(1) To Be Named

The Regency Campaign (195-1123 to 201-1123)

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195-1123 : Adabicci / Lunion / Spinward Marches

    Nightshade will be leaving Adabicci soon, heading to Regina to fetch the new cook promised by Duke Norris.  On the way, they'll be looking in on Marquis Marcus Crestworthy's Ancient Site expedition at Victoria / Lanth.  It will be two jumps to Victoria, and then another two from there to Regina.
    The crew has been shedding people along the way here from Mora, and now as they are about to leave, one more wants to jump ship.  Jack has decided that in the current circumstances, she wants to be at Karin to carry the IFSS through the transition of Five Sisters from military to civilian administration.  Once there, she'll use the IFSS resources to work with data she's accumulated on Nightshade, put things together and see if anything pops out.  Of course she won't reveal anything about Black Tech, but there's a lot she can do.
    Jack does ask them to call by in the future, especially if they find out anything interesting.  She might have something for them too by then.  She asks for, and is granted, permission to take the Brown Box with her.

    That now leaves Sir Misha, Shark, Kalida, Mich, Robert, and Teri.

    Jack left after lunch, and so does Nightshade.  At 13:00, Mich takes the helm and takes them out to a nice safe jump point at 100d.  he calculates the jump and then runs down to Engineering to fire up the drive.  At 16:00, they jump to 0208 / Lanth.

    It takes two hours for jumpspace to stabilize.  Mich says they are ready to come out at 18:00, and Sir Misha tells him to do so.

195-1123 (cont.) : 0208Lanth / Spinward Marches

    Mich pulls the ship out of jump with a solid thump felt everywhere on board.  His status shows blue for three jump emitters that are out of alignment, and estimates it will take 1 hour to realign them.
    It takes an hour and a half for space to stabilize, and a further hour for Shark on the sensors to be certain of their exact position in this empty hex.  By the time he is done, Mich has long finished his work on the jump emitters.

    At 20:30, they prepare to jump for Victoria.  They'll be coming out in stealth, so this will need to be a normal jump.
    Robert has been checking Mich's numbers for his jump simulator, but this time he disagrees with the parameters calculated by the ship's official astrogator.  He asks the monkey to explain how he got his answers.  Perhaps he didn't have enough bananas that day.
    Mich indeed explains his calculations, and suddenly he comes across the mistake.  Mich snaps, "Let me see those figures again.  Well, this isn't right either!  But let me do these again."
    Mich does them again.  "This is really right.  Yes, of course it's different from the last one because we'll be going at a different time.  So yours is a little wrong.  I'm going to go with this one.  I don't care what you have."  Mich now understands jumpspace like Helia did -- it's all in the maths.  He also understands how it feels when ignorant people try to tell him he's wrong.

    No-one else knows why Mich seems to be in a bad mood when he announces they'll be ready to jump at 21:00, but the jump transition goes smoothly and they are on their way. They expect to arrive in their standard 5-1/2 days, so they should get there at 09:00 on 201-1123.

    The small crew slips back into a jumpspace routine.  There is no Rebellion to worry about anymore, just the normal day to day activities.
    Mich works on deciphering Helia's scribbles.  Robert works on his jump simulator, and starts working on a computer-generated novel in the style of Akim Gavrolovitch.  Shark has been keeping his shooting sharp, but also working on his next Gavrolovitch novel.

201-1123 : Victoria / Lanth / Spinward Marches

    At 09:00 Nightshade pops out of jump in the Victoria system in stealth mode.
    Everything seems normal here, although there are a few ships here.  Witchhunter is here of course, in orbit around Albert, the mainworld's massive moon.  There are also several Imperial Navy ships, a few near the gas giant and one in orbit around Victoria itself.
    They can't reach Marquis Marc right now from stealth, of course.  They'd have to get alongside a ship and hack into it, running the transmission from there.
    The catch is that they have lost their expert pilot.  That would be rather dangerous to attempt with the current skills about the ship.

    Albert seems like it's quite pleasant.  Atmosphere is thin and breathable and the temperature warm enough.  Witchhunter is sitting on the ground.
    Shark says the obvious answer is to fly over there in stealth, then just walk up to the Marquis's ship from the undergrowth.  They decide to do that.
    With Mich piloting, he decides to keep the transit fairly sedate to reduce risk.  He sets off towards Albert at a pace that will get them there in an hour and a half.

    On the way in, Shark notices some spatial disturbances on the moon.  They're not the spatial anomalies that would cause alarms, but just something weird going on.
    This is also the place that the strange statue came from, the one they gave to Sir Arken Hauther a long time back.
    Shark has a hard time figuring out the Ancient Site from has passive scans.  The entrance is simple enough, he thinks, but a little way in, if you followed exact dimensions and directions then several rooms would exist in the same space.  He can at least map some of the entrances to the distortions, and perhaps that will be useful to the expedition.

    Nightshade arrives at Albert at 10:30.  Mich brings them in to land nearby at 11:00.

    One person is laid out on a lounge chair beside Witchhunter, apparently sunbathing.  It's someone in a bikini, not someone they recognize and therefore probably someone from the University of Mora on Marquis Marc's team.
    This of course will make it harder to walk up to the ship without being seen.  At least there are no Imperial Navy ships in orbit around Albert.  They could wave their paper if they needed it, but there should be no need.
    Nightshade flies very quietly through the atmosphere, and has come into land silently.
    While Shark can't scan Witchhunter to find out if anyone's on board, Robert can establish a tightbeam and hack into her.  Parking next to the ship they're hacking into certainly solves the piloting problem.
    Robert quickly reports that no-one is on board.  He can't stop himself there, of course, and sucks out everything they've found from the expedition.  One very important event: they lost a crew member three days in.
    Shark of course wants to know what kind of lost.
    "Lost," says Robert.  "He went through a door and hasn't been seen since."
    The site is certainly strange enough for that.  Rooms of mist; invisible walkways passing across ellipsoidal rooms; perfectly smooth spheres moving around in what looks like it ought to be a pattern, but no pattern that could be found; occasional objects like trees, that change every time you look at them.  The whole place is very organic.  There is definitely power, but no identifiable source.  In his notes, the Marquis observes that it's very explainable by magic.
    Kalida reminds them that her crystal ball often showed that they were kind of here, but not sure where exactly.
    Marquis Marc apparently had no problem with the overlapping map.  He simply ignored any dimensional difficulties and made a tulip map instead.
    Shark suggests everyone putting their data together and seeing if they can come up with anything.  Mich's ability to cope with things in more than three dimensions will surely help here too.
    Mich says there's some spatial multi-dimensional thing going on, but it's nothing to do with jumpspace.  It's just strange.  The doors aren't physically connected in a normal way.
    Shark says that's also true of the gremlins in their power box.
    That is true, of course, but Mich says this is totally unrelated technology.
    "Ah," says Shark, "Then this is the other guy. An-other guy."

    Time to visit the Marquis.  Sir Misha, Kalida, Mich, and Shark will leave Robert and Teri behind to look after the ship.
    Shark has already noted that the flora and fauna appear to offer no threat.  What fauna there is, is staying well out of the way, and the flora seems to be safe, even possibly edible.  The gravity is light, but not quite light enough to be dangerous.  Perhaps the world is so light because (as Kalida says brightly) it isn't really here, or perhaps the Marquis' theory that the world is hollow might be true.  Marquis Marc is certainly looking for the way in.

    The sunbathing student doesn't wake up as the four of them pass, just lying there in the reddish sunlight.  It's easy enough to walk aboard the open ship and find their way to the observation lounge.

    Around lunchtime, Marquis Marc and his team -- Sir Geoffrey and a couple of other students -- emerge from the entrance to the complex.  They shout something in greeting to the sunbather.  She gets up and comes aboard.
    She is clearly astonished to find four strangers in the observation lounge.
    Shark smiles and says, "Hi! The Marquis is expecting us."
    She says, "Excuse me, I'll... go check."  She turns around and rushes out of the room, shouting for the Marquis.

    She is in quite a fluster when she finds him.  "There are people here who say you're expecting them!  There's people on board! There's no way to get here!  There's people aboard!"
    Marquis Marc starts to calm her down.
    "They're on your ship!" she insists, "They're drinking your coffee!"
    "You're right, they are," says the Marquis.  "A striking gentleman with long hair and a big sword, a little short guy, a well dressed lady?  Who else might have come?"
    "That's them!  And a scruffy..."
    "Yes, I am expecting them.  Good.  They survived."
    "OK.  They're on board!"
    "Finally, news!  We'll get to find out what happened," Marc says to Sir Geoffrey.

    Marquis Marc, Sir Geoffrey, a couple of researches, and the girl in the bikini come into the observation lounge.
    "Ah, you're here!" says Marquis Marc, "I'm glad you're here!  So, did you win?"
    "We're here," says Sir Misha.
    "That means you survived.  Do you have to continue running, or can you stay a while?"
    "We don't have to continue running.  We can stay a while."
    "But you didn't say you won.  This might be an interesting story."
    Sir Geoffrey is waiting patiently, looking from one newcomer to the other.  He smiles at Kalida.
    Marquis Marc turns to his crew and says they must have lunch!  The girl quickly leaves, presumably to prepare it.

    Lunch is brought in, more coffee prepared, and it's time to catch up.
    Sir Geoffrey is the first to give up small talk and as what happened and where everyone is.
    Kalida starts to speak, then pauses.  "How do you summarize this?" she says to no-one in particular, then says, "The Rebellion is over..."
    "Suspended," interrupts Shark.  "It's not finalized, but it has stopped."
    "It's all up to the lawyers now," adds Sir Misha.
    Kalida says there's a legal team on the way to Capital.  "Let's see, the Archduke has temporarily stepped aside, the Duke of Rhylanor is acting is Regent until the legal settlement comes back.  We'll tell you the details about that later, they're complicated.  Mostly everyone is... all right.  Adabicci is now uninhabitable."
    Sir Geoffrey lets out a sharp noise.
    Kalida continues, "Oh, and we're now friends with the Sword Worlds, who are helping your father clean things up."
    Sir Geoffrey simply stares this time.
    Sir Misha says, "Santanocheev lives, and his organization is still intact."
    "OK," says Sir Geoffrey, visibly gathering his thoughts.
    Kalida says, "That's under consideration as part of the legal decision."
    Shark says, "A little bit of shooting, mostly in delaying actions, which mostly worked but both delaying both divisions of fleets by about the same amount.  Everyone arrived, they were preparing to fight, and somebody came up with the idea of, hey, let's just declare a regency and let the lawyers settle it.  It'll take a few years and in that time maybe Santanocheev will die of old age."
    Sir Geoffrey asks about the Sword Worlds.
    Shark says, "They invaded -- well, their fleets came in to Adabicci to blockade it, and then.. something happened."
    "You rendered it uninhabitable?" guesses Sir Geoffrey.
    "No, not directly," says Kalida, "Somebody shot at us and missed, and hit the planet.  More or less."
    "So how is everybody?  Did they make it out?"
    "Yes.  Your father is on one of the moons, and the others of course were out of system."
    Sharks says, "The Sword Worlds are helping, which the Imperium is helping to stage a revolution against the current government."
    "They're reorganizing," says Kalida.
    "It's been announced, and battle fleets are going to leave.  You know how that is," says Shark.
    Kalida says, "There's a new Trilateral Alliance in power."
    Sir Geoffrey points out that Imperial politics was never his strong point, so Sword World politics, well... and when Shark mentions that Santanocheev is responsible for the Sword Worlds helping Adabicci recover, Sir Geoffrey just throws up his hands in amazement and gestures to Marc to take over the questions.
    Marquis Marc asks if they have news service data they can give them, something they can study overnight.
    Kalida says they have all the official news, and they can fill in a few more points.  He'll be left with more questions than he began with, she tells him with a smile.
    Marc asks about the crew: not all of them are here?  What about the little one, Helia?
    Kalida explains that several crew members along the path at various points decided to follow other paths.
    "And you let them go?" asks Marquis Marc, astonished.
    "They are still bound by the agreement," says Kalida, "Once a crew member, always a crew member."
    "And most disappointing," says Shark, "Vonish was assigned to the legal team."
    Kalida explains that he was the one who came up with the legal argument.
    Shark says, "So Santanocheev has a legal document that is multiple folders high as to why it was a legal and moral and correct thing for him to do to attack the Archduke and assassinate a bunch of people.  And so the Archduke appointed him to the legal team because he came up with the one most obvious legal argument against it."
    "Although of course in the end," Kalida observes, "It will simply come down to what the Emperor wants, what he decides."
    Shark adds that it will be years before anything happens and gets back here, and so hopefully they will have time to recover.  "And the meantime," he continues, "We have been appointed UNA, unassigned.  Right?"
    "Will we admit to being UNA?" asks Kalida quietly.
    "In present company.  We have our orders, right?"
    "Undisclosed Naval Assets," explains Mich.
    Kalida says, "But we weren't really all that important, we didn't really accomplish anything."
    "No," says Shark, grinning like an idiot, "Not a thing.  What could a little pop-gun one-gunner do?  Only a couple of fun balls."
    "We wreaked undisclosed havoc," says Kalida.
    "The official report says Undisclosed Naval Assets had a minor impact.  You read between the lines.  Anyway..."  Shark looks around.  "It was an interesting time.  Hopefully we reduced the casualties significantly.  The big battle did not happen."
    "Well," Sir Geoffrey says, "Welcome to our expedition.  Where's your ship?"
    "Nearby," says Shark helpfully.  "By the way, did you register Nightshade as part of this expedition?"
    Marquis Marc shakes his head, looking puzzled.  Clearly he didn't.
    "We've had an interesting time here too," says Geoffrey, "Although of course on a much smaller scale.  We're kind of... still looking for Dyuuk.  We don't know where he went."
    Shark nods, "The sensors were very confused by your doors.  By the way, we had in our possession for a while a statue that was collected from here, with some interesting properties.  Mich can tell you more about it's internal structure."
    Mich says, "There was an arrangement of superheavy atoms in the statue that we could tell was purposely laid down.  There was no information we could decode what it meant."
    "We theorized it was a map," adds Shark, "But we haven't been able to map it to anything."  On a whim he quickly pulls up the arrangement on his hand puter but it doesn't match the Ancient Site here.  While he has the connection up, he checks on the football sensors.  Those special sensors show nothing unusual.
    Shark then looks up and says, "We're on our way to pick up a cook.  It was on our way, so we thought we'd stop by and say hi."
    Geoffrey says, "Well, I guess I don't need to be here for safety anymore."
    Kalida says, "We're heading toward Regina, but after that we're open, so do you think you'll be here for a while, or come with us, or...?"
    Geoffrey seems happy to stay here for a while, though.  When Shark asks if they've found anything interesting, any artifacts, or whatever, his voice takes an interested tone that seems almost out of place.  He says, "We lost one person, and found a lot of things.  We lost him.  He stepped through a door somewhere -- we watched him go through -- and that was the last we saw of him.  It was kind of a foggy room, he walked off into it, and that was the last we saw of him.  We followed him in, and he wasn't there.  We came back and he didn't.  We lost him."
    "That is certainly different," says Shark.
    "The whole place is certainly different," says Geoffrey.  "There are strange places.  There is a whole sequences of ellipsoidal rooms, often with a transparent walkway but sometimes not.  There are things in there."
    Shark says, "You mean egg-shaped volumes that you may can walk down the center."
    Geoffrey nods.
    "What kinds of things?" asks Kalida.
    "Trees, maybe.  Spheres.  Pedestals.  Glowing crystals.  Statues of... some sort of creatures I think, it's hard to tell, they change each time we go in."
    "Modern art," says Shark, "Never understood it."
    Mich shows Geoffrey a picture of the statue they had.
    "I've seen one like that," Geoffrey replies, "It was about ten meters tall.  That was in one of the rooms."
    "And you can get back to it?  Maybe?" asks Shark.
    "Well, we've seen it a couple of times.  We can't always get back to that room.  Sometimes it doesn't lead there."
    "Have you taken a football in with you?" Shark asks Marc.
    He has, he says, but they haven't had a single reading aside from the background noise he'd expect from the team.
    Shark tells Marc he has some interesting readings recorded that he should show him.  He then says, "Perhaps after lunch you can take us on a short walkabout."
    Geoffrey says, "If it... chooses to be a short walkabout.  Sometimes I think it's choosing where we go.  Marc has a little more of a scientific approach to that, but I think it's choosing where we go."
    "Sometimes.  It's taking you on a tour," suggests Shark.
    "Not exactly, it's just choosing where we go."  Geoffrey seems a little lost trying to describe it.
    "Do you go in with the same team every time?"
    "No, everybody gets a chance to go through."
    "If you go in with three people, and sometime later go in with the same three people, do you go in the same places?"
    "Sometimes.  It's not always the same."
    Shark was wondering if it was reacting to the combination of them.
    "It might be," says Geoffrey with a smile.
    "Well, let's have lunch, and we can go and share some of that data you asked to collect," says Shark.  Suddenly he stops and looks at Kalida.  They've forgotten to mention something quite remarkable.
    Shark says, "Bridgehead isn't a Baron anymore."
    "He got stripped of the title?" asks Marc.
    "No."  Shark pauses for effect.  "He's a Duke.  And he married two girls.  He married the Rorise daughters.  Both of them.  At the same time."
    Mich corrects him, "They all married each other."  Mich is right, and in terms of the nobility that's a very important distinction.  Goodness knows Vonish spent long enough explaining it.
    "Right," agrees Shark, "He has two wives, they have a wife and husband each.  And there was an assassination and a whole bunch of stuff that Santanocheev did preceding the main battle before it was defused, including detonating a nuclear warhead next to the tactical planning room with all the admirals and senior captains from all of the fleets in defense of Mora.  Therefore being the most senior retired and recently called back to service Grand Admiral, he commanded the entire defense."
    "Which didn't actually happen," observes Marc.
    "Well, he commanded it, and so as reward for that he has been given the position of the first civilian ruler of Five Sisters.  So he is now Duke of Five Sisters.  With his two wives.  Maybe he'll have five daughters.  So it's no longer Grand Admiral Baron, it's now Grand Admiral Duke Bridgehead, Lord Rorise.  That was interesting.  We packed a whole lot of adventure into a few months there," Shark smiles.  He makes a mental note to give Marc all the data, although of course Geoffrey isn't a Crew Member and can't look at most of it.

    With that, the food arrives.  The expedition is well-catered, at least, and eating takes the place of conversation for a while.  There'll be time for more talking later.