"You can believe in fate, or you can believe in physics.
-Arista Nomarche, AS 2503
On Crux, interesting local news includes that the Defender party has gotten a boost in popularity, with the rumor that several crime families have been broken. As this is a "law and order" bonus, the Defenders are being given much of the credit. Though wiser pundits seem to think that it was something else entirely, maybe an internal mob war, and the Defenders are reaping the benefit unjustly.
Katya talks to Akito about his talking to Ruthie about her having dosed the crew with Affection, and Max talks to Eva about the same thing. The consensus is that Ruthie needs to apologize.
Max buys a hand-cranked ice cream machine, and tries to interest Sharra in the exciting and novel idea of converting it into an automatic machine. Sharra tries to explain that the automatic generation of ice cream is already a solved problem. Max says this is more for a project for her to work on with Ruthie, as Ruthie seems to have some technical aptitude.
"Oooh. Affection flavored ice cream." - KyeRuthie heads to Engineering to apologize to Sharra. She says, she was, um, talking to Akito, and, um - hey look, there's someone outside the ship! In fact, there is a scruffy-looking old guy outside the ship. Ruthie decides that Sharra is busy, and heads off again. Kye and Sharra go to answer the door. The old guy introduces himself as Chi Master Igo - the Rosicrucian Academy has recommended that he come (here, he has a letter), and he has business with Ujiie Akito.
"You're not allowed to talk to her." - Akito
Mis-hearing Master Igo's introduction, Eva pages Akito, saying that there's a Master Ujiie here to see him. Akito nearly breaks the laws of physics getting down to the airlock, but is disappointed to discover that it is not, in fact, the late Master Ujiie, but some guy he's never met before.
Akito wants to know who sent him. "No one sends Igo!" However, many Masters have noticed Akito's performance in his duel on Lendt, where he did not completely embarrass himself. Perhaps there is some bit in Tiger Crane worth preserving, the Masters have begun to think, but since there is no living Master of the school, what of Tiger Crane there is will die with Akito. Igo is here to observe Akito in his everyday life to see how he handles himself. After that, he will tell his opinions to the other Masters, which they will of course value highly, and then decide what to do. Ruthie runs up to interrupt and tell Akito something, but is shushed by Igo. She pouts and slinks off.
The crew hustles Master Igo into Stateroom 7. He is nonplussed by the sliding door technology: "On Lendt, we have doorknobs.".
Ruthie tells Akito that she had a talk with Sharra, so now she has to find someone else to talk to. Akito tries to clarify - did Ruthie actually apologize to Sharra? Ruthie can't quite squirm out of the question - she says she tried to, but Sharra was busy. No, that won't do - she'll have to try again. Akito hands out "apology chits" to Sharra, Max, Katya, and Martan - they should only give the chit to Ruthie when she's apologized to their satisfaction.
After Dr. Kye lures Ruthie off to show her how the point defenses work, Akito makes more "Dr. Kye" chits and gives them to Dr. Kye: "These are for Ruthie. Give her as many as you want." Every Dr. Kye chit cancels out an apology chit in the "How good is Ruthie being" scale, though Akito doesn't mention this to Kye.
Everyone gets set for the experiment. Martan and Geoffrey Oxford are staying behind on Crux - Martan has an errand to run, and thinks that taking part in a psychic ritual gone horribly awry probably won't be good for the person with a broken self-image (and probably wouldn't be good for the ritual, either). Akito takes off (under the watchful gaze of Master Igo). He doesn't do so well (though even "not very well" is four successes with the Hippocrates).
"Do I miss the sky?" -EonSharra, sensing that she's being watched, tries to lure Ruthie out of hiding: "It's too bad I don't know where Ruthie is, she could be helping me in Engineering..." Ruthie thinks it's a trick, and stays hidden.
"You can't take the sky from us!" -Kate
Before heading out to the middle of nowhere and performing exciting rituals, the crew ponders if the Hippocrates should leave a buoy on the regular tradelanes saying "If we don't come back in a week, come rescue us." Martan, who is staying behind, volunteers to organize a rescue mission if they don't come back, so leaving a buoy will just lure in curiosity seekers, and is rejected.
Eva summons Ruthie to the bridge for a chat - Eva is impressed by her technical prowess, but not her judgement, and suggests that she apologize sooner rather than later. Ruthie is still kinda worried about people being mean to her, though. Speaking of technical prowess versus judgement, Kye ponders testing his plasma bomb and heads down to the lab to set things up.
Ruthie's apology to Max goes a little more smoothly.
"You've had a good tongue-lashing from Eva. Are you sorry?"Since Ruthie isn't allowed to touch medical supplies that are normally in the medlocker now, she wants to know what's in the medlocker, so she can avoid that stuff. (Not that the affection was in the medlocker...). Ruthie gets given a heal patch of her very own, as consolation - she's quite psyched by that.
"Here's the token."
"I have my own heal patch now. Maybe I can trade it to someone for their apology chit."A couple of days out from Crux, the Hippocrates heads to a remote dust clearing. Master Igo has been spending the past several days watching Akito, constantly. Including while he sleeps. It's a little creepy.
The experimentalists (Ruehan, Katya, Kye, Akito, Max, and Igo) head to the shuttle bay to start the ritual. Eva and Ruthie hang out on the bridge, Ruthie at the sensor platform, and Sharra lurks near the door to the shuttle bay, just in case anything goes wrong.
The group powers up the ritual, with plenty of extra power.
|Total (30 needed)||41|
Sharra gets a little more detail on the ship - it's a small craft, not the sort of thing that would be out here on its own. That's somewhat suspicous - Eva starts flying more of a random evasive pattern, away from the mystery ship.
Down in the shuttle bay, Ruehan directs everyone to simulate coordination of psi.
Ruthie wants to know what the word is when there's a blip but you don't know what it is? "A bogey", Eva tells her. Ruthie points out that there's another bogey, up ahead! Sharra scans it - it's a pair of the little fighters.
Eva is very suspicious, but it doesn't seem to be a trap for the Hippocrates - nobody knew they were coming here. It might not even be a trap for someone else. Maybe a secret rendezvous? Sharra doesn't think the fighters are recognizably whiterunners, or standard Defender party fighters.
They're sending encrypted radio traffic back and forth, but it's not amazingly good encryption. Eva manages to pull out a lot of it - they're talking about trying to herd ffftf ffffft the mother ship before ffft fffffft ffft the Deciders ffft fffffft ffft.
Down in the shuttle bay, Ruehan directs everyone to simulate coordination of Body.
"Bridge to shuttle bay. How long are you going to be?" -EvaSharra makes a big sign that says "Decider Fleet On The Way!" to post somewhere in the shuttle bay that the ritual group will see if they ever have a spare moment to regard their surroundings.
"We're kinda busy down here." -Ruehan
"Be busy faster." -Eva
Down in the shuttle bay, Ruehan directs everyone to simulate Precision of Resolution.
Eva tries to fly casual to wander away again, but without any actual Starship acting, it's not a very good pretense of casual.
Down in the shuttle bay, Ruehan directs everyone to simulate Coordination of Resolution (not actually a known stat). The ritual goes out of control! Everyone on the ship finds themselves with both an alien psych lim and an alien shtick, as well as a very unclear bit of xenopsionic data that they need to clarify.
The fighters start closing in on the Hippocrates, as people start swapping psych lims and trying to figure out their bits of data. Igo demonstrates that he can drain Ruehan's mind - hmm, what race could he be simulating?
"Ruthie, can you fire the guns?" -EvaRadio traffic from the yet-unseen mothership tells the fighters to converge on the bogey, and tells the "spike ships" to launch. The fighters hail the Hippocrates: "Identify yourself and prepare to be boarded." Katya puts up ship shields, but thinks there's something weird about them.
"Anything you can do, I can do better." -Ruthie (with her new superiority psych lim)
"Hello, this is the cargo ship Big Hauler, negative on that boarding thing, we, um, we have a reactor leak here! It's very very bad, but we're working very hard to... stop that... that is, we're getting the leak under control, but you really don't want to board right now. We're also kinda lost..." -Eva (with her new psych lim)The fighters demonstrate that they have an uncanny ability to swing their momentum counters around. Max tries to use SEP with fortune to distract the guy on the radio with Eva; some sort of of conduit explodes on their ship, distracting them.
Ruthie wants to know which bogey she should destroy first. She shoots, but a shower of sparks means that Gun number Three can no longer be fired from the bridge. Eva looks suspiciously at Ruthie - well, maybe this is what happens when you let the 8-year-old shoot the guns. Eva fires, and another shower of sparks drops the Hippocrates' reliability by 3. Maybe it's not just the 8-year-old, then.
Sharra splits her fire between the three nearby fighters (with her new shtick). Sadly, the focussing array is off, and the shots fizzle. Katya drops the shields wondering if they are causing the gun problems, but they seem to continue without her so she puts the shields back up.
The fighters are confused - they fired, but then dropped their shields. Are they surrendering?
Eva (still with her psychlim) launches into a long confused explanation about how their cargo has exploded, and they're never taking on cargo for Ozymandias again.
Ruthie shoots again, and fire control for that station gets stuck targetting that particular fighter. Max starts setting up anti-ECM to try and block what must be ECM coming from the fighters causing the weapons to go wonky. The mothership tells the fighters: "Kill them. Use the causotron." The Hippocrates' momentum counter swings around the board until the Hippocrates is pointed back towards the combat.
Igo, watching Akito pilot (he's taken over from Eva), says that Akito pilots like a monkey in heat. Akito spends a long time explaining why he isn't (having taken that psych lim over from Eva as well).
Ruthie, also with a new psych lim, apologizes to Sharra: "Affection fiasco: Very apologetic, so sorry." She gets a chit.
The fighters converge on the Hippocrates and open fire. One does a D plasma critical, which because of Katya's shields, is only a Large starship critical. It's not a very good crit; the ship takes five points of damage. (People wonder what the heck is going on. Combat doesn't usually happen this way.)
The swapping of shticks and psych lims continues. Kye starts arming his plasma bomb prototype.
"Eva.... should.... I .... be ... dodg...ing.... or...." -Akito, very slowlyThe mothership is finally in view - Max thinks it has some of the weirdest tech he's ever seen. Not Decider, and not old Hegemonic.
"No! We're going after the mother ship!" -Eva, impatient
A more painful critical rattles the ship - Ace's stateroom and Martan's staterooms are destroyed. (Woe for Sasha!). The mothership shows off, gathering up everyone's momentum counters.
After much work and confusion, people begin to get their psych lims and shticks matching - Ruehan settles in as a Vertaki. Eva summons everyone to the bridge to try and make the process faster.
Eva figures out that the picketing forces of fighters are trying to keep everyone away from the mothership, which nobody is supposed to know is re-arming and upgrading the Tarn.
Another shot causes a bridge lurch, and the Hippocrates spins out of control briefly. Sharra fixes amazing amounts of damage, and fire control on the bridge guns.
The Hippocrates manages to get by the forward picket, to see the mothership, the rear picket, and a small group of greeenliners.
Akito takes thirty seconds to tell Dr. Kye to get ready to push his plasma bomb out of the airlock.
"I'm sorry, I wasn't listening. Can you repeat that?" -Kye.Ruthie keeps trying to apologize to Katya, but Katya isn't speaking to her, and Ruthie doesn't get a token.
Max matches up his psych lim and shtick - this causes him to drop out of the psychic ritual. Luckily, it's still over thirty successes without him. (This is because he's matched up as an AI, but people don't figure that out until later).
Another malfunction takes the ship down to 1 reliability, as Kye pushes the bomb out of the airlock towards the mothership and the greenliners. Whee! It's time to roll on the Apocalyptic Weapon Damage table! One greenliner explodes, numerous spike ships are heavily damaged, and the mothership is knocked out but not destroyed. It starts repairing itself.
Sharra shoots some more of the fighters and spike ships, and fire control breaks again. Kye prepares another bomb.
Ruthie (now in possession of a strangely parental psych lim) has begun to be frustrated with Katya not accepting her apology - Ruthie says she's sorry, but the most important thing right now is to move on with your life, and she thinks if Katya is uncomfortable with the whole cootie thing with Ace, they can talk about that later. Katya is stunned.
Eva pages Ruthie and Katya to the bridge.
"Well, the last thing we want is to get you in trouble with Eva, so we should probably go up to the bridge now." -Ruthie (in parental mode)The spike-ships finally hit the Hippocrates, and several parties of marines come on board. Kye's second plasma bomb finally destroys the mothership. Eva tells the marines they can surrender or die, and starts venting compartments to space.
Two empty staterooms are destroyed as the Hippocrates sustains more fighter damage, and the launching tractor beam is damaged. Artifical gravity goes on the fritz, preventing any missiles, torpedoes, and bombs from being launched for another two rounds. Well, that makes destroying the greenliners more problematic, as the third plasma bomb can't be launched.
Kye leaves Ruthie with the plasma bomb (he tells her not to touch anything), and runs for the computer room, which has become infested by marines.
More enemy fire destroys Jim and Akito's staterooms. The last of the Hippocrates' guns is taken out, and another explosion shakes the ship, damaging everyone. The marines demonstrate that they have "ECM generators" which also cause personal weapons to fritz out when fired at them.
Akito charges at the marines, but realizes belatedly that he can't actually touch anyone (due to channeling the Tamorai shticks). He yells at them, and switches to chi-pushing them around. Ruthie uses her new shtick of "unusual insight into objects" on the plasma bomb. It kinda locally shatters the fabric of time and space in bad ways that she doesn't understand, though not this one as it's only a prototype. That could be bad someday though. The ritual finally finishes, stopping all the weird effects after all of the xenopsi has been figured out.
Ruehan tries to mind-read the leader of the marines, the last one of them standing, but it doesn't work because he doesn't know the captain's name. How odd. Akito knocks out the captain with a Bamboo Hand strike and a massive explosion of chi results, knocking both the captain and Akito down. As the captain sinks to the ground, he briefly looks enlightened:
"That's why the Hippocrates is always there! You're the Guy!"(Akito spends three karma to make sure that Igo, two decks away, notices all that.)
Sharra realizes that Dog is in Akito's quarters, and runs for the stateroom. Ruehan finally breaks through to read the captain's mind: his name is Anders, he's a pirate. He's worked for Ozymandias in the past, but now he's on his own. He got some spiffy tech, and decided to outfit the Tarn with it. He's a little unsure now where the tech came from, or why outfitting the Tarn seemed like a good idea. Everyone suspects Terran influence.
Kye tries to work on Dog, but he's not much of a vet, or even a doctor, and Dog is kinda beyond normal first aid. He gets Dog's heart restarted, at least briefly, with some CPR...
Sharra checks over the marines for their personal ECM generators. She finds one, but it's hard to tell what it does. It might not do too much.
Kye checks it with his scrying abilities.
Kye, suspecting Terran tech, considers the Great Migration and the technology they had. Is this an offshoot of that? No, he doesn't think so - the Migration technology advanced to be part of Alliance tech, and later Hegemonic tech. This isn't either of those.
Akito and Igo chat about Chi explosion, but neither really understands what happened.
Sharra examines the spike-ships. In breaching the Hippocrates, the engine modules got crushed; it's not particularly interesting technology.
Trying to put this all together, Sharra figures out that the devices aren't ECM generators at all - they're an entirely new branch of physics, having to do with causality disruption.
The group ponders whether to chase the (newly armed) Decider greenliners. While the weapons malfunctions can be fixed quickly, the big critical damages will take days. So two of the three guns can't be fixed, and no ships can be launched or grabbed. It's possible that the Hippocrates could sneak up and push out more plasma bomb prototypes, but that will be a lot harder if the greenliners are moving. It seems likely that it's about even odds between succeeding, and not coming back at all.
Instead, the Hippocrates chases after the little fighters, which split up. They catch one, though it can't be picked up. The pilot is ordered to eject, and Akito spacewalks to the fighter to fly it back to Crux. Alas, there is no causality tech on the fighter either.
In the end, sixteen prisoners (pirates all) are turned over to the Defenders. The crew reports that they blew up his mothership (yay!) but that he had already armed a bunch of greenliners (boo!). They think he's been influenced somehow - maybe some Grandmothers or other interrogators can figure that out.
The crew debates whether to put the ECM generator they took off the marine in the captain's safe or give it to Pica and the Defender party for study. Eva decides to put it in the safe for safe keeping.