Station log, R.R. 45.8: The sorceress Nimue has arrived on Sherwood Station and persuaded me that it's urgent we take Straight and True into so-called Evilspace. Will Scarlett is working to create a simulation for Straight and True of the plasma leak that first transported Little Joan's and Allan-A-Dale's boat there through the wormhole.
Pelleas sat cradling his head on his forearms on Straight and True's communications console. Every once in awhile he'd pass on a report from below to Little Joan, the only other person on the bridge, who was sitting in Straight and True's command chair. Both were bored out of their skulls and not troubling to hide it from each other.
"I'da thought Robin woulda cried Autonomy Policy and told Nimue to go leap," Pelleas said finally to break the monotony. The autonomy policy was the cause of most of the shouting on British installations during visits from Avalonians.
"Autonomy policy doesn't apply to the British rebellion against the Saxon-Nottingham Alliance in Evilspace," said Little Joan with all the enthusiasm of someone reciting her sums for school. "Autonomy policy applies only to intraplanet affairs." The Sherwood knight was only a little more impressed with the British Crown than Merlin and Nimue.
"Then why didn't Robin want to help them out when 'Red' Scarlett asked last month?"
"Because they didn't ask. Red took Robin across at gunpoint. I suppose he might have gone voluntarily if he'd been asked nicely."
"Mmm," mumbled Pelleas into his right elbow. "Asking nicely isn't much the fashion over there."
A smidgen of interest wandered into Little Joan's tone. "How do you know so much about it? ... How do you know anything about it?"
"Well, we just came from there, didn't we. In the CAVE."
"You did?" Little Joan, Pelleas saw when he turned around, was sitting up straight in the command chair. "No one told me!"
Pelleas remembered that Little Joan hadn't been at Ops when the time-travelers had arrived. "It was from the rebels that we found out that Morgan's all chummy with their Sherriff Little Joan. Nimue likes to land in hotbeds of insurrection you see - sometimes she blames it on the CAVE, and she's almost got me convinced -"
"So what happened?" Little Joan was leaning forward, elbows on her knees.
Pelleas himself was feeling absurdly grateful just to have something to talk about. "Well, we thought we'd landed on Sherwood - here Sherwood - but then we got caught up in a firefight between their security and Red ..."
"Morgan?" Nimue blurted. "Here?"
"Get down, Nimue!" Pelleas pulled Nimue by the front of her jumper down behind the rack of cargo containers that protected the time travelers and the British rebel from the incoming Nottingham aser bow fire.
"She's been popping up on Sherwood for a couple of years now, since about the same time I came here," said Red, changing the power pack on his bow. "My trip back to the station was to find out what she's up to this time."
"Nothing good, I'll wager," said Nimue. "This'll be Morgan from in her subjective history before she reformed and retired to Avalon." Then she pointed. "There they are!" A battered excuse for a long-range boat was entering the docking bay where they were pinned down. "I don't know how long my sabotage will keep the bay open."
"Let's get going then," Red suggested casually. The time-travellers joined him in laying a barrage of covering fire and the three dashed for the boat. The hatch opened and they were pulled inside by Tuck. This universe's holy woman was just as meticulous in her grooming as the other, Pelleas noted, but their Allan-A-Dale at the pilot's controls was positively grundgy.
"Let's get out of here before any patrols get back!" Allan-A-Dale bellowed. They had been decoyed away so that Red could attempt his intrusive intelligence gathering. Allan-A-Dale lifted off again before Tuck had the hatch shut.
"We must teleport the CAVE aboard!" said Nimue, making her way to the teleporter console in the back of the boat.
"le Fey's CAVE?" Tuck strapped herself in the copilot's seat.
"And who the hell are you?" Allan-A-Dale introduced himself. The boat cleared the bay door.
"She's another sorceress," said Red. "We can't leave her time machine for Morgan and the Alliance."
"How are you going to teleport through shields?" Tuck demanded. Still the scientist, despite the total lack of any formal training whatsoever, Pelleas thought.
"I know a trick or two," Nimue muttered. "This one," she added to Red, "is yours, sort of."
"Frequency window?" Pelleas asked. Nimue nodded.
The boat rocked under fire from the station aser cannon. "Better be quick!" Allan-A-Dale said. Then he snarled at Pelleas, "What are you staring at?"
Pelleas hadn't realized he was staring. "I've just learned that someone I know perms his hair."
"So," said Nimue conversationally, staring at the teleporter readouts as Allan-A-Dale dodged aser fire, "what is Morgan up to?"
"Couldn't find out exactly," said Red, hanging onto his seat. "Something big, though, really big. The whole sector fleet is massing at the Alliance docks at Brest, where she's supervising some sort of modifications. When those are done the fleet's orders are to move out here, to Sherwood."
"What, a fleet to go after you lot?" Pelleas said, smiling.
The boat rocked again under a hit and Allan-A-Dale swore.
"Hardly," said Tuck.
"Are there any other European resistance groups in British space?" Nimue asked.
"How would we know," Allan-A-Dale complained distractedly, "when the Alliance propaganda machine controls the news?"
"If there are any, we'll probably never know," Tuck agreed.
"Yes there are," said Red uncomfortably. "I used to be with one."
Allan-A-Dale and Tuck turned to glare at him, though Allan-A-Dale couldn't let himself be distracted for very long. "You never said anything!" Tuck accused.
"I sort of stopped thinking about it while I was on Sherwood. It was their training," said Red. "I was caught by the Alliance during a minor operation. I wasn't very high up, and the group was organized in a cell system so I couldn't give much away. Designed that way, so I could tell all I knew if captured without doing a lot of damage. All I was ever involved in was intelligence gathering anyway, and I never saw what it was I was carrying. So for cooperating they only took me from my family and sent me to Sherwood."
"What, they didn't even torture you?" Tuck said with disbelief.
"I said they took me from my family. I wonder what they told Lydia, if they told her anything at all."
"Well, it still doesn't sound like the rebel menace is anything they'd need a fleet for," said Pelleas.
"Thanks oh so much for the vote of confidence," said Allan-A-Dale.
"Change of plan, Pelleas," said Nimue, "get up on the teleporter platform."
"What are you doing?" Red asked as Pelleas stepped up to the platform.
Nimue had apparently watched the timing of both the station's shields' cycle and the boat's long enough to plot convergent cycles of frequency windows, and then to preprogram the teleporter controls; for she stepped up on the platform with Pelleas, answered Red, "Going for help," and tipped her hat just as the teleporter took them.
"...Nimue set us just outside the CAVE, and we left that Sherwood for this Sherwood," Pelleas finished. "Actually she landed here in Straight and True because she knew we'd be wanting it."
"And have you figured out what Morgan's plan is?" Little Joan asked.
"I haven't. 'Sbeen no time."
Little Joan stared off at the ceiling. "What could Morgan be doing to a fleet of ships? And why move them to Sherwood when she's done?"
"Well, what's at Sherwood?" said Pelleas.
The answer to that occurred to both of them at the same moment, as Nimue, Robin, Tuck, and Will Scarlett entered the bridge from the elevator. "Finished," announced Nimue.
"Somebody certainly is," said Little Joan, absently surrendering the command chair to Robin. "And we think we know who."
"Too right," said Pelleas. He imagined his face looked as grim as Little Joan's.
"What's the matter?" Robin asked as he sat. The others looked up from their bridge posts as Little Joan displaced Pelleas at the comm board and sent a hail to the station for the starcruiser's crew to report.
Pelleas looked at Nimue. She was standing perfectly still at the elevator door and staring at her shoes. She knew.
"What's at Sherwood?" Pelleas said again. It was all the prompt the knights needed, now that the distraction of the immediate task was past.
"But the Alliance doesn't know about their wormhole," said Tuck.
"Only if Morgan hasn't told them yet," snorted Will Scarlett.
"She may not have," said Nimue, looking up. She might have been discussing the relative merits of jousting and archery again. "She does like to keep her secrets, even from her allies." Look who's talking, Pelleas thought. "Especially from her allies," added Nimue after a moment's consideration.
"She's helping the Alliance invade their Holy Land," said Will Scarlett. "Going through the wormhole to take on the Saracens."
"No," said Nimue.
Robin was shaking his head too. "They wouldn't need to modify their fleet for that."
Now Pelleas was confused. The other knights, too, and Little Joan: "But their Saracens ..."
"Are an unknown to them, and vice versa," said Nimue. "They have no interest in them. More importantly, Morgan hasn't."
"You two sound like you've guessed what Morgan's modifications are for," said Tuck. "What?"
"What have we just modified Straight and True for?" asked Nimue softly.
"The Alliance," rumbled Robin, "is going to invade the United Kingdoms."
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