Wedding Guests

"All married couples should learn the art of battle as they should learn the art of making love."

- Ann Landers, revered sage of the Tarn Alliance

2780.283 - 284
New Light

The last of the pre-nuptial puttering finishes up on New Light. Sophia runs a Mad Sonic experiment on a psi crystal in rented lab space. Kith is there to assist, and partway through the procedure, all the glass in the lab shatters, including Kith's Relaxation and Deja-Vu alchemicals. Mellow confusion ensues over what step in the procedure it is, causing some consternation to the people not in the lab. Alas, in the end, the crystal is broken and the energy type is not helpful.

Also in the psionic-experiment category, Maury stores a fortune-based psi talent, successfully. Moment Before Dawn and Night Blooming Wisteria head out to oversee the reception caterers.

Then, it's time for the bachelor party! Dr. Kye has requested green-skinned Orion dancing girls, which narrows down the options a lot, to a place called Ela's Tomb, a nightclub / bar that presses its own horukar. There's some discussion of what the women should be doing during the bachelor party - Jayla thinks the answer is obvious, staking out the bachelor party.

However, before proceeding to that point, there is a brief diversion into final discussion regarding Dr. Cain. Dr. Kye is the last holdout for "Kill him! Kill him now!", but after pressure from the rest of the group, agrees to not kill an unconscious Dr. Cain, as long as everyone else is agreed that if he can't be de-hegeminated, then killing him is okay. Hippocrates adds the caveat that killing him will only be done after serious discussion and evaluation, but accepts that killing him could be necessary. There is some further discussion as to a time limit to set on when to give up on de-hegeminating, but the time frame will likely not be clear to the scientists until they have Cain to study.

Then, it's on to the bachelor party. The women take tables in the main area, watching the dancers and drinking not-very-much, and Jim stations himself on his scooter on a roof nearby, watching through binoculars (Maury has suggested to First Frost of Autumn that he tag along with Jim, so FFA is in his saddlebag, though Jim doesn't notice). There is a private room in back, reserved for the bachelor party - the manager welcomes everyone, and gives Kye a special hat labeled "GROOM". There's apparently another private party on the balcony above the horukar press, so no going there. Everyone gets a complimentary glass of horukar - "the best drink in the linked worlds!" Even Dr. Kye, scion of Sparky Cola, doesn't disagree.

After some initial drinking in the back room, Kye's group is dragged back into the main room to watch the dancers. Kye gets his own personal dancer to sit on his lap, until Ace steals her in an attempt to get Kye up on the stage.

From the balcony comes a cry of "Death to our enemies! Yarr!" which everyone finds somewhat suspicious. Katya thinks they're just having a party, though.

Jim, Katya, Jayla and other start to slowly suspect a couple of the girls as being up to something. Specifically, they seem to make sure that all the men get dosed with their "perfume", and spread drinks around quite liberally.

Kye and two dancing girls have headed back into the private room, giggling. Max, not anyone's problem, heads in and patches him with a dose of Yellow to counter any drugs in his system. Kye is very distressed - where did his nice horukar buzz go? He has another drink.

Kith checks Janzur for influence - there's no psi influence there. And there's no more general influence - yet. Hmm. Suspicious. How about a diagnosis? Janzur is not drugged yet. There's some sort of multi-part delivery system going on, probably from the perfume. Eva thinks it's not Dr. Cain - this is far too slow for him.

Kith wanders by Maury's table, acquiring his drink, and takes it to Sophia.

"They stole your drink!"
"That's what chicks at these places do."
Sophia takes the drink into a stall in the bathroom to see what she can figure out. It's ridiculously alcoholic, but not weirdly biochemical, as far as she can tell, which, admittedly, isn't much, given that the bathroom is a particularly poorly equipped lab. Kith confirms that Martan, and most of the other men, are similarly not-yet-influenced.

Jayla starts wondering why they're going along with the plan, as opposed to springing the trap or escaping it, or something. Probably to see what the rest of the trap is, the general consensus seems to be. (Eva says that it's not going to be sprung tonight anyway.)

Ace tries to convince his favorite dancer to go to a "private party" with him later. She declines gracefully - they have very long hours, it's against club rules, that sort of thing.

Eva goes to talk to the manager, to see if she can find out more about the upstairs party and the girls with the perfume - Katya reads his mind while she's talking. He owns the nightclub himself, so he's happy to expound on it. They're the only restaurant that presses their own horukar! Eva has the manager send a note upstairs for her - it indicates that they are pansies, and challenges them to a duel of honor on behalf of the bachelor party.

The manager deduces that Eva is trolling for a job - he thinks she'd do well here. The girls make a lot of money... She asks about hiring. Most of the dancing girls work full time, but because there were two private parties tonight, he hired a few new girls just for the evening, from the agency. Katya confirms that the two girls from the agency are the ones with the spritzers.

Ace pickpockets a perfume spritzer from one of the extra dancers, and gives it to Max, who gives it to Sophia, who heads back into the bathroom to see what she can figure out. Meanwhile, the "pirate" party from upstairs has charged down. Kith checks their motive - to crush their enemies and drive them before them!

The biggest, surliest-looking pirate comes in, and eyes the men. "Who's running this show?" he glowers. Everyone points at Kye, who's still wearing his "GROOM" hat. The pirate takes a black bottle out of his pocket, and thumps it on the table. "You sit. We drink". Ace bets 50 asters on Kye. Max steers Kith onto Kye's lap, and Katya joins them to sit on Kye's other knee.

In the bathroom, Sophia thinks the perfume contains some sort of partial neurotransmitter that requires an activator. She can't do blood tests to figure out exactly what it would do, though.

The drinking contest starts. The pirate mocks Kye for calling him a pansy. Kye mocks the (extremely potent) drink the pirate has brought: "What is this, polluted water?" Both teams start chanting for their guy (the pirate is apparently named Strike).

Ace taunts the overly drunk pirates into betting seven hundred asters.

"I don't think we should be making money by cheating on drinking competitions!" -Jayla
Eva notes that the manager has begun to be worried that the whoever wins the bet, the other party will be out of money, and thus stop spending money in his establishment. (There's also the very disturbing possibility of a brawl if someone loses too badly.) Ace talks the pirates into a second side bet that Kye will last five more rounds, to feed money back to the pirates.

Meanwhile, back at the drinking contest, Katya has been holding her own against Strike's moll, and Kith has begun to heal Dr. Kye's inebriation, so despite Strike's superior drinking prowess, Kye does eventually win, in under five more rounds. Winning back the fifty asters, a pirate throws his arms around Ace: "I love you guys!" Dr. Kye loves everyone too. The manager stops being quite as worried, the two parties go back to drinking and watching the girls, and the manager goes back to trying to recruit Eva.

The net profit from the evening, after drinks, is 620 asters.

The next morning, those who were drinking heavily have hangovers. Kith gives out tea. Yellow for everyone? Speaking of Yellow...

Sophia and Maury analyze the perfume. It's definitely Terran. Well, that's particularly ominous. Sophia recommends that everyone who was dosed with it have some Yellow. On the other hand, the ship doesn't have an infinite stock of Yellow, and Jayla thinks that using it now will probably mean there's less later when it might also be relevant. Hippocrates can burn karma to make more, but Hippocrates is always low on karma. Or more can be made out of the Creepy Black Nanites.

After much diterhing, 110 ml of black goo is turned into eleven doses of "black yellow", which, after dosing everyone affected by the perfume, leaves one for everyone.

A visitor shows up to see Dr. Kye. He introduces himself as Mordecai Sound. Kye is indeed expecting him and instructs the strange visitor to meet the party at the wedding where he is to hang around and not do much. Very suspicious.

Sophia unveils her mad device of the week - it's a hut of invisibility, which fits about two people. It's set up at the side of the ceremony area, where it has a good line of sight down through the garden area to the entrance to the complex. Sophia and Jim and his scooter lie in wait in the hut. Jayla warns the Tinoori about the possibility of upcoming Terran drugs. First Frost of Autumn has been instructed to not attend the wedding as it is a deliberate promulgation of a false worldview.

Lot of other people begin showing up. Twig is offered 10 asters to be helpful, and is generally given the task of evacuating civilians. "Sara", an "old college friend of Eva's", shows up with a couple of DSS agents. Tiercel Rensuli shows up. Cassandra begins painting the ceremony area, and Nero hacks into the local area network.

A small ship lands on the heliport outside, and word begins to circulate that Hegemon Melcamot is about to arrive. This is rather more disconcerting for everyone than any number of bad guys showing up, and panic begins to ensue until "Donella" manages to pass along to Eva that she's not really the hegemon, but the real Donella thought it would seem strange were she not to attend a wedding of such magnitude.

Everyone is still milling around somewhat, in the garden and in the hall, when Janzur's bodyguard sense tells him something is wrong. A figure appears behind Ace, and then Grimblemaury appears behind the figure. Jayla warns everyone else over the radio that something is up.

Kith detects several other cloaked people coming in. Janzur tells the intruder to identify himself, and gives him a phase. Eva thinks it's bounty hunters after Ace, and Ace shoots the new guy before he can do anything with his phase.

"There doesn't need to be any trouble. Just turn him over and we'll leave."
The hunter shoots at Ace with a blowgun, but misses. More combat ensues, as Kith and Katya point out the cloaked people (who demonstrate an ability to dodge psi powers like geases). Several of them go after Kith and shoot her with some blowgun darts, causing her to be distracted by the pretty colors.

Sophia shoots the de-cloaked bad guy with the de-shtickinator, to steal his dodge pool. He's not pleased by this. The strike team vanishes again, and another strike team appears, this one armed with blasters. Maury and Ace manage to dodge, and then they're shot a lot, revealing them as illusions.

Cassandra, still in the ceremony hall, warns everyone that the cloaked team has come in and is heading for Ace: "Guys! Guys guys guys!" (her personal radar array picks them up).

As combat with Team Mirage continues, another hunter arrives, a guy in a large armored suit. He declaims "BRING THE PILOT TO ME AND NO ONE WILL BE KILLED" and gives an action to Jayla (the nearest person to the door). Jayla, in her action, tells Sharra to take him down, who shoots him.

"Very well. Go forth, my minions, find the pilot, and bring him to me. I'll be outside."
At this point, the tables that have been set up around the garden and the reception area flex their legs and sprout blasters, and set out looking for the pilot, while Toybox heads back out the front door. Sharra and Twig try to bend the tables to their wills (Sharra is pretty good at robot minions), while other people attack the tables.

As it turns out, when a table is hit, it splits into two smaller (but equally deadly) tables, so the tables begin to proliferate. Outside, Nero breaks into the Blue ship and starts shooting at Toybox with the deck guns. Toybox turns on Nero and tries to bend him to his will: "Do not shoot at me, machine, you must serve!". Alas for Toybox, Nero is smarter than a table, so does not immediately succumb.

More combat ensues inside, with the tables.

"I never thought of giving my robot minions blasters..." - Sharra
"Bring him to me alive and you shall have ten thousand asters." -Toybox to Maury
"Can I have the vanish shtick?" -Ace, to Sophia
"No!" -Sophia
Janzur shows off: he flings his plasma brand in a high arc across the room, picks Jim up, runs over, puts Jim down, and catches the plasma brand again.

Still taking fire, the last of Team Mirage flees; several are down, and Ace starts looting them (their most interesting pieces of equipment are blowguns and programmable holo-imagers.)

Sharra tells her tables to take out the tables attacking Dr. Kye. This confuses them - they're sure that they're the same team! She explains that the other tables have become corrupted, and eventually persuades them.

Meanwhile, after Toybox has come under more fire from the fast-moving portion of the party, he tries to flee, until Hippocrates grabs him. Sophia steals his "robot minions" shtick, and gives it to Max. Though he can't give them orders any longer, he can still buff them to have more dice, and they're still willing to jump in front of him to take a shot.

Max, to his chagrin, discovers that none of the robot minions are his - some are Toybox's still, and some are Sharra's. So they don't all shut down when he shouts at them. However, the party is begining to find that the most efficient way to take down a robot minion is to shoot at Toybox.

"There are probably a bunch of our tables tied up in a back room somewhere."
Finally the ever-increasing robot numbers start turning into ever-decreasing numbers, as the tables are taken out. Kith spots the last of the Mirages hiding in an alcove, and points him out to people, who shoot him.

Toybox tries to acquire Hippocrates as a robot minion, but that's even less successful than Nero. After two barrages of called fire, the first of which takes out the last of his tables, the party turns Toybox into a charred corpse. Sophia goes back to taking a dodge pool from one of the not-dead-yet Mirages, and giving it to Kye.

"Donella" wants to know if the wedding is still going forward. Apparently it is (since Dr. Cain isn't here yet). Nero reports that he has hacked Toybox's ship, it's not going anywhere, and that there's a carbonite chamber on board.

Some more guests arrive: a contingent from the Sanctuary IPX office, and Arthur Callahan (the reporter for the Light of EnQuiry). Everyone settles down for the ceremony. Maury's fortune-based blink keeps moving him to away from the choir loft, and near Twig. Hmm.

The officiant, Oliver Fontentot, starts the ceremony: "Dewwy Bewoved...." Things proceed about as expected, until the "Speak now", at which point a skylight in the roof opens, and two Tinoori and a man dressed in white slide down on webs. The man throws back his hood, revealing himself to look like Dr. Cain, and calls out: "No! For the sake of humanity, they must not be wed!"

There are a lot of will checks all around - people vary from being not particularly impressed, to thinking that Kye and Eva really getting married is probably a bad idea, to thinking that they would give their lives before seeing the abomination that is the wedding proceed, even in simulation. People also realize that the two Tinoori look like Moment Before Dawn and Night Blooming Wisteria, and have the party radios - though Max thinks they're somewhere else.

In a dramatic left turn (which Arthur Callahan is happy to see), Eva turns to Janzur and declares, pretty convincingly, "Well, if I can't marry him, we're free to get married!" Janzur swoops Eva off her feet.

His work here done Cain decides it's time to flee. The Tinoori shoot weblines up to the ceiling and begin to carry him up, but Max (very dramatically) shoots the line, and they plummet back down. Ace shoots Cain with the neural disruptor, and, much to his surprise, so does Jim (Cassandra has been working on a painting of Ace and Jim standing over Cain with neural disruptors for quite some time now).

Mirris acquires his background, and then, with Jayla's help, issues a complete report:

Three hundred and fifty years ago, the Hegemonic Imperium was solidifying its stranglehold on the Linked Worlds, as the last of the orbital mind control satellites were deployed on inworld and outworld alike. The Strategos Ambros rose in defiance against his brother, in defense of the downtrodden, and in the end it was only the suicide crash of the Strategos's ship into the control system on Ridena that destroyed the mad Hegemon and the satellite controls together, and locked all the satellites into military lockdown mode.

As the populace became suddenly free of control, there was rioting and chaos, and the Linked Worlds fragmented.

Since then, tyrants have begun to reunite their private empires, until the present day; the Red and Blue Imperiums have amicably divided most worlds between them, and only a few worlds hold out - Stannis's Margravate, and the egalitarian Oasis. Infiltrators, rabble-rousers, and people offering large bribes have been attempting to sway the Oasis, or at least soften it up before an eventual invasion, led by the smooth-talking Victor Lazlo. The resistance to the Blue influence is spearheaded by the noble (and strangely compelling) Citizen Cain.

The balance of the worlds has shifted in the past several years - a group of indepenent technology retrieval specialists discovered the lost Imperial battlecruiser, the Hector, frozen on an icy moon. However, the team was swiftly subdued by the last of the Thanatic Warriors, and their loyalty compelled by the addictive nano-buffs of the Hector's medlabs. The Hector proves to be a repository of control codes for the satellites, though only able to control them in the system it is in.

As the crew of the Hector begins trying to forge a new Imperium under their own control, Cain realizes that the only defense is some sort of jammer for the satellites. But alas, he is not a scientist. He manages to temporarily lure Sophia away from the Hector - as a mad scientist, surely she can help! But the problem is that it's impossible to figure out how to jam the satellites in their field. So Sophia constructs a device to open a gate into another dimension, to another Cain - who turns out also to be a mad scientist working on a gate! What luck!

Citizen Cain convinces Dr. Cain to work on the satellite jammer, while Dr. Cain convinces Citizen Cain to go and stop the wedding, for the good of humanity! (The child of Kye and Eva will be brilliant and amoral and will Rule the World - Citizen Cain, who is well aware of the dangers of the crew of the Hector, finds this entirely plausible.)

Goodness! That's not the background people expected Dr. Cain to have. This Citizen Cain must be a good guy (or else he's really crazy). Sophia steals his "strangely compelling" shtick. Ace asks if he can have it. Nope, nobody gets it.

Eva briefs Citizen Cain about the actual state of the world, and the fact that Dr. Cain is a bad guy. Citizen Cain thinks about it a little while, makes a Mad Sociology roll, and realizes that Dr. Cain sent him there to get killed! Dr. Cain and the two captive Tinoori are back in Dr. Cain's lab.

The group, now including Citizen Cain, proceeds towards Dr. Cain's lab at best speed. The plan, as laid out, is to go in and hit Dr. Cain with "ridiculous overwhelming speed of force." Cassandra, Nero, and Twig are left in charge of the Hippocrates, with a set of code words that will let them tell the party from a mirror-mirror party.

Max instructs people that if anyone falls into the alternate universe, they should regroup at Ela's Tomb (the location of the bachelor's party), and if it's not there, at City Hall.

From inside the lab, the group hears:

(sounds like Cain) "Woman, I only have two hands and eight killer robots, and I'm trying to work on the satellite, I can't stabilize it on this end!"
(sounds like Sophia) "Well, you have to stabilize it on your end soon!"
"Don't worrry, the gate will stabilize on its own once they kill him and there aren't two of us on this side."
(startled) "Kill him?"
(eerily convincing) "Don't worry, that was the plan all along./"
"Oh, okay."
The party begins charging into the lab, and engages with Dr. Cain's killer robots and Cain himself. Cain is quickly neural disrupted and grappled by Janzur, but he warns the group "You'd better figure out how to cure me soon, because if I don't stabilize the gate, we're all going to die."

From the other side of the dimensional gate, other-Sophia shouts "Cain, you fool! Stabilize the mad technowidget and - oh my god, Janzur, no!" Then there's a zapping sound. Maury gets this-Sophia to the main control panel, where she tries to stabilize the gate, but it's tough.

From the gate comes more shouting. Other-Sophia shouts "No, no, I'm not a traitor!" and then there's the sound of running. Then, more ominously: "Therive to Hector. Ready the main guns."

Examining the situation, it seems the problem is that this side needs to be stabilized, and the other side needs to be stabilized. Jayla considers throwing Dr. Cain through, which causes Dr. Kye to explode - after people spent so long badgering him about not killing Dr. Cain, now the party is going to throw him into another dimension?

Deirdre, carrying Citizen Cain, pauses with him at the gate, and signs "Confirm toss?" Jayla ponders the question. She can't see that it matters from this side, and can't see the other side. The killer robots continue to pound on people, though the Katya-shields are resistant.

There's ominous silence, and a door-shutting noise from the other side.

Max records "Don't shoot!" on a loop on his tricorder sets it to transmit, and throws it through the gate. Citizen Cain points at a robot and says "You there, get me a nice hot toddy" and one goes off to prepare one, making the combat lighten up a bit. Sharra has a restraining bolt on another, diminishing its effectiveness.

The robots team up on Katya, and she goes down. Everyone feels very unshielded and vulnerable.

Eva thinks that the orbital strike isn't happening, and that the door-shutting noise someone is trying to keep someone in or out of the lab. Again, the gate can be stabilized here, but that's only half of the problem.

Janzur manages to keep Kye from being killed by the robots, in a flurry of parries. ("Very nice. Now can you get off my stomach?").

First Frost of Autumn manages to get his parents free.

Dr. Cain tries to convince people: "Throw me through the gate, with one of you to be my hands, and I will save us!". The combat breaks into a brief time halt, provided by Jayla to communicate the problem. Both Dr. Cain and Sophia can stabilize the gates. Throwing Dr. Cain through punts the puce hegemon plan, though this does not irrevocably destroy all people. Keeping both Cains on this side after closing the gate doesn't seem to matter. Eva points out that there's no indication how long it takes to get through the gate.

With options running out, Maury teleports Dr. Cain to himself and Max, and pulls the three of them into the gate.

Deirdre goes down under the onslaught of the killer robots, and fails her death check. Moment Before Dawn and Night Blooming Wisteria manage to web one robot, and Janzur chops several more.

Eva wonders what Dr. Cain was really doing - he can't have been being helpful enough to work on the satellite jammer. It turns out that he really was - Citizen Cain made a very compelling argument for it.

At the end of the round, the gate explodes. Hippocrates gets off a burst tranmsission to Nero telling him "read the files!" and everyone is flung into the inter-dimensional voids.

(Credits: Ela's Tomb is a Cumberland Games map. The church is St. Paschal's in Louisiana. The lab is a Microtactix construct-a-map.)