(18) Arrested Development
The Nightshade Campaign (243-1122 to 244-1122)
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.
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
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.
of Aramis has still not arrived at the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Shark has his billfold with credit notes
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
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
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
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."
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.
"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."
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
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
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
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
"Who's arresting me?" says Shark.
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
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
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
"Where are you taking me?" says Shark, kicking the
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?"
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
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
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
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
The fighter wings move into escort position and
match speed with the car.