(70) Coming Out
The Misha Campaign (061-1122 to 075-1122)
The discussion with Mary is over. The crew of Nightshade
is free to leave, according to her, to meet back here at Cormor Home on
094-1122. To test The Society's integrity, Misha Ravanos' plan is
to go somewhere openly. Helia Sarina wants to go for a
short vacation -- that fits in with her captain's plan. After
browsing the astrographic
charts and information, she's selected Mongo,
in Jewell subsector, as a good
place to spend five days or so.
Kalida Siena agrees that Mongo seems like a
good place. No-one else feels strongly about it, and they're all
happy to go along with their pilot/astrogator and gunner.
Edward "Shark" Teeth mentions something about them
being known to be alive. Helia tells him that no doubt Grand
Bridgehead will make that quite plain, as he's sure to
insist on using his noble title to gain entry to the exclusive Nakege
Room club in the starport
on Mongo. The Baron will
love walking into the club with, as Helia puts it, two beautiful ladies
on his arm.
Helia adds that there is actually a world called Nakege
-- but it's an amber zone,
and she's not sure that's actually a good
thing. Still, that shouldn't affect anything on neighboring Mongo.
The crew spend the rest of the day packing, relaxing
in the hot tub, and going for walks (or flights) in the forest.
They'll return to the ship tomorrow.
The morning train leaves Cormor Home for
Center -- Mary doesn't leave on that train with them.
On the way back, Shark asks Helia about their
upcoming flight plan.
Helia says that Mongo has the largest
starport bar complex in the Spinward Marches.
The world runs on
time, ignoring daylight and darkness; she says that's
fine, because you really aren't going to see them anyway. With
really short day -- barely over nine hours -- the locals do business on
Imperial time, even outside
the starport. The
government is a civil service bureaucracy.
Shark's interest is more in terms of what security
level he'll be able to employ. The law level on Mongo
should mean that personal concealable weapons would be banned, with
only shotguns tolerated in the general population. That means
that they'll mostly be limited to wearing their zacks. Tech level
is Early Stellar, but since there are casinos and other high money
places, he's expecting that there'll be much higher level surveillance
gear in effect -- as he says, a bar that charges 5 Cr a drink can
afford to import high tech security.
Shark briefly asks whether they'll be going in
totally black, or displaying windows and the large red crosses on the
Kalida reminds him they're doing this as them, as it were, and so want
to be running openly -- anyway, the windows and red cross will actually
attract less attention than a ship with no windows at all.
Helia isn't sure whether she'll be going under her
own name, or her alternate name of Belladonna. Misha shrugs -- he
doesn't really care what name she uses. Just flying
into a system and
docking openly is enough to test Mary's promise
that their lives are not part of the negotiations. Nevertheless,
they'll be entering Mongo as Nightshade of Dulu.
Helia adds that while on Mongo, they
should not visit the Hivernation bar. She hasn't seen the
Anderson vid from which the bar takes its name, but wonders
if they'll be able to get a copy in town. Shark points out that
finding it here on Digitis
is quite unlikely, but he's sure
they'll have a copy at Mongo starport. Helia goes on to
explain that you have to go through low berth to get into the bar, and
there's an advisory not to let crew members in there. Shark says
he'll probably just join Mich Saginaw in the engineer's bar -- the Zuchai
Shark still thinks they can't trust Mary not to
shoot at them when they leave. He advises Helia to be ready to
jump at just one
Meanwhile, Nightshade has returned to her
familiar berth at the harbor of First City. She is followed in
hour later by another black ship.
The new ship looks identical to Nightshade,
and is running the same color scheme with the red cross. The only
visible difference is the layout in the solarium -- the other ship
doesn't have a waterfall, but instead has two large fountains.
The away team arrive back in Center, take the
commuter train to First City, taxi to the Yacht Club, then are ferried
out to Nightshade by Marquis Korwin Vanderfield in one of the
air/rafts. As has
been their usual procedure, they go in and out
from the patio.
No-one has left the other black ship, so they see no
reason to try to socialize. Helia checks with Nightshade,
which says that the two ships have not been in contact in any way.
Everything is fine on board. While they've
been away, Vonish Kehnaan has restocked the supplies -- the cuisine on
board is assured for quite some time.
Before taking off, everyone goes into their battle
stations, just in case. The bridge crew are all in sparkly pink
Helia lifts them off from the harbor, as required
following the sea route to Down Port before climbing up towards
orbit. Callisto verifies that the other ship has remained at
As Nightshade hits one diameter from Digitis,
Helia slips them into jump heading for Lysen.
It's pretty risky to jump this close to a planet, but with Helia as
astrogator and Mich as
engineer it presents no problem.
Nightshade arrives out of jump from Digitis,
already in stealth mode. Helia takes them in close to a
trader so Robert can piggyback through it to pick up the recent
items. To their disappointment, there is nothing new. Helia
takes them back out and drops into jump for Mongo.
With stealth mode off and transponder simulator
active, they arrive in system. While there are a lot of ships
around, Callisto says there are no black ships here. Shark asks
if Baba Yaga is here, but Callisto assures him that no such
transponder signal is out there.
This system has a class A starport, with a naval
base and scout base.
There's not a lot of naval presence here
near the mainworld. All the gas giants orbit the
Mongo itself is the lone world orbiting the primary well outside
the orbit of the secondary. The mainworld should be quite pleasant,
reasonably warm with a standard atmosphere and fairly light gravity.
Shark lays down the ground rules. He is in
paranoid mode, but recognizes that everyone will be allowed to come and
go as they please as long as they meet up back on the ship before they
leave, and as long as someone is on board at all times. Everyone
is to have a commdot, and everyone to have something around that will
work as a weapon, such as a zack. Shark presents Teri Cralla with
a gun cane, which she accepts without comment.
Baron Bridgehead reminds everyone that as a noble,
he and his retinue and bodyguard are permitted discreet weapons for his
protection. That pretty much frees them up to be well armed, as
long as the Baron or Marquis Korwin Vanderfield are in the group.
Teri will still have to leave her battledress and FGMP-15 on board, of
course. Shark notes that there are only the two nobles on board,
although as he says Kalida certainly dresses the part.
It's evening by the time Helia lands them at the
starport. The ship has already talked to the starport
authorities, and they've been assigned a prime landing bay among the
other nobles' yachts. Between Marquis Vanderfield and Baron
Bridgehead, they rank quite highly here.
The starport is located on a fairly large island
near the equator. It's quite warm and humid. In fact, as
Shark observes, aside from the water this place is surprisingly similar
own homeworld. Of course the water is quite a difference -- Romar is a
desert world, while Mongo is only a few islands
short of water world status.
Kalida and Bridgehead have dressed up to the nines
for the trip ashore; he in full retired Imperial Navy Grand Admiral
uniform, she in all silk. Helia has chosen something she
considers appropriate: an aubergine leather vest with built-in backpack
over her black zack, with aubergine boots that reach just over the knee
with pointed tops and a band around the top. Shark and Teri dress
as bodyguards in matching black with sunglasses, armed subtly but
credibly for their role -- Shark is most comfortable with his trusty
Bridgehead, Shark, Misha, Vonish, and Mich had been
reported dead in the news reports.
The Baron will of course use
his real identity here, but since Shark expects the noble to be paying,
he himself can remain incognito. The other "dead" people are
remaining on the ship at present, although they may well decide to come
So it's Bridgehead, Helia, Kalida, Shark, and Teri
who are disembarking first. Shark yields to the Baron as to where
to go, and the noble of course heads straight for the exclusive Nakege
Room club. Shark leads the group with Teri bringing up the
The starport itself is really big. Most of it
consists of bars, lounges, clubs, entertainment, and so on. There
Aid Society facilities here, accessed through the Weary
While currently they're on their way to the
classiest establishment, Shark resolves to take Mich to the Zuchai
Room, which sounds much more like their kind of place. Maybe
they don't use the same dirty towel to wipe all the glasses, but at
least the atmosphere -- and the drinks -- should be more familiar and
comfortable. Helia might even join them. Shark muses that
it's still not his kind of place -- they don't advertise his hangouts,
The Nakege Room is very near their
berth. Nightshade is by far the largest yacht among those
docked, and has been assigned one of the top three locations.
It's as if the more important the noble, the easier they make it to get
to the expensive club.
Outside the club is a uniformed doorman. The
heavy oak door is closed.
Shark walks up to the doorman. He announces,
"Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead and party."
Kalida adds, "And Marchioness Nakege."
The doorman bows deeply and says, "Come in,
please." The door opens.
Helia says, "Marchioness Nakege? And we're
going to the Nakege Club?"
"Precisely," says the Marchioness, stepping forward
and gesturing Shark to lead them in.
Helia says, "After you, your Ownership!" and trots
forward to take Kalida's arm instead of Bridgehead's.
Baron Bridgehead is quite simply speechless.
"Baron? Would you like to join us?" Kalida
The maitre d' greets the Marchioness at the door,
nods at her request for the best table, and leads them into the dining
There are a small number of people in this extremely
high class dining room. The Marchioness of Nakege's table is
nicely shaded with indoor plants, providing privacy but not obscuring a
view of the room, slightly raised from the floor level.
Helia cannot believe that the Baron stumbled so
readily -- he should have presented his arm to Kalida and escorted her
in, surely, and been as gallant as possible. It's amazing that
he's so... quiet.
Shark and Teri are taken a little aside and some
security details pointed out to them, then shown to a table just to the
side of their charges' table. This one has discreetly hidden
camera views and security terminals, along with lockdown screen
controls. It's all positioned so the two of them can use them,
but so they won't intrude on their employers or other guests.
Teri and Shark have their own waiter, and Shark relaxes at not having
to remember his etiquette.
The Marchioness of Nakege and her retinue have a
flock of waiters, catering to their every whim. The head waiter,
the sommelier, all the top staff of the club are ensuring that their
honored guests have the perfect dining experience.
Shark has everything he needs -- not only security
within the club, but monitors for starport security as well. He
relaxes and settles in for the several hours he expects the meal to
take. He brings Teri up to speed on all the gear, and then surfs
for his own brand of contact. It doesn't take long -- he
quickly finds out how to make contact with the local operative.
At the main table, they don't even have to
order. The chef will design the meal for them, and all they have
to do is relax and enjoy it -- which they do, thoroughly. The
whole entourage is being treated as royalty. The Baron is
still dumbfounded, looking at Kalida every now and again as if trying
to figure her out.
The furniture is all wood, as is all the paneling on
the walls -- Kalida notes that it is appropriately white oak.
Whatever is not wood is leather. Helia's seat is even designed to
rise to the proper height as she sits down, as it's pushed in for her
by a servant.
Between two of the courses, a servant delivers a
business card to the Marchioness. It has a handwritten note,
"Welcome. If you need anything, I am at your disposal." The
card is from Sir William Edgerton, who is presumably the man bowing his
head in her direction from a table across the room. He's probably
in his fifties, a bit short of social presence for his title.
He's sharing his table with two younger men who also aren't really up
to the social standard of the club.
Shark quickly looks up the knight in the local who's
who. It says he's in the import/export business, supposedly from Aramis.
He's done business here for a good while. Shark doesn't think the
Marchioness needs to be bothered with this information at dinner.
He also picks up images of all three at that table, for use with his
The Nakege Room's exclusive reputation is
clearly correct. A small number of people go in and out over the
evening -- they don't recognize any of them. Nobody is being
accorded the status of the Marchioness of Nakege.
Finally the Baron speaks. He says, "So, my
lady, why did you decide to grace us with your title?"
Kalida says, "There was no point in the rank on the
ship, or any other place we've been out here."
"It certainly explains your exquisite taste in
"Thank you," smiles the Marchioness.
Shark shakes his head. He'd pulled up her
military record before she joined the ship, but didn't think to look in
the noble records. He now finds her listed in the Nobility
of the Spinward Marches, and open further checking finds that she
was granted the title recently -- as soon as she retired from the
Marines, in fact -- rather than inherited it.
As the end of the meal approaches, an after dinner
drink arrives in a bottle they all recognize. It's Blockade
Bourbon, a bottle of which they have on board for sale. The Baron
of course has been dying to taste this stuff -- and he is not
disappointed. It is absolutely superb, unbelievably good.
The open bottle is placed on the table -- now that it's irretrievably
paid for, they'll take what's left back for the rest of the crew to
After the meal, the Marchioness is informed that a
suite will be held at her disposal while she's here, should she wish to
use it. At the same time Shark is given security details for the
suite -- and it is quite a suite indeed, luxurious and spacious.
Not only does it have the hot tubs that this crew always demands, but
plunge pools and lap pools. Nevertheless, they will sleep on the
ship tonight, and decide later whether they will want to stay there or
on shore. Shark is also given all the contact information the
Marchioness might need for whatever business she has here -- he uploads
it, and passes it on to Kalida's hand computer.
Shark asks Teri if she'd ever believe she'd be on a
ship with so many -- and such high ranking --
nobles. She smiles and shakes her head, and entertains him with
stories of her time in the Scorpionis Marines.
Helia suggests they see if the club has a concierge,
who can make recommendations and arrangements for them. She says
for one thing, Vonish will probably want to take the tour of the
Shark requests a concierge attend the Marchioness;
he lets the club know that they won't be staying the night tonight, but
may be back tomorrow with a larger group. He'll try to give them
advance warning of how many might be staying.
Kalida signals the concierge to approach. She
tells him she wants the agricultural tour for her chef and whoever else
might want to accompany him. She also says they want to collect
books on various subjects -- tomorrow she'll give them a list of
interests to work with. Also, they'll only be here for a few
days, and she wants recommendations for places to visit, things to do,
and specialty shops. Helia says that she and their chef are
particularly interested in pastry and sweet shops, and want to meet
with the chefs and proprietors of those. The concierge will
provide all the information and relay it to the Marchioness' ship.
The bourbon is taking effect: Baron Bridgehead is
getting used to the idea that this lady is the high ranking noble in
their group, and in fact thinks it's great because she's actually nice.
Meanwhile, Shark calls Marquis Vanderfield back on Nightshade,
and asks if he'd like to be announced at dinner tomorrow. Shark
smiles at the thought of his local counterparts going nuts trying to
figure out what all these nobles are doing on board, and maybe even
making connections with Marquis Marcus Crestworthy.
No bill arrives, of course -- the club is not that
crass, they would charge it back through the ship. In fact, they
inform Shark that tonight is on the house. As the party leaves
the table, he makes sure that the bottle gets back to the ship with him.
All return to Nightshade to rest for the
night. Once there, after a brief discussion, Shark calls the Nakege
Room club to tell them that tomorrow will be arriving all three
nobles, plus the captain and ship's officers numbering four (captain,
chef, Miss Belladonna, and the chief engineer).
Helia asks Shark and Robert to help her send out a
secure message, and also to investigate all sources to see if there's
any news of Helia (and Professor Farol and Sally Forsythe). They
promise to do so.
Helia's book request list will include local cuisine
and agriculture, local legends and stories, local history, and any
strange phenomena. That should get into the paranormal stuff that
Marquis Marc likes without setting off any alarm bells. She also
plans to visit bookstores in person.
Kalida spends a while going through the information
sent by the concierge. There are details of many establishments
both at the starport and on the world itself. She notes with
interest that the Nakege Room is owned by the Bank of Mongo,
who own a bunch of stuff here. She also notes the address of the
Bank of Mongo's head office.
Shark has determined that his local contact here is
with Imperial Navy Intelligence -- and so was the person who gave them
the bomb on Ferle,
although that was way outside the Imperium, and it was an Imperial Navy
Midu Agashaam class destroyer that attacked them. Here is not
only in the Imperium, but on the border with the Zhodani, so it's actually
plausible for them to be here.
Later, over some more Blockade Bourbon, Shark asks
Kalida, "So, whose butt did you pull out of a fire?"
"Nobody," replies the Marchioness of Nakege.
"And for no reason you're a Marchioness," laughs
"I just made some friends, and when I retired I was
suddenly granted this. I don't know why they decided to, they
just did it."
"I know why the Marquis Crestworthy got his
title. He did that because he pulled the Duke's son's butt out of
the fire. So we know that story -- we know what he did. We
know what the Grand Admiral did to become a baron."
"I was stationed doing some liaison work when I was
still in the military on Adabicci.
I became friends with Sir Geoffrey, and thereby kind of knew the Duke,
and when I retired I was very suddenly given the post of
Marchioness. Rather surprised me."
"Sir Geoffrey is...?"
"The Duke of Adabicci's son."
"The same person," laughs Shark loudly.
"Exactly," laughs Kalida. They toast the
Duke's pockets full of "Make a Marquis" cards with another glass of
Helia asks, "So, you like, own the system?"
"No," says Marchioness Nakege, "I don't own the
"Do you get any money off it?"
"That's no fun. No wonder you were sitting in
port with nothing but your good outfits! So they give you this
title that you're supposed to live up to, but they don't give you any
money or any lands."
"There is land -- I do have substantial
estates. It's is exceedingly productive, but sadly enough nothing
can leave the planet. Do you remember that entire thing with Ianic and Tukera Lines?
That was because Tukera Lines was blockading Ianic and not
letting anything out -- they're doing the same thing at Nakege.
That bottle of bourbon? That's what they make."
Shark ponders, "How much could we put in our
attic? We could put a few cases..."
"We could get around that blockade pretty easily,
couldn't we?" smiles Kalida.
Helia says, "If your family makes that bourbon, I'm
sure we could get down there and..."
"Not my family," corrects Kalida.
"OK, your lands. How does it normally get
"It doesn't make it out."
"Except for these two bottles that we know of."
"Some people manage to run it past. That's why
it's called Blockade Bourbon. The rest of it's just sitting on
Shark asks, "What was the jump range on Anastasia?"
Mich replies from deep in his bourbon glass, "Four."
Helia continues, "Wait a minute. Your property
makes the bourbon that we bought -- that really expensive bottle?"
Kalida clarifies, "The company that technically owns
the world makes the bourbon. I don't own the company, I'm not
part of the company. I just have jurisdiction over the system."
Shark agrees, "She has legal authority over the
Helia says, "So can't you tithe them, and ask for a
couple of barrels? For administrative fees?"
Kalida says, "If I were able to take bottles off and
bring money in, I'm sure they would let me take whatever I
wanted. Again, I've never been there. I've never seen this
"I think we've just found a business," says the
larian. "I think we know where we're going when we get back."
"Ideally I would like to break the blockade.
I'd like to get them out of there."
"Wait," says Shark, "I'm thinking of a way to break
the blockade." He turns to Mich and says, "On Anastasia
you made the jump-4 even more than jump-4."
Mich replies, "No, you can't make it more than it
is. I just made it faster than six days. I'm working on it
for this ship."
"OK. I'm wondering if we can get Anastasia
back and retrofit it as a blockade runner."
Kalida says, "But again, that doesn't get rid of the
"If you make the blockade ineffectual, would it be
worth the money for them to keep it up?"
"I don't know. They almost started a war on Ianic.
Tukera are known for not playing fair. They even have their own
intelligence group, Vemene."
Shark smiles, "What do we need to do to convince the
Wonstar Development Corporation that they need to pay attention to them
and do something to them? Convince Wonstar that we've given them
black ship technology?"
"Then we have to deal with Mary and her group
because we're not supposed to give out anything," says Kalida.
"Even though we won't have done, the rumor will get out that we did so."
"Not if we tell Mary that's what we're going to
do. If we can get Tukera to attack Wonstar, or vice versa, then
we're getting Wonstar involved in something, which can only hurt
them. I think we should consider how we can get someone else to
fight Tukera corporation for us."
Kalida points out that one of the odd things about
the Ianic situation is that usually the company doing the
blockade gets what it wants. It's remarkably unusual for
decisions to go against the company -- Ianic is the first time
that somebody has intervened on behalf of the other guy. That was
the Duke of Adabicci, who was right there. He doesn't have
The catch is that the ducal authority here is Archduke Norris,
pending him having a child to take over the title of Duke of Regina,
and so there's an absentee situation here. Getting him involved
directly would be really difficult. There is the Countess of
Jewell, but she doesn't really have the practical authority to go
against an Imperial megacorporation
with impunity, as might a powerful duke.
Kalida muses as an aside that if she owned the
company, she really would own the system.
Shark asks how much the company would cost.
"I don't know," says Kalida. "The Bank of
Mongo has been simply floating them a loan for all these years.
That's why I was going to talk to them tomorrow. The Bank of
Mongo also owns the Nakege Room we spent the evening in, and a
lot of the other places here."
Shark smiles, "So that's why the Bank of Mongo is
catering to you, because they want to keep you happy, and if you pay
off the loans..."
"Sadly all I've got is another bottle of bourbon,
and that's ship property, not mine. I have a lot of nice clothes,
and that's about it."
Shark wonders how many loads it would take to pay
off the debt. He adds, "Of course, as soon as we start running
the blockade, the price would go down. 50% I would expect."
Kalida adds, "It's all made with the traditional
method, so it's not made particular quickly. The quantity is
limited and the quality is very high, so the price is always going to
be quite high. We can pay off loans; we probably will not be able
to buy the company outright because it's a family business, but we can
probably buy at least shares in it."
Shark still thinks they can solve this: "If we can
blow up enough of their ships that it costs them more than they would
"But it's a long term investment. They're
looking at making a lot of money over very many years."
"If their ships just blow up, and they can't figure
out how or why, and can't stop it...?"
"Then they will probably start attacking physically,
I would think. Unless we're going to sit here baby-sitting the
Shark concludes, "But it's a business I could get
into -- blowing up Tukera ships and running the blockade. It's
more like privateer and not piracy, you know?"
Kalida smiles, "It's my system. It's not like
we'd be stealing anything."