(20) The Judge, the Seneschal, and the Bank
The Regency Campaign (268-1123 to 269-1123)
This file has yet to be fully
This file has yet to be fully
The Gravella, Kalida, Misha, Teri, and Lucas have
headed out to dinner
in the evening, somewhere upmarket but where they won't be too
noticeable. Teri is appropriately and discreetly armed --
Shark approves -- and of course Misha is wearing his zack, although
leaving his sword behind. Lucas might be armed, but no-one can
tell either way.
The restaurant is on the street level. It's
busy, classy but not too classy. It's not somewhere a noble would
go to be seen, but a noble might conduct routine business here.
The bulk of the clientele are probably executives and so on.
Most are in smallish groups, generally around three
or four at the tables, as high as six and some couples. It
appears to Kalida to be a mix of business and pleasure, probably
somewhere business types would retire to after conducting their
deals. It looks like it's pretty much above board.
The unobtrusive security seems a little tighter than
Kalida would expect. They are watching the diners, mostly
watching the entire crowd although they seem to be a little more
interested in one particular table of six.
That table seems to be dominated by one person, a
man in his mid fifties seems to be holding court. Misha notices
that the security is more concerned about risks to the people at that
table than anything caused by them.
Nobody seems to have recognized any of the
crew. They're just another table as far as the locals area
Jewell is a little more crowded than many
other high population worlds. Comfortable personal space distance
seems closer here, and while the tables are far enough apart for the
staff to move easily between them, there is a sense of closeness.
Tables are round or oval, and while seeming randomly
distributed are obviously carefully arranged. It's designed to
look like it's a place of freedom from the order and restrictions that
comprise life on Jewell, but at the same time very carefully
orchestrated. One could pretend that there was chaos here.
The style of cuisine is a large number of quite
small courses, what might be called tapas elsewhere but in sequential
courses. The food is good, but not with the slightly pretentious
edge of higher class places. The presentation is stylized and
precise, but the emphasis is on the food not the presentation.
The Gravella is certainly interested in this foreign
food. The wine is different in a way that everyone else calls
"better", but to the Gravella it's all about being different.
Everything certainly is different, even to the way the wine sloshes in
the glass at three times the gravity of Nakege. Although
he adapted quickly to the heavier world -- he is fitter than they might
have guessed -- little things like how liquid moves attract his
Suddenly Teri shifts a little to make her weapon
ready to hand. There is a slight fuss at the door to the
restaurant, where a person is being searched by three security
people. It's being handled discreetly and quietly so the diners
would not notice. Around the room, the rest of the security staff
are a lot more on edge. Everyone's staying at their post,
however. The business at the door has their attention, but they
are still trying to cover the room as well.
The security staff are taking a fairly sizeable gun
from the person at the door. It had to have been very well
concealed for its size, professionally even as Shark might say.
He seems to be alone, not working with anyone, and
to the crew there doesn't seem to be anyone in the room who's ready to
take advantage of the situation.
Lucas focusses on whether there's anyone here who
would be expecting this, and while most of the serving staff are
keeping any eye on it, there is one waiter who is paying no attention
at all to it. He's about three or four tables away from the one
that was being watched by security. That table is about four away
from them too, forming a triangle. They are about as close to
that table as he is. To get to the door from where he is, he'd
have to pass very close to them.
Misha gets up and moves casually around the room,
appearing to be headed to one of the bars while moving closer to the
waiter but out of his line of sight.
The waiter is moving around as if he's serving, with
a cloth draped over one arm and carrying a bucket of wine. He
doesn't actually seem to be headed anywhere, just slowly working his
way around and towards the big table. Lucas thinks there's more
weight on that arm than just a cloth.
Teri is sitting where the person is in line with her
shoulder; Lucas has a clear view of what is going on. Kalida
thinks the person seems a little familiar, although she can't quite
place him -- perhaps some civil notable, definitely not a celebrity.
Misha gets ready to knock the waiter down if he has
a gun and looks like he's going to assassinate the bigwig at the
table. He'll make sure it looks accidental, which shouldn't be
hard -- Misha already almost bumped into some old guy with a cane who
was headed towards the door but having trouble threading his way
Lucas thinks that wasn't deliberate on the old guy's
part, but he's not sure. He decides to keep a general eye on him
too, although he's more focussed on the guy with the gun.
Misha has now moved into position.
Teri has noticed Lucas is keeping an eye on things,
and keeps scanning the room too.
Suddenly there is a scuffle at the door.
Teri's hand is on her weapon.
As that happens, the waiter drops the bottle and
reaches under his cloth.
Misha moves into action, bumping into him hard but
as if by accident, knocking him to the floor with a clank as his arm
hit the ground.
Whatever was under the cloth is still under there,
in the waiter's other hand. Misha reaches down as if to help, and
pulls the cloth away. It's not a gun, but a heavy saucepan
handle. The waiter looks annoyed and tries to get up. Misha
apologizes for bumping into him.
The security staff are watching the scene with the
waiter, except for the few at the door who are apprehending the man
there very thoroughly. Some of them are starting to move slowly
towards the table.
There is a dull thud from the important table, and
the bigwig falls forward.
The security guards have sprung into action, running
to cover all the exits as well as approaching the table.
The crew looks around quickly for a third
attacker. There are a couple of people who could have passed
close by the table -- a man in a well-tailored nondescript suit, and
the old guy with the cane. The latter is headed generally for the
door, but then so are quite a few others.
People are screaming and leaping up from the table,
blood spilling out across the tablecloth.
Security are closing down the exits. At one of
the bars, an employee is clearly making an emergency call.
Misha heads back to their table and goes back to
being a normal part of the diners.
Now there is a loud explosion from the guy on the
table. His head has blown up.
Fortunately Misha was headed away, not going over to
look. It's become very chaotic there, but it's easy to see that
there are secondary injuries.
The Gravella is no longer pleasantly
observing. He looks shocked, but trusting of the his escort.
Lucas has been checking to see who makes it out of
the doors before security closes them off. The man in the suit
has been stopped trying to take a back exit; the old guy with the cane
has just walked straight by security on the way out the front door.
Most of the diners are surprisingly acting much like
the crew. Some are ignoring the drama, some discussing it, and in
generally remaining calm and continuing with their meal. It's
only those in a position where they can't ignore it are actually
reacting obviously, although it's clear that it could easily change to
a mass exodus. The crew are the closest who seem to be taking it
The explosion has injured several people at the
table, and one security person who made it to the table is on the
floor, seriously hurt.
Kalida gets up and goes to see if she can
help. She's stopped by security, who tells her they have it all
under control when she offers to help. That's clearly not true,
it's not under control, but his tone of voice and attitude indicate she
should go back and sit down like a good citizen and let the authorities
handle it. He assures her that medical staff are on the way.
No-one aside from the security guard seems to be
seriously injured --aside from the man with the exploded head --
although several at that table are quietly hysterical. Crowd
control is not doing well. A number of people are now headed for
the exit, and security are losing their ability to control it.
Kalida introduces herself to the head security guy
as Brigadier General Siena and says he needs to get his security forces
to get this place under better control. He respectfully says that
they will do that, and they will all have it under control.
The medical team arrives and the crowd parts to let
them pass. As soon as they are by, though, people fill in behind
them and are starting to get out the door.
Kalida, with Teri standing quietly by her, tells the
security man that people are getting out, and they need to lock this
place down immediately. He again replies respectfully but doesn't
do anything much about it.
A few more people are leaving into the street now,
although security have the other doors closed and are now holding the
waiter Misha knocked over, who tried to leave through the back.
Finally, Kalida goes to the front door and orders
the guards to the right places and tells them to stop people going
out. They do, and it's closed down with perhaps only half a dozen
people got out. The guards at the door area are now taking their
orders directly from her.
With Misha working with the maitre d' to organize
the staff to get the customers calmed down, sat down, and served
whatever they want, the room is now under control. A makeshift
curtain is being set up around the incident, and cleaning up is under
Misha calls Nightshade and asks them to take
a shot at finding the man with the cane. They have a picture of
him from Teri's sunglasses, of course, and they can use that to help
locate him. The guy tackled has been apprended, and the man who
caused the fuss at the door has gone along with three of the guards
Robert gets to work, hacking into local security and
closed circuit cameras to fill out the picture.
The man with the cane went half a block down the
street got into a limo which then drove off. Robert looks up the
serial number of the limo and finds it is from the Smith Rental
Agency. It went three blocks and turned into a parking
garage. Two men in dark suits emerged and opened the door for the
guy with the cane, who seemed to be moving very easily now. All
of them walked into a door in a building. Robert tells Shark the
address of the building, and that it's the offices of the Smith Rental
Agency. There are no cameras inside. The more Robert pokes
in, the more he feels that something is not right about it. He's
being fed a line by someone on the other end. This has the feel
of a serious professional outfit with someone good on their computer
The man at the door had been taken away by the three
security guards. He was bundled into a police car along with two
of the guards; the third went into a bar.
Meanwhile Shark has been looking into Mr. No
Head. He's a judge who has just recently received a promotion to
the highest court in the city. He has no family. Shark
feeds the picture and information to those on the ground.
Lucas has been watching the head security guy.
He suspects that he could be in on it -- he has been letting his staff
fail to control the situation -- and tells Misha who has returned to
the table. Things are now starting to return to normal.
There has been no sign of an owner or manager during this entire event.
The guy with the nice suit who had been stopped
while trying to leave is now back at a table with two other people
similarly dressed. They are talking animatedly.
Misha points out that there's been time for the
actual authorities to turn up. There has been no sign of them,
even though surely some of the diners would have made calls too.
He calls Robert and asks why no authorities have arrived here.
That's a hard task to hack into the police system,
but it's not beyond Robert. He confirms that there was an alert,
and a team has been dispatched to the restaurant. It's a team of
two inspectors and two uniforms. They were dispatched immediately
the fuss started. He identifies the vehicle they were assigned,
and finds it taking the scenic route. The station was three
blocks from the restaurant, and right now the car is about 10km away,
heading in this general direction but not in any hurry. They
aren't changing the traffic controls in their favor, so Robert does
that for them and tells Misha.
Misha tells Kalida about the police being on the way
and coming deliberately slowly, and thinks that maybe they should just
leave. He is afraid that when they finally get here they will be
looking for scapegoats and choose them.
Shark directs their limo to pick them up one block
south. Misha leads them out confidently. The man who had
stopped Kalida watches them leave, but does not take any action.
Robert monitors communications to make sure any call from there about
them would be stopped or delated.
One block south, they get into their limo.
It's a different driver from before, but the same company they
used. Misha tells the driver to go to the starport, which much to
their relief the driver does. Robert assists with the traffic
control, and it's a remarkably direct and smooth journey.
Misha has thought of everything, and has directed
Robert to check if starport security were waiting for them.
They're in the clear, and return safely to Nightshade.
Back on board, Kalida researches the guy whose head
exploded, from what she can remember and what she can find.
There's not a lot -- his recent promotion is in line with his career,
but quite fast. He has had no controversial cases and no current
caseload. Two others were in contention for the promotion, but
everyone seems genuinely pleased he got the job. He has no
family, and no real social life. He came to this world from Regina
about 15 years ago. There's no mention of why he moved
here. He was a new judge when Kalida had remembered him
here. There have been no signs of recent money, no sign of
gambling debts, no sign of anything out of line.
Misha asks for research into similar assassinations
or attempts, and anything they can find out about the Smith
company. Shark can't find any report of exploding heads, but the
two of them then look into any senior public official deaths,
unexplained or otherwise. The Deputy Minister for Agriculture
died of a heart attack three weeks ago in his late 40s, rather a
surprise at that age. A police Captain of one of the other towns
died also of a heart attack in his late 40s recently.
Robert has checked on the person at the door of the
restaurant -- Shark doesn't expect him to have showed up at the
station. Robert tells him that an unnamed citizen was apprehended
Misha is concerned that this is all a big setup to
get them arrested, or at least to prevent them walking around this
planet. They can test this somewhat by doing their visit to the
Bank of Jewell. They'll take the gcarrier -- if they're being
watched, they're being watched, and no amount of anonymous transport
will hide them.
Lucas says he'll stay on board this time in case
they need a pilot. Robert will drive the gcarrier, and take
Kalida, Teri, and Misha.
Misha is also concerned about the delivery they have
due tomorrow. If necessary they can cancel it -- while it would
raise red flags everywhere to do so, it would be better than either not
being here, or being here to get caught up in the trouble. The
Gravella's requirements have been satisfied, so at least their main
purpose here would be accomplished.
The trip to the Bank of Jewell is surprisingly
uneventful. While Robert waits in the getaway-carrier, the other
three go into the bank.
It's fairly quiet in the bank. The customer
service desk is polite and helpful, asking for Kalida's ID and
enthusiastic to help as soon as it's clear the Marchioness of Nakege is
their client. But the request for the account balance is met with
apologies -- to his surprise, the clerk does not have the authority to
access the details on that account, so she'll need to speak to the
Kalida and her entourage are escorted back to an
office, where there is indeed a manager. The manager too is keen
to help her, and the Marchioness says she simply needs an activity
report on a certain account.
The manager then asks if she has the appropriate
Kalida for a moment is speechless.
The manager helps her out -- for access to this
account it is required to be countersigned by her Seneschal.
Kalida of course doesn't have a
Seneschal. She says she did not know that, but will come
back with that, and thanks him.
Misha assumes she'll appoint him as Seneschal, since
she can presumably appoint one, and was hoping she'd do it right then
on the spot.
On the gcarrier on the way back, Kalida's knowledge
of bureaucracy, however, suggests she might want to do something more
formal. She just needs a name attached to a hand that can sign
it, and asks Shark if he'd like the post. All that has to happen
is for Robert to insert Shark's name in as Seneschal and backdate it a
The computer system of the Office of the Marquisate
of Nakege are not back up yet after it crashed the last time.
Robert checks the public records, and apparently the Marchioness has a
Seneschal: Beatrice Drakenfoll.
That sounds oddly familiar. Apparently she has
only been Seneschal since earlier today, and when Robert pulls up a
picture it's the same Beatrice that was Shark's contact in Imperial
Intelligence. He considers that a sharp move by her to get a
piece of the action that is Nakege.
Shark puts out an ad for contact again.
Ten minutes later, a man calls Shark from the agency.
Shark says he needs to speak with Beatrice.
"I'm afraid she is no longer with this agency," he
replies. He agrees to meet Shark at the usual place.
Shark takes a cab into town. Misha wants him
to go alone, but with him, Kalida, and Teri available as armed backup
in the gcarrier.
Once in the office face to face with the new
contact, Shark says he met with Beatrice Drakenfoll earlier
today. Why is she no longer with the organization?
"She retired to take up a civilian post," he replies.
"I see," says Shark. After a pause, he says
that is a little concerning. "I had left some requests for
information," he continues, "Do you have those requests still on file?"
"No, I believe we don't, actually. No, none of
those requests are on file, I'm afraid."
"That's not good," says Shark slowly and firmly.
"I'm sure it will be fine."
"Do you know what position she took up?"
"Yes. She's the Seneschal to the Marchioness
"When did she get that appointment?"
"Just this afternoon. Late this afternoon."
"The Marchioness came herself?"
"Oh, no. This was all handled through the
Noble Commission like all the appointments to the Marquisate of Nakege."
"I see," says Shark again. "And where is the
Noble Commission on Jewell?"
"That would be at the City Hall."
"Is there a public roster for the commission?"
"Yes, of course. Right here," he says, showing
it to Shark. It seems to consist of minor nobles, mostly Barons,
no-one he recognizes. He reads it aloud, as if to himself, so the
crew can hear it over the one-way communication device. "Do you
know if any of these are related to Aramis?"
"No, they're all under the jurisdiction of the Duke
"If you still have contact with Beatrice..."
"Well, no, not since she's retired from the service."
"If you do, please let her know that the Marchioness
wishes to see her at her earliest convenience."
"I'm afraid that might be a while."
"She's gone off planet?"
"Yes. About six hours ago, on a courier being
run under the auspices of the Noble Commission. She's on her way
to take up her appointment."
"OK. Thank you."
Shark returns to the starport, time calculations
whirling in his head. They have a minimum of 18 hours to
guarantee they can tie the courier's arrival at Nakege, or an
average of 30 hours... plus the difference in reaching jump point, of
Kalida wants this verified. Can Robert find
real records of her leaving?
There was indeed a courier that left for Nakege,
with Beatrice Drakenfoll, Seneschal of the Marquisate of Nakege, as the
only passenger. The security pictures match -- it really was her,
and she really has left.
Kalida asks Shark what his assessment of her would
Shark says she's after information definitely.
Whether she's after the installations for personal use, or...? If
she has deep meson sites, and she can blow the heck out of the Tukera
fleet, she then has some reasonable chance of controlling a
multi-billion credit industry.
Robert suggests the possibility that she is actually
working with Tukera.
Misha points out that there hasn't been a Seneschal
because the Seneschal is supposed to live at the official residence,
and since no-one can live at the residence, there isn't a Seneschal.
Shark assumes she got herself appointed through
Imperial Intelligence, presenting the appropriate documents to the
Noble Commission. Either they did it, or she hacked the data
base, it doesn't matter. But they can give her the position, and
if they don't like her they can just drop her off at her mansion.
Kalida laughs that she isn't sure Beatrice might
make a pact with all the centipedes and take over.
Beatrice did act surprised about all the information
her, he says. He admits he probably gave her more than he should
about the military installation, the Baron who put it in, the
hand-drawn pictures of the meson guns, about the centipedes. She
like all of that surprised her, and she'd have to dig into it carefully
and that it was going to take a while. He was hoping that there
inkling of something, but he wasn't surprised that there was no
information at all. She didn't seem to have a plan of doing
before he came in.
It's about the meson guns that Kalida most wishes
Beatrice had not
been told. She asks Shark if she is likely to have come up with
plan on her own or if someone ordered it.
That's something Shark can't tell. They have
the names of the Noble Commission, of course, who are all on planet.
Misha asks about any messages between Beatrice and
If she contacted them first, that's a hint that she did this. If
contacted her, that's a hint it came from somewhere else.
That's going to be very hard indeed, even for
Robert, but he does
get into the comm logs and tells them that there were no calls between
her and the commission.
So that means, Shark says, that they appointed her,
or she went to
them physically. The latter is certainly possible -- they're all
town. Or someone else contacted them and told them what to do.
They've now been wandering back and forth for a
couple of hours, and Kalida wonders if anything has shown up about the
There is a news item about the death: it says that
the judge died of complications resulting from a stroke. There is
no mention of anybody else in connection with it.
Kalida says that if they were actually after her,
there would be a big stink by now.
Misha disagrees. He thinks it's a good sign,
but they're not out of the woods yet.
Kalida idly wonders aloud if perhaps her signature
could be forged.
Shark is sure that could be done, especially as
there probably isn't a copy of her signature on file anyway, except
perhaps with the Noble Commission.
That's a matter of public record. Her
signature is on not file, and Robert is sure he can come up with
something convincing enough. All the bank manager wanted was the
signature, and pulling down the form from the bank and filling it in
and notarizing it is a simple matter for their Computer Officer.
It'll take about an hour.
Shark is a little concerned that Beatrice took off
before Kalida's visit to the bank.
With the fresh document in hand, they repeat the
visit to the Bank of Jewell.
It's a different manager this time, and he gladly
appropriately countersigned form from the Marchioness. He does
when the Seneschal signed it, and Kalida tells him she did it right
before she left. It seems to be in order -- he says they have to
very careful with accounts like these -- and he hands over the
information requested, full records of the account.
The account has 1,134,000 MCr. It's been
compounding at 2%,
starting around 100 MCr, with each year adding another 40 MCr over 350
years, with several withdrawals and deductions.
Of course that is well over the amount owed by
THC. It's enough to
finance a substantial naval fleet. Kalida can certainly afford
golf course. It's not enough to buy Tukera, though. That
least secure a substantial loan even if it's hard to get the money out
of the account.
The last person to request the balance was the head
the Offices of the Marquisate of Nakege. This is first time it's
done successfully, however, since it requires both the noble and the
Seneschal to get it.
Shark is sure that as easily as they came up with
signature, Beatrice and her Intelligence office could easily come up
with Kalida's signature. It is interesting that they didn't.
The last withdrawal was at the completion of the
palace, not nearly enough to have paid for meson gun installation.
Even if they wait for Mich's materials to be
delivered, they will beat the courier unless they managed a six-day
jump. At this point they can't beat a six-day jump anyway, so
they'd just as well wait.
The materials all arrive by 11:00, and with all the
necessary signatures in place everything is loaded on board smoothly.
There is still nothing unusual in the news, and at
this point Shark doesn't think he's going to get any information from
his contacts. Kalida has already arranged a flight plan, and
Lucas flies up and heads out to a jump point.
Lucas deviates a little from the flight plan, enough
to attract the attention of the System Navy which demands they maintain
course and prepare to be boarded.
Being boarded is the last thing they want, of
course. Kalida gets on the comm and pulls rank successfully --
military and nobility -- while in the background audibly cursing out
her pilot as Lucas gets them back on track.
At 15:00 Nightshade jumps for Nakege,
due to arrive at 03:00 on 275-1123.