(57) To Be Named
The Crusader Campaign (177-1123 to 182-1123)
This file has yet to be fully
This file has yet to be fully
Shark and Kalida have come up with a diplomatic
solution. They have suggested proposing a Regency, so both of the
parties will believe they are in the right and will prevail through
reasonable means. Shark with a smile asks if it really matters
who wins? It will give them some time and chance for a
payback. At the same time, Shark is adamant that they do not want
to involve Bridgehead -- he is definitely not the right person to
present this idea.
First, they will need to contact the Archduke and
ask him to call them. They are of course out of range of any
secure communications. It will take them about 16 hours to get to
Mora at full speed in stealth. It's now about 14:00, which
would mean arriving
tomorrow at about 06:00 if they left now.
The order is given. Nightshade heads
Nightshade now has 435 missiles.
At the mainworld, they do their usual secret arrival
procedure. They descend into the ocean, and Robert drives the
gcarrier with Sir Misha, Shark, and Kalida to the Archducal Palace.
They arrive at the palace 07:00. Roger Jolly's
party is immediately let in without any fuss, despite the fierce
security, and escorted to the front door. Imperial Marines in
battledress are very obvious all around, but the three of them are
admitted to the palace with dignity and respect.
The meeting is in the same cosy room as last
time. After brief greetings, they get down to business.
Kalida says they've spoken with Santanocheev and
Admiral Kuyper. Everyone prefers some sort of diplomatic
solution, but the essential problem is that any kind of battle up there
is going to be a mess whoever wins. Santanocheev is not insisting
that he be the Archduke, merely that Norris steps aside and someone
takes over. It's obvious from Kalida's and Norris's expressions
how much they believe that would be the case in practice. As far
as Admiral Kuyper goes, from his position Santanocheev has the right to
do this, and that's why they're supporting him, although it's put
Kuyper in rather a tough position.
Kalida then gets to the point. "We had a
suggestion. That's to put in place a temporary regency while you
and Santanocheev both send representatives to the Emperor and let him
decide what happens."
Norris laughs heartily. He seems genuinely
amused, not offended.
Kalida continues, "There are couple of benefits to
this, one being that it's a long journey and three things might happen
before anybody reaches the Emperor."
"Go on," says Norris encouragingly.
"Imposing a regency does not require that you
abdicate, but merely step aside. It also requires that
Santanocheev step aside."
Shark adds, "Admiral Kuyper wants a diplomatic, and
didn't as much say but strongly implied that any out..."
Kalida and the Archduke both nod in agreement.
Sir Misha is still wondering about the Archduke's
laughter. "Why is it funny?" he asks.
Norris says, "It's a radical solution. It's
not something we had thought about. So, talk to me about it some
more. Expand on it. What would we have to do to get it to
Kalida says, "We haven't discussed it with anyone
else, because obviously we can't propose anything like that on your
behalf without you knowing about it."
Shark says, "We might not want to propose it on your
behalf even when we do propose it, but that is yet to be decided."
Kalida continues, "You would need to, I think, have
a proposal for a regent and someone will have to convince Santanocheev
this is the only way you're going to step aside."
"Do you have someone in mind for Regent?" asks
"We have a suggestion. Duke Rhylanor."
Shark says, "The most intact fleets out there are
Rhylanor. If they follow the lead, it puts more pressure on the
rest of them."
Kalida continues, "Its strikes me also that Rhylanor
is friendly to you, but Santanocheev will find it difficult to reject
him because half of his force is from Rhylanor."
Norris nods slowly to the Marchioness, "And Rhylanor
himself has not publically declared support for me, or opposition to
Nakege reminds him, "Admiral Kuyper is eager for a
diplomatic solution, as we said. This is one that he might
Norris says, "That would take care of the Rhylanor
fleets, at least, and if he carried the Rhylanor fleets that would
switch the outnumbering just about equally."
Nakege says, "Of course Santanocheev could simply
reject it outright. I don't know what the Admiral would do in
that case. He still feels legally bound to support Santanocheev,
and yet obviously a head to head battle between Imperial forces is not
in anybody's best interest. I couldn't even begin to predict what
he might do."
Norris appears lost in thought. He sighs, then
says, "What exactly would we be asking to be resolved by the
Emperor? What do you forsee as being the question?"
"The question at hand is whether Santanocheev really
does have, as head of INISO, the legal right to go around deposing
whoever he feels like."
Shark says, "The reason he's doing this is he
disagrees with the direction of governing, so perhaps the Emperor
should be asked what he wants."
Norris says, "Actually two questions at hand.
The main question is have I been doing anything illegal and should I be
removed, and the second question is whether INISO has a right to exist
and therefore has standing to bring such a suit. That reduces it
all to legal questions."
Shark says, "Santanocheev's postion is that he is
completely outside the Emperor, and so..."
"Yes," says Nakege, "But standing in front of the
Emperor and saying 'I outrank you' has the tendency to get one shot."
Norris says, "But he is still subject to Imperial
Law. He maintains that he outranks the Emperor under Imperial
Law, so Imperial Law is capable of making that decision. So we
can send it down to Capital."
Shark says, "With appropriate teams of lawyers."
Kalida adds, "And of course this will all take a
while and anything can happen in the meantime."
Norris obviously gets her point. He smiles,
"That letter of marque you have, I don't see that expiring providing it
is used against Santanocheev."
Sir Misha wonders if from a negotiation perspective
it might be better if it came from their ship, as if it was something Nightshade
That inspires Norris. He says, "Here's another
thing you could do. You're very good at carrying people around
secretly. This Admiral you've talked to, of the Jae Tellona
fleet, do you think he could on his ship concealed from INISO that the
Duke of Rhylanor had been aboard all that time? Would he be
willing to work with that? If we could slip the Duke of Rhylanor
onto Admiral Kuyper's flagship and then the Duke would be in a position
to claim he was on Santanocheev's side, that positions the Duke as
Shark says, "I would expect that the Admiral would
listen to commands from the Duke to take him on board secretly."
It is clear that the three Nightshade crew
Sir Misha asks if there's been contact between the
Archduke and Santanocheev. Norris confirms that there has been,
but that no progress has been made. Sir Misha says that this
would create grounds for negotiation, "If Santanocheev came to you and
said this was what he proposed, that Rhylanor became Regent, then that
would be reason to start negotiating."
Norris agrees, "I can go with this. We can
think of better solutions but they aren't practical."
Sir Misha says, "The toughest question, which I'm
sure you've asked yourself, is do you trust that Rhylanor will at least
not oppose your cause?"
Norris says, "Yes. Rhylanor is firmly on my
side. He would be a reasonable Regent, certainly politically
Sir Misha says, "All right. Let's make it
Norris reminds them of the shed out back where they
dropped off a certain "package." Nightshade can come in
carefully and pick up the Duke of Rhylanor there in an hour. The
Duke will of course be fully briefed on the situation and plan.
He assures them that no-one will be able to see them pick him up.
He reminds them that it's in Santanocheev's interest to stall as long
as possible before acting, so all the Rebel ships can be here and
refuelled, so they can be sure he won't do anything rash in the
The audience is over. They will wait at the
shed, with the gcarrier, for Nightshade to arrive.
While waiting, Shark suggests that Nightshade
could be the neutral place for whatever meeting might come from
this. Sir Misha, however, insists they are not neutral in the
slightest and would certainly not be a good place to meet.
One thing the team are agreed on, however, is that
their idea is something the Duke of Rhylanor could have come up with
himself, and therefore that he should propose it to Santanocheev as if
it is his. Santanocheev, they think, is much more likely to
respond to it well if it comes from his side. That puts
Santanocheev exactly in the kind of situation he likes, him in control.
The Duke arrives 45 minutes later. He's in
subdued mood, not really wanting to talk much, and waits in the
gcarrier with the rest of them. This time he's brought luggage, a
small amount that he might have brought on board Admiral Kuyper's
As far as the team can tell, the Archduke is good on
his word about no-one watching. Callisto confirms that later as Nightshade
approaches and Helia comes down into a landing in front of the shed.
Helia lifts off at 09:00. Quickly she takes a
course away from the mainworld and out towards the Rebel fleets.
On the way, Sir Misha and the Duke of Rhylanor agree
that Sir Misha should talk to Admiral Kuyper about the plan.
At noon, the remainder of rimward and main body of
coreward Rebel ships arrive in the system.
Nightshade now has 436 missiles.
At 01:00, they arrive in vicinity of outer
Helia takes them quickly into the gas giant atmosphere, out of stealth,
then back out towards the fleets from Rhylanor.
It's 02:30 when Sir Misha calls Admiral
Kuyper. The Admiral has clearly been woken, but seems pleased to
talk. They exchange brief greetings and then get down to business.
Sir Misha says he's been considering their
situation. "I wonder if perhaps there isn't a compromise between
the Archduke and Santanocheev that you might be willing to be a part
"If there's a compromise that works and is
acceptable," says Kuyper, "I would be very glad to be a part of it."
"How would you consider proposing the Duke of
Rhylanor as Regent while the questions that Santanocheev posed are
taken to the Capital to be answered."
"I would consider that grounds for standing down the
"Then let me take it one step further. Would
you have been ready to have taken Duke of Rhylanor on board at some
"Yes. What are we driving at here?"
"I can make that possible, if you are willing."
"Rhylanor is aboard my ship, right now. I can
transfer him to your ship without anyone knowing, as long as you're
willing to make it happen, and make the appropriate changes to your
memory that it happened."
"Of course. I definitely recall that when the
fighting started in Rhylanor, his yacht left the system to be
out of the way, and rendezvoused with me at Jerome, where I
took him on board there."
Sir Misha has already talked over with the crew how
to do this. They'll have to approach in stealth mode, and extend
the ramp to an open airlock on the Imperial ship. The trick will
be that they'll have to penetrate the laser scanning. It will
take about three hours to set that up.
Kalida has been listening and watching the Admiral
carefully. She gives a discreet nod to her captain that she
believes he's genuine.
Sir Misha tells the Admiral what needs to be
done. In three hours, his fleet needs to make a 300 meter hole in
the laser scan pattern (it can move around slowly), and open an airlock
on his ship. They won't see Nightshade approach, and the
Duke of Rhylanor will come aboard in a vaccsuit.
That's exactly what they do. At 05:30, Helia
has taken them via the gas giant into stealth, then piloted through the
laser scan hole and brought them alongside the flagship of the Jae
Tellona fleet. The Duke of Rhylanor leaves from the ramp behind
the bridge, in vaccsuit with a large suitcase in hand. He walks
into the airlock of the other ship, and cycles it behind him.
At 06:30 they enter the gas giant atmosphere again,
and come out of stealth. They head towards the mainworld at a
sedate 4g, which will take 1 day 10 hours. They expect to arrive
at 16:30 tomorrow.
Nightshade now has 452 missiles.
The remainder of coreward ships arrive at noon.
On the way back, Shark asks Sir Misha, "So, assuming
they accept this, when do we assassinate him?"
Sir Misha is keener than that. He says, "As
soon as it's clear that the battle is over, the situation is resolved,
then we assassinate him. Wait, after this is over, if it's clear
there are forces that are still loyal to him, I want to take that out
first. I want to kill Santanocheev last, after everything falls
apart around him."
Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead has kept up with his
briefings over the Bat Phone. It doesn't seem like he's expecting
anything more from them than he has already.
Sir Misha half expects Santanocheev to get in touch
with them on the way back, but that doesn't happen. As Shark
points out, they don't know when the proposal will be made.
Nightshade arrives at Mora at 16:30.
Everything is quiet on the mainworld -- no more explosions or incidents
have been reported. The social scene dampened down after the
assassinations, no-one willing to expose themselves. Once
everyone realized just how many Rebels there were, the reality of the
situation pressed home and killed the pre-battle party mood.
Gossip is limited to who might have been seen
leaving hurridly on their private yacht, who is making brave
statements, and so on. Shark and Kalida analyze the reports, but
with everyone on the mainworld publically supporting Norris, it's hard
to find anyone who might be staying quiet or just avoiding the
question. There is some speculation on the open titles, of
course, with the Counties of Fulacin and Maitz having no
successor. Rumors abound that Dukes who supported Santanocheev
will be removed, like Glisten, Lanth, and Rhylanor.
Nightshade now has 476 missiles.
Bridgehead reports that the Rebels are fully fueled
and completely ready for battle. He sounds really annoyed, even
more than before, but is resigned to the attack and provides Nightshade
with sensor reports and the planned defense strategy.
Kalida asks Sir Misha if he wants to keep a low
profile, or show himself in public. Sir Misha does not feel
strongly one way or the other. Shark suggests a trip to the
Eagle's Nest for lunch, and everyone agrees that is a good idea.
Sir Misha and Kalida visit the exclusive club via
limo rather than taking any of Nightshade's subcraft. Sir
Misha in particular is upbeat and expectant, eagerly awaiting the
upcoming battle. After all, there is good money to be made in
this situation. Kalida is quietly confident.
While the two of them are noticed, they don't see
many people they know. Just one couple they saw at Bridgehead's
wedding reception, who consider this an unfortunate business.
After all, there could be a Civil War happening right on top of them!
Sir Misha says there is glory to be won, but the
couple say that's for the Navy. And there are ships to be lost,
and there was the horrible business of the assassinations and
explosions. If the fight gets too close to the mainworld, all
sorts of things might happen.
Sir Misha reassures them confidently. They do
seem to respond to that, at least a little.
Nothing else unusual or of interest seems to present
itself, so after enjoying the excellent meal, they take the limo back
to the ship.
Nightshade now has 497 missiles.
At 8:30, Sir Misha and Kalida get a call from
Archduke over the normal channels. He tells them -- acting as if
they had never heard of the idea -- that an agreement has been reached
in principle for a Regency. The current Duke of Rhylanor will
take over as Regent while Norris himself steps aside while the matter
is settled at Capital. He expects official
announcements tomorrow, and they are at the moment sorting out the
Norris says he wants one of Sir Misha's people -- he
wants Vonish for his legal team, to send to Capital to assist
Shark's immediate thought is of the ship's cook, and
when he points this out to Sir Misha the captain is appalled.
Vonish is a good cook!
Vonish is a good cook, agrees Norris, but he's also
the person who found the legal inconsistencies in the establishment of
INISO. He wants him on his team.
Sir Misha says that Norris should, then, find them a
Norris looks surprised at the request, but says
he'll see what he can do.
Shark asks Norris if he is happy with the solution.
Norris answers slowly, but says that yes it is
indeed a suitable solution.
There's also the matter of a backup pilot, of
course, even though Vonish never could get the hang of sparkly
pink. Mich can do pretty much any job on the ship, but not all at
once. Shark suggests that Sir Misha should learn to pilot -- he
can practice his reading on the pilot manuals.
Shark points out to Sir Misha that he essentially
just asked Norris to put a spy on their ship. Sir Misha simply
smiles and says he knows that.
Kalida decides this would be a good time for a
trance to take a general peek at things. It's the usual setup,
but this time Shark is in battledress.
First impression she gets is that there is still a
lot of fuzziness around. It's particular around her, and she
can't quite shake the feeling that she'll cause something by
inadvertant action. She feels like a fuzz generator
herself. The rest of the web is starting to clear a little on the
local scale. Fuzziness contines further out, though.
On the local scale, it looks like these fleets will
stay here for a while. That's all she dares do at this time, even
though she really wants to take a close look at Santanocheev.
Kalida reports her observations to the crew, and
adds that the first thing she wants to do when their time is their own
is talk to Marquis Marc.
Shark noticed just a little flex from the footballs,
barely above the background noise.
Sir Misha asks for suggestions for the rest of the
day. Shark says they should lay low since they know about the
negotiations too early and can't exactly go out and celebrate.
Kalida points out that they don't have to stay here on board as long as
they don't tell anyone or celebrate too much.
Sir Misha considers this, and announces that he's
going to a bar. Not one of the fancy ones they've been stuck in
recently, but a real bar, one Mich would feel at home in, somewhere
they won't call him "Sir" Misha except to ridicule him or pick a
fight. Mich likes the idea, of course, as does Teri. Shark
exchanges glances with Kalida, and the unspoken agreement is that Shark
will go while Kalida remains on board.
So Sir Misha, Mich, Teri, Shark walk out of the
spaceport and take a taxi. Sir Misha directs the driver to take
them into more and more run-down areas, until the barbarian spots a
place that suits him.
It doesn't take long. The Silver Mermaid looks
exactly right, and Mich grunts his approval when Sir Misha tells the
driver to pull over.
It's fairly small as bars go, fairly dark, some
cheap tables scattered around, a floor that looks like it might have
been cleaned early this morning. Drink selection is right along
Mich's lines: whisky, gin, vodka, and a couple of styles of beer.
Mich walks right in and orders one bourbon, one
scotch, and one beer. The others seem to pay a little more
attention to their surroundings, but it seems reasonable safe
enough. The place is maybe a quarter full. The corner
tables are taken, and while Shark is looking around in paranoia, Misha
orders his drink, tips the bartender well but not too much, and walks
over to a table that isn't in too ostentatious a position and sits down.
The team settle down to drink until they fall over
or something happens.
Misha hasn't just been drinking blindly,
though. He's quickly assessed the people in the bar, figured out
who's local, and who might be connected to anyone. Everyone here
is a regular, he decides, and no-one has connections to the mob.
They team seems to have been accepted at least well enough.
Everything was going smoothly, but then someone from
a table in the corner walks up to them. He taps Teri on the
shoulder and is clearly about to charm her into joining his table
Teri turns around and slugs him. She nails him
right in the nose, and he starts to bleed.
Shark takes a swig of his beer but doesn't put his
glass back on the table. He notices everyone seem to relax,
knowing that means they're loosening up ready for a fight.
Misha tries not to look surprised.
Everyone's attention is on Teri.
Teri watches the man to see what he does.
He takes a swing at Teri.
Big mistake. Teri dodges it and swings back,
hitting him in the gut. He falls over backwards.
The bar erupts with laughter. Toasts to Teri
echo from all around the room.
Teri raises her mug in acknowledgement and sits back
The man scrambles up from the floor and leaves
quickly. He does not look pleased, and Misha and Shark are both
expecting him to come back with friends.
One of the men at the table the man came from waves
them over, adding a table to make room for them all. He orders a
round and welcomes them to their corner.
Misha Ravanos introduces himself, Teri, Shark, and
Tom introduces himself, Dick, and Harry, and says
that he doesn't think Fred will be back. "Good shot," he says to
Teri with a broad grin.
Once they've settled down for a while, Misha sounds
them out about the upcoming battle, if they care at all.
"New boss, old boss, same thing," says Tom.
"Only thing you know for sure is it'll lead to more taxes.
Someone has to pay for all this stuff and it's going to be us, not
them. They'll make a big deal out of it, probably blow some stuff
up around here, whatever. It's always the same, doesn't make any
Misha says that's the same back home. He's
from spinward, he says, a long way.
That doesn't surprise anyone here. His accent
wasn't Imperial, and they're curious what it's like out there.
Misha says it was a bit like this, maybe a bit less
Tom nods, and says, "You live where you are, you
know?" He waves for another round, but Misha quickly steps up to
pay for this one.
"To the new boss," toasts Misha and is joined in
chorus, "Same as the old boss."
"Yeah, lot of big fuss," muses Tom, "All that bombs
and stuff out there too. Of course they don't bomb down here,
nothing worth bombing."
Tom, Dick, and Harry ask about where everyone else
is from. They're obviously interested in these offworlders.
Teri quickly answers first, "Way, waaaay, out
there," she slurs, waving her arm in emphasis and nearly catching Mich
in the face, "Way more spinward than 'im," she adds, nodding at
Misha. "More spinward than anybody."
Shark says quietly "Romar, Glisten." It
doesn't look like any of them have heard of it.
They have heard of Rhylanor, though, when Mich says
that's where he's from. As to what he's doing here, did he lose
"You could say that," says Mich.
"Well, you certainly made a hit of yourselves
here. Not everyone slugs Fred like that. Everybody will
have heard of you now. We told him it was bad idea, you can just
kind of tell, you know?"
Harry adds, "You might to stay out of the Blue
Anchor, though. Fred has friends there. That's where he'll
be headed right now. You'll be welcome here anytime."
Dick agrees, "We might pick up the odd newcomer or
two and tell them to go chat up Teri here. You wouldn't mind,
Teri clearly wouldn't mind, she's definitely amused
at the thought.
The evening continues. Shark tries to nurse
his beer, but he isn't really given the opportunity. Finishing
your beer is expected at every round, and while it isn't the strongest
beer they've had, it does keep coming. The conversation goes
round and round, not stopping anywhere for too long, but animated and
seems fascinating to all of them.
Before long, Teri and Mich are singing up a
storm. Teri is leading them in Scorpionis Marine drinking songs
in her own language. They can kind of tell what she's singing
from the way she sings it and the gestures accompanying it, and soon
Mich is joining in the chorus in a somewhat wordless style although he
thinks he's getting it right.
It's been about two and a half hours, and Teri is
loosening up more than they've seen her do before.
Misha thinks it's time to go. Teri thinks it's
time to get up on the table. While she takes off her shirt and
waves it around in time with the chorus, Misha goes up to the
bartender. He thanks him, and pays for another round for everyone
after they leave.
Misha deftly eases Teri off the table and carries
her out to the street, still singing. Her shirt is somewhere back
by the table. Shark half-carries Mich out too. Misha's
parting words are, "Remember the Nightshade!"
A couple of blocks later, and they manage to hail a
cab. Pouring Mich and Teri into the seat, Shark tells the cabbie
to take them to the starport, berth 1-21.
The cabbie laughs, saying he'll take them to the
starport but they have the berth wrong, that's the noble landing
pad. He's still shaking his head and laughing when he drops them
off in front of Nightshade, sure they're in the wrong place.
They stumble on board, accompanied by belting out
the Scorpionis Marine drinking songs.
They seem to have come away from the evening without
any permanent damage.
Kalida is a little surprised, given the state of the
four of them, that she hasn't heard any news about riots or
anything. Still, it's interesting to see what this crew is like
when they really loosen up out on the town.