(22) An Invitation Aboard

The Regency Campaign (28/1573)

This file has yet to be fully edited...

This file has yet to be fully linked...

28/1573 (276+277-1123) : Nakege / Jewell / Spinward Marches

    The crew are rested and synched up to local Crow Time now, after spending the local night with Nightshade parked near the Forest Lodge.  Crow Time is now significantly displaced from Imperial Time.
    New of the Rebellion are still well behind them, and won't reach Jewell for some time yet.  Shark has been wondering how much of their activities will show up in the unofficial reports that would precede the official news.  He suspects the new Seneschal, Beatrice Drakenfoll, is part of INISO and potentially still acting under their old orders.  No-one ever actually leaves the service.
    So, as Kalida puts it, do they stand back and watch, confront her, or just quietly shoot her somewhere?
    The big question of course is what did she discover?  Nothing was on her computer that was docked into the courier, aside from a regular INI intelligence report.  There was nothing significant and new in that report, just some background on the staff but that didn't reveal anything.
    As much as Kalida hates inaction, she agrees just to wait for the time.
    Shark's question is whether she is here on assignment or leave, and his guess is a little of both.  She was delivered by someone in Imperial Intelligence, after all.

    It's bright sunshine again today.  The season is heading towards the end of autumn. The secondary is not yet eclipsed by the primary, but it is heading that way.
    The Forest Lodge has been restocked, mostly because the Marchioness' consumption of Blockade Bourbon was rather higher than anticipated.  The two Seneschals are just relaxing this morning, and going over some books, informal familiarization with the procedures here.
    Technically the new Seneschal works for the Marquisate, for the concept of the nobility of Nakege rather than for an individual noble, appointed in this case by the Noble Commission in the official absence of the current Marchioness.  The Noble Commission is acting on her behalf, and Drakenfoll used that to get appointed, despite knowing that the Marchioness was actually there on Jewell.  The Noble Commission didn't know it, of course... or maybe, as Misha says, they knew and she had enough influence anyway.
    Again technically, there should be no Seneschal because there is no palace.  And again, the Noble Commission isn't in a position to know that.  They may not know there's a palace even.  They do know the Assistant Seneschal needed to be maintained, but presumably understood that Seneschal did not.  Drakenfoll, or someone else, obviously convinced them otherwise.
    A Noble Commission is a standard Imperial measure.  It is used to keep Lands running on a day to day basis when either there is no reigning noble, or that noble cannot or will not take those duties themselves.  They maintain the continuity of the nobility and the feudal structure.
    As Seneschal, Beatrice Drakenfoll would have access to the finances of the Marquisate.  She of course does not have access to the funds that required a countersignature.  She didn't pull the same trick on that as Kalida did, or it would have shown up on the account records.
    Misha is sure that she has come here because there is something here to get, and that she is doing it under orders.  The INISO probably had something hidden here, and when she realized that the Marchioness was showing up, she was told (or did herself) to deal with it.  The way to do that would be to become the Seneschal, go there, and get there first.
    Misha lays out their options as he sees it.  The can sit and wait to see if she does anything for a few days, or they can arrive with Nightshade here publically, or they can have the Marchioness arrive without Nightshade and force the matter with her ship keeping quiet watch overhead.  They could of course kill her, but he would rather in that case confront her first and then kill her.  He's certainly willing to capture her in such a way that she can't kill herself, and talk to her first friendly and then interrogate if needed.
    Shark suggest simply inviting the senechals aboard, and while they are, searching Drakenfoll's room.
    Misha says that he agrees -- just that his "invitation" involves knocking them out and bringing them aboard.  Either or both could be currently acting benignly, in an actual desire to help the Marchioness's cause.  He doesn't think that's true, but it's possible.  But if they're in that mood, knocking them out and bringing them aboard without harming them in any way is not outside the bounds of a loyal retainer's job.
    "Thus speaks the barbarian," says Kalida with a smile.  She says she'll do one of her trances and see what she can find out that way.
    Shark points out the many ways in which knocking them out could result in their death, with appropriate preparations on their part.  Simply knocking them over the head is harder to protect against, however, and he certainly wouldn't be averse to knocking Drakenfoll about a bit before bringing her aboard.
    The courier she arrived on should still be at the starport, being refuelled and refining the fuel as it comes on board.

    Shark of course is still watching the Forest Lodge, so it will fall to Misha to watch Kalida, tranq-loaded gun in hand.
    The remote sensing is not revealing anything interesting.  The two Seneschals have not talked about anything interesting at all.  Shark runs their conversation through analysis to see it if contains repeated phrases or anything like that, but he is certain that they really are talking about normal things.  They do discuss the golf course that the Marchioness wanted to put in, and Beatrice Drakenfoll thinks this is an excellent idea.

    Kalida drops into her trance.  It's been a while since she's done that, and the web is so welcoming.  She basks in the experience of entering her world for a short while, then goes looking for Beatrice Drakenfoll.
    She is tied up with everything.  She is tied up with here, with Kalida, with other stuff outside... she is both pulled and pulling on.  Her connection with Kalida does not go back very far, it's very recent.
    Her connection with the Assistant Seneschal is also very recent, but also very strong.
    There are a lot of threads going on here, and she is in the middle of it all.  Kalida is kind of in there too, though.  In that middle is a very tangled web, which is snagging and catching anyone who gets close to it -- the two Senechals, Kalida, everyone she's looked at so far.  It's not a Black Hole, but it is pulling people into it.
    Outside this area, Drakenfoll has some new strong connections.  Not outside this web as such, but outside this physical region.  This local web is so strong, however, that it is overwhelming everything else.  There is so much tangling here.
    Not all of this tangle is new.  Some of it is very old, and it keeps snagging new people.  There are outside connections that are fairly old, but it's hard to follow them.  It's too hard to follow anything outside this tangle, to resolve the way anything actually leads to the outside or to follow any outside in.  There's something that's been going on here that has outside connections, but what is pretty much impossible to tell.
    Looking for connections between her and the palace site reveals that the latter is all tangled up in this web, old stuff and new stuff.  It's been getting more tangled more recently, sucking more people in, and everyone who is sucked in makes the tangle bigger.
    Kalida is sure she has to be directly connected to something back on Jewell.  She tries to look from that end, but she is stuck in the tangle.  The first thing she needs to do is get out of here.  She tries to step back, but it doesn't work.

    In Sick Bay, the loose papers are starting to rustle.  The footballs are showing a slight spike.  Shark tells Misha to knock her out if it gets any worse, because she might knock him out first.

    Kalida tries to use those threads to pull herself out.  It doesn't work, and the web closes around her.  She keeps trying.

    Paper starts to fly around Sick Bay.  Misha pops her in the upper thigh, the butt not being available.  Kalida passes out immediately, and the paper falls to the floor.  All is calm in Sick Bay.
    Robert is convinced Kalida needs a shot of fish oil.  It's the only way she can break through this immediate problem, and expand her mind to handle it more easily.
    Shark's dose was either too strong or has been adminstered incorrectly.  It will be quite some time before Kalida comes around.  Misha at least notices she is breathing, so he is relieved he hasn't killed her.  Shark of course knows that Kalida is the one person he can rebuild, having a full restore point for her.

    The Seneschals are now sitting down to eat lunch outside, enjoying and discussing the weather.  It's nice and sunny today, but as winter approaches they will be expecting some fog.  It doesn't take remote sensors for that, so Shark can take a break.

    On board ship, synchronized with Crow Time, it's time for lunch here too.  Shark goes down to check on Kalida.  She's fine, but will be out for a long time.  If she is woken up early, she'll have a headache and need something for that too.  He puts together the cocktail and administers it.
    Kalida is somewhat woozy, but without the headache she would normally have after a trip like that.  Shark tells her lunch is served, and as they walk forward to the lounge she tells him that she really didn't find out much.
    Kalida explains that Drakenfoll is tangled up in everything.  As Shark puts it, the two of them are tangled and pulling on each other's hair.  She asks what the Seneschals were talking about two hours ago, while she was in her trance.
    Shark pulls that up, and says that they were talking about the vegetable harvest.  They were talking about root vegetables for quite some time.  He passes that section on to Robert to find out if there is any code in this.  Shark simply cannot believe that she is that interested in root vegetables, but Robert's analysis says it's just what it appears to be.

    Lunchtime has passed, and the two Seneschals have set off on a walk around the building.

    It's a perfect opportunity to invite them aboard.  Misha asks who has experience sapping people.  Kalida insists that does not include her.  Shark, however, says he will sap the Assistant Seneschal if Misha will get the Seneschal herself.  Chuck says he'll do it.  Shark suggests that Chuck sap her, while he tranq-darts the Assistant Seneschal, who probably does not have chemical contingencies.
    Lucas brings the ship down behind them and around a corner.  Shark has prepared a special tranq-dart load for this purpose, while Chuck has a conventional sap in hand.
    Misha has coordinated this perfectly.
    Shark and Chuck dash down the ramp and run around the corner at them.  Shark times his shot to coordinate with Chucks blow.  Their victims go down together.  Chuck and Shark haul Beatrice in, while Misha picks up the other.

    Once the Seneschals have been "invited" aboard, Lucas flies up to their original parking position.  The two of them are taken to Sick Bay and scanned thoroughly -- neither of them have any funny teeth or anything else unusual, much to the surprise of Shark.  Shark then further tranquilizes them both so they can be brought around predictably.
    The Assistant Seneschal is hauled to the Lounge, while Teri guards Drakenfoll in Sick Bay.  Shark returns to sensor duty.  The window of the Lounge is blanked, of course.
    Misha suggests that they not interrogate them as such, but engage them in light conversation.

    The A.S. is woken.  As he comes around, Misha asks him if he's ok.
    "Yes, I am," he replies slowly.
    "Do you know who this is?" asks Misha, indicating the Marchioness.
    "Yes, of course!"
    "She has some questions for you."
    The Marchioness says, "What can you tell me about this, ah, person who is representing herself as the Seneschal?"
    The A.S. replies, "She is the Seneschal.  Her name is Beatrice Drakenfoll, and she has just been appointed Seneschal here."
    "How long ago?" asks Sir Misha.
    "A week or so ago?  She was on Jewell when the appointment was made, and she came here immediately to take up her position."
    "What is she planning on doing?" asks the Marchioness.
    "She doesn't really have a lot to do.  She is technically in charge here, and of your business in the day to day running of the Marquisate.  She understands that there's an issue with the palace at the moment."
    "And did she know that before she came here?"
    "I told her about it before she had a chance to reveal if she did or not.  I've given here a sufficient briefing, not any more than was necessary.  She is perfectly willing to allow running the Forest Lodge to continue as normal under my direction.  Should anything arise which affects the large scope of the Marquisate, then she is the authority to represent you.  Of course you are the authority here."
    "Where exactly will she be performing her duties."
    "She will be here for a while.  We will be setting up an office for her until such time as it might become possible for her to take up her correct position," the A.S. laughs.
    "Does she have any plans for that?"
    "I don't know of any practical plans for that."
    "How about impractical plans?"
    "Aside from sterlize and start again?  No, I don't think that she'll be taking up residence in the palace anytime soon."
    "What kind of questions did she ask about the palace?"
    "She mostly accepted my briefing.  She wanted to know if anyone had been there recently, or if there were schematics or anything like that.  I gave her what was generally available, you know, the records of the palace are at the palace and not accessible.  Should you not be asking her this?"
    "I will."
    "It certainly appears to be a legitimate posting."
    "What credentials did she give you?"
    "She produced the documentation from the noble commission for her appointment, and it was all in order.  I found it surprising that there was an appointment at this time, but it appears that her object is not to interfere with the way things are currently being run, so there turns out to be no reason to take issue with the appointment.  I quite honestly don't really know what she'll be doing here because there's nothing to do.  It's a good thing she likes the bourbon."
    The Marchioness believes he is technically telling her the truth.  He has told her no lies... but that is as far as it goes.  He has not said anything that was the whole truth -- this whole conversation is an exercise in constructive not-lying.
    Misha says, "We have had a similar conversation with her.  If you want to keep your position, you need to be a bit more forthcoming."
    The Assistant Seneschal says, "I believe she would have confirmed everything I have said.  Any appointment is unusual, but this is an unusual place.  The timing is perhaps unfortunate, but you could have appointed your own Seneschal if you'd have wanted, were they aware of that.  She certainly seems a good candidate, I must say.  I believe she has all the necessary qualities for the job."
    "What qualities might that be?"
    "The ability to manage a large estate on a day to day basis, planning logistics, handling anything that might come up."
    The Marchioness says, "And what in her background would give that impression?"
    "She has a background in Imperial Intelligence, I understand, and comes highly recommended by them.  Her references -- obviously I haven't checked them but they appear legitimate -- are excellent.  I'm sure the Noble Commission checked the references directly."
    Sir Misha says, "Do you consider her loyal to the position?"
    "Yes, I would.  I see no reason to doubt this.  Certainly she is here on a long term appointment such as myself.  To enter into such a long-term appointment involves a large commitment."
    "And what do you get out of it?"
    "Me?  Nothing much.  I technically get a person to report to, not that anything much I do here is going to be anything she could be concerned about.  Certainly I am not profiting by it or anything.  It's not like we get a bigger budget.  I lose some technical authority, but in day to day business it doesn't matter very much.  And I get somebody more on my rank that I can socialize with.  Obviously she's going to be staying here, I mean, where else is she going to go?  How does Her Ladyship feel about this?"
    "Her Ladyship feels that you have not been totally honest and forthcoming."
    "I have certainly gone out of my way to say as much as I could."
    "What's preventing you from saying everything you've discussed?"
    "We've discussed the weather, we've discussed the harvest, I've introduced her to the bourbon and other products of this world, we've even talked about the golf course and she thinks that would be a really nice idea.  What more is there to say?"
    "Why was she picked for the job?"
    "I'm not sure of that.  I'm sure that's something the Noble Commission would have considered carefully before appointing her.  It's not something that occurred to me to ask, honestly.  It never occurred to me to ask her why she took up this position."
    The Marchioness is sure that is a perfectly true statement.  Sir Misha's private thought is that it didn't occur to him to ask because he already knew, but Kalida is certain it is the full truth -- it never occurred to him to ask.  That was actually not a deflection.
    Technically the Marchioness could make any appointment she wished and then tell the Noble Commission after the fact, but from the bureaucratic point of view she should inform the Commission that she was taking responsibility for appointments first, so that they can make allowances and pass the responsibility over.  But then, as long as the Commission thinks things were done in the proper order, that would be fine.
    Nevertheless, the interview is over.  The Assistant Seneschal is escorted to a stateroom (with a blank window) to wait.  Nightshade will keep him there.

    Now it's time for Beatrice.  She is brought to the Lounge and woken.
    "Who are you?" asks Sir Misha, not altogether pleasantly.
    "I am her Seneschal now," says Beatrice, nodding to the Marchioness.  "I'm glad I can finally meet her."
    The Marchioness says, "It's a shame we didn't do something about that earlier."
    "I am afraid that circumstances did not allow that."
    "And those circumstances would be?"
    "Those circumstances would be me having to leave immediately to take up my appointment.  I am aware that is sounding strange, but I believe you were not officially at the time on Jewell."
    "But you knew I was there."
    "Yes, I did know you were there.  Were circumstances such that I could have contacted you before leaving..."
    The Marchioness interrupts, "You could have contacted me."
    "No, I could not.  I was not in a position to do so.  I apologize for that."
    Sir Misha says, "Why not?"
    "It was urgent that I leave immediately to take up this position."
    "Again," the Marchioness says, "What was the emergency?"
    Beatrice sighs, "It was... a matter of... urgency."
    "And that would be what?"
    "That it was urgent that I should leave immediately and take up the position."
    "That won't do," says the Marchioness.
    "I wish there was more I could tell you at this point," sighs Beatrice.
    "How badly do you wish that," asks Sir Misha.
    "Not badly enough to want broken legs or anything."
    "Do you know where you are?"
    "I am in somewhere with the Marchioness, and you would presumably be Sir Misha."
    "I am.  I have no desire yo break your legs, but I am quite happy to kick you out into space."
    "That's something I would really rather not happen."
    "I sensed that.  It would make it impossible to carry out any orders you are following."
    "That is not strictly correct."
    When the laughter in the room dies down, the Marchioness says, "How far do we need to take this?"
    "In what way?"
    "Should we actually put you into an airlock before you would speak, or will you go ahead and start now?"
    "No, I'm just not going to not start.  I'm sorry.  Is Mr. Teeth on board?  He might be able to shed some light on this... situation... that I could not... technically shed myself.  I'd like to be helpful.  I am being as helpful as I can."
    Shark cuts in over the intercom, "What Mama don't know can't hurt you.  Why aren't you telling us?"
    Beatrice says brightly, "Oh, I don't suppose you'd like to come down and help me with this, please?"
    "No, I'm busy," says Shark, "And you can help us out."
    "Well," she says, "That's a little tricky."
    "So tell us why you can't help us out."
    "It's a matter of... um... I mean, I'm sure there's something you can help this crew out with, if certain... activities or situations might come up."
    "Who is your boss, really?"
    "Right now?  Technically, my boss is the Marchioness."
    "Who gave you the orders to come here?"
    Beatrice laughs.  She says pensively, "Let me talk to myself a minute.  I have to answer that one carefully.  I mean, hm... I think I can say that I have orders to come here.  If I wished to be misleading, I would say that the Noble Commission appointed me and directed me to come here, but that would be a little deceptive as there was some ordering going back on in the chain.  Now, who?  I don't think I could reveal that."  She looks up and says, "I'm sure you understand, Mr. Teeth.  You have some familiarity with the community."
    "Yes, and I'm also familiar with the rules of being an interrogatee."
    "But it certainly was a surprise appointment."
    "And a...?"
    "Somewhat hasty process."
    "A surprise to you?"
    "Yes.  But it doesn't seem all that unpleasant."
    The Marchioness says, "How long was it between the time that you visited them and the time she was appointed?  Hours?"
    "Yes," says Shark.
    "Which means it was your fault," says the Marchioness.  Shark acknowledges that.
    Sir Misha says, "What have you told the Assistant Seneschal?"
    "No more than necessary," says Beatrice.
    "Were you able to tell him anything that you can't tell us?"
    "I could not tell you that."
    Shark asks, "Did you know who really appointed the Assistant Seneschal?"
    "I imagine he was appointed in a similar process to myself."
    Sir Misha asks, "Was the same organization involved?"
    "I would imagine that a similar process was in effect."
    Shark recalls privately that she had been extremely surprised to hear about the installation at all, and the meson guns, but he did tell her everything.
    Sir Misha asks her directly, "Were you aware of the situation at the palace before Shark spoke to you?"
    "No, not at all," says Beatrice.  "Everything I knew about Nakege at that point I learned from Mr. Teeth."
    "But you were appointed because of the information he passed to you?"
    "The strictly correct answer to that is no, although that might be a little misleading.  It would also be formally correct to say it was his fault."
    The Marchioness asks, "What can you tell us about the larger picture, the views from further away?"
    "I can probably not tell you anything.  What do you know about the larger picture?  I don't think I can tell you anything you don't know about it."  She pauses, then continues, "I am going to be on this world for a long time, whether as your Seneschal or not.  I think you will find me a very acceptable Seneschal, especially given the larger picture, and it is my goal to assist you as much as I possibly can.  I will say that the picture is larger than I had anticipated."
    "So at least your secondary job is to assist me."
    "Oh, at the very least.  I believe my primary job would also consist of assisting you."
    "In what?"
    "Should my primary job come into play."
    "What goals of mine are you to help me out with?"
    "Specifically?  I presume you want this place run to it's full capabilities, and to be able to achieve its potential?"  Beatrice spoke that too carefully not to carry a deeper meaning.  "If I knew what you knew..."
    Sir Misha laughs, "And if we knew what you knew, we wouldn't be having this conversation!"
    "That is perfectly true, yes.  That statement works on several levels.  If you knew what I knew about...  Yes, I want to reclaim your palace.  I want to get all the systems associated with the palace up and running and functional."
    The Marchioness asks, "And what do you want to use those systems for?"
    "For what they were originally intended."
    Sir Misha says, "Does your job, as far as you can see right now, require you to act in any way against the current Marchioness, or the interests of the natives of this planet?"
    "No," says Beatrice firmly, but then continues, "Having said that, it's possible that a situation could arise -- I think it's pretty much impossible with the current Marchioness -- where I could be in conflict with the holder of the title and would need to channel their attention to certain directions.  I believe with the current title holder, I would not be acting against their interests.  I would not be acting against the interests of the people of this world either.  My interests are in keeping Nakege a nice quiet retreat for the Marchioness, and any other important guests she might choose to bring into a nice safe retreat.  I think that's as clear a statement of my job as I can make."
    Sir Misha says, "It's not typical, as far as I know, for a palace to have meson guns under it."
    "No, I'm sure the one on Mora does, and Regina probably does as well."
    "This is not Regina or Mora," says the Marchioness.
    "Exactly.  That's the point."
    "So... what's here?"
    "I don't know.  I know what... Mr. Teeth suspected was here.  I imagine that from what I have been told on taking up this position, that there probably are deep meson sites.  Where exactly they are and how to get them operational is not something I know -- how many, where they are located, ..."
    "What are your plans for taking the palace back over again?"
    "I believe I suggested to Mr. Teeth that we could bring in a Marine operation to do it.  It turns out that was a little premature, and that is something that definitely cannot happen.  I understand that the attempt to do something with mercenaries failed spectacularly."
    The Marchioness nods, then says, "You said you did not believe your interests and mine would come into conflict.  What do you understand my interests to be?  Surely that's not a secret?"
    "It would appear from all the reports that I've had, that you are certainly interested in the security of the Imperium, in a good way."
    "People who have the interests and the security of the Imperium as their main concerns can certainly come into conflict."
    "Yes.  I also didn't say it was your main concern.  But I believe you could be relied upon to act in the interests of the security of the Imperium in so far as it affects my operation, my purposes -- I do not think we would come into conflict."
    "Can you share the latest news you have about anything I might have been involved in recently?"
    "I understand you were involved in the resolution of the Rebellion."
    Sir Misha says, "I'm curious what you know."
    "What I know?  That you were involved in certain covert operations that helped bring about the Regency resolution, and I understand that you were involved in more direct military action.  Many of the details are classified which says something by itself."
    The Marchioness says, "Take note that both sides of the conflict essentially had the interests of the Imperium as their main concern, and yet it was a very large conflict.  I hope my interests are clear."
    "In terms of conflict between large positions, I don't think that would actually matter."
    Kalida believes that as far as she goes, Beatrice is making true statements.  She seems to have experience in this.
    The Marchioness says, "So at least a short term goal is to get the palace back, is that right?"
    "Yes, although that's more of a medium term goal really."
    "What are your short term goals?"
    "Settle in here and find something to do so I don't get bored."
    What Kalida really wants to find out is if she's INISO, if in the long term she wants to cause trouble in the Imperium.  Of course that's not something Kalida can ask directly.
    Sir Misha doesn't feel any such compunction.  He says, "Do you report to INISO in any way?"
    Beatrice says firmly and quickly, "No."
    Shark follows up, "What can you tell us about INISO?"
    "Well, since you obviously know it exists, that's a start right there."
    "We know who claimed to be its boss."
    "That would be Santanocheev, yes.  And I believe that INISO as an organization, as part of the Regency agreement, is pretty much getting disbanded in theory."
    Shark is sure she shares his skepticism.  He says, "Tell us about their operation locally."
    "Since I'm not a member of them, and in theory they don't exist anymore, at some point their operations would become declassified.  They have been running some agent provocateur operations here, stirring the pot with the Zhodani and seeing what surfaces.  They in particular wanted to find out if the Zhodani have any advanced weapon systems, anything that hasn't been revealed or displayed.  That seems to have been their main concern, although I'm pretty sure that's not the case.  They've stirred things up on both sides of the border."
    "How do they interact with the FarSpace Service?"
    "The which?"
    "The FarSpace Service."
    Beatrice looks genuinely puzzled.  That seems reasonable -- they operate on the rough borders, and the border with the Zhodani is not really such a border.
    Since they seem done, Sir Misha then escorts her to a stateroom.  It is of course a different one from the Assistant Seneschal.

    With their guests out of the way, Misha asks if they want to resort to chemicals, or to take them at their word so far.
    Shark believes a physical inspection of the grounds without the presence of the two Seneschals would be advisable, and doors that shouldn't be opened can be opened.
    Misha then asks how much they want to hide that they are on board ship.  Should they simply land and let them off ship, or knock them out and take them back?  He thinks they'll figure out where they are pretty quick.
    Shark says they need to knock them out and keep them that way for at least 12 hours so they don't know how far away they actually have been.  They know they're on a ship, but they don't know it's invisible.  As far as they know, it's hiding in some canyon somewhere.  12 hours will allow plenty of time for the inspections, and then they can take them and drop them behind the house again, having been abducted by aliens for 24 hours.
    Misha points out that if they do the inspection now, the Seneschals will know from the staff that they have been right nearby.  They will have to wait to do the inspection.
    Shark says they will need to tell the Forest Lodge something.
    Lucas parks Nightshade over the Lodge, and Kalida calls down and tells them the Seneschals are in conference and will be returning tomorrow.
    The staff believes her absolutely.  Clearly she has instilled enough confidence in them to believe anything she says at this point, so much so that the servants prepare to dine in the main dining room tonight instead of their quarters.

    Since the Seneschals will be here for quite some time, Misha thinks they should feed them.  Kalida says that if they don't knock them out now, they will realize how long they've been away.  Even so, Misha insists they give them dinner first, but to keep the conversation on weather, root vegetables, the last vacation, and so on.  They can talk about their hopes for the planet in general, but nothing remotely outside the range of light conversation.  Anything controversial must be avoided.
    Kalida points out that they should not reveal exactly which meal this is.  It should be generic, not specific to any time of day.
    Chuck is up to the challenge.  He produces a very fine generic meal.

    The generic meal was actually around dinner time.  The way the timing works out is they will knock them out after the meal, then do the inspection tomorrow morning.