(31) To Be Named
The Crusader Campaign (134-1123 to 138-1123)
This file has yet to be fully
This file has yet to be fully
It's about 02:00. Discussions still continue
back on board Nightshade, after the meeting
with the Imperial
Navy officers on the 100kt Nightflower
Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege,
runs a quick check and reports that yes, the expander can be fired from
underwater or -- as Edward "Shark" Teeth suggests -- from inside
another ship. Rate of fire and range are about the same as a meson gun. As long
as it's targeting transports refueling from the oceans, the effect on
the planet won't be too bad. Immediately, that is -- there will
be some fallout from secondary radiation effects, but the environmental
factors will be lessened by being over water.
Captain Sir Misha Ravanos is, of course, not
familiar with the strategies and tactics of flotilla-level operations
involving the Imperial Navy. He asks a whole sequence of
questions for the ship's tacticians -- Kalida and Grand Admiral Baron
Bridgehead -- who supply him with an overview of the likely scenarios.
The incoming fleet will need to refuel as a high
priority, but the tankers to do so are not capable of doing so under
fire. That means that Santanocheev's forces will have to secure
the mainworld -- the only large-scale source of water in the system --
before they start refuelling operations.
That means, says Sir Misha, that sitting under the
ocean to take out the tankers as they refuel is really a last ditch
effort. That plan was originally not about taking out tankers,
but to give them something to do to keep them out of the battle.
Mich says brightly that if they removed all the
water from the world, the fleet couldn't refuel.
They can't do that with the weapons on this ship,
but if they had whatever was used on Karma they could if not
remove the water, then make the conditions pretty much impossible for
Kalida points out that there are people on this
planet -- Bridgehead nods, saying just 500 -- and it's bad enough
already that they're going to be wiping out Imperial Navy forces.
That brings up the point -- this is where the Civil
War, or coup or however history describes it, really starts. Here
is going to be the first time that Imperial Forces will enage other
Imperial Forces since the Civil War ended almost exactly five hundred
years ago. The Solomani Rim War of 990-1102 doesn't count, as the
Solomani Confederation's independence was already well established.
Sir Misha's next idea is that a semi-destroyed hulk left
after the battle (his crew assure him there will definitely be plenty)
could be used as cover. On the other hand, the tacticians say,
Admiral Altrafe indicated that he was planning to fight in the gravity
well, and that would mean much of the wreckage would fall down on the
planet itself. But by then, they could take up station
underwater. While their targetting would be limited by the sensor
capabilities, using the equivalent of gigaton nukes doesn't need a lot
of accuracy. They don't have to be very far underwater, either.
Shark's goal is that after the Trin's Veil fleets
have retreated, then Nightshade should slow Santanocheev's
flotilla down by another three days. That will be enough to stop
them getting to Mora on time.
Kalida is certain that the fleets here are only
capable of delaying for one or two days at best. They are so
severely outnumbered, especially with the Duke of Trin holding his flag
fleet back rather than committing it to this action.
The incoming fleets will have to be
aggressive. They are on tight time, and simply must secure ocean
Sir Misha says he'd expect the incoming fleets to
attack immediately. After all, it's not like there are hills and
woods that can be used to hide.
Kalida and Shark are quick to correct him.
Admiral Altrafe will be defending a planet, with two moons to consider,
and the effect of the gravity well is to restrict ship movement much as
woods restrict free cavalry operations.
The Imperial Navy fleets will arrive over three days
and very likely with a decent balance of forces given that there are so
many ships coming in. One sixth the first day, two thirds the
second, and the final sixth the third day.
Now while the fleets here would outnumber the first
day fleets, it isn't by enough to make any sort of decisive conclusion
-- it would severly weaken the ability of the defenders to take any
action against the mass arriving on the second day. The fight
would be over on the first day if the defenders engaged.
Sir Misha's next idea is to go ahead and use the
expander indiscriminantly. They might well think it was some sort
of massive meson gun -- they would be amazing at the strength, but the
ability to explode at a distance with no intervening signs is very
similar. Then, of course, there's the fact that it would go
straight through meson screens.
Kalida points out that this is not actually a
problem as far as the Arden Society is concerned. Erik in fact
told them that the expander should be their weapon of choice against
Imperial ships, saving the missiles to knock down the screens of a real
target should one appear unexpectedly. Using any missiles against
Imperial ships would leave them with no offensive capability against
any ship that really mattered.
As for the nuclear question, if someone else uses
nukes then they can too. If they are the first to use them, then
they are in serious trouble for using them in the Imperium. It'll
be interesting to see who blinks first, but it must not be Nightshade.
The laser, of course, is a heavy weapons grade
system by Imperial standards, but that's not its mean purpose.
While it's to be used as point defense against an incoming missile
swarm, what is really important about it is as a sensor system for
detecting ships in stealth mode.
Sir Misha is now leaning towards joining the
battle. Santanocheev has, however, almost certainly alerted his
fleets to look out for a black ship like theirs, and to deal with it as
a very high priority. They need to tell Admiral Altrafe about
that, as it would affect the direction of the battle.
Kalida is fine with that. As long as it
doesn't violate the contract with the Arden Society -- and Erik was
very clear that it did not -- they really don't have to hold back
during the fighting.
The question that Sir Misha now poses is do they
want to be part of the defensive fleet, or be independent and come in
after the battle has been engaged?
Shark says they should be a little more open with
the Admiral, saying that the capabilities of this ship don't really fit
in with his fleet, and that they would be best used on detached
duty. They need to make him aware that as soon as they are seen,
Santanocheev will send something after them.
Mich says they'd be better off in another ship and
just piggyback for the ride. They can shoot from there.
Kalida says their accuracy will suffer, and Helia
dislikes the idea even more strongly. They'd be stuck with the
capabilites of that other ship and what it does, how fast it can go,
where it will be. Although Nightshade is extremely
strong, they don't want to be stuck having to blast their way out of a
Sir Misha says they will propose that they be a
separate striker and join after the battle has been engaged. They
might even be able to draw other ships clear of the battle.
Although they won't mention it to the Admiral, they can stay around for
several days and could even catch up with the defenders during jump.
Bridgehead laughs that they could do that to
Santanocheev -- they could jump ahead and wherever he goes, they'll be
there waiting for him.
Kalida points out that from Tussinian, the
path is uncertain. There are a lot of other places that he could
go from here, and they can't really predict where he'll be with any
Sir Misha adds that while the Imperial Navy surely
have their own tacticians, they have two very fine ones on board here,
and could they add something to the defense?
Shark says the Imperial Navy has plenty of people
assigned to that job. Then, of course, so does the other side
have a lot of Imperial Navy tacticians.
Sir Misha nods. What they need is tactics from
Kalida says she's concerned that in addition to the
alien encrypted communications, they might have alien tactics to bring
to the table as well.
Bridgehead suddenly asks Sir Misha to put it in
barbarian terms. There are a lot of people with swords. A
bunch of them are defending an oasis, about to be attacked by a much
larger force of people with big swords who must take the oasis
quickly. What would he do in that scenario?
Sir Misha says, "The group I was in, we didn't do it
with whole armies. We set up quickly at night, broke a few knees,
and came back the next day and asked what they needed."
Kalida says that's pretty much what Nightshade
Shark asks him, "As part of that striker force, how
would you help the army defend?"
Sir Misha laughs, "Before the battle was engaged,
we'd sneak into the camp and break a few knees." On that note, he
says, they should all get some sleep. It's about 03:00 by now,
and they definitely need some rest.
Before Shark retires, however, he tells the ship to
wake him if more than a few ships arrive in the system. He
doesn't want to miss the arrival of any of Santanocheev's ships.
He drifts off to sleep wondering if Mich and Robert could manage to
synchronize the firing of the expander with the target's black globe
Despite Shark's paranoia, nothing shows up
overnight. His first move in the morning is to ask Callisto to
look for black tech in the system. He knows the ship usually
panics -- because it would be a serious target -- but he wants to be
sure. Callisto assures him there is no other black tech here, at
least within detection range.
Kalida has been checking up on black globes, but the
ship has no knowledge of them other than what was in the Imperial
computer data that Robert transferred. It can't simulate
them. Mich probably knows the most, but even then it's a unit
installed on ships of great importance, and can't be serviced.
She herself doesn't know much about them either, other than it stops
everything going in or out. Even the expander needs a line to the
point of expansion, kind of like an astral silver thread -- it can't be
detected without black tech, but it can be blocked by extreme
measures. A black globe might be such an extreme measure, but the
ship doesn't know.
Mich can however add that the black globe absorbs
energy which has to be shunted and stored or dissipated. It's
possible to overload one by pumping enough energy into it.
Standard procedure is to use the zuchai crystal array of the jump
drive, and it can be used to jump if necessary.
Kalida wonders if using the expander outside the
black globe could pump enough energy into it, although she really
doesn't know at what distance outside it she should aim.
Shark calls over to Nightflower, and gets an
appointment for 13:30. He suggests to the crew that they could
tell the Admiral they were going to hid in the inner asteroid belt --
it would definitely be plausible, it's not hard to hide in an asteroid
belt so close to the sun. Rather than starting a large discussion
like last night, however, the crew all relax and do their own thing
After lunch, Robert Morris takes Sir Misha and
Kalida over to Nightflower. Again, they are escorted to
the same room to meet with Admiral Altrafe, Captains Gorren (INI) and
Wistfat, and Commander Trent.
Sir Misha says they've discussed what would be a
good plan for their ship. They have decided that it was important
to let them know that the capabilities of the ship were somewhat better
than a luxury yacht. "It's more on the order of" -- Sir Misha
looks at Kalida -- "a fast attack ship. My tacticians tell us
that our most useful position in the upcoming battle would be to wait
for the battle to be engaged, then come in from behind. We
wondered if you had any better ideas."
"Obviously you're not under command," says Admiral
Altrafe. "I'd prefer ships to come in and work in a coordinated
fashion with the rest of us. We are pretty much settling on a
conventional defense of the mainworld, but forcing the fighting into
the gravity well. We'll be using the mainworld to try to get some
sort of local numerical advantage."
Kalida says theirs is rather a maverick crew, and
not likely to work well with others. "We've had very little
reason or opportunity to work with other ships. We're very much
used to being entirely on our own."
Sir Misha continues, "Santanocheev is aware of the
existence of our ship, and we have annoyed him in the past. It is
likely that his ships have orders to keep an eye out for a ship of our
particular configuration, and once our presence here is known, it is
likely that it will affect their battle plans at least a little."
Admiral Altrafe raises an eyebrow and says, "You
think they're going to go after one couple of thousand ton ship?"
Kalida says, 'He has a personal grudge against us."
Sir Misha says, "Like I said, we have annoyed him in
"Sufficiently that he would subvert his fleet
tactics to get at you?" Admiral Altrafe says. "I must admit
I find that a little hard to believe."
"I would at least lay it out as a possibility."
Kalida points out that with a great number of fleets
coming in, he could divert a small portion without changing his overall
"So how can we take a group of admitted mavericks
and use them without disrupting your plans?"
The Admiral says, "It's going to be chaotic enough
in there anyway. Just don't shoot our ships and shoot
theirs. That's going to be hard enough under the circumstances."
Kalida says, "The odds are with us. Lot more
of them. And if we do as we say and come in from behind,
especially in the early part of the battle it will be a lot harder to
hit any of you."
"I'd like to find out if he really is going to
commit that much to chasing you. If he could put enough into it
to create a weak spot in the rest of his forces that we can exploit..."
"We can try to set that up. Whether or not
they'll fall in is unknown, but..."
"We're thinking of making this an extremely
dangerous battle, running it really deep in the gravity well. It
cuts down everyone's maneuver options, so he's going to have more
trouble concentrating his forces. We're practicing already.
The other thing is that everything that gets disabled is going to end
up crashing rather than repairable, so anything we take out will be
removed completely. It's not nice for us, and it removes the
option of jumping that close into the gravity well, but I'm not jumping
this thing anyway. They're going to have the high position
advantage, but we're going to make the situation difficult
enough. It'll even it out."
"Are you planning on waiting for them to come at
"Yes. We figure that they'll come at us within
a few hours of the second day arrivals. They're obviously not
going to come in on the first day. We suspect that they'll keep a
large amount of forces in reserve and rotate fresh forces in and out."
Kalida and Sir Misha both consider that a very
tempting target, but it makes the idea of staying out behind the lines
much less attractive.
"So we guess about 27-30 hours after the first ships
get here, we'll be fighting. It's going to be the first major
action of Imperial vs. Imperial forces for a very long time."
"Yes," says Kalida, "We lose either way. What
are you planning on doing the next couple of days, until they start
"Exercises. Briefings. Meetings.
Internal training. Moving everything to peak readiness level in
about four days. Making sure everything's fully fueled. You
"We'll take care of it."
"And once we're clear here, any forces jumping out
are headed to Katarulu. That's going to be our assembly
point after the battle."
The discussion seems to mostly over. They'll
need to exchange sensor profiles for Friend or Foe identification, of
The Admiral's goal is to keep this as an
insurrection rather than a civil war: if this is the one battle between
Imperial forces, then that has been achieved. He has one more
question, however: does the Marchioness of Nakege wish to take a
position in the command chain in case enough levels get knocked out,
and if so, at what point does she wish to become the commanding officer
of the fleet? Apparently the Duke of Trin thinks very highly of
Kalida says she'll think about it, and they make
their goodbyes and return to Nightshade.
Back on board, the inevitable crew discussion starts
up. The subject of the command chain is quickly settled -- Kalida
doesn't want to be in the position of taking orders from someone else,
and the command chain goes both ways. Nevertheless, if they lose
that many line officers they'll need some help.
Shark agrees. If it comes to that, the best order
will be for them to go to 100d and jump. The others all chime in
with their agreement too -- it's unanimous.
Kalida calls back and politely and tactfully
declines a position in the command chain.
Over the next few days, they'll spend the time
pretending to refuel, and scouting out positions both in the system and
in the mainworld's ocean. "Refueling" is the first task, and
that's performed flawlessly from Tussinian's ample oceans.
At the same time, Callisto does a full detailed scan
on that run to get a good picture of the world.
The oceans are not shallow -- it's essentially a
deep world-ocean with some peaks and plateaus sticking up out of it.
Kalida takes an afternoon to gaze into her
metaphorical crystal ball. She decides that everything is still
coming here -- that's the first thing to consider.
The next matter is that there are three fleets
unaccounted for, and she wants to see if she can get any feeling for
where they are and what they're doing. One, of course, is going
to Caladbolg, leaving two more to find. Well, where could
they go? They were not in Bicornn. Everything that
came from Dawnworld arrived in Bicornn, so it's two
Glisten fleets that are somewhere else. Whether they're held in
reserve or part of the offensive is harder to determine.
She is sure there is only one fleet headed for the
Sword Worlds, and everything else is still headed to
trailing-coreward. That's about the best she can figure out.
So instead of trying to find out where they're
going, she looks for whence they came. What she does realize is
that they are both gone from the Glisten subsector -- by now, there are
no fleets left in Glisten. So they have or had already jumped
from Glisten somewhere to coreward or trailing.
The day is completely uneventful.
The defending forces lose a heavy cruiser to a crash
atmosphere-edge maneuver exercises. It goes down into the ocean,
a total loss with no survivors.
Bridgehead and Kalida are not very surprised -- the
exercises, like the upcoming battle, is dangerously close to
atmospheric drag. Normally the zone from world surface to
atmosphere transition would be allocated to world-based forces rather
than the Imperial Navy.
At noon, a sparkling of jump flashes announces the
arrival of the first part of Santanocheev's fleets. They're
coming in roughly in the mainworld's orbit, ahead of it in its movement
around the star.
Kalida suggests hiding themselves, and then moving
into position behind where they now know the rest of the fleets will
The incoming forces are simply assembling.
It's an assorted mix from all the fleets, 1/6 of the fleets that were
in Bicornn, but none of the Happy Fun Balls are among them.
The defending forces are in position near the
mainworld. The invaders are moving out to account for the moving
100d circle, and clearly not attempting to move in at all.
About an hour after the fleets arrive, Admiral
Altrafe calls. He patches them in on a call from the incoming
An Admiral comes on saying that this fleet is on the
way with legitimate authority to arrest Archduke Norris for
treason. He says that there is no intended military action
involved with this, that the fleets around the mainworld should move
aside and give them room to refuel.
Altrafe questions their authority. They
respond that official information authorizing it will be arriving
tomorrow -- they do not have an officer with the documents in this
portion of the flotilla. Nevertheless, since these are all
Imperial fleets involved in a legal Imperial operation, the local
fleets should move aside.
Altrafe says he will wait for the authority, and
cuts the link.
The Admiral asks them what they think, and the
consensus is that they have learned nothing new. When they come
through with their authority tomorrow, he intends to meet them in
person, take a few hours, and reject it. Then he'll wait for them
to come in, and hope they fire the first shot. He adds that they
are authorizing nuclear use the instant it becomes necessary.
Individual ship commanders are to refrain from using them until a
target appears that requires them, at which point they are free to go
Kalida asks for the official word on what determines
the acceptable point.
Altrafe expects it to escalate pretty much
immediately. Whenever a commander feels he can't eliminate his
target with conventional weapons, he is free to go ahead and use nukes.
Since Nightshade is not under his command,
does this include them?
The Admiral says, "I am officially giving you
authorization to use nuclear weapons if you have them. At your
Shark smiles and notes that in asking, she just
pointed out that this was not a yacht.
Kalida tells Altrafe that they are moving out to
place themselves behind the incoming ships. They will not show
themselves until the first shots are fired, unless he directs otherwise.
They wish each other good luck, and finish the
call. Since they're headed out, it probably won't be possible to
patch them in on anything else from here on.
The ship goes dark, into alternate total black color
scheme, and Helia takes them out of orbit. She loops behind the
outermost of the two moons and slips into stealth behind there. Nightshade
moves into position, now at full speed.
Out here, Robert can't pick up anything useful in
terms of communication. Open broadcast radio would be fine, but
no-one's using that. They're far out and in the wrong direction,
and it would be practically impossible to get anything from tight beam
They wait for violence.
They are still waiting. It's 138.
Everything happens today.
Sir Misha and Kalida burn off a little nervous
energy exercising with their zacks in the gym.
Space lights up with jump flashes from an enormous
mass of ships appearing between Nightshade and the
mainworld. Most of Santanocheev's forces are now here, including
all the Happy Fun Balls except Llanamith.
The fleets move into a classic Imperial line of
battle and reserve line.
Kalida directs them into position near the reserve
line, still of course in stealth mode.
After two hours at 14:00, a heavy cruiser from each
side starts out, heading towards the middle between the two
forces. Presumably this is the official paperwork.
Callisto monitors what's going on in the
middle. A ship's boat leaves the standing fleet's cruiser, and
after about an hour returns to its ship. The heavy cruisers
return to their respective forces.
At 19:00, Santanocheev's fleets start manuevering
and heading towards the mainworld.