A Call to Arms

``When the storm comes, let it be said that no man of Heidelmere died inside, abed. There shall be beds aplenty in the hereafter, and time to sleep then.''

- Giovan Lattrell, Heidelmere Sky Marshal AS 1897.213

2778.098.00.00 AS
-> Crux System

Our party begins with the usual discussion, rehashing all of the various plans of the last few weeks. Nothing exactly is settled about the future, but there is a general consensus that there should be some sort of spokeman (or, as Katya puts it, a talking flag); Jayla is given the job.

Eventually, the party travels to the jump gate, and plays with getting the gate to open without getting the Hippocrates to ask for it. They try to have Jayla talk to it, while transmitting her DNA, her retina scan, her name, her voice, and so on. Additionally, she goes out in a spacesuit and tries to convince it in person. None of this causes the gate to either open or go out of secure mode. They do make the discovery that Elite Thereve can authorize a ship he's aboard to make a secure mode jump, and that he can get the gate to *tell* him that it's in secure mode. Attempts to duplicate this ability with recordings all fail. Scanning the jump gate indicates that all the computer bits are deep inside, and there's no way to talk to the computer except via radio. There aren't any maintenance panels, but then, nobody seems to perform maintenance on the gates either. The Hegemonics don't know of anyone but the Strategos who was able to take gates out of secure mode.

Cassandra asks if she can come down to Crux; she's never seen it. The group takes this opportunity to ask her about the paintings - when she responds with her usual "I've never seen them", Katya projects the images to her. She is stunned and grateful to see her art for the first time ever, though she still doesn't have an explanation for why she put Jayla and Katya in the painting of the Kaufman tubes.

Hippocrates jumps to Crux - the Night's Promise, a ship carrying an envoy from Sparta to Pierogi, is near the jump gate and is quite excited for a moment when it thinks the jump gate has been repaired. They say that Pierogi has been attacked, but that they need to speak to the Pierogi envoy on Crux before saying more. The party docks the Hippocrates at the orbital ring and then heads down to the capital's space port in the Dancer. Hippocrates downloads a partial personality into a "palm pilot" that Sharra has spent the last few days tinkering with, so he can watch the party when they're wandering around, and Sharra has a headset so that she can talk to Hippocrates in orbit.

The party asks directions to the Building of Envoys, and proceeds to the office of Dmitri Petros, the envoy from Pierogi. As soon as he opens his door, the various psychics pummel him with waves of "trust us" and "believe us" and the like. They say they have some bad news for him -- he seems unsurprised -- and give him Ruehan's letter. He reads it, and is somewhat confused, as the letter doesn't seem to tell him any news at all. They tell him Pierogi has been wiped out by the Tarn, and give him one of Eva's packets, while Kith searches for some sort of positive emotion to amplify -- about all she can find is relief that the Bad Thing he's been expecting has finally happened, but that keeps him from collapsing utterly. The party then pitches him the mutual defense idea, and he offers to introduce them to a few people.

Heading over to the parliament building, the party meets Senator Creighton Peters, of the Defender party and Admiral of Crux's fleet. He's somewhat dubious about all of this, and summons an aide, Pica Friedling, who looks over the evidence packet, asks a few questions, and then nods to Peters, apparently confirming the story. Friedling asks to see the ship and the alien for herself, as well. Max insists on scanning her for bugs, which mildly exasperates her, but he finds none.

Sharra and Ace take Friedling to the Hippocrates to show her the Tarn artifacts. She is impressed by the redliner and the dead aliens, and possibly even more impressed by Hippocrates. She asks about talking to the researchers -- er, some are on Crux now, but the others were injured by the Tarn. She gets to see the Kaufman tubes, though without explanation, and then she evades being taken to a stateroom for a nap while Ace brings the Hippocrates down to Crux, and gets to see the bridge too. Sharra arranges with Friedling to have security posted around their slip at the spaceport, and to have the redliner offloaded so that it can be studied by local experts (who are also impressed by the Hippocrates, what they can see of it).

Meanwhile, Admiral Peters sends the party back to the Hall of Envoys where they meet Mitchell Wilson, the Spartan envoy. He makes some arrangements to have poor Dmitri looked after and then suggests they call an official meeting of all the Envoys. Of course, in order to convene such a meeting the party needs to gain the permission/support of a senator from the Good Neighbor party, so everyone heads back to the Parliament building again to meet with Senator Vandily, the other of Ruehan's contacts.

On the way back to Parliament, the Elite notices that one of the locals, a well built tinkerer, seems to be paying undue attention to Katya, but said person leaves the area rather than risk any confrontation when it becomes clear the Elite has noticed him.

While talking to Vandily, Senator Ilena Glace of the Golden Ascension party comes in and talks to them about the Unknowable Other, and how wrong the group is to shame the reputations of the glorious aliens with their scurrilous accusations. Clearly some misunderstanding occurred. The party assures her that there was no misunderstanding about the death of the entire planetary population of Pierogi. Senator Ilena shakes her head sadly, urges them to examine those few doubts in their souls, and departs. Jayla asks Senator Vandily if the Golden Alliance really had a political platform of "believe nothing at all if it seems true", and he clarifies that it's only "believe nothing bad about aliens."

After landing the Hippocrates, Sharra heads back to the group; meanwhile, bored with the politics, Ace has wandered off to grab some lunch with Cassandra. While doing this, he notices the very attractive woman who he exchanged mutual glances with back at the spaceport when the Dancer originally landed. Approaching her, he finds that she's, while not technically available, at least quite amenable to his company, and he makes a date for later that evening at a bar called the Drunken Boar, before she has to leave.

A meeting of envoys gets called in two hours; in the intervening time, the group talks to senators from the pro-outworld / anti-inworld Omphalos Regnant party (the group has vaguely positioned itself as being from Pierogi, due to selecting Jayla as a spokeswoman), and from Steadway (which thinks that a war is just what Crux needs).

The envoys' meeting is called to order in a room of Parliament, which lends sufficient weight of authority to the proceedings that nobody really accuses it of all being a fraud. In addition to the envoys from all the outworlds, there are envoys-without-portfolio from both the Red and Blue Hegemonies, Gateway, and the Gloryweb Trading Fleet (based out of Nurl). Messages are sent to Sparta, Bastion, and Lendt immediately; their envoys will go back and forth after an emergency Parliament session being called for tomorrow, and after two days a set of envoys from Crux (with letters from the apppropriate envoys) will head for Nonesuch and Creek/Rupert's Hole, while the real envoys stay on Crux to sign off on military alliances. (The envoy from Creek takes a moment to talk to Kith, and gives her her blessing to continue with the work that has been laid on her by these catastrophes, as well as offering any mentoring advice that Kith finds herself needing while away from Creek. Kith gives her the letter from the Farseer.)

After the meeting and a few smaller discussions, the entire party (less Ace) reconvenes for dinner and then heads back to the Hippocrates.

There's a little fuss that Ace hasn't returned and isn't answering his radio. Katya turns up a note that says essentially "Gone out to the Drunken Boar with a lady, worry if I don't return by 4AM." and has a couple of descriptions; this is consistent with what he told Hippocrates when he left.

Eventually, Max and Katya head out to a bar too, no, wait, it's Max, Katya, and Janzur, who isn't letting Katya go bar hopping without him. They decide to go to a random bar so as not to horn in on Ace's evening, but change their minds several times before settling on the Drunken Boar after all. Janzur doesn't drink anything, and Katya, in fear of a possible drinking age, has a Strawberry Freeze. Max tries to enjoy himself with these two slugabouts, as he's had a rough few weeks. Sometime during the evening, Janzur notices a suspicious-looking guy who's keeping his eye on the three of them, but again, Katya in particular. After a half hour, the suspicious man gets up and walks out. Janzur decides he's been replaced by someone else, but can't quite pick out who in the crowd is watching them now.

Katya takes this opportunity to randomly scan the crowd's thoughts ("She's hot... I need more beer... damn my wife is leaving me... why are they making it so easy for us... maybe we should go get pizza...") Targetting more specifically, she tries to isolate the one who thought it was too easy. ("Hmm. Oops, they're looking; better look at my drink. There must be a way to peel one of them off. I don't think I can take all three of them.") Katya fills Janzur in (in that way of hers that gets the point across, almost), but Max is still happily oblivious and having a night out.

Eventually their new watcher also gets up and walks out. As he's leaving, Katya picks out one more thought: "Damn. It's always the ones who are worth so much who have the good bodyguards."

By 3:30, they're heading back to the Hippocrates, but then as it's nearly four, decide to look back for Ace. Max suggests trying back at the bar again. It's about closing time, so they interrogate the bartender (Max applies funds to the interrogation, successfully interpreting what things like "A lot of guys come through here..." mean). Yeah, the bartender saw him, he was at the end of the bar before his woman showed up, then they left. Katya listens to his thoughts; no, he doesn't know where she goes, her pimp might know but he's not selling him out, he's good people.

The bar hoppers return to the Hippocrates. Jayla determines that if they don't worry about Ace, he probably won't be coming back. At this point in the conversation, Hippocrates notices that one of their guards on the area is gone. Checking the tapes, they notice that a guy seems to chatted with him and then they wandered off together. It was the first guy from the bar! While Janzur and Max sneak outside to check the situation out, they see him walk up to another guard and off they go.

This is getting quite worrisome; Hippocrates calls security, and eventually they send a supervisor over. He determines that the situation looks pretty quiet, though it is odd that two of his guys wandered off at the same time. Sharra gets on the line and convinces security to wake up Pica Friedling. Around then, various perceptions and detect life rolls tell them that the big burly guy from the street outside Parliament is sneaking up on the ship.

Deciding that it's now combat time, Kith scares the burly guy as Janzur is sneaking up on him; Janzur draws his plasma brand and sprints after him, calling out "You may stop now!" The guy draws his stunstick. Janzur parries the stun stick, which mostly dies, at the same time that Kith lays a pile of fear on him, so he's pretty distraught. The talking guard kidnapping guy suddenly shows up and shouts at Janzur to drop his weapon. Surprisingly, he holsters the plasma brand, but draws his blaster instead, leveling it at the burly guy. Janzur: "Surrender before I have to hurt you!" Jonny: "Argh. No, go back in your ship!" Concluding that he has properly scared them now and his his work here is done, Janzur starts heading back to the Hippocrates.

On his next action, his wits return, thanks to a lot of mental screaming by Katya, and he decides the big burly guy is no longer a problem. Turning to the talker, Jonny, he descends upon him. With the help of the guards, he takes out Jonny. Jonny's partner flees, torn between the need to rescue Jonny and the fear he's been inflicted with.
Max, who had been sneaking up on Jonny during all of this, changes plans and sprints off to follow the burly man. Jonny gets woken up and everyone takes turns trying to interrogate him just as Pica Friedling and her troopers arrive. Before anything serious is decided, Hippocrates receives a hail from Ace's radio. It's a man calling himself Geng, who offers to trade Jonny for Ace. Jayla points out that Jonny is now in Friedling's custody, and Geng suggests they deal with that, if they want Ace back.

During this time, Max has been tracking his way to the kidnappers' hideout. He's got it pretty narrowed down and just needs one more break to figure out which building...
After giving Jonny a dose of combat enhancer (Emerald), they find him an easy nut to crack. He babbles on that they were just in this whole thing for a quick score, and no one's been hurt, and he doesn't know anything about alien invasions, and he just wants out. While Janzur is unhappy with negotiating with criminals, Friedling agrees to let the party trade Jonny for Ace, if that's what they want to do ("Skulking isn't really very illegal.")

When Geng calls back, they get to speak to Ace who tells them he thinks they'll keep their end of a trade. ("They're just in over their heads and want out." Which earns him a scowl.) Ace also vouches for Jayla's honor to Geng, and a trade is arranged. Meanwhile, Max homes right in on the transmission and pinpoints the enemy location.
A trade gets arranged. A brief moment occurs when the party considers just using Max's info and taking them all out, but eventually decides to simply trade. After Geng speaks with Jayla for a bit, they even do it the non-paranoid way, and let Ace go first. As expected, Ace walks out right in front of where Max was hiding and the two of them head back to the group.

Jonny is released and bolts. No one follows and the situation seems defused. Upon his return, Ace explain that the four kidnappers (Geng, Jonny, J.D. and Marcy) were small time operators looking to cash in on some contracts out on Ace, Katya, and Sharra. Ace apparently is worth 5000 Asters to someone in the inworlds, while Katya is worth more, and Sharra less. Katya and Sharra are both mystified that there would be any contracts out on them, but much of the rest of the group writes the affair off to "Inworlders". Ace notes that now he has a link to the underground on Crux, and now that they understand that the group is not to be trifled with, they could be a useful source of information on things such as Klothos' local operations. Janzur is appalled at the idea of making friends with one's kidnappers.

People finally try to catch a little more sleep. The next morning, Jayla makes her speech to the emergency Parliament session. After the speech, she makes two proposals:

  1. That Crux move to a defensive war footing. (Defender party adopts, Golden Ascension opposes).
  2. The establishment of a mutual defense pact among the outworlds (Good Neighbors adopt, Maximus opposes).

Both motions receive enough immediate support to pass in this session (as expected). After these motions are dealt with, another motion is put forward, that the Hippocrates be seized and its owners compensated, in order to add its technology to the war effort. Spagnall/Forbridge proposes it, and Good Neighbors oppose; in the end, the motion fails, with only Golden Ascension and the Solipsists supporting Spagnall/Forbridge; nearly all the other parties immediately oppose the motion (a Senator from the Mercantile party stands up and opposes the seizing of any ship for any reason) and it fails.

After the session, the party heads back to the Hippocrates, where Sharra tells them that given the facilities here, she can probably install one of the two remaining ship weapons in a cabin port with about 4 days of serious effort (assuming all the relevant people help.) Eight days for both, but it would be dangerous for the Hippocrates to leave mid-refit. The party decides to stay for at least four days...