Performance Anxiety

"Battles are won and lost not by Generals, but by Quartermasters - Each and every detail nailed down and in place, everyone with proper supplies and preparations. That is what wins campaigns."

-- Strategos Frescan Delaris, AS 1349

Sparta -> Juice

Before leaving Sparta, the party ties up a few loose ends. Ruehan talks to Lord Dinar, and finds out that the stolen Vertaki crystal is supposed to allow one to spend future energy now - but it's not meant to have tiny pieces chipped off and injected! Gah! Unfortunately, there seems to be nothing to be done for the people who've already used it in that way. The crystal itself is being sent back to Pierogi.

Sophia (with help from Hippocrates and Kith) starts a non-Kaufmanized baby for Martan and Katya in the uterine replicator from Lord Stannis. Sophia and Sharra install a plastifoam sprayer contraption around it just in case of any sort of damage to the ship. Katya gets Deidre and Smeerp Patrol to agree to guard it (though Deidre makes it clear Katya is still her first priority). Jim finally notices the fuss.

"A what?" -Jim
Jim talks to Sharra about inventing a fast sneaky butterfly robot, as part of his plan to invent Scooter Quidditch. She thinks she can do fast or sneaky, but not necessarily both, but will work on it. She comes up with a little robot that has a die in not hitting walls and three or four dice in flying around and hiding.

Elmer stops by to talk to people about the benefit for the Orphanarium - he's already sent off some arrangements, but wants the Hippocrates crew to participate too. It'll be on Juice. People consult him about his recommendations for attire, and he hires Mirris to design him a new look. After some time of this, the ship is hailed:

"Hello. Ship." - Sophia
"Where the hell is he?" - Janina Megaera
"The fop."
Elmer goes back to the Inopportune Moment, protesting that they weren't due to take off for another four minutes.

The Hippocrates proceeds to Crux, where they acquire Hippocrates, the Vircans, two Decider ships (to trade to DaVinci for ships-for-the-outworlds) - a modified greenliner and a redliner - and twelve bodies donated to medical science. In general outworld news, there is essentially no outworlds fleet. Piracy is expected to be rising shortly, but right now there's not a lot of pirate fleets either.

Mirris talks girl-talk with Katya about a conversation with Dr. Kye that has rattled her:

"Katya, do you like being married? Would you recommend it?" -Mirris
"Augh. I knew this was a bad idea." -Kye (aside)
"Did you see this coming? Um. If you say yes - no, just say no." -Mirris
In preparation for the meeting with Klothos, the group plans the presentation. Each of the races from the Linked Worlds will present a gift as Ciernan importunes Mighty Klothos. Sharra is picked as the inworld representative, and starts designing a robot to serve drinks. Ciernan stomps out any ideas of putting explosives in the robot. However, nobody is really good at Visually Impressive (as opposed to Functional) Robot Design. An Art Consultant (Giovanni) is hired, and provides the needed Swoopy Inworld Fashion with an Outworld Flair. Meanwhile, Jim broods over the incubator.

Eventually, the business on Crux is finished, and the Hippocrates lifts off for the jumpgate. Ciernan is in his room, working on his speech, when he hears a strange noise coming from the vent. None of the usual suspects (Ruthie, Smeerp Patrol) seem to be in the Jeffries tubes, although First Frost of Autumn (as always) doesn't show up on the headset display. Ciernan opens the vent, and a squirrel launches itself at him. Ciernan tells it to stop, so it stops moving, but it still has aerial velocity, and it bounces off his face.

Ciernan brings the squirrel to Sophia, who examines it. She thinks that it's a normal squirrel, except for having taken a lot of electrical damage and then gotten healed recently. Ciernan says he knew that. Everyone else glares at Ciernan in outrage. Sophia thinks that if she were building some sort of experiment to make a squirrel better, she might use lightning... Anyway, she isn't much of an expert on veterinary biology, so she pages Martan to research. In a blind panic, he sprints down. Sophia has to spend some time reassuring him that the uterine replicator isn't actually experimental research, it's in medlab, not the research labs. Then she explains to Martan about the squirrel.

"Someone supercharged the squirrel's brain, maybe." -Sophia
"Does that someone's name rhyme with Shmockter Cain?" - Mirris
Martan takes charge of the squirrel.

Meanwhile, Sophia starts looking at the donated body bags. Happily, there are no signs of life from any of them. The jumpgate warning goes off, and she objects that experiments with dead bodies and Kaufman tubes aren't actually perilous, but people convince her to wait until post-Klothos. Instead, she spends some time separating the tubes into two separate batches, making sure that all the people currently in tubes are not in the corpse testing tubes, and then tweaks the "corpse" tubes with a bit of mad science.

Klothos's harbor pilot and guard come aboard. Katya reads their minds - the harbor pilot is psyched to be flying the Hippocrates, the guard is suspicious of Jim. The harbor pilot does burn all the ship's reliability to make the exit of jumpspace for 6 successes.

Jim sends email to Geoffrey Oxford about the gala fundraiser on Juice, asking him to try and play up Scouting. Dr. Kye gets breathless email from his intern, Tom. Tom is very excited - it's really good to report to Dr. Kye again, he hopes he's doing well, and so on. Tom has finished his investigations into the Memento Mori operations on Juice - they have four minisubs, each of which has a plasma reactor for drilling. They don't have a base - they dock with the Memento Mori main ship, but they're generally up by the North Pole.

Ruehan arranges the private audience with Klothos, via the Herald. The Herald clearly wants a bribe, and Ruehan determines that while they'll likely get in either way; the bribe will make it faster. After a battle of wills in bribery, Ruehan "tips" him fifty asters to be polite.

Presenter   Gift
Ciernan    ceremonial sword
Sharra    drink-serving robot
Ruehan    psi-sensitive statuette
Moment Before Dawn   set of alchemicals
Twig    platinum bar
Ryan Waites appears as the formal escort to Klothos; Ciernan is given a page to carry the sword, as the party has proven their effectiveness with strange weapons. Sharra makes careful note of the security systems on the way to the throne room - there are several obvious scanny areas, but weapons and cameras are thicker. In the Throne Room itself, there are four guards at the corners, but more chandeliers than are strictly necessary. Ruehan thinks one of the guards in the corner is doing some mind-reading.

The Seventh Consort begs leave to present to Mighty Klothos these petitioners. Ciernan gives his spiel:

"Mighty Klothos, we, the people of the Linked Worlds, are here to thank you for the assistance that you will be providing in preserving and protecting all those peoples who are threatened by what is to come. As thanks for your gracious concern in this matter, we will each present our small token of esteem, and in addition to these tokens we are pleased to inform you that we have discovered that it is possible to activate the quarry prior to the time when it will be necessary (for the defense of all sentient people) and there will be approximately a week for your personal use before you in your wisdom cause it to be used to save everyone."
Ciernan's speech is particularly well given and received (12 successes). Of the tokens given, Ruehan is nearly as flowery as Ciernan's initial speech; Sharra a bit less so. Moment Before Dawn and Ciernan's tokens are presented more plainly, and Twig settles for "Brochoan present: valuable". Klothos graciously accepts the tokens, having kept a straight face through the whole "We're turning the quarry on" part, and makes a pretty speech herself saying that she "is always available to do her duty when the Linked Worlds require it, and that while she invites the party to a soiree on the evening of the morrow, she understands that they have more pressing matters to attend to."

Waites escorts the group back to the Hippocrates.

"You people are not fooling around. Anyway, tell the kid I said hi." - Ryan
"Which kid? Jim or Akito?" -Ciernan
"Akito is the 'kid'. Jim is the 'boy'." -Ryan
Then, it's off to Juice.

Martan reports back that he doesn't think the squirrel is super-smart, just really pissed. He's working on it, though. Ciernan spends some time with the squirrel as well, convincing it that it was just business, no hard feelings.

Sophia starts putting the bodies into Kaufman tubes. Ruehan pages the bridge: "Flamethrower to the Kaufman facility". Jim heads down, leaving Kye to fly the ship.

The Kaufman nanites (overclocked by Sophia) start removing dead tissue - soon the tubes are mysteriously empty again. However, they've gathered a lot of data - that's good, right? Sophia gets ready to climb into the tubes for more experimenting, but Ruehan points out she's the most likely one to be able to fix something if it all goes wrong. Sharra volunteers instead; Sophia cuts her arm and Sharra climbs in. Sophia takes some more data, and the experiment is done.

Then Sharra climbs out of the tube again - but not the one she climbed into.

"Hi, Sharra." - Sophia
"Yarr!" - zombie Sharra
Battle ensues with the zombie Sharra. The flamethrower is more area-effect than is ideal for a close quarters fight. Sophia steals a shtick from the zombie - it seems to be something that makes it immune to hit-point damage, and it just takes "hits", though it has multiple copies of the shtick. A second zombie decants.

Ruehan pages the ship: "Zombies in the Kaufman Facility. Take the usual actions." Ruthie leaps up from the sensor console where she's been, and runs out of the bridge.

The third zombie decants, and Smeerp Patrol leaps on it. Sophia finishes off the first zombie, and it explodes into dust. Katya energy-shields people, and then Jim opens up with the flamethrower, toasting the second zombie and destroying Smeerp Patrol's ropes that they tied up the third zombie with. After another several iterations, the third and fourth zombies are defeated; when the real Sharra comes out of the tube shortly thereafter, she is not, in fact, set on fire.

Zombies on hiatus for the moment, the Hippocrates lands on Juice.

The airlock doorbell rings. Sharra (not one of the zombies) answers. It's a guy in a suit, who introduces himself as Rian Spencer, a Sparky Cola publicity attache, here to see Voriig Kye and/or James Powell.

As the only member of the Sparky Cola board on planet, they'd like Kye to be the master of ceremonies for the gala. They'd like him to play up the ties to scouting and film industry, and will provide him cue cards (with jokes, if he wants jokes.) There will be a display by the Cetacean Institute first, and then Mr. Powell's variety show, and then some other things. Rian suggests that Jim show up on Tuesday to be briefed on the mechanic (it's Sunday now).

Next at the door is Billy, a messenger from IPX. He has some maps, which have Memento Mori subs 1 through 3 (but not 4) marked as up near the North Pole, and a Really Big Hurricane heading for the floating city. It looks like it will hit Tuesday afternoon.

"They're at the North Pole, with the Cauldron of Khath Meigol and they're throwing grad students into it..." - Tom
Next to visit the ship is Katherine Webster, the assistant to Minister Willoby. She knows that Minister Willoby is supposed to meet with the Hippocrates crew - have they been given any protocol on how to contact him? No, they haven't. Is there a problem? Well, actually... he's missing. He went missing after his last meeting with the Memento Mori representatives. The party suspects foul play.

The airlock doorbell rings again - it's Dr. William Trussmeyer (Kye identifies him as an archaeologist who sold out to Memento Mori), with several city policemen. They have a warrant to search the ship, for signs of the kidnapping of high ranking Memento Mori personnel. Most of the evidence Dr. Trussmeyer can brandish has to do with Kye thwarting Memento Mori elsewhere, but their director of operations does appear to have vanished, and the warrant is valid.

Mirris becomes Dr. Trussmeyer's assistant, and works on convincing him that he's just pissing people off and he doesn't need to search the ship. He does appear to be a real Memento Mori guy who really thinks Kye is involved somehow, though.

Sharra talks to the judge who wrote the warrant, and Ruehan talks to the cops, and between the two of them, Dr. Trussmeyer is determined to not get to help search, but the cops do search the ship. As they look in the Kaufman facility, Ruehan puts up a mass illusion of there being nothing inside - which is good, because there's a Sharra-zombie shambling towards the door. Ruehan pages people to the Kafuman facility to "help Sharra out" while the search continues. The cops, obviously, do not find any signs of a kidnapped Memento Mori official, though they do find Cassandra's card for "Dr. Kye's Legion of Doom." The cops ask the Hippocrates to notify them before any flight plans; Sharra files a complaint against the judge for a rather insufficiently evidenced search warrant.

Mirris heads back with Dr. Trussmeyer, and pokes through his folder - it's a report by Memento Mori security into the disappearance of their Chief of Operations on Juice, in the middle of a security level 3 negotiation with Minister Willoby. This action was contemperanous with the Hippocrates entering the system, which they continuously monitor as per the memo from Dr. Crichton, (hence the bribing of the judge for the warrant.) The privacy field was activated for the meeting, and afterwards the room was empty; the balcony was two stories above the ocean, but nobody really believed that they leapt into the sea and swam away.

Sophia puts up a sign in the Kaufman Facility that says "Warning: Zombie Sharras. Get out of the room quickly and shut the door behind you." Ruehan suggests installing an automatic flamethrower with a button labeled "press within 30 seconds or be destroyed," but this is deemed too dangerous (and, in fact, Cassandra would be unlikely to read it.)

Dr. Kye reserves a boat for the North Pole trip. Ciernan, Jim and Sophia make an appointment to talk to the planetary weather service. They report:

In the last couple of months, average global ocean temperatures have risen by almost 3 degrees. The current hurricane is the largest seen on Juice in the last 120 years. There are various proposals which involve setting off nuclear weapons to disrupt the hurricane, but these are highly theoretical. Ciernan volunteers to provide some mini-hurricanes for them to test on, and ponders whether he can move the city out of the way. Sophia thinks about adding mad science to the bomb-the-hurricane plan. (The hurricane, by the way, will probably be a 30-die continuous area-effect smiting attack against everything). Ciernan notes that the hurricane is a natural result of global warming, though the global warming itself is not necessarily natural. The party starts working on both plans: bomb the hurricane, and save the city via the use of Psychic Powers.

Ciernan, Kye, Sophia, Jim start testing potential bomb plans. Things don't look good until Sophia makes the mad leap that the key is to use multiple nuclear bombs. The timing has to be perfect, and the pilots will probably die, but it should work. Sharra and Sophia then rig up a remote control rig to simultaneously pilot two Vircan fighters remotely while delivering the bombs on target, thus preserving the pilots. A third bomb is also needed, but as that one needs to be delivered into the eye, where the winds aren't so bad, the party thinks the military can handle that themselves.

Meanwhile, Katya, Mirris, and Ruehan contemplate setting up a gathering in which Mirris gathers a whole pile of power and pipes it to Ciernan via Katya, to stop the hurricane with psi alone. They test out how this will work, with a shopping trip for Mirris to gather a die from all the "shoppers".

"The world is ending and you're going shopping?" -Jim
"You know women..." -Kye
"And you wonder why [girl scouts and boy scouts] are separate!"
The city civil defense force starts evacuating the city. Jim recruits the three whales and a dolphin to help in the psi ritual since they have good strength of psi, but it seems they won't arrive in time. On the other hand, using precision to ameliorate the hurricane rather than strength to swat it will allow for easier recruitment from the general population, as Juice is an inworld.

At noon on Monday, Mirris picks up the Pre of Psi of a bunch of volunteers; Katya funnels most of it to Ciernan, who (with his own Pre of Psi and Fortune) gets to roll sixty dice. Two karma later, plus a little help from Ruehan, the storm is reduced by half.

Sophia and Sharra's mad remote flight systems are set up (making use of Sharra's robot minion protocols, as well), and Jim flies both Vircan fighters, by remote, into the hurricane while the Civil Defense plane heads for the eye. This isn't as insanely difficult as it would have been without the psi effect, and after the three explosions, the hurricane is defeated!

Ciernan goes swimming to Commune with the Fish, and look for places to hide kidnapped people. While there are potential hidey-places, none of them have an obvious set of kidnapees in them.

Later that evening, Mirris heads out to break into the Memento Mori local main offices, and finds out more details on the kidnapping that lead her to believe the prisoners are in fact on the mysterious MM sub number 4. But when the phone rings in the security office, she panics instead of answering it, and flees. After a brief mental struggle, she decides not to leave Dr. Kye's calling card at the scene.

Jim disguises Smeerp patrol as various things with makeup, and then talks to the local Starline Scooter office about Scooter Quidditch. Seeker (the dolphin who works with the whales) reports in - Ruehan tells him the hurricane is taken care of. Ruehan wants to know if Seeker knows anything about the dolphin terrorists - Seeker says he doesn't really hang out with them.

The gala and variety show begins. Dr. Kye starts doing introductions: several large donors are introduced, as well as Jove from the film industry. Jove stands up and his cameras fly about and then take up posts at the corners of the stage.

Kye then, prompted by his cue cards, introduces Boy Scout Troop #1 - Smeerp Patrol stands up, in the spotlight. Then, after a brief pause, Kye introduces Girl Scout Troop #1, and Linnet and Ruthie stand up and are similarly hit by a spotlight. They have Girl Scout sashes, each with a triangular "cookie" patch. Mirris and Jim look proud, and Katya looks smug.

Next, the audience is called upon to give a big hand for the whales, from the Cetacean Institute here on Juice. The stage opens up, revealing water below - a dolphin jumps around briefly, puzzling everyone, but then the huge whales leap up and spray water on everyone. Scoot, Tumble, and Tiny are introduced.

After the thunderous applause for the whales, the variety show is embarked upon:

Ciernan/Katya/Martan: Villain/Lovers dance
Kye: Deathtraps
Smeerp Patrol: Damsel Saving
Ruehan: Dolphin Illusion
Jim/Katya: Knives and Guns
Jim: Monologue
Kye: variable G
Sophia: Lighting/EE
Mirris: Sysops
Sharra: Sound
Katya: Set Management
Jim: Light Board
Ciernan: Thunder
Mirris: Costumes
Ruehan: Mass Hallucination
Demolitions: Sharra
Sophia: Fireworks
One utterly mad mechanic later: By the end of the gala, and after various rebroadcast licenses, 11.5 million asters have been raised for Elmer's Orphanariums. A fine day's work.

Then, to bed.

The next morning, the group heads off to the North Pole on the rented boat. There are three Memento Mori subs drilling around the edges of the ice cap; eavesdropping on the sub chatter (from Mirris's pilfered communication codes) indicates that sub 4 is drilling on the other side of the ice cap, into the major ice stem, but that it claims that this is dangerous and the other subs should stay away.

Heading around to the other side, there appear to be slushy icebergs floating near the entrance to the North Pole beach. There are a lot of bitey fish floating belly-up, and the submarine is plasma drilling full blast, with dolphins wandering around outside the sub.

The party rues that they have no cannon to fire a warning shot.

Sharra builds several pods out of life rafts, that people can be towed in behind Jim's scooter. Jim and Mirris head in on the scooter, towing the others behind; Ciernan, Martan, and the Smeerps stay behind on the boat.

Ciernan "calls" the dolphins towards the boat - they appear to have been waiting for the order to attack anyways, so they charge the boat. The boat flees, chased by dolphins with limpet mines.

The scooter and life pods enter the submarine through the "moon pool" entrance (a hole in the floor kept from filling with water by air pressure). The party storms the submarine, spotwelding hatches as they go, and noting in passing two prisoners in a cabin. The two crew in the control room are quickly neural disrupted. Unfortunately, when Jim and Mirris try to hack the control panel to turn off the plasma drill and move the sub, a message opens up on each of their panels: "Captain, I warned you. This is my ship. Now you die. -Swimmer" A countdown starts.

Meanwhile, only one of the dolphins seems to be able to keep up with the boat; Ciernan tries to mind-control him into dropping his armament due to it being heavy and slowing him down, but he's stubborn. Martan manages to grab the limpet mine, though, and toss it away.

Back on the sub, Katya flees out the top of the submarine and notes several dolphins (returned from chasing the boat) attaching limpet mines to the outside of the submarine. Jim and Mirris keep the sub from blowing up with some coordinated computer hacking; Katya and Ruehan get two of the mines dropped to the bottom of the ocean, while Sharra and Kye disarm the other two.

The group wakes up Minister Willoby (one of the prisoners).

"You won't get away with this!"
"We just rescued you."
"Oh. Well done!"
Martan and Ciernan try to capture Swimmer (the lone dolphin pursuer), but he's both strong and tricksy. However, eventually more dolphin marines show up, and are able to take him into custody.

Katya heads through the slushy ice maze, past the dead bitey-fish, and turns the bowl on.