"Wine does not intoxicate people, they do it themselves; beauty does not lead men astray, they lead themselves astray."
- Creekian proverb
Highguard -> Crux
They do so, and talk to some students and faculty at the the School of Armaments. The school is currently testing out a new lever-based crossbow loading mechanism, and is debating both the utility and the aesthetics. (The aesthetics are deemed proper, the initial loading is faster, especially for strong people, but it does tire the bowman out faster.) The siege weapon experts are curious why Max used a curved longarm rather than a straight one (he doesn't know) and speculate that it's because Pierogi doesn't have as much tall hardwood forest as Highguard does, and so their design made do with the hardwoods they had.
Meanwhile, Twig has arrived from his briefing with the King and Shoshana and is taken to the Hippocrates to await departure. He lets people know that he has agreed to pay for passage to Nerele with information and that he will be available for discussions with crew members at their convenience.
Sharra receives a note from Anton:
Please accept my apologies and extend them to Mr. Ace and Ms. Lavalor for the way last evening's entertainment ended. It was uncouth of me to lose my temper no matter how sorely provoked. I hope you and your crew do not take a poor impresion of Highguard civility with you on your travels. Perhaps I can make up for the incident in some small way when next you visit our fair realm.Sharra replies with a letter that she looks forward to seeing him later, and, on advice, perfumes it.
Should you require anything during this or any future visit, I am at your disposal.
Dear Kith, I hope this message reaches you on Creek. I wanted to thank you for everything you and Anya have done for me. I also wanted to let you know that I'm going to be moving to Pierogi soon. I figured you'd be away for a while and didn't want you to worry if you found that I was gone when you returned to Crux. It's all very exciting and I'm really looking forward to it. I hope you can come visit someday.She answers it, and it turns out that he hasn't actually left yet. He explains that he's a companion of Lord Dinar, and they'll be travelling to Pierogi soon. Kith warns him about Lord Dinar eating him, but Frederick is sure that Lord Dinar wouldn't do that, especially not without asking. Kith isn't so sure about that, but Frederick is quite defensive of his companion. Kith notes that there's a fair bit of non-psi influence on him, and the hint of some other psi, but she can't identify what.
Thanks again for everything!
As the ship approaches the jump gates, the Blue navy informs the Hippocrates that the jumpgate from Highguard to Nurl is currently off limits "due to military concerns." Jayla tries to find out exactly what that means, and how long it's expected to be off-limits, but the Navy is being very close-mouthed. About all that she can get is that it isn't expected to nearly be as long as a year. Jayla ponders the issue, and thinks that Nurl is more generally dangerous at the moment, not based on which jumpgate the Hippocrates uses getting there. Twig is more concerned with safety than immediacy of travel, and is willing to stay on board longer if the alternative is dangerous. However, he clarifies that the agreed-upon contract is not based upon distance traveled on the path to Nurl, or upon duration on board (on the other hand, since the contract was that he would pay in information, there is more time to ask him questions). His participation in any experiments however will have to be negotiated separately.
Well, that makes the trip to Stannis' Law even more convenient. The Blue navy is checked in with, to clear that they're going to be going around the back way to Red. The ship gets scanned for weapons - Twig poses as a tree in Hydroponics and nobody seems to notice him.
On Stannis' Law, the orangeliner is offloaded to IPX. Jayla and Katya talk to Andrej - he's packing, to go look for Dylanna. Katya tries to tell him that Dylanna didn't love him or she couldn't have tried to kill Lord Stannis, but he's not buying it. He's sure she cares about him, even if she also cares about things he doesn't approve of. And he can't stay at home waiting for word that Lord Stannis has killed her - he has to find her. No, he doesn't know what he'll do when he finds her, he'll work that out at that point. Jayla attempts to help him with an epiphany, but she discovers that he's pretty much already reached his epiphany and isn't waffling now. She also ponders whether it's best for All People if Andrej gets given follower-based contact information to contact Jayla in a pinch. No, it's not really best for All People.
Twig meanwhile is curious as to why Janzur still wears his Elite uniform. Janzur tells that he is still an Elite, but in response to a direct question of why Janzur is still alive, Janzur claims he can not currently release that information.
"Is that a question of previous committments or as yet un-negotiated pricing?"When leaving Stannis' Law, First Frost of Autumn is assigned to look for bugs after the weapons inspectors have gone. He is still very concerned about the Unfound Bug that Ace told him about. Eventually someone takes pity on him and says that it's not specifically a bug, but is something else that senses things. This clarifies it a little, and eventually he is persuaded to list all the things he knows about that sense things - the Sparky Cola machine is on the list. Ah, well, nobody else realized that the Sparky Cola machine sensed things. First Frost of Autumn is a little confused by this - it senses temperature, and it senses people for the holographic fish to interact with. Well, okay, they just didn't realize that it was sensing secret things. First Frost of Autumn is still confused. Which secret things? Is the people who buy Sparky Cola a secret? Or the crew members? They had not been on the list of secret things he shouldn't tell people about. Should he be keeping the list of crew members and what they look like a secret? Well, no, that's not it either... in any event, Human/Tinoori understanding does not make great leaps forward at this time.
At Gateway, Katya gets email:
Katya - As new information reaches me from the outworlds, of the current situation and the new power making itself known, I must advise you to be very careful. Your talents will make you particularly attractive to that kind, and their attention can be most dangerous. -StannisHmm. Well, that's odd. But little is made of it at the time.
Jayla gets a report from the follower who has finally reached Rupert's Hole: he's settling in nicely, and there was a spare house for him due to some rebuilding after a storm. The plasma cannon is complete, and the tests have been impressive. Rupert's Hole Boy Scout Troop #1 would like suggestions from Jim Powell for more merit badges - they've got badges in Camping, Knot Tying, Sparky Cola, and Damsel Saving, but are running out of ideas (Jayla suggests looking in the old warehouses for a manual or two). Finally, gith attacks near the starport are on the rise, but between the Githslayer and the Boy Scouts, are still under control.
At Gateway, a docking pilot and his two escorts come aboard. To avoid the strange timing communication sent last time, the crew informs the docking pilot that "current ship's policy is that the comm officer handles all communications, because the pilot should be paying attention to piloting." He's a bit insulted by the patronizing tone, and clarifies that comm will not be turned off at the pilot's seat. Katya, reading his mind, notes that he's thinking "these guys are being extremely rude. If they don't shape up soon, I'm going to bring the hammer down." That seems particularly ominous, but further listening clarifies that bringing the hammer down principally involves him leaving the ship. Everyone manages to be a little more polite, and the rest of the ride is uneventful (if a little bumpy).
As an aside, a Jayla-follower notes for Jayla that the bowl is currently under Gateway-military control.
Once in the outworlds, it's time to remount the weapons! This is done without much trouble, and then it's on to Crux.
Max has email waiting for him at Crux:
Mr. Sinclair, I was most pleased with your service at our last meeting. If you find yourself at loose ends in the area, there is another job I would ask of someone of your abilities. Please contact me at your convenience. Kels Rouche
He arranges to meet Mr. Rouche the next day. Maury notes that the word on the street that all the underworld omega slots are full, but it's not clear who has filled them. (Max working for Kels is clearly some sort of points, Maury thinks. Maybe towards subtlety.)
Ruehan has two notes waiting for him, one from Davira mentioning that she's heading off with the initial Pierogi settling force, and that there has been some sort of trouble with Dmitri. The other is from Winston D'Gille of the Good Neighbor party, regarding a suit lodged against the Vertaki.
Maury and Kith report in. Maury has a new diamond earring, and a cooler full of black goo for Sophia - apparently from a planet full of nanites two tech levels higher than Alliance. He tells his story. Kith has brought several more blood lizard hides from Creek, for Jayla to make more jackets out of (including replacing Ace's, which blew up some months back).
Kith pushes Martan's painkiller problem forward a bit by enhancing his natural healing rate, though it'll still take a while.
Part of the group heads to Parliament. The current debates on the floor seem to be about fleet disposition in the post-dust battle environment. The Defender party wants to keep what's left of their fleet together, not split it into small pieces to deal with the increase in pirates and other mysterious ship problems (there are ships being plundered, and ships missing crew but not valuables, and ships being squashed, to name a few). The Cooperative Front and Good Neighbors asks Ruehan to talk to Dmitri, who has been being obstreperous.
Meanwhile, Max wanders off to talk to Davros Matir again, followed at a discreet distance by Maury and Corwin. Matir isn't enthused by the idea of writing a tell-all book about the Pierogi memories, but then, being an ex-mafioso probably inclines one against memoirs.
Kith tells Ruehan about Frederick, and expresses her concern about his being taken advantage of. Which Vertaki is he hanging out with? Lord Dinar. Oh, Lord Dinar, Ruehan says, enlightening Kith less than he might have. Ruehan explains that Lord Dinar has a sidekick, and that they are in fact likely to be buddies. (For those puzzled by Lord Dinar, see the summer retrospective on Vertak, featuring among others, Lord Dinar and his sidekick Ace.)
Max starts detectiving around the city before talking to Kels Rouche, but this will be interrupted by later events. Meanwhile Sharra reveals that since returning to the outworlds, her robot minions have begun to talk to her again. She's a little disconcerted by this, which causes them to be sad and try to be quiet.
Maury investigating the current status of the ship finds some repairs that were skillfully done, but not accounted for by any of the ship's engineers. A little investigation later reveals that they were performed by Twig, who apparently keeps his hand in repairs a bit.
Ruehan, Kith, Max, and Jayla go to talk to the loa (still riding Dmitri). Ruehan attempts to convince him that it's politically advisable to press more for going after the Deciders still in the dust nebula, and holding off on pressing for going after the Decider homeworld. He isn't completely willing to back off on the homeworld, but eventually accepts the advice as well-meant and possibly useful. Kith asks to speak to Dmitri, and is again told that Dmitri is unavailable. Jayla begins to think that the loa has moved from anger to a particularly eye-for-an-eye sort of bargaining phase.
Twig in his continuing burst of curiosity asks Grimblemaury what generation gene-engineering he is and is impressed to hear that Grimblemaury's line appears stable under numberous generations of breeding. He asks if anyone has patented the genetic codes, but Maury tells him the patents expired long ago.
Do I have any idea if what I've told him is true? -CharlesSharra, left out of the various political discussions, reports to the various crew members that the Pierces have come to speak to Ruehan. The Pierces are apparently the parents of one of the young men planning to go to Pierogi with the Veraki, and they're concerned that their son Roland has been mind controlled. They've heard that Ruehan is the person to talk to. Sharra shows them in to the mess hall and assures them that Ruehan will be there soon.
You have no idea in the world. -Mike
A few minutes later, there is an announcement at the spaceport that all ships should stay in their berths while security deals with the problem. People scurry around to figure out what the problem is and it comes to pass that they discover there was a small riot just outside the starport. Initial details are unclear, but when party members show up to investigate, they overhear a tall man speaking to a police officer. "Very well then. Direct me to this 'hospital' and the miscreants shall know the vengence of Lord Dinar." Oh dear.
Most everyone goes to the hospital - Sharra is still on the ship, and assures the Pierces, who are still waiting in the mess hall, that Ruehan has been called away for further business, but will be with them as soon as he can. Police are thick on the ground in the hospital, but aren't being permitted to talk to the patients yet, as they're all still being doctored. Ruehan has also headed off separately, to talk to Lord Dinar on the way to the hospital rather than wait for him to arrive.
The hospital still has a lot of John Does checked in from the fight, and doesn't know the name Frederick Sefter yet. But eventually the crew is told that the victims of the spaceport riot are on the second floor, and Kith manages to get in (since she's a doctor) while Max talks to the police. The doctors think they have things mostly under control, though, and don't think it's completely appropriate to take volunteer medical help. Meanwhile Ruehan, Katya, and others catch up with Lord Dinar.
"Lord V'Dalari, have you come to assist me on my quest of justice?"Lord Dinar eventually manages to explain - there was a fight, at the starport, in which Frederick was injured. The injured have been taken to the local hospital. Lord Dinar was not watching, and so is unable to say who started it. He did dispatch several of the attackers, but at least one escaped, and upon this last, he will Wreak his Terrible Vengeance. Lord Dinar's sword is remarkably clean for having dispatched several rioters, and it becomes clear that he really was just a bit too late for the whole affair.
"Lord Dinar, tell me the story!"
Kith manages to get in to talk to Frederick. He explains that he was in a fight with his girlfriend Molly about going to Pierogi, and then another guard shot him, and someone knifed Molly. Then everyone was attacking everyone. Her brother managed to flee before he got attacked, he's probably the guy Lord Dinar plans to wreak vengeance on. She also notes that Frederick was influenced, though the influence has faded.
Max talks to the police, explains to them that the Hippocrates will be taking a hand in this matter, and convinces them that perhaps some psychic investigation is also in order, so they call in some additional resources.
"Once again, the Artak are dupes in the games of power." - Lord DinarSharra continues to reassure the Pierces that Ruehan will no doubt be able to help them soon. She gets some more names of other young men and women who are allegedly overly influenced by the evil Vertaki. Ruehan records a message for them over the radio about how he's dealing with ambassadorial duties, but they're not quite placated; they think he's blowing them off just like everyone else has.
Grandmother Teek (the Creek envoy) and Lord Dinar sweep in to the hospital. Lord Dinar and Frederick are reassured to see that the other is all right, and promise many more adventures. Grandmother Teek wants to know what Kith has found out - Jayla increases the bandwith on Kith's briefing, which impresses Grandmother Teek. She declares to the police that Kith and the others know what they're doing, and can be left to investigate, with the strong impression that the police shouldn't have wasted her time in the first place if Kith was on it. (Lord Dinar is quite impressed by Grandmother Teek, who is apparently quite a lot more than the Artak he's used to.)
Max investigates the scene of the "riot" and retrocogs what happened. Yes, the fight seems to have started when Frederick and his girlfriend were having a fight and then whole mobs jumped into it. Max can't find anyone who's strangely concentrating on the fight to provide psychic impetus, though. Jayla wanders by, and offers advice - who didn't get in the fight? Oh. Molly's brother ran away instead, when everyone else starting fighting. Hmm.
Sharra continues to reassure the Pierces that Ruehan will be there soon. Have they talked to the police?
"I went to the police and they said, 'Sometimes young men just fall in love' - but not six of them at the same time!" -Mother PierceSharra tries to figure out who brought this to their attention, presumably as an attempt to cause trouble with the Vertaki. But no one brought it to their attention - they noticed, because he's their son.
The plan evolves to go to Molly's house, to talk to her brother. There's some wondering how legal it is to go and interrogate him, but the police apparently think it's okay, especially with Grandmother Teek's directive for Kith to take care of it.
A van gets rented from the starport to go to Molly's. At some point, Katya checks to see if Martan wants to come, and he and Cassandra aren't aboard the Hippocrates. Jayla calls Martan on the radio - he and Cassandra are out shopping, but Martan is a little evasive about for what. They're almost right across the street from Molly's house, as it turns out - they're visiting an artist's colony. Jayla becomes more suspicious, and Martan asks for a private channel, but it seems clear that whatever he was shopping for isn't so much of a surprise now.
They say they'll ask around, subtly, about Molly's brother, while everyone else heads over. Katya shields everyone who isn't Ruehan, Kith, or Jayla from psi influence. At Molly's house, Ruehan notices that the one person inside has a psychic aura fluctuating wildly from zero to quite large.
Kith heads up to the door and knocks. Max, Katya, and Janzur lurk behind her, not anyone's problem. Everyone else hides in the van. A young boy, about twelve, answers the door. Kith says she's heard he's had a hard day, and is wondering if he wants to talk about it. He says he didn't have a hard day, that was his sister. His sister is in the hospital. Kith talks about training in psychic abilities, like for wisewomen. He doesn't want to be a wisewoman. She wonders if he has had classes about psi skills? Maybe the lack of training is what has made it hard for him? Kith notes a small amount of influence trying to creep onto her.
Jayla, on top of the situation, thinks that heal patches would be an extremely good idea just about now. Katya, reading the kid's mind, notes that he's explictly trying to not think about the situation at the starport.
Kith tries to bring the conversation around again, with "It's easy to make mistakes when you're just starting out..." but this has pushed him into thinking about it, and he starts shouting that it wasn't his fault, it wasn't, it wasn't, it wasn't... and then his psychic aura expands, sweeping over everyone.
"It's Janzur's worst nightmare, a Hegemon-v-Hegemon knock down fight. I'll be pasted..." -DrewIn a sort of mental judo, people's psi abilities are somewhat turned against their strengths of mind. People who have no psi stat at all seem unaffected:
Jayla tells Janzur to disarm Katya (not that her blaster is drawn). But Janzur takes it anyway. Max slaps Katya with a turquoise patch, though it isn't combat-time effective. Feeling somewhat picked on, Katya drops the physical shields she had on people and takes to the air. She screams in Kith's head with "project thoughts" to distract her - it substantially does, causing Kith to decide Katya is dying and needs healing, regardless of what team she's on.
Maury switches Martan's dice to d8's, making Martan's subsequent punching of Maury a bit less effective. Ruehan shouts "Jayla's turning us against each other!" and mind controls her to "sit down and be quiet." Janzur catches up to the kid, who is runinng away down the hall (but not nearly as fast as Janzur).
Deirdre, in the van, loses her temper.
"I do not care who is and who is not mind controlled; the next person who attacks someone else in this van is going down."Martan gets the door opened and tries push her out, but his d8's betray him. Jayla gestures to everyone in Silent Hunter Language with a fair bit of mind control thrown in, to not do anything, which causes Deirdre to stop short of thumping Martan.
Maury tells Ruehan he's doing a good job keeping Jayla and Martan under control and shoots at Kith. Ruehan, belatedly, gets Martan to sit down and do nothing too. Max decloaks outside the van, and shoots Ruehan. Sharra drives the van away from Max. Ruehan attempts to project a mass hallucination of the van still being there, but it doesn't particularly fool minds so astute as those in the party. Cassandra jumps out of the van and shoots Martan (who is still sitting down and doing nothing, much to his detriment.)
Jayla starts telling her followers to show up and help, but none of them are particularly close by.
Janzur catches the kid, and calls out to Kith to find out if she can calm him down. The kid is still in hysterics about it all happening again... Janzur starts trying to knock him out.
This causes a realignment of everyone's goals. While the other team is bad, Janzur is clearly the worst of all evils. Cassandra pulls out a sketch pad and starts to sketch him. Back in the car, Sharra tries to neural-disrupt Maury, but doesn't get through his blink.
Martan TK-grabs Janzur's plasma brand and turns it on, terrifying everyone, but Gerard thumps the kid unconscious before true peril ensues. Martan tries to drop the plasma brand (perilously), but Janzur grabs it before it can chop any limbs off.
"Never do that again, even if you're mind controlled." - Janzur to Martan.Grandmother Teek is called, as are the police ("There was another riot, but it was only us, and we're better now."). Gerard and Deirdre fume quietly. Cassandra crumples her sketch in progress. Martan is distressed to see that the present he got (two somewhat abstract figures swirling together into one, a little like dancing), was shot during the fight, and has broken the back of one of the figures. Many heads nod at the deep symbolism.
Jayla offers to help get the kid to speak before being awake, so he can't use his psi, but Grandmother Teek thinks he should confront his powers. She seems to think she knows what she's doing, and the party lets her have the kid.
Then, it's off to the Pierogi embassy, to talk to Lord Dinar. Ruehan says he has both good news and bad news. As does Lord Dinar! Lord Dinar has figured out that the culprit is the boy, which is the good news, but unfortunately, he is not home. Ah, that ties in with Ruehan's news - the good news is that the reason the boy is not home is that the party took care of it. This is also the bad news. Lord Dinar is disappointed to have missed everything, but asks if it was at least a glorious battle. Yes, it was a glorious battle indeed... Ruehan explains further, that the boy was mind-controlling people uncontrollably. Lord Dinar is sympathetic - so the lesser among the party fell under his sway? Yes, indeed.
Would Lord Dinar like to help Ruehan? Yes, he's willing to. Ruehan has a psi experiment he wants to do (to look into why in Vertaki, fortune is their expensive stat). Lord Dinar agrees to contact him tomorrow, when Frederick is well again.
Ruehan also wonders if Lord Dinar knows where to find Lady Della, another Vertaki, with whom Ace has had a run in, well known for playing with Artak men, who might be behind this problem with Roland Pierce. Lord Dinar has heard rumors that she frequents the lower parts of town in the evenings - Ruehan may be able to find her at a particular inn. At some point, Ruehan goes by the Hippocrates, is offended by the Pierces, but says he'll speak to Lady Della about it.
Ruehan goes to talk to Lord V'Nethim, Davira's second in command. He notes that there have been some complaints. Lord V'Nethim's principal orders are to keep everyone under control until the Vertaki claims on Pierogi are unassailable. There are, of course, Lord Dinar and Lady Della, but he doesn't believe they have caused any significant trouble. Ruehan asks about the Artak that will be going to Pierogi. Some are farmers who want to start over somewhere new, or quieter. Some think they may be able to rise to the top more quickly in a smaller environmnent. Some seem to find the Vertaki romantically fascinating (these tend to wear black). And Lady Della has several, of course. There has been no undue influence, Ruehan enquires? No, none has been necessary - though "Della's influence is always somewhat undue." Lord V'Nethim thinks some of it is that none of the local Artak have seen a real lord before, and find it impressive. How is moving going? The first goal will be to establish several keeps - there is not a lot of substantial buildings of quality that they can use, especially given that the capital is off limits.
Ruehan heads to the inn to look for Lady Della, as she's the most "questionable" influence (not to mention the one the Pierces are complaining about). The innkeeper says she's "indisposed". He decrees that he will wait half an hour. The innkeeper says that it is his experience that her indisposition generally lasts a bit longer than that - she generally leaves about three. Well, he will be back later, then.
Ruehan tells the Cooperative Front Senator that he talked to Dmitri about going after the local fleet. Jayla advises that keeping the fleet together is probably best.
Then, it's back to the inn, where Ruehan hangs out at a table while Maury parties at the bar. Back on the ship, the Pierces are finally chased out of the mess hall, with promises that something is being done. Kith suggests that they come back with their son, but they say that's part of the problem, their son doesn't listen to them anymore.
While the pair is off waiting for Lady Della to be done, Sharra, Katya, and Cassandra fix Martan's sculpture.
Lady Della does finally speak to Ruehan, and they come to some agreement which results in her releasing Roland and the others from her influence and they can make their decision freely. But if they choose to go with her, then that is their choice. The negotiations concluded, Ruehan decides to spend the rest of the evening at the Inn. Kith talks to Roland, and reports that while he was influenced, most of it has been countered. He's decided not to go to Pierogi, and is a little creeped out by the whole encounter, though in another sense it was a lot of fun.
Jayla and Maury argue over how much to get Della in trouble over the whole affair. Was it rape? Maury thinks trying to hold the Vertaki to standards that the party is unwilling to hold themselves to is no good, and the party goes around reading people's minds all the time. On the other hand, Jayla thinks that motive is more important, though, and when the party does illegal or privacy-invading things, it's for a better reason. On the other other hand, the "Lady Della" archetype, among the Vertaki, is pretty much advertised as the succubus who takes advantage of Artak, so there's no question of not knowing what they're getting into.
The question of prosecution is dropped for the moment. Grandmother Teek is told about it, and asked to keep an eye on things. While she's appalled, she agrees with Kith that most men are stupid and need to be protected from themeslves.
This is why we oppose laws restricting the use of mind control against men. -Kith