Triangular Pegs, Square Holes

" Once upon a time, I, Chuang Tzu, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes, a butterfly.
I was conscious only of following my fancies as a butterfly, and was unconscious of my individuality as a man.
Suddenly, I awoke, and there I lay, myself again.
Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man."

-- Chuang Tzu, lost Tarn Alliance poet

2778.338 - 2779.36 AS
Rupert's Hole -> Creek

A few last errands are run on Rupert's Hole. Eva talks to the Boss Man and some Bordermen. There are people who are willing to go back and help recolonize Pierogi - they're used to being a ways away from a working jumpgate and on their own. Katya and Kith and Janzur go on a smeerp hunt, and succeed in catching a smeerp, which they let go again. Sophia and Sharra do their time at the Plasma Cannon worskshop. Sophia seems to take to it naturally, while Sharra finds it all fairly disturbing.

Off the Hippocrates goes on the two-month voyage back to Creek. On the trip, Cassandra paints Katya:

A young woman, like Katya but maybe a little older. She stands, enveloped in green flames - they may be from around her, or emanating from her. Her arms are outstretched and lowered - one hand is in the center of a complicated tracery of glowing red lines, and in the other, faint blue lightnings stretch away to the edges of the painting like gossamer spiderwebs. It is ``signed'' with a peculiar pattern of five stars.
Several people fret over what the pattern means, but nobody is able to come to any coherent conclusions. Sharra finishes a prototype of the neural disruptor. Hippocrates spends much of the journey working on a simulation for Ghier - the crew spends a good four weeks nearly walking into doors that no longer open as automatically as expected. After this is finished, Sook spends several days non-stop cleaning things up that Hippocrates has been neglecting. Then she announces that she's off to sleep, and nobody is to disturb her for ANY REASON WHATSOEVER. Hippocrates turns off all the alarms and loudspeakers into her stateroom.

Ghier finally decides that he's ready to prototype a theory, and asks Katya for help (he's been teaching her something about his theories). Kith asks if she can watch - Ghier doesn't expect there to be any visible effects, but she's welcome to. But don't poke.

His grand unified theory, in part, lays out the three psi stats as equal parts of psi (i.e. yes, fortune really is part of psi). As with many of the past Ghier/Katya theoretical discussions, Ghier starts up a gathering with the two of them. This one is more organized - it's a sort of sorting into a triangle, with Ghier over in the Strength/Fortune area and Katya over in the Strength/Precision area. Then, Katya gets a sense that that's not quite right - she's not over there, she's over there, at the point of the triangle. She's at the Strength point, and that point is green. She "moves" herself there, and suddenly the gathering is flooded with a lot more power. It expands to include Paddy (Ghier's dog), and Kith, and then the entirety of the ship - minds wink on, taking their proper place in the patterns, like stars. Ghier is very impressed.

Suddenly, in the central core of the ship, one of the minds ceases to exist (or at least, so it seems from Katya and Ghier's point of view). Ghier is horrified - someone just died! And then, two different mind-lights appear - people appeared? Were they born, or appeared out of nowhere? There are the wrong number of people for the construct, and Ghier is panicked about people dying, so the gathered pattern starts to destabilize. The fact that it's a lot more powerful than Ghier is used to working with doesn't help a lot. Kith, sensing that Ghier is panicked, tries to project calm and reassurance at him, while Katya tries to suppress whatever is going on, but Kith's projections mostly just add more power, and Katya squashes things down along one axis only to have them all explode forth everywhere else. The gather explodes, and everyone awake in the ship is suddenly no longer quite who they think they are...

Though this is not immediately evident, what has happened is that everyone (except Hippocrates) has swapped bodies and personalities. Each character thinks that they are someone else, and, indeed, they are in control of that person's body, and subject to several psychological limitations based on both how that person is and how they imagine that person to be.

"Sophia" is in the lab, and notes that she has just finished building something. She doesn't quite remember what, but it must be good. She heads off to find something to test it on.

"Look! I've built a device!" - "Sophia" (Eva)
"You should tell me all about what it does and how it works so I can put it in one of my helpful lists" - "Eva" (First Frost of Autumn)
Meanwhile, "Eva" is on the bridge, as Hippocrates notes a proximity alarm going off for there being a ship nearby. "Eva" helpfully says that they should do something about it. Then, she declares that, as a human, she says untrue things, and that there are three alarms going off, no, ten alarms! If Hippocrates had a stomach, it would have a sinking feeling about now.

A whole lot of running about starts happening (a lot of it without the GMs watching, so people should let us know things to put in that we missed or have forgotten). "Sophia" zaps "Dr. Kye" with her new device, and it's terribly painful and he runs away. Hmm. That's stronger than expected. She tries it on the dog, and he runs away howling. Clearly the device is more powerful than she thought. "Ghier" and "Katya" have discovered that Katya has lost much of her telekinetic ability! This must have to do with the gathering they were doing (though neither is quite clear what it was). Hippocrates, meanwhile, has been talking to the other ship, the Pink Panther, which says it's having life support trouble. He arranges to dock, and directs "Sharra" to go meet them at the airlock. The airlock opens and one crewman stumbles in; meanwhile, two other pairs teleport elsewhere onto the Hippocrates - one into the shuttle bay, the other into the recreation room.

A somewhat haphazard combat breaks out. "Sharra", who everyone knows has all sorts of unexpected skills, exhibits her ninja training and grabs the pirate at the door by the head. "First Frost" entangles one of the pirates near the bridge, and himself, in his web. "Janzur", charging Sharra's pirate, accidentally puts a hole in the airlock and then in the gravlift. Another pirate makes it onto the bridge and starts trying to take over the controls, but is immobilized by Sophia's Device of Doom as she heads to life support, and then "Kith" begins to feed him sleepy-time tea (though she pauses to worry whether he might be allergic).

"Eva" demands that Sharra's pirate confess to his evil plans - he claims that they don't have any plans, but as soon as they control all three areas... oops. A pirate gets to the main life support room, and "Sophia" heads off to main life support after him to zap him with her sonic anti-creature device. Hippocrates tells "Eva" to get there as well; she declares that she is already there, because it is untrue, and then heads off. "Ghier" and "Katya" set up a teleport suppression field with their Vast Psychic Powers. This succeeds in preventing the teleporters from teleporting nearly as far; Hippocrates manages to lure one into the brig, and then shut the door. "Sharra" neural disrupts hers into immobility. "Janzur" and "Sharra" chase two of the bad guys up a gravshaft towards the Kaufman facility.

In main life support, "Sophia" starts giving orders to Hippocrates: "Shut the doors to the Kaufman facility! I'm sucking all the air out! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!" Alas, Sharra and Janzur have run into the room at that point as well. Katya and Ghier slowly telekinetically drift onto the bridge, keeping their teleport-suppress up. Ghier demands that the pirate on the bridge teleport, so he can watch. Having finished his work, he does.

In the losing-air Kaufman chamber, Janzur gets the door open and heroically shoves Sharra through, while taking out one of the pirates. "Eva" gets to life support, whereupon "Sophia" starts draining the air out of main engineering control, still cackling wildly.

The pirates are eventually vanquished, and locked in the brig. "Eva" realizes that she is really First Frost after all; this triggers the start of trying to get rid of psych lims. "Dr Kye" and "First Frost" head off to explore the pirate ship - Dr. Kye seems to be hoping for both doors to open, and things to sell in a museum. First Frost discovers that there are two bridges, and spends a lot of time running back and forth between them, until he realizes he's really Dr. Kye. "Sophia" realizes that she's Eva, and notes that she seems to have built an Emergency Autoflush button into life support (it will later be noted that this flushes a random room, which isn't really what anyone wants).

On the bridge, "Ghier", now realizing he's Sophia, is trying to explain that there's been some sort of psychic awryage. "Katya" waves in support. They call "Janzur" and "Sharra" in to help work things out. "Katya" starts to try to give her psych lims to "Janzur" (who is really Katya, remember); "Janzur" (still firmly convinced he's Janzur, despite his tendency to talk in verbal clumps), realizes he's being mentally assaulted, and punches "Katya while telling "Sharra" to help him stop this mutiny. "Sharra" complies by neurodisrupting "Ghier" after allowing "Ghier" and "Katya" a chance to further incriminate themselves. Hippocrates gets the Tinoori to go and get some Relaxation for use to dose the fight, but before that becomes relevant, other people who have figured out that there is in fact body-swapping going on, argue them into standing down.

"Listen to yourself! You're not Janzur! Janzur uses articles!"
"Janzur" is convinced to go and talk to "Dr. Kye" - he seems somewhat fixated on opening doors and offering people food, as well as picking things up for removal to a museum. All right, Janzur concedes, he's possessed by a dog, the psychics aren't insane. Hippocrates locks everyone in the bridge, where they manage to finally all sort out who belongs to who. Once people know who they are, they can try to get their bodies back by running up against a lot of stat mismatches; "Kith" (really Janzur) and "Sharra" (really Katya) are dispatched to the rec room to spar for a while, as their dexes are likely to be somewhat discrepant. Sophia wins, getting back to her own body first.

Eva goes to interrogate the pirate ship, and gets the location of their base. Ghier gets interrogated about his experiment. He says it wasn't an experiment, it was a prototype. But Katya was much stronger than expected, and then all of a sudden people started dying! He starts to panic again. Eva eventually tells him that the Hippocrates has a room that's psychically shielded, and people were going in and out of it. Oh. Can he see? No.

Katya reads the memory of one of the pirates. Their MO is to slave the target ship and fly it from their second bridge. The ships and passengers/crew are generally sold, and the pirates have a base with a second, junky, ship, out near the Creek system, where their women and children are.

Sophia builds some blinky helmets to keep the teleporters (a father and two sons) from teleporting, and they're left in the brig for the remainder of the trip. The other pirates are put in (locked) staterooms of their own. Kith visits them every day with tea and little sandwiches with the crusts cut off, and has a series of Long Talks with them, as she brainwashes, er, rehabilitates, them. One of the sons is moderately well convinced by the time the group hits Creek. Eva gets taped confessions from everyone, and the pirates are turned over to the grandmothers.

Dr. Kye tries to convince people to loot the pirate base, which must have STUFF in it, but nobody thinks it's likely to have much very good. Creek will be dealing with it. On the other hand, he does succeed in convincing people to keep the pirate ship, for resale in Crux (as it may be a little tricky to sell Creek the ship and then ask them for charity in the form of Grandmothers for Vircus). Kith's convert tells them about the contact they have with Ozymandias, who buys the ships and slaves. There's a mail drop where they leave a message for him, and then one of Ozymandias's guys contacts them.

Then, it's off to Fernwash. As Sophia has dismantled her sonic anti-creature device in order to install it in the anti-teleport helmets, there is still trouble with blood lizards. However, Janzur manages to leap in front, taking all the damage, and Kith manages to fix him up again. The Fernwash entrance is guarded by Pyotr, who is disappointed that Anya isn't with this party.

Grandmother Greta talks to everyone, especially Ghier - it takes some convincing that this is a project worth coming out of retirement for, but he is talked into staying. Then, it's the formal introduction to the Deciders. The four who are there are the speaker for the decision, the improvisator, the source talent, and the balance talent.

There's a whole lot of discussion about psychic theory and the two relevant Decisions. Humans have (in the Deciders' terms) three psionic abilities - Power, Control and Serendipity. The Deciders have four - Source, Focus, Balance, and Outline. Due to past Decisions (wars, as it turns out), they have no Focus any longer, and nearly no Outline. Without their focus, their psychic gathering is very unstable, and the amount of noise produced by humans in the dust nebula prevents them from maintaining anything. The Fernwash project is attempting to do one of two things - to find a way to allow the humans not to be noisy, or to allow the Deciders to not be affected by the noise. Or, alternately, to bring humans into the Decider gathering to allow them to serve as Focus somehow. However, the first has so far failed, and all gatherings so far have proved unstable. Their eventual hope is that a stable gathering of humans-with-amulets and Deciders could bring in humans-without-amulets as well.

The warlike Decision does know that this Decision is on Creek. Everyone is a little astounded about this, but the Deciders say that one Decision does not actively fight against another. These Deciders, on the other hand, are not going to tell the humans things like where their homeworld is, as they understand it is the Decision of the outworld humans to war against the Deciders (not that they blame them). The Deciders can perceive the Destruction coming - this is something they can sense with Outline. They expect it to be here within a year or two. They know the humans resisted last time the Destruction occurred (well over a thousand years ago); they seem to mostly be assuming that the humans will resist again, however that was done.

Dr. Kye shows the Deciders a scan of the mural from the opera house. The younger wisewoman "translates" - they think it's an attempt to depict Decider and human in the human's more primitive art form. They don't think the opera house will be psionically helpful, though. Testing who is noisy and who isn't, they determine that Kith and Katya are noisiest; Kye is less so, and the non-psi types are even less so. The Deciders don't have any more spare amulets, so they're loth to give the party a second one; they give their last to Ghier instead. Kith gives them a box of baklava, which they are politely grateful for.

The group stays over in tents again, conspiring. When Jayla was consulted earlier, she said that if the party tells the Deciders everything, that will lead to a long-term unlikely good event becoming slightly more likely, and a short-term bad event becoming much more likely. Thus, it would probably be bad to tell them everything, though exactly what the bad parts of everything are is somewhat unclear. Should Ghier be warned to not tell them about Katya being Strength and "green"? The people who have spent time with Ghier thinks it's unlikely that he'll be able to keep it a secret.

The next morning, there are several test gatherings; Kith and Dr. Kye both try. Both are able to make Str of Psi and Pre of Psi rolls, and fortune checks, but when they are asked to roll their Coordination of Psi, they have trouble. Kith spends a karma point to use fortune on her Coor of Psi roll, and succeeds in all four - her Gathering is actually stable for a little while. This causes there to be a great effort to get Kith to stay with Fernwash, but she's able to resist by using the knowledge that she'll die of Kaufman degeneration if she stays.

On the way out, there's another attack of the blood lizards, but it is chased off again. More blood lizard hide is acquired for Jayla. Checking in at the post office, the party finds that the mail drop for Ozymandias's agent was cancelled the day after the party arrived.

For reference, we have the Decider names for both Decider and human psionics (and the other two human stat thrown in for good measure)