Combat, by the Vineyard

"Defeat your enemy in your plans before battle, and you will not need to defeat him in battle."

- Ambros Nomarche, "On Conflict" (unpublished)

Nurl -> New Light

The Genetic Diversity (with Akito, Deirdre, and Katya) returns from Riden. The party's briefing to Viktor on the Deciders has borne interesting fruit - Viktor has seen a correlation between the tech of the people arming the Deciders and the Blue jumpgate jamming technology, but since the party briefing said the former were Terrans, now he thinks both are Terrans. Katya has had a subsequent inspiration, that the pirate captain arming the Deciders, Neutrino, Dr. Alameda, and whoever was behind the "blue ship with the woogy shield" are all the same time travelers from the future, not Terrans at all. Much speculation ensues - Kye thinks they're time travelers from the future who will be wiped out if the Hippocrates succeeds in stopping the Flames. Jim thinks they're setting up a plan for the next Flames somehow.

Jim reminds everyone that there is to be No Going Off of the Ship Alone until Eva is rescued or the world is saved. Especially Katya and First Frost of Autumn. Night Blooming Wisteria thinks that recovery of Eva will not automatically confer safety; Jim amends the rule to say that if Eva is rescued, the party can reconsider whether there should still be No Going Off The Ship Alone.

Geoffrey Oxford agrees to handle secretly passing the information about Eva to Lord Stannis. Though, come to think of it, what is gained by keeping the information secret? Well, it'll destroy her Eva cover forever. And it's probably not a keepable secret that she's missing, since there's a Nurl-wide manhunt looking for her. Okay, so the party line is "missing" but not "being brainwashed by Terrans" to the casual enquirer. But in the meantime, more security is installed on the ship - biometric handprint scanners are installed on all the airlocks.

Elmer demonstrates to Jim how good he is now at power projection: the Triconian Touch. He buffs Jim's blood leather jacket. Katya tries to convince Jim to convince Elmer not to use it up, but Elmer says the Triconian Touch doesn't use up, and is not persuaded.

Then, it's to Space! There is a lot of scanning by both the Nurl PDF ships and the Blue military ships, but since the Hippocrates is not, in fact, smuggling Eva anywhere, they get through without incident. There is some discussion as to where to arrange for a meeting between Donella and Shaddam. Neutral territory? Nurl? At a closed jumpgate? Vircus? Stannis Law? There's a closed jumpgate to Stannis Law from Red, so that could be good. Telling Lord Stannis first would be best.

The Hippocrates lands on New Light, and is quickly met by a gentleman in a suit. He introduces himself as an agent of Rutherford's, by the Vineyard, and would like to set up a meeting between the agents of the Hippocrates and Mr. Rutherford to discuss buying stuff. Also, an IPX intern, Tom Corum, calls for Dr. Kye. Also, people should figure out how to arrange a meeting with Gabriel. He does have a house in the phone book - a small villa outside of the capital. Sharra, who officially knows Gabriel von Torsten, sends him a message.

The party splits - Jim and Kye go to IPX to meet with Tom (who proves quite adept at sucking up). He lets them know that Memento Mori is strapped for cash because they have two big ongoing projects on Gateway and Juice, so they're selling some things from a particular dig, via the auction house of Rutherford's, by the Vineyard. But there was something sent that Dr. Crichton didn't want sold, so he's on New Light to buy it back. There's a viewing soon for the items.

Going to the palace, Hippocrates and Max and Ruehan attempt to arrange a visit with the Hegemon. As Eva usually made such arrangements, they start from scratch. Ruehan manages to get them an appointment with the defense minister, bypassing several levels of bureaucracy, and the three meet with General Hornberg. After some discussion, he agrees to arrange a meeting with the Hegemon for a few days hence.

An overly foppish fop call the ship to speak with Sharra (and Katya, who is still on board). It is, in fact, Gabriel, who invites Sharra to lunch tomorrow - "Do bring your friend, or any others, if they're all so pretty!"

The airlock doorbell rings again - this time it is Solicitor Cyprus... - Dylanna's lawyer.

"Explanation: demanded" -Cyprus...
"What?" -Sharra
"Arrival: coincidence? Unlikely."
"We have acquaintances on many planets"
"Admission. Acquaintances: powerful, well-connected, underworld."
"My father is a cabinet minister!"
"Situation intolerable. Investigation ongoing. Planetary departure: not recommended."

<Respectful farewells in Brochoah are given, both ways>

Well, that was somewhat puzzling.

Tom has acquired the list of items up for auction:

Painting by Cassandra Lyrae
A man's formal suit
Painting by Cassandra Lyrae
A small ring
A manuscript (author: Rowland Nomarche Chancel)
A small white cube (metallic, use unknown)
A small viewing terminal with powercell (inoperable)
Bottle of Wine (original cork)
Painting by Cassandra Lyrae
A man's walking stick (platinum-iridium)
"Rowland Nomarche Chancel" is a bit odd as an author - Chancel Rowland was the first Strategos of the Hegemony, and a founder of the Boy Scouts. Was he a Nomarche?

The party ponders how much cash on hand they have. The party treasury is overestimated (oops!) at 27K; there are 12K in Red war bonds (from healing drugs) not cashed in, and no payoff yet from Blue for the healing drugs.

Dr. Crichton drops by the IPX office, where just Tom is. Tom proves equally adept at sucking up to him, and Crighton is impressed. He gives Tom his card and insists that he tell Kye not to look him up, and then goes on about the superior benefits and opportunity at a strong established company such a Memento Mori. Giving a second card to Tom for his personal use, he departs. Tom immediately calls Dr. Kye:

"Are you sure he's left?" -Dr. Kye
"I closed the door, yes. I've even locked it." -Tom
Max looks around the ship for stuff that might have been hidden by old crew members. However, it's two complete refits later, so there's really nothing useful to be found. He turns up a knife, but Kye will later identify it to have been stashed by Ace.

Tom gets brought on board and gets the standard non-secure tour. Max confirms that Andrej is on planet, in addition to Cyprus. Hippocrates sets up a meeting with the med-tech company. Tom has arranged for viewing and access passes to the reception at Rutherford's for himself and Dr. Kye; other people will need their own passes.

Rutherford meets with Hippocrates, Ruehan, and Max at a house, by the vineyard. Everyone behaves excruciatingly correctly, and Ruehan feels right at home. It is revealed that Rutherford believes the Hippocrates to possess either the first or the second largest collection of "pre-revival" Cassandra Lyrae art known. He, on behalf of the Rutherford collection, would like to compare notes, exchange curators to verify the works, and make an offer to acquire the Hippocrates collection. Details are left to a later date, as this is just an initial contact, but passes to the auctions are arranged for Hippocrates, Max, and Ruehan, as a gesture of good faith.

Max and Jim head off to find Andrej. Andrej is a bit nervous to start with (Max puts his hands up!), but they convince him that they aren't planning to jump him. Dylanna was transferred via the military to New Light, but she doesn't seem to have arrived. He's suspicious that she's being Disappeared or will turn up as Shot While Escaping. Max thinks she's not immediately findable on planet.

Having conducted further research, Tom briefs the party on the dig that the items are from. It's a single building on Stannis Law, speculated to be a gallery or auction house; it had a viewing chamber which survived well, and other items from elsewhere in the house. The house burned down, another building was built atop its foundation, and only more recently has the older structure been investigated.

He also notes that news reports mention again that the ice caps on Juice are melting. Everyone suspects Memento Mori.

Max and Jim brief everyone else on Dylanna. It seems likely that she's been killed or escaped, but which one is unclear.

"She was clearly headed towards reform, or towards a bar of soap, one or the other." -Ruehan.
Sharra calls her parents - they suggest she drop by for lunch? Er, she already has a lunch engagement. How about dinner? She already has a dinner engagement. Perhaps tea?

"I'm bringing a friend, if that's all right."
"I suppose it will have to be."
Meanwhile, Katya and Sharra go shopping for a tea dress for Katya, and Jim goes to talk to the Sparky Cola reps on planet, and comes back with some cans of Sparky Spice (the front-runner for the next new flavor) to pass out.

Geoffrey Oxford heads out to acquire some emergency funds; Jim warns him about Dylanna, and gives him a radio.

Katya and Sharra meet Gabriel for lunch, who is extraordinarily foppy until he spills tea on a bug. He wants to know if the Terrans really got Eva, or if this is part of her plan? She's had crazy plans before... Sharra is sorry, but is sure that if it had been her plan, she would have told someone before vanishing. Gabriel explains that there are people who have been trying to incriminate Eva as the traitor who passed knowledge of the Blue incursion to Red; he's been diverting things by blaming it on her kidnappers, but this is muddying the waters. His access to a number of secure facilities has been curtailed because of this. Essentially, Hegemonic Intelligence has four branches, and three of them are currently under dark clouds - except for Michael. And Michael doesn't like the Hippocrates.

Well, that's all problematic, but doesn't seem to contain any further leads to follow. Sharra and Katya ask if there's an easier way to contact Gabriel. He suggests a couple of things, but then is astonished to discover no one has taught either Sharra or Katya any tradecraft. He gives them a brief lesson. In the future, to set up a meeting that he can make sure won't be observed, post on this web bulletin board about irises, using an address from that ISP. Read up on irises first. Oh, and don't write any of this down.

Max goes to a meeting with the Blue company dealing with med-patch technology: he returns with 4000 asters, and a note for 4000 asters for later.

Tea is had with Sharra's parents. Unfortunately, since Katya doesn't talk, and Deirdre doesn't make small talk, it's all about the interrogation of Sharra. Mom is optimistic about the presence of a "lord" in the Hippocrates crew, which causes some teasing of Sharra by Katya; Sharra, on the other hand, waxes rhapsodic about the Brochoan engineer on board, while Katya sends images of Joachim to Sharra, causing her to blush. This gives Sharra's mother entirely the wrong impression. However, Sharra's dad would love to talk to a Brochoah who isn't under contractual obligation. Sharra's parents have started to hear rumors about Eva-as-betrayer, but don't say much about it.

Tom receives a call from HRP (Human Resource Placement) and is offered a job interview with an unnamed company. He demurs for now, saying he's quite busy, but perhaps he can reschedule for a week later. Tom then calls the ship. Kye says "enough!" and asks to put Tom up in the guest quarters. Tom is also given a neutrino radio, but one which by default doesn't receive crew chatter (Sharra rigs it).

Can everyone who wants to get to the auction viewing? Ruehan thinks it's inappropriate to bring a boy scout troop to a cocktail party, but they think they can arrange for their own ticket - by going on a field trip! That shouldn't work, but it seems to. Oxford is given the spare pass, and Jim goes in with the boy scouts. Ruehan rents a limo for most of the crew; Tom and the scouts have to take the bus.

However, Tom still manages to show up just moments before Dr. Kye, in order to open the door for him (the Rutherford's doorman is nonplussed that Kye has brought his own doorman). Kye, of course, arrives at the same time as Dr. Crichton.

"I'm sorry, I thought this was Rutherford's, not some common stews", Crichton, looking at Kye.
The boy scout troop arrives, singing a marching song. They're given a special table and a backstage tour. Millionaire playboy Blake Amon also arrives, as well as several other art collector types. Ruehan begins to get the feeling that something isn't his problem - though it's not his problem to worry about. Hippocrates looks around to see if he can spot anything that Ruehan isn't. Ruehan tries to absorb some sort of skill from the not-his-problem people with fortune, but isn't sure what he's gotten.

Mortimer Rutherford gives a little speech welcoming everyone, and thanking Dr. Crichton in particular, who will be giving a presentation on the artifacts. The "young lads of Boy Scout Troop 1" are also introduced.

Jim assigns the scouts the homework of coming up with a tactical plan for 1) protecting the bystanders 2) limiting property damage 3) getting the bad guys (in that order). They should give him writeups by tomorrow.

Max wonders where the nearest lockpicks are - a couple of sets of them aren't his problem, but Blake and Tom also have sets. Katya molls about with Ruehan, and Sharra with Max (some paparazzi get pictures, to confuse Sharra's mother further). Blake comes to chat with Ruehan.

Max (channeling a mind-reader from Pierogi) thinks that Crichton cares about either multiple things or a plural thing. Kye heckles Crichton:

"Why don't you tell us about the best pieces?"
"Those of you who need to be led by the hand can get the viewing book tomorrow..."
Smeerp Patrol gets shown into the behind-the-scenes area, while the viewing is set up. One item at a time is rotated onto the dais, which is behind velvet ropes; only people with particular clearance are allowed to pass the ropes to examine the items more closely. Waiters circulate with drinks and hors d'oeuvres.
  1. A painting by Cassandra Lyrae
    A tall man in an Elite uniform. He is bathed in a brilliant light, throwing the planes of his face into stark contrast. One side of his collar shows a golden insignia; the other side is empty. From his hand falls a drop of melted gold, with a wisp of smoke ascending. The painting is signed with a familiar pattern of five stars.
    (Katya recognizes him as Mohammed Vance, the last Sentinel).
  2. A Man's formal suit
    This looks much like the training costume that Akito wears.
  3. Painting by Cassandra Lyrae
    A painting of a young man in a uniform. He stands packed as if for an expedition, at the top of a steep hill that descends in a cliff to a lower plain. Small figures stretch out their hands from the faraway plain, as the young man contemplates the drop - a dangerous descent, and one which will be impossible to climb back. The painting is signed with a familiar pattern of five stars.
    Kye thinks this one was painted to prove the artist's skill, which is a little odd. Max thinks that means it's a fake. Tom also thinks there's something odd about it.
  4. A small ring
    Yup, it looks like the "key" ring the crew has. Except that it has a Scout sigil under the gem, rather than a Skyguard sigil. Like the other, it is a key and an ID device.
  5. A manuscript (author: Rowland Nomarche Chancel)
    A book; the "Nomarche" appears to come from the cover, while "Rowland Chancel" comes from the front pages. Kye thinks it was written by Ambros Nomarche on Tactics and Strategy with quotes from Rowland Chancel in the foreword. Jim begins to hyperventilate.
  6. A small white cube (metallic, use unknown)
    A scout manual! Jim's hyperventilation continues.
  7. A small viewing terminal with powercell (inoperable)
    Hippocrates and others identify this as the menu panel for a Mainwell2000 Autochef.
  8. Bottle of Wine (original cork)
    Kye is very impressed by this one, but says he'll explain later. Tom thinks the wine is probably still good - they made wine bottles better in the Hegemony.
  9. Painting by Cassandra Lyrae
    A painting, a bit rough around the edges, of a man in a leather armchair. There are books lining the room, and outside the window is a curiously nondescript landscape of green hills and blue ponds. The color is a little off; the man's tan suit is a strange goldish hue, and it seems to stand out oddly stiffly. The painting is signed with a familiar pattern of five white dots.
    Kye thinks the purpose of this one is "to see if it works." Maybe it's her first!
  10. A man's walking stick (platinum-iridium)
    Deirdre is impressed - that's a plasma brand training device.
Max thinks the people he hasn't noticed are thinking "the idiots didn't notice us", which is a bit disturbing. And the book seems to be missing. So is Blake Amon. Hey, wait - there's no kitchen in the back area. Why were the waiters circulating back there?

Max thinks the book is receding quickly. He grabs Katya and Ruehan, and they head after the book, ceasing to be the universe's problem. Everyone else charges to the limo. (Kye checks to see if Crichton is surprised - of course he isn't. This sort of thing always happens to him when Kye is around.)

Unfortunately, none of Katya, Ruehan, or Max have any real driving skill, so when they reappear, it's in Dr. Crichton's car (with Crichton), which is crashed into a van full of waiters. The combat begins.

(Jim notes that if this road is their escape plan, they're doomed to be caught - there should be a pickup or something.)

Tom gets a sword from Jim. Jim wants to know if he's any good - he's a duke in the SCA! Jim is dubious - don't they use fake swords? No, they switched to real swords ages ago, because they always lost to Highguard. Nobody has a shield for Tom, but Jim has an expandable-collapsible wok lid.

"Having you around is like having me around for Dr. Kye" - Tom to Jim.
Max, Katya, and Ruehan assault the waiters. A Starline Scooter arrives, and a guy in black leaps off, helping them. (Blake!) Max thinks the book is in one of the three black boxes in the back of the van, but that taking it is a really bad idea. Unfortunately, so is getting into the van, because then he's zapped by the box and is the waiters' problem. They shoot him; despite Katya's shielding, he falls over. Ruehan starts eating the brains of the waiters.

Dr. Crichton tries to use some nefarious talent on Max, but Max isn't actually dead-- he was just faking it so the mooks wouldn't notice him. However, the waiter Ruehan has eaten is, and Crichton steals his secrets - and then his clothes. Weird.

Two helicopters show up, apparently to evac the boxes, and more teams of mooks jump out.

Katya plays tug-of-war over a box with the waiter trying to run off with it. One of the waiters tries to take Katya hostage - "get out of here, or the girl gets it!" Blake says to let her go, or he will die, and gives the guy an action. He tries to stab Katya, and then promptly dies. Scary.

Back in the limo, Jim has discovered a rocket launcher in his backpack, and Hippocrates has already opened the sunroof. Ruehan convinces everyone that one of the helicopters has exploded, while Jim blows up the other one. The waiters are no longer sure what to do with the boxes.

The Boy Scouts attack the waiter attacking Deirdre - down he goes. (They can use their Rescuing Damsels badge for that!) Max convinces a guy with the box to give it to him, but alas, his jacket is insufficient shielding. Down he goes.

Five less mooky-looking people rappel down from overhead. One has a mortar, one can give all the other mooks actions, one can swap the contents of the boxes, one can heal his teammates, and one can send people up and down their lines.

A whole bunch of fighting ensues.

Crichton grabs a box without being zapped - he's wearing the waiter's clothes. He tries to head off with it, but Tom entangles him with a thrown yo-yo.

Sharra is taken down, and is dying. Hippocrates gets to her to stabilize her before she dies. Then Hippocrates is taken down. Jim contemplates taking out whatever the mysterious ship the named guys are based from - he really needs a scooter.

Kye goes down. There aren't many mooks left, and the doctor is having a hard time keeping the named baddies standing.

A light shines in one of the evac spots, ordering the mooks to bring the box there. Jim sends a rocket into that area, making sure not to damage the box, and ends up on Blake's scooter. The bad guys ascend with a box, but then Geoffrey Oxford descends with the box again, and is promptly leapt upon by all the mooks who are left. Down he goes. Jim gets Oxford and the box onto the scooter with him, and prepares to be taken down. Amon then remote-controls the scooter (with occupants) out of range of all the bad guys. Fortunately, they have had enough, and flee.

"Can you wake up Dr. Kye so he can let Dr. Crichton go, 'cause I don't want to go over there." -Tom
All of the party is awoken, except for Hippocrates, who would be completely dead were it not for aux power.

Blake debugs the boxes, and offers to return them to the auction house. The party offers him Dr. Crichton as well, but he's sure that Crichton is their prisoner. Back at Rutherford's, Blake Amon, millionaire playboy, shows up and says he just happened to encounter the Hippocrates crew recovering this manuscript, and offered to return it for them. He of course had nothing to do with it. Tom begins to suspect that there is some connection between Blake Amon and the Batman.

Dr. Crichton, once unentangled from the yo-yo, is not pleased with having been taken down while trying to get away from the bad guys with the artifact!. Dr. Kye claims no harm was done, and there is no sympathy to be found. Crichton leaves in a huff.

The mooks are turned over to the police; they were given training by the Criminal Mastermind. As long as they stuck to the plan, they wouldn't be noticed.

On the day of the auction, Cassandra wakes up. Jim and Ruehan talk to the Blue Foreign Ministry about Cabry, and the situation there. An appraiser from Rutherford's arrives and offers 1/2 face value [Note - in the run it was quoted at x5 face value, but the asters were actually originally "100 100-aster coins, valued by Dr. Kye at 1300-6000 asters for the set", so the GMs were off by a decimal place...] cashable at the auction, for the antique asters, which is reasonable, but the party might take it in a pinch. The Pierogi trade goods are sold for 600 asters, minus some bits of sentimental value for Max and Ruehan.

Tom gets a report from Juice that Memento Mori is buying fusion generators and similar things - they must be behind the ice cap melting!

Katya does not go to the auction. Thus, nor does Deirdre. But when Cassandra shows up, the prices for her paintings skyrocket. She confirms the third painting as her first, but the second as a forgery.

  1. Painting: Sold for 6750 (to the Rutherford collection)
  2. Formalwear: Sold for 2100 (to Crighton)
  3. Forgery: rejected
  4. small ring: Bought by the party for 12,500
  5. Manuscript: Bought by the party for 12,500
  6. Cube Bought by Jim for 1300
  7. Terminal: Sold for 3750 (to random collector)
  8. Wine: Bought by Kye for 3050
  9. Painting: Sold for 41,000 (to collector Arisia Mealora)
  10. Walking Stick: Bought by the party for 3500
Kye explains: the wine is an aphrodisiac, and since Kye's company GE is starting to market Affection, he can't let anyone break the monopoly.

Jim starts reading the Nomarche manuscript - 10 tactics successes are just enough to understand it.