(11) To Be Named

The Crusader Campaign (062-1123)

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062-1123 : Adabicci / Lunion / Spinward Marches

    Marchioness Kalida Siena has been playing golf all morning, but now that lunch with the Duke of Adabicci is approaching, the first thing she does on arriving back at Sir Geoffrey's mansion is to change.  The second thing is to seek out Edward "Shark" Teeth in the library.
    Shark has been reading the complete works of Marquis Marcus Crestworthy.  He is privately disappointed that there is no mention of the Marquis' unusual experience in the Navy.  Kalida tells him that the Duke is here, and that lunch will be served soon on the lawn.
    Robert Morris is also in the library; he returns to Nightshade to watch from there.  Jack will join him at the teleconference center he sets up at the command dias on the bridge.
    Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead is on board the ship too, monitoring Helia on her klatrin trip.
    Vonish Kehnaan is already busy, helping prepare the lunch.
    Misha Ravanos has been sitting on a chair in the lawn area, reading.

Misha on the Lawn
(Referee and Misha's player only)

    Kalida and Shark walk in to the lawn area.  There are four people at the lunch table; Kalida knows all of them.  The Duke is accompanied by his eldest son Eduard, Lord Adabicci, and by Sir Arken Hauther.  Sir Geoffrey is at the table but clearly not involved in the discussion.  Misha is seated on a lawn chair reading.
    This is very interesting, as one of the first items on Kalida's list was to ask about him.  She wonders how long he's been here.  Baroness Arahani is on Ianic, as Geoff told her earlier.
    Shark's concern is whether they -- and Sir Arken in particular -- know they have a black ship.  While it would be obvious if noticed, there is a chance they did not come in that way and haven't seen it yet.
    The party of three are sat at a table engaging in intense conversation.  They are looking at some documents, which Sir Arken puts away as he sees the newcomers approach.
    Shark walks over to Misha and quietly tells him what's going on.
    Kalida, on the other hand, walks directly over to the Duke.
    "Ah, good to see you again!" says Adabicci, standing up to greet her.  "I gather you've been busy.  I'm glad you've finally made it out here.  If you give us a few minutes, we'll set up in a moment, I think."

    Servants are in fact already starting to set up another table to serve lunch.  It looks like it'll be about ten minutes.  Sir Arken pulls the papers out again and the three arrivals resume their discussion, which from their expressions must be quite serious.
    Kalida walks over to Shark and Misha; Shark is asking Misha if he saw a ship approach.  Kalida is the only one who did see the gravcraft arrive.  Shark wonders if Sir Arken had a chance to visually inspect their ship.  Kalida points out it is in the sheep field, some distance from the house, and not in the direction from which they came.
    Shark says that given the Duke is here, security will be tighter.  He looks around.  The same people are around here, and it's not visibly more secure.  He expected this: the better people are on duty now.  Robert has told him that there are no listening devices here -- the conversations should be secure.  He then tells Kalida about the conversation between Sir Geoffrey and his security chief.
    Misha subtley points out Eduard, and asks Kalida if she knows who he is.  She of course does, and tells him.  Misha says he's had dealings with that man before, several years ago, but he was not using that name or station at the time.  The dealings went well.  It was, he says, nothing to be ashamed of or frightened of, it was just business.  It was in his former occupation.

    After a while, Sir Arken slips his papers back in his briefcase.  The four of them get up and move over to the lunch table, which is now ready.  The Duke glances meaningfully at Kalida, and Nightshade's representatives move over too.
    Shark notices it is quite different from previous occasions here, in that there are very few people left in this entire room.
    The Duke is at the head of the table, with Eduard on his right and Kalida on his left.  Shark is next to Kalida, with Misha opposite him beside Eduard.  Sir Arken is seated at the foot.  Sir Geoffrey has unobtrusively left the room.
    Drinks arrive.  The regulars get their usual, but even Misha and Shark have apparently been subtley observed, as an appropriate drink arrives for them too.  Coffee is produced for Shark, as well as Eduard.  The Duke has a martini, while Kalida has a schooner of sherry.
    Kalida introduces her captain and first officer to the Duke, Eduard, and Sir Arken.
    Eduard nods and smiles to Misha, who does the same in return.
    The Duke starts the conversation with pleasantries, aoming which he enquires of Kalida whether she's been to her estates yet.  She says she's working on the problem.  Adabicci says that the commission will take its time, but he is certain that it will come to the reasonable conclusion.  Nakege is pleased to here that.
    Quickly, however, Adabicci gets to the point.  He says he understands that Nakege has some information about some rather significant happenings.
    Nakege says they had an interesting discussion a while back with Sir Arken, and wonders if they discussed it?
    Adabicci nods, "Yes, it was very useful."  Shark looks questioningly at his choice of words, but says nothing.
    Nakege continues, "What did Geoff tell you?"
    Adabicci says, "That I needed to get over here right now and talk to you, but that it was ok to wait until the morning."  He makes a sweeping gesture and says, "We can dispense with formality here, if you're ok with that."
    Shark asks if they came in across the sheep pasture.
    The Duke tells him they came in from the other end.
    "Any particular reason?" asks Shark, "Because that's where our ship is currently resting."
    "Ah, the invisible one."
    Kalida says brightly, "It's quite visible right now."
    "So, what's going on?"
    "I'm not entirely certain of everything," Kalida starts.  "Where do you stand with Norris?"
    The Duke chuckles quietly.  "As it stands right now, I stand with Norris.  Which is phrasing that I am quite sure that none of you will repeat.  I don't wish to commit myself in case he does something stupid.  I don't think it's very likely."
    "What have you heard about the Tigress battle group out of Iderati?"
    "Painfully little.  I've heard the official news reports and not a lot else, which is interesting in itself.  They appear to have it locked down."
    "I might be able to enlighten you.  No odd rumors?"
    "No, not sufficient rumors."
    "How about retired Admiral Santanocheev?  Any rumors of him recently?"
    "Depends what you call rumors.  Tell me what you've got."
    "We believe he has the Tigress battle group," says Kalida.  "We also believe that he is involved with INISO, which is part of what we discussed with Sir Arken.  Consider the position he held at the time of his retirement, I would consider it possible that he is, essentially, INISO."
    The Duke looks at Sir Arken.  Sir Arken smiles and shrugs.
    "Thank you, " says the Duke, "That is very useful.  We knew there was something."
    "I have very little but guesses on the relationship between Santanocheev and Norris, but I gather it was adversarial, to say the least.  Do you know what and where Santanocheev has been in the interim?"
    "No.  We have heard nothing.  Occasionally we've run a few months behind, but in general, no.  Retired admiral don't usually vanish."
    "We've found some information that tells us that Santanocheev is gather several other fleets out of Five Sisters.  Iderati, Karin, Wonstar, Emape...  Three of them are meeting at Karin, all going through Iderati and Faldor and meet at Dawnworld on 094.  That's an interesting direction.  It also puts them two jumps from here and five from Mora.  They can get to Mora that way avoiding any world on the news lines."
    "Do you have a schedule for this?"
    "Yes," says Kalida.  The Duke looks surprised, and lets her continue.  She says, "A large fleet would be making these jumps in ten days minimum.  Assuming worst case, they could get to here by 112 or to Mora by about 153."
    "You seem to have made the analysis."
    "It's just a guess."
    "Would you care to take that, incorporate some information I have, and come back with a revised estimate tomorrow?"
    "Very much."
    "Assume they have free passage through Glisten subsector and will probably be adding on fleets there."
    "Anyone else that you know of?"
    "I gather from the the unpleasantness at Rhylanor that they have the fleet but not the nobles, so we are counting the Rhylanor fleets on their side too.  Essentially they have Rhylanor's fleets, which is all that's important.  There could be some conflict within the fleet, but if they have the Naval chain of command, at worst that would tie some stufff up at the capital.  Aramis has made himself scarce.  We are expecting that Aramis is neutral, and has merely left them so they don't have to defend the back end of Rhylanor."
    "Right," says Kalida.  "What about Lanth?"
    "We're not sure about Lanth.  Regina is securely Norris', and Jewell doesn't have anything effective, and of course it's Regina's."
    "Considering the difficulties with the Navy, I couldn't vouch for any particular fleet, but I believe that the Duke of Trin supports Norris."
    "That's useful.  We were not sure about Trin."
    "I'll have to run more numbers with Glisten.  Do you know how many fleets he'll get from there?"
    "Probably all of them."
    "Is Norris at Mora?"
    "That of course would be a state secret unless he has a public appearance, and I don't believe his personal appearance would be necessary."
    Kalida nods.  She says, "It would be convenient if he were somewhere else gathering a group of fleets."
    "We knew the structure was there.  We did not anticipate it being used."
    Shark asks, "How long has this structure been there."
    The Duke glances over at Sir Arken, who says, "I don't want to be specific.  It's fairly substantial.  It's not recent.  Your information helped me track down some connections, thank you."
    Kalida says, "How long has Glisten been with Santanocheev?"
    "Since 1107.  Glisten is not on the front line of a potential war with the Zhodani, and stands to benefit greatly from a conflict in the other subsectors.  It's easier to take a hard line when you're not on the front line."
    Eduard looks over at Misha, and says, "Mr. Ravanos, you've been quiet.  Do you have an opinion on this?"
    Misha indicates that Kalida is expressing a consensus.  He asks Eduard for his opinion.
    "Mine?  I too show solidarity with..." He smiles at the Duke.
    Shark says, "My question is, where is this mass of fleets going once assembled?"
    Kalida says, "With that many fleets they could do a heck of a lot."
    Eduard says, "Well, my opinion is that he's going to hit Mora, grab control, and head for Capital.  My father thinks he might just stop at Deneb and take Archduke, at least for a while."
    "I think it depends on how quickly and easily he consolidates power.  I think if he gets to Mora and takes it easily, he won't pause very long."
    "I'm agreed with my father that it will not be easy.  That is especially likely as you indicate Trin is on Norris' side, and has an astrographic advantage there."
    "But again, we can't trust Naval forces."
    "Yes... There are some we can trust.  We can trust Mora.  We can trust Regina."
    Shark says, "Well, someone at Mora shot at us."
    "Yes, that is true, but there is a difference between overruling a Duke and overruling an Archduke.  From the profiles of the Naval commanders, they will go with the Archduke over overriding orders, we believe."
    "The question is, given fleet discipline and military discipline in general, whether you can trust the fleet or the personnel of the fleet are different questions."
    "They are indeed.  That is why we are sure that Regina and Mora are supporting the Archduke, pretty much no matter what.  If Norris himself decided to march on Capital, they would go with him.  There is a catch... again, my father disagrees, but I am of the opinion that if Santanocheev were to move on Capital he would get support from at least one of the other Archdukes."
    Kalida asks, "Would that be enough?"
    "Hard to say," replies Eduard, "Depends on where everyone else fell and how they managed to do it."
    The Duke says, "Eduard is a little more inclined to ascribe global implications to things.  Personally, my opinion is that Dulinor would go down on whichever side appeared to have the advantage, whichever could push him the furthest.  If Santanocheev marched on Capital alone, then probably the advantage would lie with supporting the Emperor.  Eduard thinks he's crazy enough to go the other way.  I think he's been reading too much Gavrolovitch, myself."  The Duke grins.
    Shark asks, "I've got an off the wal question.  Do we really know what happened at the system that bottled up, stopped the invasion of the Cockroaches, Dulu?  And who did that?"
    "Yes we do.  It was the Imperial Admiral in charge."
    "And he is with who at this point?  And more importantly, is his technology with who at this point?  That changes the balance of power.  If it is what I suspect it was, the battle for these systems might not be as bitter as we hoped they are."
    "That fleet is expeditionary and not geographically attached.  Grand Admiral Winchester is... reliable.  It is not a substantial force that would push things one way or the other."
    "And if someone walked in with a warrent?"
    Kalida says, "I would have thought that Admiral West would also be reliable."
    The Duke says, "West is... at this stage in his career, he's more inclined to go with what the credentials say he's supposed to do.  He's not going to step out of line.  Winchester is more free thinking than that, which is why he had a mission like that."
    Shark says, "I'm just worried about the use of that -- ability -- closer to here."
    "Nothing magical about that ability.  It's not what the news said it might be.  There's nothing beyond normal Imperial technology operating there.  He achieved the mission, yes, it's bottled up.  There's no operative star trigger in any Imperial unit, if that was your question."
    "That was my question," says Shark.
    "We have doubts whether the Darrians have an operative star trigger, although they maintain a unit to that purpose.  One day if you get bored, you might want to go and find out if they really do have one."
    Kalida smiles, 'We haven't been bored in a very long time."
    Sir Arken adds, "By the way, we have confirmed that Zett was an INISO Red Zone.  One of the leads that we followed down.  There was no other reason than that.  They simply stated a reason and it was approved."
    Sharks asks, "Any idea what the retired Admiral might have been looking for in his recent expeditionary walkabout?"
    Clearly no-one has any idea.  The Duke says they'd be glad to hear any suggestions.
    Shark muses, "So we suspect that the fleets of Glisten are going to join with those of Five Sisters.  But not with the ones of Trin's Veil, and not with the ones of Mora.  Who else might there be?  Lanth and Vilis?"
    Kalida asks the delicate question: "What about Lunion?"
    The Duke says, "Lunion is...  They are not of course under my command.  They would certainly defend themselves and not join in any coup.  I also don't think they' d hurtle off tomorrow to defend Mora.  They'd stay and defend here.  The Duke of Lunion's major concern is the proximity to the Sword Worlds, and I don't see that changing.  If anything I would see that if there was a march on Mora, the Duke of Lunion would be more concerned with defending here, just in case the Sword Worlds would decide to take advantage."
    Kalida says, "Well, I have to say they're gathering a substantial number of fleets from Glisten on their way.  It wou'd not surprise me if they diverted a few to attack you."
    "It would it surprise me."
    "Would Lunion come in on your side?"
    "Absolutely, yes.  They will defend this subsector.  In fact, given my proximity to the border, the bulk of the forces are nearer me."
    Kalida nods.  The Duke is indeed the front line.
    The Duke adds that Geoff is going to be taking a well deserved vacation... somewhere.
    Sharks says he hears there's a ship going coreward for an archaeological dig.
    "Excuse me?"  The Duke looks at Shark.
    Shark says, "The Witchhunter, with Marquis Crestworthy.  He's coming by on his way to an archaeological dig."
    "Well unless he's arriving within the next month or so..."
    "He could be here any day."
    Kalida adds, "I did expect him to be here around 085, but he did send a message he was making quite good time.  We were planning on going up to Victoria."
    "What's at Victoria?" asks the Duke.
    "An Ancient site."
    "Well, that's probably as safe a place as any."
    "Of course he might be bored stiff there," observes Kalida.
    "Sometimes it's better to be bored," sighs the Duke.
    Sharks says he understands that Sir Geoffrey and the Marquis were friends in the service.
    "Yes," says the Duke.  "The Marquis took up academics, and Geoff took up golf; I understand with much the same motivation."
    Kalida returns to the main subject.  "Why now?'" she says.
    The Duke says, "I haven't the slightest idea.  I was hoping you might be able to answer that.  Sir Arken told me that you -- particularly Bridgehead and so on -- have historically been in the center of trouble."
    Shark agrees.  "The Baron has been in places where there are..."
    Eduard says carefully, "I personally was wondering if there was something you had done that might have attracted his attention, that might have prompted him to decide it was necessary to act now, before aanything else happened?  By all our analysis, the structure has been in place for a while.  There's nothing I've seen that even in my -- as my father puts it -- more global scale to indicate that now is a good time."
    Misha asks, "Is there anything that happened with Anastasia that might have triggered this?"  He adds, "I'm thinking particularly of its final demise."
    Eduard says, "Time doesn't work for that.  If that was the trigger it would have happened then.  What's happened in the last six months?  Some news got to Santanocheev that caused him to take off with the battle group.  That is where his overt action started."
    Misha says, "I'm wondering why some event that happened to us would cause Santanocheev to move against Norris?"
    "Some event convinced him he needed to be in control?"
    Shark suggests, "Or something happened that his chances of gaining control would be less."
    A brief discussion comes up with no obvious answer.  There were the incidents at Mora and Wonstar, and the INI destroyer that blew up near Zett, but no single event presents itself.
    Shark, however, says, "We could have survived our trip to Zett."
    Kalida agrees, "Simply wandering around with something from Zett caused him to go to Zett, to check it out that it really was his."
    Eduard says, "So you may have taken something from Zett, and he went to check out whether it was gone or not.  And was it gone?"
    Shark says, "If you want to blame us..."
    "Blame?  No.  I'm looking for a trigger.  So.  Humor me.  What was on Zett?"
    Misha says, "A ship.  The ship.  Our ship.  We found it off Zett."
    Sharks adds, "The Third Eye was destroyed in the battle with the destroyer."
    Eduard says, "And what destroyed the..."
    Shark interrupts, and says again, "The Third Eye was destroyed in the battle with the destroyer."
    "The Third Eye did not destroy the destroyer in return.  So what you have is a ship that is capable of taking out an Imperial destroyer.  That you salvaged, probably legally -- that depends, did you actually run into any force or any indication that you were not permitted to recover it, or did anyone tell you...?"
    "There was no identification anywhere within this system."
    Kalida says, "It was completely empty when we went there.  There was nobody there."
    Shark adds, "There was a request for our identification but nothing identifying who was requesting."
    Misha says, "No-one told us that we were not permitted."
    Eduard says, "You're saying that the possibility of its absence was important enough for Santanocheev to grab a battle group and go out there?  And its confirmed absence was enough to gather the fleets and move?"
    Misha says, "I believe that is a definite possibility."
    Kalida says, "It appears to be the case."
    Eduard laughs, "We should have come in from the other direction.  How big is this thing?"
    Sharks says, "1600 tons."
    Kalida says, "Too big for the lawn."
    "Are you serious?" asks Eduard.  He nods seriously to himself.
    Shark addresses Sir Arken.  He says, "Pertaining to the ship, we were doing some research on Mora during our visit, and we were asked by a certain person in a certain office, well I was told explicitly that if I keep going, I would be hunted down."
    "Yes, we tracked that down," says Sir Arken, "That was one of the leads that we followed up successfully.  It was very useful, thank you."
    Kalida observes that Llannamith is 500ktons.  Silently she reflects on her simulations of the expander on the Happy Fun Ball; she can't vaporize it, but can definitely mission kill.  Santanocheev would surely be commanding on Llannamith herself.
    Shark looks over at the Duke and says, "The misplacing of that ship would certainly have changed any timetable I had planned, especially if it was clear it wasn't being carried around."
    "That's an interesting turn of phrase," says the Duke, "Could you expand on that some more, less obtusely?"
    "It's moving itself, clearly, not being transported."
    "This is a new thing?"
    "To Santanocheev it is.  The activation of this ship is certainly news to him."
    Misha adds, "Surprising.  Shocking."
    Kalida says, "Upsetting."
    "Good," says the Duke with a smile.
    Shark says, "That was one piece that caused him to move.  There were probably others.  I can't imagine one bullet no matter how golden would be enough to start a war."
    "You would be surprised," says the Duke.
    Kalida says, "He's been planning this for a long time.  It would not surprise me if this was enough to trigger him to do it now, rather than later."
    Misha says, "I wonder if Santanocheev thinks our actions are guided by some other Imperial agency.  This would not be a freak event, a lone bullet, but indications that the tides are shifting against him and he needs to move now."
    The Duke says, "I have to ask this question.  Is there somebody else?  Are you working for somebody else?"
    Misha says, "No, we are entirely independent."  Kalida and Shark support him enthusiastically.
    The Duke says, "So this valuable asset is indeed the personal yacht of the Marchioness of Nakege?"
    Kalida says, "When it's convenient.  I'm just a front man."
    Misha says, "It is the property of its crew."
    "That's good," says the Duke.
    Shark says, "But we are a little in the dark as to whom to trust entirely."
    "Well, Nakege, as an Imperial noble you're going to be forced to pick on side or the other here."
    Kalida says quickly, "I know which side I'm on.  I support Norris."  That is strictly correct, as her marquisate owes fealty to Norris in his role as Duke of Regina.
    Everyone watches the Duke intently to see how he answers the implied question.  The Duke says, "Good.  Do you plan to take any direct action?"
    "I would say that our primary strength lies in information gathering and dissemination.  However, if a direct strike were required, perhaps it would be possible."
    The Duke says, "And you would have no problems in doing that?"
    Eduard looks at Misha and says, "I believe that I could I could vouch for their ability to carry out what was necessary."
    The Duke nods appraisingly.
    Shark says, "The question becomes when, where, and with what?"
    "It appears we have some time," says the Duke.
    Kalida says, "In some ways yes, in other ways, no.  Although there's a lot more time that I thought.  I didn't know that his movements were already known.  You are more ready for him than I thought."
    "Ready in person, yes.  There are very few people outside this... room."
    Shark asks, "How informed is the Archduke?"
    "Not enough.  How fast could you get to Trin?  Could you get there fast enough for Trin to mobilize and get in the way?  I gather you know him personally."
    Kalida says, "I have met him, yes.  It is quite possible that we could get him the information he needs in time, yes."  She knows they can do it in three jumps.
    The Duke asks, "When do you estimate that Santanocheev would be ready to move from Dawnworld?"
    "They could possibly leave Dawnworld on 098.  They should be ready to go, so it shouldn't be much later than that."
    Shark guess that Trin would take about 20 days to mobilize, so 80 days from now he could be at Tivid.
    Kalida says he can't get to Mora in less than five jumps, maybe six if he delays in Glisten.  She then asks, "How much more information does the Archduke need?"
    Eduard says, "He needs to pull together an effective defensive force.  He needs to know it's coming.  Defending is much easier than attacking."
    Shark asks, "Do you think he'd risk going through Lunion on his way to Mora?"
    "No," says the Duke.  "Any action he fights along the way would delay it."
    "So again that limits him to four systems, two of which have clear disadvantages.  If I were to try to defend away from Mora, I would choose Pimane or Tivid.  But then again, he's going to know that too."
    "Right," says Kalida, "And with enough fleets he could run a fake if he wanted."
    "He can't go into Hexos because it has a Navy base.  It would be a fight rather than a stage and leave."
    Kalida points out that with five fleets, it wouldn't take long to overwhelm the base.
    Shark counters, "A B class starport Naval base, you're not going to get in without anyone leaving."
    The Duke says, "But at that point, it's a little too late to mobilize anything.  You don't have to beat the news, you just have to beat the fleets.  Once you can establish yourself and become the defender, then you're in good shape.  You just need, as Nakege says, a five or six advantage."
    Shark says, "If he's willing to battle, he can go into any of those four.  I'm not a naval tactician -- one of the best ones I know is on the ship, we can ask him.  Between him and the Marchioness, we can come up with something good.  So yes, we can probably get the information down to Trin's Veil in a reasonable amount of time."
    Kalida says, "And depending on where Norris might be, we could get him the information fairly quickly as well, if that were necessary."
    Eduard says, "It sounds to me like it would be very useful for you to do some analysis for a while, then, perhaps overnight?  I gather you have some more golf to play today, and I would hate to interrupt my brother's priorities."
    Kalida agrees to do so.
    Misha looks at the Duke and asks, "What's your interest in this?"
    "The stability of the Imperium, however that plays out."
    "So if Santanocheev chose to stop at Mora, would that constitute stability?"
    "No.  Absolutely not.  An armed coup is not stability."
    Kalida says, "And having taken command, he would immediately act to undermine the stability and peace that Norris has put together."
    "Yes, we could definitely see a war on the Frontier."
    Misha says, "You don't imagine that he'd turn around and swear fealty to the Emperor?"
    "He might, but if he did, he'd move on the Zhodani.  He'd undermine whatever he saw as the gains they've achieved through taking advantage of the peace.  Stability lies with Norris."
    "So when you were asked the question did you support Norris, did you not answer?"
    "Because I don't know what he's going to do.  You never do know.  There's a history of -- not being Imperial, you probably don't have all the history -- admirals in the Spinward Marches having significant military victories consolidating on that by marching on the Emperor.  There's an outside chance that if Norris is that type of person -- which I don't believe he is -- that if he had a military victory over Santanocheev, he could try and position that to move on to the Emperor.  In that case I would not support him.  Until such time as he appears to be undermining the stability of the Imperium, yes I would support him."
    Kalida says, "Which so far he has shown no signs of doing."
    "Quite the opposite, in fact, yes."
    "But of any of the archdukes, he would stand the best chance of winning, having defeated Santanocheev and consolidated more."
    "Were he to succeed, he would be the most likely of the current archdukes to have a viable continuing grasp on the throne.  That relies on his perception as a moderate.  There are others who could probably grab it more easily, but it would split the Imperium down the middle."
    Shark says, "So at this point, our immediate plans for the day are to take this information, make some kind of estimate of where it would be best for Santanocheev to go, if he were to go after Mora, make some sort of analysis of what we would like Trin to do with his forces to support Mora, and come back with that tomorrow?"  He smiles, "Nothing like a little homework!"
    Eduard laughs, "Welcome to the world of politics, Nakege!"
    The Duke says his plan is to relax and enjoy lunch, and to stay here and avoid this business until tomorrow morning.

    Kalida later, after lunch, points out that back on Rhylanor, Trin knew about Santanocheev.  He should have at least have contingency plans.  That would make his mobilization much quicker.
    Shark agrees, saying he is no doubt running exercises and shortening shore leave.  He adds that they can get to Trin in three jumps, but then he has to send out messages from there.  Then it'll be a several jumps to get on station in the Mora theater. He goes on to say that Santanocheev has had 20 years of research and hasn't made any progress on that base.  That doesn't mean he doesn't have other areas of research, so he doesn't want them to be completely surprised when something turns up.
    Kalida says this takes precedence over the archeological dig.  The Marquis can take Geoff.
    Shark adds that the only person they should have on the dig is Jaek, and he's at Bowman trying to make the other archeological site work.  He reminds everyone that if they have friends that they need to put in a very safe location, they have an entire hotel they can power up and use.
    Kalida says she bets Santanocheev is going through Tussinian, since the longer he stays in Glisten the better for him, Dawnworld to Mithras to Bicorn and then Tussinian, and Tivid, Grille and Mora.  She adds that by an odd coincidence, it was Tukera's operations on Tussinian that they were deciding on Rhylanor.
    With a laugh, Shark wonders how Tukera comes into this.
    Kalida says that's why it was important that Aramis, who is married to a Tukera, was supposed to be there and suddenly vanished.  She adds that this doesn't really have anything to do with the Tussinian decision, but it does seem likely that they would go through there.  It's more isolated than anywhere in Lunion.  Going to somewhere like Meleto wouldn't gain him anything, but he could go to Duale instead of Tivid.
    Shark agrees.  By the time he gets to Tussinian, the news that he is on his way is likely to spread on ships leaving the system.  The news from somewhere like Edenelt on the xboat route would take 42 days to get to Mora, and Santanocheev can beat that news.  So it doesn't really matter at that point, as long as he avoids major fights which could cause delays.  If he stays away from Navy bases, then he will have no trouble.
    Misha wonders if they should go straight to Mora.
    Kalida says that if they go to Trin first they can arrange a delay, and it's not far from there to Mora on their ship.
    Misha then asks if they do Trin to Mora, can they get back out of there to get him?
    Kalida says Santanocheev could be getting to Tussinian when they get to Mora, if everything is ready in Glisten to join up with them.
    Shark says that it's going to be hard to get Trin's fleets in the way.  Four fleets from Five Sisters, at least four from Glisten, that means over one fleet strength coming in on the first day.
    Kalida asks Misha how he feels about taking an active role if necessary.
    "What's in it for us?" asks Misha.
    Shark says they are an independent contracting vessel, and as such cause no responsibility to their employers if they do something wrong.
    Misha asks if they can get to Trin in time for him to act.
    Kalida and Shark assure him they can, providing he acts fast.  Shark then wonders aloud where the new Count of Fulacin ended up, but considers he probably isn't anywhere near this.  Kalida adds that Trin will be outnumbered, but it will make a difference.  There can be enough fleets on Tussinian to slow him down.  Then, even if Norris isn't on Mora, they can at least get the Duchess to mobilize something.
    Kalida assures Misha that they aren't just waiting for the Duke of Adabicci to tell them what to do -- but hte more information they can get from him, the easier it is for them to figure out what to do.
    Misha asks her, "So your loyalty to Norris is strictly because of that's what you're supposed to do?"
    Kalida says, "Not really, essentially the same reason the Duke supports Norris: stability, keeping the Domain and Marches safe.  Norris keeps things running relatively smoothly.  Santanocheev is going to destablize the region and possibly get us into a war with the Zhodani and Sword Worlds."
    Misha asks how much she trusts Adabicci.  "Have we just given Santanocheev all the information he needs?"
    Kalida laughs.  She says that historically the Duke has been a very strong supporter of the Archduke, and that she's going with the odds.
    The other issue Misha brings up is their various loyalties.  Their loyalty to the Arden Society is a matter of what they say, they can't spread information about the technology.  If an Imperial ship blew up mysteriously, that wouldn't violate it; if they handed the expander on to the Imperium, it would violate it.
    Shark is ready to invite the Duke on board if he has any doubts.
    Misha says he doesn't care about doubts.
    Shark wants the Duke to lead the grand tactical plan, at least until the Archduke.
    Misha is leaning that way, but clearly not as strongly.  He plans to take the Duke's suggestions as just that, because they are independent.  Shark is still connected strongly with the Imperium.  Misha also understands that they might get more out of this by volunteering than by asking for money up front.  He laughs that along with all the statements about what's in it for them, he's actually retired and in it for fun.  They can be a very successful privateer.