(58) To Be Named

The Crusader Campaign (183-1123 to 185-1123)

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183-1123 : Mora / Mora / Spinward Marches

   Nightshade now has 521 missiles.

    At about 10:00 a message arrives on Norris's Bat Phone.  He says this is the last message he'll give by this method and will destroy the device immediately afterwards.  He tells them that the Duke of Rhylanor will indeed be Regent.  They are to pretend to have been direct agents of the Archduke, directly under his command, and thus now under the direct orders of the Duke Regent.  The Duke Regent himself will not, Norris says, give them any orders that would be uncomfortable.  If the Duke Regent says anything that doesn't make sense, they are just to go with it.

    Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead has been giving updates on his Bat Phone too.  He is annoyed that a peaceful solution has been found, and that the conflict is over.
    Callisto reports that the Rebel fleets started moving towards the mainworld at 08:00, transponders active, and should arrive around 18:00 tomorrow.

    Mich and Sir Misha have escaped major hangovers from the Silver Mermaid the night before.  Shark has medicated himself to avoid it.  All three emerge at noon.  Kalida has kept watch until then, and hands over when they wake.  Teri emerges as the others are at lunch, waving at Shark and pointing to Sick Bay.  Shark follows her there, treats her for hangover, she lies down for a while.

    At 16:00, as Shark had expected, there are several separate announcements on the news.
    The first announces that in the interest of stability in the Domain of Deneb, Archduke Norris has voluntarily suspended his duties as Archduke in favor of the new Duke Regent, the Duke of Rhylanor.  Norris will take up his duties as Duke of Regina, and take up residence there.  He will resume acting as Archduke once certain legal matters have been resolved.
    What is now called the Santanocheev Rebellion is now over.  There is no longer any threat of military action.
    Five Sisters subsector is to be handed over to civilian rule.  The new Duke of Five Sisters is to be Grand Admiral Baron Bridghead, Lord Rorise.
    There is a pending alliance between the Imperium and the Sword Worlds.  Certain details still remain to be worked out, but this is a historic shift in the power balance in the Spinward Marches, assuring the Imperium's safety from the Zhodani Threat.

    Gossip and speculation over the new noble titles available runs rife.  Sir Misha is tipped to become the Count of Maitz, now that his unofficial fiance (according to the papers) was assassinated a short while ago.  The Galactic Enquirer says that Bat Boy will be granted the title of Baron somewhere in Five Sisters.

    They are determined to act "normal," whatever that means.  Instead of staying on the ship, they'll take up rooms in the best hotel in town.

184-1123 : Mora / Mora / Spinward Marches

    Nightshade now has 545 missiles.

    First thing, Shark puts an ad up in TAS to arrange a meeting with his contact.  He plays the "pretend you've been working directly for me" card to the full, saying he's a direct agent of the former Archduke.
    His contact opens up about what he would not previously have told Shark.  Among that information are the details of the alliance with the Sword Worlds.  This was negotiated by Santanocheev and will be honored by the Duke Regent.  It involves the Imperium assisting the historical Trilateral Alliance in staging a coup to take over rule of the Sword Worlds Confederation.  In addition, several Imperial worlds will be ceded to the Sword Worlds: Arba / Lunion, Rabwhar / Lunion, Margesi / Vilis, and in the Sword Worlds subsector the worlds of Caladbolg, Gunn, and Caliburn.  His contact is concerned about the possible Zhodani response.
    When Shark asks him, his contact says that the proposal for the Regency came from Santanocheev.  He is not sure why the Duke of Rhylanor was on Santanocheev's side -- that went against their intelligence, but clearly that was the case.  He should be an acceptable Regent to all parties.
    INISO will be scaling down operations, and Imperial Intelligence will be filling the gaps.  They don't have details yet about this, but expect to step up their own operations especially as the Zhodani will not react well to the Sword Worlds situation.

    At 16:00, a message arrives from the Duke Regent telling them they have an audience with him at 20:00 at the Archducal Palace.

    When the time comes, Kalida, Sir Misha, Shark, and Mich take a limo the the Palace.  They are scanned before being allowed in, and it takes a ten minute call to the Palace to get the authorization for Sir Misha to wear his ceremonial sword rather than leave it here with all their other weapons.
    They are transferred inside the Palace grounds and driven to the building in an Imperial Navy car with armed escort, leaving their own limo outside the gate.  At the front door, a ceremonial honor guard (with fully armed weapons) escorts them inside and to the audience room.
    This is a different room from any they've seen before.  The Duke Regent sits at the head of a long table, and waves them into chairs a few places down from the head.
    The Duke Regent tells them that he has taken over all aspects of the Archducal duties, and they are expected to continue their loyalty to him as they were loyal to Norris, and to continue to put themselves at his disposal.  He says that on the long flight here aboard the Jae Tellona fleet from Jerome, he had the chance to go over Santanocheev's materials fully.  He is convinced that his action was legal, well motivated, and necessary.
    He adds that he is acting only as Regent while this matter is settled.  Once Santanocheev's case has been proven before the Emperor and Norris stripped of his title, he will stand down and hand over to the new Archduke.  There are several suitable Dukes in the Domain of Deneb who could perform the role, and Santanocheev and he have prepared a short list which will be presented to the Emperor to help advise his choice.  Once this matter has been decided, the Duke Regent himself will step down and return to his duties as Duke of Rhylanor.
    In the meantime, Nightshade and her crew will be expected to perform missions for the Duke Regent.  He says he knows that they have an advantage in fast travel: their jumps always take just 6 days, and their advanced fuel storage technology means they can perform several jumps between refuellings.  Their first mission will take advantage of that.
    He is sure, he says, that they have heard about the alliance with the Sword Worlds.  He tells them that this advantageous alliance had been negotiated by Santanocheev with full binding authority, and of course he will stand by it as Duke Regent.  In addition to several Imperial worlds being ceded to the Sword Worlds, Imperial Navy forces will assist the Trilateral Alliance in ousting the current government centered on Gram, and the resulting Confederation will ally with the Imperium for the first time in their history.
    This is a vital alliance.  With the Imperial Navy weakened by the Rebellion, this will enable them to maintain a strong position against the Zhodani and prevent the Consulate from taking advantage of this situation.  The main thing it has given them is time to rebuild their strength.  While he has every intention of taking a strong position against the Zhodani, it will take several years to rebuild and deploy the Imperial Navy to where it can be a significant deterrent again.
    Their mission will be to deliver a diplomatic package to the Duke of Adabicci, and place themselves at his disposal as he oversees the Imperium's obligations in this operation.  Obviously they won't be effective in the actual coup, but they are to do as the Duke directs.  They are to leave as soon as they are ready.  It is important to complete this alliance as quickly as possible.
    He then asks if they have any questions.
    Sir Misha has one: Archduke Norris was to provide them a cook to take over from theirs.  Can they wait until they have their new person on board before leaving, and can the Duke Regent get a message to Norris about this?
    The Duke Regent agrees they can indeed wait for that, but that it is a personal matter between themselves and Norris.  The former Archduke is staying at the palace of the Duchess of Mora, and they can contact him there.
    In closing, he says that he is sure that they will serve the Regency in exactly the same manner as they served the Archduke.  He can't, however, stop cracking a slight smile at that technically correct statement.  With a wave, he ends the audience.
    The diplomatic package is handed to them on the way out.  They have seen no-one from Norris's administration during this visit.

    By 21:00, they have taken the package back to Nightshade.  As they leave for the hotel again, Sir Misha contacts the Archduke's people at the Ducal Palace and says they'll be by to see him tonight.
    Norris, however, quickly calls back in person and suggests a meeting on board their ship.
    They turn back and prepare for the meeting.  Vonish will lay on a fine meal as his final big task as chef of Nightshade.

    At 22:00, Norris shows up alone.  He's taken on board by the ramp from the patio into the lounge.  Here he says he suggested their ship because it's almost certainly the most secure place in system at present.
    He tells them he'll be heading off to Regina himself soon, as soon as trustworthy transport can be arranged.  He is of course concerned that he actually make it to Regina alive.  Once there, his own people should assure his safety, but the journey does provide opportunities to his opponents.
    As for the chef, his preferred person is on Regina.  If they want, he can provide a temporary chef for them here, but all he will be able to do is cook.  When they can get to Regina, they can then swap him out for the permanent crew member.
    Sir Misha checks with his crew briefly, then says they can wait for the chef until they can visit Regina.
    Norris says that would be fine, and gives them a hand written note so that when they get there -- undoubtedly before he does -- they can pick up the person then.
    Norris himself is confident that he will win the legal case, particulary with the assistance of Vonish.  He is certain the Emperor will not pass up this opportunity to abolish INISO completely.
    He does add that having stepped down as Archduke once, he is unlikely to have the popular and political support to resume the title even when he wins the case.  He and Rhylanor have talked it over, and their preferred candidate is the current Duke of Trin.  Having proven he doesn't avoid the tough decisions by the stand of his forces at the Battle of Tussinian, he'll be an attractive choice to both the military and the nobility.
    He apologizes to Sir Misha and says that the rumors of his promotion to Count were never going to be on the cards.
    Sir Misha is far from disappointed, he says, and agrees with a confident smile that it was indeed never on the cards, not if he had anything to do with it.
    For Mich, however, Norris promises that once this situation is over there would be a knighthood, if Mich would like it.  He can talk to him after the case result comes back from the Emperor, and he will make sure it happens.
    All sides agree that Bridgehead is a fine choice for Duke of Five Sisters.  Not only has his command here -- despite the lack of action -- brought him to the attention of the Imperial Navy again as a military leader, he has the civilian experience too to oversee the transition of the subsector from martial rule.  The Navy and the people should support him, and he should be able to avoid any resistance to the change.  What is more, he has significant experience in Foreven sector and can apply that to ruling the subsector on the true frontier of the Spinward Marches.
    Also, of course, Bridgehead will be conveniently well out of the way where no-one else has to deal with him if they don't want.
    Norris does have concerns about the handover of the Imperial Worlds.  He lists them, and says that of those he would expect resistance from Caladbolg.  The others probably won't be happy about it, but they don't have the strength or significance to present problems.  Caladbolg, on the other hand, is a major world, a rich agricultural producer, and is doing too well under the Imperium to change allegiance easily.
    Over the course of the meal -- a superb parting shot by Vonish -- he reminds Kalida that he will be nearby now to her own Land, and able to support her directly in ending the blockade.  Now he's no longer Archduke, he might even find his way onto the independent commission investigating the situation!
    As for the Duke Regent, Norris doesn't expect him to make any tough decisions if he can put them off for a few years.  Now that he will be in residence as the Duke of Regina, that allows Norris to handle the diplomacy with the Zhodani more directly.  That means the Duke Regent can be more aggressive in public, satisfying Norris's opponents, but with no danger of it hurting the relationship with the Consulate.
    Norris appreciates them pretending to take orders.  It seems that one of the critical points in the settlement was that Santanocheev had to believe that Nightshade was under the control of his Duke Regent.  In fact, the whole reason Santanocheev started this Rebellion in the first place was to have the resources of the entire Domain available to track down and get Nightshade.  Now he believes the strange black ship and her crew are effectively under his command, that should keep him satisfied with the outcome.
    Eventually the Duke of Regina leaves to return to the Ducal Palace, while the crew of Nightshade return to their hotel for the night.

185-1123 : Mora / Mora / Spinward Marches

    Nightshade now has 569 missiles.

    Shark again sets up a meeting with his contact.  This time the response is almost instant, as Shark has now clearly been given the status of a direct agent of the Regency.  At Sir Misha's suggestion, he plans to find out as much about INISO as possible, and in return his captain will be very grateful.
    INISO is handing over the vast majority of their operations to Imperial Intelligence.  Anything to be retained or undertaken by INISO is only with the direct approval of the Regent himself, and The Company will be informed of the areas of those operations so they can stay out of the way.
    One thing handed over is certain highly classified research in -- of all things -- linguistics.  While this will remain secret, Shark's contact is sure that he would be cleared for it and hands him a tape with the details.  He adds that the one continuing area that INISO will retain control is in the system of Zett, and there are a couple of other places but he does not have details to hand.  Zett was the most immediate one of importance.
    Shark asks about what The Company has been told about Professor Farol and his assistants, Helia and Sally.  His contact looks it up, and says that they are all reported deceased.  The disaster that struck the research station world has not been identified -- all potential asteroids are still in orbit, and nothing else could cause destruction on that level.
    The Professor himself was not working for INISO.  He was working for another government agency -- the Imperial FarSpace Service? -- that has jurisdiction outside the Imperium.  INISO did however routinely feed him research and components that he was to incorporate into his work.
    As for immediate additional duties, The Company will be providing security for the legal teams headed to Capital.

    Shark drops off Sir Misha's "gratitude" to his organization.  It's a full transcript of the legal arguments in the matter of the legality of INISO, with names redacted but otherwise complete.

    Vonish is ready to leave by late afternoon.  He has all his documents and gear together, and has ensured that Nightshade is well supplied, and with as accessible a set of recipes as possible.  He says his goodbyes and leaves the strange ship for the several year mission to the Emperor's court and back.

    Nightshade will take off at midnight on their first mission as an agent of the Regency.