(46) To Be Named

The Crusader Campaign (157-1123 to 160-1123)

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157-1123 : Jumpspace (from Adabicci / Lunion / Spinward Marches)

    It's 18:00.  Nightshade has just left the devastation of Adabicci behind, and has started their journey back to Mora.  Their first stop will be at 0804 / Lunion.
    Adabicci certainly isn't in a good state.  Tussinian may be badly off from all the orbital debris and expander shots on the deep meson sites, but at least it is still reasonably habitable.  Adabicci might even have to lose its xboat route at least in the short time, taking the main route through Tenalphi instead.  That would leave Adabicci a backwater, and maybe if that happened they wouldn't even get funding to build their starport facilities back up, just leaving them in a minor world status.
    No matter what happens, however, clearly the relationship between the Sword Worlds and the Imperium will change in interesting ways.  There is no possible way to predict how that will turn out, and that too could have implications on the xboat routes.
    And then there's the matter of all the Imperial Navy forces being pulled off the frontier, and much of it either damaged or destined for further damage.  So far they've only seen that the Sword Worlds have stepped over the border, but who knows what might be going on elsewhere.

    It takes two hours for jumpspace to stabilize, and Helia and Mich bring Nightshade out of jump immediately at 20:00.

    It then takes an hour for normal space to stabilize.  Being away from a star system, Callisto takes an hour to make sure of their exact location.  By that time Mich has run a full diagnostic, and pronounced all ship's systems to be perfect.
    They jump again at 22:00, this time for 0403 / Mora.

159-1123 : Jumpspace (from 0804 / Lunion / Spinward Marches)

    It takes a full ten hours for space to stabilize, finally ready at 08:00.  Over breakfast, having stayed awake waiting to be ready to come out of jump, the Captain decides that his jump duty crew deserve a break.  Helia and Mich in particular are to rest until 14:00, or later if six hours of sleep is not enough.

    Helia and Mich agree that six hours is enough.  At 14:00 they bring Nightshade out of jump, a very smooth transition.
    It takes 3 hours to stabilize, then another hour for Callisto to be satisfied with her sensor scans.
    At 18:00, with the ship perfect, they jump for Mora / Mora.  This will be a standard jump.  They expect to arrive at 06:00 on 164-1123.

    After dinner, with the approval of Bridgehead, Shark and the Captain, Kalida does her trance thing again.  She wants to investigate certain things the usual way, but is prepared to use klatrin again if there aren't enough answers.
    All those involved were happy with the precautions the last time, so they repeat the same procedure.

    Kalida is not in a black hole.  It can't be said things are normal, really, but after all that time in the hole it's hard to remember what normal feels like.  So she starts out just being one with everything, trying to sense out what has changed since last time she was in a normal state.
    There is a whole net in the area of Lunion subsector that she seems to have tugged on, and that's too confusing to look into too deeply.  There's nothing else that seems to be dramatically different.
    Her first thread to examine is one she hasn't seeked out before -- Jack.  Jack seems to be pulling more than she's being pulled.  The strongest connection is directly with Kalida herself.  There is no direct connection with Santanocheev, not outside the context of Nightshade itself.  She does have a kind of conduit of threads out into Foreven, a thread on each of Jack's fingers, mostly around the unpopulated areas.
    There is some stuff pulling on Jack.  The strongest thread is one Kalida can't identify, one that just kind of vanishes as she follows it.  Not into a black hole, but loses cohesion and any direction associated with it.  Kalida doesn't know what it would be, but it doesn't look like Jack does either.  It starts out heading somewhere in the Spinward Marches in a vague coreward direction, and then just vanishes.  It's not so much that it dissipates, but it doesn't have any spacial properties to it, including direction.  Nightshade and the crew are pulling on her too, influencing her, but not as strong as the mystery one.
    Satisified with that, she goes on to look for the thread she used to pull herself out of the hole last time.  That of course involves looking over to where the hole was.
    Kalida can see where the hole is, in the vague area of Adabicci, and it's clear she certainly pulled on something.  She can see it -- she pulled on it hard and let it go suddenly -- and there are ripples and vibrations and spontaneous offshoots just flying outwards.  It may have been a single thread when she grabbed onto it, but it's certainly a lot more than that now.  It radiates out unevenly, somewhere spinward of Lunion itself.  There are influences shooting out in various directions in that general direction, and it's all vibrating too much to follow.  The original was something strong and local, but that's about the best she can manage.
    Strong, local, and old.  Something that's been of significance in that area for at least 30 years, quite possibly much longer.
    There is still a black hole in that general area.  She can see around it, it's just the area within it that is completely incomprehensible.  The location of the boundaries are rather fuzzy, hard to tell where they lie.
    The Sword Worlds are clear of the hole.  There is a lot of fuzz and tangles out there, though, hooked back to Santanocheev.  It's not just Santanocheev anymore, hooked from and to Adabicci, and for about three parsecs around the Sword Worlds there's a fog of possibilities that hasn't coalesced yet.
    Now she tries to chase down something else completely different.  Aramis.  He went coreward a while back, she knew that, but she can't follow him and see what he's attached to.  He's out that way somewhere, certainly, but she can't get any detail about him now or what pushed him out there.  There aren't any really strong connections at the moment.
    At Mora itself, short term it's stable.  As it gets closer to 171-ish, it starts to get fuzzier and... different, in some subtle way.  171 isn't important anymore, but somewhere after there is, and then all sorts of things go strange.  She pulls in on that, but it's hard to tell what is happening.  It does look like nothing is getting there on 171 as it was supposed to.  Nothing arrives then, or before then.  It drops into a whole lot of fuzziness.  Whatever is going to happen there hasn't been determined, there are things in flux that haven't settled out.  But nothing will get there on 171.
    Norris himself is stable and safe, as is the Duke of Rhylanor, connected closely until it gets fuzzy.
    The fuzzy comes on quickly when it comes, but it's stable until 173.  After there, it fuzzes very sharply.
    Kalida then looks for the real Santanocheev.  He is, or was within the last two days, at Duale.  The false Santanocheevs aren't there, but she doesn't know exactly where.  There are two of them, and they are in the same general area as the real one.  Santanocheev was definitely there on 156, although he may have moved on since then.  He has with him a lot less forces than was left after the battle of Tussinian, perhaps about a quarter.  They are definitely running late.
    As for the Rhylanor forces, Kalida can't tell anything about them.  There's way too much fuzziness to tell anything other than that they're moving.
    That will do for the time.

    Kalida comes out voluntarily after half an hour, and she is just fine.  Nothing has moved in Sick Bay.
    Shark is standing there looking stupid in battledress, surrounded by crumpled pieces of paper placed precisely in their original positions.  He reports a slight ripple on the footballs, but nothing of any strength.

    Kalida returns to the lounge and summarizes for Sir Misha.  She tells him that everything has been scheduled to arrive at Mora around 171, but she now believes it will be another couple of days late.  She couldn't track down the Rhylanor fleets, but they are on their way.  What she is certain is the real Santanocheev was at Duale a couple of days ago, which she figured was a possible stop on the way.  The fake is still out there somewhere, she's not exactly sure.  The forces Santanocheev has with him are considerably smaller than was at Tussinian.  They did expect he would drop ships on the way.  That does mean he's at least three days behind.  His original schedule would have had him leaving Duale on 153, and he certainly was still there on 156.
    Kalida then asks if there's anything Sir Misha wants her to try to figure out.  She could take a closer look at Santanocheev and find out whether he's split his forces.
    Sir Misha suggests taking a closer look at Eduard, Lord Adabicci, and also at the Archduke.
    Kalida tells him that the Archduke is on Mora.  She adds that the black hole is still there, but certainly smaller than it was.  It's retreating back to where it was the first time she saw it -- smaller, and between her and Adabicci, but not encompassing that system.  She says that she will, however, try again tomorrow and look for Eduard.

160-1123 : Jumpspace (from 0403 / Mora / Spinward Marches)

    After breakfast, Kalida tries again.  She tells Shark that she has a couple of things to look at, but the second thing will be Adabicci so he should be prepared to bring her out.  That's not a problem, of course, as now he and Bridgehead have a pretty reliable procedure that seems safe.
    The first thing she checks is Santanocheev's forces, to see if it's a split branch, or one branch that's losing a lot of itself.  That's hard to tell, but it's probably split into two or three groups, fuzzed together but all headed straight for Mora.  They're headed the same way, just not touching down in the same places.  False Santanocheevs are with split forces, she believes, although when they are split and not split is not clear.
    Next is to look for Eduard.  She can't find him at all -- it's not like he's vanished, but he's somewhere totally different.  He's not even close to Adabicci, but he does not know where.  She also can't tell how long he's been gone.  He's not with any other family member, or any major player, she's sure of that.
    Then she looks for Arahani.  Kalida knows where she's supposed to be, but can't see her or any connections to her.  That's completely different from Eduard.  Arahani has simply dropped out of Kalida's universe, with no connections.  Kalida tries to track down last time she was "here", but it's like all connections to her have vanished.  There are no connections.  Kalida is not sure whether she should be worried or comforted.
    Continuing with the Duke of Adabicci's family, she looks for Geoff.  Wherever he is, his connection, and the way he got there and is coming back is through Victoria.  He may be somewhere else, in some sort of folded distortion, but he's basically anchored at Victoria.  She could say he was there, and it would be kind of true but perhaps not precisely accurate.  He was, after all, investigating a place where people had vanished.  She does, however, think he's probably safe.  Marquis Crestworthy is with him.
    Adabicci himself is fine too.  There's a mass of threads there, of course, some of them very uncertain, but Kalida would say he is not under threat.
    Grand Admiral Winchester is in a mass of connections, and looking in could get her lost very quickly and easily.  In fact, now she notices it, this is not a good place to be.  She starts to get sucked into the detail, starts to lose herself.  She looks around for a connection between him and herself, but can't find anything familiar there.  The more she looks for it, the more she gets lost in it, and isn't sure where she is right now.  She does grab something, however, and starts to pull her way out.  She simply follows that onwards, waiting to see where she comes out.
    Kalida is looking at a physical area that she's never seen before.  There's threads leading back, of course -- how she got here -- but she's out somewhere in the far end of Foreven.  There's all sorts of unfamiliar stuff out here, and some of it looks very dangerous.  Looking for connections to the Spinward Marches, she finds some.  Those are some of the dangerous ones.
    Now she's getting a pull, but from where she can't tell.  This is a bad place, unfriendly to what she is doing.  It's time to leave.  She makes a short hop, grabs something, and finds herself following a thread to Jack and Nightshade back to herself again.
    Back to herself again, she figures she was at Dulu.  It was a long way out, and while that was where the threads out were, that's also where she was being pulled in.  Something weird is happening there.  She doesn't find that surprising.
    Now in the Marches, she checks on Trin.  She's not sure, but he's probably ok.  There's nothing significant enough happening around him to get a fix on it.  Most likely he's on Trin itself.
    And for the second time in a row, she pulls herself out of the trance.

    It's been about half an hour again.  Shark looks bored, and says while the football readings were a little higher, nothing moved in Sick Bay.
    Kalida debriefs.  She says she has no idea where Eduard is, but he is nowhere near Adabicci.  She could not track him down.  He's taken off by himself somewhere completely different, well out of the mess.
    Sir Misha privately knows that Eduard has been out nearer the Zhodani before, having done work for him out there under one of Eduard's assumed names.  He is sure he can take care of himself, although Sir Misha says nothing about it.
    Kalida continues.  Sir Geoffrey and the Marquis are where they are supposed to be, more or less, looking into alien stuff.  She thinks they are probably going to come back.  She couldn't find Eduard but knows he's out there somewhere, but Arahani has completely vanished, totally, like she's been erased from the map.  If she had died there would still be connections, so it's not that.  And it's not like she never existed, although the not-here-ness is propagating back.  Adabicci himself seems all right, not under immediate threat.
    She adds that there is something really weird out in Dulu.
    "Weirder than it was before?" asks Sir Misha.
    "I don't know.  I've never been there," Kalida says.  It's not surprising that there was a connection between Winchester and Dulu that got her out there, but what was more interesting was that there was a connection between Nightshade and Dulu, and more than just the ship being registered there.  Perhaps not a direct connection, but a connection none the less.  She adds that it was a very not good place to be, so she left quickly.  She could perhaps look into it later.
    Sir Misha wonders if the connection is due to the three crew members of this ship that were also on Anastasia when she was out there: Baron Bridgehead, Mich, and Teri.
    Kalida says it wasn't that kind of connection.  It's between something that has been happening around them, and something that's happening or has happened there.  It might be an indirect connection, or through another element, but there is a path across there.
    Sir Misha asks again about Arahani.  Is Kalida sure she is alive?
    Kalida is sure Arahani is not dead.  She wonders if the Baroness is in the black hole, if perhaps that's how Kalida would have looked like if she had been in there.  She tries to remember if the black hole exists in an area or is more vague.  She says that Arahani would have had to leave Ianic to be in it, unless Ianic was itself affected by the hole.  The hole was in that area, and the way connections work it could easily be anywhere within a few parsecs of Adabicci, and Ianic is right next to Adabicci.
    That satisfies the Captain, and it's all Kalida can think of to tell him of her experiences.

    Kalida mentions in passing that she has considered taking klatrin again.
    Bridgehead objects strongly.  If she wants to kill herself, she should do it after the fight at Mora, if there is one.  He can't guarantee bringing her back to life next time.  If her head explodes, it's all over, and all that's left is cloning.  "Oh!" he exclaims, "I should probably take a brain scan at some point.  If you ever take klatrin again, let me scan you first so at least I can try to restore a different instance of you."
    Kalida says she doesn't have anything else to do, so why not do it now?
    Bridgehead says it will take some time, but assures Kalida that she can indeed read as she requests.  He adds it will be a good exercise for him and the ship's equipment.

    The two of them head for Sick Bay to carry out the procedure.  After six hours, he has completed the scan.  He asks her, while still in Sick Bay, if she knew she was psionic?  Her scan shows the signature of an active psionic.
    Kalida asks him not to tell anyone, particularly outside the ship.
    Bridgehead nods, and says better not to tell Mich too.  He might have guessed, but better not to tell him directly.  There's a difference, he says, between knowing she can do it in a trance, and knowing in theory she could do it out of a trance.  He adds that he has scans from people who have been manipulated by psionics, and those who are psionic, and Kalida fits the latter.  Back when Jill was around, he adds, it was rather important to know the difference.  It was the situation with Jill who started Mich on wearing his helmet all the time.
    Kalida says she doesn't know how to do anything, so it doesn't matter at the moment.  She can throw people around the room while in a trance, of course.
    Bridgehead says she should keep trying, to make sure she doesn't do it accidentally.  He adds that Marquis Crestworthy could probably hook her up with someone to help her train.  He says that he just wanted to let her know -- it won't be in her records or anything.
    Kalida thanks him.
    Bridgehead summarizes that he thinks he now has everything he needs to make a new Kalida as of now.  He'd like to see if he can do it, in fact.
    Kalida says she doesn't need another her right now.
    He says they wouldn't have to wake up the clone, they could just keep it on standby and then they'd have two gunners.  But on reflection he agrees with Kalida that would just be too creepy.
    Kalida says he can put them to use if necessary.
    Bridgehead smiles and thanks her for the authorization.  Perhaps his definition of "necessary" might be less stringent than Kalida's, after all.
    Finally, Kalida says that she will probably talk with the Marquis at some point.

    The rest of the jump passes uneventfully.