(53) To Be Named
The Crusader Campaign (168-1123)
This file has yet to be fully
This file has yet to be fully
Nightshade now has 281 missiles, with a full
week until the first early jumpers from Santanocheev's fleets are
expected in the system on 176. This is approaching the level
where it might be enough for Kalida to use once on black or white tech,
provided she holds onto them and doesn't use them on the Imperial
ships. The expander can only be fired every 10 minutes, so
holding that in reserve could be important too so it's always ready.
Robert amd Mich have been working on the
communications box they are to deliver to the Archduke so he can
communicate to them (but not the other way).
Shark would love to know the battle plan of the
defenders, and asks Kalida about it. She doesn't really know, but
can at least lay out the problems presented by the upcoming
They will of course be outnumbered, but they will
have the planetary defenses of the capital of the Domain of Deneb at
their disposal. Anything that has a military base here, plus the
mainworld, will have some kind of firepower they can add to the
battle. The weak point would appear to be the gas giant in orbit
3, which has no moon and therefore no ground-based assets, although
there would no doubt be ship-based forces in the gas giant atmosphere.
In this system, at least, Santanocheev has an
interest in not causing serious damage to populated areas, at least if
he hopes to be supported as Archduke afterwards as the Good Guy.
Now, he could blame any civilian casualties on Norris for positioning
his forces using them as shields, at least when he writes the history
afterwards. The megacorporations with substantial installations
on Mora, however, might feel differently and not be swayed by
trite news items.
Kalida and Shark would both really like to know the
disposition of the fleets in the system so they can plan their own
strategy. Perhaps the Archduke will tell them something useful
Shark also wants to know the psychological profile
of the Archduke in command. Will he command his own forces, or
leave it for others to do the work? Since Norris served in Naval
Intelligence, he is at least familiar with naval operations. He's
unlikely to be on the bridge of a ship himself, even though Shark
points out he has nothing to lose by doing so -- if he loses the
battle, he won't be Archduke or probably even alive for long.
On the bad side, it is pretty much certain that the
coreward fleets will know about the laser scanning to deal with stealth
mode. They were using it at Dawnworld on 107-1123, so it is
likely the other section would have found out about this a month ago.
More immediate is the matter of Baron Bridgehead's
wedding, due to take place at the palace of the Duchess of Mora
tomorrow at 15:00. It will be a small family only affair, but the
whole crew has been invited too. He's a little unlikely to be
inviting many of his old military "friends," but there could be some
Imperial Navy representatives there.
Obviously they won't leave Nightshade
unmanned. So who would stay behind on board while the rest of the
crew attend Bridgehead's wedding? Teri volunteers immediately,
and Callisto too. Kalida asks Jack if she wants to go, and Jack
is also not really excited by going to a wedding.
will be attending. Kalida isn't sure she wants to go, but it
would be a social snub for her not to. Shark isn't going to miss
this for the world. Robert would be amused to observe the mating
rituals of a bunch of
primitive apes, although he doesn't put it like that, at least when the
translates for him.
Jack asks Mich and Robert if they need the brown box
anymore. She wants to know if she can break it, as in make it
useless. They say that's fine. She wants it still hooked up
to Mich's ship simulation. She has an experiment she wants to try
in the next couple of days once she has it set up.
So there are several definite things they have to do
today. What could they possibly get a filthy rich Baron or his
two young brides? They do have to deliver the communications box
to the Archduke. That still leaves them several hours for Kalida
to do mind games.
Kalida will go into her trance with the usual
assistance of Shark. The two discuss what they want out of
this. Obviously any information on the fleets would be
important. The other thing they want her to try again is if she
can influence things by pulling on strings.
Shark points out that the Lanth and Rhylanor fleets
are meeting up at Rorise. The Baron is marrying the
Rorises tomorrow. His ever paranoid mind is still not sure that
they are not involved in some way.
Kalida says they're connected in that she might be
able to hook through Bridgehead's threads to see what's going on there,
but she firmly believes they are not involved in the rebellion.
The other thing Shark wanted to know is specifically
about the fleets in Lanth. They know all those fleets are
involved, but aren't coming here. Where are they going?
He's not really worried about Victoria, as Kalida has told him
there's weird stuff going on there, but it's not at all related to
Santanocheev. There's also the black hole near Adabicci.
Kalida reminds him that she is in danger of getting
sucked into that.
Shark agrees that would be bad, especially if it
triggered the appearance of another white tech ship.
Kalida heads off on her trip. First she looks
at the fuzzy clumps of Rhylanor, but nothing seems to have changed.
She then looks for the multiple Santanocheevs.
locations have unfuzzed some, and are Moran, Fornice,
and Grille. They have some fleets with them, and there's
still some fuzz around them, but that's where they are. She looks
for any threads that she could pull to mess them up, but they're on a
railroad to Mora now, there's really not much that could stop
them or even slow them down. It would take something on an
astronomical scale to derail it now... perhaps a Star Trigger might do
it, but nothing short of that.
The Count of Fulacin is dead at Rhylanor.
She tries hard for more details, but all she can tell
is that there was some kind of conflict there. She can't even
tell what state the system is in now. As for the Duke of
Rhylanor's family, she can't tell that either.
Now she moves on into Lanth. Santanocheev's
fleets here are spread three ways. Some of them are coming to
join the Rhylanor fleets; some are headed down to Lunion subsector,
where it's rather fuzzy with timing and location; and some are
currently in jump for Regina. The arrival of the last of
those would have been coordinated with the original planned arrival at Mora.
She focusses in on Lunion. Several fleets are
at Lunion itself. Another fleet is doing something else,
but it's kind of strange. She starts to get a bad feeling about
that one, and pulls out quickly. None of them are actually going
That runs out of things she can see clearly.
She turns her attention to Baron Bridgehead, as his
immediate future might be important. He gets fuzzy very quickly
over the next day or two,
along with his fiancees. Extending out into the couple of weeks
she wants to see is impossible. She can't even pick out the
Marquis of Rorise.
She finishes off by looking at the fleets here, but
there isn't anything useful she can tell about them. She pulls
herself out of her trance.
Sharks footballs did register a lump -- not really a
spike -- some of the time into the session, but not at all high.
Kalida immediately delivers her scouting report to
the rest of the crew in the Lounge. They already knew
Santanocheev's forces had split into three, and she relates where the
three copies of him are. She says there is pretty much nothing
they can do to alter their course.
She tells them that Fulacin is dead at Rhylanor.
She says she'll try again the day after the wedding to see if she can
She confirms that three Lanth fleets are coming in
with the Rhylanor fleet. Two are going to Regina and are
in jump, timed to arrive when the original plan said the fleets would
reach here. The rest went into Lunion. That means all the
fleets are gone from Lanth.
There was one of those that gave her a bad feeling,
and Shark suggests it might have been going towards Adabicci.
He wonders if the darkness might be centered around Ianic,
since he'd heard things were weird there. All Kalida knows is
that it's in the Adabicci area, she can't figure out
where. Zaibon is another system in that area with an
interesting history, so there's all sorts of possibilities.
She then brightens up and says that she looked for
Bridgehead's general direction in the next week or two. If
nothing interesting had happened, he should be linked to them.
But he was very, very fuzzy within the next few days. That's well
before the fleets get here.
Shark contacts the Company again, since he was so
happy with his contact last time. He can't just walk in, unless
he was bringing Mich for safety, so he has to do it the old fashioned
way through the want ads. It takes a couple of hours to get a
response. As soon as it comes in he tells the Captain he's going
walkabout, and Robert can find him.
He takes a taxi into town, and soon finds himself in
front of the same person as before. "I'm sure you've heard about
the upcoming wedding," he says.
"Sir Misha and the Countess?" asks the man,
"Ah, no. I'm sure that Sir Misha is not
planning anything like that. The Baron and the future
Marchionesses. He is technically part of the crew and therefore
has some effect on the wellbeing of the crew in general and Mich in
particular. I'd like to know more about the Marquis of Rorise and
his daughters. Specifically, why they are latching on him."
"We don't have a lot on them. Politically they
aren't important. Economically not particularly important
either. We don't know much about the family, they stay out of
anything that's causing any trouble. The family consists of the
Marquis, the Marchioness, and the two daughters... plus one, well, we
have it down as Butler, who's been with the family a long time.
Those are the only people considered permanent residents." He
pauses, then adds, "They do seem to have a fair turnover in domestic
staff. There are some mining operations there, but they're kept
small scale. It's not good conditions for mining, so whatever
reserves there are, aren't worth enough to merit full
exploitation. They run their own system -- they're in charge of
the system themselves. There's nobody else there."
"There's no political reason that you guys have that
they would be making for an unlanded Baron?"
"Well, the succession rules are kind of complicated
there. They become very complicated," he sighs. "It would
immediately elevate the daughters to the level of Baroness, one of
which would become the Marchioness. We think they both will
provided they are still married."
"When the Baron dies."
"When the current Marquis and Marchioness die, or
when they abdicate the title, which could happen before that."
"Our concern is that if they both marry the Baron,
when he dies they become equal and they both get to be Marchionesses."
"Yes, we believe that is the case. It hasn't
been tested in court, but given it's Rorise no-one's really going to
make a fuss about it." He continues, "We don't really know a lot
about them. They've spent some time on Mora, they've both
been through the University. They both seem quite bright.
One of them is studying Art, the other Political History."
"The younger one Political History?" asks Shark.
"The younger one Art," his contact replies.
"We just figured that the Baron was doing his usual thing, and just
"Get caught this time?"
"Yes, fell into one of those local traditions that
we don't know about. Family traditions of the Marquis of Rorise."
"My professional nervousness makes me wonder if they
don't have an earlier 'retirement' planned."
"They aren't on our watch list. They haven't
stood out as being active or having any significance."
"Well, that's what I wanted to find out. Thank
you for your time."
Shark is satisfied with what he's discovered.
Now it'll be time to shop for wedding presents.
When Shark returns to Nightshade, he doesn't
have a lot to report. The older daughter is studying Political
History, which makes sense with their talk about inheritence. If
the Baron died first, both daughters would be Marchioness... provided
the two daughters didn't divorce each other, of course.
Kalida points out they don't know the structure of
the marriage. He could in fact be married to both of them, but
they could be married just to him and not to each other.
This is right along Vonish's background in
Law. He believes that the way it would be set up in terms of
Imperial recognition is that all three of them would be mutually
married, not individually married to the Baron. In the latter
case it could constitute bigamy, but if they all get married at once
there would be a grey area, and local laws of Rorise would take
Kalida raises an eyebrow. "There are Imperial
Laws on marriage?"
"There are Imperial Laws on the recognition of
marriages across systems," explains Vonish. "It relates to
inheritance rights, taxes, import duties, and so on. From the
Imperium's point of view, they would recognize that the three were
mutually married. Remove one, and the other two no matter who
they are would remain married."
Vonish waves aside the barrage of questions, and
says, "Yes, that means if the Baron died, two siblings would be married
to each other. As for Kalida's question about children,
remarriages and inheritance in that case, I have no idea how that would
work and neither does Imperial Law. One would hope that they did
not remarry or at least divorced first."
Shark says that it is a well established tradition
that a child does not have to be born in wedlock to inherit titles, so
there's no reason for them to remarry. Imperial titles would only
affect their non-spouse.
Vonish disagrees. Under certain circumstances,
divorce for example, it could split the titles held by the two
Marchionesses. Angela would retain the title Marchioness of
Rorise, whereas Erica would take Baron Bridgehead's honorific Baron
title and become merely Baroness Erica. He agrees that for title
inheritance purposes, both their children would be a single pool of
potential heirs and the question of who was the actual mother would not
have the slightest relevance.
Regardless of all that, if the daughters did split
up then at least Erica would gain an inherited title, rather than
remain merely Dame which would not pass on.
Shark still believes that the Baron is in danger of
being discarded at the earliest convenience. But then, he's sure
the Baron would be alert for any of that kind of thing -- unless the
girls are keeping him distracted.
Kalida and Shark wonder not only if they want to
talk to him first, but how to get him alone for a frank
conversation. The best bet would probably be to try to claim some
kind of Ship's Tradition and throw him a bachelor party. They
agree that would be the way to do it, and at least offer him a chance
to talk to them alone if he wants it.
Meanwhile Robert is been hacking into their gift
registry. That's made him very popular with the crew.
Robert reports on what the girls are
requesting. It's mostly
furniture, china, and housewares. There seem to be two sets of
represented, modern and traditional. Robert adds a full set of
Gavrolovitch novels to the list. Some pet rabbits would be nice
to add to the list too. He thinks a signed first edition
the last Gavrolovitch novel would make an excellent gift. He'll
up a copy and then makes sure "Gavrolovitch" signs it specifically for
the occasion of the Baron's wedding on the particular date. It's
truly perfect example of the author's signature and writing.
Shark isn't done with paranoia, however. He
starts looking into what other activities the daughters were engaged in
while at the University of Mora. Were they playgirls or
what? Were they playing the field or did they actually have a
thing for older guys? There's very little on either, but nothing
on Erica. Angela was involved in sports, played for the UoM
Cricket Team and athletics in pole vaulting. Nothing social, not
that he has found yet in the papers.
Kalida joins in to help him, and the two of them
working together are more successful. The girls weren't involved
much in the noble social scene, not directly anyway. They were
involved in a number of clubs and societies. They are both
members of the UoM Alumni Country Club and the UoM Cricket Club.
They are both members of the Eagle's Nest, but there are not reports of
them ever being seen there.
Robert checks the member list and finds they were
sponsored by the Duchess of Mora, the Marquis of Moran, and Baroness
Sumdobi (a local noble of little significance). Their parents are
not members; the daughters each received membership for their 16th
birthday. This is not at all common practice among other Marquis
"Why them?" asks Kalida. There doesn't seem to
have been any particular connection between the Duchess of Mora and Rorise.
Shark sends a personal note to Baron Bridgehead
"reminding" him that he has a traditional bachelor party on board
ship. Would he be able to make it tonight? They'll of
course open up some of their good whiskey, order a keg, and is there
anyone else he'd like to bring?
After a short while, the reply comes that the Baron
will be coming, and won't be bringing anyone.
Next order of business will be the visit to the
Archduke. He'll be expecting them today and they were told just
to turn up. Robert drives Shark, Kalida, and Sir Misha in the
They are escorted to the front door, and led to the
same drawing room as last time. The Archduke greets them and
Shark presents him with the box, with a light on it
that is showing it works. There's a Ready light, a push-to-talk
button, and a Transmitting light.
Archduke Norris asks Kalida if she has any more
Not a lot, replies the Marchioness of Nakege.
The other fleets from Lanth are heading into Regina and Lunion.
The Archduke nods, "That makes sense. Nothing
we can do about that. With any luck, they'll just stay out of the
way until we get this all resolved."
Nakege says, "We'd like to start discussing amongst
ourselves what our general tactics are going to be once the fleets
arrive. Is there anything you can tell us about the general
strategy or more specific tactics of the fleets?"
"You'd be best to get that from an Imperial Navy
representative. We can set up an interview with them. How
much advance notice do you need? Of course things are still in
flux at the moment. On three days, on 172?"
Nakege nods, "Yes, that would be fine."
"Someone from the Imperial Navy will contact you and
set up a meeting."
Hesitantly she says, "We probably will not really be
sharing much of what we plan to do."
"So far as I can gather, even if you did, it would
be unlikely to survive the first contact with the enemy."
Nakege smiles her agreement, "Probably not."
The Archduke says, "It would make sense for
them to put some forces into Regina to stave off any potential uprising
in my power base when news of my downfall gets there. I imagine
that news of my success will turn things the other way around."
It was a short meeting. The device was handed
over, and plans of the defenders should be forthcoming. The crew
return to Nightshade.