"This is my quest
The Well -> Craterrock
A bunch of people go gambling - several, like Mirris and Kith, eventually have to run off on various errands due to not being in the run, leaving Ace, Max, Katya, and Kye as the Serious Gambling team, and Jim and Anya as security. Jayla is still out talking to various people, and Sophia is continuing her boycott of the Well and remains on the ship. Ace has a gambling fund of 3800 asters, all from people's personal stashes, including the money Dr. Kye got from the White factory.
Kye explains that the money was all embezzled by the factory's accountant, who was keeping two sets of books, and came from drug profits anyway.
"About four wrongs brings you back in the neighborhood of a right. - KyeAce picks a room with a psi damper, and a high-stakes high-cleverness game with three other opponents. He's the only person at the table starting without a Babe on his arm - Katya makes rounds in and out of the room so she can do some psi-scanning, and when she's in the room she hangs decoratively on Ace's arm.
"You're thinking lefts." - Ace
Max notes that there's a lot of people who look like they work security for the casino trying to look inconspicuous, but there's also a guy who has the look of a security guard who isn't one. He's definitely paying attention to the group. During Katya's circuit outside the room, Ace acquires a new moll, and becomes a little distracted. He lures one of the other players into doubling the bet, by losing a round.
Katya returns, and enters into feminine combat with Ace's new moll - she vanquishes the interloper with her puppy dog eyes. The "fake security guy" heads out of the room, trailed by Max. He goes to a phone, and Max strolls by, trying to eavesdrop. Not too much is audible. Jim proceeds out to hide behind a potted bush nearby.
Meanwhile, Ace has defeated one of the other three at the table (Opponent Two); he's about 3200 up, not including the 50 to buy into the game. Opponent Three pushes the bet up to 3000 asters, more than Ace started with in chips, so now it'll be troublesome for him to lose. Anya notes that the bodyguard for Opponent One is preparing himself to do something.
Anya heads over and taps Ace on the shoulder, to tell him this. This causes a bit of a fuss - the hangers-on aren't supposed to disrupt the game. Ace asks the dealer to validate his hand. My goodness! There are only eleven cards in Ace's down stack! Opponent One is shocked, shocked, that Ace is cheating! Ace is offended that such an accusation could be leveled against an innocent such as him. ("Make a roll with any umbrage skill you have.")
Casino security declares that they're reviewing the tapes. Opponent One declares that he doesn't have to stand for this! He's leaving! Security doesn't think that would be a good idea. No, he wants to go. Security really does have to insist. In the end, he and his bodyguard leave the casino, without their chips, under Escort, and are not seen again.
Out behind his potted plant, Jim hears the fake security guy say "Well, hurry up" and hang up, and head back into the gaming room. Back at the gaming table, Opponent Three's moll engages in feminine combat with Katya, trying to glare her into retreat. Again, this distracts Ace a bit, but he manages to hold his own in the round. Katya tries to guilt Opponent Three for taunting Ace, but his own moll bolsters him. The stakes reach 6000 asters, and Ace wins a round. He tries to walk away - Opponent Three nearly manages to convince him that walking away now will just admit that Ace isn't really a man, but Ace has just enough will to resist being drawn back in. Ace and Katya retreat, winnings in hand (11,550 total), and Katya gives a mocking wave to the other moll.
As the group heads out, the fake security guy is following nonchalantly. Katya reads his mind, and gets that he's thinking that he was hoping they'd stay for one more hand or so, as whoever he is expecting hasn't arrived yet.
Anya drops back to ask if he's following them for any particular reason? Yes, he says. May she ask what it is? No. He does admit that he's being paid very well to follow them. She asks how much it would cost for him to take a coffee break? He thinks about 5C (i.e. 500 asters).
Ace subtly putpockets his winnings on Kye and Max while Anya is still distracting the tail, and the pair of them head back towards the Hippocrates on their own, nobody's problem. Two twelve-year-old girls spot Jim, and giggle mightily while taking pictures of him. Anya comes back to report that the tail will take a coffee break for 500 asters (he waves). It doesn't really seem worth it, though, as he's no doubt already alerted his contacts.
There is a brief moment to consider who on the Well still hates the crew of the Hippocrates, but Ace is probably still hunted, and Citizens Lamarr and Julius may well not be pleased with them. Anya suggests hiring a limo for the trip back to the spaceport. The group heads back into the casino, where Ace impersonates a lucky but nervous tourist and asks for an armored limo. The casino concierge offers, instead: "We'll do better than that, sir, we'll put you up for the night!" He paints a glowing picture of the hospitality suite - surely the lovely lady would like to try their hot tubs? The lovely lady glowers at the concierge.
Jayla and two of her friends have shown up nearby, driven in the friends' car. She ponders staying overnight at the casino hotel versus leaving now, at least, as far as All People are concerned. She thinks it might be slightly better to stay in the casino, but Ace thinks spending too much more time there will be a little too much temptation for him. When he expresses willingness to pay extra for an armored limo, the casino summons one and comps it. The twelve-year-olds return with their autograph books, which they clamor, giggling, for Jim to sign, and then the party flees into the limo.
In the limo, Katya puts shields around herself and Ace. The driver calls through the intercom: "Sir, I'm afraid you're being followed." Apparently there are a couple of vans in pursuit. Jayla directs her friends on approximately the same course, to stay nearby, while Ace directs the limo driver to lose the vans. That'll cost extra, of course, but the casino is comping it.
The limo loses one of the vans, and approximately joins up with Jayla's car. Ace wants to know if Jim is up for blowing out a tire on the other van - of course he is! Max points out that it might be a poor idea to cause too much trouble on a fake tourist visa. More ideas are tossed around - throw a life raft out the sunroof while driving down a narrow alley! Or caltrops! Though that's not much different than blowing out a tire. In the end, Jayla advises the limo driver, and between that and his own skills, he manages to lose the other van by the time they reach the spaceport. The driver, whose name Anya determines is Winston, is tipped 100 asters. He'd be happy to drive for them again any time they're on the Well, and gives Anya his card (he also lets Anya know he's unmarried). Anya, alas, does not have a card to give him back.
Ace gives everyone double their seed money back. Wait, what about the people who didn't put in money, they just helped? Oh, right. Everyone else gets 100 asters, and Ace tells Katya she can be his moll any time.
Then, it's off to Craterrock!
Wait, wait, what about the Dancer? Or Jim's scooter? Well, Ace has determined that Giambrone has moved the ship to a private landing pad on his turf, and there's no obvious way to lift it. And Jim's talked to the guy who bought the scooter, and thinks he might be able to trade for a different scooter, but at that point, why not just buy a new scooter? Jim can't decide whether he's sentimentally attached to that scooter or just wants a scooter, but they're really expensive.
Well, then it's off to Craterrock! (Leaving Ruehan and Maury (with the Santa Maria key, oops) behind with Kith). Anya talks to the Tinoori about not needing to kill Mirris. They say that if she attempts abomination upon them or the crew, they will attempt to kill her, but other than that they aren't hunting her. There is some polling of other crew members about whether they think Mirris has mind controlled them again, but nobody thinks it's likely, and the Tinoori are currently rating it at fairly low probability. Sophia works on a project: a holoscreen with a view of a garden, and Jim sews a new merit badge on his sash.
Once in the system, the crew starts considering visiting the Santa Maria to look for Kye's data crystal. Except that they don't have the key. Hmm. Well, they could try breaking in, that could be exciting. Max, scanning the living daylights out of the system, notes that there are about a dozen probes moving around the asteroid belt scanning for things. Max enables silent running on the ship, and Ace starts sneaking. The probes don't seem to have noticed the Hippocrates yet, but it seems like they're just looking at asteroids.
Max picks up what the nearest probe is saying - about every three minutes it sends a compressed data packet down to the planet. A couple of packets get recorded, and Ace, Jim, and Sophia have a go at seeing what they say. They aren't really encrypted, just compressed, so they manage to get it - basically the probe is saying "I just looked at an asteroid, and it was very boring. 197 hours down, approximately 36,000 hours to go."
"36,000 hours? We don't have to start worrying for a month or so." -MaxAt lunch on the way in towards the planet, Moment Before Dawn and Night Blooming Wisteria are sure that First Frost of Autumn is hiding up in the ceiling. There is a lot of "You come down here this instant, young man! We perceive you up there!" and First Frost is finally lured out of the Jeffries tubes. He's wearing a bandanna, and is a strange silvery color - he has apparently found something to coat his fur with that he says makes it harder to perceive him. He is still quite dubious about the Bad People who do False Things, like Mirris and Dr. Kye, but is eventually calmed down and taken back to the Tinoori stateroom for a bath. He admits to having been Haunting the ship.
"Let's start worrying now!" -Ace
Once the planet is nearly reached, it looks like there are two somewhat high-tech camps - one that Dr. Kye says is where there's an IPX dig, and another one. The other one is immediately dubbed Evil and probably Memento Mori, and probably also the people controlling the probes. Ace sneaks the Hippocrates in, away from direct line of sight to the unknown camp, looking as much like another ship as he can manage, and comes in for a landing.
A young woman wearing a gas rebreather tries to wave the ship away from landing. Kye has the Hippocrates broadcast "This is Kye." The woman is exasperated and shouts back "You expect me to believe you're Dr. Kye? I told you, we don't need any assistance!" Refusing to be waved off, the Hippocrates lands. The other two members of the IPX team, a young man also in a gas rebreather and a slightly older young woman, without a gas rebreather. The older woman puts her hands on her hips, just daring anyone to get out of their ship. Dr. Kye does, but she manages to recognize him. The team is introduced: Dr. Gemma Purkheiser, post-doc in charge, and Pete Hinsley and Merry Friedl, UROP students.
"It's a pleasure to be working for you." -Dr. PurkheiserDr. Kye blithely claims they were passing through (the IPX people are dubious, as one hardly passes through Craterrock on the way to anywhere else (well, except when you have high-priority jump clearance). Why are the students wearing gas masks? For the fumes, down in the dig, Dr. Purkheiser says dismissively. You don't need them up here unless you're paranoid. The students say they're leaving their gas masks on anyway, thank you very much.
"Good, good." -Dr. Kye
Dr. Purkheiser describes the dig - it seems to be some sort of museum, which was built underground, for some reason...
"This side of the planet was a game park." -AnyaHas the IPX team been bothered by the Memento Mori group? Gemma explodes in aggravation: "Dah!" but then says no, no, of course not, they've been doing fine. Memento Mori has had a bunch of ships coming in and out of the system in the past several weeks.
"Fascinating! What is your primary source?" -Gemma
"I was there." -Sophia
Kye climbs down the rope into the dig, followed by Anya. It looks like a mechanic. They climb back up again, as "recover the star" is probably a higher priority than "play with the museum."
Off the Hippocrates goes to Farways, Ace sneaking and Max SEPing. Nobody seems to notice them. However, Max thinks the path to the star is still to the southwest (where the Memento Mori camp is), the "mage locked" door is wide open, and the complex and its surroundings have all been excavated.
Well, that probably means Memento Mori has the star, in which case any encounter with them will degenerate into "get 'em!" and it's better to explore the dig first before having to flee the planet.
The dig does in fact prove to be a Hegemonic museum about the Tarn Alliance, so it serves as a source of both Alliance clue and Hegemony clue. One dungeon crawl later, the party has enough clue to trade in for two long answers each about the Hegemony and the Alliance, one yes/no question about the Alliance, and one short answer (or three yes/no questions) about the Hegemony.
"Historically the way to raid Memento Mori is to send in Max."Ace disguises Max, and flies the shuttle sneakily to a few miles away, whereupon Max sneaks in. There are a small number of goons, who aren't so much on regular patrols as walking around keeping an eye on things. Then, there's an area marked out with string that's being dug up. The path to the star is through the main tent, Max thinks. Watching the camp, every so often one of the diggers brings something into the main tent from the digging area. Max goes and starts digging around, until he finds a rock, which he then carries into the tent.
The entry to the tent has a bunch of dug-up stuff, labeled by grid. (Wow. Real archaeology.) Two supervisors are arguing:
"I don't know, they haven't said anything."Max wanders around the tent further, looking in the post-processing sorted area. The guy who is worrying records a message for transmission next time there's a ship:
"Well, tell the boss. They should have been there by now."
"This is Dr. Barton for Dr Crichton with a priority one message. The Logocypher hasn't reported in in days. Did you get the package or not?"Max plants a bug under the table, and thinks that the path to the star is now vaguely off planet. Kye recognizes the name "Logocypher" as one of Memento Mori's ships. On one of the tables is what looks like the stuff from the Farways dig site. There are two microplasma lenses - Max pockets them, after scanning everything else. Unfortunately, this provokes Dr. Barton's attention, and Max has to flee, amidst demands to know who his supervisor is.
Unfortunately, now Memento Mori is sure that Dr. Kye's guys (i.e. IPX) has stolen their stuff, and starts making plans about what to do. Barton authorizes a counterstrike against IPX, and starts packing things up to transport off planet.
Jayla ponders whether to bother going after the rest of the stuff or not, and whether it's worth starting a war with Memento Mori - the stuff itself probably isn't important enough, but there's more involved than the stuff. Hmm.
People with law skill pontificate: things being stolen on Craterrock or people beaten up on Craterrock can still be considered crimes, if there is a government that chooses to care. Many governments consider themselves to retain legal authority over crimes committed against their citizens outside their jurisdiction, especially if it's not in anyone else's jurisdiction.
Considering the question of raiding the Memento Mori site, or letting them raid the IPX site and defending it, the latter has a bit more moral high ground (though Memento Mori is not that wrong in assuming that IPX stole the microplasma lenses, if it ever goes to court). Tactically, though, it seems to be a better deal if the party sets up an ambush at the IPX site.
The ambush starts being prepared. Kye tells the IPX team to pack up their stuff, but leave the tents up, and sets up a deathtrap in the shack with the entrance to the dig. Max sets up a set of speakers in the dig, so that the IPX people can broadcast a "radio play" to lure the attackers into the acid beetles in the dungeon.
Kye and Ace start in the booby-trapped shack, with the intent of fleeing into the dig and then out another exit, luring people in. The speaker for the radio play is in place. Max, Katya, and Anya start in a concealed area near where they think the ship will land; Jim is hidden farther away. Katya puts up energy shields for everyone.
The Memento Mori ship lands, and begins to disgorge a set of goons and lightly armed diggers. Ace "flees" into the dig, carrying a box, and Katya emphasizes that in Dr. Barton's thoughts. Barton sends the goons after Ace, and the gas grenades go off, knocking one of them out. Anya, Max, and Katya sneak towards the ship.
Barton is most displeased about the deathtraps, and orders the diggers to look in the tents. The goons chase after Kye and Ace into the dig, and a firefight ensues; meanwhile, Max drops another gas grenade on Barton. Anya gets onto the ship and grapples with the pilot. Jim snipes at the armed diggers.
Barton shouts: "It's an ambush! Everyone back to the ship!" but then passes out from the gas. Katya and Max also get onto the ship, and Katya gets the door closed. Kye accidentally shoots a gas grenade and his gas mask falls off.
Jayla shouts: "Yes, this an ambush, and you are losing. Throw down your weapons and you'll be treated well." Of the diggers outside the tent, three surrender, one flees, and one runs at Jayla. Jim takes out the one trying to flee.
Back in the tunnels, the firefight finishes up; Kye and Ace are wounded, all the thugs are down, and one is dying but stabilized. The rest of the diggers surrender.
Looting of the Memento Mori ship proceeds - they take the probe control computer, and the manifest of the Memento Mori fleet (which includes the specs for the Logocypher). Dr. Barton's notes indicate that the Memento Mori psis have been looking for one large artifact and one important artifact on Craterrock; they found the important one, and are still looking for the large one. The dig that they were working on was believed to be one of the first rabbit settlements.
Ace's guess is that the probes will come across the Santa Maria in about four months or so, on their current paths. To steal the probes, or not? That does make it more seriously grand larceny, but IPX and Memento Mori are pretty solidly already at war. The idea of stealing the Memento Mori ship is considered but shot down - leaving them on Craterrock without a ship is a little too mean. Their next supply ship should be in about ten days, so they're left back at their camp, with their ship drained of fuel.
Is it crucial to dash off after the Logocypher immediately? Jayla ponders whether All People care very much about the three days it will take to pick up all the probes in the asteroid belt. As it turns out, no, not so much. The trail is already pretty cold. Ace and Max spend three days picking up the probes, while Jim and Jayla visit rabbits on the planet in the shuttle; then the party meets back up again and proceeds back to the Well.
- Races of the Tarn Alliance
The major races of the Alliance were the Deciders, the Humans, and the Tamorai. Humans had the greatest tendency to diversify, mixing their genes to produce uplifts; whales were not uplifted but were considered to be genetically close to humans. Deciders had a less varied diversity, but did self-modify through breeding into splinter genotypes, suited for particular functions (such as a better exoskeleton for space work). The Tamorai had no physical bodies, as the Alliance formed after their ascension; they appeared to Humans as Humans, Deciders as Deciders, etc., though it was always clear when a being was Tamorai. The Brochoah had not left their system, and the Tinoori had not left their planet, at the time they were contacted, but both were willing to join. The Brochoah were enthusiastic at new technologies and trading partners, while the Tinoori perceived less advantage, and were more dubious about the "sentience" of both Deciders and Humans. The Tinoori kept mostly to their homeworld, while the Brochoah had a mercantile relationship with the other races of the Alliance; thus, the Deciders and Humans had the greatest effect on Alliance policy and expansion, with the Tamorai often acting as mediators and more subtle guides.
- Founding of the Tarn Alliance
Before the founding of the Alliance, both the Deciders and the Humans had begun to explore the worlds near them; the Humans were sending probes, and the Deciders had colonized their nearest neighbor. Quester 7 was rescued and brought to Ridena by the Tamorai to lure the possibly xenophobic Humans into coming; the Deciders were contacted directly, and one Decision came to Ridena. The Tamorai, a self-portrayed benevolent elder race, met them both there, and the Tamorai, the Human colonists, and the Decision joined the Humans' "Great Journey" to travel to the other worlds surveyed by the Tamorai. At the end of the Journey, when the nearby habitable worlds had been colonized, and the Brochoah and the Tinoori contacted, the Alliance was formally founded. Jumpgates between the (now) Linked Worlds, as well as the Deciders' worlds were built with technology learned from the Tamorai. The Deciders chose to have their homeworld and colonized worlds linked to the jumpgate network, while the Humans chose not to build a jumpgate to Earth, somewhat to the displeasure of the Tamorai. Ridena became the seat of the Alliance, and the Palatium Tamarch was built by the Tamorai as their own seat at the capital.
- Hegemonic Flame Stopping
The ascension of the Tamorai to a higher level of existence created a disruption in the psychic plane that reverberates across the universe: the Flames. With each passing, the Flames diminish, but each time, most of the Tamorai who remain are destroyed. The Tamorai shielded the races of the Alliance, principally from the Palatium Tamarch, but after the last pass there were very few Tamorai left and the Alliance broke. The Tamorai worked with Deciders and Humans so they could shield their worlds from the next passing. Some Humans were altered to allow them to focus the psychic will of the other Humans in three bloodlines (four Decisions for the Deciders). The Tamorai ritual, written in the Book of Hegemons, requires a Gathering in which the Scion of Strength is amplified by the emmelium reflector (Spire or Bowl); the Scion of Control, holding the Star, anchors the other end; and the Scion of Fortuity calls the moment of the Flames. Due to the placement of the Bowl, the ritual as designed only shields the inworlds or the outworlds; the Tamorai did not expect Humans or Deciders to be in the Omphalos, and had advised against it, lest they prematurely ascend.
- Formation of the Hegemony
While the Tamorai and the other races of the Alliance did their best to avoid chaos when the Alliance was sundered, vast disruptions were inevitable as all trade between the Human Linked Worlds and the Decision Realms ceased, and as all Humans left Decider space and vice versa. The installation of a hereditary monarchy, though necessary, was objectionable to a great many, and the economic chaos caused by severing the link with the Decider worlds was blamed on the new political regime. The first Hegemon, Kyriel, was popularly respected, but was killed within a year of assuming the crown. His son, Apollyon, was considered by his subjects too young to rule, and rebellion (or at least secession) seemed likely. The trouble was averted by the political and tactical brilliance of the first Strategos, Chancel Rowland, who brought the Linked Worlds into formal fealty (and founded the Hegemonic Scouts). Though the political alliances Rowland forged were crucial, it was the mysterious First Sentinel of the Elite (who served for a decade before vanishing as suddenly as he appeared) who publically symbolized the people's loyalty and devotion to the Hegemon - which would be necessary to focus Humanity's psyche into the Hegemonic bloodlines.
Short answer question:
- Was the spire ever used?
- Why was the "Tarn homeworld" gate at Ridena closed?
Deciders find humans intolerably ambivalent; humans find Deciders intolerably stubborn. Without the Tamorai to mediate, they would have gone to interstellar war within a decade.