(5) To Be Named

The Crusader Campaign (027-1123 to 044-1123)

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027-1123 : 0610 / Lirian / Foreven

    Nightshade comes out of jump at 03:00, not accompanied by One Hole.  Callisto confirms that they are alone in this empty area, and that they are indeed in the correct place.  Edward "Shark" Teeth suggests that some of the caches might in fact be in empty areas like this.  Misha Ravanos wonders if any of them would be in stealth mode, but the rest of the crew are quick to point out that the ship's alarms would go off and lock weapons on if there was anything nearby.
    Fifteen hours later, One Hole arrives.  There is a brief discussion whether to leave it here, or whether to keep jumping with it slaved to Nightshade, but it's quickly decided that this is as good a place as any, and they don't want to be restricted by having to keep to empty areas.
    Mich Saginaw says that they should not power it down completely, but to keep station and stay out of the way of anything that approaches.  It must not allow anyone to board it without the correct passcode, and use any and all methods to prevent it.  Robert Morris immediately suggests the correct glyph meaning to use, but the galanglic speakers point out that they need to be able to be recognized too.  Robert agrees to set up One Hole to recognize any of this crew, and when the grunting chimps insist, he adds the galanglic phrase "Open caraway" so that they can send someone to collect it if they need to do so.  All the arrangements are made, and the ships separate.

    The next topic is where to go to get news.  Quorrn is on their route, in the Hinay Protectorate.  Of course the Protectorate isn't friendly with the Imperium right now, but Nightshade isn't an Imperial ship anyway, and it would be good to get the news from Hinay's point of view.
    That seems to be a good destination; Helia Sarina jumps them for Quorrn.

032-1123 : Quorrn / Reidan / Foreven

    While in jump, they've been thinking about stops they could make on the way to AdabicciFaldor is an attractive idea, to pick up beans and some supplies for Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead's babble juice.  One parsec from there is Bowman, where they have a pre-Maghiz Darrian base being prepared for them, and hopefully some income from lanthanum sources they've claimed there.

    They come out of jump in the Quorrn system, in stealth mode, at 15:00.  The intention is to pick up news their usual way by piggybacking; they need no supplies here, being thoroughly stocked up already.
    Helia brings them alongside an 800 std freighter, and Robert taps into their beam.  They bring up news from the Yonder Veterans Network.
    Several items get their attention.  The first (112-1121) is the last echoes of the Spinward War, with the Imperial Fleet that defeated the enemy finally leaving Foreven.  Another (255-1121) addresses news -they'd already heard in the Imperium, about the destruction of Professor Farol's Research Station on Karma in the Brod system.  Of course, there is news (087-1122) of the first battle at Hinay with the Tigress Battle Group.  There is also news (121-1122) about the world at which they are claiming to be registered, Dulu, although the reclamation of the system won't threaten their status as all the records would have been lost in the destruction on the mainworld during the war.  Shark is pretty sure that the system denial left behind by the Imperium would have been automated system defenses, not anything exotic like a Star Trigger.  Finally, there is news (243-1122) of the second battle at Hinay, where the Imperials used nuclear weapons that Mich is sure they picked up when they restocked at Zett.

    Again they have a discussion of the best route.  They decide that they don't really have time to go to Faldor and Bowman, and of the two Faldor is the more interesting in the short term, especially when Mich reminds them all about the GrandAm's supplies.  To their surprise, the Baron is a little reluctant, and when Shark reassures him he'll have an escort, he brushes that off brusquely and says he'd rather go alone.  He says he had some personal business there, and is unwilling to explain.  Still, he wants the supplies.  Shark wants the bean juice he's heard so much about -- it can't be worse than fish oil, he says.

    Their next stop, however, is definite.  They jump for Saxe/Five Sisters at 21:00.

038-1123 : Saxe / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

    Nightshade arrives at 09:00.  There seems nothing of interest here, and so they carry on to Karin at 10:00.  They briefly discuss going to Iderati to find out about the Tigress battle group, relying on stealth mode in this dangerous (for them) system.  The appeal of the Imperial FarSpace Service base attracts them, despite the prohibition on alcohol and heavy restrictions that wouldn't let them spend fun time ashore.  Bridgehead adds that the Scout and Naval Bases are in orbit where the prohibition doesn't apply, and he says it's an excellent place to sell booze.  Still, they weren't planning to be exactly obvious anyway.

043-1123 : Karin / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

    At 22:00 they come out of jump in the Karin system in stealth mode.  Shark has been spending the jump continuing to teach his robot dog to fly, since it has proven useful already.

    This time they want to get to a military ship, and there are certainly plenty to choose from.  The Imperial Navy is extremely active here, patrolling the system extensively.  It's much more activity that anyone on the crew had expected.  Only Imperial Navy ships are moving around, although there are civilian ships in orbit.
    The system is pretty small, just two worlds and an asteroid belt.  Shark says wryly that they probably shouldn't do a detailed scan right now.
    There is, however, no Happy Fun Ball here with or without its battle group.  Shark tries a passive scan on the repair facilities, but can't make anything out of it.  He smiles and says that it was only really for practice, because Robert will get any information they really need.
    Robert selects his target.  This presents a much harder task for Helia to match, as the ships aren't being as predictable, but she manages it just fine.
    Robert breaks into the Imperial Navy ship's systems.  The first tidbit he finds is that this ship has been reassigned with its fleet from Raweh.  It is under the direction of Imperial Navy Intelligence.
    Shark says in astonishment, "They're withdrawing from the border?"  He answers his own question, observing that it would not be easy for the Hinay Protectorate to come around from rimward, and so that would not be a credible threat.  He adds that the lady who detained him on Mora could have taken control of a fleet with whatever equivalent she had to an Imperial Warrant.
    On the other hand, there is no news.  Under direction of Imperial Naval Intelligence there is no news being reported or disseminated.  The ship still has the same standing orders, to defend Raweh, but this fleet has been overridden and is under the direct command of INI whenever such orders are issued.  Right now, this ship is on patrol, and is to be ready to leave at short notice.  Robert pulls out the battle group complement for this ship's unit.
    There is more than one group here; two of the three battleships insystem are not attached to this group, while the other is the flagship.  From the transponders they can tell that there are ships from Raweh, Wonstar, and Jone.  All have clearly been pulled back to Karin for some unknown reason.
    The two next possibilities discussed are to go to the IFSS station or to hack into the battleships; they choose the latter.

044-1123 : Karin / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

    Helia disengages them from this ship, and heads over to match closely with the flagship of the Wonstar group.  She holds them in place while Robert breaks in.
    This group from Wonstar is also under the direction of INI.  With some careful and more adventurous work, Robert finds some secure orders.  In 72 hours, this fleet will jump to Iderati.  It will then refuel and move on to secure Faldor.
    The crew stares at Robert in stunned shock.  Fragmented sentences burst across the bridge.
    Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege, and Shark are the first to break out with coherent comments.  Shark points out that Nightshade can easily outrun this group and be done on Faldor before the Navy gets there.  Perhaps they can figure out why they are moving on Faldor.  On the other hand, they will know that Nightshade was there, because they have to go in publically.
    Shark is eager to know why they are retreating from the border.  Kalida wants to know what importance Faldor might have.
    Shark turns to the Baron to ask why they want that system.  Bridgehead counters immediately that they must deem it strategically important.  Shark says it's not strategically important.
    Kalida answers that one: maybe they're planning to go through Faldor.  It's jump-4 from Iderati, which is jump-4 from here.  They are to secure it so other forces can pass through.  It avoids the Sword Worlds, and it also avoids the Imperial worlds in the area.
    Shark sees conspiracies everywhere -- this is forming another splinter Naval force.
    Kalida asks whether they are with, separate, or against the Tigress battle group.
    Robert suggests that the answers might be found in the flagship of the third group.
    As Helia repositions Nightshade, Shark gets back on the sensors and checks to see how many Scout ships are insystem -- there are plenty, they just aren't going anywhere.
    In this third flagship, Robert digs deep and finds some sealed orders that haven't yet been released to the captain of the ship.  They say that in about three weeks, this fleet is to jump to Iderati, on to Faldor, and then to secure Dawnworld.
    From there, Shark says, the next obvious move is coreward to Olympia.  He breaks into that train of thought, and says, "We have a problem.  If we go into Faldor publically... One, they will know we were here.  Two, they will eventually get the information that we ended up at Adabicci in twelve days, which is impossible.  Either we go in stealthily -- it is an E class starport -- and walk into town on foot, or gravcraft into town, or we don't go there at all."
    Mich says they have enough time to get to Adabicci.  It is 044-1123 now, and they need to be there on 085-1123.
    Shark butts in, saying they have forty-one days.  It's three jumps, meaning a few hours less than eighteen days of jump.  He continues, "My whole point here is that they will find out eventually.  Second point.  I'm going to ship a fleet in in three days to a system.  It's an independent system, there's no reason for anyone to know I'm going to be there, there's no reason for people to worry, I'm going to have a scout there."
    Kalida nods in emphatic agreement, "Absolutely."
    "So that system will not be a basic empty starport.  It will be an E class starport with a military presence somewhere insystem.  If I were planning this, I'd have a scout there."
    Again, Kalida nods, "I agree."
    "So there's going to be someone there watching.  Another point.  This operation is military intelligence.  They'll have someone on the ground there, just because they have manpower to waste."
    Robert points out that if there is any other ship on Faldor, they can make it look like they're part of that ship's crew.
    Kalida checks her notes and figures out that they are supposed to be at the dig on Victoria around 110-1123.  That won't leave them a lot of time on Adabicci, but Marquis Marcus Crestworthy should have set everything up so it runs smoothly.
    They quickly arrive at a consensus: they will skip Faldor this time, and come back to it later.
    Next is the matter of the IFSS.  When Mich and Bridgehead met with Jack the Younger here, it was in a bar, and led to the actual hidden base on the other world in this system, Lianne.

    That settles it.  Misha tells Helia to get them there quickly and quietly.  She does both.
    Shark looks around for the base, assuming it is pretty obvious.  It's not visually obvious, but he can pick up power signatures and so on.  There's very little here, apparently, except a few scout ships in orbit.  He suggests they try to intercept a communications beam between them and the base.  He does warn Robert that some scouts have nothing better to do than put booby traps in their computer systems; Robert is not sure whether he's being serious or not.
    As they get closer, they realize that these ships are unmanned, and find out that they are parked until further notice.
    Robert points out it would be rather obvious if they tried to commandeer any of these comm links for their own enquiries.  Piggybacking on a ship's communications is one thing, doing so to an unmanned ship is something else entirely.
    Shark considers that there are unlikely to be alarms on these ships.  Robert agrees they're probably just assuming nothing's going to happen.
    Bridgehead begs to differ.  This is not a scout base.  If Jack the Younger is still there, they're not expecting nothing to happen.
    Shark says that if the base itself is empty, they can query it and find out what happened.  He does add that might be better done in person.
    Robert says there should not be too much difficulty in breaking in physically, aside from working in vaccsuit since there is no atmosphere here.
    Misha agrees.  "Do it," he says.

    Callisto says that the station is pulling enough power to be running full life support, so it is probably manned.
    Shark asks the Baron, "What if you walked up to the door, knocked, and said 'I want to speak to Jack'?  Would they ask too many questions."
    The Baron shrugs.  "Somewhere along the line someone would probably ask how we got here, through the military patrols."  He adds that back then they trusted everyone and told the IFSS anything they wanted to know.
    Mich says they could drop the ship away, and take the gcarrier into the base.
    Shark says that surely they'd have sensors that would detect any normal ship approaching.
    Meanwhile the Baron, Mich and Teri are reminiscing about the fate of Anastasia's crew.  Chiang Ho left with NoName, who eventually turned up in the newd of the Ianic crisis.  Those two left before the loss of the ship, along with Avon and Alice, and Fostriades and Lia who were later supposedly assassinated by the Arden Society.  Many bodies were simply never found after the misjump disaster (notably including Brock, Joe, and Jill), and others died in the approach and landing on Pimane.
    Kalida mutters in the background that she would really love to know where they're going from Olympia.  After a short discussion, she and Shark agree it looks like they're preparing to attack the Imperium.  He then suggests that Adabicci might well be the target, stronger than Glisten perhaps.  On the other hand, if they go from Dawnworld to Paget, they're just one jump-4 from Glisten.  Kalida adds that Olympia is jump-4 from Adabicci.
    Mich brings back up the matter in hand: do they want to knock on the door of the IFSS station, or continue on?  He calls on the captain for a decision.
    Shark and Kalida ignore him.  They are settling on Adabicci as the more politically valuable target.
    Finally Mich gets Shark's attention.  Shark says that the only way to talk to the IFSS is for Mich and the GrandAm to walk up to the door and say they want to speak to Jack again.
    Misha asks Mich if he wants to do this.  Mich replies that he'll do it if Teri will come along too.  Even though she joined Anastasia after their visit here, she has been with them for six years and carries a big gun.  Misha tells Mich to take whoever he wants.
    Mich picks Teri and the GrandAm.  He points out that his main role is to be recognized, and they could use someone else along to do most of the talking.
    Shark and Misha have a brief conversation and decide that Misha will accompany them.
    Shark summarizes what they want to learn from the IFSS.  They want to find out if they know anything about the fleet, or have any suspicions.  Unless, of course, they're a part of it -- which Shark believes they are not, and have pulled themselves under their shell and are playing mouse to be ignored.  They should ask them what they know about these fleet movements.
    Shark points out that there is a slight risk that this is where Imperial Navy Intelligence is operating from, but they haven't seen enough communications to indicate that.
    Mich would feel more comfortable if they land some distance away and come in with the gcarrier.  Everyone is very happy with that idea, as it doesn't involve the away team appearing out of nowhere in front of the security cameras.
    Robert suggests heading back to one of the ships and using their communications system to ask if Jack was around.  This would be a little more plausible that they've docked with one of the ships.
    Misha likes this idea better.

    Helia takes Nightshade and matches with one of the scoutships, while Robert opens a comm link through it.  He'd like it to seem like it's coming from somewhere else, in case there are meson guns to open up on them, but with the tight beam link that isn't really going to work.
    The initial message is that Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead, Imperial Navy (retd.), formerly of Anastasia, would like to know if Jack is around, and requests a meeting.
    There is no response.
    They wait.
    "WHAT?" suddenly comes the response.  "What are you doing?  Who is this?"  It's a man's voice, obviously not the Jack they knew.  "You can't talk to us, we're shut down.  And what are you doing up there?  Who are you?"
    Mich says, "Is Jack around?"
    "I have no idea what you're talking about.  You can't talk to us over the radio.  We're not transmitting.  You can't talk to us on the radio."
    "Well?  Is Jack around?"
    "I don't know what you're talking about.  I can't possibly answer that.  I can't talk on the communications here."
    "Would you prefer us to meet face to face?"
    "I'm sure that you aren't supposed to be anywhere near here, but we certainly can't talk about it over communications, because I'm not supposed to be communicating."
    Shark whispers to Misha, "Captain, I think he's inviting us down."  Misha nods.
    "In fact, I'm going to turn this link off right now.  If you want to communicate with us, you'll have to find some other way to do it."
    Shark asks if the gcarrier would be visible from space.  Bridgehead says that if they stay low, they'll be indistinguishable from the ground clutter, given how far away the Imperial Navy ships are from here.  Then that's what they'll do.

    Helia swings Nightshade around and brings her down to the surface over the horizon from the base entrance.
    Marquis Korwin Vanderfield fires up the gcarrier, and Mich, Teri, Bridgehead, and Misha pile into it.  They leave through the main cargo lift and head off towards the entrance in terrain following mode.  Teri is well equipped with battledress and FGMP-15.  Bridgehead has his own battledress, while the other two suit up in vaccsuits.
    Shark and Kalida join Helia in sparkly pink.  Helia pulls the ship up to give clearance for Kalida to operate the missile launcher if needed.  She keeps them positioned between the gravcraft and any possible spaceborne attack.
    Korwin brings the gcarrier up to the entrance.  The other four climb out and walk towards the door.
    The door opens.  A figure inside is waving at them.  As they walk towards him, the figure points at the gcarrier and waves.  The four of them climb back into the gravcraft and Korwin pulls them into the bay.  The door closes behind them.
    Shark follows them in with remote viewpoint, while Callisto concentrates on the system in general.  Whatever happens now, they want to watch it...
    Kalida, however, goes back to the strategic discussion with Shark.  While Adabicci has the influential Duke and is important for all sorts of reasons including the Naval Base, Glisten is essentially three asteroid belts.  It has shipbuilding, a connection to the IISS for Scout Service training.  That would be the surprise attack, and have more resources to support the fleet for future operations.
    Shark adds that attacking Adabicci would significantly weaken the Imperium's border with the Sword Worlds.
    Kalida nods.  She continues, reminding him that the Duke of Adabicci played a significant part in discouraging Sword World military activities in 1107.  He's also known for being extremely loyal to the Archduke.