(28) To Be Named

The Crusader Campaign (131-1123 to 132-1123)

This file has yet to be fully edited...

This file has yet to be fully linked...

131-1123 : Adabicci / Lunion / Spinward Marches

    It is now 16:45, 8:45 am local time.  A large limousine has arrived at the landing pad where Nightshade now sits within the grounds of the Ducal palace.
    Sir Misha ponders who is to go ashore.  Finally it is decided that he and Kalida will go out to the limousine.  It whisks them away to the palace.
    Robert Morris is still in Sick Bay, and still not in good shape.  Bridgehead has assured the Captain that their Communications Officer will resume his duties before the ship leaves this world, although right now it does not look promising.
    About the time the limo leaves, Mich Saginaw starts work on the stealth systems that were damaged during the jump event.  He has a lot of work ahead of him.
    Shark takes the opportunity to follow Sir Misha and Kalida using Nightshade's remote sensors.

    The limousine pulls up at a back door of the palace.  A flunky rushes out to meet them, and opens the gravcar door.  Behind him, the door to the house is open.
    Sir Misha and Kalida walk into the building to find the Duke is there to greet them.  The room is a fairly small conservatory, complete with an indoor lawn as is common on this world.  Assorted small shrubs are dotted around.
    Adabicci is clearly pleased to see them.  He welcomes them enthusiastically, asking what brings them here.
    Kalida says that they thought they would pop in for a short visit.
    (Shark has not lost communications yet.  He listens with interest.)
    Adabicci asks them if they've completed their business to trailing.
    Kalida nods, and inquires about his family.  It's clearly more than a social interest.
    "They're all off doing their own thing," replies the Duke.  "Or off, anyway, which is the main point.  Distributed.  Now if one of them would actually get married and pop out an heir or two themselves, that would be a lot better, of course.  But I've mostly given up on that at this point.  So what can I do for you two?"
    Sir Misha turns to look at Kalida.
    Kalida says, "We mostly came for a short visit.  But I don't want to get in your way."
    "You aren't in my way," Adabicci assures her.  "There is nothing that requires my immediate attention.  So how are things?"
    "Being assembled, I think would be a good way to put it.  Things are on the move."
    "I imagine they would be by now.  As you can see, nobody's attacked here yet, so unless you've come up with something else, it's well past your attack-by date, isn't it?"
    "No, I don't believe so.  That's something I'd like to discuss with you further.  Somewhere more secure, perhaps?"
    "Just a moment."  Adabicci walks over to a door, opens it, says something quietly, and closes it again.  "We're secure," he says.
    Communications with the ship go out.
    Nakege says, "In the little while since I've been here, a lot has happened.  Everyone is moving towards Tussinian.  Things shoudl come to a head there in a few days.  The appropriate people have been warned, and they're mustering what forces they can to respond to the sitaution." She pauses, then continues firmly, "I don't have any details at all, but something is going to move against you in about the same timeframe."
    "So you're saying I'm going to be in trouble in a couple of days."
    "Yes.  I suspect around 140, give or take."
    "In about a week, then."
    "I've no idea what the threat is."
    Adabicci smiles, "Well, I'm getting another... half a fleet here in a week, you don't suppose they're bringing trouble with them, do you?"
    "I don't know.  I have no idea what direction it's coming from.  It's related to Santanocheev, but I don't know what it is."
    "I think it's a pretty safe bet that Winchester isn't moving against me.  So he'll be arriving at just about the right time, don't you think?"
    Nakege nods.  She ponders this, and remembers suddenly that Winchester would certainly not be something she'd considered.  His fleet was under refit at Lunion after the joint expedition against the cockroaches in Foreven, and is now still under half strength.  She asks Adabicci where he was coming from on the way to Lunion.
    Adabicci says that he came by Darrian and Vilis subsectors.  He was on that expedition to Foreven for a long time.  It was quite a campaign.
    "I would tell you to trust no-one, but that could get you into as much trouble as trusting the wrong person."
    Adabicci laughs.  "So I shouldn't trust you?  I think I can trust Winchester."
    Nakege agrees.
    Sir Misha asks if one of Winchester's crewmen might cause a problem, like Santanocheev did.
    Nakege shrugs.  She says, "It doesn't have to be a threat against Adabicci as a whole, it could be a threat against you personally."
    Adabicci says, "I'm pretty confident about my security people."
    Suddenly Nakege asks, "Where is Eduard?"
    "I am not at liberty to disclose that."
    Nakege accepts that with a curt nod.
    Adabicci turns to Sir Misha and says, "But he does assure me that I can rely on you and your ability to get the job done.  He didn't go into details, but he says that you and he have a history and that you're reliable."
    Nakege says, "I wish I had more concrete information to tell you.  All I know is that you're in danger."
    "Well, is there a fleet headed this way?  Aside from mine, of course."
    "I don't believe so, but obviously I don't know everything.  There was a fleet -- the Wonstar fleet -- that split from Santanocheev's group, and it's moved on to Caladbolg in the Sword Worlds.  They are going to be sitting there for perhaps a month, but I don't know for what purpose."
    (This is the first those on the ship, and Sir Misha for that matter, have heard of it.  While communications stopped earlier, Shark still has managed to track them with the remote sensors, so the ship crew are listening in.)
    Adabicci suggests they may be garrisoning there to protect against the Sword Worlds.  After all, it is a significant hub.  But why, when they have ignored all the other threats?
    Nakege agrees.  They have pulled everything out of Five Sisters, after all, and this is just one fleet.  "In the grand scheme of things, Trin is putting together whatever he can, and is moving on to Tussinian to fight a delaying action.  Every little delay will help.  If they come in late, then that will ruin the pincer movement they have planned with the Rhylanor fleets."
    "Makes sense."
    "What we've figured is that Santanocheev was going to gather with the Glisten fleets, and go through Tussinian on the way to Mora.  As they're moving that way, the Rhylanor fleets are going to come down and meet them at Mora at about the same time.  That would be a very large force.  Therefore any delaying action that Trin can provide would offset that."
    "What about Lanth?  Have you found out anything about that?  We haven't had any reports of anything moving there yet."
    "I have a hunch that Lanth is with Santanocheev, but I haven't heard anything more than that.  If my hunch is right, they could simply be sitting there waiting to head off any forces that move in to help Norris from Regina, or Vilis, or they could move directly against something themselves.  I don't have a feel for what they might be doing.  But it's certainly a possible threat, like you needed another one."
    "Well, we're not within one jump of any fleet in Lanth.  D'Ganzio is the closest, and it's five parsecs away."
    "If they move quickly enough, they could get here before news of their leaving."
    Adabicci nods his agreement.
    "While we're here, is there anything we can do for you?"
    "I think everything's under control.  If anything's moving, I haven't heard about it.  The fleet at Caladbolg can't get here that quickly, and I do have a couple of couriers stationed on the route towards District 268.  If they're coming from Caladbolg they'd have to come through Wardn, and I have that covered too.  So I don't think anything's going to sneak in."
    "Whatever is coming against you is not going to be obvious, and is not going to come from something you might think of."
    "How precise is this 'in a week?'"
    "I think you should expect something to happen perhaps starting at 138."
    "So in a week from now should I ground all ships and shut down everything for a 'systems test' or something?"
    "It could help or it could hurt."
    "It's going to be just about the time Winchester gets here."
    Sir Misha says, "Go to bed early the night before, get up early the day of.  Refreshed and good food, and have a ship ready to go."
    "So you're basically saying that my horoscope for 138 is not good, is that what you're telling me?"
    Nakege can't fault that statement.
    "Would you like any social functions while you're here?"
    Nakege says that it's just a short casual visit, no need for any official event.
    That suits Adabicci because he's trying to keep his social calendar open at the moment.  He says, "You're heading out again soon?"
    "We'll be here for a couple of days."
    "So there's really nothing much to do at this point, right?  Wait for a rock to fall on my head in a week."
    "We could let you get on with your day, and meet again a little later?"
    "Certainly.  You are of course welcome to stay as long as you like.  Come in and out of the palace whenever you want -- by the time you've been given authority to land on the grounds, you're pretty much cleared."
    Nakege thanks him, and again says that if they can do anything for him, to let them know.  They make their goodbyes, during which the subject of Sir Misha's knighthood is raised.  Adabicci congratulates him warmly, saying that the title is certainly fitting -- and he's already established in the right social circles anyway.
    Sir Misha and Kalida return to Nightshade in the limousine.

    Back on board, the crew meet in the Lounge.
    Sir Misha asks Kalida if the thing she hasn't considered was the Duke's sons, Eduard and Geoff.
    She says she hasn't considered them.  It certainly isn't Sir Geoffrey, as she knows him quite well.  Eduard and Arahani are perhaps slightly more reasonable to suspect, but she is sure of them too.
    Sir Misha asks her what she knows about the special incident with Sir Geoffrey and Marquis Marcus Crestworthy.
    She says that she knows that Geoff and Marquis Marc were on one of the black ships at Zett.  We know that INISO had to be the ones who put them there, because they were the only ones who knew about it.  She knows that Marquis Marc and Sir Geoffrey were the only ones to come out of it alive.  "Why do you ask?" she says.
    "That last mission was part of an INISO experiment.  So, in my most paranoid worry, it's possible that Sir Geoffrey is an INISO operative.  Now it is also as likely that Eduard or his sister are."
    Kalida concedes that she doesn't know Eduard or Arahani as well, so it's possible, but she simply does not believe that about Geoff.
    Shark speculates that the two people who they've sent on the archeological expedition are INISO recruits.  Or, at least, they would have been had the experiment worked.  It was very brazen that they used a Duke's son as a guinea pig.  Crestworthy was a nobody, but a Duke's son -- even the youngest son -- was somebody.
    That would have been in 1099 or so.  Kalida asks who was in charge of INISO then?
    Shark asks Jack if she had that in the data she pulled from the IFSS base.
    Jack says that they know nothing of the INISO.  She says careful that their equivalent doesn't know about them, and guesses that the INISO doesn't really know about their equivalent.  The IFSS does have a sub-organization like that, but its motives are different -- it is full of archeologists.  "We're trying to find out the history.  They seem to be just grabbing what they can use.  The Special Branch believes that the history we have been fed about the Ancients was not the whole truth, and as it turns out we were correct."
    Kalida asks what Santanocheev was going in 1099.  Everyone knows what he was going in 1106, and by that time he was already C-in-C of Naval Intelligence in Regina.  He was in INI for a long time -- as Shark points out, you recruit early so you can move them into high rank -- and so it was likely he was involved with it back then too.
    Shark brightly asks Bridgehead when he first heard of him.
    Bridgehead retorts that he was a doctor, and so wasn't involved in the same line of command.  It seems that Shark has hit a sore subject with the Baron.

    Kalida retires quietly to her stateroom, to ponder on the situation.
    Shark heads off to work on the grav unit for his robot pig.  First, however, he checks online for military bookstores, and military surplus stores, and looks for the complete collection of Starburst Forever for the years 1080 to 1100.  He finds it in electronic form, scans it for Santanocheev, makes a summary, and asks Kalida to join him in the Lounge and look at it.
    Kalida finds that Santanocheev had quite a stellar career.  Up until the point at which he fell from favor, he rose at a notable rate.  The Fourth Frontier War was 1082 - 1084, and he was directly involved in the action.  There is not, of course, a lot of mention of INI.  His posting were all accounted for in 1098-1099 -- he was clearly not on the ship that went to Zett.  He had made Admiral by then, so it is feasible that he could have been in charge of those operations.
    Kalida looks up social magazines of the time, and find that he was simply a career Naval man.  He was never associated with any gossip or anything personal.  He never slipped up even once, never married, was never associated with anything slightly out of line.  Until, that is, the very end of his career.  He appeared to have attempted to take over from Norris, who was at the time the Duke of Regina, and that was a very critical mistake.  At that time he was head of Imperial Naval Intelligence.
    Shark believes that by then he would have been in charge of the INISO.  It is also possible that he was played into that position.  He adds that he could do a query through the intelligence organizations here, but he doesn't know which branch would answer, and he doesn't trust any of them now.
    Kalida's next line of research is to look up times that are unaccounted for Eduard and Arahani.  She finds that both of them have large blocks when they're not mentioned or their whereabouts are unknown.  That's particularly true of Eduard, who keeps a low profile and doesn't attend a lot of social events.  There is one block that corresponds to the time period when he was probably employing Sir Misha.
    From the Starburst, Shark looks up Sir Geoffrey's history.  As a recipient of the Starburst for Extreme Heroism, he is of course quite important even though his career was short.  Shark was looking for periods when he and Santanocheev could have been in the same vicinity, but their careers seem completely unrelated.
    As for the other children, Eduard was in the Imperial Navy for three terms as a Line Officer and went from command to command pretty much from the moment he enlisted -- ships, squadrons, everything.  He spent most of his time in Regina near the Zhodani border.  There was some time in Vilis near the Sword Worlds, too.  He seems to have been assigned to strategic trouble areas, not so much putting out brush fires as traditional Naval deterrent and hostile border assignments.  He's seen action -- not against the Zhodani, the Fourth Frontier War was over before then -- but against pirate militia and insurgent border worlds.  They were always obvious trouble spots -- he spent no time on the Vargr border, for example.  It was the kind of career of a notable son of a Duke who chose to take his military duties seriously and actively pursued them.
    But then the whole family has an Imperial Navy tradition, so that is not really so unusual.  Arahani was in the Navy for a term as well -- she and Sir Geoffrey would have overlapped by three years, while Eduard stayed on for about a term after both of those had left.
    While Kalida was following those lines, Shark has been thinking about what it was they did that caused the unknown threat to the Duke of Adabicci.  He is convinced it was when they openly arrived here in the black ship, and Sir Geoffrey openly reacted to the sight of it.  That's an open violation of their agreement with the Arden Society.
    Kalida counters that he had prior knowledge: it was no violation.
    Shark says that Sir Geoffrey had been brainwashed and hadn't remembered it.  When they arrived, it triggered his memory, he said something to his father, and his father made inquiries.  That caused the Duke to be marked by the Arden Society.  And they have weapons to destroy a planet, antimatter bombs, and all sorts of other ways of causing harm.
    Shark continues that in addition to Black Tech, there was the other side which he is going to call White Tech.  Perhaps there's another group of people who found ships from that side of the battle.  He asks Jack if her group was following that too.
    Jack says that they're interested mainly in the history, but they investigate it all.
    Shark says there's three groups: Black Tech, this ship; the technology that Marquis Marc and Sir Geoffrey are investigating --
    "That we know about," says Jack, "That's conventional Ancient technology.  The Imperium has been officially working on that for a good long time.  Now as for what Black Tech was fighting, we have no idea at all."
    Robert says in all seriousness that if something like that turned up, they would be recalled to fight against it.  That was part of their agreement, he says.
    Shark comes back to his original point, which is that the threat against the Duke may come from someone with advanced technology.
    Kalida shakes her head.  "This was a threat from Santanocheev.  Of course, he had Zett, but he didn't do anything with it."
    "Didn't do anything with it at that time," corrects Shark.  "They abandoned the ship, but he went back to check on it.  So in effect us moving the Black Ship started this whole war."
    "Mind you," says Kalida, "It was already in the planning stages.  We just made it happen faster."
    "Do you think he's worried that we have given more information to the Duke of Adabicci about this, and therefore is going to plan something to..."
    "He knows nothing about the Arden Society.  I'm sure that he thinks we are acting alone."
    "He's worried because we're not obviously selling it."
    "But take a look at where we've been publically: Mora, Trin, Adabicci, Rhylanor.  He is probably at least as paranoid as you are.  The Arden Society may be a problem in the future, but this particular threat was from Santanocheev."
    "If the Arden Society wanted us and have more than four ships, they would have been waiting for us.  They just would have camped out in the asteroid belt here, at Rhylanor, at Mora, you know.  Their intelligence community is going crazy.  They now know how fast we are moving.  We have a technology they don't.  They are now worried about us.  They have better guns but they can't shoot us, they'd lose the technology."
    "They don't want the technology.  They specifically do not want the technology.  Now they don't particularly want to destroy it."
    "If you going to believe what they say, then you're correct."  He pauses, then continues, "But as far as what we have done that would cause Santanocheev to come after the Duke of Adabicci..."
    Sir Misha says, "We came here.  We came here this time.  He couldn't find out about it, but an agent of his could."
    Kalida says that this was already in motion before they were on their way here, as a result of something they had already done.
    Shark says that probably the only way they'll know what they did is to find out what happens, and then probably who did it.  Once they know who did it, they can probably figure out why they did it.  They simply don't have enough information to guess at this point.
    Kalida says, "On my fourth klatrin trip I tried to trace Eduard, but it was not a good trip, except for throwing things around the room."
    "That was painful," nods Shark.  "Next time we see the Marquis, we should describe your latent actions."
    "There was something else going there too, but I couldn't figure out what it was.  Around Adabicci's family, but it wasn't connected to the threat."
    Shark suggests trying sparkly pink at the command console, and that is exactly what Kalida heads off to do.

    By 21:00 Mich has finished work on the stealth systems, ahead of when he expected.  He starts repairing the shields.

132-1123 : Adabicci / Lunion / Spinward Marches

    Midnight Imperial is 16:00  (local day is 34:18 hours, or 17:09 per half day).

    At 01:00, Robert can now resume light and very limited duties.  With medication offered eagerly by Baron Bridgehead, he can resume duties.  He does warn Robert that he will feel it later when he comes off the medication, but it will work -- and work well enough for Bridgehead to win the bet and not have to go teetotal for a week.  He has to report to Sick Bay at 1 am and 1 pm without fail, and he definitely must not miss it by an hour.
    Bridgehead delights in waking up Sir Misha and telling him the good news, that Robert can resume his duties.  He adds that he is headed to the Lounge for a drink to celebrate.  Before that, however, he briefs Robert: they're on Adabicci because Kalida was worried about a threat to the Duke, and Shark's just as paranoid as ever.  He also advises Robert that he should, for the sake of his health, avoid misjumps.

    Robert, of course, asks the ship what's been happening.  The ship obliges, including informing him of the extra misjump that no-one has told him about, and extensive damage to the ship as a result.  He then immediately picks back up on the encryption problem that he was working on before he contracted jump sickness.

    Overnight Kalida has determined that everything is too fixed, and that she hasn't really changed anything either intentionally or unintentionally.  The thread from Adabicci is still hard to trace back, but she is now certain of one thing: the fleet at Caladbolg was not going to go there, and its movements changed at very much the right time.  Clearly this is a clue to the threat.  She heads to the Lounge for breakfast.

    The Baron is absent from breakfast, and so is Mich who is still solidly at work.
    Kalida tells Sir Misha that she has stayed up all night thinking about things.  The Wonstar fleet that moved to Caladbolg was not part of the plan.  It is connected somehow to the threat to Adabicci, but it does look like it'll be staying there for at least the next month, whereas the threat comes around in about seven days.  But it is connected somehow.  She looks at Jack, but says nothing.
    Jack says, "They can't get here in seven days."
    "And they're not going to," says Kalida.  "The hunch was right."
    To (almost) everyone's surprise Robert walks in.  He announces that he feels great.
    Kalida tells him about the fleet at Caladbolg.  She points out to Sir Misha that it's right next to the Sword Worlds.  Maybe the fleet is staying there, but something else isn't.
    Sir Misha wonders if the fleet sitting by the Sword Worlds might cause them to do something.
    Jack says, "I think you said they were getting there on 126, almost a week ago."
    Kalida points out that even if the Sword Worlds had someone sitting there, it would take a week for the message to get back to any of the Sword Worlds -- not before 133, then -- and after that it would take some time to get even their militaristic bureaucracy moving.  If they Sword Worlds were going to do anything, they would have had to have started some time before.  She asks Jack, "How do you feel about 138?"
    "I'm pretty sure that's when Tussinian is happening, so that has to be when something's happening here too."
    "Five days isn't enough," says Kalida, shaking her head.  "Although it looks like a threat."
    Sir Misha says, "What if the fleet is there because they know that the Sword Worlds are making a move?  What if what the Sword Worlds are doing started before the fleet got there, and the fleet is going there to calm things down?"
    "How does that get back to Santanocheev?"
    "Well, you say that what happens at Caladbolg is connected to what's going to happen here at Adabicci, but is it causal?  What if what happens to Adabicci isn't caused by what happens at Caladbolg, but is simply hinted at by it?  What does a fleet in Caladbolg hint at?"
    "Whatever it was that we did is the direct cause.  So if it's the Sword Worlds, what did we do that would precipitate an action by them?"
    "What connection do we have to the Sword Worlds?  As far as I know, we have none."
    "There is something that we specifically did that is causing this threat to the Duke.  The fleet moving to Caladbolg is a hint to what the threat that we caused is."
    "We took the ship out of Zett, which caused Santanocheev to move up his plans.  Either because Santanocheev had to move up his plans, or maybe he'd been doing it all along, and he's allied with the Sword Worlds to help him neutralize some of the fleets that he can't deal with.  So he's asked the Sword Worlds to make a move on Adabicci."
    "The fleet at Caladbolg is Santanocheev's, and wasn't originally going there.  Something we did made him change his plans and send that fleet there.  It could simply be that the fact that we showed up here seventy days ago, right at the start of all this, our simple presence here could have been what touched this off.  What exactly did we cause?  What exactly is actually happening?  I mean, it looks like the Sword Worlds, but how and why?  How does that work?"
    "The Sword Worlds are basically on Adabicci's front door.  So presumably the Duke has a reasonably good intelligence about what's going on there militarily.  Has he seen anything going on that concerns him?  Now you've talked to him about the fleet at Caladbolg, right?"
    "I did mention it, yes."
    "He didn't seem to flinch about it?"
    "He did not."
    "He found it interesting."
    Sir Misha thinks a while, then says, "If something dramatic was going to happen to one of the Duke's children such as would affect the Duke, like the death of one of them, would that show up in your threads as pointing to the child or the Duke?"
    "I'm not sure how that would look, but that's not what's happening here.  This is a threat to him directly."
    "Was our harrassing attack on the fleet what could have caused this event?"
    "It was already happening by then."
    "So, backing up.  We've already discussed our coming here..."
    "The only place where our open appearance could have reached Santanocheev in time was here.  Information about our visit to Trin could not have arrived here yet."
    "OK.  I have some more questions.  Is there any connection between the Tukera Lines dispute, and Santanocheev and the Duke of Adabicci?  Is there some triangle there?"
    "No, that's not related."
    "Also, we were on Wonstar, but that's probably too long ago."
    "Before we were in Adabicci, we were on Rhylanor.  Some flashy things happened there when Shark got kidnapped.  But that didn't involve any black tech, although it was related to INISO.  But that was too long ago too, as well as being fired on at Mora."
    "Is there any chance that Adabicci is playing with us?  That he's really with Santanocheev?"
    "I've considered that too, but I don't think so.  I'm not that paranoid."

    Shortly after breakfast, Robert comes to an understanding about this mysterious encryption.  He realizes that he is not going to break it, because the thinking behind it is incompatible with the way he thinks and the way the computer thinks.  It's opposed to the Right Way of Thinking that he's learned, and that the computer uses, and script language, and everything.  It's so completely alien that the concepts aren't even... conceivable.  He gives Jack all the information that he has.