The Last Drop

"Though my life's blood be spilled, I shall fight on. Even unto the last drop, shall I stand, if I stand against you."

-- Terran training oath

2779.258 - 2779.273 AS
Tyrell's Folly -> Stannis Law -> Nurl

Cassandra unveils her newest painting, painted from the Tyrell's Folly spaceport on Chanticly:
A view from high in the Tyrell's Folly spaceport, looking out over the spaceport and then over the rounded buildings of the Tinoori city. The perspective is skewed so that everything is the same size and does not diminish in the distance. There are generic Tinoori in the city, but they are flattened underneath some sort of heavy blanket which lies (somewhat transparently) over the city, and is also seen to be the cloak of a somewhat heavy-set, grey-haired man in the foreground. In the near corner in the spaceport sits the Hippocrates, with a figure in a Boy Scout uniform emerging from it. At the very back of the painting, a Tinoori who looks like an adult First Frost of Autumn is standing on top of the blanket, beginning to draw on it. The painting is ``signed'' with a peculiar pattern of five stars.
And then, it's off to Stannis Law. There is some puzzlement as to exactly what the plan there is, but Katya has a note from Klothos to deliver, the Tinoori space suits are there, people want to ask Lord Stannis about Katya's mother, and there's a secret Strategos training facility that might be lootable, so the time seems right.

Before landing on Stannis Law, Anya has a dream:

A huge spiderweb spans between buildings, nearly invisible. The party, walking along, blunders into it, and begins to stick and thrash. Brightly colored spiders with cunning humanoid faces are hiding at the edges of the web, in the buildings. The largest spider, in the corner spinning the web notices the movement and sends the others towards the party.
Hmm. Well, there were those human-in-Tinoori-bodies that Dr. Cain made. Maybe they're here. It seems highly unfair to be so constantly plagued by Dr. Cain, though. Everyone will keep an eye out for giant spiders, though.

The Hippocrates lands, and Sook is disappointed to note that there isn't a satellite network; instead there's a lot of underground fiber, which is accessed through old-fashioned internet cafes. No crowds appear poised to jump the crew of the Hipppocrates as they disembark. Max considers where the Strategos' secret base might be - he decides that the way to get to it would be by going down that street there. He doesn't go just yet, though.

Sook and Jim go to an internet cafe - one of the ones near the spaceport is advertised as The Last Drop, with high-speed ultranet. If Dr. Cain was on planet, or strange mad Tinoori, hopefully they'll have left some traces that Sook can dig out, because he's really not very subtle. Arriving at the cafe, Sook takes a booth and starts poking around looking for clues in the spaceport computers and such. If two Tinoori came in together someone should have noticed. Her investigations are interrupted howeever, as a gentleman nearby starts choking on his (quite excellent) coffee. Jim rushes over and performs the Heimlich maneuver, but it has no effect. A closer examination indicates that the man isn't choking, his airway is swelling shut. Perhaps an allergic reaction? Just to be on the safe side, Jim doses the guy with his handy vial of Hippocrates anti-toxin. His condition clears up almost immediately! He must have been poisoned!

Strangely though, the gentleman seems compeltely unconcerned by this turn of events. "Poison? No, no, just choked on a biscuit. Good work, young man. I must be leaving." Jim tries to convince the man to stay and be examined by the ambulance Sook has summoned, but hearing that the authorities are on their way merely serves to speed him along. Jim follows him for a bit, trying to change his mind, but once the sirens arrive, the mystery man breaks and takes off.

Back at the cafe, Sook has decided this mysterious man needs investigating, and so goes over to his booth to hack the machine he was using. She finds that Ray Price arrived and did very little, but after a bit, got a message from a table across the room saying "Drop off at table 6." Then he paused for a bit (dropping something off?) and finally started looking up routes to the spaceport when he began choking. Well, that's mysterious.

Moving to table 6, Sook discovers that Darla Meyers arrived and again waited around for a message. Her message said, "Courier at table 12." She then sent the "Drop off at table 6" message to table 12, waited for a bit, and logged off. The really strange part is that as far as Sook can tell, the "Courier at table 12" message didn't come from any where. It's as if she sent it to herself, but examining her keystrokes reveals she didn't. Well, perhaps it's time to head back to the spaceport and see if they can catch up with Ray Price? (Though Sook wonders why Jim cares about any of this.)

Meanwhile, Anya, Katya, Eva, Sharra, Ruehan, and Max are running the rest of the errands. First, everyone gets to meet Katya's brother, Andrej Kestrel. He has the Tinoori spacesuits - he says he'd be fascinated to meet the Tinoori themselves. Pleasant chit chat is exchanged - Andrej hasn't heard of Dr. Cain or Caliban or any crazy Tinoori being on the planet, but he'll ask around in the uplift community (there's a moderately large one on Stannis Law) to see if any of them have seen Caliban. There hasn't been anything of great import going on on Stannis Law recently - he mentions a new Sparky Cola bottling plant, though.

A note is dropped off at the palace (written by Eva, ostensibly from Katya) to Lord Stannis asking if she and her companions might meet with him. Kye's paperwork to incorporate IPX is dropped off at the Finance Advisory office, and it gets set up to receive the medtech money. Appointments are set up to meet the Red and Blue ambassadors, and the space suits are deposited back on the Hippocrates.

At the palace, Ruehan haggles with the two ambassadors. In exchange for the redliner defense plans, the Red Hegemony will provide twenty low-end ships (3 body, no interesting shticks), plus one ship blaster apiece, to the outworlds. The Blue Hegemony will provide parts and technicians sufficient to install this defense on all the outworld one-man fighters. Ruehan also arranges a reception once the negotiations are concluded, where people can talk to the ambassadors a little more casually. Eva and Ruehan note that the ambassadors don't care as much about the redliner defense as they might; there seem to be two things going on, one of which is to aid the outworlds, and the other of which is to one-up the other Hegemony (or at least prevent any one-upping going the other way). The two ambassadors do seem to respect each other a good deal; they're probably one of the most official back channels between Red and Blue in the Linked Worlds.

Errands and adventures concluded, both parties head back to the spaceport, where their trips are interrupted by a crime scene - someone appears to have been stabbed. Sook and Jim recognize it as Ray.

"Who's Ray?" -Ruehan
"The guy we just saved." -Jim
"Doesn't look like you did such a good job." -Ruehan
Sook fills everyone in on the adventure with Ray and Darla at the Last Drop. Katya, scanning the crowd, notes a guy who's thinking "Damn, there goes my fare", and she points him out to everyone else. Ruehan confirms that he's a spacer named Dan Fleer from Tyrell's Folly (Ahah! More of a Dr. Cain connection!) who was going to be taking Ray off planet. Max investigates and finds that the knife that was used to stab Ray is in the Red embassy. Hmm, that could be complicated.

Jim asks Sook to tell the cops about her hacking of Darla's computer, to find out what was going on. They get off to a bad start, though, when the cop points out that that's illegal, and Sook says fine, she doesn't remember anything. Eva tries to salvage the situation before the cop gets mocked into arresting Sook, and in the end, Sook tells him about what she found and it's deemed interesting enough to just slap her on the wrist.

Everyone retires to the ship to consider whether this is their plot or not. One person being killed isn't really the group's responsibility, even if the party did save him the first time. On the other hand, the knife being in the Red embassy is interesting. Deliberations are interrupted as a delivery guy from Sparky Cola shows up, asking for January Sook or Voriig Kye. He's here to refill the soda machine. Eva asks Ruehan to check to make sure he's not a bad guy.

"He's not. I'm sure." -Ruehan
"Did you check already?" -Eva
"No." -Ruehan
"Then you're not sure." -Eva
He's not a bad guy. He does, however, suggest a wireless network upgrade, and points out that if the machine isn't on the network, it won't be able to order new soda. Sook says that the crew is very picky about what's on the network. The guy is clearly a bit baffled by why they don't want their soda machine on the network, but he doesn't push it. He is, however, impressed by the hardened UPS that makes sure that the soda stays chilled and dispensable even when the rest of the ship is making death checks. Oh, but it's Jim Powell's ship, so that makes sense. Sook asks for lots of Snow Lime, which she says is Jim's favorite.

A note from Lord Stannis is also delivered, inviting Katerina Silence and her companions to dinner the following night. In other news, the Tinoori have gone off to the opera, and Sharra confirms that their suits are airtight.

Yet another message arrives, this one for Jim. The delivery guy asks him to sign here (for the letter) and sign here (for the autograph). It's an invitation from Morningside Productions, for Jim to attend the opening of a new Sparky Cola rebottling plant tomorrow, to christen the new production line. Jim says he'll be there.

Eva asks her spies to look into who Ray and Darla are. Since the evening is still free, Andrej is invited to dinner on the Hippocrates, so he can meet the crew Tinoori. Andrej says he's asked around in the uplift community in the capital, and hasn't heard of anyone resembling Caliban. Since the knife was in the Red embassy, maybe the colored spiders are actually spies, not Dr. Cain's Tinoori at all.

That afternoon, Max, Katya, and Anya buy twelve opera tickets for two days hence. Meanwhile, Ruehan, Jim, Eva, Sook, Moment Before Dawn, and Night Blooming Wisteria go to meet the one Tinoori who lives in the Stannis Law capital, one Baroque Coloratura Aria. When the group arrives, there's a van outside, and a man loading boxes into it. Sook recognizes him as Dan Fleer, a pilot from Tyrell's Folly, and one of her Dr. Cain leads as a pilot from Cabry. Another fine theory shot.

Maybe the Tinoori is moving? The group introduces themselves, and he invites them in to chat. No, he's not moving, but he was going to travel back to Cabry for a visit. People fill him in on the cease fire and Jim being sentient - he's a bit dubious, but Night Blooming Wisteria vouches for the accuracy of the data. He thinks it will be odd to be on Cabry without the war (it's unclear whether he's going for the hunting or not). They also fill him in on Dr. Cain and the swapped Tinoori - he hasn't seen any such, but he'll watch for them and tell the other Stannis Law Tinoori (of which there are four) about them, so they aren't killed out of hand.

Andrej arrives in the evening for dinner, and clearly finds the Tinoori fascinating. The party briefs Andrej about Ray's stabbing, and asks for his advice on whether to pursue it or take their suspicions to the police (there's no actual evidence about the knife), or take it to Lord Stannis. Andrej, being a Dilettante for Justice himself, thinks the party should pursue it. Yes, avoiding a diplomatic incident is good, but diplomatic immunity does not in fact extend to murder on Stannis Law. Andrej has always found the police very cooperative when he brings his concerns to them - no one is surprised by this, Andrej being a lordschild and all, but Andrej notes that Katya is also a lordschild and probably equally able to bring the cops around. He's willing to be the front man for the investigation if the party wants, but he also thinks that it will be okay as long as the group doesn't do anything terribly illegal and keeps the cops in the loop.

Thus, after dinner, Andrej, Max, Katya, Anya, and Jim go to the police. After a bit of talking, they manage to see what evidence there is. Much to Max's displeasure the dead Ray doesn't seem to have any empty cases on him, so there's no tracing what he may have delivered to Darla. A bit of concentration reveals that he was carrying secrets, but he's always carrying secrets, so perhaps that was his job. They find his electronic datebook, which the police have been playing with a bit. It seems to be not helpful. "We tried a couple passwords at the prompt, and after the third time it started up, but there's no data in it." Drat, that's probably why it's not helpful.

While they are at the police station, Sook, Ruehan, and Sharra go to a bar. A nearby table sends them some drinks and waves, on the theory that Ruehan can't possibly be out with both Sook and Sharra, but the gentlemen in question don't seem to be very plot-relevant.

The people at the police station radio Sook:

"Sook, there's an electronic datebook here."
"I'm sorry, hacking is illegal on this planet."
Everyone retires for the evening. The next morning, Eva receives word that Ray Price was a low ranking courier working for Blue intelligence. So it's definitely red and blue spies, doing something.

Anya has another dream, and warns Katya and then everyone else:

Katya and Eva sit in a room with Lord Stannis. Eva says something, tilting her head persuasively. Katya nods emphatically. Lord Stannis looks unhappy. Katya waves her hands. Lord Stannis looks furious, and opens a drawer in his desk. He pushes a button, and Katya stiffens and then collapses, and then begins to melt, like ice cream left in the sun.
Well, that's disconcerting. Clearly people need to be careful at the dinner with Lord Stannis, though exactly what the conversation is that sparks the reaction is very unclear.

Then, it's off to the Sparky Cola bottling plant. Jim and Katya go on Jim's scooter, and everyone else piles into the van. Jim and Katya get shown up to a little platform, where there's a big green button labeled "ON". The crowd is enthusiastic to see Jim and shouts a bit. Anya, looking around from the crowd area, notes that the Sparky Cola security people are the most dangerous things around. Ryan Morningside works the crowd a bit, and then turns the microphone over to Jim.

"Jim, would you like to say a few words to your fans?"
Katya, who's been reading Morningside, notes that this is yet another reason why he hates Jim. The darned kid is just a tourist, he's never around, he can't make a speech to save his life, and to top it off, he didn't even answer the freebie fan question right!

Jim is handed an extra-large bottle of Sparky Cola to hit the button with - Katya puts up shields around the two of them, which the crowd thinks is an exciting special effect. Jim really puts his arm into hitting the button, and not only pushes it but smashes it. The plant powers up, and then powers down, and then powers up again, and the button emits sparks. Several techies descend on it to cut the button out of the loop, while Jim and his friends are given a tour of the plant.

The re-bottling equipment is all impressive looking - there is some dubiousness as to what "re-bottling" means - is the soda recycled? No, just the glass bottles. There's a secret formulation room (which the party isn't allowed into) guarded by serious-looking security with M-16s. Woo. The final stop on the tour is the coprorate area, and a conference room, where Sparky Colas are brought in. There are a bunch of portraits on the walls, one of which looks like Geoffrey Oxford (he's listed as the Chairman of the Board), and in the study he's in, there's a rounded footstool piece behind him!

Morningside returns with the drinks, and enquires how long Jim will be around? A week, maybe, Jim thinks. Can they arrange some public appearances? They can write things for him to say this time. Has he done anything noteworthy that they can mention? Sook helpfully points out that he saved Ray's life yesterday. Morningside is psyched. Actual saving of someone's life! How exciting! Can they get contact information? Sharra points out that Ray's actually dead now. Oh. He wasn't really saved? Well, no, he was saved, but then he got killed later. Morningside doesn't think that's quite as good for PR. (Katya notes that he still hates Jim).

Eva wants to know if Jim will be paid for the appearances. Does he want to be paid? That can certainly be arranged. Is Eva his agent? No. Jim's not sure he wants to be paid, though. Morningside says it can certainly all get settled whichever way Jim wants, and that he does recommend that Jim get an agent.

Jim wants to know if Mr. Oxford is in. Who? The guy in the picture. Oh. No, Mr. Oxford doesn't actually make Sparky Cola, he's a board member. He doesn't work here at the bottling plant. (Katya notes that he's a little surprised that Jim identified the picture, which doesn't have Oxford's name).

Then, it's back to the hotel. In a fit of paranoia, it's suggested that people check for bugs; Max finds one and First Frost of Autumn finds two. Well, that was unexpected. They're short range burst transmitters; Max tracks down where the receiver is. It's a radio-to-phone repeater in a bank of phones in the lobby. Sook connects her lucky wire to the repeater, and determines that it's calling the Last Drop cybercafe, with the username of "blackops" and the password of "retribution." Okay, this is definitely all some sort of Plot. But it seems tacky to complain to Lord Stannis that the hotel room was bugged.

Finally, time for dinner with Lord Stannis. Everyone goes but Sook; she heads off to a different high-speed ultranet internet cafe to try and break into the Last Drop. Her hacking goes well, as she manages to uncover a bunch of what seems to be going on at the Last Drop. Apparently, the account "owner" is maintaining lots of files on various red and blue spies. He's then taking large sums of money and arranging for them to deliver classified military information to each other. As being a new internet cafe is not astonishingly profitable, his money must be coming from somewhere else. A bit of poking around reveals that it comes from secret accounts on the Well. But why is he making red and blue spies give each other secret military information in his face? Is he trying to copy it all? Before answers to these questions can be decided, Sook's intrusion is noticed, and she is forced to withdraw from the cafe. Apparently the owner of the Last Drop is either a good hacker or has some working for him, since he was back tracing her to her location.

In an attempt to foil his efforts, Sook simply unplugs the machine she was working on at her cafe. The staff is somewhat disturbed by this.

Clerk: "Ma'am, you shouldn't power the machines down when you log out, so our accounting software can bill you for the time."
Sook (somewhat ditzily): "Why not? I always turn them off at home?"
Meanwhile at the palace, weapons are confiscated, and then everyone is shown into a sitting room, where drinks are served and Lord Stannis joins them. He makes pleasant conversation, asking people what the Hippocrates has been up to, asking Sharra about leaving New Light to become an engineer, that sort of thing. Once dinner starts, there's further chatting. Lord Stannis admits that while he's all for pleasant relations between Blue and Red, the existence of a united Purple Hegemony would make his position somewhat more difficult.

Changing the topic, the group mentions the Strategos's training base - would it be possible to take a look? No, it's not really open to the public, and it's not really an archaeological ruin. Are there any old documents regarding the Fall? No, nothing on Stannis Law survived the Info Wars. Does Lord Stannis know what happened to the Nomarches? He believes Vissarion and Ambros to have died in the explosion at the capital, as that's where he believes them both to have been. They could have both gone into hiding after the explosion and not been heard from again, but he doesn't expect that's true. Max asks again about documents - Lord Stannis states somewhat more pointedly that no documents from the training facility seemed to have survived the Info Wars. Well, that's that.

Next, Eva mentions that the crew has noted that Katya bears the Nomarche genetic markers. Lord Stannis permits himself to look surprised. This may be so, but why is it relevant? The party briefs him on the Flames and the three Hegemonic lines. Well, what about the other two? Yes, those are still around, but the party doesn't mention where. Interesting. While he doesn't seem to think that there's a further question here, Katya keeps looking puppy dog eyes at him, and he finally says that he doesn't normally speak of these things with his children, let alone anyone else, but in this case, please excuse them, and he and Katya retire back to the sitting room.

Sook takes this opportunity to radio the group to tell them about what she's found out in her hacking as she's retreating back to the Hippocrates for safety. Monitoring police bands, she discovers that the internet cafe she was doing her hacking into the Last Drop from has just been burglarized and the police are responding there even now. Good thing she left apparently.

Back at the dinner, Lord Stannis still hasn't returned, so, Geoffrey Oxford comes in to entertain the group. They take the opportunity to ask him about the piece of wood in the picture. He had almost forgotten about the picture, it's kinda old. (People get the impression he intends to have the picture removed in the morning.) Answering the question, he says he keeps the wood piece for sentimental value, principally - all he was able to translate of it over the years is something about "to serve and protect." Is it for sale? He hadn't really been planning on selling it, due to the aforementioned sentimental value. But they're welcome to come over to his house tomorrow and bring their archaeologist to look at it.

Katya comes back in and dinner concludes, and then it's back to the ship. Katya is interrogated about what Lord Stannis said - apparently he has some Strategos DNA, from the training base, and he engineered Katya out of it. Oooh. Lord Stannis has Strategos DNA. People consider the possibilities that implies. Anya asks if Katya delivered the Klothos message - she did, and it went okay.

But in the meantime, there's the spy plot to poke at some more. A quick drive by the Last Drop reveals that the cafe is closed (it's pretty late), that it has seven people in it anyway, and that it has a yin/yang medallion somewhere inside. Well. It's clearly close to time for "Get 'em."

Eva: "Can we take seven people?"
Jim <looking around>: "Yep."
Just in case the seven people are particularly difficult, though, it seems like a good idea to get some official help. Eva and Katya dash off to Geoffrey Oxford's house, and wake him up. He had sort of expected the trip to see the wood piece to be the next day, not quite so late. No, no, this is different. Eva shows him Sook's files and says that there's seven agents and a Terran amulet in the cafe now.
"What do you need?"
"A strike team."
<long pause> "I'll send someone to take care of it."
"Can we help?
"Will Mr. Powell be there?"
"Will that help?"
"That would be fascinating."
He says that he needs to make some calls, and to please keep Katya out of it.

Katya and Eva dash back to the Last Drop, where Sook considers where to attack the cafe's network from. From an all night internet cafe? Or... the Last Drop's network is coming through the sewers. So she can just tap in there. Sharra, the ninja engineer, descends into the sewers to tap the Last Drop's net connection, and hooks Sook in. Ruehan and Katya notice that shortly after this, the people in the cafe get up from where they were to head to the bar. Hmm. They've probably been noticed.

Anya and Max have been at the cafe's back door; Max becomes not anyone's problem and starts breaking in. This, of course, causes him to stop being Anya's problem and breaks her guard on him; this would disconcert her a lot more if he wasn't not her problem. Ruehan causes everyone to hallucinate a strike team with jet packs, flying through the front windows. The people in the front room of the cafe open up with their blasters, shooting the illusions and the front windows.

Sook starts grabbing accounting information, but is quickly opposed by the cafe's hacker. Max and then Anya head in the back; Anya turns on her plasma halberd and whaps one of the thugs with it. The hacker is still working at the computer, and completely ignores her. Katya shields everyone, and Jim goes in the front windows and is promptly shot by everyone in the front room. Ruehan mentally attacks the front-room thugs, Sharra spends a while closing from the sewers and then shoots, and Katya also goes in the front, putting up more shields around Jim, such that he's blasterproof.

One of the thugs gets to the bar, where he activates something; the other thugs start leaping onto tables or out the window. Sook shouts over the radio "The guns are going off - get above table level now." Jim throws an anti-personnel grenade at one of the tables with guys on it; the guy manages to shoot it off the table, but then it explodes anyway. Then the bar guns go off, doing twenty points of physical damage to everyone not above table level. The thugs take this opportunity to slug Jim with their fists, and he falls.

The hacker gets into Sook's laptop briefly, but then she kicks him out again and defeats him in hacker combat before he starts trying to flee. He's taken a bit of damage when Eva points at him and gets everyone to shoot; he comes within a hair's breadth of expiring instantly, except that people leap upon him with various medical technologies and manage to keep him from dying.

The thugs are beginning to try to flee when the strike team (including Geoffrey Oxford) shows up. Katya hits Jim with a stim pack, and he stands up again. Ruehan mind controls one into surrendering. Anya chases one of the fleeing guys down, including taking out a secret door with her plasma halberd, Oxford uses a throwing knife to take down a second who was about to hit Jim again (he shows off and buys up his 1's), and the strike team grabs the third. The other thugs have all fallen already.

The thugs don't know much - they were just hired muscle. The hacker is the one who has the amulet, and he's seriously comatose, but that actually means his bitey shields are down. Katya determines that he's been paying spies on both sides to swap fleet codes, so that when there's a big war, both sides will be able to compromise the other side's defenses and everyone will die. He's supposed to wrap this up and report back to the Well by the end of the month, which is when everything is supposed to go to hell. His bosses know him, and he'll be contacted when he arrives on the Well.

Looking further back, he was born on the ship from Terra, and he's about 25 years old. He was let off at about age 15, on the Well; the ship was probably in the Linked Worlds before that. How can Terrans talk about Terran stuff with each other without dying? You can talk about it, you just can't be interrogated about it, or you reflexively think about the thing that you shouldn't ever think about... and then he thinks about it, and his shields re-activate and his brain melts down.

Oxford gets briefed about all of this except the part about going back to the Well and everything going to hell in a month. Jim is taken to a hospital. He protests that he's only about 30 hit points down by that point, but Oxford and the strike team don't seem to find this a compelling argument. However, Oxford does bring the third wood piece by as a get-well present (with a little note about "serve and protect" as a motto), so it was probably worth putting up with the hospital.

When he hears that the group has a complete set now, Oxford is interested in seeing it. "My Goodness! That's a complete piece of Brochoah heartwood! If only there were still Brochoah." Everyone looks at their feet. Nope, no Brochoah here.

Eva reports to the Blue station chief at the embassy, giving him the update on the info swapping and "everything goes to hell in a month" and a description of the hacker and his ship name and so on, so that someone could impersonate him on the Well. The station chief remarks that they do have a high level agent in place already, so they should be able to make progress there... The Red embassy also gets warned about the info swapping.

Before the group hares off to Nurl, there's some discussion of whether to ask Lord Stannis for the Strategos blood sample. Nobody seems to think that he's just likely to hand it over. Giving him a made-up reason would probably get him upset, if he noticed it was made-up (and he does seem plausibly likely to notice). On the other hand, if it's explained straight, that probably won't queer the pitch to ask again if he says no the first time. Much dithering later, the group does go and ask - Eva makes a strong case for needing the ability to turn the jumpgates back on, especially in the case of Nonesuch/Crux given the Decider war. Lord Stannis is moderately sympathetic, but isn't sure that the outworlds want Nonesuch/Crux turned on. If the outworlds make a formal request, or if there's some other pressing reason to open a jumpgate, he says to come and talk to him again, and that he'll make sure that the sample is secure. (He's also not really keen on Katya being in the same place as the One Device that can Turn On Jumpgates, but oh well).

Then, it's off to Nurl, to show the pieces of heartwood to Commander Branch - he says that he had asked that if the party was going to require a significant commitment of resources, that they warn him in advance, but there's nothing to be done for it now. He translates the heartwood into approximate Intergal:

The ...citralion Line, the ...atoorani Line, the ...fendoolis Line, the ...kpoitrelan Line, and the ...harachoom Line, speaking for their Lines and their fiduciary linkages and those Brochoah boards in which these Lines hold majority, in perpetuity, grant fealty to the Hegemony and the Lines of the Hegemons. These Brochoah Lines shall serve and protect in good faith, and shall place physical and operational resources not to exceed 20% of the net resource of any one Line, at the disposal of the Hegemony and the Lines of the Hegemon. The Hegemony and the Lines of the Hegemon shall protect in good faith and preserve from sentient dissolution these Brochoah Lines and all other Brochoah Lines, through, but not limited to, the year 4000 AS.

Pre-finale Puttering