(29) To Be Named

The Crusader Campaign (132-1123 to 133-1123)

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132-1123 : Adabicci / Lunion / Spinward Marches

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

Breakfast at 08:00 Imperial is 6:51 local afternoon.
Robert at -2.

    Mich Saginaw's work shift finishes at 10:00 Imperial time (8:51 pm local) after 13 hours on the shields with 14 hours remaining.  It's definitely time for him to get some sleep.

    Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege, has been considering what could be the threat to the Duke of Adabicci.  Could it be a member of his family moving against him, or something outside?  What and how is Santanocheev's fleet moving to Caladbolg is a hint to this?
    She thinks she might visit the ducal palace today.  From what she can remember, it's a large building that sprawls with wings and annexes, and various obscure corridors connecting them.  There's no fancy elevator system connecting it, requiring everyone to walk around.  The architectural style is fairly classical, four stories built from a light yellow stone, with a steeply pointed roof surmounting it.  Crennelations surround the top, but they are purely decorative -- there is barely half a meter between them and the roof slop itself.  Many entrances are scattered around, contributing to the feeling of it being a maze.  Below ground is another matter; Kalida has never seen the bunker and other sections down there, but she knows it's a very functional style and very well served by grav elevators.
    The grounds themselves are very extensive.  The palace is not associated with a town, but there is a gravtrain link to a local village which has the necessary support functions.  The grounds are about 40 sq. km.  Landing fields are maintained as grass, and are carefully repaired after visitors leave.  On Adabicci, well maintained grass fields are a status symbol and expected of nobility.
    The grounds are less formal than Sir Geoffrey's.  The youngest son has surrounded himself with an agricultural setting.  There are sheep and fields, but very little has been left to grow wild.  The Duke has opted for a very natural approach, woods and open grassland, and if someone were to breach the extensive perimeter security they would have a fairly easily time approaching the palace unobserved to within a couple of hundred meters.
    Inside the palace itself, security is apparently very light, and not at all obvious to the visitor.  Among the staff are enough people who know who is supposed to be there, and can bring up displays to check who is supposed to be there.  No-one is there to stop anyone wandering around, although any really important locations are subtly guarded by people in appropriate household staff uniforms specially tailored to conceal the tools of their trade.  Getting into the palace and grounds is tightly controlled, but once inside there is very little apparent security.  Once Kalida had been given permission to land her yacht inside the grounds, that was her -- and her crew's -- approval for access to the palace and so on.  It is only very close friends and household members who get to land on the grounds.
    Kalida herself has not spent much time in this palace.  In the past, she's almost always been accompanied by someone who knew the way.  Still, through most of the house, it's hard to go too far without finding some sort of lounge or drawing room, where a lost visitor can sit down and relax for a while before asking directions.  Several art galleries provide plenty of distractions for the casual visitor.

    In local time, it's early evening; the Duke himself lives on Imperial time mostly, and either way it's an appropriate time to visit.  After getting approval from Captain Sir Misha Ravanos, she heads over to the palace with the goal of wandering around and getting lost.
    She indeed gets lost very quickly, enjoying the occasional art gallery and other points of interest.  At lunchtime, she has someone bring her lunch in some unknown lounge.

    Back on board the ship, Robert Morris has been busy.  He's already given Jack all the information on the encryption that he is unable to break.  With no new codes to play with, he then starts working with Helia Sarina on analyzing the last misjump.  Helia is sure her calculations were perfect, allowing for all possible factors, and in fact neither of them can find the slightest mistake.  Everything is correct.  Helia is very glad to work with Robert on this, in the process producing mathematics either way beyond Robert's capability or utter gibberish.  She is very concerned about what might have happened.  They make extensive use of sparkly pink on the bridge to reduce the communications barrier.

    Kalida continues her explorations of the palace.  Once in a while she reaches an outside room, overlooking the grounds, and while that shows her where she is, it doesn't really help her find her way around.  The only sure way would be to open the window and walk around the outside, but the controlled environment inside the building doesn't allow for opening windows.  At times she comes across sections of the building that were obviously originally intended to let in the outside environment, but these were converted to a closed environment probably around a century ago.
    At around 15:00, she gets directions from a servant and finds her way outside and back to Nightshade.  Finally back on board at 15:30, with her mind clear, she goes directly to her stateroom to contemplate the threads.

    Some time back, she remembers there being threads that came off from Santanocheev's path that went out in strange directions that didn't make any sense.  She returns to those now, to see if anything has changed, and if so, what.  Everything is dominated by where the fleets were going, but she catches the edge of important factors that split off that were not fleets.  They seem to be linked in with the Adabicci threat.
    It's very hard to tell what those might be.  She picks out three, but she can't really trace them although they're headed in the same general direction as the Calabolg fleet and related to it.  They started out before the fleet, perhaps getting where they were to go about two weeks earlier, although it's very hard to tell because the fleets dominate.  Closer examination reveals they are headed to three different locations within the Sword Worlds, but it's impossible to tell now.  They would have arrived about three weeks ago.  Any attempt to get more detail just loses track of the whole area.
    She switches back to the fleet at Caladbolg, and again tries to confirm how long it will be there.  What she sees correlates with what Jack had told her in private.  This time Kalida believes it will be there for at least a month, possibly much longer.  It's clearly settling down for the long term.
    By now she's been staring at it so long that she can't get anything more out of it.  She needs a break, perhaps a drink, perhaps talking with someone else.  She gets up and heads to the lounge.

    It's about 18:00 when Kalida arrives at Nightshade's lounge.  It's a perfect time for cocktails before dinner.  In addition, she gets a rare glimpse of Mich, who's leaving his stateroom at about the same time for some coffee.
    Jack is already there, but the Baron is somewhere else and Teri is probably resting too after assisting Mich all day.  Jack is staring out the window nursing a cup of coffee.  Sir Misha too is there, also sitting quietly.
    Kalida pours herself a whiskey, drinks about half of it, starts counting on her fingers, looks confused, then enlightened.  She finishes her first glass, looks out the window, and says aloud, "On 110, three small things arrived at destinations in the Sword Worlds from Dawnworld."
    Jack looks at her sharply but says nothing.  She swivels her chair around and pays attention to Kalida.
    Kalida continues, "For anyone interested in a timeline, that was about three days after we left Dawnworld, after attacking the fleet there."
    Jack speaks up, clearly not able to stand it anymore.  "Three things.  Three what?  What are they doing?  Where did you get this information?"
    "The crystal ball in my head."
    "So what's this got to do with anything?"
    "This is connected to the threat I've been following."
    "OK.  Got anything else?"
    Kalida pours another glass of whiskey.  "You know, after a while it just gets all <<offensively>>."
    "Are you the only one who knows anything about this?"
    "That I am."
    "That's a strange thought," Jack laughs, then says, "Why three?"
    "I don't know," replies Kalida, "And I don't know what their destinations are, just that it was somewhere in the Sword Worlds."
    "The Sword Worlds take up a subsector.  Doesn't narrow it down a lot."
    "No, but we can assume the threat will come from close enough to actually get to Adabicci.  They probably weren't going towards the tail end."
    Jack sits back and looks around the lounge.
    Sir Misha just nods and says, "Sounds good to me."
    Jack says, "So how does this affect anything?"
    Kalida says, "This is a more direct cause of whatever will be happening here in a few days."  She doesn't elaborate, but starts on dinner.

    Vonish is on form tonight.  He even produces some special coffee for just Mich.  Mich approves -- it's not quite engineering coffee, but along the right lines.

    During dinner, however, Jack can't leave the subject alone.  She asks Kalida what those three things might be doing there.  Is it an invasion, or what?
    "Probably," says Kalida.  "I don't know exactly where they were going, but they were small and considerably faster than a fleet."
    "Kind of hard to invade with that."
    "No, but it's not difficult to touch off an invasion."  Kalida muses silently that Winchester is supposed to get here about 138 too.  Things aren't so much knotted as super-glued.
    Of course the Sword World navy is technologically behind the Imperium, but they are high quality forces from a militaristic culture.  They've certainly been a major annoyance in the Frontier Wars, where they traditionally sided with the Zhodani, dividing the Imperium's forces.  They were a reluctant party to the Treaty of Quar which sealed the peace between the Imperium and Zhodani; it was their pre-war preparations being discovered that allowed Norris to force that issue.  They were certainly not happy about it at the time.
    They don't have the strength to invade the Spinward Marches, but they can present a threat to border worlds and have a substantial standing fleet within one jump of Imperial Worlds.  The current capital is Gram, which is further than a jump away.  In the past, the capital has been elsewhere -- stability is not the Sword Worlds' strong point, although the capital has been at Gram since 852, when it was rumored they had Zhodani support.
    Mich asks if she wants to jump to one of those three locations.
    Kalida replies, "I don't know what locations they are.  I know they went somewhere into the Sword Worlds, I don't know exactly where.  I think I'll go have a chat with the Duke first thing in the morning.  It's like being Cassandra, except that everybody believes me."
    Baron Bridgehead finally wanders in.  Kalida briefs him on the new information.  The Baron says, "Three places doesn't make sense now, but it would 300 years ago.  The Sword Worlds were run by the Trilateral Alliance then.  Have you ever looked to see if the Sword Worlds will survive this without a revolution?"
    Kalida says she has not, and will take a look at that tonight.

    After dinner, Mich resumes work on the shields.  He starts at 19:00 with about 14 hours left.

    Kalida goes back to her stateroom and considers the Sword World systems that used to form the Trilateral Alliance 300 or so years ago.  Those were Narsil, Sacnoth, and Durendal.  She's concentrating on the connections she thinks are there, to Santanocheev and to Adabicci.
    There are connections.  It's hard to tell what, because the whole area is swirling a bit, but in that area are indeed direct connections to Santanocheev and Adabicci.
    Next she tries to see what the Sword Worlds will look like when this is finished.  This is looking at the grander scale rather than individual detail, which is always a little easier.  Nevertheless, she can't tell.  It's very fuzzy.  It could get bigger, it could get smaller, it could swirl around and end up different.  The only thing she's sure about is that it is not going to be the same.  How it will change, however, cannot be figured out -- not that she can't figure it out, but that it's impossible to do so.
    Next she looks for connections to the Zhodani.  There are none at present.  They are not affecting that area, and are not a factor in the uncertainty.
    That done, she retires for the night.

133-1123 : Adabicci / Lunion / Spinward Marches

    Mich is done repairing the shields at 05:00, four hours ahead of his estimate.  Nightshade is ready to go.

    Breakfast at is served at 08:00, as is normal in port.
    Mich arrives at breakfast, apparently refreshed from some sleep too.
    Kalida is talking to the Baron.  She has told him that she thinks the Sword Worlds will be changing in some way after all this, but that she could not tell how.  They will not be quite the same as they are now.  The Baron is doubtful as to why that really matters, and to the vagueness of her predictions, to which Kalida responds, "Now we know that the Sword Worlds are definitely involved, which we did not before.  I wonder exactly what game Santanocheev is playing."
    Bridgehead is not convinced.  He says, "So this is another one of your... visions, right?  How did you figure out that Santanocheev has something to do with the Sword Worlds?"
    "It's all there.  Everything is connected to everything else.  You just have to follow the links and see how they work."
    "So... the fleet in Caladbolg has something to do with the Sword Worlds, which has something to do with what's going on here?  That almost makes sense.  I'm not sure how, but at this time in the morning that almost makes sense."
    "Then you need more coffee," smiles Kalida.
    Bridgehead takes her suggestion.  He asks, "So what will that fleet be doing, and what's happening here?"
    "The fleet at Caladbolg is just going to be sitting there for at least a month.  It's not as directly involved as the other three groups."  She shakes her head and adds, "How I'm going to explain this all to the Duke, I don't know."
    Suddenly the Baron looks over at Mich.  "What are you doing here, Mich?  I thought you were supposed to be working on the ship?"
    "It's done."
    "You're done?"
    "It's done.  We're all red.  We can leave anytime."
    Bridgehead turns to Kalida.  He says, "Well, there's your excuse not to have to explain it to the Duke."
    Kalida says, "No, I need to see to the Duke before we leave."

    After breakfast, Kalida and Sir Misha visit the Duke.  Shark follows them with the remote sensors, so with some luck everyone on the ship can listen in on the meeting.
    Once in the palace, they ask to meet the Duke.  They are asked to wait about ten minutes, and then lead through various passageways to a room overlooking the landing field.  The room is light and open, with a fine view of Nightshade.  No-one else is in the room.
    Adabicci welcomes them in and offers them drinks.  Nakege is still in the mood for coffee.
    Nakage says, "We were all sitting around dinner last night, discussing the state of things, and it makes sense to us that the threat to you is connected to the Sword Worlds."
    Adabicci raises an eyebrow and says, "Well, they certainly don't like me.  What do you think is going to happen?  Can you guess what the nature of this threat might be?"
    "I don't know exactly."
    "So I'm still looking for that coffee table to fall out of the sky on my head in five days time?  What are the Sword Worlds going to do?"
    "I believe that Santanocheev sent ships directly to the three systems that lead the Trilateral Alliance."
    "That would be a question, wouldn't it?  It's connect to the movement on Norris.  I could make wild guesses, but I don't know that they'd be any particular use."
    "I'll take wild guesses," says Adabicci quickly.
    "Santanocheev and Norris fell out over the Treaty of Quar, which was precipitated by information gained from the Sword Worlds, more or less."
    "Pretty much directly," confirms Adabicci, "Not that they were a willing partner in revealing it.  It all happened just a few parsecs from here."
    "So Santanocheev is essentially trying to throw down Norris and take his place.  It might be useful, having taken over Norris' position, for Santanocheev to have an emergency to take care of, and it might not hurt that it repudiates -- in a way -- Norris' position."
    Adabicci nods.  "Do you think Santanocheev is stirring up the Sword Worlds to invade the Imperium so he can fight them back?"
    "He's stirring them up in some way.  All indications are that some of it is going to directly affect you.  Now he could simply be influencing them to split apart, but that would have more of an indirect effect on you, and I don't think that's quite what's happening."
    "So you think it's likely we're going to see a Sword World fleet or two here in a few days?"
    "It's possible."
    "Enough of a chance for me to put things in motion and set up a defence?"
    "I think so."
    Adabicci sighs, "Very well.  I'll do it.  I'll look silly if it doesn't turn up.  So what is the Caladbolg fleet doing?  Making sure they don't go too far, or helping them out?  Not that it matters directly at this point."
    "As you say, it doesn't matter.  I don't know what their role is.  I suspect they're more of a diversion than anything."
    "Well, let's hope Winchester's a day early rather than a day late."
    "And well prepared."
    "Oh, he'll be well prepared.  After all, he's here to reinforce in the case of potential trouble."
    "If nothing happens, you can always pass it off as an exercise, after the fact."
    "I don't think I can do that," says Adabicci.  "We'll call this a full military alert.  When were you planning to leave?"
    Nakege glances at Sir Misha.  "There's no real reason for us to stay?"
    Sir Misha says, "Unless you have any additional tasks for us...?"
    "No," says Adabicci, "I'll just lock down the system after you leave.  It'll save all the fuss and bother of giving you special permission."
    "Understood.  We'll leave immediately.  We have things to do."
    Adabicci nods.
    Nakege says, "I think we've helped you as much as we can."
    Adabicci says, "Yes, you've given me something to defend against.  Even if it doesn't turn up, at least I'll feel like I'm doing something."  He smiles, then says seriously, "I'd like to know if they're hitting anywhere else.  Hard to believe they wouldn't.  Unless they're throwing everything here, in which case we have a real problem.  But you'll be well out of that, which is not a bad thing.  Spreading family and spreading friends is a good thing to do in a time of crisis.  If they're not going to be with you, at least know they'll be safe somewhere else.  At least, somewhere else -- I don't think you people are ever somewhere safe."
    "Only under a very loose definition of the word."
    "Well, I wish you the best of luck.  I hope you can find time to drop by when all this is over, and that there's something to drop by to."  Adabicci laughs.
    "We'll be back," says Nakege.  She looks at Sir Misha, and he nods.  It is time to leave.

    Sir Misha and Kalida return to Nightshade.  The crew take stations to take off, headed for Tussinian and whatever might lie there.