Battle Plans

"Strike swiftly, and give no quarter. The enemy will grant no mercy if you lose."

- Lord Weston Relia of Heidlemere, AS 1999

2780.162 - 201
Bastion -> Vircus -> Sparta -> The Deep Dust<>

The run begins with a discussion of the tactical uses of plasma bombs. It seems there really aren't any, so if the plasma bomb is going to be of use during the battle, it's going to have to be known by the fleet commanders well ahead of time. Probably for detonation at the outset, or to cover a retreat.

Then there's talk of how to get the plasma bomb to the outworlds. The Red-Nonesuch border is fairly lax, but a plasma bomb? They'll probably ask questions.

There's also much discussion about whether or not to bring munitions grade telepaths to Red, and who will care, and who will find out. War status reports from those in the know seem to indicate that Red is in serious need if they intend to stand against Blue for the whole time the Outworlds fleet is off fighting Deciders, as Nurl has pretty much fallen and Riden seems next, so if they're going to be helped, now is better than later.

And of course, what will Dmitri be willing to give up for his vengeance against the Deciders now that he's possessed by a loa? As it turns out, quite a lot...

Finally, there's much discussion of what, if anything, the Hippocrates can be paid for these many assistances they are providing. Eventually it's decided that the political benefits (including concrete ones like a free pass through Gateway) will suffice for now.

So, the crew works on persuading the outworlds committee plot to accept the plan that follows:

Meanwhile, Hippocrates will secretly work on/consider other plans: So, with the conference ended, and the issues decided, the main fleet moves out to the staging area in Sparta where they'll begin the long journey into the dust nebula. The Hippocrates picks up its telepathic cargo and heads for the inworlds.

During the jump from Nonesuch to Gateway, Max detects that the Hippocrates is being followed. That seems bad, as the crew thinks it has had bad luck lately with Jumpgate Monsters. Maury tries boosting the gain on the sensors for Max, but gives up when he examines the horrible things Max has done to the sensor set-ups just to get this far. Finally, Maury heads down to the rec room and tries to get some of the Munitions Grade Combat Telepaths to use their powers and investigate outside the ship. They assume he's hazing them, as everyone knows not to do that during jumps. Their suspicions are confirmed when Maury indicates the best place to do this from is the brig, (where they can turn on the psi dampers if anything goes wrong). Frustrated, Maury moves the psi-dampers to sickbay and sets up for the experiment there.

An Outworld telepath finally looks outside with his mind and after a few minutes of poking about, abruptly screams. Maury hits the psi dampers, shutting down the connection but giving the man a headache. "What was it?" "I don't know, but it's after us! And you're after us! and so's she!" Hmm... the telepath has gone bye-bye. Perhaps he needs some tea.

Meanwhile, Max notices that the apparition has disappeared. Eva and Katya examine the telepath carefully, with Katya poking around in his head to make sure he's not possessed. He doesn't seem to be, though he does seem a fair bit paranoid. It's wearing off now, though a bit of it temporarily rubs off on Katya.

But now, it's time to reenter normal space and arrive at Gateway. All goes normally, and the Nonesuch harbor pilot, his guards, the combat telepaths, and the Red Envoy all disembark. The Red Envoy gets the Hippocrates the free pass they were promised, and Hippocrates spends the time downloading mail, as he prepared to send his messages.

It seems most of the awake crew got some kind of mail since they were last in the inworlds. Selected excerpts are below:

To: HMF Hippocrates
From: Brochoan Protectorate Construction Battalion 1
Date: 2780.160

SecCom SitRep RepReqB

1) Nerele-Heidlemere jumpgate defenses eliminated.  Allied
Nerele-Tiras Jumpgate defenses eliminated.  Protectorate encircled.

2) 1st Protectorate Defense Fleet in standoff with encroaching forces.
2nd PDF 65% complete.  Resource drain severe: hampering PDF completion.

3) Alternative resource acquisitions required.  Significant payments
available.  Please Advise.

4) Encroaching forces on-planet negotiations.  Claim representation of
significant interest.  Original Hegemonic Line.  Please Advise.

5) Regardless of claim verification, negotiators requesting military
standdown pending determination of greater conflict.

6) Negotiators for disadvantaged sovereign also claims representation
of significant interest: Original Hegemonic Line.  Please Advise.

7) Neither negotiations yield significant knowledge of prime
obligations of Hegemonic Lines.  Please Advise.

8) Hegemonic Lines onboard HMF Hippocrates: Advise Status. Advise
associations with current conflicts.  

9) Prime Obligation of Hegemonic Lines: Advise Status.

Date: 2780.164
x-jump-fees: inworlds

Aunt Sharra!

You've probably heard already by now, I'm to be ``commended'' for the
Battle of Nurl.  They're making such a big deal about it, I wanted to
let you know not to believe *all* the fussing.  Well, you can believe
some of it, I guess, but I'm not allowed to give details on a
full-inworlds channel.  Afterwards it was pretty hard to believe, and
I'm sure if I had had *time* to be afraid, I would have been
terrified.  Maybe that's what they mean about the Fog of War.

The ceremony will be on 2780.190, on New Light.  I should be out of
the hospital by then.  I hope to see you!  I'll tell you all about


Date: 2780.142
x-jump-fees: inworld

Mr. Sinclair:

I realize we have... been on occasion at odds, in the past.  However,
I suspect that there are few who can properly appreciate my talents as
you might.  

Some months ago, I (as well as many others on the Well) spent some
time looking for the Blue Heir.  As is no doubt obvious, I did not
find her.  However, more recently, some early enquiries along those
lines have borne interesting fruit, which might well be extremely
profitable to one with the connections to pursue them.  

As it is now somewhat to my advantage to remove myself from the
current political climate both on and off of the Well, I have taken up
residence on Stannis' Law.  You can contact me here under this
address.  If you meet with me next time you are in system, I am sure
we can make arrangements to both our profit.

-Franklin de Witt. 

Date: 2780.156
x-jump-fees: full

Dear Katya - 

You'll be getting the full and formal announcements once they finish
chasing you around the Linked Worlds, but knowing your travels and the
state of commerce at present, I can't really expect them to arrive for
another year or so.  So...  are you sitting down?


I'm engaged to be married!  I can't wait for you to meet Dylanna,
she's everything I'd ever imagined, and nothing I'd ever expected, and
I just don't have the words to explain how happy we are.  I've
insisted that we not schedule the ceremony until we could contact you
and find out when you could be here - it just wouldn't be the same
without you in the wedding party.  (You will agree?  Of course you
will.  I don't know why they say it's only the bride who gets nervous
over these things).  

We hope to hear from you soon!


Date: 2780.136

Hail, Liberator:

I write to report a very disturbing phenomenon among we Stepchildren
recently.  There is a growing belief among many Stepchildren that
Dr. Cain, while to be feared and avoided, is nevertheless deserving of
the respect due a Creator.  It is not something that all Stepchildren
have come to believe, but it is particularly prevalent among those
whose close kin did not survive the nullification of the paingivers,
and those who have not strongly embraced the Book of the Hegemon as
the Law.  

We are quite sure that Dr. Cain himself is not present on Haven, and
we do not believe he is on Tinara, though we are not completely

Your servant, in the name of the Hegemon,


Well, some of that is disturbing. Stepchildren falling for Dr. Cain's Hegemonation, and Girl Scouts marrying Katya's brother. Man, you leave the inworlds for a couple of months and they go all crazy. People consider further mad plans like how to get a Brochoan engineering team to Vircus, but decide that those will have to wait until at least after the battle is decided.

The crew makes various responses to their friends and family:

"Here's the letter to Vance. I resisted the urge to say I'm so happy you got injured in this totally useless war, and I'm off to betray everything you ever stood for." -Sharra
and Hippocrates sends the expected mail to Commander Branch asking for the stalling while not confirming or denying the identity of any bloodlines. (We tell the Brochoah, the Brochoah tell the Blues, the Blues tell the Terrans, and then we're doomed.) He also apprises General Hornberg of the Blues about the coming return of the Red fleet, and the ever popular combat telepaths.

From: Eva and Hippocrates

Here's the deal: At the request of the Outworlds Alliance, to
compensate Red for losses to their Outworlds Squadron, this ship has
transported N munitions-grade telepaths to Gateway.  Significant
elements of that squadron will return in about 3 months, following the
Outworlds assault on a Decider base area.

From: Hippocrates

I recommend you make arrangements with the Brochoah, aiming for a
peace where you come out ahead, rather than taking further risks.
Even independent neutrality by the Brochoah would be a very powerful
guarantor of your security.  We can carry messages and/or negotiators
if peace settlement is desired, pending our return from the base assault."

To Commander Branch:

<copy of above>

"Nomarche requests:  Drag out negotiations.  Aim for enabling a comprehensive
peace settlement between Red and Blue by creating military standoff.

Our plan and timing: Returning to Outworlds for strike vs. Decider base.
We will be gone for at least two months, possibly three.

Response to items in your message:

1) Acknowledged
2) Acknowledged
3) No short-term prospects.  We are working on re-opening transit to
Vircus.  Timing uncertain, will discuss further.  Recommend you 
develop contingency plans based on attached data, both for limited
transport (i.e. HMF Hippocrates only) and for re-opening.  [Population and
infrastructure data on Vircus, "friendly contact re-established."]
4) Cannot answer at this time, per Prime Obligation.
5) Nomarche requests: (see above) do not stand down except as part of
comprehensive settlement.  Release of BlueFleet assets in Nerele system
would permit Blue strike before Red recovers strength.  
6) Cannot answer at this time, per Prime Obligation.
7) Both parties unaware of obligation.  Nomarche requests: do not inform
them at this time, due to possible information leakage to Terrans.
8) Telemon: Condition good.  Nomarche: Condition good.  Neither Line
affiliated with, or supports, or opposes, Red or Blue.  Peace between
Red and Blue strongly desired, preferably without conquest.  [And then
I look for a very careful and correct way of saying "feel free to sell
your alliegance to buy a peace settlement", without implying that their
alliegance is up to us.]
9) Situation remains serious.  We believe all necessary assets are known.  
Research on details of use is proceeding.  Political barriers still
a major difficulty.  Terran interference remains highly dangerous--
information security vs. Terrans is very high priority.  (Refer #4, #6, #7.)

#4, #6, and #7 will be addressed in person when possible."
Then it's time to head to Vircus:
"Mr. Ace - you can put the hammer down." -Hippocrates
"Let's make this for eights, because I'm feeling happy." -Pete
Arriving in the system, people discuss what to tell the Vircans as they'd like them to save everyone a day by bringing the plasma bomb out to meet them halfway, and they've previously told the Vircans to never touch the plasma bomb.
"The time has come to go into the most holy of holy rooms and push the button!" -Ace
"Er, someone else talk." -All
Eva tells the Vircans to unlock the secure storage room and load the plasma bomb carefully and bring it out to the Hippocrates. They think it might be a test, but as expected, it turns out that their hearts are bound by the chains of command! So they comply and fly the plasma bomb out to the crew on Space Engine Number 9. They ask for the blessing of the SkyGuard, having successfully delivered this most holy of artifacts. Ace bestows blessings on everyone present. Full speed ahead!

Back at Gateway, Max puts up anti-scanning interference to prevent Klothos from scanning the nova bomb. The ship has a no scanning us pass, but no one believes that will help much. Max reports that they are correct and he is indeed thwarting scanning from somewhere. Katya puts up an anti-psi-scanning field as well, but detects no encroachments as yet.

The harbor pilot gets aboard and pilots the ship to the jumpgate. Just before jumping, Hippocrates notices that he gives an extra gratuitous confirmation of their intent to jump, but it doesn't seem dangerous or anything. However, moments before the jump, Katya has her anti-scanning field shredded by superior force. There's no time to figure out from where though, as the ship jumps seconds later.

Katya mind-reams the pilot who is thinking that that was a pretty easy thing he just did to earn double bonuses. Woo for him. Sadly, other than providing the timing, it seems he doesn't know anything. Eva gathers up all the facts from everyone and thinks that the thing that this affair reminds her the most of is the bowl on Gateway. The way it shredded through Katya's anti-scanning defense implies vast psi power, but people protest that the bowl is still turned off. Perhaps Klothos/MM/Red has figured out a way to use the bowl in a limited fashion even while it's off?

Well, it seems that Klothos (probably) now knows something, but too bad for her, since we're taking the plasma bomb to the outworlds and it's not coming back...

Max and Katya look for things following them through jumpgates, but don't really detect anything. Well, Katya detects a nice homey feeling outside the ship. She thinks it would probably be quite comforting to be out there just now, but is not so foolish to suggest this to anyone. After a bit, the feeling passes.

Back to normal space. Mirris confirms that the pilot was paid extra to give a precise timing signal on when they were about to jump, but doesn't know more about who paid him than, "Someone up higher than me." Maury tries to teleport some random useful thing to himself from the pilot, and gets a chit that Ace recognizes as a security card key. It has Klothos's sigil on it. Perhaps that will be useful someday.

On the way to Sparta there's another mail call as Ace gets a letter this time:

Date: 2780.168
X-jump-fees: outworlds

Ace, and company:

        I have recently discovered that one of my dear friends, namely
yourself, has decided to make a move for greater influence in certain
arenas.  I applaud your enthusiasm, and expect that you will have
interesting days to come.

        We were considering such a maneuver on our own behalf, but
were unable to uncover the entry mechanism until it was too late.
Well done.

        Of course, we'll be supporting your bid in any way you can
afford, as we would find it advantageous to have someone who owes us a
favor, as you do, running certain operations.

        Finally, it was indeed a wise idea to have your identities
hidden for at least the initial phases of your play.  I believe most
of your competitors still have no idea who it is they are currently
facing.  We'll do our best to keep our inside knowledge from falling
into the wrong hands.  

        Do stay in touch.

-Genghis Jones
Well isn't that interesting:
"That's lovely mail. We should send more mail like that." - Maury
But now, it's time to rendezvous with the Spartan fleet and head off to the deep dust. The crew invites Davira and her tactical advisor over for dinner. No wait, they amend that to "over for a briefing conference" at which they'll discuss the plasma bomb and its use. On further reflection, they add Janina Maegera and her navigator/pilot Aristotle to the guest list as well.
"The Inopportune Moment - the only thing in the universe more dangerous than Dr. Cain." -Mirris
Aristotle, Ace, and Max (who remembers the life of some guy from Pierogi who was good at this sort of thing), get together and have a navigation conference to get them through the dust nebula. Ace proves the best navigator and eventually they manage to plot a course that will cut 9 days off the trip each way.

Meanwhile, everyone else is discussing the best way to use the Nova bomb. Sneak it in first? But then the ship sneaking it in either has to leave it there unprotected while they run, or die in the explosion. Well, the IM can certainly escape the blast by skipping to the future, but they can't sneak very well. Ace, with the Hippocrates is by far the best sneaker, but how will they get away in time? Perhaps the bomb (or the ship?) needs to be teleported before detonation?

Katya and Mirris fuss with making a metaconcert that could simulate a Bastion Navigator's ability to get targeting teleport data from Hippocrates to Maury, but in the end they don't think they can quite pull it off.

Finally, it's decided that the best plan is to switch pilots and have Ace sneak in with the IM and the plasma bomb, detonate it in the center of the Decider fleet and jump to the future before being destroyed. Then the rest of the fleet will sweep in and clean up.

Janina agrees, but insists that before she lets Ace pilot her ship, she's going to need a blood sample. What's this? A blood test for drugs? A Decider imposter screening? Maury thinks it's probably a biometric piloting system, but isn't sure that blood is needed. Ace counters by saying that he'll give up the blood of she gives up her family tree. She counters that she'll give up her family tree if Ace gives her the dope on Katya. Ace declines and this negotiation session goes on and on into the evening, but eventually the two of them hammer out an agreement. Ace gives her the blood, and off she goes back to her ship.

Now that that battle plan is agreed upon, people settle in for several days of waiting as the fleet plods through the dust nebula. The Tinoori take this opportunity to conduct tests of their new alchemical project, Candor. This seems to involve asking lots of people lots of personal embarrassing questions which they can resist answering if they concentrate, but sometimes don't.

Among the questions asked of the various folk participating (Sharra, Eva, Mirris, Katya, Ace) are:

Sharra: What secret haven't you told anyone?
(she couldn't think of one)
Katya: Why is Jim mad at you?
He's not mad, he's sad.
Crossed-out speech bubble, crossed-out speech bubble.
Ace: What's your real name?
<sputter sputter> Fordson.
Why don't you tell people that?
(essentially, because it was a name that could get him in trouble, and could get other people in trouble)
Mirris: What's the most recent abomination you've committed?
I infiltrated the news office on New Light. And it wasn't even to save All People.
Eva: Would you like to sleep with Elite Therive?
I don't answer questions like that.
Ace: What's the worst piloting accident you've ever had?
<describes an accident>
Mirris: Why should we kill you?
You totally should kill me. I'm a huge threat to the crew, if I got compromised I could play havoc with the mission.
Katya: What question should we be asking you that we haven't?
<other people whispering secrets to me>
NBW: "Do you wish to sleep with Elite Therive?"
Mirris: "You mean to say, Are you female?"
A good time is had by all...

Meanwhile, Max has noticed that the fleet is slowing down and takes his concerns to Maury and Hippocrates. It seems there's some build-up in the intakes of the engines of the smaller ships that's slowing them down. Maury investigates the intakes on his engines and finds that same build-up. Examining it, they decide it's regular dust cloud material, but it's strangely organized into strands which become sticky with each other and gum everything up. There's some muttering about how they've discovered the biological DNA underpinnings of the dust nebula, but mostly they concentrate on getting the stuff cleaned out. Hippocrates serves as a drydock for several of the smaller ships and gets them back into shape, and everyone in the fleet is apprised of the difficulty. After about a day of this, the build-up particles become less dense and finally go away. Max and Maury save some samples and remember the location of the highest concentrations for future study.

Finally, it is time to start the operation. Max and Ace transfer with the plasma bomb over to the Inopportune Moment, and start sneaking in. There's some discussion as to how they will contact the fleet when the mission is accomplished if they are flying forward in time, but the fleet is pretty sure that the exploding plasma bomb will prove a fine signal.

Ace, Max, and the rest of the IM crew are momentarily confused as they enter the vast dust nebula hole where the fleet should be and find nothing. Then as they make their way to the center, Ace suddenly has to dodge a ship when the collision alarms go off. He successfully manages to avoid the thing, but then can't see it any more. Oh dear, the entire Decider fleet is here, but cloaked! Well, time to carefully explore.

Max does amazing things with the passive scanners, while Ace desperately dodges invisible moving obstacles. Eventually, they come to an obstacle that's not moving. Hmmmm... It's big. It's invisible. Oh dear. It's a Decider Battle Station. And it's off in the corner of the clearing. Far more exploring awaits...

Meanwhile, the fleet is awaiting the signal, but what they get instead is a Decider patrol! An orangeliner and several redliners come up on the Hippocrates and a couple of escorts. Battle is joined. Dmitri heads to the bridge where he can see the Deciders on the viewscreens. As the fight progresses, Dmitri occasionally claims a Decider ship as his own and concentrates. His hands drip with black ichor and the enemy ship shakes. Then it is still. People are very creeped out, but they keep fighting. At least he's on our side. The patrol is dispatched, but still no signal...

Back in the Decider fleet, the IM is still sneaking around detecting things. Ace and Max have sussed out a general pattern to the Decider ships. New ships we haven't seen before, which they call greyliners, approach the battlestation and enter. Sometime later a redliner comes out. Ace follows the path of the redliners to a gathering area on the other side of the clearing, dodging ships all the way. As they press into the gathering area, the size of the ships starts rising. They find more yellowliners and even a couple of blackliners before discovering another, larger battle station.

"Ace, can we not fly inside the gun?" -Max after taking a particularly nervewracking sensor scan...
With amazing stealth, Ace parks the IM right off the edge of the central battlestation in the midst of what appears to be the rallying area for the various fleets. Dr. Salvador starts gearing up for the tempport, ("Is he gathering with himself?"), while the bomb is armed and ejected. Moments before the bomb goes off, Max actively scans the whole area and transmits that data to the fleet, just before the IM vanishes.

The bomb was almost perfectly placed, but the fleet was more powerful than expected. Dr. Kye's previous estimate didn't include any information on the several battle stations, (one of which went down with the bomb), but to compensate there are fewer ships here than were expected, even before the bomb. The outworld fleet swoops in, and mass combat commences.

After about an hour of bloody combat, the Hippocrates picks up a panicked distress call from, of all things, the Elmer's Gold. Apparently, their captain is unconscious, and they're surrounded by redliners. The Hippocrates arrives to find that the Gold has indeed been redlined into dust, and now there's a squadron of orangeliners moving in to finish it off. Hippocrates and four escorts come to the rescue!

These orangeliners and redliners seem to be a bit less frighteningly coordinated as the patrol ships were, but their greater numbers makes the battle harsh. Dmitri covers the floor on the bridge with his black ichor, (Mirris saves some for Sophia), and engineers run to and fro repairing every system in sight! One of the escorts is destroyed completely, and another is unpowered. Debris is hurtling directly at the Gold, and the Hippocrates has been redlined several times. Maury tries to teleport himself over towards the Gold but doesn't quite have the range.

"Permission to abandon ship?" -Maury
"That's leave the ship, Mr. Grimblemaury."-Hippocrates
Things look quite grim as Hippocrates detects a yellowliner moving in to finish them off. Suddenly, the Inopportune Moment appears and her added guns help quite a bit. Almost all in this little battle escape, as in the last moments, Aristotle, at the helm of the Hippocrates, dives in to scoop up the last of the damaged but not destroyed escorts and drags it to safety, while Ace on board the Moment manages to Starship Grapple with the Gold long enough to rescue them as well!

The clean up continues until the outworlds fleet declares victory and starts collecting survivors for the long trip back to civilization.

Puttering (in the deep dust)