(43) To Be Named

The Crusader Campaign (148-1123 to 155-1123)

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148-1123 : Mora / Mora / Spinward Marches

    While Mich and Bridgehead are setting up the box for transporting Santanocheev, and Kalida is preparing her reviews with Robert's help, Helia takes Nightshade up so that Callisto can run a full passive scan of the surface of the planet.  Nothing out of the ordinary shows up on the scans.

149-1123 : Mora / Mora / Spinward Marches

    They go ashore with the gcarrier at the same time as the day before.  Robert drives of course, accompanied by Sir Misha, Kalida, Shark, Bridgehead, and Teri.  Bridgehead doesn't need to be at the meeting, but he does want to be along to monitor the "package."
    Sir Misha has requested that Teri be along just in case something goes wrong.  Also just in case, he also wants Nightshade up in the air and ready to respond.

    The trip to the palace is smooth and trouble-free.  This time when Shark goes out to the guards, however, they give him a small package, a metal box, which he brings back on the gcarrier.
    The dilemma now is where to go to deliver the coffin.  They weren't told anything about it, and when they proceed through the gate there are no guides or escort.
    Kalida suggests opening the box.  The rest of the crew exchange nervous glances -- they've had bad experiences with metal boxes before.  Still, it's likely that this contains the instructions.
    Inside the box is indeed a hand-written note directing them to an outbuilding -- a gravcraft carriage house -- around the back of the palace.
    Robert drives them around the back and to the indicated gravcraft hangar.  There is one Imperial Marine in battledress on guard.  They pull up to a halt at the door.
    The Marine comes over and waves his gun to get their attention.
    Sir Misha stands in the door and tells the marine that they were told to park this vehicle in the hangar.
    The marine says he needs to talk to the person in charge.
    Sir Misha says he is the person in charge.
    The marine says that he is not the person authorized to be let into the building.
    Kalida remembers that Shark, as Roger Jolly, has always been the one to present himself to the guards.  She gives him a nudge and he walks over to the door.
    When Roger Jolly appears, the marine goes over to the hangar, presses a button to open the door, and leaves at very high speed with the battledress grav capability.
    Robert drives them inside and comes to a stop.
    The building is empty.
    At Sir Misha's direction, they take Santanocheev's coffin out of the vehicle and place it on the ground.  Bridgehead does a last check of the life support systems.
    Sir Misha walks over to the obvious door button on the inside and presses it.
    As the door opens, Robert backs them out into the palace grounds again.

    Robert pulls them around to the front entrance.  This time as they pull up, all the guards move quickly out of the way rather than forming an escort guard.  Bridgehead, Robert,  and Teri stay behind while the rest take the familiar route to the audience chamber, although without any escort either.

    The Archduke is seated at his round table.
    Sir Misha greets him, and tells him that Kalida has her reports prepared.
    The Marchioness of Nakege tells him she has three reports.  One is a summary suitable for him to broadcast when the time comes.  Another is a full report in real time.  The third is a summary for the Archduke's eyes only.
    "And the package?" asks the Archduke.
    Nakege says it has been delivered.
    Sir Misha tells the Archduke if he would appreciate it if he would tell him if the person is the real Santanocheev or not.
    The Archduke can tell him that now.  Based on the information Bridgehead provided, the person is not the real Santanocheev.  The DNA profile does not match.
    The earliest trouble could be expected to get here is in three weeks time.  Sir Misha turns back to the Archduke, and says that if it's ok with him, they will plan to get back in touch with him in 20 days.
    The Archduke would prefer a little earlier, 18 days, on 167-1123, and Sir Misha agrees.
    They conclude the audience and return to the front of the palace and board the gcarrier.
    There is no escort on the way out either.  Even Shark and Sir Misha are sure that there were no guards around, not just hidden out of sight.

    The first thing Sir Misha wants to do as they pull out of the palace is to get rid of the metal box.  Just because it didn't explode doesn't mean it doesn't have some other purpose.  He tells Robert to pull over some place where there's a public trash can.  Sir Misha burns the paper, and throws away the ashes and box.
    The trip back to Nightshade is as uneventful as the trip out.  Helia brings the ship down into the ocean to meet up with the gcarrier, and everyone is soon back in the lounge to discuss their next move.

    They have 18 days.  Kalida tells them that's time for three standard jumps, and of course a lot more fast jumps.  Adabicci is three jumps away, and they can do two quick jumps and one stealthy one to get there.
    After their experience with the fake Santanocheev, Mich would like them to pick up some more truth juices, but Faldor is a good bit further than Adabicci, two more jumps.
    Sir Misha presents Victoria as another possibility.  Kalida agrees that there is something weird going on there too -- weird but nothing external.
    They could also of course investigate what's happening from Rhylanor, although that's more of a thought exercise for Kalida than an actual flight plan.
    Kalida says they can go to three places -- they can make three stealth entries -- and one of them has to be back here again.  So they should pick one primary place to go, and once there they can consider the possibility of one more place depending on how their limited time gets spent at the first place.  There may be just one useful place in the area anyway.
    Sir Misha says they should go to Adabicci first, then.
    Kalida agrees.  She is inclined to go there physically rather than mentally again.
    Robert suggests trying to trigger an attack on them again, where they tapped into the database and were fired on by the planetary defenses.  That should give useful information about whether the defense system is still compromised.  No matter how much the Archduke thinks he's removed those elements, Shark at least is sure he hasn't got them all.
    Sir Misha agrees.  They'll trigger the database, and if nothing happens then continue on to Adabicci.

    Helia takes them up into orbit and sets them up close to a ship for the first step in Robert's relay.  There's a lot more Imperial Navy ships here, but also more civilian ships.
    Robert chooses an Imperial Navy ship to piggyback from-- they're still using the same encryption that Robert cracked some time ago, so it's no problem for him.  It's one of the smaller ships, as the larger vessels are further out of the gravity well.
    It's easy to hack in and run his relays to step to the database.  While he's passing through the Navy ships, he pulls in standing orders, fleet disposition, and so on.  Standing orders are to defend the system and channel civilian traffic, and to keep all conflict well away from any of the many inhabited worlds in the Mora system.  Kalida is disappointed that there seems to be no secret hidden information or orders.
    The database is not there.  There is, however, a trap on it to detect attempts to access it.  It's good, virtually impossible to avoid triggering it.  Robert does so, however.
    "Trigger it," says Sir Misha.
    First Robert traces the trigger.  It feeds back to some unidentified place located on Mora, but Robert pulls up the general location.  It's an office block downtown in the capital.
    When Robert tells Shark about it, Shark says it's a location he knows about, an Imperial Intelligence organization not related to the Navy.  It's an Imperial Intelligence organization not associated with the military.
    Robert suggests the trap could be to catch the people who put it there, or of course it could be to catch people like him again.
    He sets off the trap and watches.
    After a few minutes the ship Robert's piggybacking gets an incoming communication message, urgent orders.  It is ordered to proceed to a certain location in the system where it is to power down and stand by to be boarded.  The ship starts pulling out of orbit and complying.
    Callisto reports that out in the system, three destroyers have broken formation and are headed to that location.
    Robert, meanwhile, has removed all traces that he was ever there.
    Sir Misha laughs that they have just got one captain in a lot of trouble.  He turns to Kalida.  He says that he'd like to contact the commander of the unit of the destroyers and tell them that the incident should be ignored and there isn't anyone on the ship that they need to be interested in.
    He has two options: go through military channels with Kalida, or intelligence channels with Shark.  Sir Misha opts for the military.
    Kalida tells him that their credentials will be checked.  On Rhylanor they'd just believe them, but here the paper they have that says they should not be questioned will need to be verified.  The order for the intercept came from well up in the command structure.
    Sir Misha would like to avoid pulling in the Archduke.  He doesn't mind saying that they did it rather than the ship, as long as he doesn't have to explain how.
    So they come out of stealth to open a channel to the Imperial Navy.  Robert hooks Kalida up, and she talks her way straight through to the top, where she delivers her message and presents her credentials.
    The officer says they're still going to check the ship, but it will be a much calmer operation.  He thanks her for her information.

    Nightshade is still within 10 diameters, but that doesn't worry Mich.  They jump for 0104 / Mora at noon.

    Once they're in jump, Kalida goes back to her room to consider the Santanocheev question.  There is one fake Santanocheev on Mora, leaving two left back with the fleets at Tussinian.  She wants to figure out if the two are still there, and also to look for another possible Santanocheev with the Rhylanor fleets.  On consideration, however, she can't really locate any of them and can't tell about Rhylanor.  The mass is connected, but it's very fuzzy, exceptionally so.  Something has fuzzed it even more recently in the Rhylanor direction.  She is however sure that the ones that were at Tussinian have moved somewhere else.
    She then tries to follow the connections with the one on Mora.  Right now, they're just hanging, almost in limbo.  There is the potential for connections but she doesn't see any at the moment.
    She then takes a look out at Caladbolg.  Nothing has changed since the last time she looked on 142-1123, and nothing looks likely to change.  It's stable.
    Adabicci, then.  Last time there was some kind of threat but it seemed somewhat stable.  Right now it's stable too, since the last time, but it's still tense and the tension appears to be building, and that's not a result of Nightshade moving that way.  They are not currently affecting what is happening at Adabicci, which is a great relief.  Sometime in the next few days it looks like it will be fuzzy, but whether anything will actually change or not she can't tell.

    Kalida emerges from her stateroom and seeks out Sir Misha.  She tells him that nothing's changing at Caladbolg.  The last thing they knew was Santanocheev's fleet was moving there and was going to sit there for at least several weeks.  Adabicci, on the other hand, looks like something might be happening in the next few to several days, which coincidentally might be the time they get there.
    Sir Misha of course asks if they're causing this.
    "It's not our fault this time," says Kalida.

    It takes four hours for jumpspace to stabilize.  Helia and Mich do their thing, and Nightshade comes out of jump at 0104 / Mora at 16:00.
    It takes a further hour and a half for normal space to stabilize.  Callisto is very quickly sure they're in the right place, but of course they can't jump until it's stable.  Everything's red across Mich's Engineering board, but he runs some extra diagnostics anyway.

    At 17:50, Nightshade jumps for 0305 / Lunion.

    Robert is still working on his astrogation simulator.  He's finding that Helia's astrogation doesn't fit her model this time.  It's an outlier, and he has no idea what she could have done.
    He mentions it to Helia, who explains with great enthusiasm and great detail.  Unfortunately she loses Robert within a few seconds.  She presents the equations, showing one following from another without the slightest indication why.
    Mich manages to get the first time she says that, but the second time he has no idea why the result follows.  He questions her about it.
    She says it's obvious.  She needs to give him a book reference, she says.
    Mich says he's looked for the books but can't find them.
    Helia says she doesn't have a copy herself, but they're all fairly basic texts.  One in particular he should look at to help him understand what she has just presented.  "I remember it," she says, "Because, well... I wrote it.  Here you go, here's the publisher and the date and the reference number and everything."
    Mich thanks her and says she'll look for it.  He looks at the details.  The publishing date is in 1140.
    Mich stares at it silently for a while.  Then he says, "This book hasn't been published yet."
    "Oh, it has," Helia assures him.  "I published it, I wrote it."
    "It's 1140."
    "Oh.  Yeah.  Um."
    "We haven't got to 1140 yet.  This is a date in the future."
    "Oh, you're right, it is!" says Helia brightly.  "Well, maybe it will turn up."  She pauses, then says, "There's a couple of the others that might not have been published yet."
    "Yes," says Mich, "That's why I haven't been able to find them."
    "That might be... yes, ok.  That's interesting!  Am I married yet?"
    "No, you're not married now, or if you are you haven't told us."
    "Oh, that's interesting.  OK."
    Mich wonders to himself if the other Helia was the same one from a different time, although Helia had denied they were the same.
    Mich and Robert exchange glances.  Mich tries to explain that first equation leap to Robert, and with some difficulty and after a long time manages it.

    Kalida, meanwhile, has asked Jack which "after Mora" she meant when she said she'd explain things then.
    Jack says there's still a few things she needs to figure out, just fill in a few more blanks.  She says she'll let Kalida know when she's ready, which she hopes will be before they get back to Mora.

150-1123 : 0305 / Mora / Spinward Marches

    It takes twelve hours for jumpspace to stabilize.  At 05:50, Helia and Mich pull them out.

    There's quite a shudder as the ship lurches out of jump.  Mich has some blue on his board -- the jump emitters need realignment, which he thinks will take two and a half hours to finish.
    Space stabilizes after 20 minutes, at 06:10 well before Mich is done.  Helia takes a nap while the engineer does his work, while Callisto verifies their position.
    Mich is done at 08:20, and they immediately jump to Adabicci.
    This will be a normal jump, coming out in stealth mode, so they have several days to relax.

    At breakfast, Jack asks Robert and Mich if she can have the brown box for a while.  She'd like to just take it to her stateroom and take a look at it.  The two are happy to let her take it after the meal is over.
    Helia is somewhat subdued and contemplative.  After breakfast she heads back to her stateroom to sleep and ponder what Mich had discovered.
    After the larian leaves, Mich tells the rest of the crew about it.  He says Helia made some references to books that hadn't been published yet.  In fact, they won't be published for another 17 years.  She had the whole catalog number and everything, but the publication date was in the future.  When he pointed that out, Helia said that was interesting and then asked him if she was married yet.
    Kalida says that happened in one of her klatrin trips.  She was married in one of them.
    "So she's time travelling in klatrin trips?" asks Sir Misha.
    "It's another destination, isn't it?" says Kalida.  She says experiences of klatrin are highly individualized.  She even suggests that they all see the same thing but from a different perspective.
    Mich leaves the table to sleep in his stateroom, as the crew continues to talk about klatrin.  Kalida says her last trip didn't really end well, while of course Shark nearly died on his last one too.  Robert on the other hand has never had a bad one.

    Robert still hasn't been able to work out how that jump fit in with the astrogation simulator.  It just doesn't fit the model at all.

    In her last klatrin trip, when she tried to look at Adabicci Kalida almost got pulled into a black hole.  Since then, outside the klatrin trip, she's looked at that area and not had problems.  It's still strange there, but she doesn't think it's something that would suck her in.  Perhaps she's not just looking deep enough?
    She approaches Shark and tells him she wants to look at what almost pulled her under last time, and if she gets caught she wants him to pull her back.  When he asks how, she says she doesn't know.  She wouldn't be taking klatrin this time, however, so perhaps he could just wake her up or whack her over the head or something?  She wants him to pay really close attention to the footballs too.
    Shark suggests they do this in Sick Bay, with the Doctor present too if there is trouble.

Kalida's Last Klatrin Trip
(Referee and Kalida's player only)

    They set up in Sick Bay.

    Kalida goes in, looking for the hole.  She is in the hole.  She was in the hole before they jumped, and they're jumping into it right now.  It's dark and strange and she can make no sense of it, and it's really feeling weird.  Here in jumpspace she's not as far in it as she might be, for example at either end of this jump.  And something is... ... ... ...
    Suddenly she's wide awake and looking around Sick Bay, where Shark is picking up things from the floor.  There was a spike on the footballs, he says.  It happened again, and as Shark points out she wasn't under klatrin this time.
    "No," says Kalida, "But I was in the black hole."
    "What black hole?"
    "The one we're in right now."
    "We're in jump.  We're not in a black hole, I hope."
    "Well, you know, not a black hole, but a black hole."
    "That makes me feel so much better," says Shark with a wry smile.
    Kalida asks where Helia is.
    Shark says she's probably asleep somewhere.  "Should we get the Captain and talk about this?"  He explains that Bridgehead woke her up with a shot of something, for which Kalida thanks him.
    Bridgehead says that she'll probably have a really bad headache in about an hour, and she should probably check back into Sick Bay then for something strong.  He might even put her under because the something strong might not be enough.
    Shark explains that Sick Bay wasn't as much of a mess this time.  As soon as things started flying, Bridgehead nailed her with the drug.

    The two of them, with Baron Bridgehead trailing along, go to the lounge.  Shark calls Sir Misha, and also whoever else is awake and might hear about it.  Robert and Mich join them.
    Kalida starts out by reminding them how her last klatrin trip ended, with throwing things around Sick Bay while unconscious.  "Well, I went back there," she says.
    "Where is there?" asks Sir Misha.
    "Here," replies Kalida.
    The others say nothing, but share one of those looks that says, "Is she sure she didn't take klatrin?"
    "Last klatrin trip I was looking specifically at Adabicci and I found something that was going on and tried to ferret it out.  I was getting closer and closer and something blocked me, it was just this huge black hole that obscured everything, and I was sucked down into it and that's where I apparently threw everything around the Sick Bay and died and was quickly resurrected by Shark.  So I've been reluctant to take klatrin again and go back there again and get sucked in again and die again."
    Sir Misha says, "Tell me again the part about getting sucked in and dying.  You were in a klatrin trip?"
    "Yes.  This was the last klatrin trip, when I was trying to find out what was going on in Adabicci.  I was blocked by something and it got bigger and bigger and it was this giant blackness that obscured everything.  I couldn't get away from it and it sucked me in, and I was unconnected to anything."
    "OK.  Similar to a dizzy spell."
    "Sure.  So just now, without taking klatrin, I wanted to see if I could find that hole again and see if it was still there and -- it's still there, by the way."
    "The same place in your thought patterns?  I mean, did you go try to look at Adabicci?"
    "Yes, I was looking at Adabicci.  The hole isn't between us and Adabicci, Adabicci and us are in that hole.  Right now, even though we're in jump, we're kind of in it."
    Sir Misha says, "Adabicci is in a big black hole."
    "Not a literal black hole, a..."
    "A klatrin black hole."
    "Yes.  Hard to explain if you haven't been there.  Shark saw some intriguing black once, he might..."
    Shark says darkly, "That was different.  That was black things hunting... me."
    Kalida continues, "What concerns me at the moment is we're in jump and connected to this giant black hole, and where we're going is in blackness."
    Sir Misha says, "Could it be we're in this hole because we're on the way to Adabicci?  I mean we are in some sense already in Adabicci, assuming we haven't misjumped."
    Mich says it's a good sign that if it's in a black hole and they are too, then that's a good sign that they're going to the right place.
    Kalida concludes, "What it all means, I don't know."
    Mich starts talking about the relationship between space and jumpspace, but Kalida interrupts him.  She says, "Don't get stuck on the fact that I'm calling it a black hole.  I'm calling it that because... it's not a literal black hole."
    Sir Misha says, "So this is definitely a klatrin related situation?"
    "Directly?" says Kalida, "I don't think so."
    "My question was, you were on a klatrin trip..."
    "The first time, yes, but just now I was not.  And I kind of see the same things whether I'm in klatrin or not, it just makes it... the same but different."
    "OK, so it is possible that when we arrive in Adabicci we will all be in the black hole, and it is possible we will all experience it, it is possible only those who have taken klatrin will experience it, but we'll know in a few days."
    "Well, we're sort of there already.  It depends on what you're looking at, I think."
    Sir Misha laughs, "So we'll keep everyone's eyes shut when we arrive.  It's sort of a reverse stealth mode.  Everybody can see us but we're not allowed to look at them."
    Robert says, "So we need to give you a shovel -- a lantern -- and let you explore the hole."  He looks around at the others and says, "Some symbolic thing to take with her on her meditation to light her way."
    Kalida says that they were all there in the hole.  She muses to herself that within the boundaries of the hole they were not connected.  Well, they probably were, but not that she could tell because she can't see any threads in there.  It's an area without any threads.  No threads at all.
    Kalida then turns to Shark and says, "In the klatrin trip, when did things start flying around in relationship to when I died?"
    Shark considers for a while and says that it was very close to the same time, just before it.  Everything smashed around the room and he flew around, and when he came to a stop his puter was alerting him to a big football spike, and he looked across the room and her monitor was flashing blue.
    "And this time as soon as anything started moving at all, Bridgehead woke me up? And there was no blue this time?"
    "Yes, that's right."  This spike wasn't as strong as the one under klatrin, but it stood out clearly against the background noise.
    That satisfies Kalida.  She goes back to the Sick Bay with Bridgehead.  He says he has a drug he things will work if she relaxes and stays away from coffee.  She takes the drug and goes back to her stateroom to rest.  She'd like to describe this to Helia, but describing any klatrin experience to someone else is almost impossible.

151-1123 : Jumpspace (from 0305 / Mora / Spinward Marches)

    Kalida finds Helia when the larian has some time, and asks her what jumpspace feels to her right now.
    Helia says it feels normal.  She can't feel anything about where they're going because they're not there yet.
    "Do you know where we're going?" asks Kalida.
    Helia not only tells her they're going to Adabicci, but tells her an exact spot in the system.  "We're going there!" she says.
    "And everything feels perfectly normal?"
    Helia assures her that everything is normal.
    "Good," says Kalida, although the look in her eyes says anything but that.

152-1123 : Jumpspace (from 0305 / Mora / Spinward Marches)

    Jack calls Kalida into her stateroom for a very private conversation.

Kalida's Conversation with Jack
(Referee and Kalida's player only)

    Later that day, Jack gives the brown box back.
    Robert asks if she's found out anything.
    Jack says she doesn't think she's found anything of any more practical use than they already have.  It's not communicating in any way that can be decrypted.
    Robert says that is seems to need several of these boxes in a network to be able to do anything.
    She says that the boxes talk to each other, and to nothing else.  That's about it, she says.  There's enough variation in the communications that she doesn't see a lot of promise in trying to decrypt it.  She tells him he can run all the programs he wants and he won't be able to figure out what they're saying to each other.
    Robert agrees.  He'd figured that.  They need to capture more.
    Jack nods.  Whatever he can capture, she says, make sure she can get it and she'll see if she can come up with anything.  She's sure she's not doing anything that he's not doing already, but you never know.

155-1123 : Adabicci / Lunion / Spinward Marches

    Nightshade arrives from a normal jump, in stealth mode, at 20:20 at Adabicci.

    It looks far from normal.  There are about one and a half Imperial Navy fleets here, the one that is stationed here usually, plus Grand Admiral Winchester's expeditionary fleet which was under refit at Lunion.

    There are also four Sword World fleets.

    The Sword World fleets are further out at the gas giant.  The Imperial fleets are clustered around the mainworld.  None of them are doing anything.  The Imperial fleets are in defensive formation.  The Sword World fleets are clearly keeping themselves topped off, but are just sitting there making no offensive moves.  There is a total absence of civilian traffic.  There are no signs that there has been any fighting here.

    "This could be interesting," says Kalida.  She's clearly not alone in that sentiment.