Whose Ambush Is This, Anyway?

" You know those puzzle boxes, with a box inside a box inside a box? Well, my job is like that. Except the damn boxes keep getting bigger, not smaller, and people keep stuffing explosives in them."

Mack Dover, private investigator. Tinara, 2742.

2780.079 - 084
New Light -> Tyrell's Folly

The last of the loose ends gets finished up on New Light. Hippocrates briefs everyone on his conversation with General Hornberg, including the most relevant information: the Logocypher jumped into Tyrell's Folly, but did not jump out. General Hornberg also said something odd about the Red backfield fleet being "pre-positioned", which Hippocrates did not press him on. Katya speculates that the Reds have made some deal with the Deciders, but this seems somewhat convoluted.

There's also some additional information on the Brochoah from various news sources:

The Nurl government is definitely playing along with the Brochoah-protectorate thing, but there's reports of civilian protests and objections.

Gloryweb has not officially paid the "merchant fleet tithe" (so named by the press) to arm some portion of merchant ships and put them at the service of the military, but the defensive perimeter around Nurl is a substantial portion of the Gloryweb fleet, and so they're performing something like that tithe. They've done a credible job militarily defending against Blue advances, and have on occasion coordinated with the official Red Fleet, but they are receiving public criticism for failing to place themselves under Red tactical command.

The Red Vocari from Nurl has not been fired or returned home or anything, but he now apparently has a Brochoan "?aide?"

There's also a lot of sort of basic news reporting on "So the Brochoah are apparently these tree guys, they were on Nurl all along! Wow! And there's some tie between them and Gloryweb! My goodness!" and pictures of Brochoah and such.

Jayla ponders whether it's best to come clean with Donella about the Flames and the Bloodlines now, or wait - she ends up thinking that Donella seems about equally likely to believe them now or later, but that telling her now increases the chances that it will leak to Bad People and be destructive to All People. While everyone is considering this, Hippocrates mentions that General Hornberg said something about "Kidnapping the blue heir and destroying the possibility of there being another" - hmm, what does that mean. Maybe Doraine had genetic samples too, but they were destroyed? Either in a separate attack, or as part of the explosion? (Jayla and Katya say yes, they have ova stored both on the Hippocrates and at Vircus, but Jayla doesn't think that having kids immediately is important for All People).

Jayla gives her own briefing: she talked to the Brotherhood of the Word, and ended up telling them about the Hand striking the Stone. They think that after all the time travel, in this timeline the Hand didn't strike the Stone at all, and please don't do it in the future. Eva seems bothered by all this talk of striking and not striking Stone, but eventually decides to not flee.

In other news, Wilson has a new brooch with some tiny rubies that he's wearing on his lapel (in the ship, not when he disembarks). Interrogation reveals that his wife sent it to him. He's the last of the crew to be interrogated about the kidnapping/rescue of Donella, so the Hippocrates is free to leave.

"What is your crazy gadget today?" - Eva, to Sophia
"I don't have any crazy gadgets!" - Sophia
"Did you make anything new?" - Jayla, enthusiastically.
"Oh! Yes! This box!" -Sophia, displaying her latest crazy gadget
Sophia explains that she's been trying to reverse-engineer Jim's broken Sonic Screwdriver, but that she wasn't really sure what it did. How does being sonic help with turning screws? So she's built this box, using different sorts of components matching the sonic screwdriver, as well as other things from sonic theory, to explore the whole sonic space of possibility!

Right. Well, perhaps she shouldn't turn it on here, on the landing pad. It's probably safer in space.

The ship takes off! Wait, no, it doesn't. Ace doesn't like flying around unarmed. Could they ask Donella for a special exception to the rule that foreign warships aren't allowed? That could be tricky. Jayla thinks about it, and is stunned to realize that she has an extra die - from Donella?! There will be problems if the ship doesn't have guns, but it'll probably be better that way anyway, because it'll be easier for Donella.

Okay, the ship takes off, this time for sure. Ace, Eva, and the three Tinoori have another Ethics lesson.

"You're learning ethics?!?" -Sophia
For a first test of her Sonic Device, Sophia tries to use it on Sharra, in the rec room. It's emitting some sort of low-level subsonics, straight through the soundproofing and into the ship's infrastructure. Hmm. It doesn't seem to be doing anything obvious, though. The jump gate approaches. Jayla thinks everyone should be following standard belted-in procedures. Uh oh.

"Okay, make a piloting roll..." -Mike
[ Pete rolls ]
"Oh, that'll be for elevens" -Mike
"That's three naturals." -Pete
"What?" -Mike
Ace knows he was utterly brilliant in avoiding a mysterious (sonic?) crash, but everyone else thinks it was just as usual.

As the ship traverses jump space, there is suddenly something behind the people on the bridge! No, no, now there isn't again. That is deemed somewhat creepy.

Can Sophia scan the jumpgate? She tries to do so. Hyperspace seems to have a lot of static right now, which is unusual; the jumpgate is too far behind them to "see". Jayla thinks it's dangerous to look out the portholes right now, which of course means that Ace is suddenly tempted. Hippocrates turns off all the scanners and viewscreens, which instantly frustrates Sophia, who wants to scan the interesting things! Jayla and Sophia go several rounds as to whether or not scanning counts as seeing, and how dangerous could it possibly be? Well, if she can't look at it, how about recording it? No! No!

"I've always subscribed to the theory that you don't look out the portholes in jumpspace because that's like looking up Ifni's skirt." -Ace
"But if Ifni's skirt showed up you'd look up it." -Sophia
Something makes Janzur jump, but it's not clear what. Katya puts a glowy shield up around Eva, and projects "Eva with a monster behind her!". Ace calls Night Blooming Wisteria to the bridge, while Jayla calls everyone else.

Night Blooming Wisteria calls out "Captain, duck!" - Eva huddles down in her chair, still glowing. There's something sort of darkish in the air, above Eva. She skootches away from the chair without standing up, and notices that she was sort of hungry - Katya thinks the thing was hungry too. And Night Blooming Wisteria perceived hunger above her, though he is puzzled because the air is not normally hungry.

Hippocrates notes that whatever it was is going to Engineering now - and all the engineers have just come to the bridge. Sharra, Sophia, Jayla, and Janzur all charge towards engineering. Sharra's robot minion reports that there's something strange and dark in Engineering.

There's a bridge lurch!

Sharra finds that one of the stabilizer vanes is dissolving. Well, that'll need to be fixed before going out of jump. If the ship isn't the exact same physical configuration as it was when it came in... well, that could be bad. Ace thinks this must be reason to look outside, to see what's going on. No! No! Still no looking! (Eva thinks maybe the creature can't figure out how to eat her).

Katya tries to send the thing a thought: "not food". It feels like throwing a rock in a chasm, and it falls and falls, but then the rock goes PLUNK and the chasm goes away.

Sharra and Sophia start putting a replacement vane together. Now that the strange hungry thing is gone, Jayla thinks it's probably more safe to look, which will be pretty much necessary while installing a new stabilizer vane outside the ship.

Lots of lines are attached to things - one for each person, one for the stabilizer. Sophia, Sharra, and Janzur head into the airlock with the stabilizer; Sophia completely fails to attach her safety line clip, accidentally dropping it on the floor. In fact, she seems to be pretty uncoordinated and shaking. Oh, dear. Wilson starts suiting up, though he's not really very good at zero-G.

Sharra orders her back into the ship, to monitor progress from there. She tumbles back out the airlock. Sharra insists that she's okay, though, and wants to go fix the vane. Janzur insists that she be checked out too, in case she's also suffering from Black withdrawal and not realizing it. Jayla talks to her, and thinks she's getting through this particular tough spot okay. They head back into the airlock, but now it's a new situation, and Sharra becomes somewhat self-conscious and stays behind Janzur ("Why is everyone looking at me?" "Well, now they are...")

Eventually, Eva swaps out with Ace as the pilot, while Ace and Jayla help Sharra through the tough bit. Then, Ace, Sharra, and Janzur, head outside; Wilson is now the backup. They successefuly cut off the old stabilizer vane and weld on the new one, without anyone falling off into hyperspace.

"OK, *now* we're rooting around in Ifni's skirt." -Ace
"Ace, I"m never wearing a dress around you." -Eva
Then, the exit alarm starts going off. The jump gate is imminent! Everyone hurries at top speed back into the airlock, and, happily, manage to stuff themselves inside and shut the airlock door before the ship exits jump. Eva brings the ship out of jump even more smoothly than Ace brought it in; maybe he's getting soft.

The patrol ship at the Tyrell's Folly jumpgate scans them and asks them to state their business, and warns them: "Please be advised that there is hostile activity in the system. You are advised to travel in convoy to the planet or to nearby jump gates. The last convoy left eight hours ago, and there will be another in about forty hours."

Katya doesn't think the star is "in the system but not on the planet" - but hopefully finding the ship will tell the party something anyway. Eva talks to the Blue patrol ship; what do they know about particular ships getting shot up? Prisoners are generally released eventually, or let escape in life pods.

The first of the Mad Plans is developed - leave the Hippocrates here, and send the shuttle off to get jumped by the Red fleet! Ace thinks this plan has potential. Jayla is not reassured by this.

Jayla ponders choices - it's easier to find the star if the party doesn't wait for the convoy. Okay, the plan does seem to be "get jumped by the Reds".

Ace sneaks the Hippocrates towards the planet, thus avoiding any getting jumped, at least for the moment. It's back to being a little unclear what the plan is. Fourteen hours of flying later, they're going through the asteroid belt, nothing has happened yet, and Ace realizes he hasn't slept in about a day and a half. Maybe they should go and park at an asteroid. Though, now that they're in the asteroids, they hear a distress signal way off that way. Eva declares it to be a trap - everyone naps. (She eventually realizes this was just being extra-distrustful, oops. Happily, it is still a trap...)

Sophia builds a probe from one of the asteroid-scanning probes stolen from Memento Mori. Ace sneaks the Hippocrates close to the distress signal - It's the Logocypher! It seems to be putting out an automatic distress call. There is much argument as to whether to use the probe as a distraction, or try to sneak over, or send a fighter over, or send the probe in one direction and a fighter in another...

Jayla: "Um, we don't have the forces for an ambush... a distraction is not necessarily helpful..."
Eventually, the people on the Hippocrates make a better per roll, and see another ship - a fighter - powered down and also hiding. Eva suggests calling them, to say "we see you, can we talk?" - perhaps to taunt them into trying to board.

Eventually, the party decides that whatever plan they do want to embark upon, it will be a better plan if guns are involved. The ship stays dark and quiet and Sophia and Sharra and Wilson and Hippocrates and Janzur fix two guns in about six hours.

A new set of ships shows up, and the Logocypher powers up. This confuses everyone - is it a Blue trap for the Reds after all? Alas, the Hippocrates is not so much one with the night, and they are spotted. They power up. Some of the incoming fighters shoot at them, though with Ace at the helm and Katya shielding, the fighters have a hard time getting anything through.

Eva radios the incoming capital ship: "This is Eva Thorssen of the Hippocrates. Is this your ambush, or did we both wander into someone else's ambush?" In the meantime, the first of the incoming fighters gets blasted, falls down, and gets blasted some more. Ouch.

Hippocrates identifies the capital ship as a Red fast attack cruiser, as it answers:

"This is Commodore de Gaulle of the Andrax task force. You are ordered in the name of the One True Hegemon to surrender."
"Commodore de Gaulle, we're registered out of Crux; we don't want to fight you; we just want to talk to you about the Logocypher."
The Red fleet appears to be not impressed at the claims of the Hippocrates that it doesn't want to fight them, and the Logocypher attempts to grapple. Hippocrates tries to drag it away, grapples and all: "Aux power to monster truck mode."

There's a lot more shooting. Janzur tries to shoot at the Logocypher's engines, but they appear to have someone on damage control too, so he's not making much headway.

"This is Engineering. We're losing." -Sophia, in Engineering
"Oh, is that what those blinky lights mean? -Jayla, on the bridge
However, between Hippocrates' Aux Power and Ace's piloting, the Hippocrates gets up enough momentum (even with the Logocypher grappled) to temporarily evade the fleet before taking too much more damage. The troop of marines on the Logocypher promptly boards, with breaching pods through an airlock and through Hydroponics.

Parties of marines head for Engineering (Sharra and Sophia are having a field day fortifying doors) and the bridge, with the sergeants blowing doors open as needed.

It's a slow-going fight, with sixteen marines, two sergeants, and one captain. The party focuses on the officers, while the marines grapple with Janzur and even immobilize him for a bit. (Two marines are jumped by the Tinoori when they make the mistake of trying to break into their stateroom). The marine captain points his gun at Ace and tells Hippocrates to surrender, and gives Hippocrates an action! (Hippocrates: "Negative, sir.").

Other people try and get the marines to surrender instead.

"We are the neutral ship and we could talk about this if you would get your blaster out of your butt." -Ace

"We're taking your forces down, you cannot possibly take this ship." -Jayla

The marines break into the Kafuman facility, and are appalled. ("They're shipping people! My God!"). Eventually, both the captain and one of the sergeants are taken down; the other sergeant calls a switch to Plan B.

The marines pull out limpet mines and scatter, attaching them to equipment and bulkheads. Sharra starts flushing the air out of the Kaufman facility, and Jayla orders the marines in it to get out and not plant bombs there in particular - she's able to sway them. A guy runs up, grabs Ace, and runs away. Mystifying. Katya notes there's a limpet mine on his back. She attempts to remove it by grabbing the attached shirt.

"Make a TK roll using demolitions and seduction."
Eva tells them over the PA that they'll be permitted to get back to their ship if they take their bombs with them. The marines start retreating, but don't take the already-set bombs. The sergeant says that they have failsafes, they can't be turned off again.

Sergeant: "Let my men get off the ship - you can have me and the captain."
In the end, as the marines retreat, there are about six bombs still planted on things, and people run around trying to disarm things like mad. It turns out that Janzur took a class in limpet mines at the academy!

Sophia configures her Sonic Whatchamajiggy into a Sonic Cynosure (hmm, no, this doesn't seem helpful), and tries again: a Sonic Clamp, which clamps a limpet mine to it instead of to the thing it's on.

In the end, Hippocrates throws one limpet mine out an airlock, and Ace throws his jacket, plus three more limpet mines, out of the shuttle bay doors, and Janzur disarms one. Alas, the last mine is on the Vigilance, and it explodes.

Later conversation at dinner:
Eon: We didn't figure out which fighter got blown up.
Laura: Which ones are there?
Tom: Mine and Janzur's.
Laura: Well, want to roll off fortune over whose it was?
Eon: (looking at Tom) I guess it was mine.
The captain is heal-patched some, but still isn't conscious; Jayla gets him to talk through the pain anyway. Eva explains that they wouldn't even have sprung the ambush if it wasn't that they wanted two items the Logocypher had. What items? Ace says "Well, how about everything?" Eventually, they admit that they're interested in a box, and a piece of art. No box seems to have turned up, but the official Logocypher manifest doesn't include the 100,000 asters of gold and gems that it was carrying. Both that and the "piece of art" went back to Riden.

Eva tries to get the captain to talk about how they manage to ship things back to Riden from a war zone. He claims that that isn't his responsibility so he doesn't know, but Katya reads his mind and sends people pictures of a little red ship with a big blue flag hanging around in the convoys.

The marines ask for the last two bodies back. Oh, the Tinoori didn't realize they would be wanting them back. They're in pieces now. There's some discussion as to whether to throw grenades on the pieces to make it less obvious they were chopped up; in the end, they're given back as is, with the explanation that the Hippocrates has several Tinoori crew members.

The Logocypher is left behind for the Red fleet to pick up, while the Hippocrates takes off for the jump gate at top speed, while Sharra and Sophia get Hydroponics and the airlock somewhat patched. Hydroponics can't be fully patched until they get to a planet; the plants are probably going to have to be replaced again. Oh, and there's another pause to disable the guns again, before they get in range of the Blue patrol.

The ship jumps for Highguard, and heads for the border between Blue and Red, with some thought that it would be good to get to Riden before the reports on the encounter do.