(41) Take the Data and Run

The Misha Campaign (235-1121 to 236-1121)

235-1121 : Mora / Mora / Spinward Marches

    The Marquis Marcus Crestworthy has been checking a few things about the football sensor data.  He is a little surprised to note that the fish oil does not have any effect on psi activity.  (No-one's mentioned sparkly pink mode, so he doesn't know to look into that.)
    His next priority is to ascertain the risk of going with the ship as opposed to staying on Mora .  He tries to contact the ship with a great mental effort, and is quite surprised to find it doesn't work.  He wonders what Archduke Norris would do if he knew they had this ship, and what his patrons would do if they knew.  A rough guess suggests there will be several months before the news of the Third Eye 's demise arrives here, so he has some breathing room.  That's unless local Imperial Navy Intelligence -- or whoever -- figures something out in the meantime.
    The crew then bring up the subject of Akim Gavrolovitch 's unpublished book, The Arden Gambit.  The Marquis can present it for publication as a "favor from an old friend."  He doesn't need to confirm or deny the death of the author, keeping open the possibility of him still being alive somewhere.

    Then there's the matter of the database on the old script owned by the mysterious Count Walter von Hayden.  There's nothing connecting it to any other organization, such as the Department of Horticultural Fertilizer (funded by the Wonstar Development Corporation, the Marquis' sponsors) or any Imperial Navy group.  As soon as they try to get it, someone will know immediately that they have it, and will be able to trace it back to the physical location -- no matter how many links it goes through.  The very nature of the access makes it pretty much certain that the entire path will be revealed immediately.
    Misha Ravanos suggests they go to some public place, such as the University of Mora library, or a public access terminal.  Unfortunately, Robert Morris will need serious computer power just to break in.  While he probably could do it using a university computer,  it would be much more difficult now that he's learned to think and program in a non-linear fashion -- descending to primitive linear thought would make it much harder.  So Robert really needs the Nightshade 's system to perform the intrusion into the database.
    They could try parking the ship over a building, and using that to link through.  The chances of doing this successfully are severely limited by the heavy traffic in the domain capital.  They could try parking next to a ship in geostationary orbit -- that would be a fixed enough location for Robert to do the work, and close enough to the mainworld to do it.  Furthermore, as Robert points out, if they're just a few meters from the other ship it will look like they're doing it.  Also they could keep that ship between them and the ground.
    They decide to wait until right before they leave to collect the database.

    Suddenly Mich Saginaw remembers something.  "We need to go to Spirelle before the news of my demise reaches there."  He has several million credits earning 20% interest per year, compounded, in an account there.  He doesn't mind that once the news of his death arrives, he'll be assumed to be an impostor -- by then he'll have the money.

    Robert reminds them that they do have a device which would enable the Marquis to get a message to them at any time, but of course they couldn't talk to him that way.

    Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead says they should drop by and visit Norris -- he'd tell everyone there was a mistake, and they're not dead.  He won't entertain the possibility that Norris could be behind this.  Of course they'd have to explain how they got here before the news of their death... or they could just wait until the news arrived, then make their appearance.
    The rest of them discuss what they could say to explain them turning up after being supposedly dead.  It would have to revolve around having to abandon the Third Eye, and taking all their resources to get back.
    But the questions is, if the Marquis just stays here, will he live?  Would he be interrogated endlessly by various authorities?  Of course he is a noble, and that works in his favor.  He's very visible, and any arrest or anything would stir up quite a stink.  Now being accused of treason would be a different matter... could failure to report the presence of these people, supposedly dead, be called treason?  There is nothing here that indicates that they are fugitives -- what would he do, turn them in for being alive, when they're not supposed to be dead until the news gets here?
    Now they don't know for sure that there's an order for their arrest.  All they know is that they were told that if they didn't return by a certain time, they'd be shot at.  And they were.  Robert moans that the destroyer blew up before he could go through their computers -- he was about to turn the ship off when it just exploded.
    The Marquis says that as far as he is concerned from now on, he has not heard from them.  They should put their super transmitter somewhere he doesn't know about, and leave him nothing physical.  He must know nothing.
    Misha says they should all get false ID's anyway.  Robert can work on that later.  They don't have to be that good, just good enough to fool most of the lesser tech places.  Robert says they would be best on the fringes of the Imperium if they want to use false ID.  For one thing, the only way to prove that the ship is not registered at Dulu is to go there and look up the records -- which would be somewhere in the wreckage of the uninhabitable mainworld, smashed in the Spinward War.  All the ship has to be is around three years old, and it is untraceable.
    Robert and Mich will set up a personal computer with the transmitter enclosed.  Anything he puts into it will be transmitted here to the Nightshade through the power communicator.  They'll just tell the Marquis to keep journal entries in it.  That gives him plausible denial.  He does ask if he should destroy it if approached by unfriendlies -- he is assured that the transmission is untraceable, and that the device should be incomprehensible to anyone else.  Instead of destroying it, he should make a journal entry about the visit!
    Marquis Marc will publish Gavrolovitch's novel, leaving open the possibility of Akim still being alive.

    Misha has decided.  It is time to lay low for a while, and Mora isn't the place for it.  They're going to drop off the Marquis, go up into orbit, grab the database, and head out.  They will investigate Wonstar , and can go by Spirelle on the way.

    Vonish Kehnaan drops the Marquis back to shore and returns to the Nightshade.  Helia Sarina lifts the ship out of the ocean and up into orbit, where she matches geosynchronous orbit with a ship under them.

236-1121 : Mora / Mora / Spinward Marches

    Robert taps into Count Walter von Hayden's special database and grabs the data.

    Helia takes the Nightshade out of the area at a sedate 6 g.

    Robert and Shark are watching the sensors for any sign that there's any action being taken.  They don't really need to use the sensors -- it's pretty obvious.  The ship they were shadowing is vaporized by a violent explosion.  The back end of the Nightshade was splattered by the edge of the blast, but there doesn't seem to be any damage.
    Helia takes the ship away fast, at the full 20g, jinking as she goes.
    Another blast appears behind them, exactly where they would have been had they continued on their 6 g acceleration and course at the time.
    The crew look to Kalida Siena for what sort of weapon it was.  She says it could only be a planetary deep meson site.  "We need to jump really soon," she adds.
    Everything on Mich's status displays shows red.  There was an extra power drain as the blast hit the back of the ship, but the ship itself is unaffected.

    As soon as they reach 10 diameters, they jump for Pimane .  Jumping this far in is not something one would normally do, but it's not unheard of.  It's not too hard for Mich, even on this ship -- on the Anastasia he would have been comfortable jumping from the planet's surface, but he doesn't know every nut and bolt of the Nightshade as he did his old ship.

    As soon as they go into jump, the power communicator they left with the Marquis stops drawing power.  At the very least, they now know they cannot receive anything this way while in jump.

    Analyzing the sensor data during the time the meson gun was shooting at them, it is clear that the second shot was not blind.  They clearly used something to track the Nightshade.  There was probably some sort of anomaly that allowed them to be tracked.
    Helia suggests that if they were looking closely, they could have seen them in the blast field -- there would have been a blank spot in the debris field, and they tracked that perfectly.  If they hadn't stepped up from the 6g they were doing then, the second shot would have been a direct hit.  The others agree that she has come up with the best explanation.
    Robert muses that it will be interesting to see this news item.  What was the second shot, and do they think it hit anything?  Also, they now know that there was a successfully stealthed ship in orbit.

    Robert has a lot of data to analyze.  He expects it to take him about five days to do that.  For the time, however, he has a lot of fake ID's to make.  Each ID will take him a day; in order he will make them for Robert, Misha, Edward "Shark" Teeth, Helia, Bridgehead, Vonish, then after jump, Teri Cralla, and Mich.  Mich's doesn't come out right and he has to try again.  Count von Hayden's data will just have to wait, as these ID's will take much longer than the jump to Pimane .