(21) To Be Named
The Crusader Campaign (087-1123 to 088-1123)
This file has yet to be fully
This file has yet to be fully
Nightshade has just jumped for 0409
/ Rhylanor with the Duke of Rhylanor aboard, snatched at night from his
personal rooms in the Ducal Palace. The sense of haste is
increased by the time between take-off and jump, which would surely
lead the Duke to believe that the jump was at no more than ten
diameters, a slightly risky move.
He is restricted to C Deck in the middle section of
the ship, comprising mostly the staterooms and the Lounge, but also the
Gym. This doesn't seem unreasonable for a passenger on any normal
The windows are not to be transparent whenever the
Duke is within sight. Instead, the ship has chosen for the Lounge
a view of the sea on Goose looking away from the city, a dark
and grey scene in which harsh wind constantly whips foam off the waves.
Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege, has been
studying and analyzing all the possibilities. She is convinced
that a threat will hit Tussinian and Adabicci
simultaneously. She is still working on the details when Shark
arrives to inform her that the Duke is aboard. She puts aside her
work to attend to their guest in the Lounge.
Vonish has made sure the Duke is well supplied with
whiskey from their Wonstar supply, accompanied by appropriate snacks.
Shark simply escorts Kalida politely to the Lounge
and excuses himself politely, heading for the Bridge.
The two nobles exchange pleasantries. Rhylanor
then asks what this is all about, but concedes that it is late tonight
and they will have plenty of time to discuss everything during the
jump. When Nakege explains that they are heading for Mora,
of course that means several jumps and plenty of time.
Nakege reminds Rhylanor that last time they met,
they were discussing a wayward fleet in the back of beyond. She
says they've found a lot more out since then. "Apparently
Santanocheev is in charge, and fleets from Five Sisters and Glisten are
moving on Mora. The fleets based in Rhylanor are also
with them and moving towards Mora."
Rhylanor says nothing's moved yet.
Kalida believes they are going to leave around
145-1123. "The reason you're coming with us to Mora is
that the Rhylanor fleets and the fleets from Glisten and Five Sisters
are probably supposed to meet about the same time at Mora.
The Duke of Trin is already planning a delaying action on his side, and
the Archduke hopes that if they're delayed enough and the fleets from
Rhylanor arrive without support and he can produce you, that they will
perhaps change their mind."
"It's a nice theory, I like it. It sounds like
it's worth a try."
"The reason we've taken you away secretly is
everyone needs to believe you're still there. That's the quick
synopsis. Any more questions?"
"I'm sure there will be," says Rhylanor, sounding
anything but sure. "It's obviously the same people who took over
when your First Officer was captured. Kind of embarrassing that
my fleets would be taking part in this. So why, what's
"Not entirely certain, but we have our
guesses. There was obviously a lot of animosity between Norris
and Santanocheev a few years back. Santanocheev disagreed very
strongly with what Norris was doing, so I'm assuming that he thinks he
can do better."
"Not sure how he's going to do it and make it stick,
but it's not like the Spinward Marches doesn't have a history of stuff
"Possession is nine tenths of the law. If he
can take it and hold it long enough for a message to go coreward and
back, he may well be able to keep it."
"I'm just wondering if he's going to come up with
some trumped-up charges, or claim that Right of
Assassination applies to Archdukes as well as the Emperor.
That would be kind of interesting." Rhylanor sighs heavily.
"So I'm going to go to Mora and wait."
"I don't know what the Archduke might have planned
while you're there. Our mission is simply to get you and bring
you back as fast and as secretly as possible."
"So if -- my -- fleets are moving at 145 or so... I
guess I'll have quite a stay on Mora."
"My estimate at the moment is that they might be
arriving around 180 or a little later. Possibly a little earlier,
but most likely 180 or after. It's all guesswork."
"I'm sure it is. So Trin's doing his part down
"Yes. He doesn't have enough to completely
stop them, but he's planning on delaying them as long as he can, while
leaving himself enough to defend himself afterwards. You know how
long large scale naval actions can take."
"Either way this works out, heads will roll.
Metaphorically if not literally. There's going to be some new
dukes somewhere, either in Glisten or here and Trin's Veil."
Kalida reminds Rhylanor that the last time they met,
he was waiting for Aramis to show up, and he never did. "Our
guess to that is he declared himself neutral and got himself out of the
way, I believe with a trip to Capital."
"That makes sense. He can profit from it no
matter what happens. Well, that's something. At least he's
not actually involved... Well, involved he is, because he knew it was
"He did know it was coming and not warn anybody, but
at least he's not actively attacking the Archduke." Nakege
pauses, then says, "If you want more details, I have pages and pages of
"Absolutely. But, for the time, your chef has
laid on quite a spread here... I'm still curious how your ship is
"It would be better if you didn't think about that
Rhylanor lets that pass. He changes the
subject, "You were also going to check on Adabicci, see which side he's
on. Did you ever get there?"
"Yes, we did," says Nakege. "He is on Norris'
side and against Santanocheev, however I think there are forces on
their way to attack him as well."
Rhylanor sighs. "So how bad is it? Does
Santanocheev have a chance? Does Norris have a chance?"
Nakege chooses her words carefully. "It
depends on how things work out. If all the fleets get to Mora
at the same time, I don't think Norris stands a chance. If,
however, Trin can delay them long enough at Tussinian, then I
think Norris has the upper hand."
"Tussinian. That's where the Tukera
"Odd coincidence. That's the only place that's
logical for everyone to be going through. Yeah, I thought so too."
"It just makes me wonder if Tukera left anything
there, like a support depot."
"One does wonder," smiles Nakege.
"That I'd like to know if it ever comes out, if
Aramis actually arranged some active support there. Maybe it's a
coincidence, but if it's not..."
"How long has Tukera been in Tussinian?
I know they're everywhere, but how long has the conflict been going on?"
"It's been a couple of years, I'd guess. I
don't really know the details of the history, being more concerned with
the legality of the current situation."
"That would be interesting to know, because
certainly this action has been planned for a very long time."
Vonish slips over quietly and refills Rhylanor's
glass. The Duke says, "So how big is this ship? This is an
impressive passenger section, although I suppose it's probably for the
crew as well. The stateroom is enormous. Is that a special
luxury section or do you guys get the rest?"
"It's a very luxurious ship. It's a good size,
about 1600 tons. Have they already shown you around?"
"Well, I got the 'here's the stateroom, there's the
Lounge, Gym's down that way,' but that's about it. I'm not
exactly expecting more that that. I'd love a tour..."
Rhylanor looks at Nakege carefully, then continues, "How many crew?"
Nakege dodges the question with some small talk, and
is glad to see that Rhylanor does not seem to have noticed the
deliberate avoidance. She adds that this area is just about it,
and Rhylanor admits not really needing to see all the mechanical areas.
Rhylanor adds, "It seems you've got yourself quite a
yacht. I mean, aside from the invisible part."
Nakege smiles, "Don't think about that a lot.
Trust me, you don't need to know."
"Well, it's not every day I step off a balcony and
Meanwhile, Shark has told Helia to inform him before
she brings them out of jump. He gestures to Sir Misha, suggesting
they go back and greet the Duke. Shark knows that the only way
between the Bridge and Engineering goes past the Lounge, so he'll have
even more advance notice when she goes aft to do her magic.
Sir Misha and his First Officer arrive at the
Lounge. Shark says to Kalida, "Helia says her next action will be
a little while."
After a while, the conversation turns to the outer
wall, showing the view of Goose. The Duke mentions that
it looks rather bleak.
Shark says, "Yes. That's where it was dull in
a physical sense. Metaphysically there were some very interesting
people there. A very interesting religion."
"Where is it?" asks the Duke.
"Goose. It's in Foreven, Fessor
subsector. They have some very large sea life there. The
world is entirely sea, with one artificial floating city."
The conversation drops back into small talk, until
the Duke brings up the subject of the current crisis. He says,
"We haven't had a war with the Zhodani for a while, it figures we'd
have to start something among ourselves."
Shark says, "Actually that's what we thought he was
going to do at first."
"I'm sure he thinks that once he's in charge he can
do what he likes, although he's using up some of our naval forces in
Shark nods, then says, "Sir Arken, have you heard
from him recently?"
"No, I haven't."
"Professional curiosity," smiles Shark. He
adds, "Technically, as leader of INISO, Santanocheev might have some
legal leg to stand on to uphold this."
"I was wondering what he had in mind. So he at
least has some sort of vague legal standing that he can pull out of a
hat if he happens to win. He does need some semblance of
legitimacy, unless he can get Norris to abdicate in his favor.
It's amazing what a bunch of fleets sitting over your head will do for
Kalida says, "I'm sure that would be an interesting
The Duke nods, "One I hope never happens." He
smiles, "And in the meantime you have a very fine chef, a good if
somewhat limited liquor cabinet..."
"That's not quite true. I have a case of
assorted interesting wines around here somewhere. So we'll have
to break out a bottle soon."
"Tomorrow perhaps. It is rather late now,
although for some reason I'm not very sleepy. Having an invisible
ship turn up in the middle of the night will do that. Kind of
Sir Misha asks, "Have you done that?"
"No, but I'd encourage Celeste and Jane to do that,
it saves a lot of fuss and bother." He ponders that for a moment,
then says, "So we're doing this in what, three jumps?"
Kalida says, "Always best not to think about this
ship much at all."
"Hm. That would be kind of hard. Just
the invisible by itself would be a start, and you're implying it's
going to be a short time?"
"Our orders are to bring you as quickly as we can."
The Duke nods and says nothing.
Shark says quietly, It will be a surprise to nearly
everyone. Who knows."
"And who would that be?"
"You, and the Archduke, and us."
Kalida says, "And the Archduke has agreed not to
think about it too much either."
Shark turns to the Marchioness and suggests that she
might like to give the Duke her full presentation in the morning.
This is a lot of information to absorb at this time of night, after
The Duke quickly fills her in on the disposition of
the Imperial Navy fleets in Rhylanor subsector so she can incorporate
that. At Rhylanor itself, there are three: one is based
there, one is Expeditionary Fleet 2 under refit, and the other is the Yathanyi
Tigress Battle Group. The other Expeditionary Fleet is currently
at Fulacin. The remaining fleets are at Jae Tellona,
Nutema, Macene, Risek, Celepina, and Margesi.
Shark mentions he plans to retire for the night, and
stands up to go to his stateroom.
Helia comes flying down the corridor into the
Lounge. As she sweeps gently by, she says to Shark, "Hi!
It's time!" She waves at the Duke, who gives a little wave back.
"That's Helia," says Shark, sitting back down.
"Our pilot and astrogator. She's a little flighty."
The Duke looks questioningly at Shark as Helia flies
on out of sight. "I didn't know she had wings," he says.
"So she's your astrogator?"
"Pilot and astrogator. She's very good at both
"I thought when she turned up to the party that she
was just... decoration."
"She likes to bring that impression."
"OK. This is a very interesting yacht."
Shark says, "Mich, give us thirty seconds warning,
"Will do," says Mich from Engineering.
Shark gets up again, and this time says he's just
going to step forward to the Bridge to make sure nothing needs his
attention. He leaves the Lounge just as Mich gives him the thirty
Mich's voice announces to the ship that they're
shutting down all non-essential systems for a few seconds.
The Duke is visibly troubled. He asks if
everything's all right, after all they are in jump.
Kalida reassures him that it's non-essential, it's
just a quick engineering check and he shouldn't worry about it.
She quickly tries to distract him with some of Vonish's snacks.
The lights dim. The ship slams out of jump
with an audible rattle.
The Duke is now clearly very worried. "What
was that?" he says, "I felt that, that's not good."
Kalida says with confidence, "If there's anything
wrong, they'll call me."
"I don't like things happening in jump."
"Everything is almost certainly... all right," says
Kalida, not quite projecting as much confidence this time.
Mich tells Shark that it'll take about 15 minutes to
readjust. Everything is within spec, but as usual these days he
wants it to be perfect. It'll take longer than that for space to
stabilize, he's sure.
In the Lounge, Sir Misha reassures the Duke that
everything is fine. He's very convincing, and their guest settles
down somewhat. Kalida backs up her Captain, explaining that Sir
Misha is right.
The Duke expresses surprise at the mention of "Sir
Misha," who says that he was recently knighted by the Archduke
himself. The Duke congratulates him, and says that the media will
love him next time he shows up in public there.
Helia flies back past the Lounge, waving and saying
brightly, "Hi! Just going to the Bridge!"
Kalida says, "All's done?"
"Oh yes. Bit of a rattle but it wasn't
bad. Mich says the ship is red, so we're fine." Helia flies
on out of sight.
The Duke looks at Kalida and says incredulously,
"The ship is red?"
Kalida shrugs it off, saying lightly, "It means it's
Sir Misha nods, and the Duke is satisfied.
Their guest says good night to everyone, and retires to his stateroom.
Marquis Marcus Crestworthy arrives safely at Adabicci
on board Witchhunter, in command of his crewof three. His first
thought was to run the standard scientific module, but he's had time to
special order a custom module for the mission if he wants. There
staterooms on the main ship, so there's no need for crew space.
Half an hour later, Callisto and Helia agree that
space has stabilized around them. Mich says the whole ship is
red, after spending 15 minutes to reset a few things which weren't even
out of spec anyway. Since they're in an empty area, it takes
another hour for Callisto to verify their position.
Helia pops them into jump
for Mora / Mora.
Since they have an important guest with no luggage,
Shark starts work on putting together a robot to make clothes.
He'll consult Mich to help put together the final prototype in the
Machine Shop. Mich himself intends to spend the jump working on
his papers for the Archduke.