"The more a man has to protect, the more cautious he is. Take only half of what you can, and he will not risk losing the other half to oppose you. Take all, and he will be at your throat forevermore."
Ozymandias, "Advice from my Enemy",
The most accurate jumpers appear in the Kaufman facility. Hippocrates lands on the floor. Ace steps out of a tube, as does Eva, all healed. Sharra also steps out of a tube as well; Sophia and Jim are still in tubes, which haven't yet opened. Except that Sophia's tube is filled with dark goo rather than green goo, and has a "percentage done" indicator rather than "percentage healed". And a bunch of the Kaufman tubes are partially disassembled, the Hegemonic seal on the wall has been painted over, and the doors are locked.
The standard Hippocrates interface has a big computer attached to it; Hippocrates and Sharra investigate. Max thinks the computer is likely a Well brand, though it doesn't have a big brand name on it. Sharra thinks it was used to upload software, though it's not currently doing anything. Eva disguises herself again to look like Donella.
Taking a look at the tube Sophia's in, Hippocrates determines that it looks like Hegemonic-style modifications, not mad science. Jim comes out of his tube, and is promptly told: "Mr. Powell, we're under siege." Hippocrates directs Sharra and Jim to disconnect the computer and start hacking in, battling against the expert system currently installed.
The question is, is it best to try and break out of the room first, or into the computers first? Computers first, is the decision, since Max is pretty sure the cameras are off (he sabotages them so that even if they get turned back on, they'll register malfunctions). Hippocrates jacks in and starts working on trying to gain control over the ship's subsystems. He advises that someone get to the computer core to assist.
In case it wasn't clear to everyone before, Hippocrates announces that Sophia's tube is a Black tube. Oh, dear. But it's still probably not a good idea to force her out of it; that's generally bad for the Kaufman tubes. Meanwhile, working on the locked doors, Sharra decides that she can get it open without Ace's help, and Ace has to leap in to hold a cut alarm wire together with his hands. However, the alarms go off anyway, once the computer breakin starts - there's an announcement: "Security breach in the secure facility". Max and Jim vanish mysteriously, and the doors open, showing two stormtroopers in black armor and mirrored helmets. One takes a bunch of concentrated fire and plasma weaponry, and goes down fast.
Sophia comes out of her tube, feeling about as omnipotent as Sharra. Max and Jim become their own problems again, at the door to the computer core, which they've just gotten open. However, this alerts the two guards in the hallway a short distance away. Jim pulls the two of them into the room and Max tries to cloak them again, but they're pretty strongly the problems of the people chasing them, so it only has a minimal effect. The guards follow them into the room and one points a gun at them: "I don't care if you're ghosts or spirits or what, if you move I'm shooting you."
Hippocrates starts going for control of the doors, and instructs anyone who's by a door to hit the two call buttons there. Future hacking will also benefit from people being in particular places.
Hysteria erupts in the conference room next to the computer core, and techies flood into the hallway. Ghosts! Red alerts! It's all terrible. The doors to the Kaufman room close and lock again.
Max warns the guy pointing a gun at him: "Ghosts can't really do anything. You might want to check the people outside who seem real and panicked," but the guard is not convinced to abandon the computer room to the ghosts.
Anya tries to pry Kaufman door back open, and with Ace's help, they get it open again. One of the techies flees towards the computer core, but doesn't think Max and Jim are actually ghosts. One of the techies tries to elbow the others away from the computer room and towards the exit - Jim recognizes that it's Mirris.
Hippocrates gets doors hacked through, and there is immediate incoming fire through the door to the Kaufman room. Sharra dodges the blaster shots, in ninja slow motion, and Eva shouts in to the party radio: "Good job distracting them up there while we get the stuff done down here in main power."
Max considers his options. There are too many people looking at them to cloak properly. Time for a smoke grenade! The computer core fills with smoke, and the two guards and Jim open fire. Due to the smoke, though, the guards don't hit. (Jim suggests, sotto voce, that maybe an anti-personnel grenade would help).
Sophia, Sharra, and Anya make it to the bridge, which has several more armed guards.
"Don't worry, I'm on Black, it'll all be fine." - SophiaMirris tries to instill panic in the people in the computer core - look at all this smoke! They'll be in such trouble if they damage the computer any longer! However, she fails to move them out bodily, and two more guards enter. Eva gets to the bridge too, and frobs the communications console; so far Hippocrates has kept anyone from calling out. The bridge soldiers shoot at Anya, nearly knocking her over, and Eva arranges to have them shot at immediately. They go down too. Lest things look too bright, however, the airlock doors open and two more of the black-armor stormtroopers come in from their posts at in the inner airlocks.
Jim calls Hippocrates: "We are a go on core," and then vanishes into the smoke. Hippocrates tells him to cycle the power supply regulators, and tells Eva to toggle the external sensors.
Another stormtrooper comes out of Eva's stateroom and onto the bridge. (Eva is mortally offended - Matrix stormtroopers using her stateroom!) "Submit, and you will not be immediately killed," he orders - Sophia and Sharra laugh hysterically. Normally people are more scared of him than that. Hippocrates notices that the starboard gun is powering up - there may not be communications working, but that will certainly alert the station.
Max crosses from the computer room to Nav/Sensor Control, and frobs the sensors while Jim toggles the power coupling. Meanwhile, a storm trooper gets in the core, just in time for Hippocrates to close down all the doors. The four guards, the stormtrooper, and Jim are all trapped in the smoky core for a while. Sharra and Sophia shoot at the Matrix guy, demonstrating that his armor is reasonably good. He decides to make an example of Eva, and shoots her. She dodges a little, but manages to resist the "screaming and groveling" part. Eva shouts at everyone to shoot him - he takes a whole bunch of damage, but doesn't quite fall. Then he hits a button in the center of his chest and his suit goes "Kssss" and he perks up. He shoots at Eva again, but Anya, with extra effort manages to intercept and block it.
Max manages to not-a-problem about halfway to the starboard gun, but has to go through too many doors and runs into another stormtrooper. Anya finishes taking out the stormtrooper on the bridge, while the computer battle rages for the starboard gun. Due to Ace's knowledge of the weak points of the system, the gun finally goes into contention.
Max grovels at the stormtrooper, and blithers that the starboard gun is about to explode - he needs to get there to fix it. The stormtrooper tells Max that the gun will be taken care of, and to kneel and submit. He does so, and asks if he can help, such as getting the soldier onto the bridge.
The expert system grows tired of Hippocrates looking through the cameras, and turns them off. Mirris gets to the sensor room, and Hippocrates contacts her and asks her to hack in through the computer there.
Max manages to stall getting onto the bridge, delaying the stormtrooper for a while, while the people on the bridge start arranging to flee through the gravlift.
"Do I have to do everything? I suppose I do have to do everything, because I can." - Sophia, the only one on the bridge with first aid.The vacuum system gets rebooted again, as the expert system battles to try and flush the party. Everyone on the bridge gets into the gravlift and dashes towards sickbay to look for healing supplies. A short time later, the stormtrooper on the other side door blows it up with a breaching charge.
Hippocrates, the expert system, and Mirris battle over various systems. The expert system gets the vacuum flush back for a scary moment, and starts to vent the sickbay. The stormtrooper tries to chase after the people who have fled the bridge, but the gravlift takes him the wrong way.
Hippocrates tells Max to get into the bridge, and he starts working on it for serious. Ace starts looting a downed stormtrooper: he has a spiffy but non-perilous weapon, which is attached to his armor, and a Matrix Security ID. Ace starts taking his armor off and putting it on himself. (Anya suggests putting him in a Kaufman tube, but nobody else likes that idea).
The Matrix Guard in the haunted elevator manages to get back to the top of the ship. Looting of the sickbay begins. The expert system reboots internal security, and the battle for the computer core begins. Ace shoots around the corner at one of the stormtroopers, hitting him - and Anya as well. Weird. His aim seemed to be off. Max finally gets the door to the bridge open, and his stormtrooper goes in.
The expert system spends its effort on getting the doors back. Two stormtroopers get into the bridge; they demand that Max come and open the door into the elevator. Up in the medical floor, another stormtrooper is finally taken down. The expert system grows tired of not being able to see things through the cameras; they all come back on, except for the Kafuman room (which Max had previously sabotaged).
The expert system starts trying to evacuate the Kaufman room. Hippocrates, with Sophia's help, battles back at it. Max tries to tell his stormtroopers that he might do better at the console, but they are unimpressed and just tell him to go faster. The stormtrooper in the core finally places his breaching charge, and blows the door open, and then leads the guards down through the floor-of-locked-doors to the elevator. Mirris takes this chance get into the core: "Oh, no, I have dropped my first aid kit in the middle of the room!" (She doesn't know where Jim is, but he doesn't actually need the kit, not having taken any damage.)
Hippocrates cycles the door Max is in front of; Max is partly through the door, so it doesn't shut all the way. Meanwhile, in the shuttle bay, the techies are getting into the Elite shuttle (which has been repainted to Matrix black and white). Jim gets to the sick bay eventually. Ace finishes getting the one stormtrooper's armor off, while Anya works on stuffing everyone into the Kaufman room. Hippocrates says the bad guys are coming down the hallway to the medlab soon - get ready to get them.
The two stormtroopers finally get into the elevator, and tell Max to take control of the doors from the bridge console, like he was offering to. Hippocrates tells him to go look at the sensors to tell him what's outside. The two stormtroopers, prowling around, find Mirris, and tell her to submit. Having no actions left, she just looks scared. Eva taunts them: "Hey, you poser Matrix Guards, you're going the wrong way, we're down in the secure facility," since there are enough people there to set a proper ambush.
Max, on sensors, determines that they're docked at a military-grade space station, probably the Matrix's, though there aren't any alarms going off yet.
Anya heads to the elevator that has the two stormtroopers in it, to try and take them both down, but instead hits one of them, herself, and the starboard engine. She runs back around the corner, leading them into the ambush. Eva calls fire on them, but directs people to split dice, and it doesn't manage to take them both out. They shoot Eva, and she falls. Jim throws an anti-personnel grenade down the corridor to where the two guards and Anya are, but they're armored.
Ace finishes getting all of his new armor on, except for the helmet. Sophia notes the subtle whiff of engine coolant coming from the ventilators. That's bad.
Everyone who is within air space of the starboard engine starts taking damage from the coolant. Sophia and Sharra both race for it, while Ace waffles about putting the helmet on (perhaps it's a mind control helmet!) Sophia rushes through the stormtroopers, leaping over one but ending up between the pair. Ace shoots at both of them, and takes one down. The other shoots Sophia - she doesn't submit.
"I am not mortal - I am a Mad Scientist!"The cooling leak finally takes its toll on Anya, and she falls over. Jim takes the other stormtrooper down, and Sharra runs towards the engine leak. Sophia takes a couple of rounds (with Sharra's help) to patch up the engine leak.
Max does a comm analysis on the traffic; he doesn't think there's any notice yet of the situation on the Hippocrates. The docking clamps are tight, though; he can go out EVA with explosives and try and blow them, but it'll cause trouble.
As Jim shoots at the last stormtrooper, the doors mysteriously pop open between them. Ace helps shoot, now that the doors are open. Down in the shuttle bay, the techies finish getting into the elite shuttles, the two fighters, but Hippocrates has control of the doors, so they're a little stuck until someone hits the manual override.
The last stormtrooper shoots Jim; Jim realizes that continuing to oppose him is the height of folly. He wavers to run, and Eva shouts at him to stand his ground, that it's not scouting to run away. Hmm. Well, perhaps it's best if he just dies in the line of duty.
The expert system goes for the starboard gun, still in contention, but it bounces. Mirris reboots it, which means it'll have to power up all over again. Max works on making the sensors subtle and stealthed, so he's not obviously scanning. Eva mimics one of the stormtrooper voices: "By order of the Matrix, get out of the ships and lie down on the ground." (Max notes that that puts an automatic 10,000 aster bounty on her head. Only if he finds out about it, Eva notes back.)
The last of the stormtroopers goes down, which is sufficient to declare the day won. The guys in the shuttle bay get thrown in the brig. The stormtroopers are all dead.
Sophia puts on the helmet; it seems to have connections to the suit, but neither she nor Ace are wearing both of them at once, so nothing happens. Max briefs everyone on the state of the spaceport - there are several armed ships, more one way around the circle than the other. They could try to flee straight out, or try to flee around the station to keep from being shot at.
Mirris reports on the doings of the past three and a half months:
Mirris was on the Well when Gabriel sent in his rescue team, having set up a safehouse and provided intelligence. When Gabriel and Donella returned from the raid, she volunteered, rather vehemently, to head back in and try to rescue, or at least discover the fate of the Hippocrates and his crew. She infiltrated the techie crew, and has been stalling progress ever since, and helping spread the rumor that the ship is haunted. The computer data was wiped when the techies got there.Max can't find the people who haven't appeared yet, or First Frost of Autumn. Sophia investigates what happens if you put on the helmet and the suit at the same time. It has IR and a gas mask and such - and it activates all the White injectors.
Citizen Cremont was given the loot from the Hippocrates, including Kith and Cassandra - he apparently collects interesting people. The Dancer has apparently been given back to its original owner. The Matrix has the plasma bomb, and, obviously, the Hippocrates. Mirris doesn't know anything about First Frost of Autumn.
The bombing of the Blue capital on New Light (2779.289) triggered an immediate Blue fleet crossing from Highguard to Nurl, and pulled the other half of the fleet back from Juice to Highguard. Donella took over as Blue Hegemon about a week and a half after that, though she's been pretty strongly curtailed and sequestered since her one rousing ``we will persevere!'' speech. The general public doesn't relize she's being sequestered, though, assuming she's taking cover for security reasons. Her ``verification'' is still being postponed due to the war, and the bombing of the capital, but everyone's sure she's the real one. Everyone, especially the public, is also sure she's going to marry someone soon.
Mirris's Citizen, Citizen Archibald, was stripped of his citizenship by the Matrix and his lands were broken up and sold to other Citizens. This is a fairly unprecidented action, but his implication in the Blue Heir plot ``forced the Matrix to take extrordinary steps.'' Rumor has it that Donella was sent his head as well as a large bribe to turn her attentions away from the Well after the affair was concluded.
There were several weeks of fleet battling in the Nurl system, which is when news arrived (2779.304) from the outworlds that the Red fleet patrolling had vanished and that there was a Decider fleet spotted in the Bastion system; it stayed away from the planet, but blew up any ship that approached it before it withdrew.
On 2779.312 Nurl declared itself to be part of the Brochoah Protectorate, and the Gloryweb fleet arranged itself into a defensive perimeter. Red has declined (at present) to interpret this as a secession from Red, since the perimeter has been defending against continuing Blue attacks (since Red isn't attacking it).
A couple of splinter fast attack groups have broken off - one Blue squad got into Riden (2779.360) and has been running around doing guerilla attacks, and one Red squad got back through Highguard to Tyrell's Folly (2780.002), and is harrying movement from New Light to the front; it hasn't managed to get through to actually hit New Light.
Right now neither side is allowing armed ships that aren't on their team to either enter their side or exit their side (though they can run around in the backfield as long as they behave). Merchants are being seriously scanned to make sure that they aren't gunships or carrying war materiel, but all the merchant fleets have been very careful.
Max suggests, as a bad idea, trying to use his Citizen-level "get out of jail free" gold card to try and convince people that they're the real owners? But now that they've killed the Matrix's pet guards, that'll be trickier, and the ship does have what appears to be a Black facility being constructed.
People wander around, addressing First Frost of Autumn, in case he's listening, but nothing immediate comes of it. Next in the list of things noticed missing is the baby AI. Ace is devastated.
"They're right, he is nesting." - JimThe fact that there were doors mysteriously opening doors and gravlift failures is pondered. Well, the ship does seem to be haunted. And who wiped the data disk? Hippocrates thinks he (or, at least, his low-level semiconscious process that's there when Jerry isn't in runs) did, at someone's behest.
A note shows up in Jim's pocket, and Jim climbs into the Jeffries tubes to look for First Frost of Autumn. They talk briefly, and Jim tries to convince him that the internal threats are neutralized, but he's a little too paranoid to come out. (He seems to have coated himself with a silvery dust which he says makes him hard to sense - he tries to get Jim to hide in the Jeffries tube with him, but Jim won't go for it). First Frost of Autumn grudgingly allows Jim to tell people that they don't have to search for him.
Ace gives Mirris the shotglass from Vertak. Cool. Medical attention is provided to the non-stormtrooper soldiers, and none die. The question of what to do with them is tabled.
"They took Jack's jacket?" - SophiaMax, Mirris, and Eva head out to deal with the docking clamps. Mirris looks like a known techie, and Eva and Max are not so much a problem. There's one stormtrooper outside the door, who complains that their shift isn't over. Mirris explains that they have to go handwave the docking clamps. A regular guard is summoned to escort the three of them around.
"They took Jack's Jacket?" -Ace
"They took Jack's jacket!" -Both
Everyone is ready to go - Ace is in the pilot's chair, and Anya and Jim are at the airlock ready to leap upon anyone who tries to get in.
At the first docking clamp, Max drops the SEP field and Eva flirts with the guard; he softens up enough to believe the nonsense story about why the clamps need to be unfastened for checking. He and Eva can get together after her shift, right? Oh, yeah, that'd be nice.
By the third clamp, though, he's getting a little worried. If they disconnect all three clamps, won't the ship float away? No, of course not, do you think they're that stupid? Mirris assures him. He looks to Eva for reassurance, the poor sod, and she nods that it's all OK.
He suggests that he can get a pass, if Eva wants to come down to the mess hall for a while, while these guys finish up. She looks kinda hungry. She stalls him: "Let me just go get my thing. I was in the middle of.." Mirris: "Just show me what you were doing and I can cover for you." Eva: "Five minutes, I'll be back in five minutes."
The three sneaks head back onto the ship, and Max times shifting aux power until right after a sensor sweep, and then they're off! Max puts up ECM to make the Hippocrates more difficult to hit, which is good as there are two patrol ships and three others docked, which have to be outdistanced. Ace concentrates on getting as fast and as far as possible, but the Hippocrates is being damaged at a tremendous rate. After one volley from the bad guys, Sharra has to do some extraordinary feats of engineering to keep the ship up, but she manages it.
Max manages to push the ECM higher, and after another fierce exchange of fire, the Hippocrates does manage to pull away from its pursuit and escape.