``Instability to the enemy, protection to the homeworld.''
The Hippocrates and its stalwart crew jump all about the Linked Worlds arranging a set of jumps for OmniNet, a set of Red Hegemonic scientists, and a set of Blue Hegemonic scientists. (On the way through the Well, Hippocrates sends an encrypted message to Xanadu). That all goes swimmingly and the party gets an inordinate amount of money (OmniNet pays the most for the jumpgate computer data; the Reds and Blues pay the most for getting to scan a secure mode jump). Sook gets dropped off on the Packet Collision, the OmniNet science vessel; Eva, Jim, and Kye are left on Sanctuary where Kye arranges a shopping spree to buy bioprotection.
Sharra has built an huge donut-shaped electromagnet, and proceeds to lure people into sticking their heads through the center. She worries that it's too weak and perhaps she needs to tweak it to be stronger. It stuns Max, who stumbles around for a bit. Then it stuns Ace, whose legs kick out straight behind him and he falls to the floor, twitching. Hmm. Perhaps she doesn't need to make it stronger after all. Kith leaps upon him, fixing as many of the burnt neurons as she can, and he wakes up in about twelve hours with no permanent ill effects. Undeterred, Sharra stuns Jayla, who is mostly fine, and then Sophia, who is also stunned into next week, but her neurons aren't quite as charred. However, this is sufficient to finish the neural disruptor experimental phase. Next stage: prototype! More stunning fun for all!
The Blue scientists are picked up first, from the science vessels stationed at the jumpgate (the Livingston and the Veritas). They are:
The question of whether the scientists will be able to open jumpgates is again discussed. Sook's assurances are quoted again. Well, what about high energy jumps? Can they figure that out?
"Not gonna happen." -Ace, still talking about breaking secure modeRuehan investigates Blumberg, and (two karma points later) discovers that she's more of a spy than a data analyst; she's here to see which of the Reds or the Hippocrates crew she can turn or recruit. Max is warned to not fall for her wiley ways - he's disappointed. Dr. Fell tries to arrange to get to watch the jump from Sundown to Tinara, but Jayla is unwilling to do so. She claims instructions from the people who did the negotiations - as Eva and Sook aren't here, Jayla's hands are tied, and she is apologetic but unmoving. Jayla asks the Tinoori to think about food designed to... well, there's going to be this political tension... "A feast to promote peace and harmony?" "Yes, exactly."
"Well, if it does, it won't be bad." -Jayla, hedging about high-energy
"That's different!" -Kith
The Hippocrates jumps from Sundown to Tinara, where the Packet Collision is, plus the Alchemist and the Belvedere, which are Red science vessels. The remainder of the scientists are acquired; they are:
Jayla talks to Dr. Timeon and then Dr. Gallagher about the political situation. Dr. Timeon is well aware of the possibility of tension, and will do everything possible to keep things running smoothly. Dr. Gallagher seems a bit taken aback at the idea that there are political thorns; he's trying to do important science here! Jayla also browbeats Phaeton into promising that he won't do any hacking on the Hippocrates (yes, yes, he told Sook he wouldn't mess with her fly system), which she thinks means that he won't do anything too bad.
The Banquet of Peace and Understanding is held in the mess hall. The Tinoori have prepared a Blue/Red cuisine fusion which is for the most part harmonious and pleasant rather than exciting or exotic. There is some mild surprise on the part of the scientists that the cooks are Tinoori, but nobody is so gauche as to say "Eek! Giant spiders!"
Sophia tries to steer Dr. Caldwell and Dr. Nehta together, only to discover that Dr. Blumberg is trying to do that as well, and is, in fact, trying to steer her in as well. There's some tension between the Blues and the Reds, but Dr. Timeon and Ruehan and Jayla and Kith are all trying to squash it, so the dinner is mostly pretty peacable. Dr. Blumberg also works on getting Phaeton talking; he's more than willing to go into amusing anecdotes which include parenthetical comments about how "it's a good thing I was available, otherwise all they would have had was Sook."
After dinner, the equipment is set up on the bridge. Maury has been busy behind the scenes and set up a patch board for everyone to get output from; it's divided into the blue section and the red section, with a different patch board for OmniNet (who care about slightly different things). This lets them get whatever sensor output they care about from the Hippocrates sensor suite, but they don't actually get to control any ship systems. There is again some tension as people try and unpack their briefcases of secret equipment in front of the enemy, but things are eventually settled.
The jump begins. Jayla is in actual uniform, looking fairly formal. The physicists are unimpressed (the jump gate opened and they're jumping. This is not interesting or new technology.) At some point Jayla tries to lure them into being interested with the promise of high energy jumps to come, and has Hippocrates explain what he knows about them, and shows them logs. There's a brief digression as to whether or not they should be charged extra for this, but in the end it's provided for free.
Dr. Smith is extremely excited about the Hippocrates signal to open the gate and is working furiously. Dr. Euler keeps trying to study the rest of the bridge. After an hour or so, Dr. Fell and the Blue team are starting to get very frustrated; Dr. Timeon asks how they're doing and gets told to shut up. Jayla glares at Dr. Timeon. Dr. Fell's crankiness rubs off on Dr. Blumberg as well. Jayla tries to figure out helpful things to suggest that Dr. Fell might have missed; then Sharra has to help the Reds to even things out. The OmniNet people don't seem to be finding what they need; Phaeton is just staring at his screensaver. For some reason, this makes Ace quite paranoid.
At first, people just figure Dr. Fell is over her head as a political appointee trying to do a scientist's job, but then Kith manages to determine that there are multiple influences at work on Dr. Fell. Well, a couple of them are Jayla, but the remainder is unclear. Katya starts fishing through people's minds. Dr. Fell is losing it and can't figure out what to be looking at. Dr. Blumberg is noticing that Dr. Fell is losing it, and being quite perturbed. Dr. Calaveras, however, is thinking "This is very hard. This is very hard." which is deemed Suspicious.
Jayla asks to see Dr. Calaveras outside the bridge: "I do not appreciate the use of psionic powers on my bridge. You will cease immediately." He tries to bluff it out, not knowing what she's talking about, but Jayla's not being bluffed, and basically demands an agreement to cut it out. While not quite conceding that he's behind anything, he agrees to make sure nothing else happens, and Jayla holds him to it.
Dr. Fell and the Blues manage to pull things together once Dr. Calaveras isn't messing with them, and at about the six hour point, there's pretty much no new data to be gathered or analyzed. The groups head off to the conference room to confer before bedtime. Sophia and Ace check to see if the computers are still secure; they note that there are some logs indicating that Phaeton checked all the locks, as it were, but didn't actually try to force anything.
Dr. Blumberg spends some time talking intently to Dr. Caldwell, who Kith notices ends up feeling somewhat conflicted. Dr. Blumberg moves on to Dr. Klein, whereupon Jayla pounces on Dr. Caldwell, who is both very impressed by Dr. Nehta and somewhat jealous of his funding and research setup. Jayla tries to help her find a bit more clarity; she does continue to be torn, thinking that the Blues might give her better opportunities to do good science, but she does stop taking it so personally. Kith then tries to see if Dr. Klein is becoming upset - nope, he's being seduced. Katya gets the Relaxation, just in case.
Various foolishness to try and break up the seduction ensues, including Sleepytime Chamomile Tea, dimmed lights, and Katya-implanted suggestions saying "It's awfully suspicious she's being so nice to me." These all mostly just serve to turn it into a short seduction (the dimmed lights are actually a bit at odds with the rest), which takes place in the spare crew quarters. Ace watches silently, just to make sure they're not doing anything nefarious.
The jump exit to Sundown is uneventful. Then it's breakfast time, and time for the high-energy jump. Equipment gets set up again, and everyone takes their places on the bridge. Off they go. This time the physicists are enthralled and taking data left and right. About halfway through, Dr. Gallagher pounds his fist on the table and shouts "Eureka!" He gestures something with his hands about high energy jumps, and normal energy jumps, and does that suggest low energy jumps? The Blues look cranky again.
The Hippocrates exits the jump - there's another ship in the area, the Growltiger. The science vessels are busy saying "Hey, Growltiger, this is a science experiment, stand off, no, really, Growltiger, back off, aggh!" as Growltiger opens all its hidden gunports.
Max's initial scans, with Sharra looking over his shoulder, indicate that Growltiger is a Q-ship; the basic design is a New Light Heritage class merchantman, but it's had three guns and some serious engines added. Kith and Ruehan herd the scientists off the bridge into their rooms, where they get locked in; space suits are thrown in after them in case the battle goes badly. Dr. Euler protests that he can help - he knows damage control! He gets to go to Engineering with Sophia, thus fulfilling one of his game goals. There's some confusion as to who's on guns, but Ace does his best to dodge about as the carnage ensues.
The Growltiger makes two passes through the area; it takes out the Packet Collision and the Alchemist, and damages the Belvedere badly. It takes a lot of fire itself from the Hippocrates, and starts to flee, though it takes the Hippocrates down on the way out.
A lot of damage control later, nobody is dead, though some of the data has been fried and the Packet Collision's kernel needs rebooting. The Growltiger has jumped off to Gateway, but the crew realizes - it can beat them there. Getting Klothos to grab the ship in time may be a little tricky, but that might be arrangeable.
Jayla and Ruehan talk to the team leaders. The OmniNet people want to be left with their ships. The Blues don't want to be left in the Red Hegemony, especially after an ostensibly Blue ship attacked people. Dr. Timeon thinks that he can help arrange an audience with Klothos, but is a bit cross at having been locked in during the battle, and wants to try and score a political point for it being an attack against the Reds possibly by the Blues, and for having his help in clearing it up. Jayla and Ruehan are unwilling to give him the point, as they're trying to maintain strict neutrality. Dr. Fell is offered the opportunity to come and act as a Blue witness to the mess; she is clearly worried about being given to Klothos, so (after a brief conference) Dr. Blumberg offers to come along and act as a witness.
The Hippocrates makes a high-energy jump to Gateway, where they say that they have urgent news for Klothos. Dr. Timeon gives his full title as Lord Alexander Timeon of Riden; the Herald does in fact give that some credence, and the party is given a guest suite to await an audience with Klothos.
A scant two hours later, about half of the group (the remainder staying on the ship to keep the scientists from taking anything apart) meets with Klothos. At Sharra's advice, she is presented with an antique Outworlder vase from the Hegemonic era (the one from Craterrock) for having inconvenienced her by temporarily deactivating the Tinara jumpgate (the standard side effect of the High Energy jump), and they explain the attack on the Red Hegemonic government science ships by the Growltiger. They also explain their mad theory of a Secret Conspiracy to put the Blues and Reds at war. They offer to lead the investigation of the ship and its evil crew; Klothos doesn't think that will be necessary. Jayla mentions the potential of mind-melting and psionic shields, and points out that the Hippocrates people have a lot of useful talents in interrogation, such as the ability to make people answer things, mind-reading, and the ability to tell beforehand if something will cause mind-melting. Klothos thanks her for the offer of such talents and will contact them should it prove necessary.
A few hours later, one of the Herald's underlings comes by to offer them televised coverage of how Mighty Klothos deals with such things. The Growltiger jumps in, and announces that it's just off to Nurl, wherupon the battlestation says that there are some irregularities with its papers, please stand by, while at the same time grabbing it with the tractor beam and then SHAKING until nobody on the Growltiger is saying anything. There's some concern among the party that now everyone on board is dead, but really, the battlestation is pretty good at this particular tactic.
A few hours after that, another of the Herald's underlings arrives to say that Klothos's Truthsayer was unable to pierce the psionic shielding of one of the crew of the Growltiger, but that the Truthsayer believed that one of those here might be able to (and here he looks at Katya). There is some dubiousness at this, but they think that with all the buffs people can give, it's possible.
Off everyone proceeds to the Chamber of Whispers, interrogating the herald along the way. There were five crew; four have confessed, and one has not. The one who has not has been kept unconscious. A complicated ritual ensues, in which the Truthsayer drapes himself and Katya with a white linen shroud as they stand by the head of the prisoner, who is the center of all light in the room. The others fall in in a flanking maneuver behind Katya. The Truthsayer takes from underneath the linen, a cup, which he drinks from and then offers to Katya. She drinks, and looks a little startled.
Jayla says a brief speech of inspiration; Ruehan and Kith try to suppress the target. Ruehan doesn't get eaten by the Sawtooth Spiral of Death, due to his own psionic defenses, but Kith is knocked over by them. Katya, however, is far beyond such petty things as mental defenses, and she slips and bludgeons past the defensive spiral barricade and into the guy's mind, where she begins to extract answers; the Truthsayer, meanwhile, is watching what she finds to report to Mighty Klothos.
The party's hopes of interrogating the Truthsayer instead of Katya are dashed when he says that Katya has an ... interesting... way of looking at things, and then swooshes off to report to Klothos. Everyone else troops back to the Hippocrates to play twenty questions with Katya. On the way out, the Herald presents Katya with a present from Klothos, in appreciation for her services.
The four people who "confessed" were brainwashed in some manner. The fifth guy, Enrique Galber (name provided by the herald, we'll assume) is part of the yin/yang conspiracy. They want to destabilize the Linked Worlds, and to protect a blue-green planet which this guy sees with reverence. Katya has two faces, one for Enrique's boss/mentor, and one for the guy who taught him the skill of Sawtooth Spiral of Death. People are startled to learn that this potent defense is complicated but mundane skill, rather than a psi power. It does have the side effect of eating your brain if it ever gets bypassed however, so the crew isn't really signing up for classes.
Does Katya have a name for this blue-green planet? Yes, though it takes a bit of charades to get it: Terra. Everyone ponders this briefly, and then Sharra notes that she had once seen "the Terran Alliance" as a (mis?)spelling for the Tarn Alliance.
Information in hand, the Hippocrates crew proceeds back to Tinara to retrieve Sook and drop off Dr. Timeon's party, then to Sundown to drop off Dr. Fell and her party, and then on to New Light where the last bits of the crew are, and to try and patch up the rest of the holes in the side of the ship.