(27) To Be Named

The Crusader Campaign (130-1123 to 131-1123)

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130-1123 : Jumpspace (from Wonstar / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches)

    It is 12:15.  Nightshade has just jumped for 0305 / District 268.
    Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege, is frustrated that they're now getting so close to the important part, and so far they've managed to be almost completely ineffective.  Tussinian is inevitable, as is the threat to the Duke of Adabicci.
    Helia Sarina still has no idea what caused the second misjump.  She hasn't had time to investigate it in detail, but she believes that there were no unaccounted factors and that her calculations were correct.
    Robert Morris is still in a low berth, where he doesn't require medical attention for his jump sickness.  This at least gives Baron Bridgehead a chance to rest at last.
    As soon as the ship enters jump, Mich Saginaw starts work in the heavily damaged section 1 of E deck.  He spends an hour on diagnostics.  The stealth systems he estimates will take 13 hours to repair, while the shields will take 27 hours of work.  Those estimates assume that he'll have people to help him with cleanup and hauling and so on, and Teri has promised to make herself available for that.  He informs the Captain and crew, and the decision is that he should work on the stealth system first.
    Mich now is beginning to get an understanding of what Helia is doing with her jump calculations, and in bypassing the Quilton Limitation to force the ship out of jump early.  After all, he's actually done that part himself now on the misjump, and that's increased his feel for the new science of jumpspace.

    Kalida seeks out Jack.  She finds her in the Lounge enjoying some coffee.  Baron Bridgehead is the only other occupant, with most of the crew still at their stations or engaged in repair.
    The coffee is Vonish's, not Mich's, so it's drinkable by non-Engineers.  Kalida pours herself a cup and sits down with Jack.  She asks her if she's found anything interesting in that data yet.
    Jack says she hasn't really had a chance to look at it yet.  She says quietly that there's not a lot more to get from hunches that doesn't match up with what Kalida has.  Somewhat hesitantly, she adds that Santanocheev and his people don't tell the people under him much about what's going on or what they're doing.  She says that if she had to guess, she would say that there might be a whole bunch of fleets leaving Bicornn tomorrow, just a hunch of course.  She has no hunches at all beyond that, there's not even something anyone could gossip about.  Santanocheev probably hasn't even told the people under his direct command anything beyond that.  She says that she believes his fleets have been leaving on the fifth day after arriving in a system so far, and that once they clear Bicornn they're going to tighten that up to the fourth day.
    Kalida says that she thinks the main action at Tussinian would be about 140.
    Jack nods, and says that it would put the bulk of their fleets coming in on 138.  They'd have to be planning to leave on 142, which doesn't leave them a lot of time there.
    Kalida agrees.  If they're moving that quickly, the greater the impact of a small delay.
    Jack says that the closer they're getting to Mora, the tighter the schedule, and the less variation they're permitted in it.
    Kalida asks if Nightshade is heading in the right direction to Tussinian.
    Jack is noncommitted on whether that's the right place to be, but she backs up Kalida's assessments of the schedule and says she's made a good case of it.  Now what the other fleet might be doing, that's another matter and she can't even guess at it.  They're going to sit for at least a month, possibly more.  Just a hunch, of course.  She glances over at the Baron, who hasn't been paying much attention but might have overheard some, and says, "Feminine intuition, you know."
    The Baron nods and pours himself another Irish Coffee.
    Jack turns back to Kalida and asks if she's come up with anything.
    Kalida says she hasn't, and isn't sure she wants to go back to her source right now.  If her hunches are right, the fleets in Rhylanor subsector will already be on the move, or are about to do so.
    Jack agrees.  If they're synching up their jumps, some of them will have to start moving tomorrow.  That means they probably have control of them by now.  She doesn't believe they would have taken over before it was absolutely necessary.  Maybe a few days before they leave -- early enough to prepare, but not enough for anyone to think about it too hard until they're moving.
    Kalida changes tack and asks Jack what she thinks about the Sword Worlds, since the IFSS keeps an eye on external rather than internal threats.
    Jack replies that the Sword Worlds are right on the border, a traditional ally of the Zhodani, and are really the responsibility of conventional Imperial agencies.  The IFSS doesn't really consider anything unless it's outside the Spinward Marches.  "They're still in the driveway," she says.
    Kalida looks blank.
    Jack explains, "That's how we like to put it.  The Imperium stays inside the house, the Scouts go down to the end of the driveway, and we have left the driveway and are roaming about the countryside.  The Sword Worlds are still in the driveway.  Our base on Karin is deep in the Imperium by our standards."
    Kalida doesn't have any more questions.  The two women settle down to wait for the announcement of jumpspace stablilizing.

    Mich has barely had time to start repair work when Helia and Callisto announce that the jump is stable, 1:20 into the jump.  Everyone goes to their station to emerge from jump.

(still) 130-1123 : 0305 / District 268 / Spinward Marches

    At 13:50, they come out of jump at 0305 / District 268.
    It takes 25 minutes for space to stabilize, and another hour for Callisto to verify their exact position.
    Mich's Engineer board is all red, but there are a couple of emitters he could realign to make them perfect, and in his opinion that takes priority over repairing the stealth systems.  Nevertheless, he manages to squeeze in some work before the next jump, leaving 12 hours of work left on those systems.  He tells the Captain that this stopping and starting will extend the length of time

    While they're waiting, Kalida and Shark discuss strategy in the Lounge.  It's decision time: while they could put off the choice another jump, since they have at least an hour they'll talk about it here.
    Shark says that at Tussinian, provided they can get their shields up, they can be an effective fighting force.  They can certainly mission kill a Happy Fun Ball, he believes.  And they didn't hurt them last time, and they will be very busy with other stuff.  Even if they don't take out one of the flagships, they can kill twenty or thirty screening ships, which is certainly a significant impact.  Now if they do either of those two things, they are likely to be ineffective in any other battle because they'll have used up all of their missiles.  While it's very quick to rearm by warship standards, the 30 days it takes is very slow by the standard of their current travel time.
    Kalida smiles that they don't have to rearm the expander -- it has a fire rate comparable with a spinal mount weapon, and a comparable range as well.  It'd be ready to fire about a minute or so after dropping stealth, she says.
    Shark is happy that they present a small target, while their own targets will be large.  And they can fire the expander while jinking.
    Kalida points out that they're not going one-on-one with the happy fun ball.  Also, any of the capital ships will be carrying spinal mount meson guns, which they do believe might have the potential to damage Nightshade.
    Shark says that their next jump is obvious, but after that they'll have the choice to go coreward towards Adabicci, or trailing towards Tussinian.
    Kalida agrees.  They don't know what is happening in Adabicci, and they don't know anything about what they could do.
    Shark adds that in Tussinian, they know they'll be jumping into a battle.  If all they do is show themselves and cause Santanocheev's fleets to start randomly firing again, they they'll have impacted the battle just from that.  They'll be wasting their resources on something that they can't see but might be there.  When Kalida drops the tidbit that the fleets will be leaving Bicornn tomorrow, he wonders what would happen if they popped in there and blasted their presence into their attention.  Of course they would have neither shields nor stealth, and that would make it quite dangerous.
    Kalida adds that if they don't come in all red, they might well be a sitting duck for a while.
    Shark wonders if that would even slow them down at all.
    Kalida says that they are going to Tussinian, and they will get there about 140-ish.  They can make little disruptions, but they aren't going to change that.  She goes on to say that they could conceivably leave on a long jump for Tussinian tonight, which would get them there on a long jump on 136.  So they will beat even the first part of the fleet that's jumping now, which would get there on 137.  They'd beat Santanocheev's first ships by about a day.
    Shark says that if they did a short jump in, the extra four days wouldn't really help them.  They could talk with the defenders, but there isn't a lot that they can impart.
    Kalida says that personally she wants to go to Adabicci, and if she doesn't she knows she'll regret it, but strategically they need to go to Tussinian.  She pauses to consider.  Mich has about 40 hours of work left to do.  So if they wanted to short jump the whole time, they need a couple of days pause for him to fix everything.  That would therefore only save them three and a half days anyway.
    Shark understands what she's thinking.  He says that they could short jump and get to Adabicci and on to Tussinian in one quick day.  They need to be at Tussinian by 137, and it's 130 now.  So they could spend three or four days in Adabicci.
    Kalida says that they need some time in system before Santanocheev arrives, and Mich will need a few days to finish his work.
    Shark says firmly that if she wants to go to Adabicci, they could spend two days there, 48 hours, maybe a bit longer, talking to him.  They would have to make a quick jump into Adabicci and a quick jump into Tussinian.  Of course they don't know what they look like when they come out of a quick jump.  They might even be able to spend three days at Adabicci, leaving there on 133 and arriving at Tussinian on 134.
    Shark has been doing a fine job of talking Kalida into exactly what she wants to do.  Her concern is their chance of a misjump.  She quickly checks with Helia, and while the larian is her usual confident self, she still doesn't know why the last misjump happened -- it could even have been pollution, she says.
    Shark says that he wants to do this, if for no other reason than it will clear the mind of their chief tactician.  And they can find out what a quick jump looks like.
    The First Officer has convinced her.  As long as Captain Sir Misha will go along with it, says Kalida, they can go to Adabicci.
    When his First Officer and Kalida agree, Captain Sir Misha sees no reason to disagree.  He approves the itinerary to Tussinian via Adabicci.

    At 15:15, they jump for 0102 / Glisten.  Mich checks through Helia's calculations, not just to double check them after the misjumps, but to improve his understanding now he's getting closer to her concepts.

    It takes 45 minutes till space stablizes, and Mich puts in a quick few minutes on the stealth systems.

(still) 130-1123 : 0102 / Glisten / Spinward Marches

    They come out of jump at 0102 / Glisten, with the ship in perfect shape: red across the board and not a single thing to adjust.  It takes 20 minutes for space to stablize, another hour for Callisto to confirm the position, and they're ready to jump at 17:20.  By that time, Mich has 10:10 left to finish work on the stealth systems.

    At 17:20, they jump for 0207 / Lunion.  It takes 20 minutes for jump to stabilize, and they're ready to come out at 17:40.

(still) 130-1123 : 0102 / Glisten / Spinward Marches

    It's a perfectly smooth transition again.  This time, though, it takes 4 hours for space to stabilize, so at 21:40 Callisto starts verifying, and they're ready to jump again at 22:40.  In the meantime, Vonish has served dinner and everyone has taken a well-deserved break.
    Mich uses the extra time well.  There is now only 7:10 remaining on the stealth system repairs.

    At 22:40 they jump again for Adabicci / Lunion.

131-1123 : Jumpspace (from 0102 / Glisten / Spinward Marches)

   At 00:40 they are ready to come out, after 2 hours of jumpspace stablizing.  Just five and a half hours now remain on the stealth system repairs.
    Robert, on the other hand, has not improved.  Bridgehead is keeping him in low berth for the time -- he says that jump sickness can still heal in low berth.  He wants to keep him there until they reach Adabicci and he can dedicate his attention to him full time.
    Last time they were on Adabicci was on 063.  While Shark is still concerned that they have not taken enough time to get back there, Kalida reassures him that it is feasible that they could have done the trip.

(still) 131-1123 : Adabicci / Lunion / Spinward Marches

    This jump transition is not smooth, however.  There is some vibration and shaking, and two jump field emitters go out of alignment.
    The crew are much relieved when Callisto tells them that the system looks at first glance to be consistent with Adabicci.  They are not really close to anything; they are nearer the inner orbits than outer, and there is a gas giant fairly nearby.
    Shark tries to pick up anything from the system as a clue to where they are and the state of things here.  Unfortunately all he gets is noise, and he'll have to wait for space to stabilize before picking anything up he can interpret.

    An hour and a half later, space stabilizes.  They pick up the standard navigation beacons for Adabicci.
    Shark immediately asks Callisto to find anything heading towards them, any transmissions referring to them (like "What the hell was that?"), and anything else that the official paranoid of the ship might consider a threat.
    Callisto reports that there is a Close Escort heading towards them, probably a System Navy ship.  It's about six hours out at the moment, and wouldn't appear to be a threat because it's a lot smaller than them.
    Now that space has stabilized, Nightshade is running with the transponder.  They're about 12 hours at 6g from the gas giant, and the mainworld is a few more hours away than that.
    They talk to traffic control and set out on a flight path to the mainworld at 6g.  The Close Escort alters course to match with them anyway, and asks if they're OK.
    Shark replies that their engineer says he can fix their minor glitch on that last jump, if they pick up a few spare parts.
    The Close Escort welcomes them to the system and breaks away.

    There is some news here, of course, but remarkably little is going on in the grand scheme of things.  Kalida even trolls the gossip columns to find out what's happening with Adabicci -- that would be the best place to find it.
    Biggest social news is that Sir Geoffrey has gone off on an academic expedition with an old friend, and is expected to be away for some time.
    Baroness Arahani is on Ianic and is expected to be there for about three months.  She's on a diplomatic mission, liasing with the local government and the Marquis of Ianic.
    The Duke himself is in residence.  He's had a few garden parties, nothing out of the ordinary.  His calendar is less full than normal -- he seems to have limited his personal appearances recently, over the past month or two.  On the other hand, instead of the social occasions, he's done a number of inspections of the Imperial Navy fleet that is stationed here.  He's been spending time with the officers, and also inspected the various Naval facilities in the system.  He's expressed an interest in a deeper knowledge of the Naval forces who are protecting them in their patriotic duties here on the Imperial border.
    Of Eduard, Lord Adabicci, there is no news.  He is completely out of the news.  He was at a garden party 22 days ago and hasn't been mentioned since.
    The press is remarkably kind to the Ducal household.  There is no malicious gossip at all.  The media here is generally quite favorable to the local nobles, particularly is this is not a major world.  Even Sir Geoffrey has his social abilities described as a virtue rather than as a local playboy spending all their taxes.  Clearly they actually like the nobility here.
    In more general news, there is word that the expeditionary fleet under Grand Admiral Winchester is planning to be here in about a week or so.  The fleet is in refit, but the operational ships have been taken out of that status for exercises.  They are still considerably under strength.
    Kalida notes that puts about a fleet and a half here in addition to the System Navy, including a very good strategist.
    The local economy and trade seems perfectly normal.  No strange rumors, no prophecies of gloom and doom, no conflict on the horizon.  Unless, of course, you're a dark-haired Gemini in which case your horoscope for the week is not looking good.
    There is one TNS entry, however.  The notorious pirate Robin Sherwood is active again in Vilis subsector.  The Berlin is on the rampage again.

    Kalida sends a simple message to the Duke saying she's here.  The Duke says he's the only one in the palace at the moment, but she is welcome to land at the palace and visit.
    Helia says that the whole trip, including landing, will take about 15 hours from when they started.  Well, that's 14 hours with her superior astrogation.  It'll be 16:30 when they land, which will be about 8:30 am local time.
    Mich takes the opportunity to sleep on the way in, in preparation for the long hours of work he'll be doing here while the ship is on the ground.
    On the way in, Robert is woken and transferred to Sick Bay.  Bridgehead asks Shark if he wants to brief him on the situation including the misjump.  Shark is sure that the ship will update him far more thoroughly that he could.  He is even sure that the ship will show him anything he wants, including everything that's gone on in the privacy of the staterooms.  Even though the ship refuses to tell anyone what goes on in staterooms, he believes that Robert has too tight a connection for that to apply to him.

    As soon as the ship has settled on the pad, a large limousine heads out rapidly towards them.

    Shark suggests that he should go with the Marchioness just in case something happens.  He believes they should leave Sir Misha and Teri here as backup, with the pilot (and in her role as backup gunner) to handle anything else.  If Sir Geoffrey were here, Sir Misha would be required to attend, but it is not socially necessary that he attend an audience with the Duke.
    The ship is going to be here for 48 hours, says Shark, so Vonish will arrange restocking the ship to maintain the level of the cuisine.
    Sir Bridgehead, for his part, is insistent that Robert will be able to resume his duties by the time they leave here.  In fact, he's so sure he says that if Robert is not ready, he's willing to go teetotal for a week.
    While the limo pulls up, Sir Misha ponders Shark's suggestions of who will go ashore.