War Without Beginning

"History, we are often told, is doomed to repeat itself. But no one takes that literally enough. "

--Cire Alavados, Safety Proctor, Polymath Institute Temporal Mechanics Lab, AS 2437

2779.274 - 2779.279 AS
Nurl -> the Well


The day after the initial meeting with the Brochoah, the Hippocrates PA announces that everyone should come to the mess hall for an important announcement. Janzur, Katya, Jayla, Ruehan, and Anya show up. The doors to the mess hall open, and a buff woman dressed in Skyguardish fatigues, carrying a complex looking rifle hooked to her backpack strides in. Wait, it's Dr. Symphony-Hayes, but with a crew cut and an old scar down her cheekbone.

She tells the somewhat disconcerted group that in a few days, a bomb is going to go off on New Light and kill the Blue Hegemon. The party has tried to stop it innumerable times, but it just isn't possible, they failed and often got killed whenever they tried it. However, also soon, the Blues are going to attempt a search and retrieval on the place where Donella is being held. They are also going to fail and Donella will die, unless the party does something. They've tried this a large number of times and failed, but they've gotten close.

However, while Sophia's been looping back in time to try to get it right, this time is the last time through. She might be able to pull off a partial second loop, but this is it.

Sook and Dr. Kye turn up - Sook is very leery of whatever that is that Sophia has in her backpack, which is apparently the omnihedron. Sophia notes that it would be very very dangerous to open the backpack at this point. She continues with her briefing, explaining "meta-time", which is a measure of the causal significance necessary to change an event. Traveling takes a very small amount of meta-time, because the only causality involved is the decision to go. Combat, and talking, on the other hand, tend to take up a lot of meta-time, because each instant is causally distinct. To shoot at someone, or to say this fact or that - it's all relevant.

In all of the previous loops they've gone through, there's been four hours of meta-time. In loops where they spent too long planning, they never even got to the base. The base officially belongs to Citizen Archibald, though it's unclear whether it's him or the Terrans controlling it now. It's trapped and guarded. There's guards with guns, and psi jammers, and all sorts of other dangers. Jayla gets the dose of glitter out of Eva's room to bring (Katya senses a double standard going on here), and Sophia does something mysterious with a flashy thing.

The Hippocrates heads for the Well, and then once it gets to the planet, heads for the particular base that Sophia has indicated. Well traffic control says that they're entering restricted airspace - turn aside or be destroyed. Anya, who's driving, tries to claim that they're having navigation trouble, but the fighters say they don't see any technical problems. The Hippocrates screams by the two fighters at top speed, and the fighters give chase. The ships reach the compound (which from the outside looks like a pleasant mountain mansion) - there are two vans outside the front, a number of vehicles in the parking area to the side, and a sports car around the back. Jayla ponders blowing up the sports car, and decides it's not warranted. Anya brings the Hippocrates to a crash landing outside the front of the base; people fall out of their chairs in a Bridge Lurch, and take a little damage.

The strike team piles out of the ship and heads for one of the doors to the base. The first thing they encounter is a wounded guy hiding in one of the bushes out front. Anya levels her plasma halberd at him and demands to know who he works for (she clarifies that they're the crew of the Hippocrates). He's clearly happy at that, and seems to think that Gabriel sent them. Armed guards start coming around the corner, and Janzur goes to engage them. Anya gives the Blue a first aid kit, and then takes out the entry door with her plasma halberd.

The three guards start shooting at Sophia and Sook; Janzur steps in the way. Sophia shoots one of the guards with her potentiality rifle, Ruehan attacks him mentally, and then Janzur chops him in half. A guard in the inside hallway sees Anya coming in, and ducks out of sight. Doors start closing and locking down, with blinking red lights. Janzur takes out the second of the three guards on the outside, and grabs his radio. The inside guard peeks back through the window - Katya can't sense his mind as being there at all.

Anya starts leaping over cubicle walls to try to get towards the hallway; Janzur picks up Ruehan and he and Kye get through the door. Katya notes that everyone is vanishing to presence as they run through the door. Sook scoots into a cubicle and ducks behind a desk, noting that there's an encrypted wireless network on the inside. Katya heads into the building, and is staggered by the backlash psi shields (take damage equal to twice the number of held-down dice).

Sook cracks the wireless network, which is tracking the guards' ID badges. She tells people to put on the badges of the guards they take down. Anya finally gets to the guard who's been watching, and thumps him. Two more guards show up and shoot at her, but their blasters bounce off the Katya shields plus Anya's armor. Jayla drops some of her buffs before heading into the building, so she takes less damage.

Sook locates the important computer rooms in the far back corner of the facility, and the back middle, and notes that there's red alert flags up. Jayla ponders searching the wing off to the right, and determines that it isn't necessary to save All People, but it could be helpful. Some guards farther in start shooting at Janzur, while another one talks into a phone. Sook says that the guard says that they're breaking into the prison wing, and to take the prisoners back the other way. Sophia remembers that the prison is generally where the guards took Gabriel after they subdue him.

Kye shoots one of the guards guarding the door; Sophia shoots him after that, and then he is gone. In fact, he was never there, and Sophia appears to have shot a wall for no apparent reason. Everyone finds this very creepy. Martan disarms the second guy; Janzur and Ruehan take out the third.

Sook says that there's a firefight going on over at the west end of the complex. There's a lot of security in the northwest corner, and even more in the north center and northeast. There were guards going from the west end in this direction, but they turned around when they were told not to go towards the prison. The wireless network isn't controlling security, it's just tracking where guard ID badges are, and whether they've gone down. Sook convinces the network that the guards over in the west firefight are going down, so C&C needs to send more.

The disarmed guard flees eastward into the prison wing, pursued by Janzur. Sophia grabs IDs from the two downed guys, and gives one to Anya. Ruehan mind-reads the fleeing guard, and learns that "the High Lady" is in the residential wing. Katya heads through into the now no-longer-guarded-or-doored room towards the central area, and gets hit with some sleeping gas. While the transparent plasteel windows seem to reflect blaster fire, they can still be de-potentiated. Janzur corners his quarry at the far end of the prison wing, kills him, and takes his ID badge. There are two prisoners in the cells.

Anya finishes destroying the door from the gas room to the main hallway. Kye runs through that room, and both of them get gassed. He's the first to the main hallway - there are some guards at the western hallway corner, but they're looking northwards rather than towards the party, and there are more guards about halfway down the hall to the north, who are looking, and start shooting at Kye.

Jayla ponders rescuing the people in jail. They're good, but it's an expenditure of time. Hard to say. Sook tries to convince the wireless network that the party has badges of guards who are elsewhere - she ends up able to invoke imaginary badges on anyone she can actually see, so she starts moving forward again.

Outside, the two fighters who were chasing the ship earlier make their own crash landings on either side of the Hippocrates.

Janzur manages to open one of the cells. He sends through the intercom: "Please cooperate with the individuals outside of your cells. You're being released." (He manages to get the other cell open a little later).

Kye and Anya charge the guards up the hallway. They tell C&C that Hallways Two and Three have been breached, and to turn on the gravitics. Everyone in the hallway starts taking damage, for being there or every hex they move; the guards duck into the patio to the east of the hallway, out of the gravitics too. Ruehan heads for the hallway through the gas room, but is unimpressed by sleeping gas.

Anya starts chopping through the wall into the room just north of the courtyard, to avoid more hallway traversal. Sook works on glitching the far quadrant, so that none of the ID pings are registering. One of the guards in the patio ducks out to throw a block of something towards the group, as Anya finishes chopping a hole into the locker room. Sophia partially depotentiates the bomb before it goes off, so it doesn't do as much damage as it might have.

The plasteel wall between the locker room and the courtyard has raised, and two panthers head out of the courtyard towards Anya. One attacks, and she whacks it. Katya notes that there are computer controls of some sort in the small room to the south of the courtyard. Martan and Katya start trying to destroy the door to the larger room on the way. Anya retreats from the panther room across the hall, where a guard is engaged with Kye. Sook moves into the gas trap room, to provide people with "fake" ID pings as they go through.

Jayla tells the two prisoners that Janzur has released to head out to where the guy in the bush is, and to help the second team. "You'll know them by the furry catman." Off they go. (As it turns out, they'll arrive back at the entrance after the second team has left to go around the side, so they never find the furry catman).

Sook's still watching the map of the wireless pings, so she notes that they've come back on in one of the shut off rooms, and that they're marching around the room spelling out "THAT'S ENOUGH OF YOU" before all the wireless goes off. The gas trap room goes off again, hitting Sook and several others.

Sook, Martan, and Katya head towards the control room Katya saw - the room on the way proves to be the experimental psi damper room, and Katya and Martan both take damage; Katya goes down (the shields on everyone drop). Sook first aids Katya, getting her up again, and Martan carries her into the little control room with Sook.

The guards in with Anya and Kye go after Anya; a panther runs into the hallway, decides the gravitics are no good, and retreats back into the locker room. Janzur sprints with Jayla down to the room with Kye and Anya, and takes out another of the guards there, while Katya destroys a door from the psi damper room into the hallway. Sook gets into the computer menu - there are a lot of choices, including gravitics, which is the first thing she takes down.

Sophia depotentiates the big plasteel window into the panther courtyard - it's odd how they built their dangerous animal room without one of its four walls. Anya jumps in and whacks a panther. Martan gets the experimental psi damper down, and Katya and Sook tell him to stay in the computer room to keep any hostiles away from Sook.

Anya finishes defeating her panther, though it gets in a good parting shot. The guards who have retreated from the gravitics to the patio take the opportunity to come back out and shoot at Ruehan. Jayla asks one of the remaining guards about defenses in the direction they're going - he says "Hah, that way needs no defenses, the High Lord and Lady will kill you themselves!"

Sook spends a while longer stapling the gravitics off against the base hacker's efforts to turn them back on. After a short battle, she succeeds in taking them permanently down. Janzur takes down the last two guards in the hall, and Anya takes down the second panther. Feeling a little short on meta-time, the group runs pell-mell for the end zone, the northern "residential area," with plusher accoutrements than the earlier rooms.

Sook manages to locate Donella in the midway-back hallway. Janzur heads around the corner, and sees her, dressed in a blue gown with her hair up. With her is a man, tall and broad-shouldered, dressed in gilt high-tech armor, with a helm and raised visor. He and Janzur exchange steely-eyed glares - Janzur thinks he's a poser, because this new guy's eyes are ice-blue rather than grey.

Donella demands to know what the meaning of this is. The guy eyes Janzur, says "So, you have finally come," and takes out a metal cylinder. Astonishingly, Sophia picks up Jayla and carries her down the hall towards the intersection.

Janzur draws his plasma brand.

"We're here to rescue you." (to Donella)
"Come." (to the guy)
The guy turns on his weapon; it doesn't seem to be a plasma brand (as was briefly suspected). There's just a little fuzzy glowing cloud beyond the barrel.

The combat ensues. The guy attacks Janzur with his monofilament lash (that's what it is). Janzur parries and cuts the lash, but the weapon extrudes new monofilament, so the plasma brand parry isn't as helpful as it might have been. Kye gets to the corner and shoots at the guy.

There's a computer terminal near Donella - Sook has it display a message saying "For your safety, go back through the rooms to the locker room" with a map. When Janzur hits the guy with his plasma brand, there's a strange refractive effect from the armor, with his plasma brand splaying back into a red, a green, a blue, and so on. That makes it extra perilous, but he still doesn't hurt himself. Jayla advises Janzur, through the radio, to hit him in the visor, as Sophia shoots at him with the potentiality rifle.

Sook locates Gabriel, locked in one of the barracks rooms off to the west. Janzur hits Stone in his visor slit, and takes the top of his head off. Donella falls to her knees, and then looks up, crying out "Stone! Nooooo!", and goes to leap upon Janzur. Ruehan tries to hit her with a mind control, but falls over instead due to her bitey shields.

Sook opens all the barracks doors in the area where Gabriel is, as Anya heads in that direction. Donella weeps over Stone's body, and Kye points out that Janzur has struck the stone. Oh. Shit.

Sook opens an intercom channel to Gabriel's room, and tells him "out the door, soldiers to your left, weapons to your right, down the hall to your left is Donella and the crew of the Hippocrates." He heads out and ninja-chops a guard (which Anya sees).

Jayla ponders whether it's important to have that not have happened, and thinks that the important thing is to keep Donella from dying. On cue, Donella manages to wrest Janzur's plasma brand away (using a lot of fortune), and impales herself on it.

Ruehan dashes to her side and hits her with a stabilizer pack and a heal injector; Anya heal patches her to boot. Kye runs headlong down the first hallway to distract any guards he can find, while Janzur takes back his plasma brand and heal-patches Stone. Sook drops a computer virus in the base's system, and then the omnihedron goes off...

Eva, Ace, Max, Grimblemaury, Jim, and Sharra are just getting out of the Kaufman tubes when there's an announcement over the intercom. No one is to leave the Kaufman area without the express permission of Dr. Symphony-Hayes. Strangely, she appears to be in the tubes. Happily, she's also coming through the door, in her new military aspect, and she again briefs the party on the upcoming trouble. Additionally, she explains the perils of causality violations - basically, if you change something the first group noticed, you'll pop out of the timestream.

The second strike team goes into the conference room, where they are briefed by the first group, who through the magic of the omnihedron remember what happened before. A frenetic briefing ensues, after which Sophia flashy-things the first group so they don't remember it.

Since this group has a more clearly defined mandate (keep Donella from killing herself, and get her and Gabriel to the getaway sports car before the group all pops), more meta-time is spent on planning. Might Ace be able to swap in a fake plasma brand? Ace is not completely confident of his abilities to swap it into Janzur's hand without Janzur noticing him.

Breaking Gabriel out of the room in the barracks would be okay, and as long as there's a Gabriel there for Anya to notice, there should be no disruption. Max, Ace, and the Hippocrates robot are promptly all disguised as Gabriel. While they're at it, Eva and Sharra are disguised to look like Donella (Eva is a little more convincing, but Ace is good).

Eva writes a note to be left in Gabriel's cell saying that the windows on either side of his cell are missing, and that Donella will be in the car. (on the assumption that the group can take out the windows, but that the guards might not put Gabriel in a room which has its window missing)

The van, with the portable Kaufman tube, is taken around the side of the complex, to where the sports car is; Cassandra and First Frost of Autumn are left to guard the Hippocrates. On the way there, Jim gives an inspirational speech. The party gets some group karma.

As the van pulls up, the person in the sports car appears to notice that all the people in the van look either like Gabriel or Donella. She points a rifle at them. Eva flashes her badge and tells the woman to wait for them to come out again. Ace and Sophia race each other to break through the windows on either side of the window Gabriel will be in. The woman, who also has a badge and is named Ariel, is somewhat grumpy about being told (again) to wait in the car, and that Gabriel didn't mention all these duplicates.

Sophia depotentiates her window moments before Ace gets through his, and people climb into the barracks rooms, Eva leading a subsidiary strike force of two Tinoori. Sophia and Sharra take down a couple of guards, and several of the remaining ones shout to take down the spider tamer. Ace and Jim double-team another two guards, and an alarm is raised to turn on gravitics in the barracks wing.

Ace, having been warned about ID badges, grabs one, and menaces one of the guards.

"Suck dirt or meet your ancestors, boy!"
As far as the guard can tell, this is a choice between dying and dying, so he keeps fighting (and is promptly shot). The Tinoori leap about and drop Eva's note in the room that'll be Gabriel's cell. The gravitics turn on, and that's it for leaping. Maury starts down the hall, teleporting from room to room, heading for gravitics control. He encounters another sleepy-gas trap room. Jim takes two more guards down, and Sophia decreates another wall. Jim tosses Hippocrates one of the badges, and Hippocrates heal-injects Jim. Ah, teamwork.

Maury makes it to the western side of the courtyard, trying to stay behind columns and trees so the first group doesn't spot him, and then starts heading along the edge of the courtyard towards gravitics control. Ace finally gets to the hallway where the final fight will be taking place, but no one is there yet. Maury sees a group of guards bringing Gabriel towards the barracks.

Hippocrates shoots a couple of scorch marks in the floor, hoping to expose the hallway gravitics, but the floor isn't impressed yet. Ace finds a couple more guards. Max heals Night Blooming Wisteria, while Maury starts picking the door into gravitics. The people bringing Gabriel down the hallway almost notice him, but he's lucky and looks enough like a panther that they don't spot him. Night Blooming Wisteria is the first into the residence area, just as Donella goes through the door on the other side of the room. Maury finishes getting into gravitics, about the same time as Sook takes them down. Sharra and Eva head after Donella.

Since there's a fuss in the barracks area, the guards with Gabriel are unsure where they're supposed to bring him. Everyone feels a little woozy again. Gravitics is empty, and Maury heads to the other side of the room and tries to teleport the most useful thing from the hallway, but Donella's already out the other end of the hall and it's basically empty.

Max, sneaking up the other way through the residence, does find Stone and Donella. He seems to be more their problem than he would have thought. Stone tells him "Surrender, and you'll be happy" as Sophia destroys more residence walls to get the party towards the not-yet-a-combat. Ace takes down his two guards, and feels a little wobbly - there are now bodies lying in the hallway where there weren't any in the first pass. But there's still time to get them out of the way before the first loop arrives (it's over fighting in the first hallway still).

Jim and Hippocrates have gotten into the main computer room, where they take down yet another guard. Hippocrates checks for holograms in the data banks - there's a library of recreational holograms, but this isn't the hologram room. (The theater that the Blue team retreated to is the hologram room - one reason the fight went so poorly was because of all the holograms).

Stone is a bit surprised to see a second Donella, cuter than the first one. "Have you come to join our party? You're certainly dressed for it," he comments. (The universe, trying to assert the timestream, is keeping him from being as suspicious of the surplus Donellas as he should be, just in case he needs to use one of the spares for his scene). Sharra sweeps in, and gives her most regal curtsy, bringing the Donella count in the room to three - the original Donella is a little put out by this.

The party has managed to clear out of the hallway that Gabriel's guards need to go through just in time for them to appear, so they do so. Ace uses the PA to tell them "Deliver the prisoner to the barracks area, then go to the subcomputer area and get rid of these two unconscious bodies." They're a little puzzled about what the subcomputer room is, but they do put Gabriel in his Destined Room. Yay!

At this point, the group has about one combat round before Janzur turns the corner to see Stone and Donella in the hall. Unfortunately, at the moment, Stone and Donella have been bogged down in the living quarters, and there are two bodies in the hallway instead. That would be, as Sophia puts it, a type three causality violation.

Max surrenders as grovellingly as possible to Stone, and tries his SEP field again. He does better this time, and Stone accepts his surrender.

"Are you armed?"
"No, citizen, of course not!"
"Here." <hands him a blaster.> "Watch the women. I'll be back."
Stone heads out into the hallway. Eva apologizes to Donella and then invokes the "Get her!" plan. Everyone jumps on Donella and knocks her out, and then she's dosed with Turquoise for good measure. At this point Sharra is planning to go out in the hall and stab herself with the plasma brand, so the universe doesn't pop anyone.

Hippocrates tosses a vial of Relaxation into the barracks area, over Gabriel's guards, hoping to make them fret less about the fact that there's a combat around here somewhere. They really should be staying put in order to be ninja-chopped by Gabriel later. Jim and Hippocrates blow up one of the walls with a breaching charge.

Ace, in the hallway and now fleeing from Stone, drags one of the bodies from the hallway into the computer room. He tells Jim "Stone's on my tail - if he doesn't find anyone, he'll go back and fight the fight he needs to fight" and vanishes into the shadows. Back in the residence, Maury picks up Donella and teleports him and her to the far corner room, and then the car. Eva tells people over the radio to get Gabriel to the car.

Maury heads back to the residence, as he's not convinced that the timestream won't break if there's not a Donella there to kill herself. If things start going all bad, then he'll teleport Sharra back to the hall. In the computer room, Jim changes hurriedly into the uniform of the guard Ace dragged in. Then, he and Hippocrates head out, running into the ex-Gabriel guards. Jim, brandishing Hippocrates (who's one of the spare Gabriels), says "There was an explosion in the computer core. I'm bringing this one to the barracks." Hippocrates breaks a vial of deja vu, so while the guards are sure they already put Gabriel in the barracks, maybe that's just deja vu.

Back in the Hallway of Doom, Stone tells Eva/Donella to come out, for her own safety. She does. Jim brings Hippocrates to the Gabriel room, and then takes Gabriel to the car. He joins Donella, whom Maury had brought out.

Janzur rounds the corner. Gabriel and Donella are in the car. Stone and "Donella" are in the hall. Max is in the hall too, but he's not anyone's problem, and Janzur doesn't notice. The timestream holds!

Maury briefs Ariel about Donella being really loyal to Stone and being really good at suicide. The Tinoori say something over the public radio band, and vanish in a whiff of paradox and then the party's meta-time runs out, and off they go. Back in the first loop, Donella mysteriously vanishes from behind Stone, but then Janzur kills Stone anyway...

Off the party goes, into the swirling mists of space-time and their summer reminiscences.

Map of Base

No Puttering