"To give your life in full view of all, knowing that your name, your acts, your place in history, will be secured for generations - that is the popular view of heroism. But to die, doing your duty to the last, in silence and darkness, knowing that the world will never recognize your efforts - or worse, knowing that you will be forever branded coward and traitor to your people. Yet to carry on, for you must: That is courage. That is heroism."
-- Strategos Ambros Nomarche (private letter to Fleet Admiral Bellarion), AS 2448.130
Juice/the Well -> New Light -> Riden
Once the party regroups (including Grandfather Cass, who Kith ran into on the Well), Hippocrates and Ace talk to Akito about Ruthie possibly exchanging email with Dylanna. Akito gives his permission to decrypt her email, which they do, with Sophia's help (though the SecureShare program she's using is pretty good).
Ruthie and Linnet are talking about Girl Scouting with the other pen-pals; most of them seem to be similarly young girls, but there's some mail from Dylanna (under that name). She's the one that gave them the requirements for the cookies patch (it involves trying different sorts of cookies, and seeing which ones are more nutritious versus taste better, and making cookies of your own, including some without important ingredients like sugar, to see what *that* tastes like, and giving someone cookies in a time of stress to make them happier, and so on.) All of the requirements for the cookies patch involve working with another Girl Scout to do the thing. Then there's outgoing mail from Ruthie to Dylanna saying "Yay! We finished the cookies requirements!" and mail from Dylanna saying "Okay, good job, you can make yourselves patches for that, and I'll see if I can get you in the gala too. I can give you the patch requirements for Nursing or Helping Hands next, if you want."
The initial mail from Dylanna talks about Girl Scouts being important and useful, but to make it their own project and not talk to the grownups about it yet.
The address Dylanna is using seems to be with a general Linked Worlds contact ISP, rather than a single-planet ISP - it's a fixed address rather than throwaway addresses, though. About the only thing that's easily determined from Juice is that the mail came from out of system. Hippocrates sets up a flag to tell him if new mail from Dylanna comes in.
Ace, who's been awake for days now on the Well and then the trip back to Juice, asks Grandfather Cass for help putting him to sleep (since Kith does that all the time, and Cass is like Kith...). Cass offers him some tea, which Ace happily drinks, since Kith gives him tea all the time. Ace staggers back to his cabin and passes out, though Cass notes that it's a little odd - it's more like he's passed-out drunk than passed-out sedated. Sophia points out to Cass that Ace has a bad reaction to drugs - did Cass drug him? Cass thinks this is goofy - it's all chemicals, natural, artificial, whatever! In any event, he clears out Ace's system, and his placebo sedative doesn't mysteriously turn into alcohol, so Ace gets a good night's sleep.
About a day out from Juice, First Frost of Autumn wants to know if Hippocrates wants to know about the ten-day warning only at ten days, or if he should say sooner. Hippocrates says that telling him now would be good. First Frost says that there's twenty-three days left until the Flames.
Flames Minus Twenty-Three
Mail is sent to Donella saying "Get ready to go!" and to Jim and the Tinoori on Tyrell's Folly.
Cass tries to explain to Ace that alcohol is a drug. Ace doesn't believe him. Cass explains that turkey is a drug, because of the tryptophan. Ace really doesn't believe him. Cass gives Ace some extra-tryptophanny turkey, which Ace's system seems to think is "drugged turkey" - the extra tryptophan gets converted to something that makes Ace more paranoid of Cass, who is probably a pusher from the Well after all.
Flames Minus Twenty-two
The Hippocrates jumps into the Nurl system, and contacts Commander Branch. A transport is sent out to rendezvous halfway to the planet, and the two Decider ships are offloaded - the plan is to trade these ships for ships specifically designed for the outworlds by DaVinci.
Flames Minus Twenty
The Hippocrates heads to Vircus and again sets up a rendezvous with ships halfway out. The shuttle bay is reloaded with fighters, and the Strategos Key (and Ambros Nomarche's DNA) is brought on board.
Some experimentation with the Strategos Key ensues. Hippocrates can't pretend to be the Strategos - it has to be a living person. Ace stands in. The Vircus/Sundown gate gives a status report - it's been in secure mode for a long while, and there's been some medical passport and elite passport accesses in the recent few years. Gates can be set to one of three settings: Secure (only special passports are permitted), Standard (open, but will shift into secure mode upon weapons fire) and Open (will not shift into secure mode no matter what). The Strategos key can be used to authorize a new Sentinel key, but there's currently an active Sentinel key (presumably Janzur has it). Changing the biometrics on the Strategos key to recognize a new Strategos requires the Sentinel key, and vice versa. There are four types of passports: Medical and Military passports, which are tied to the hardware of individual ships (people wonder whether DaVinci can build those), and Elite and Diplomatic passports, which are tied to individual people. The Diplomatic passports are held by the consuls of each planet, and can be used to go either towards Ridena or towards their homeworld. These can be reset by the previous holder, or by a combination of the Strategos and Sentinel.
Note: the key cannot be used to give one-shot instructions to a gate, like "let the next ship through", other than by changing the gate setting and then changing it back again.
As the Hippocrates continues to travel around, they query the jumpgates for status. Everything is about as expected, except that a diplomatic passport has been used twice in recent months, to go from Vircus to Gateway. The passport is that of the Consul of Gateway, Margaret Janillad. This is considered Ominous.
The Genetic Diversity and the Aberdevine are swapped, and Ace asks the Vircans to mount a laser on the Aberdevine in their spare time. They don't expect to have any spare time for another three weeks, but will try and get to it after that.
Flames Minus Eighteen
The Hippocrates heads through Sundown to New Light, at high energy. Once in the New Light system, it becomes evident that there's a running combat of some sort, about halfway in, near the asteroid belt. Between Ciernan, Ace, and Hippocrates, the ship makes a very good best speed towards the battle. Max notes that there are multiple discrete sources of radio jamming throughout the system, including one in the battle.
Some hours later, the Hippocrates closes with the battle - it's a very confusing mess. Hippocrates passes out the newly acquired shield belts, telling people that if the ship is boarded, to turn these on. Sophia thinks that the belts have far more capability than that, and starts pondering their many alternate uses.
Ace puts on his stormtrooper armor, adding an A in red spray paint. Cass offers everyone various sorts of tea.
"You're pushing on my ship?" -AceSophia (who took a class in tactics at the University) figures out that one of the (larger) transports is the source of the jamming, and is also the one able to communicate through it. It's telling its wing of fighters and boarding pods to get the Terran transport before it escapes! The other team has a transport (the one identified as a "Terran transport", a fighter wing as well. But all the ships look like Blue Navy vessels.
"Not only is he pushing, most of us are buying." -Sophia
Max tries to locate the nearest Terran, and bounces off a bitey shield. He passes out. That's assumed to be proof of Terrans, if nothing else. When Max passes out, the fact that the Hippocrates is no one else's problem stops happening. The first transport broadcasts: "By the Hegemon! The Terran mother ship!" and tells its side to go after them.
Ciernan puts a wall of stone around the transport doing the jamming, with a nearby asteroid. This cuts down on most of the jamming, until it's wafer-thin. Meanwhile, however, a boarding pod has hit the Hippocrates and a party of marines has disembarked.
"This is the HMS Hippocrates. We are here to assist. All Terrans may indicate their presense by shooting at us." -Hippocrates
"This is General Hornberg. Don't attack the Hippocrates, attack the Terran command ship!" -Transport A
"I am still in command here! Don't listen to this so-called Hippocrates or this so-called General Hornberg! He hasn't issued any authorization codes!" -Transport B
"Anyone being foiled that badly must be on our side." -SaraAkito holds off most of the marines, though he's taking damage. Cass has some effect with sleepy-tea placebo effects. Another boarding party lands. Sophia locks down all the doors to slow down the marines; Ciernan puts up space tornadoes to prevent the boarding pods from getting to the Hippocrates. The marines switch to combat knives against Akito, while Cass does his best to keep Akito standing with healing and various forms of buffing. Meanwhile, Ace has thrown the ship into a mad dodging frenzy to keep most of the fighter wing from landing a hit, while Sophia patches the few shots that get through.
"Anyone being foiled that badly is not the Terrans executing a plan." -Charles
A third set of marines makes it through Ciernan's tornados, and boards through Engineering. Ciernan (who is down to using fortune, both of his other psi die pools being held down) blasts someone, somewhere, with lightning, and then makes it foggy somewhere. Ruthie (who seems to have been down in power control, for some reason), Sophia, and the Vircans start battling the third boarding party - Ruthie is upset that Akito still hasn't given her a gun. Ciernan opens the weapons locker for her, and she triumphantly acquires a blaster, before Akito dashes in to swoop her away from the combat to put her back on the bridge.
Cass tries out sending a hallucinatory tea with fortune. As it turns out, this hits Ruthie, and she heads for the marines, shouting that she's Grimlock the Destroyer. If nothing else, this is quite a distraction for the marine that she bites on the ankle. One of the parties of marines makes it to Cass - he shrieks effeminately and throws up his hands, so they just cover him.
General Hornberg finally finishes his authentication protocol, and orders all the ships to stand down, that nobody here is a Terran. The ships stop fighting, but the message hasn't gotten to the marines yet. The several marines covering Cass tell him to give them his bag - when given an action, he flees.
Hippocrates notes that one of the boarding pods hasn't moved for a while - he scans it, and realizes it has a bomb on board, shortly before it explodes. However, because its cockpit had mysteriously filled with fog, it had drifted away from the battle and nobody is harmed in the explosion. The marines finally stand down.
In sorting out the aftermath of the battle, it becomes clear that nearly everyone involved is a loyal Blue, except for the captain of Tranport B, who was knocked out by a freak lightning storm on his bridge.
General Hornberg says that the fleet's gone crazy, and there have been skirmishes all over the system. And, there's been no communication with New Light in the past day. Happily, Donella has already left for - well, a classified location. Max confirms that he'd start looking for her on the border with Red.
The Hippocrates group takes General Hornberg on board, and proceeds down to New Light at top speed.
Flames Minus Seventeen
At Sanctuary, nobody at the starport is responding. After repeated hails, someone finally comes to the radio.
"Wha-at? Calm down, dudes." -Traffic controlCiernan turns on "purify air" on the ship (though really, space ships are designed to be airtight...), and, after many phone calls, General Hornberg gets the armed forces outside the city to quarantine it.
"This is not good." -Ciernan
A nervous expedition heads out of the ship. Cass thinks the air is okay. There are a bunch of people randomly lounging about, who Cass thinks have been drugged with a serious penalty to their Str of Mind. The air is still okay, but the water fountain is drugged. A sandwich from a nearby lunch counter is also a little druggish, probably from the vegetables, which have been washed in drugged water.
Meanwhile Sophia receives some email:
public key: 9d28ntf208xdgt4po2sxyunr5x7cal5disna8Y5MPIWS24 Dr. Sophia Symphony-Hayes, I have been hired to assist you in saving the world. Details are sketchy, but your presence is required at the entrance to the Crystal Palace on Riden. Please advise. Murdoch checksum: xd5now47dgn45oidmwl45idnsixd8yilws8ycbs5seiysl [a set of pointers to a vast number of public web sites follows. If you visit them, they contain verification routines to prove that the sender of the email is in fact some mercenary named "Murdoch".]After very little puttering about, the party proceeds to the water purification plant for the city water grid. There are armed guards who don't look as dazed and confused as the rest of the city; they say nobody is allowed in. (Ciernan thinks they're blue pawns with no bitey shields), because underminister Racine is inside trying to deal with the compromised water supply. General Hornberg bullies his way in - he says Racine isn't dealing very well, it's still a big problem!
Once inside, Underminister Racine tries to explain that they've been installing filters - Ciernan promptly lightning bolts him, triggering the "Get 'im!" response from everyone else. He is got. Sophia notes to the technicians that the "filtration units" are, obviously, water-druggers, and are pulled back out of the purification path.
The water grid will start being flushed, but it'll take a little while. Cass neutralizes the drugs in important personnel, as pointed out by General Hornberg. Michael is one of the ones Hornberg notes as important to cure, but when the group shows up, they are again met by armed guards. These are a little less ept:
"Dude, just a sec, you can't go in there. We gotta shoot you." <they start looking for their guns>Michael is barricaded in his office with a case of bottled water, trying to keep what things he can running - he says there was an assault on the palace, but Donella had insisted on leaving early, so it failed.
"Maybe that was a joke?" -Sophia
"Michael doesn't joke..."
"Got any resources we can use?" - AceLeaving the Blue government in somewhat disarray, but recovering, the party heads out again....
"No." - Michael
Flames Minus Fifteen
... to pick up the shipload of psis from Highguard, and then proceed on to Nurl.
At Nurl, the Blue fleet, including Donella's two ships, are in some consternation. What the hell is going on, and why has Red closed the border? Their messenger ship barely got out alive! The party briefs Donella on the state of New Light - she is more distressed, while Gerard is more impressed at her insistence on leaving early.
The Hippocrates is next hailed by Murdoch, who requests to come aboard. He reports that the Crystal Palace is inaccessible to almost everyone, and has been so for over a week. The borders were closed, and it cost him a good 2000 asters to be smuggled out. He has been hired to make sure that Sophia Symphony-Hayes be brought to the Crystal Palace, in order to save the world. Well. Hmm.
The party considers whether to bring Donella on board as they go to investigate - this would get her into Red, where she needs to be, but she'll be separate from her two Blue warships. Donella is quite cross - she thought there were Agreements in place, and Red is reneging. She thinks the party should go and Deal With It. They decide that they should probably do so, without bringing Donella to the catastrophe at the Crystal Palace; they can signal Gerard via Jayla via Deirdre in a pinch.
The Hippocrates proceeds around the back, again making high-energy jumps, to get to Gateway. Strangely, no one on Gateway seems to know anything about something weird going on on Riden - Commodore DeGaulle (as well as Jim/Jayla/Janzur) are on Gateway, but now DeGaulle is heading for Riden, though he's two days down.
Flames Minus Fourteen
The Hippocrates jumps to Riden, and dashes for the capital. No ships are being permitted to land, says a long-suffering traffic controller, but other starports are suggested. Ciernan manages to pull some rank with his home office, and gets them down. The local news isn't going into detail about the Crystal Palace, but it does indicate that Viktor has cut his vacation short and is coming back to Riden for no reason at all.
Sophia grabs some force field belts to bring. Ace and Max both grab for random stuff, and get force field belts too. Murdoch takes All the Guns from the weapons locker. Ace and Murdoch steal a car.
"We have a ship full of powerful outworld psis. Where is my clairvoy?" - CiernanCiernan's home office says that the Elite are in charge at the Crystal Palace, but they're not letting anyone else in or out. But there are scientists there, blasting at the walls. Also, the order came down from on high: Don't Tell Klothos.
<The psis report that the inside of the main section of the Crystal Palace does not exist>
"That's so cool. Let's go." - Sophia
The group tries to find any of the Elite who came with Shaddam on the Secret Conference - sadly, they were all last reported inside the palace, so Ciernan sends the highest ranking Elite outside a message saying that he has the best scientist in the Linked Worlds on his ship, which is in the middle of a crucial mission for the Red Hegemon, relevant to his excursion from AS 2781.091 - 2781.098. And, that they also have the one psi who might be able to bypass the barrier.
An Elite arrives at the Hippocrates and is introduced to Dr. Symphony-Hayes. She says she'll need to see the barrier to tell them more. He'll escort them in, but they will all be unarmed. There is much outcry (mostly from Ace) over this restriction. The Elite says that the Elites will be armed. Well, what about an emergency? The Elites will be armed. How about an extra-bad emergency where they need more help? In that case, they might have spare weapons. Well, will they carry the party's weapons? No, they will not. Ace putpockets a blaster on the Elite, just in case, while Murdoch arranges to meet them there so he can stash his bag of guns closer to the palace.
The group proceeds to the entry to the Crystal Palace. Sophia thinks the barrier is a combination of a bipolar shield and an antipolar shield - it's really really mad. Speaking of which, Murdoch confesses, he was actually hired by Dr. Cain to bring them. He didn't mention that before now, because he didn't think they would come. He provides the briefing which Dr. Cain gave him, for the others to read off his portable memory storage:
A package arrives for you at one of your usual contact locations. Inside you find a drive compatible with your internal hardware with a note attached.Ace makes a note of the account number, but Murdoch has, of course, already taken the money.
The note says: ``Bring Dr. Sophia Symphony-Hayes (alive and conscious) of the HMS Hippocrates to the front main entrance to the Crystal Palace on Riden, using whatever means are necessary, and once there give her whatever assistance she requires. She needs to save the world.''
When you insert the tape, you `remember' the following conversation:
A man in a while lab coat jauntily waves at you while you stand in the middle of a vast gray field.
``No, don't bother to respond. Actually, you can't respond, because we never really had this conversation. I've been saving this drive for a special occasion and if you remember this message, it must be that time.''
``I am Dr. Cain, one of the greatest scientific minds of our time. You're probably not entirely familiar with my work, as I've been unfairly discriminated against for years now, but rest assured, if I'm doing it, it's quite the cutting edge.''
``Don't worry about how I managed to make this message, since technically, it shouldn't really work this way. Luckily, I'm quite familiar with this particular technology, as I stole several of the basic principals involved from the man who developed it, and have been using it in my special projects ever since.''
``Right, so, down to business. I'm not really sure what it is I will be wanting, as I'm just making this drive for an emergency. If you're getting this message and not one that's more specific, it means that I'm in a bind that requires your special services. I probably need to be broken out of somewhere, as my many enemies are always looking to get me, but whatever it is, I'm sure I have the utmost confidence in you.''
``I understand that you are used to negotiating your fees based upon the job itself, and your clients, etc. etc. Unfortunately, that's not going to be possible here, so how about I just grossly over-pay you and you take care of whatever it is.''
``Sadly, I can't really guarantee that you'll accept the job, as you've got quite excellent safeguards on your system, and believe me, I've tried. So, I'll set it up in a `some now, some later' method.''
``You do whatever it is I need as indicated by whatever message I attached to this drive, and you can have, oh, let's call it fifty thousand asters. Here is the account code for a private account that has twenty thousand asters in it. [Gateway account: #xxxx] I'll give the the code for the remaining thirty thousand when I'm safe, rescued, supplied with the materials or whatever else it is that I need.''
``Good Luck! Remember, I wouldn't ask, if it weren't really important...''
(This last line is eerily convincing. You probably make a few quick checks for software integrity and the like, but you conclude, that no, he's not messing with your mind any more than is obvious, it's just that he make a really good point. It's probably pretty important.)
Sophia (with Max's help, who is channeling a would-be-mad-scientist from Pierogi) works on turning the portable shields into bubbles capable of penetrating the field, using gravitics, nuclear engineering, and mad science.
"Are we walking into a black hole? Is that what you just said?" -CiernanShe only manages to make enough for the party (including Murdoch), but unfortunately, without extra Elite to help, so the intrepid (but unarmed) adventurers proceed forward. The interior is strange and grey-lit, and everything seems frozen in time and desolid. Standing in the entrance is Dr. Cain, standing on an X drawn in red marker, and holding a pasteboard sign that says "SSH stand on the X". Before doing anything irrevocable, the group decides to scout the area, and finds several more tableaux of frozen people, in different rooms:
Sophia identifies the device in D as a bipolar shield generator, of Hegemonic tech, and the device in C as an antipolar shield generator (mad tech). Additionally, the haughty guy in G is wearing one of the phasing devices given by the future-tech people to the Terrans.
Eventually, it is concluded that not much can be done while desolid to everything, so Sophia stands on the X, and "possesses" Dr. Cain. He plays forward a scene, for a few moments:
Running through the scene does cost Sophia four points of one of her mind substats, however, from the dissonance between her mind and Cain's.
[Cain is standing on a red X with a marker on poster board that says in red, ``SSH stand on X.'']
Cain Testing. One. Two. Three. Well, actually, I guess it doesn't matter since this is instantaneous. I'll just start speaking into the air now.
Cain: If you are listening to this, it means that someone almost as brilliant as I am has managed to penetrate the dual-shifting phase compensated barrier that surrounds the Crystal Palace. As there are very few people that brilliant, and I only summoned one of them, I'm going to assume that you are Dr. Sophia Symphony-Hayes.[gestures around]
Cain: Here's the story. A nuclear explosion has just taken out the palace, but is being contained and held back by an unfortunate interaction between my nuclear supression field, and the palace's nuclear shielding. Had I been properly informed of all of the variables, I would have dealt with this mess myself, but people have just not been keeping me up to date of late.[shakes head sadly]
Cain: Our Captain Thorssen is in the palace having just set off the nuke, and it's going to be up to you to rescue her. I know, I know, you are far more concered with my well being, but fear not. You needn't spend your efforts on me. Thanks to some assistance from a mutual friend, I've got a backup.[smiles]
Cain: So here's what you do. You take a small compact power source that can produce at least a force 12 on the Duranio scale (you'll have to find one in the palace since anything you brought with you is presumably not phase-isolated to the local variance). Take the power source and: 1) reverse polarity on one of the field generators, 2) attune the power source to the energy spectrum of the nuke, 3) reverse the polarity of the other generator, 4) set the power source for overload and attach it to Eva, and 5) turn off the main house shields.[look around]
Cain: I'd advise you to get several of your goons, er... shipmates to assist with all of this, as this whole possession of quasi-static phase shifted history motes thing you are currently doing is quite tiring. Remember that you can possess and run through the motes as many times as you want, but can only make changes during the motes one time each, so make sure you know what you are doing before you do anything.[looking around again]
Cain: Well, I've got to go take care of the more difficult parts now.[Cain turns and turns back]
Cain: One last thing: don't possess a quasi-static phase shifted history mote that dies. Or, if you must, make sure someone who can hack the damage does it. Remember, you're too important to get killed, that's why you have lab minions! [This line is eerily convincing.][Cain hurries off.]
Ciernan wonders what Cain's plan is. Will it save just Eva, or everyone? Sophia thinks that it's a perfectly brilliant plan to save one person. This leads to a quick bout of panic - is the party toast? No, whatever happened to the palace happened a week and a half ago.
Scene E is run, with Hippocrates and Ace, playing the Hegemon and Sentinel.
This scene is determined to contain the option to turn off the house shields. Of course, it isn't time for that yet. There's much discussion of which scenes need to be run to do what; eventually it becomes clear that each scene has something that needs to be acquired or changed, and the order is approximately determined from Dr. Cain's plan.
Gareth: You can't possibly let her in to see you; she's been in their power for months.
Shaddam: She's stronger than you think. She won't betray me, at least, not for their reasons.
Gareth: So you trust her?
Shaddam: Of course not! She's the captain of the Hippocrates. They'd bring our whole way of life down around our ears if they thought it was necessary to `save the world'. But if it happens, we'll know it won't be in service of the Terrans.
Gareth: So we should get rid of her?
Shaddam: No. As I said, they'd only betray us if there were a good reason. If we really did need to be betrayed. Just as they betrayed the Blues at the Gate. But even if it were so, she'd tell me first.
Gareth: So if it is a double cross, we can get it out of her?
Shaddam: Probably not. She wouldn't say anything until it was too late. That's why I need to see her. I'll know what's going on just from the look on her face. It may be too late, but at least I'll know.
Gareth: I still don't think it's a good idea, my lord.
Shaddam: You just worry about the reports from technical. If she is up to something, she's not alone. Find out who else is here.
Gareth: Yes, my lord.
Shaddam: And activate the house shields. At least there are still some benefits to living in the last great work of the First Hegemony.[Gareth walks over to a console and putters.]
Gareth: Shields activated, my lord. I'll attend to the rest now, with your permission.
Shaddam: Very well.[Gareth bows and leaves.]
Shaddam: Now, Shoshana. Time to find out what they've done to you.[Shaddam stands and leaves.]
"I'm not needed to be smart, and I'm pretty smart. Plus, I'm an actor." -CassAfter some discussion of who can afford to take damage, Ciernan and Hippocrates run through scene F.
Hippocrates takes 60 damage from the plasma brand, and Ciernan's left hand seems to be useless. However, Ciernan does manage to make the change of "taking the plasma brand", which will provide the power source.
Gareth [shoots the partially faded Terran's belt]
Terran: [fades in] Well hit, fool, but it's far too late to stop us now.[Terran pulls out whip and disarms Gareth.]
Gareth Perhaps. Perhaps not. But in either case, your time here is ended.[Gareth draws plasma brand.]
Terran: Ah, I was told that you wielded a sun sword. But to wield a weapon is different from mastering it.[Terran and Gareth fight furiously whip versus plasma brand. The whip seems to hold up against the plasma brand pretty well. Much better than you'd expect.]
[After some extended fighting, the Terran looks to be gaining the upper hand, when suddenly, Gareth blocks the whip with his off-hand, which is severed, but gives him the opportunity to plunge his plasma brand deep into the chest of his opponent.]
[Blood pours from Gareth's wound as he struggles to stand. On the ground sputtering, the Terran gloats.]
Terran: I die here, yes. But I have already succeeded. Even now, your Hegemon dies, and your worlds are doomed.[Terran sputters more and sinks to the ground.]
Terran: [weakly] For the Good of the Many...[Terran dies.]
[Gareth stands, and holding his stump, rushes from the room.]
Next is the scene with Eva shooting Dr. Cain. Ace volunteers to be Cain - but wait! He won't be able to dodge! Argh!
"Eva's not that good a shot. Suck it up." -HippocratesCass and Ace play through Scene A:
Eva: [pointing her gun at Cain] What are you doing here?
Cain: You left me a message telling me to show up here!
Eva: I did? Well, I guess I had a good reason.
Cain: So what's going on?
Eva: [evil smile] Actually, it seems you're going to have to die here too. Events are pretty much inevitable now. No one could possibly prevent my death.
Cain: What? Why?
Eva: Oh, I'm going to kill the Red Hegemon.
Cain: [boggles] Really? How.... um... unexpected. Can I ask why?
Eva: I'm brainwashed.
Cain: What! No one is allowed to brainwash you but me!
Eva: Sorry, you weren't around.
Cain: [looking less sure of himself] Well, when you kill him, I'll help you escape.
Eva: There really won't be any escaping; I'm using a small nuke.
Cain: Well, I won't allow it.
Eva: Oh please, even if I don't shoot you, one shout from me, and you're back to jail. You can't possibly prevent it. If I thought you could, I wouldn't have told you about it. Sophia, maybe, but you just aren't up to it.
Cain: [eerily convincing] Are you sure you wouldn't rather just forget all this, and head out of here?
Eva: [cheerily] Sorry, still brainwashed. Well, time to die. See you.[Eva exits.]
[Cain pulls out a device]
Cain: [muttering] I'll show her `inevitable'.Ace tries to read the codes from Cain's device, but fails - more mind is needed.
"She claims to be using a nuclear bomb. She might be using the royal I" -AceMax runs through D:
Max succeeds in reversing the polarity on the house shields. Ciernan ("I claim 'haughty', he cut off my hand!") and Hippocrates run through scene B.
Cain: Now to connect the mains.[tinker tinker tinker]
Cain: What in the world? What the heck is this?[think think think]
Cain: The palace already has an anti-polar, dual-phased point spread force screen covering the entire structure! Why am I never informed about these things!
[think think think]
Cain: The bi-polar nature is going to interfere with the anti-polar supression, which will cause a phase shift in the comensated wave and an inverted shift in the uncompensated wave.
[think think think]
Cain: Gah! That'll kill everyone! Hmm, maybe I could adjust the wave using the energy from the nuke itself. Of course then, someone would have to come along after the nuke went off... And I'd have to be here to adjust it during the explosion....
[think think think]
Cain: No, you'd have to be as brilliant as me to get away with that! Well, maybe not. I could leave some instructions, and then you'd only have to be almost as brilliant as me.
[stands to leave]
Cain: Hmm, how to get her here...
[think think think]
Cain: Damn, I was hoping to save this for a special occasion.
[Reaches into his bag and pulls out a small portable hard drive.]
They successfully get the codes to the nuke. Next, Murdoch runs through scene G to attune the power source from the plasma brand to the nuke:
Eva: [irritated] Look, how many times do we have to go over this? I'm brainwashed and working for you. So, stop questioning my decisions. You hardwired them, remember!
Terran: So I am told. And yet, our other servants tend to be more... respectful.
Eva: You'll get over it.
Eva: It hardly matters, right? I'll be dead shortly.
Terran: And you'll die happily in the service of Terra?
Eva: No. I'll be pissed! But as we've been over, I'm brainwashed, so I'm going to do it anyway.
Terran: I'm still not reassured.
Eva: Look, I've explained this a hundred times. Point one: The easiest way to stop the ritual and kill everyone is to kill one of the `hegemons' before they can participate. Point two: For various reasons, which are mostly your fault, I can get near Hegemon Marchant much more easily than I can get near Donella. Point three: Unarmed combat is not my specialty, so we're going to have to use the last of your nukes, and the last of your phase inverters in order to make sure he dies.
Terran: Yes, yes, we've been over your reasoning before. I still don't trust you. Surely, your family connections will get you in to see Donella.
Eva: You don't have to trust me. I'm brainwashed! Besides, Donella is too lucky to be killed by a nuke in any case. It just won't work.
Terran: So you've said.
Eva: [exasperated] Still brainwashed! Still can't lie to you!
Terran: [shaking his head] Very well, carry on with your mission.
Sophia and Murdoch run through scene A again, and successfully get the codes from Dr. Cain. Next, Sophia runs through scene C, to reverse the polarity on Cain's shield:
Terran: There, with the phase inverter installed, I should be able to position the device wherever I wish.
[tinker tinker tinker]
Bomb: [mechanical feminine voice] Phase inverter, on-line.
Terran: Now to arm the warhead.
[tinker tinker tinker]
Terran: Damn that Eva. I still don't understand how she manages to be rude and obedient at the same time. But soon, it'll be over.
[tinker tinker tinker]
Bomb: [mechanical feminine voice] Warhead armed. Awaiting final vocal detonation sequence.
Terran: Armed. Now, to move the thing to where she can trigger it.
[lift lift lift]
Terran: Once I get it placed, I'd better check in with her one last time. She better not screw this up.
[Terran adjusts a dial on his belt and he and the nuke fade out.]
The next scene needed to play through will be the one where a power supply is attached to either Eva or Shaddam. If a change can be made only once, and only one person can be saved, which one is being saved? Ace suggests flipping a coin, but is ruthlessly suppressed. Before making any decisions, Ace and Murdoch play through the scene in order to see what can possibly be done.
Cain: I'll show her `inevitable'! Set off any nuke you want, and nothing is going to happen. I've got a bi-polar phase compensated suppression field over this while place!
[tinker tinker tinker]
Cain: Soon, everyone will know that I, Doctor Cain, am the greatest scientist that has ever lived!
[tinker tinker tinker]
Cain: Imagine the nerve of her, telling me what's inevitable! Well, enough of that. No one dies here, unless I say they can die.
[tinker tinker tinker]
Cain: How did she manage to get herself brainwashed anyway? You'd think she was more clever than that.
[tinker tinker tinker]
Cain: Hah! Once I get her out of this, she's going to owe me big time!
[tinker tinker tinker]
Cain: Done! Now I just head off to attach the mains to the palace's crystalline structure, and we're saved!
[stands to leave]
Cain: Saved? Weird, that's twice in two weeks I've saved people. This is getting strange.
Ace and Murdoch think that either of them could plant the power source on the person that they're possessing.
Shaddam: It is you, isn't it? I had thought maybe they had replaced... Oh, I see it now.
Eva: Yes. Please, forgive me... 3, 4, 2, detonate.
[Nuclear bomb phase shifts in and appears on the dais.]
Bomb: [mechanical female voice] Detonation sequence commences, countermands disabled.
Shaddam: So, is this it then?
Eva: Not necessarily.
Shaddam: Is there more?
Eva: [sighs] Not really, though I do have a plan to save you.
Shaddam: Will it work?
Eva: Probably not. If I really thought it would work, I wouldn't have been able to do it.
Shaddam: What about you?
Eva: It doesn't matter.
Shaddam: It matters to me.
Eva: I'm sorry. It was the only way...
Right. The party considers this. So, Eva set up Cain to try to save her, so that Cain would have to bring in the Hippocrates, who would save Shaddam. She couldn't tell the PCs about it, because that would be betraying the Terrans, but she could tell another bad guy about the plan? But really, she could only tell him about it once it was inevitable that she couldn't be saved. And she bled their last nuke and phase shifter out of them, to boot. And she can't plan to save Shaddam, she can only plan to save herself, but she wants Shaddam saved. It's all very complicated and confusing.
Sophia considers what would happen if someone took off their belt to appear in a scene for real - that might let them push the two people together to be both saved, but then whoever did it would be killed by the nuke. Various other mad plans are pondered which involve trying to destroy the nuke, but the whole mad setup is powered by the nuke, so that won't work. Max considers whether he could not-here away again, but he realizes that he can really only get past obstacles that he can plausibly pass (doors he can pick the lock of, etc), and a nuclear explosion isn't one of those things.
After much brainstorming, the best possibility is the idea of losing Hippocrates's robot body but possibly backing up some of his data to Murdoch beforehand. However, this would leave Hippocrates mostly useless for the Flames itself, which he thinks is too great a cost.
Akito, tired of the talking, goes off and runs a couple of the single-person scenes again.
"You were trying to see if you could make it do something else?" -Sophia(However, Akito does realize that by running through the Terran's scene enough times, he can teach himself to use the phase shifting device.)
"No, just bored." -Akito
Finally, Hippocrates and Cass play through as Eva and Shaddam, with Hippocrates planting the power source on Shaddam, and Cass as Eva trying with tea-of-focus and a seduction roll to force Eva to rush forward to kiss Shaddam, to put them in the same place.
Alas, all Cass manages to do is take a few steps forward, and give Shaddam the first tender look he has ever seen from Eva, before the scene ends.
Sophia and Max turn off the house shields with scene E, and things shift back into real time as the explosion happens a week and a half ago. Left in the crater is Shaddam Marchant, who falls to his knees in despair. Ciernan approaches him and puts his hand on Shaddam's shoulder:
"Hegemon Marchant. The crew of the Hippocrates has betrayed our captain to save the Linked Worlds. If you will give the orders to allow Donella to pass..." -CiernanSophia points out that a week and a half ago isn't very long for a nuclear explosion, and there's still a lot of radiation in the area. They get out. Ciernan's hand still doesn't work, though.
Shaddam, clearly still unhappy, gives a bunch of orders regarding the fleet, not yet having time to sulk.
Flames Minus Thirteen