We do not sleep to dream our dreams.
-- Sophist, dolphin poet, 1821 AS
2779.125 - 2779.155 AS
Anya briefly considers leaving her plasma brand behind on Vircus for the Blades and Engineers to examine and train with. Eventually, she decides she doesn't want to deal with the death rate that would no doubt entail and keeps it on board.
The last of the crew comes up from the planet with Vocari Dyvas in Space Engine No. 9. Janzur is there looking all bold and brave until the Vocari is distracted, when it becomes clear he has a particularly bad Kaufman headache and heads for the tubes. Cassandra also accompanies them up from the surface. She has finished a new painting of the Vircus landscape from a viewport out of the dome, and shows a copy of it off to the crew:
A smoky, barren-looking landscape. The sun is a dim reddish glow through the haze, and the few plants look scraggly and beaten. High overhead is a single gleaming star, which pierces through the haze unblemished. Off to the left, a column of people marches from the foreground into the dim haze of the faraway; only their backs are visible, but the nearer ones seem to be uniformed, the farther away ones a bit more ragged. Along the right side of the painting, a column of people approaches the foreground - the column is thinner, but the people stand proudly, chins up and eyes fierce. The front four people of the oncoming column seem burnished, almost glowing, and wear black sashes with red, green, and blue stripes, each marked with a golden circle-and-stars.Many people nod knowingly at the image and all it portends, and then head off to their various launch stations to make the ship ready to depart. The Vocari asks when the Hippocrates will be returning. Jayla tells them that it will be approximately two weeks, but there is no hard date set.
The cargo bay is left with eight fighters and the still disassembled Exotic Dancer; the Elite Shuttle and the Nomarche shuttle are left on Vircus (the former temporarily), and the crew heads off towards Crux.
At Gateway, they get two jumpgate pilots. Or at least, one jumpgate pilot and one observer. The observer looks a bit distracted but doesn't really comment on anything. About midway through the trip, Maury and Jayla have a conference, and eventually, Jayla is nominated to walk up to the observer and attempt to make a drug buy.
The observer is somewhat unsettled by Jayla's direct approach and confides that he was expecting to speak with Ms. Silence. Jayla tells him that she was sent by Ms. Silence and is looking for glitter. The observer responds that he indeed has a vial of glitter on him. As it happens, it was intended as a gift from Mighty Klothos to Ms. Silence. In completely unrelated news, Klothos was hoping that a message chip could be delivered to Katya's father at her convenience as a favor to Klothos. Many people nod, and Jayla says that she doesn't see any reason that that wouldn't be possible. There is a general agreement that the message chip will be delivered to Kayta along with the glitter. Jayla spends the rest of the trip chatting up both pilots and trying to get a feel for them. They're working stiffs, it appears. The message chip is scanned for bugs and bombs (really small ones!) after the pilots leave at Nonesuch, but nothing is found. The "gifts" are otherwise left undisturbed for Katya.
On to Crux. The party lands and speaks with Dmitri's assistant. She indicates that Dmitri is off planet - he is currently heading to his home on Pierogi to make the arrangements he never had a chance to make before and see his family buried. He took Vela with him, and she isn't sure when they'd return. The assistant however, is fully informed about the fighters-for-supplies deal, takes all of the lists that various people have put together on Vircus' needs, and says it will take her about two days to fill them.
The party also arranges for another mail trip. They briefly discuss complaining about the bug in the last mail trip, but decide not to make a fuss. There's less mail this time around, so the party received 75 Asters for the mail. Six of the fighters are dropped off (Jayla gloats again about the inadvisability of naming your fighters) and after a couple days of fussing around, the supplies are loaded into the shuttle bay and cargo holds.
Before heading back towards the inworlds, the party takes a detour through the dust nebula near Sparta. En route, Sophia is put to work building a dust nebula material collector. People seem to mostly want a tube that will suck in some dust, but by the time she's done with it, Sophia has built a giant pair of jaws at the front of one of the fighters which chomps and chews the nebula dust and stores it in a secure compartment.
She explains its operation to Anya, who is given the task of driving the fighter around in the dust nebula collecting samples. She fills it up until the little yellow light ("mostly full") goes off, and then stops collecting dust. When flying back she notices the red light ("overfull") blinks once or twice, but it doesn't seem worth comments until it happens a couple of more times during unloading as Jayla is considering what to do with the stuff. It's decided that the container not be opened, as various theories about forming micro-turbs in the hallways are bandied about, but instead simply transfered to the lab for testing.
After the samples are collected, the ship proceeds back to the vacuum wicket where the Last Hegemonic Girl Scout was found months ago. There, Maury explains the next test of the Redline Defense prototype, involving close passes to the wicket and lots of scans. Maury sets up the defense again, whereupon Jim takes the helm and plunges the Hippocrates down into the gravity well. Dodging flotsam and jetsam all the way, Jim manages to bring the Hippocrates down to the brink of destruction and back again while Maury scans the reaction of the defenses. In the end, Maury declares the test a success, though the redline defense evidences no particular assistance in dealing with black holes, paired or otherwise.
Their experimentation completed, the party begins the trip back to Vircus. This time through Gateway, there is only one harbor pilot, and he seems to have no particular secret agenda. Jayla, reminded by the idea of whales, talks to Sophia about saving cells of some sort to preserve her bloodline in case she's killed. Sophia says ova would be best, and puts her on hormones for the month so she can get lots.
At Vircus, the Hippocrates finds a pair of fighters waiting near the gate to escort them in. They are warmly greeted, and everyone is quite pleased with the rich bounty the SkyGuard has brought them in the way of organics and spare parts. Vocari Dyvas is informed that there isn't really a specific return date this time, and he says that they will keep faithful until the SkyGuard can visit them again.
On to Juice! On the way there, Sophia takes a look at Jim's book. She describes it as "High Hegemonic technology, based in part on some Alliance tech." Jim thinks that makes sense.
There's a Blue fleet hanging around out by the jump gates doing training excercises; they don't seem to be issuing press releases about what brings them there. Coming into orbit around the planet, there are a number of orbital stations present. Ships which wish to land on the planet must do so at Cerulean Bay, the only floating island reinforced enough to stand the stresses of starship landing and takeoff. Additionally, one needs some sort of business on Juice; they don't encourage tourism. Seeker's whale project is near the floating island Triton's Ford; assisting Seeker is given as the "business", and the crew complement is given as ten.
Landing at the spaceport the crew places a call to Seeker. He's surprised to see them, as he only recognizes a couple of those present, but invites people to Triton's Ford and their facility to see the whales waiting to be born. Checking around at the travel agents, the party manages to rent a boat for 50 Asters a day and head off to Triton's Ford.
After a couple days of ocean sailing, the party arrives at the floating city. Sook spends much of the journey admiring the planet wide satellite network set-up, a necessity on the water planet. They are greeted by a delegation of human techs and several dolphins. Much of the facility itself is underwater with the floating structure to support it, so before getting down to talks, everyone gets into their various bathing gear and is given a quick lesson on the use of rebreathers before heading down into the depths.
Underwater, they find a structure supporting three large birthing pods. Each pod is made of some stiff fibrous material, and is connected to various machines for monitoring and regulation of feeding, etc. The dolphins explain that the births of this very first set of whales is expected within the week, though of course they can't give an exact date. A few party members notice that there are some extra jellyfish hanging around, but are told that those are isinglasses, and not very interesting.
Joining everyone back up on the surface, introductions are made. Present are the dolphins: Seeker, Architect, Teacher, Guide, Curmudgeon, Memory, Physician, and Keeper as well as a bunch of human techs. The dolphins dart back and forth checking on things during the conversations, but Seeker seems to not have a clear job, so he's able to talk to the party. Guide also doesn't have much technical to be doing so stay around, apparently to keep a watchful eye on Seeker.
Anya asks Seeker about his dream visions and tells her about the Farseer and their quest. Seeker doesn't seem to think there is a strong relationship between the two things. He maintains that whales are needed for the future of Juice, but won't really elaborate on why. The party gets the impression that he knows more than he is saying, but Guide keeps giving him narrow looks, and does a fair job keeping him on the straight and narrow. Anya tells him the nursery rhyme, which he says sounds like the Twins - she says the group will be heading to the north pole. He advises dressing warmly, and to beware of icerazors. ("They can get vicious when they're hungry. They get vicious when they're not hungry too.")
Seeing that Seeker is the weak link, Jayla tries to distract some of the extra dolphins by taking them aside and asking lots of questions about the equipment, how it works and where it came from and so on. Apparently, the main pieces of equipment came from Tinara, and were heavily modified by the dolphins and humans who are fairly knowledgeable about these things. At one point, though, they had serious trouble with getting the membranes surrounding the fetuses just right, and so had to consult with some specialists to get the formulation just so. Everyone seems quite willing to lie to Jayla about the identity of the specialists, though.
Meanwhile, Anya and the rest of the party have moved on to discussion of Simeon Bellarion. While Seeker dodges questions left and right, Jim notices that all of the isinglasses (who do appear in his book and so were around on Cerulean at least that long ago) in the area (usually various shades of red and yellow) turned white at the first mention of Bellarion's name. Ruehan notices that the isinglasses almost have sentient minds according to his sense. When questioned about this, most people respond, "Um. Yeah. Jellyfish change colors." Seeker doesn't even want to say that much though. He's really bad at hiding secrets.
Just as Seeker is about to finally crack, Physician notes that there is activity at the whale pods. The interrogation is completely disrupted by a whale birthing. The whale is extracted from the pod and helped to the surface by several dolphins who manage to get it breathing and start trying to feed it. The baby whale (pretty much the size of a dolphin) is dubbed "Scoot" for the way he burst right out of the pod.
The party is invited to the "Whales Return" celebration that evening. Seeing the party as the only chance they have to get Seeker away from his more deceitful friends, people agree. The party arranges for Jayla to interrogate Seeker, while everyone else distracts anyone who goes near them. Sook and Sophia handle all of the human males, Anya takes the dolphins, and everyone else tries to pick up stragglers. At the party: Anya learns to chase herring, Sophia is introduced to upside-down underwater jello-sparky shots (though since she can't swim, several of the men have to help her stay in the correct position), people learn that Memento Mori has a number of expensive submarines wandering around the seas "doing research", Sook and Curmudgeon ignore each other from across the room in that good natured hacker way, most everyone is given swimming lessons, and Jim makes a fair dent in the keg of Sparky Cola.
Meanwhile, Jayla talks to Seeker (with Ruehan hovering in the background), using all her conversational and persuasive powers to try and find out what's up. Seeker is very uncomfortable confessing, but does eventually explain. The isinglass are part of the Future of Juice. This is something that all the seers on Juice know, and many of them know how to understand the isinglasses (the ones around here understand some Intergal). He doesn't know what the future is, but it's something that the seers are trying to bring about. Seeker also knows that the whales are important in bringing the future to pass, but not why. What about Simeon Bellarion, then? He's the one who first talked to the isinglasses, and told them not to tell humans until it was time. The whales have something to do with that. Seeker really doesn't want to talk about it (humans aren't supposed to know about this), so it still sounds like he's being evasive, but Ruehan peeks in his head and determines that it is in fact, all one tangle, and that Seeker only has an outline. The party breaks up with Sook and Sophia valiantly resisting all of the seduction attempts thrown their way. Having decided that they have gotten about as much as they were going to get out of the dolphins, they party heads to sleep, for travel to the North Pole in the morning.
After a good night's sleep, the party heads into Triton's Ford to rent scuba equipment, heated drysuits, propellant tanks and other useful things for exploring underwater at the North Pole. Another couple of days of ocean sailing and the party approaches the great icecap of the north. Getting the boat as close as they can, the group breaks out their equipment and starts the underwater journey to the precise north pole. Using the GPS and a inertial compass to get them closer, the party pokes through numerous dangerous looking ice crags and underwater grottos en route.
With their destination seemingly just hundreds of meters away, the party finds a shifting mostly-circular area of underwater ice, with a slight current pulling them towards the north. Following the current, the party experiences underwater combat for the first time, as an icerazor attacks Jayla several times before finally being dispatched by the party members wielding the slow-to-load but deadly harpoon guns.
Approaching the pole, they find the current getting stronger, and are forced to navigate several difficult ice caves filled with sharp pointy ice. For their efforts they are rewarded with more small bruises but finally make it to the other side. Of course, once past the final obstacles, the current becomes overpowering, and one by one, the party members are sucked out of sight, down down into the depths beneath the North Pole.
A short time later, people wake up on an underwater beach in some sort of air filled cave. The ceiling seems mostly made of ice, although there are some more colorful bits here and there that are clearly crystal of some sort. There's an ice passage that may lead out of the cave, but of more interest is the strange experiences people had after being dragged down by the current. There is much discussion of various visions had by those present.
"Was anyone else's dream vague and yet specific?" -SophiaAmong the main themes appear to be a coming disaster/war/experiment which has already started hurting/affecting someone far away; the same someone hurt last time; a bunch of people close who need to be protected in groups possibly identifiable as various sentient races the party has encountered; something that needs to be taken/installed/started at a place/thing that is broken, so another place/thing needs to be substituted, both being made of silver.
Jayla states that for purposes of metaphor, humans, jellicals, and dolphins probably all count as one thing, as they all use human DNA (dolphins are uplifted too). The frequent child references are deduced by Anya to refer to the isinglasses; she also thinks that the "silver bowl" is where the material for the silver tower came from. Jim looks up the Palatium Tamarch and says that it was built by the First Brochoah Construction Battalion.
"Hey, Sophia, what was your dream about?" -JimTalk of the silver thing that needs to have something placed on/in/around it leads several to remember an old nursery rhyme about a silver spire:
"That was what I was trying to fish out of everyone else!" -Sophia
Silver Dome, Silver SpireTalk of a silver spire leads Sophia to recall the great silver spire atop the dome of the Palatium Tamarch, Residence of the Hegemons, on Ridena lost. Talk of a silver bowl leads others to recall another nursery rhyme about a frog.
Here I stand and face the fire.
Silver Spire, Silver Dome
Rainbow arch above my home.
Frog be happy, frog jump highDiscussion continues along various paths, trying to bring understanding to the various metaphors. Most people seem to think that the group currnently being attacked (the ones were attacked badly last time but are currently mostly outside of our ability to protect) are the Deciders. This causes Sook to make an announcement: no, those images clearly represent her people. "What people?", everyone wonders.
Leave his prints up on the sky
Frog be hungry, frog turn round
Eat a mountain to the ground
Frog's old mountain now a hole
Dig his nest a silver bowl
Frog get thirsty when he wake
Drink a river, spit a lake
Frog be sitting in his home
Worry for a falling dome
Frog be worried for his head
Weave his blanket, green blue red
Frog all settled for to rest
Pull his blanket 'cross his nest
That would be the four dimensional, hive minded, shape-shifting people of whom Sook is a part. They were badly beaten down by the Flames last time, and are starting to get hit again this time, so drones such as Sook have been scouring everywhere for a means of resisting the flames. Sook is the first one to have a lead, that being the party. This is all incredibly secret, and shouldn't be told to anyone else, Sook insists. Then comes a brief explanation of drones, how very few look like humans because humans are difficult to emulate. Most are smaller/simpler things like Jayla's parakeet, and there is a large one under the starport here on Juice, that Sook needs to repair in her original capacity as maintenance drone.
Well, this all takes a bit of digesting, so the party starts the long trek on the path out of the ice cave ("Off to find the Actually Dangerous part!"). The path ends up on top of the icecap, not underwater at all, as if the party was thrust upwards a long ways after being sucked down into the depths. The group spends the rest of the day making their way across the ice back to the boat, where they gratefully rest the night before beginning the three day journey back to the spaceport the next morning.