Imaginary Friends Part 2

"We are the sum of our experiences, defined and shaped by that which we define and shape."

-- Tomas Glydden, Ridenan Court Epigrath, AS 876

2779.212 - 2779.218 AS
Craterrock -> New Light<

Before rejoining our intrepid crew in the Craterrock system, we go to Sophia, Ace, and the three Tinoori, who have gone to Tyrell's Folly for the funeral for Moment Before Dawn's mother. The planet has three main continents - one held by humans, one held by Tinoori, and the disputed continent, currently engaged in a ground war between Tinoori and human forces. There's a human fleet, but it keeps its distance.

Night Blooming Wisteria directs Ace to a particular starport on the Tinoori continent where humans with Tinoori are permitted to land. This involves a little bit of dodging the fleet, but Ace is more than up to the task. The starport looks much like any other starport, and has a number of human-run businesses such as a hostel. In order to leave the spaceport into the rest of the city, humans need to get a badge that basically says "This Tinoori is responsible for me", and then they can go into the rest of the city. It is not recommended that they go outside of the city.

First Frost of Autumn has never been to Cabry before, and is madly running around looking at everything. He is quite disappointed in the starport, though, as there are many perceivable similarities with other starports. Night Blooming Wisteria gets badges for Ace and Sophia, thought he hopes that they won't accidentally spread any false truths while they're in the city.

They rent two rooms in the starport hostel for the night, while the Tinoori go off to find out about the memorial. The common room of the hostel is full of pilots who do the Cabry run, swapping stories both about getting past the fleet (there are rare occasions where someone gets spotted and has to make a run for it), and about Tinoori in general.

"This is a non-seedy seedy bar!" -Ace
Ace chats up the various pilots for more stories about the Tinoori. The ones who are travelers are in fact pretty rare (and getting more so, as "going home" to Cabry is a one-way trip). They tend to settle down in one place, and don't travel for the sake of travel. Thus they're rarely pilots or boat owners or anything like that, but they do tend to be well-paying passengers.

They ask some about the war, and find out that there are several Human-Tinoori treaties in effect limiting the armaments used. This didn't always used to be the case - back in the "bad old days" people found out that if you bombard Tinoori settlements from the air, it works really well for about a week, but then your own forces (and sometimes your cities) just die, and nobody knows why. The Tinoori seem to prefer personal combat, and the humans now prefer it for practical reasons. Sophia pontificates briefly about how war is a criminal waste of resources, sounding surprisingly like a Brochoah.

None of the people in the bar know what the Tinoori secret is, though there's lots of wild speculation. (Tyrell enjoyed Tinoori sushi! No, that couldn't be it, Tinoori are poisonous. No they're not, not if you prepare them properly. Okay, this is a conversation we're not having any more of.)

It turns out that Tinoori are not all good cooks, but they are pretty much all fussy about food. It's hard to keep them happy, especially in a little ship that just has a food bar dispenser, but they pay well anyway. They're impressed that Ace and Sophia's Tinoori cook. The tales veer to other people who have done a lot of ferrying Tinoori (many of the people here are regulars). One's been web-spit at several times.

"They're fast little critters. No, they're fast big critters. That's just not right."
Ace tries to find out what sorts of imports and exports that they're interested in. For the most part, there isn't a lot of trade. They're not particularly interested in trying to make money selling things to humans, and they're pretty much self-sufficient. They can occasionally be persuaded to buy art - they have pretty high standards, and they're not interested in things that have humans in the pictures, but they like landscapes. But as they are "both aesthetic and ascetic" they don't import a lot. There are occasional somewhat accidental exports, things that Tinoori like that humans like too. Ace acquires several subtly flavored liqueurs (Tinoori don't get drunk, but alcohol is a very good solvent for organics).

The pair briefly look around in the outer city before bedtime; it's strangely rounded and lumpy, like a collection of stone igloos, set almost at random in curving streets.

The next morning, the Tinoori in charge of the spaceport goes around and counts all the humans, and asks if there are any difficulties that he needs to address. Nobody seems to have any. Then, First Frost of Autumn bounds in ("It is me!"), followed by his parents. He's much more psyched about the Tinoori city than the starport. The memorial service, Night Blooming Wisteria says, is to be held in the afternoon; they've been waiting for Moment Before Dawn. And, she has inherited a small house in the human-accessible city; Moment Before Dawn's mother moved here when First Frost of Autumn was born, to make visiting easier, but they had not yet established themselves well enough on Crux to easily afford visiting, when it all went horribly awry.

They offer to let Sophia and Ace see the house; they are welcome to stay there, if they wish, but they should probably not attend the memorial, as all the other attendees will be Cabry Tinoori. The group proceeds into the Tinoori city to see the house; the little stone igloo proves to be just the foyer, with most of the space being below ground. There's a central room with a work area, and a lot of empty bedrooms with nesting crevices. All of the furniture is Tinoori; Night Blooming Wisteria notes that it would be good to take several of the chairs (which are more like seating nests) back. Sophia volunteers to help with the carrying; some family pictures are also taken. The three Tinoori go off to the memorial, leaving Sophia and Ace in the house. Ace thinks it's nice; it speaks volumes to Sophia about being a Home, and perfect for raising a family and coming home to, and being comforting and welcoming... She tries to explain this to Ace, but he's dubious about the fact that it only has one exit - how would you escape? Sophia makes an architectural sketch of the house.

Ace says the he had thought already of bringing chairs back for them, but he was going to surprise them.

"But that would be stealing!" -Sophia
"No, not their chairs. I was going to get other chairs and p... and pay f..." -Ace
The Tinoori recommend somewhere for dinner; it's made of things which are very good, but completely unidentifiable, and nothing is human-objectionable. There's some brief discussion of relatives; left unsaid is that Moment Before Dawn and Night Blooming Wisteria, and especially First Frost of Autumn, are probably the weird relatives, as far as the rest of the family is concerned.
"First Frost of Autumn didn't actually search the mortuary for bugs..."
Moment Before Dawn's mother's house is not actually likely to be comfortable for humans to sleep in (there are just sleeping crevices), so they go back to the hostel. Ace chats with the desk clerk about dinner, and mentions "Night Blooming recommended the restaurant." The clerk is impressed - Ace's Tinoori only has two names? Er, no, he's actually named Night Blooming Wisteria. Why is that relevant? The clerk explains the "human shorthand" version of Tinoori naming, that the shorter the name, the more important the Tinoori. It's something of a caste system, which causes Ace to wince a little bit. Do Tinoori change their names when they become more important? The clerk doesn't know.

Ace gets the mail from Jim, to his all-purpose account:

Jump-Fees: inworld

Hi!  This is Jim!

Kith reports the crew is under an unidentified influence of some
psionic nature. We can't seem to find the source, so it's probably
best to stay outside of the immediate vicinity unless absolutely
necessary.   The Hippocrates is still in the Craterrock system - I
just jumped here to send the email. 

We believe the influence is affecting our perceptions, and attempts to
rectify that via an external source don't seem to have helped.
Information coming from the crew has a higher than normal probability
of being based on a world-view that has had errors introduced.

Jim Powell
Well. Nobody thinks that sounds good. The Tinoori in particular think this is a terrible thing (as people expected), and that they need to go help set things right (which was perhaps not quite so much expected). They don't want to bring First Frost of Autumn into it, though, but they don't want to leave him on Cabry for very long either ("He could find out things he shouldn't know quite accidentally in a few hours"), so the plan that is settled upon is to go to New Light, leave Moment Before Dawn and First Frost of Autumn, and have Ace and Sophia and Night Blooming Wisteria go to meet the Hippocrates at Craterrock. So, off to New Light.

Arriving there, they get the second email, from Sook, who has sent them the Hippocrates logs as well as a comment from the command drone that "Mirris is in the logs the same way Mirris is in the drone Sook's current memories." They find the phrasing a little odd, and the spontaneous existence of Mirris even more disturbing, but there's nothing to be done here.

However, before the Dancer sets out again, Ace and Sophia drop by one of Ace's traditional seedy bars to check out the gossip. There's a man and a woman sitting at another table; the woman heads to the bathroom briefly, and a minute later a guy enters, spots Ace and Sophia as the only man-and-woman-pair in the place, and goes over to them to see if they're ready. Frank sent him. Ace says that they should talk about this outside, and the three go for a walk. The guy is lured into rehashing the plan, which involves a bunch of pirate / bounty-hunter ships taking turns going out to the jump gate, to get ready to jump on the Hippocrates with hull reavers. Frank thinks that Sophia is "Simone"; Ace doesn't have a name yet. Apparently, there is a 100,000 aster bounty out of the Well, for the destruction of the Hippocrates - there are to be no survivors, and the entire bounty is contingent upon that, with there to be no docking with the ship until they're all dead. Anyone who voids this bounty may well have a bounty of their own appearing on them.

Before taking their part in the pirate fleet, Ace and Sophia go back to talk to Simone and guy she's with. Ace says Frank sent him, and lures them out into the street. On the count of "Can we count on you?" Ace neural disrupts Simone, and Sophia sprays Jorge with the experimental alchemicals she's been working on with the Tinoori. This particular alchemical turns out to be "motionless", which works pretty well. They manage to take out the two pirates without much further fuss, and Ace pays some people a fee to sit on them for a few days, and takes the spark plugs out of their ship (the Blackhawk).

Sophia wants to know why they aren't just going to the police about this, and Ace explains the idea of honor among thieves, and that if he rats out the plan to the feds, he'll end up with that as part of his reputation. The Dancer heads out, putting together email to send the Hippocrates, warning it once it's outside of the no-shooting jumpgate zone, and Sophia working on putting together a hull reaver defense (she ends up with something that can be expand into the shuttle bay force field, but she'll have to physically hook it up). They fly casual once they get near the jumpgate, managing to avoid looking like they're waiting near the gate either to the fleet or the pirates, and then they wait.

Back to the rest of the party, in the Craterrock system. There's been a long day of thrashing with the mysterious influence, and people have headed either to the tubes or to bed, vowing that there will be no leaving the system until this is sorted out. The loudspeaker goes off every hour to announce that the mysterious intruder should come clean if they need help, instead of keeping this up.

Mirris turns off the announcement in her quarters, but she still jumps every hour, knowing it's going off, and can't sleep. She tries banging her head on a pillow for a while, but it doesn't help. Eventually, she goes and knocks on Janzur's door.

"Can I, um, talk to you or is this not a good time, I can come back..."
"Did I wake you?"
"Er, Should I come back?"

Mirris starts by talking sort of roundaboutly about the intruder, and what if the intruder didn't want to actually cause trouble, but was worrying that if he came forward, he'd be thrown out the airlock.
"It hasn't gotten to the point yet that anyone is going to be spaced yet, since Dr. Kye is in the tubes right now."
<somewhat reassured> "I really need to get to New Light, I didn't mean to make it difficult..."
"We're staying here, but what's your point?"
"But, see, the thing is, would you even believe me if I said I was the intruder?"
"I don't see what you're getting at."
Throwing all subtlety to the winds, Mirris confesses that she was the fourth person on the Casa Novela, and now she's the extra crew member. Janzur still doesn't quite understand what she's trying to say. Argh. Mirris begins to recognize the Hand of Fate in action, as she realizes she doesn't currently have enough dice to break through the influence he's under. She says she'll be back in a bit, goes to her quarters, and takes another dose of Glitter. Then she returns to Janzur's quarters, exceedingly jittery, pushes an anti-impression impression on him (and everyone else, in the process), and then collapses.

At this point, everyone who's awake (Ruehan on the bridge, Jayla wakes up as her "reminder sense" suddenly stops being unintelligible) manages to remember that Mirris isn't in the crew, and Eva comes out of the tubes (down one health). They catch up with Janzur, who's taking Mirris to the medlab. Everyone seems to be down two dice now, one for the gathering, one for the second gathering countering it.

Ruehan checks Mirris over, and discovers that one, she's overdosed on Glitter, and two, her mind is unraveling. Happily, Ruehan knows of a psychic ritual among his people which can heal this sort of thing; it involves donating memories to fill the vacuum in the target's mind. Personal memories will help replenish her psyche, and memories which are shared amongst a group will tend to cause the target to self-identify with that group. Since Janzur remembers now that she was trying to confess, and she seems to be dying now, it seems worth doing the ritual to save her.

A number of memories are remembered and seem to fit; each person who is the source of a memory can choose whether or not it is shared with Mirris, and if they share it, must explain the lesson which should be learned from the memory.

Janzur It is the Acession of the Hegemon, in the Palatium Tamarch. The crowd is dressed somberly, in mourning for Hegemon Gabriel Nomarche, until the Vocari kneel and Vissarion lifts the circlet to his head. Then there is a great shout of jubilation, and the black coats and cloaks drop to the ground, and the people are a sea of gold and silver and white. The chorus and brasses start the ``Fanfare Astralorum'' and you shut your eyes for a moment. We must return to greatness!
Ruehan You are being escorted from speaking to the Patriarch of Vircus to the great feast, when Vocari Donaris shows himself to be 'a follower of the cult of the Strategos' and tries to kill Sophia. You cloud everyone's mind to see the Strategos there, ordering Vocari Donaris to stop, but, unfortunately, the cult of the Strategos does not seem to have included portraits. When mind controlling people, use things that they will understand.
Ruehan You're in Klothos's throne room, and Xanthippe has finished her presentation of the Hippocrates' gift. Even you feel a mild nervousness -- she could destroy you all, out of pique. But no, she is intrigued, and she leans forward to make her offer... Being nice in political circles doesn't hurt, and can be a good thing.
Sharra You've knocked over the ceremonial armor in the vault on Highguard, distracting the guards while Eva dabs the blood on the amulet of verification. On the good side, nobody catches you and arrests you. On the bad side, nothing seems to happen. Sometimes it's necessary to embarrass yourself to achieve a greater goal.
Jayla You sit with Hegemon Attar, poring over the later pages of the Book of Hegemons. It is a pleasant day, and the breeze stirs your hair. You would rather be out with the hunting party, at least today, rather than this interminable squinting over nearly illegible symbols, but you try not to show it. Hegemon Attar notices, though, and fixes you with a level look. ``They are providing for the tribe for a week. You will have to provide for the tribe for your lifetime.'' Being hegemon is a duty, it is not a happy thing, and your personal life is completely subsumed by it.
Jayla In the dream of the Omphalos Dust Wyrm, the old man retreats from you, he cannot withstand you. Eva asks: ``What happens if we don't wish [to save All People from the Flames]?'' He answers: ``When we met again, you were the ones who had saved all. If you do not, no one else will.'' If you do not, no one else will.
Eva You're on Creek, speaking to [NOT PRESENT IN MEMORY], who explain [NOT PRESENT IN MEMORY]. You find this somewhat unbelievable, that the others don't know about it. You also think it's something of a cop-out that they won't fight against the others, but at least what the [NOT PRESENT IN MEMORY] are doing has some reason behind it. Sometimes people won't do what needs to be done even though they see it, and you have to work around that.
Janzur You're standing in front of your grave, or at least, your memorial.

Elite Janzur Therive
As we are many, so are we one.
If one of us falls, there we are diminished.
But so long as one of us stands, so shall the fallen stand.

It's very disconcerting.

But so long as one of us stands, so shall the fallen stand.
Ruehan You are ready to take your departure. It will be a journey of long months to reach the nearest human-inhabited inworld, and no one of your kind has made the journey in nearly a generation. You think this is foolish, that without contact or at least observation, you keep yourselves blind. But your kind grow cautious and insular in age, and it is the old ones who make the decisions. Always go looking to learn new things.
Janzur It is the first time you have actually held an active plasma brand in your hand. It is not yours, it will not be yours for many years yet, but the weight and the strange momentum of it feels oddly familiar. For a moment, you imagine - Hegemon Vissarion, beset by foes, and you leap down from a balcony, plasma brand blazing. You cut down the villains, faceless and menacing, until you stand (gravely wounded but still up) before Vissarion, foes at your feet. A moment later, the daydream has passed, but the echoes remain. Someday, you will be there to save him. Someday. It is our dreams which ennoble us.
Eva You and Nikolas are in the wardrobe in the upstairs sitting room. You discovered at age eight that this is the place to listen to your parents talk, when you're supposed to be in bed. Your mother is trying to convince your father to come to the country for some weeks to help with the spring turnover, but he says he has to stay near the court. There's no acrimony, but both you and Nikolas seem to think that Father is not being as helpful as he might. Nikolas whispers to you ``You'd come if I needed you, right?'' and you whisper back. ``I'll always come if you need me. No matter what.'' Always stand up for family.

The only memory which they have but do not give to Mirris is Jayla's "You crouch in the darkness, waiting and watching. Your enemies have feasted well, and drunk deeply from their water-stores, which you have tampered with. Soon, they will begin to feel the poison. Soon, they will die. You wait, flames burning behind your eyes, for your vengeance" - this is deemed possibly not the sort of thing one wants to make an integral part of a newly built personality.

"You're making me into a girl scout!" -Rose, looking at her new memory cards
"NO NO NO NO" -everyone else
There are enough personal memories to keep Mirris from disintegrating any further, and there are more group memories, so she does end up feeling like part of the crew (and a lot like Janzur in particular). But she's still unconscious. She's left in the medbay, with Ruehan keeping an eye on her, and since the mystery seems to be resolved, the party proceeds to New Light.

The ship has just gotten a little way outside the no-shoot zone and Mirris has just woken up, when Hippocrates gets email from Ace and Sophia saying that there are up to twelve pirates with hull reavers going after them, and to keep the shuttle bay clear because Sophia has a plan.

"All crew to general quarters!" -Hippocrates
"What does that mean again?" -Mirris
There's some worry about whether it's safe to let Mirris help in the combat, as she might still be sort of dubiously loyal. Eva directs Ruehan to "put Mirris in a suit and find out who the hell she is" but Ruehan is more worried about the twelve pirates with hull reavers. Jayla thinks about it, and decides that in general, there's a little bit more of a chance for survival if Mirris helps fight, so she's probably not going to do anything terrible.

Six pirate ships close in, but one of them suddenly turns on one of the others - it's the Dancer in disguise! Mirris tries to do the Sook trick of moving air out of places that are liable to be hit by hull reavers, and opening the bulkheads for Sharra as she dashes around, but she keeps being distracted by memories falling haphazardly into place.

"I have to contact blue! Who is blue?" -Mirris
"Consider it contacted, what do you want to say?" -Eva
Hippocrates triggers the defense pod for Rizzo (though there's a brief period of wondering what about other people's pets). Janzur, Hippocrates, and Ruehan shoot, Sharra dashes around patching holes, and Eva dodges the ship madly away from the hull reavers.

Meanwhile, the Dancer has closed with the Hippocrates, and Ace has flung Sophia, in a spacesuit, towards the docking bay, where she starts futzing with the force field.

"Sophia is emulating Maury, but she can't teleport" -Ace
Several pirates are disabled, but several more show up. The pirates tend to waffle their fire between the Hippocrates and the traitorous Dancer. Night Blooming Wisteria manages to temporarily patch a few of the hull-reaved holes in the Dancer by spitting webs, but eventually he has to retreat to the emergency bubble.

More shooting happens. Sophia turns on her force field - the docking bay force field starts to wobble, and then pops off the docking bay, and engulfs the ship! The air isn't escaping any longer! The Dancer is no longer functional, though, so Ace tethers himself to Night Blooming Wisteria's bubble and they leap for the docking bay.

"Rats... joining the sinking ship." -Jayla
Eventually, all of the pirates are disabled, at the cost of many karma (especially from Hippocrates, who gets to be extraordinarily unlucky). Sophia stabilizes the docking force field back to the docking bay before it flies off into space. The Blue fleet shows up, somewhat belatedly, wanting to know what the heck is going on. Everyone points at the pirates and says "Those are bad guys who shot us with hull reavers!" but profess to not know why this might have happened. The fleet gathers up the disabled ships (except for the Dancer, which the Hippocrates is permitted to take), and escorts the Hippocrates towards the planet.

During the two days of travel, the crew takes the opportunity to interrogate Mirris some more. Night Blooming Wisteria looks quite ready to rend Mirris into small edible bits, and Mirris looks entirely spooked by the giant spider. Janzur makes sure to stand between the two of them. People want to know whether she was using a psi ability or something more Mysterious and Alien.

"Wait are you suggesting I might be an alien? I'm human!" -Mirris
"Two out of four aliens surveyed turn out to be indistinguishable from humans." -Jayla
Mirris has been fleeing from her Citizen, who seems to have fallen in with a bad lot calling themselves the Proteges, and has gotten himself sort of brainwashed. It was getting harder and harder to blend in as being brainwashed herself without actually being so, as the Proteges subverted more and more of her Citizen's organization, so she finally decided to flee. She recognizes the green yin/yang symbol as something that one of the Proteges had. Ahah!

Anyway, she knows that the Proteges have something that the Blue Hegemony wants, and she can help them find it. Eva thinks she can manage to put Mirris in touch with the Blue HegInt for that, yup.

Ace diverts the discussion to point out that if the Hippocrates docks with one of the Blue fleet ships, then the bounty will be void (since Mirris could have gotten onto that ship. And hunting a Blue navy vessel is just asking for trouble.) They do this thing.

What Citizen was the one involved with the Proteges? Mirris would really rather be on New Light for this discussion (since there's still at least the possibility that the crew could kill her and sell the information for themselves, and she's not used to being so non-paranoid). People insist that they deserve an explanation, so she clarifies that it's the Citizen who's already been demonstrated to be trying to kill her, Citizen Archibald. There's some metaphorical discussion of sucking people's brains out, which Mirris has to recant that their brains aren't actually sucked out, that's other people entirely... Yes, everyone hates the Well.

The crew frets about Mirris being a glitter addict now. Mirris protests that it's not an addiction, she just kept needing it, and everyone nods sagely. Hippocrates checks to see if it was Mirris who hacked his logs to insert her - yes, that was her. At least, she thinks it was her. She's still a little fuzzy on what things were real and what she just thought were true.

"I did go to Craterrock. I remember lifting things. Dr. Kye and the Deathtraps. That'd be a good name for a musical group."
The party ponders the next question - should they give Mirris to Blue intelligence, or should they go back to the Well themselves and try to rescue Donella by themselves? Mirris starts to look very unhappy at the thought of going back to the Well, and Eva mutters darkly about just shooting her (that is, Eva) for treason now. Jayla ponders it for a bit and thinks that the group doesn't have enough information on Donella's location (Mirris says she moves around a lot), not to mention the fact that the Hippocrates crew isn't very good at subtle and is probably on the Matrix's bad side.

Sophia gets an email:

Jump-Fees: full, expedited

Dr. Symphony-Hayes:

I regret to inform you of the recent death of Dr. Xydopochnat Nehta.  

The firm of Kerrit, Ng, Thomson, and Finch has been retained as
Trustee of the Nehta estate, and you are named as one of his
beneficiaries.  Please contact me at your earliest convenience so that
we may schedule a reading of Dr. Nehta's will, and a transfer of any
fiduciary assets. 

Andrew Kerrit
216 Wilmington Place
Cannisat, Homeground, New Light
Sharra gets mail from her nephew Vance hoping to see her when she's in the system again; she answers and arranges to meet him some time.

In the last bit before landing on Sanctuary, Mirris goes to find Janzur again, to give back the handful of pirate treasure she'd pocketed.

"You had so much you didn't even count it, I thought you wouldn't miss it, but so you know I'm coming clean, here, I'm giving it back. But don't tell Max or Ace, they'd just give me grief for giving back loot. And don't tell Maury either."
Janzur promises not to tell anyone, and puts the treasure in the safe (actually, probably with the rest of the treasure in the cargo hold... there's two chests of it).

Everyone lands at the spaceport, including the bits of the Blue fleet that came to deal with the pirate aftermath. Everyone gets debriefed. Does the Hippocrates crew have any idea why there was this 100,000 aster bounty? Eva manages to convince the navy that higher powers have this all under control.

Jayla asks if Eva can arrange for her to see the Blue Hegemon in action, the way she did Lord Stannis and the Red Hegemon. Eva will see what she can do.

Ace, Mirris, Ruehan, and Eva go off to interrogate Jorge, who has gotten free from the guys who were sitting on him for a couple of days (it being nearly four days later); he's still working on fixing his ship. There's some intial gun-pointing (as the last time Ace wanted to talk to him, he ended up kidnapped), but nobody is particularly fazed by him, and he ends up interrogated by Eva and mind-read by Ruehan. As it turns out, though, he doesn't know too much. Frank is the guy who arranges all the details and finds out about the bounties. Jorge doesn't know who set the bounty or why - Frank would. The party decides not to pursue Frank, though, because they actually do know who and why.

Meanwhile, Jayla, Hippocrates, Janzur, Sharra and Sophia have gone to the will reading of the late Prof. Nehta. They are met at the door by Andrew Kerrit, the lawyer handling Dr. Nehta's estate. He thanks Sophia for her attendance and knows that she has travelled a long ways. Apparently the will was quite specific that nothing could proceed until Sophia was present, in person.

They are led into a large conference room around the table of which are already seated the three other parties. First is Sonora, a young woman who is ever so sad that the great doc has passed away, and really can't imagine that he left her anything at all, though he was always very generous, both with his students and his... friends.

Second is Morton Masterwill, Trustee of the Central University of New Light where Dr. Nehta has his tenure. The final party is Professor Niels, who was an associate and research colleague of Dr. Nehta's. As usual, Janzur sizes up the room for threats, but doesn't really find any non-obvious ones. Niels really wants something good, and the young Sonora is just ever so sad to be here.

The will reading begins with Kerrit going over all of the usual boilerplate material at the beginning where Dr. Nehta states his irrevocable intentions to dispose of his material possession as he sees fit. Then Kerrit starts the holographic recording of the actual estate division.

"Dear friends and colleagues, if you are seeing this message, it means that the greatest scientific minds of our time has forever been extinguished..."
My, my. Those who met Dr. Nehta before remember that he was pretty arrogant, but this seems a bit much even for him. Sophia speculates that he has some further breakthroughs pumping his self esteem since last they met.

"To my dear Sonora, I do leave the entirety of my country estate at <address> including all of the possessions contained within, with the exception of those explicity removed according to my instructions to my lawyers."
At this point, Kerrit pauses the recording and assures everyone that he has a box with a proper inventory, in compelete accordance with the deceased's most exacting instructions.
"To the Central University of New Light, in the hopes that some useful research can indeed be conducted there even in the absense of their greatest benefactor, I do hereby grant 2.2 million asters for the establishment of the Nehta Instutute for Advanced Physics..."

There's a brief pause, "and now that this is out of the way, I move on to my most important bequests. To Dr. Niels, in the hopes that he continue the grand traditions that I have upheld in my lifetime..."

Niels leans forward, "Yes? Yes?"

"I do hereby grant to him all of my various lecture notes, slides, presentations, and classroom experimentation equipment, as well as the drafts of my elementary textbooks, Physics for Advanced Post-Doctoral Experts Needing Review, and Elementary Tetrion/Boson Quasi-particle Interactions and Their Sub-lattice Orientations for Undergraduates. I hope that he is able to maintain the high standards of education I have always strived to give my student, appreciated or not."
Niels frowns somewhat annoyedly, "What else?"
"Finally, to the culmunation of my life's work. Given my condition, I realize that I will not have enough time to complete, yet again, the greatest advance in physics mankind has ever known. Given a couple more years, all would be understood to me, but I fear that this is not to be so. Rather than doom another of my colleagues with work beyond their ability in the short time they have left, I have decided to leave all of my research notes and the accomanying ... advanced prototype, to the brightest young mind I have encountered in recent years. A physicist bright enough that one day she might achieve even my great understanding of the field, as well as young enough to pursue such a momentous goal. Dr. Sophia Symphony-Hayes."
At this point, Niels loses it. "Dr. Hayes? Who is she? She's no one! I was supposed to carry on Nehta's work! The omnihedron was to be mine!"

Seeing how things are going, Janzur decides that this would be an excellent time to stand and stretch a bit, somewhere between Sophia and Niels. Seeing that violence is clearly not the answer here, Niels storms from the room. "This isn't over!"

Well, that was uncomfortable. Kerrit smooths things over, and Masterwill apologizes for Niels behavior. Kerrit gives Sophia the box which after checking the inventory does appear to contain all five of Nehta's most recent research notebooks (+1 to SpaceTime Physics Each), and a small metallic? sphere.

Sophia signs hundreds of documents under the watchful eyes of Sharra who makes sure everything is kosher, but it seems Kerrit is an honest lawyer just doing his job. Taking their leave the party starts heading back to the Hippocrates. About a block away, Janzur notices Niels in a car, just sitting around the corner with his engine running. Surely he's not planning anything foolish?

To be on the safe side, Janzur ushers the group to turn before crossing the intersection right in front of Niels car. When he sees them approach, Niels sizes Janzur and the rest of the group up once more and gets out of his car to talk. Surely Nehta did not realize the great burden he was placing upon the poor Dr. Hayes when giving her this grave responsibility without any of the necessary university resources to carry it out. Perhaps some sort of collaboration would be in order? Niels could keep the omnihedron in his lab while Sophia worked out her travel schedule.

Sophia quite politely declined all of Niels many offers and with Janzur standing right there looking surly, the chagrined Professor Niels drives away. Back on the Hippocrates, Sophia tries to examine the omnihedron, but its secrets seem quite opaque at first glance...

After that, Sharra arranges to meet Vance for dinner. Does anyone else want to come? Ruehan, Jayla, and Janzur do. Even Hippocrates decides to tag along.

Vance is waiting at the expected restaurant. He's quite excited that Sharra is back in town and even more excited that she brought along some of her friends. Everyone gets a short, though densely packed, barrage of questions regarding what they've been up to and how many conspiracies they've broken up lately, and that sort of thing.

Things progress through the dinner quite pleasantly, and after a while Vance asks people about their future plans. Any bad guys that need thwarting? Because if there are, they should let him know. He has a lot of friends around these parts and can probably find things out. He could even participate in the actual operations if they needed some help. But just in case he isn't able to make it, perhaps Sharra would find this of use.

Vance produces a box from under the table. It's covered in fine black paper with a little grey bow. Sharra opens the present and finds it filled with some sort of black cloth. shaking the present out, she discovers ... well... a cat-suit? Perhaps ninja-suit is more appropriate. Also included are a small utility belt, and a matte black cape. Seeing the cape, Janzur almost loses it, but manages with great effort of will to keep from laughing. Sharra also has a mild attack of something but manages to channel it into pleasure at her new gift.

Vance explains that he might have been able to have more made, but they are fairly expensive, so one was all he could afford just then. Sharra makes the usual "Thank yous" and "You shouldn't haves." Vance then begins to tell about all of it's special properties. Apparently, it's radar absorbing, and sound dampening and all sorts of other wondrous things. It does seem to be of high quality though so perhaps it is. Vance volunteers that perhaps if folks wanted to go to his place, he could try it on. Jayla quickly jumps in, "Oh Sharra, don't forget that thing we have to do later..." Oh, it is tragic, but no modeling the ninja suit tonight.

Vance is pleased that she likes it however, and reminds people to give him a call if they need anything when dinner ends.

Meanwhile, Eva, Ace, Sophia, and Mirris are plotting about what to do with Mirris and what she should ask Blue HegInt for in return for her information. Eva is pretty sure a new identity should be simple enough; Mirris is a little disturbed to realize that she doesn't actually know her real name.

Ruehan shows his diplomatic portfolio to the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Trade. Sending a Blue fleet through Red is unlikely to work. Ruehan thinks about it, and decides that something that the outworlds can probably use is naval tacticians. He arranges to have some active duty tacticians put on leave for a year and sent to the outworlds; in return, he'll offer the Blue Trade Minister (Sharra's dad!) a monopoly on all exports to the inworlds of a particular expensive Spartan trade-good spice.

Kith has had a chance to take a look at Eva and the portable Kaufman tube now that Eva's out, and makes the final adjustments. The project is done! For the next stage, that of figuring out how to make green goo, she'll want to compare green goo with White and Black. Sophia nearly leaps out of her chair with having told people so, that they should get some Black. Ace thinks about it and thinks that for a current trusted user, Black runs about 15K asters.

Eva and Mirris head off to the meeting with Gabriel. Janzur tags along, sensing the presence of a battlemat. An ambush happens, in the person of four people with knives, who declare "Give us the girl, and no one gets hurt." The sheer underwhelming nature of the ambush stuns people - the bad guys have knives? Janzur tells them to take it somewhere else, before they get Injured. They fail to take the hint, and two attack Janzur and two attack Eva.

"Wait. Which girl? Which girl?" - Eva
Janzur holds his own, but Eva is badly stabbed. She heal patches herself up from three hit points, and presence attacks the thugs to stop attacking. Mirris shoots one. Two of the thugs start to apologize and back away. Then they run. The other two start backing away.
"Do you want any of them?" - Janzur
"Yeah, get one." - Eva
Mirris shoves Eva in the car, and takes up a defensive position with her blaster ("Look, I have all these Janzur memories..."), as Janzur chases down one of the thugs and brings him back for interrogation. He cracks pretty quickly - no, he didn't really want the girl. They just said that because it sounded good. They were just supposed to cut Eva to get a blood sample. Eva gets angrier and crushes his little mind. He confesses more, that they were supposed to bring the blood sample to Lord Valris, on the other side of the city.

The group calls the Hippocrates to schedule an ambush on the other side of the city, posthaste. Happily, the starport is closer, so this is feasible.

"I guess it's time to put on the ninja suit." - Sharra
Ruehan, Sharra, Ace, Sophia, Jayla, and the Hippocrates remote unit go to set up the ambush outside Lord Valris's shop. (Hippocrates has had the new face installed - he looks like the younger Captain Bellarion now).

The three escaped thugs head for the alley, and are pounced on by Ace and Sharra. Another group of thugs starts to come out of the shop, and Sophia sprays them with what turns out to be Attraction. They immediately find her quite interesting. They tell the car (which has Hippocrates in it) to move along; they'll bring Sophia back later. Another several thugs emerge, and she sprays them with "Two-Timing."

"You seem to be a Mad Scientist of Luuuuv." - Eon
The thugs try to encourage Sophia to come back into the shop with them. She doesn't want to go, and so she sprays everyone, including herself, with Toady. Meanwhile, the people in the alley have been efficiently dispatching the three thugs, via neural disruptor, psychic attack, or other methods. Ace searches the bodies, and finds a small number of asters, and several knives - one is bloody and wrapped in plastic. He takes all of them. Hippocrates pulls the car back. "Sophia, time to go?" Sophia and four thugs get into the car, extremely enthusiastically. "Let's go, boss, hup hup hup!" Hippocrates drives away with Sophia and the four toadies - the fifth guy is very confused, and goes back inside. The car stops at a McDonalds, and all the thug toadies are asked to go in and get coffee. They ask for instructions, and then determine that they'll just get some of everything. While they're inside, Hippocrates drives back again, as the other half of the party arrives.

Jayla convinces the only conscious thug to leave his life of crime - he renounces his knife, having put weapons behind him. There's some discussion of how to storm the building, but in the end, the group just knocks on the door, Janzur holding one of the unconscious thugs. They'd like to speak to Lord Valris. The manservant opening the door would like to take a message. No, if Lord Valris doesn't talk to them now, he can talk to the police later.

It's time for more interrogation, in which Eva and Jayla exert sheer force of personality, and Ruehan picks bits and pieces from his thoughts. Apparently Dr. Cain convinced Lord Valris to be his bosom buddie, and Lord Valris was willing to do this small favor for him, to get some of Eva's blood. Dr. Cain is taking people to the Next Level, and he is willing to bring Lord Valris with him. He doesn't know where Dr. Cain is now; Dr. Cain was going to contact him again. Jayla manages to convince him that he probably wants counseling instead of the next level.

Hard-boiled action quote of the run:
"Please take that outside?" -Lord Valris, regarding the unconscious thug Janzur has brought in
"I just deliver the trash, I don't take it out." -Janzur
Diversion over, Eva, Mirris, and Janzur head back to the building that serves as the front for Blue HegInt. Eva is aghast to hear that Gabriel isn't there; he's away on business. They can talk to Michael instead, if they'd like. No, they wouldn't like, they'll come back tomorrow. The receptionist suggests that that won't really help, but off they go, sure that something nefarious is up.

Eva calls Nikolas, who can confirm that Gabriel left planet several weeks ago, but doesn't know where he is. Dominic and Elspeth, who are here for Nikolas's graduation, shouldn't tell Eva, but confess that Gabriel's gone to the Well, running the long-term Donella recovery operation.

Somewhat disappointed, they go back to see Michael the next day. Mirris quite likes the sound of "protective custody," though the part where she's supposed to be guarded immediately and has to sneak out for one bar-hopping trip with Ace, Eva, and Sophia is a bit inconvenient. The crew have the Tinoori cook a going-away party meal (they refrain from poisoning Mirris, though they're still entirely distrustful of her), and give her a Hippocrates nearly-small-enough-to-be-a-shot-glass glass. She and Ace acquire a real shot glass from the illicit bar-hopping expedition, and then she goes into real Blue custody. She asks if people can pretend that she fits in, without her having to pretend herself that she does - it takes Michael a while to understand what she means, but yes, he has people for that who are better at being her friends than he is (Michael doesn't appear to have Gabriel's people skills, though no doubt he has other talents to make up for it). Michael will be using the information Mirris has and warns the Hippocrates to stay away from the Well for the time being.