(12) To Be Named

The Nightshade Campaign (062-1123 to 065-1123)

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062-1123 : Adabicci / Lunion / Spinward Marches

    After lunch, Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege, has a golf game to complete.
    Misha Ravanos invites Edward "Shark" Teeth to join him in sword training.  Shark does have some long blade training, but obviously falls well short of Misha's prowess.  Shark quickly finds how much difference there really is.  Misha is spectacular, and while doing so moves in just the right way that he could use the blades of his zack to back him up.  It's a good thing that Misha has enough skill with the zack to keep the blades retracted.  Shark is not bad, however, and is good enough to be able to learn from Misha, while giving his captain a decent exercise.
    Later, Shark checks the TAS bulletin boards for any personal ads of interest.  He finds the usual coded contact information, but nothing out of the ordinary.

    By the evening Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege, has produced her analysis.  The crew discuss it privately, all acknowledging its likely accuracy.

Kalida's Analysis (and local mirror)
(Open to everyone)

    The crew also agree with Kalida that they should make a run to Trin to warn the Duke there, then on to Mora to warn Archduke Norris.  It is clear that if they make the run quickly, there will be plenty, or at least adequate, time for the nobility to prepare.
    Despite the consensus, Shark insists that Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead give his opinion.  The crew wait patiently while their tactical blowhard states his position.
    The Baron, surprisingly, mostly agrees with Kalida.  His main criticism is that it is too pessimistic, as he says you can count on seven day jumps every time, not six days.  He cannot, however, fault her analysis in any other way.
    Shark then calls Misha to make the call.  All the consensus in the world will not help if their captain isn't with them.  Shark points out that if they present this as Kalida produces, it will be obvious that they don't need to refuel.
    Kalida says the pink bars are intended to be deleted before presenting the analysis to anyone outside the ship.  Also, they don't need to take a dated letter -- she knows Trin personally, and is likely to take her word for it.
    Nevertheless, Shark is certain that at some point Trin's aides and Adabicci's aides will one day get together and compare dates and come to the obvious conclusion.  It is likely to take a couple of years, of course -- assuming they win, and if they lose it will probably never come to light.
    Misha backs Kalida's analysis and tactics.
    There is then also the question of who, if anyone, to leave behind to go with Marquis Marcus Crestworthy and Sir Geoffrey of Adabicci on their expedition to the ancient site on Victoria / Lanth.  While any non-essential crew are given the option, only Marquis Korwin Vanderfield takes it up.  He's heard about Marquis Marc's exploits with gravcraft and feels that at this time he'd contribute more on Witchhunter.  Much to everyone's relief, Vonish Kehnaan decides to stay on Nightshade.  If he stayed, he'd be de facto private chef to Sir Geoffrey, a position that the noble has made clear will always be open.  Then Vonish might decide to stay on there, and they would lose one of the finest chefs in the Imperium.  Shark makes a mental note to start up the gravcraft simulators on Nightshade again, to try to stave off the inevitable crash as long as possible.

    Sir Geoffrey holds one of his usual social events that evening, of course.  The Duke and his entourage are absent, keeping a very low profile here.
    Shark plays his Sherlock Holmes game, trying to guess about everyone based on their opinion, and then looking them up later to see if he was close.  He manages not to do it out loud.
    The Baron does get rather loud as the evening goes on, but not at all obnoxious.
    Jack attends this one, circulating the crowd skillfully.  Shark keeps an eye on her, trying not to be obvious.  He does not see her making contact with anybody.
    Misha just makes the necessary appearance for someone of his notoriety, but after a short while makes a graceful exit and returns to the ship.
    The party looks set to last most of the night, and Jack isn't slowing up in the slightest.
    Shark was going to leave early, soon after Misha, but instead retreats to the sidelines for some coffee while keeping watch on her.  Kalida joins him at the coffee.

    On return to the ship, Shark remembers the other issue that might cause them difficulties.  Helia Sarina is in sick bay in a klatrin trance, and is like to be that way for a day or two yet.  As backup medical officer, noting that Bridgehead seemed unlikely to return before morning, Shark checks on her condition.  She is still stable, showing the odd brain chemistry changes associated with a fish oil experience.

063-1123 : Adabicci / Lunion / Spinward Marches

    Most of the crew turn up to breakfast.  The Baron never made it back on board, and Shark is astonished to notice that he's quite alert and fresh and in excellent spirits.  He is sitting with some lady half his age and apparently having a great time.
    The breakfast is superb, and in fact a big topic of conversation is whether Sir Geoffrey has found a new chef.  Sir Geoffrey says regretfully that he does not.
    No-one is being too formal, allowing Shark to relax his guard a little.  The pressures of etiquette weigh heavily on him.
    The Duke of course is absent. As the meal starts to wind down, Geoff tells Kalida that his father will be down once everyone clears out, and to spread the word among her crew.
    Jack returns to the ship before the Duke arrives, saying privately that she'll watch the meeting from there.  Korwin also wanders off, muttering something about trying to convince Vonish to come with them on the Witchhunter.

    Once the lawn is empty, Sir Geoffrey leaves and his father's party joins them.  Coffee is served as they settle down to discuss more serious matters.

    Kalida assures the Duke of Adabicci, Eduard, Lord Adabicci, and Sir Arken Hauther that they can definitely get to Trin in time.  She presents him with the (edited) analysis.  Fortunately even if they were to need to refuel, they'd be able to make it in time.  They would have arrived at Trin about the time they would really reach Mora, and there would still be time to get to Mora if they were a conventional jump-6 ship.
    The Duke nods appreciatively as he examines Kalida's analysis.  He idly mentions that there is a lot of blue on the map, and if they're all moving on Mora and Trin that is an impressive force.  It also depends on how well coordinate they are.  Delaying the groups coming through the rimward end would have a significant effect, since they can't be coordinating their movements actively.  With a delay of one side of a pincer movement, it won't close at the correct time on Mora.  That would remove a significant advantage from Santanocheev's forces.  Holding them up for a week -- or possibly less, depending how tight their schedule -- could halve the number of fleets rendezvousing to attack at Mora.
    The earliest forces could reach here at Adabicci is 110.  That is worst case, and more likely they'd be arriving several days later.  The Duke says that's certainly enough time to the get the fleet here working and training.  He does have access to one more fleet, but it's being refitted at Lunion.  He could mobilize what they have, but that wouldn't allow time to get it anywhere but here.  Putting something at Olympia would be good, but there is not really time for that.  They also can't tell what the force strength would be in any particular group.
    The Duke, however, is very pleased.  He thanks Kalida for her analysis.
    Sir Arken then asks them what their plans are now.  Eduard gives him a strange look at that question, but says nothing and then looks questioningly at Shark.  The Duke looks at Kalida.  Kalida looks at Misha.
    Misha says to Kalida, "Do you think His Grace would appreciate our making a run to Trin and Mora?"
    Kalida says she thinks His Grace would very much appreciate it.  She looks at the Duke.
    The Duke raises his eyebrows for a moment, then nods to Kalida.
    Misha says, "Then I think we should do the run."
    "When do you plan to leave?" asks the Duke.
    A flash of Helia in the sick bay on a klatrin trip crosses Misha's mind.  He dismisses it.  The ship can probably pilot itself, and they do have a backup for Astrogator and Pilot.  Aloud, he says "In truth, your Grace, while we very much enjoy your son's hospitality, it'll be good to be back in the saddle.  We will leave as soon as we can."
    Eduard gives an "I told you so" look to the Duke.

    The meeting breaks up shortly thereafter.  Misha calls for all aboard who are going aboard.  Shark asks everyone to bring anything they want from their rooms ashore.
    Misha asks everyone how long it will take for them to be ready to leave.  Most are at least fairly enthusiastic about leaving quickly, but the Baron seems rather irritated.  Oddly enough, Misha expected no less.  Baron Bridgehead says he wants two hours.  Misha says that if that's the best he can do, it will be adequate.

    Much to everyone's relief, Korwin has not swayed Vonish's decision.  The vilani will be coming on board Nightshade.  Korwin is the only crewmember who is staying behind.
    Vonish supervises the rapid loading of the ship with supplies.
    Sir Geoffrey is sorry to see them go, of course, and makes them promise to come back for another party to make up for it.

    Vonish takes the pilot's seat, setting up conventional control console rather than going into sparkly pink.  He does a fine job, a smooth flawless liftoff and flight out to jump point at 100d.  His officers has authorized him to use 4g as the most reasonable from a jump-6 yacht with a good engineer.
    Mich takes over as astrogator, calculating their route and then their jump insertion for the first time.  They jump to 0807 / Lunion, an empty area directly on their route.

    In jump, Shark emphasizes the gravcraft training.  Without Korwin, they'll have to fall back on the rest of the crew, who have a very bad record at it.  They start up the gravcraft races again, now that they won't be embarrassed by the expert.
    Shark is also working on his robot, training it to use a gravbelt.  It's been a long time since he last worked on this, and it proves more difficult that he'd expected.

064-1123 : Jumpspace (from Adabicci / Lunion / Spinward Marches)

    Helia comes out of her klatrin trance in the morning.  Mich suggests giving her some candy when she wakes up.  She asks how long she's been out -- Shark breaks the news that they've taken off and are in jump.
    The larian is strangely subdued.  She looks around as if this is all unfamiliar.  She doesn't even react to the fact that they've flown the ship without her.  She looks around, taking everything in.
    The Doc has assured everyone she's fine, as much as anyone ever comes out fine from klatrin.  Shark waves the diagnostic at her and she shows as red with a slight hint of blue.  Bridgehead hesitates, but says she's ok; her body is making some kind of adjustment, he says, and promises to check her out again soon.
    Helia gets up, and flies slowly back to her stateroom.  For a moment, she seems to have trouble figuring out which one is hers.  Everyone is surprised that she's flying so readily in public.  Misha follows her back out of concern, but she doesn't seem to need his help.
    Shark checks from his security station, but the ship will not comment on Helia's mental health.  The ship does not believe there is a security issue.
    It's not long after lunch that they notice Kalida isn't around.  The ship assures them that she's in her stateroom.
    When Kalida doesn't turn up to dinner either, and no-one recalls seeing her since soon after going into jump, Shark goes to investigate.  He knocks on the door, but there is no answer.  He asks Robert if he's a cup low?  Did he give another cup of fish oil to another passenger?
    "No," replies Robert, "40cc."
    Shark sighs.  He tells Bridgehead that he has another patient to monitor.  He is not at all happy about it.  The ship allows them into Kalida's stateroom, and the two of them take their Gunnery Officer to Sick Bay.  A quick scan reveals her to be red, basically ok.
    It falls to Shark to break the news to Misha that Kalida is now in a klatrin trance.  Bridgehead tells Misha that it's the usual story, something odd is happening with her brain but the rest of her is fine.  He'll continue to monitor her and tell the captain if anything changes.

    After a few hours, Misha drops in on Helia to see how she's doing.  She's still very subdued, but seems more alert.  She has apparently spent most of the time reading at the computer.  Uncharacteristally, she seems to be keeping her wings unfurled most of the time.
    Misha asks when she thinks she'll be ready for duty.
    She says that tomorrow she'll practice.  She offers him some candy, some blue stuff that fizzes.
    Misha asks if she remembers his name.
    "Misha!" she says brightly.
    "If I can help in any way, let me know."  The captain leaves.

    Shark is the next to stop by Helia's room.  She offers him the blue fizzy candy which Misha turned down, and he accepts.
    "What are you reading?" asks Shark.
    "Oh, I'm just catching up!" she says.
    On her screen is galanglic writing.  That relieves him, but he then notices that she's studying details of the ship's systems, jump drives, and so on.
    She pauses for a moment, then asks, "Is Mich still on board?"
    "Yes," says Shark.
    "Oh, good!"  She thrusts more candy on Shark as he starts to leave, but he declines saying that dinner is soon.  Helia says she'll take it there.

    Back in the lounge, Shark tells Misha that Helia is reading technical manuals.  He doesn't seem too concerned as yet.

065-1123 : Jumpspace (from Adabicci / Lunion / Spinward Marches)

    Kalida is not out of her trance, of course, but Helia does turn up.  The latter is much perkier today, and announces that she'll spend the day running simulations on the bridge.

    That afternoon Bridgehead calls Misha, and says that Kalida is showing no signs of coming out of the trance.  She's physically fine, but is exceeding the usual two days.
    Misha talks to Robert.
    Robert replies that Helia had taken it more than once, but this is Kalida's first time.  He's not worried yet, especially as she seems to be fine otherwise.  It's not like Shark's first time, where he almost died in the trance.

    Shark checks up on Helia.  She's in sparkly pink, but not doing anything.  She's being doing nothing -- perhaps just feeling the ship -- for about four hours now.  He reports to the captain that she's not running simulations.

    At dinner, Helia joins them.
    Shark asks the Baron about Kalida, who is doing fine physically.  Her head is doing interesting strange things, which fascinates him, but short of invasive procedures he has reached the limits of his data gathering at the moment.
    Shark then turns to Helia.  "Helia, how did your simulations go today?"
    "Wonderfully!" she says, "It's very relaxing."
    "Good.  So you think you'll be ready to pilot on our next planetfall?"
    "I expect so.  When's that going to be?"
    "We come out of jump in about three days."
    "Yes, it's not quite the closest route I would have taken, but it's not bad.  Who did it?"
    "I did," says Mich.
    "Not bad," says Helia.  "You need to get the feel of it more."  She tucks hungrily into the meal, excellent as usual from Vonish's galley.

    The gravcraft racing simulations are going well.  Perhaps the crew is using up all their luck for when they try it on the real thing.  Vonish wins easily in the evening races, with a superb display of even complex maneuvers.

    Later on, Shark approaches the captain.  He points out that Helia's answers were odd, given she hasn't been running simulations all day.  He doesn't think they need to do anything immediately.
    Misha doesn't think there's necessarily anything complicated going on.  He says he doesn't see a need to worry yet.  He thinks she has forgotten everything, but she learns fast.  If she learns fast enough, he doesn't care.
    "If she starts running the simulations," says Shark pessimistically.
    "I've a feeling she has," says Misha.  "Not in a way that you can test."  That satisfies Shark for the time at least.