(18) Arrested Development

The Nightshade Campaign (243-1122 to 244-1122)

243-1122 : Rhylanor / Rhylanor / Spinward Marches

    The goal is still to investigate Professor Willi Marsh, and see if any of his works can be located.  Ancient Languages was his area of research, and his papers were all removed from the University of Mora, and from Plankwell University and the Rhylanor Institute of Technology here on Rhylanor.  This was supposedly done at the request of the executor of his estate.
    Even in one of the antique bookstores is a flag in the computerized system that anyone asking for books by Marsh is to be reported by phone to Gerry Medford Investigators.  Bookstores without computerized systems seem safe, however, and Robert Morris easily defeated the security system of the bookstore where Edward "Shark" Teeth found himself in trouble.  They don't know the full story of what is supposed to happen when Medford gets that call, but Shark's experience was that the bookstore tried to delay him and keep him there.
    Another approach is to find out where the Professor used to live, in case there are any clues there.  They do know that P.U. has none of his papers, but R.I.T. says that all his papers are at P.U..  They could also check the physical libraries to see if there's anything that isn't cataloged, especially in the departmental libraries.  There's also one more bookstore to check.
    It's now early evening.  All this investigation can wait until tomorrow.

    The Marquis of Aramis has still not arrived at the downport.  Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege, is particularly interested in knowing when he gets here, so she makes sure that Nightshade tells her when his ship gets here for the meeting with the Duke of Trin and Count and Countess of Nexine, hosted by the Duke of Rhylanor.
    Kalida also insists that they need to dine publicly tonight.  If her presence is known, she might get invited to something, particularly the parties where most of the business of the nobles will be conducted.
    Teri Cralla is starting to like the bodyguard gear, and looks really amazing in it.  Shark looks merely sharp.  The two of them will be doing bodyguard duty tonight.
    The main diners, at a place chosen by Kalida, are Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead, Marquis Korwin Vanderfield, Misha Ravanos, Helia Sarina, and Vonish Kehnaan.  Kalida, of course, does not actually need a reservation: not only is she one of a limited number of Spinward Marches landed nobles, but she is well known as always being in fashion.  She also selects the limousine service they'll be using tonight.
    Mich Saginaw just doesn't like the rarefied atmosphere of those places, and Robert Morris no longer speaks galanglic and so has to mess with a translator to understand the ape grunts in which everyone else speaks, so they're staying behind.  Mich also sees no reason to call his family or anything, even though this is his homeworld.
    Kalida finds that Rhylanor is as hospitable to nobles as it was last time she was here.  The best bourbon they have is Blockade Bourbon, available on request, and they have a very fine selection of everything through the top end of the range.  She knows that the bottom end of the quality range are also available, but not on the menu for snobbery reasons.  She is surprised that she doesn't see anyone she knows here.  Nevertheless, it's still clearly the place to dine.

    Shark performs a news search on Gerry Medford, but is surprised to find no references.  Also, of course, his advertisements don't show his picture -- they're just small ads in the classified section.

244-1122 : Rhylanor / Rhylanor / Spinward Marches

    Today there are a lot of tasks ahead of everyone.  There are many libraries to investigate, and a bookstore to check.
    Shark asks Robert to find out where Professor Marsh used to live.  Robert locates it -- it's a small house outside the city, in a more rural residential wooded area.  The current owner is Harold Wingman, who is no relation to Marsh.  Mr. Wingman is the manager of three video rental stores, and has owned the house for about eight years.
    Professor Marsh himself was survived by his wife Suzy and son Jeremy, according to the obituary.  Since he died about 120 years ago, his effects would almost certainly have passed on to other descendants, but it is worth checking the house anyway.  Further checking by Robert shows that the trail stops with no further relatives on planet.  That turns out to be because Suzy and Jeremy left Rhylanor in 1007, three years after Willi's death in 1004.  The papers were removed soon after he died, also in 1004.  Robert looks around and finds some old information: they left on 007-1007, on Gallant Skyrocker, a far trader headed to Jae Tellona.
    Shark is surprised that they left on a far trader rather than a liner.  On the other hand, if they had a lot of stuff to take with them, it could have been cheaper on a far trader rather than a liner.  Shark observes that nobody on the ship has actually moved house themselves -- they're just a bunch of vagabonds and military folks now.  He says that there are only a few possibilities: they took the papers, the papers were destroyed, or they didn't know they were in the house.  In the last case, they may still be there.  First, however, they'll start with the libraries, and then fall back on searching the house.
    Searching for hidden compartments would be beyond the limits of the densitometers on a gcarrier, unless they sat over the house for several days and were very close, or parked it in the yard.  They could move the ship, but they don't want any more alien space bat incidents.

    Shark plans to do a physical search of the shelves while Kalida distracts the staff.  He makes sure he's equipped with gear to look behind books to spot anything that might have dropped down out of sight.  He'll also check for anything that might be mis-filed on his first name, although that's likely to have been corrected over the last 120 years.  Misha also accompanies them as part of the Marchioness' entourage, even though he can't yet read.
    They start out first at the main library at Plankwell University.  Kalida is recognized, and offered an unrestricted access library card.  That gives access to the restricted shelves, so Shark doesn't need any distractions and they can look together.
    They start out in the Linguistics section, both open and restricted shelves.  All their searches, normal and investigative, indicate that there is nothing to find here.
    Kalida on the other hand finds a good many theses on Tukera tactics and strategy, various exploitation methods, and so on.
    Next stop is the school of Linguistics.  Shark checks the faculty portraits, and finds one of Professor Willi Marsh.  He was just a normal professor, apparently, not head of department or anything like that.  They do the same searches of the library here, and again find nothing.
    Kalida suggests looking for mentions of the papers in other books, but that's a much harder search.
    Shark talks to the librarian and asks what would happen to papers that were pulled.  The guy tells him they would normally just be moved to the restricted section; when Shark asks, he tells him that it would have to be pretty unusual to be pulled completely off any of the shelves.  Unfortunately Shark doesn't have any titles or reference numbers, but the guy recognizes Marsh's name.
    As Shark subtly pumps him for information, the librarian says that Marsh was quite some guy.  He travelled around a lot, apparently, in the course of his research.  He suggests looking for a literature survey of that time, and he should try the Library Sciences department.  It's pretty old stuff, but there might be a survey around that period that could help.
    So the next stop is the Library Sciences department.  This turns up to be a very up to date department, clean, neat, and well organized.  The system is computerized, but anything of any age -- over 100 years old -- is archived in hard copy.  Shark is very pleased about this -- you can't leave an electronic trail without using electronics.  They begin their search.
    Shark takes the simple approach of asking a librarian to help them.  The old man is delighted to help the Marchioness, and is very courteous to her companions.  He does a quick run through linguistic surveys of the period, and pulls out a couple of things to check that hadn't occurred to them.  He doesn't find any references, though.
    Kalida asks if it might be classified under Ancient History or something, rather than linguistics.  The librarian suggests Anthropology, while Shark adds Myths and Legends.
    Ancient History reveals nothing.  Anthropology has no references.  Myths and Legends does turn up something.  The librarian finds a reference to Professor Marsh's work on the talking plants of Valhalla.  It mentions a little about them, that supposedly people keep thinking they're trying to talk to them -- they make sounds, but all attempts to communicate have failed and they're thought to be like bird songs.  Professor Marsh showed some structure to the language where related topics could sound completely different from each other, and it depended a lot on the context of the communication.  This is very interesting indeed.  Marsh's paper, however, is not mentioned by name.  There is a reference in the bibliography -- hard to find, as it was not footnoted in the text -- to a personal communication on a soon to be published paper, title not yet available.  The year was 993.
    Shark then asks about Marsh's research notes.  The librarian says that they would be with his personal estate.  If they were donated to the University, they would be in the library somewhere.
    Shark then asks what would happen to anything in Marsh's office.  It would apparently be taken out, sorted through, and dumped if it was unclaimed.  There wouldn't be anything left at this point.  Ongoing work would have been catalogued by his students.  Marsh's staff records would be back in the Linguistics department, archived by this time -- they could be requested online, but would have to be retrieved.

    That finishes their research at the University departments.  Now the three of them move on to the third antique bookstore that Shark didn't visit yesterday.
    This is a real hole in the wall.  The narrow entryway leads upstairs -- the bookstore itself is on the third floor.  It's fairly dark, narrow passages between shelves, with the books shelved haphazardly.  It has that dusty old book smell; Misha starts coughing, and at that Shark suggests he guard the stairs.
    Shark checks thoroughly for electronic surveillance, and is relieved to find none at all.  There is no other entrance as such, but there is a fire escape in case things turn nasty.  While Kalida looks for information relevant to her dealings with Tukera Lines, Shark confidently asks the proprietor about papers by Willi Marsh.
    Shark has his billfold with credit notes clearly visible as he asks the man about Professor Marsh's forbidden papers, the ones that have been lost, or rather the ones that no-one knows where they are -- unless he does, of course.
    The man directs Shark to the Ancient Language section, deep in the stacks.  He says he'll go look in the back too, and walks into the back and up a ladder.
    Shark quietly asks Robert to monitor any transmissions from this address, if he can.  Robert immediately hooks up to the wireless tower networks and uses them to monitor what he can; the resolution at the range that would be required is just not available using the ship's sensors.  He reports that there's no sign of anything.
    Kalida finds the section she was looking for, but hasn't found anything of interest.  She starts wandering around further, and while she doesn't find what she's looking for, odd books keep catching her eye.  The books here are generally quite old.  She picks up one on ancient pre-Imperial music for a friend of hers.
    Shark, on the other hand, finds a slim volume by Professor Marsh.  It is titled Fractalnyms in Content-Free Contextuals.  Shark is impressed -- the professor was actually breaking it, he muses.  The book contains glyphs of the right sort of structure, but they don't make sense to Shark in terms of scryptese.  It is an extremely scholarly text that is far beyond Shark's level of linguistics.
    While waiting for the proprietor to return, Shark looks around for a section on Magic.  He has no idea where to look in this maze, but to his great surprise it's right in front of him when he turns around.  It's a short section, but does have several interesting books, including one written in Zhodani.  Since Marquis Marcus Crestworthy reads that language, he picks that one up too.
    The man comes back with a small book entitled Speaking in Shapes: a Verbal Geometry.  Shark makes a mental note to get these all scanned into the ship's computer with Mich's book reading machine.  Shark muses to himself that while there may be books here on Helia's homeworld, he still doesn't know where it is -- the discussion between the larian and Sir Arken Hauther didn't reveal anything useful, deliberately it would seem, other than something about monks and "the brothers," and the fact it was somewhere Sir Arken had been and apparently might be likely to go again.
    Kalida asks about books on the tactics used by Tukera, and their history in the Jewell subsector.  She's particularly interested in any successes against Tukera.  He does find something for her.  The book is called A System Too Far: the Battle of Plaven.  He says it's about one of Tukera's less publicized disasters, about 200 years ago.
    Shark pays cash for all the books, along with a quite reasonable tip.  He says that he might send a friend back for books on cooking and candies.
    The man suggests that with a substantial enough gratuity he could give Shark the books for free, and wouldn't have to report the sales for tax purposes.  The two of them agree that the offworlders have never been there, and none of these books were ever in stock.  They leave the bookstore and return to the ship.

    Kalida, Helia, and Teri head out for a late lunch ashore.  Teri is suitably armed as a noble's bodyguard, with a subtly carried gauss pistol.

    Meanwhile, there's the matter of Gerry Medford Investigations and what they have to do with Professor Marsh and his works.  Rather than walk in and interrogate them, Misha suggests setting off an alarm -- such as the one triggered by the computerized book search -- and seeing how they react.  Shark agrees that this would be a good approach; he volunteers to set off the alarm, while Misha stakes out Medford's offices and trails anyone who leaves.
    Shark drops a communique to his local contacts, asking who Gerry Medford is.  He is not expecting a quick answer.
    Mich is given the books to scan, and sets them up to read into the ship's computer.

    Misha takes up position near Medford's offices.  He picks up a new cab in that area, and tells him to park where he can observe the street.  He tips the cabbie immediately.  Once he's set up, he tells Shark to go ahead and trigger the alarm.
    Shark goes to a branch of Books-R-Us in a business suit, carrying a briefcase.  Underneath he's wearing his zack.  He looks around in the store for a couple of minutes, then walks up to an assistant manager and tells him he's looking for books by Professor Willi Marsh.
    Robert is already monitoring all communications in and out of that store.
    The manager looks up the book, and Robert monitors the ensuing phone call:
    "Hello, it says to call you if somebody looks for books by this author."
    "Yeah, we'll have somebody right down there. Keep him there if you can."  The voice is that of Gerry Medford himself.  "There'll be a reward if he's still there."
    Shark has checked for other doors.  While the manager makes his phone call, he wanders over to the employee door in the back.  It's protected by a keypad, but no-one is going in or out for him to try to get the code.
    Misha is alerted about the call.  Robert tells him that there have been no outgoing calls from Medford's.  About a minute later a woman in a dark business suit, in her early 20's, leaves the building at a fast walk, gets into a gravcar, and drives off rapidly.
    Misha directs his driver to follow that car.  The cars weave quickly through city traffic directly towards the bookstore.  Nevertheless the taxi driver has no trouble keeping track of the woman and staying with her.
    Shark notices that the manager is calling store security.  He asks Misha if he should try to leave; his captain tells him to wait for the woman to get there.  At this point it's probably too late to avoid being detained anyway.  He pretends not to notice the security guards.  The guards are covering the store entrances; they are not positioned near the employee entrance.
    The woman's car arrives, and stops outside in a no parking zone.  Misha directs his cabbie to stop, and he double-parks where Misha can watch.
    The woman gets out of the car and strides into the store with an air of authority.  She talks to one of the guards, looks around, and points directly at Shark.
    Shark keeps up his act and browses idly at the bookshelves.
    The woman walks over.  When she's about ten meters from Shark, she pulls out a laser pistol, points it directly at him, and says, "Freeze!  You are under arrest.  Lie down on the ground."
    "Who's arresting me?" says Shark.
    "Lie down!"
    He complies.  The guards pat him down while the lady continues to cover him.  They pronounce him clean, and she tells him to get up.  The guards handcuff him behind his back.
    "All right, let's get him outside," she says, motioning to the guards to take Shark out and throw him in the back of her car.
    Shark doesn't resist, but says with a frightened tone, "What did I do?  Who are you?"
    The manager comes up to her nervously and mutters something about a reward.  She tells him sharply to shut up, and gets into the drivers seat of the car.  She pulls away.
    While she's distracted with pulling into traffic, Shark works the cuffs up a little on his arms and flexes his zack.  The cuffs slice apart, and with them a section of the back seat and his sleeves.  He keeps his position so as to not give away that he's free.  Keeping up the frightened innocent act, he says, "Who are you?  You gotta read me my rights!  You're not police!  Let me outta here!"
    "You got no rights.  I outrank you."
    "Really?  In what service?"  There is no answer.
    Misha's cabbie is having a harder time keeping up, but is doing it.  He wonders aloud what they're doing, and whether he's likely to get shot.  Misha assures him he won't get shot.
    Shark continues, "Where are you taking me?  You're not taking me out of the city, are you?"
    There is no answer from the front seat.
    Misha asks Shark over the commdot if she seems as inexperienced as she sounds.
    Shark says, "You threw me in the back seat alone.  What are you doing with me?  What's that wall between us?"  He is sure that answers Misha's question.  He kicks the security wall between the front and back seats.
    She glances back and says, "Hey!  Don't break that, that's Imperial property."
    "No it's not, it's yours, unless you show me some ID.  Who are you?"
    She doesn't answer.  The car is starting to head out of town, travelling ever faster.  It would seriously hurt to jump out of the car.
    The taxi driver tells Misha that she's going too fast, and are going to lose them.  Misha contacts Robert and gets him to tell them where Shark is going by locating his commdot.
    The woman is talking into a radio, demanding clearance for free traffic.
    "Who are you talking to?" says Shark.
    Suddenly she lifts the car up off the traffic lane and starts shooting across residential rooftops, headed away from the city center.
    "Where are you taking me?" says Shark, kicking the partition again.
    Robert reports that they're headed towards the Naval Base.
    Misha's driver looks back at him and says, "Do you really want to do that?"
    "Can you?" says Misha.
    "How much you got?"
    "How much do you need?"
    "Five grand."
    Misha thrusts it at the driver, who takes off out of the traffic lanes after the woman and Shark.  He's getting a bit concerned now that it's getting messy, and asks Shark if he could stop the car.
    Shark whispers that it would take some collateral damage, but yes.  Aloud to the woman he says, "I don't want to hurt anybody, or get hurt!  Where are we going?"
    Misha tells him that they're headed to the Naval Base.  If she gets in there, it'll get worse.  He tells Shark to wait for an empty area, and then make his move.
    The two cars are clearing the residential areas and heading out into open land.  The taxi is trailing by quite some distance now.
    Shark gets ready to act, but notices that there's something coming towards them from the direction of the Naval Base at very high speed.  He shouts, "Don't run into that thing, whatever it is!"
    The woman answers, "That's OK, that's our guys."
    As the objects approach, Shark sees that it's two fighter wings of Naval atmospheric grav fighters.  He says, "What are you doing with Naval fighters?"
    Kalida, Helia, and Teri are quite alarmed at hearing this.  They close up lunch and head back to the ship immediately.
    Misha sighs heavily.  He says, "We're going to have to use the Marchioness now.  You go ahead."  He tells the taxi driver to get out of there.
    The driver needs no further encouragement.  He swings down out of the way, drops to ground level and starts dodging between trees.  Clearly this guy has driven something other than just a taxi before.
    Shark says, "The Marchioness of Nakege is expecting me back on her ship at any minute."  For her part, the Marchioness is trying frantically to remember who she might know at the Naval Base.
    The woman says, "Doesn't matter.  I outrank her."  Shark laughs.  She turns around and flashes him a broad smile.
    The fighter wings move into escort position and match speed with the car.