know where your wreckage is. It's on the
"It's on the front lawn?" Mzrk is clearly
"It's right near the landing field, just a little
past it, of the Marchioness's Forest Lodge."
"OK. Would it be convenient for some of you, it
might not be a horrible idea to try to salvage the craft."
"Yes, we can probably do that. Is there anything
of import in particular you want to salvage?"
"Oh, no, you know, not particularly, I'd just
kind of like to have it back."
"But you said that wasn't your ship. You said you
woke up on another ship."
"Oh, that ship. No, I meant this ship when I said
that. I was talking about the ship I'm currently on. I was in Sick
Bay, and now I moved to the Lounge. I didn't mean to be confusing."
"No, you were on another ship, on another world, and then you
woke up and you were here. That's been your story so far."
"Yeah, I think I might have been confused, sorry.
I think I was on Nakege the whole time. I saw so many
planets, it's difficult to keep track sometimes. It does appear as
though I was here when I crashed."
"Yeah, but... where you before you were in the
fighter that crashed?"
"Oh, uh, well... You know, here and there, taking
odd jobs, I'm trying to get back to my fleet, or, well, what's left
of it if there's anything left of it. Which I doubt."
"So why were you stopping in Nakege?"
"It just kind of happened. I've been taking some
rides from some humble travellers here and there."
"And you absconded with their fighter?"
"Oh well no, I know how it might appear that way,
but that fighter was issued to me, rather legitimately. So don't
worry about that. I'm supposed to have it and everything. I know I'm
all blue and stuff, but I hate stealing."
"What does being blue have to do with stealing?"
"People give me funny looks. It's not as though I
don't notice. Anyway, if at all possible, it would be nice to be
able to retrieve some things from on board, or the entire ship
itself, to repair it. It probably isn't in such great shape as I
left it, and I might need it."
"Where would you go with it?"
"I'm not sure. Other than to eventually find, you
know, the rest of my fleet. I know it doesn't have jump capability,
"Given this planet's under a blockade, how did
you intend to leave?"
"I don't know yet. What's with all the hard
questions? I just woke up." He pauses, then continues, "Are you
particularly opposed to salvaging the wreckage?"
"No, we'll salvage the wreckage. We've been known
to do that. We did dump the whole front of a..." Mich trails off.
"As a matter of curiosity, what brings you to
this awful planet?"
"This lady is the Marchioness. This is her
planet. And you ploughed a furrow through her front lawn."
"I see. Sorry to have inconvenienced you so much.
It was not my intention to be... well, here, at all, actually, much
"How did you know to make a bee-line for the
"I did not. I decided to land someplace with more
water than the desert, which is apparently pretty prevalent on this
planet. I was sort of aiming for forest."
That is not implausible. Shark is of course
suspicious, but that's his job. All the data wiped from the
fighter's log module adds to the paranoia. But if you're going to
land somewhere, a front lawn is better than ground level tree
trunks. If you couldn't make it to the starport, this is a
pretty decent place to land.
Mzrk continues, "Ultimately I'm trying to get
back to Jewell.
There is an Imperial
base there, I think. I'm in the Imperial Navy and I need to...
most of my fleet was destroyed, I think, so... ah..."
"When?" asks Mich.
"Relatively recently, in the past few months."
"What were the dates, and where were you?"
"It was the Battle of Rhylanor around 140-1123.
We were stationed at Fulacin,
jumped to Rhylanor.
We launched a surprise attack on the Yathanyi Tigress Battle
Group and the Rhylanor Fleet. We lost. Horribly. Almost my entire
fleet was destroyed, and I've been sort of trying to do some odd
jobs to get me passage back."
Nightshade would have been at Tussinian
then, when they grabbed Santanocheev's double at the Battle of
Tussinian. They found out about the Battle of Rhylanor later. That
would put him in the Loyallist side.
Mzrk of course doesn't know what side these guys
would be on, if they were involved or even knew about it. He
continues, "Not much to tell about that, other than obviously we
lost. Horribly. Irreversibly. Irretrievably. And consequently I'm
quite lost. I shouldn't be anywhere near this planet."
Mich says, "Well, if you stick around, we may be
able to get you someplace else."
"I'm a pretty good pilot. I tend to use those
skills to, you know, trade. Galanglic is not my
"We have a pilot. And fighter pilot is a bit
different from starship
"I flew a ship once that was a starship. It was
very fondly referred to as The Poop Bucket by its crew. I
don't know what kind of ship it was, I couldn't decipher it, nor
could they. So we don't really know. But it worked pretty good. Got
us out of a tough jam. So who's your pilot?"
"Lucas. He's elsewhere."
It suddenly occurs to Mzrk that this might be a
building rather than a ship. The room here has way too much open
space for a ship, and the internal walls are too thin. There's a
view out over the forest, a couple of hundred meters down. The outer
walls are curved, as if this was a large cylinder, but it's really
much more likely this is the top of a tall building.
They have been monitoring any transmissions of
course. He has his puter back but is not transmitting, and the
footballs are showing only the usual background.
Mzrk says, "Where exactly am I? You said I'm on
some planet? Some person's planet?"
"Yes, hers. She's the noble of this system."
"Ah, fantastic. Pleasure to meet you, and all
that. Sorry to have intruded into your... planet. How could I get
down to this surface?"
"We'll be heading there shortly," says Mich.
"Really? Fantastic. I'd like to, you know,
collect some of my items and such."
At this point Kalida offers him some Blockade
Bourbon. Do fish drink? They explain that this is the major product
of this world.
"Ah yes, bourbon," says Mzrk. "I am quite
familiar with this human drink."
"Not this human drink," says Mich. "This is
bourbon from Nakege. This is the best bourbon in the
"A subjective analysis."
The crew laugh. Mich says, "Supported by the
going price of this bourbon in other parts of the Imperium. Give it
Mzrk tastes the Blockade Bourbon. It is quite
something. It really is quite something, delicious. "Fantastic!" he
Mich says, "This bourbon normally sells for one
to three million credits a bottle. This is a blockaded system.
You've never heard of Blockade Bourbon?"
"No, I haven't, but I am certainly glad to have
"The only bottles of it offworld had to run
through the blockade. And by your own experience, running through
the blockade is not something taken lightly."
"It turns out to be quite difficult. More
difficult than I had previously anticipated. If it sells that well,
it's less fortunate news that we can't get it off the planet. It
seems like it would be a lucrative business."
"It probably is. Now, to get you off the planet
we have to find somebody who is willing to run the blockade."
"As long as there were a jump ship waiting
outside the blockade, it might be possible for me to run it. If I
had something to run it in."
"Well," says Mich, "We're not going to hand you
bottle of bourbon on spec just so that you can run a blockade."
"I'm certain that's not the case. Although it did
seem like a nice suggestion. I understand we just met, and all..."
"Maybe we can continue this discussion at the
"Perhaps. My name is Zel, by the way. Everybody
just calls me Zel. Commander in the Imperial Navy, and probably
still one. It depends how things turn out."
Mich introduces everyone: Kalida Siena,
Marchioness of Nakege, Brigadier General, retired; Shark, the guy
who treated him; Mich Saginaw, Lieutenant Commander, Imperial Navy,
retired; and Chuck.
Zel says he was on a vargr ship quite recently.
They had some fun, he says, at least the vargr call it fun. "By
which I mean death-defying narrow escapes from death."
The crew smile. They've all had those, some of
them more than others.
Mich suggests moving to the Lodge. Shark says
that while some of them should return to the Seneschals, he insists
that Zel stay here for observation, at least overnight. He should
definitely spend the night in Sick Bay, although he can have access
to the Lounge too of course. The lift only goes between those two
floors, and all the doors except to Sick Bay seem to be locked.
The more Zel sees of this, the more it looks like
a luxurious Imperial building. It's probably a cylinder on top of a
spire reaching up from the forest floor, perhaps the Marchioness's
official residence. The white mansion in the woods, the Forest Lodge
they called it, is presumably for her to relax away from the
constant pressure of noble duties. There's really no way this could
be a ship, not with all this space and the construction and
materials. The cylinder would be about 20m in diameter; the ceilings
are 3m high. There is silence, no humming or vibrations, and
suspending a ship this perfectly still over an oak forest would be
odd. It surely must be a building.
Still, Zel would like his personal effects. On
his way out of the Lounge, he says, "Before we all leave, can I
just, like, collect my belongings? I know you guys are trying to
assess my situation here, but I just kind of woke up in a strange
place and I'd like my stuff. I'm sure you can understand how it --
what do you humans call it? -- distress me."
Shark assures him they will pick up his stuff
tomorrow, when it's daylight again.
That satisfies Zel. He'd like to find a private
place to check his puter, but Shark is watching him closely and it's
likely that he'll be monitored even when he's apparently alone.
Chuck asks him what kind of food he eats
normally. Zel says he's quite fond of a human dish called sushi, but
yes, he can eat the meat that everyone here seems to subsist on.
Chuck does say he'll see what he can do; he has his own smoker here,
and his smoked meats are quite good. Zel assures him that his race
are omnivores, and don't have any special requirements he needs to
take into account.
Shark asks him what he is, and Zel tells him he's
Qldrn, from Qldr. The human name is Violante;
it's not far from here, in the Aramis subsector.
So Shark escorts Zel back to Sick Bay, while
Misha, Kalida, and Teri will go down to the Lodge and stay
overnight. The remainder will keep the ship ready to respond quickly
if they need to move, and will have someone on watch the whole time.
Robert shuttles the two nobles and Teri down to
the Lodge. It's quite late now, but no doubt they'll have to explain
something to the Seneschals at least in the morning.
The fighter could be picked up easily while
everyone at the Lodge is distracted; in the middle of the night Mich
will steal it away. As long as no-one notices, they just can say
they had it salvaged without going into details. Of course they
won't tell Zel about it until they've had a chance to go over it.
The salvage operation is straightforward and
takes about 45 minutes, once Kalida tips them off that no-one is
looking. The fighter does fit in the cargo lift, although not with
Once aboard and secured on Deck E, Mich takes a
good look to try to document all the damage it's ever had. It seems
like it was all from taking the edge of a nuclear blast, and from
crashing through trees and bouncing around on the grass. It looks
like it was brand new a few months ago, produced by General
Products. The gcarrier will be parked in front of the main cargo bay
in Deck D now, perhaps more convenient than Deck E anyway.