Saffron and Puce

"The sure mark of someone who cannot be trusted with power, is that they desire it."

- Li Tsevernal, Court Mocker, Highguard, AS 2576

the Well

Several experiments are finished up - one of the psi storage crystals is zapped (along with Sophia's fingers) with neutrinos. Maury notes that the spatial anchor has infiltrated itself into power systems throughout the ship; this is probably for the best, if it's going to be used since an anchor isn't very useful if it's not attached to the ship properly. The principal of "the more power you put into it, the larger a frame of reference it anchors to" is re-emphasized. The idea of anchoring to the galactic frame of reference and zipping off in some random direction is an interesting one, but probably not worth doing now.

Next, the focus of the crew turns to Dr. Cain, still frozen in carbonite. Assuming that Sophia can pull out his Puce Hegemon-ness, what should be done with it? There are essentially three choices - send it out into the wilderness, send it into someone else, send it back into Dr. Cain. If it's into someone else, who should it be? Perhaps someone with a high psi ability. Max is willing, if it should be a (non-Hegemon) psi. Eva thinks that he's probably the Hegemon of a particular psi stat, but it's not clear what, and it's probably not the ones that Katya, Jayla, and Donella are Hegemon off. Str of Mind perhaps? If so, then Eva or Kye might be a good choice.

"Let us gain the data, and then make the assumptions" -Sophia
Various people put on headphones. Maury pipes opera into his. The carbonite chamber is deactivated, and Dr. Cain staggers out and collapses in Eva's arms. He's badly ill with hibernation sickness. Sophia shoots Dr. Cain and then Eva with her de-shtickinator, making Eva both eerily convincing and "always right."

Sophia builds a device with blinky colander helmets to put on people's heads, to compare Cain's stats with someone else's. Maury runs a blood test on Cain - he doesn't have the Hegemonic uber-gene complex, but he does have a lot of personal genetic enhancements that it looks like Cain's tinkered with. Max and Dr. Cain get put in the colanders, and things start sparking. Max has a higher Str of Psi and Pre of Psi than Dr. Cain does, but then the device starts making an alarm sound - their "special" psi stats are incompatible. Cain has no fortune stat.

Sophia suggests comparing him to the Tinoori; Night Blooming Wisteria gets tested. Cain has a much higher third stat than they do, and it is compatible. The Tinoori note that Dr. Cain is nearly as perceptive as First Frost of Autumn. Around now it becomes clear that everyone in the conversation is mostly agreeing with everything Eva says, which makes rational discussion a little tricky. Sophia shoots Eva with the de-shtickinator, aiming for "eerily convincing", and discovers that she has two, maybe three, shticks in that area. She seems to get the right one, though, so it works out.

Hibernation sickness will go away in time, as long as the subject is not hibernated again. Eva thinks that the reason he has perception as a stat is that he probably stole it from the Tinoori he swapped with humans.

Sophia works on building a high-energy addition to her de-shtickinator, so that the shtick will stick for longer (hopefully, for long enough for the subject to spend eps to buy it), and shoots Cain with it to steal "Puce Hegemon" as a shtick. Max checks where the nearest Hegemon is - at the other end of the ship, where Katya has gone.

Some discussion ensues as to whether the Puce Hegemon should be First Frost of Autumn or one of his parents. They only have normal amounts of Perception, while he has a lot. On the other hand, he's still young. And being Puce Hegemon might introduce weird powers into the Tinoori bloodline if he has any kids, and the adults might not be planning to have any more. The final conclusion is that if this is for saving the world, high stats are probably important, so Sophia shoots First Frost of Autumn. He collapses, and Sophia has to throw the exploding high-energy addition away; it explodes, singing her (already sore) fingertips.

When First Frost of Autumn wakes up again, he's a little panicky - he can see a terrible destruction coming.

Around this time the Ultrafine Saffron Harvesters Drudge Union calls for Jim, to tell him about how great their strike threats have been going. They got their initial set of demands met, and now they're going for more. They'd like to meet with him about it. About the same time, two white-armored Architect soldiers show up and ask Eva to meet with the Architect at his convenience.

The party breaks into two groups; Jim and Max talk to the Drudge union, while most everyone else talks to the Architect.

At the meeting with the Drudges, the leader (Jorby) explains that they threatened to strike and demanded better medical care and shaded break areas, and they got them. Heady with power, they're now threatening to strike for the ability to pick their own saffron inspectors, and one week of paid vacation a year. However, it's very awkward to meet with the supervisor on the saffron plantation, as she's very much in authority there. After a little hinting, Jim offers to invite the union leader and the overseer to the Hippocrates for negotiations on neutral ground, in a few days.

Meanwhile, at the meeting with the Architect, it's made clear pretty quickly that the Architect does indeed think the crew owes him one, and he's calling in his marker. Apparently he leaned on the overseer to grant the concessions, since he's trying this whole "empowerment is more productive" thing (suggested to him, by Ruehan, Kith, Sharra, Jim, and others since he took power). But threatening to strike, having your demands met, and then striking again the next day, is definitely not an increase in productivity. He'd like the Hippocrates to take care of the problem and get the Unions back to work. Eva mentions that the crew is also having some legal problems with Watts, and the Architect suggests that after the Union thing is taken care of, he might be able to look into such matter, probably by the end of the week, since if Eva and the crew can't settle the Union issues by then, he'll have to... Message received, people head back to the ship.

The two groups meet back at the ship. Jim mentions his invitation to the Union in several days. Eva says that the union has about a week before the Architect crushes them, and that they need to negotiate. Jim points out, somewhat unhappily, that it's hard to negotiate evenly between groups with such big status differences.

Anyway, the meeting is in a couple of days, so there's some time to kill. Katya and Maury take the opportunity to do some fortune experiments. Eva does some looking into some people for Mirris.

Max sends a note to Citizen Claria and visits his parents. Claria sends him a note back; at the first level of meaning, it says "I'm sulking because you beat my ship in the race." At the second level it says "I'm just kidding, of course." At the third level it says "I'm a Citizen and you're not, so it's appropriate for you to grovel a little anyway, and then you'll be forgiven."

Most everyone heads out to a nightclub for the evening; Katya has to make puppy-dog eyes to get Mirris to come along, but she eventually does (Jim caves to a simple invitation). No peril ensues.

The next morning, when Kye wakes up, he notices that his divan is extra-comfy. Come to think of it, he doesn't normally sleep on a divan at all. He's underneath the open air, with sunrise glinting off his golden robes. He can only see the sky and a low brick wall around him. Sitting up, he peeks over the wall. Hordes of women standing below the pyramid he's on shout "Kye!" and throw gherkins at him.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Moment Before Dawn looks for the currently awake doctor-type, saying that First Frost of Autumn is acting very strangely. Sophia takes a look - it looks something like an epileptic fit, much like when he collapsed after being shot. Hmm. Sensing trouble, she compares his EEG to the sensory projections that Mirris has programmed into the Diversity's holodeck (which Sophia has tweaked to project to Kye's room). Yup, they match. Uh oh. She heads back down to the Diversity to pull the plug.

Meanwhile, Katya has been keeping an eye on Kye, disguised as a peasant woman, and Mirris has begun to edit the women throwing pickles into men throwing pickles. Dr. Kye hears shouting coming from under his divan, and moves it aside to see Dr. Cain standing in a hole below the divan. Dr. Cain wants to know what the heck is going on.

Sophia pulls the plug on the holodeck, and medical alarms start going off - two of the patients in sickbay (First Frost of Autumn and Dr. Cain) have flatlined. Max arrives in sickbay just as Sophia turns the holdeck back on.

"This was a really good dream for about two minutes." -Dr. Kye
After some consideration as to what happened to First Frost of Autumn, psychologically, Mirris thinks that the key to getting them out without trauma is to make real life look like the holodeck, and then fade the holodeck out. Sophia notes that the holodeck projection system is using the spatial anchor as an extra resonant antenna. Maury finds the idea of a wireless holodeck very disturbing.

Dr. Kye spots First Frost of Autumn down in the tunnel with Dr. Cain - he says he's hunting Cain. Kye suggests that First Frost of Autumn webspit Cain to keep him out of trouble, but not hurt him. Meanwhile, Max has begun to decorate sickbay to look like the corridor below the divan. Maury heads into Kye's room to look at him, but finds himself in the holodeck too. He teleports out, aghast, and is fine in the corridor.

Sophia realizes that Max's disguise of dark sheets isn't going to fool First Frost of Autumn. ("Even I can tell sheets from steel walls!") The disguise is re-implemented. Kye distracts the holographic NPCs, striking more poses, and having more pickles thrown at him. First Frost of Autumn complains that the pickles are strangely tasteless.

First Frost of Autumn is lured down near Dr. Cain, and then Kye climbs back up to the divan. Sophia fades out the holodeck, leaving First Frost of Autumn and Cain in sickbay. First Frost of Autumn panics that Dr. Cain is getting away again, having magically unwebbed himself, and webspits him. Kye and Katya fade out in their respective locations.

Sophia uninstalls the projective part of the holodeck before anything else goes wrong. The speculation is that First Frost of Autumn and Cain both picked up the "wireless holodeck" because their perception is so high.

"Well, that was a crappy dream. I couldn't keep the robes?" -Kye
Sophia throws a pickle at Dr. Kye.
"Think of it as the overhead of having a mad scientist on board." -Sophia
By the end of the day, there has been a run on all the pickles in the mess hall. The Tinoori note that they had no idea that pickles were so popular (and, in fact, until now they hadn't been), but they will restock.

Max considers where the nearest Hegemon is. He thinks it's First Frost of Autumn, but only just barely. That's a little ominous. This results is some fretting, but in the end it's decided that Max was probably just not reading his signs correctly.

Eventually, it's time for the labor meeting to start. Dominique Greenwood (the overseer of the saffron plantation) arrives, as does Jorby (the leader of the union) and two of his advisors, Andrew Rosenkrane and Peter Guilderstone. Max wonders where the nearest yin/yang symbol is, and thinks it's down the hall. Not in the captain's safe, where the one the party has is. Hmm, quite suspicious.

Mirris does a quick web search on the group - Jorby and Dominique both work for Citizen Romo, while the other two are "freelance labor advisors". Max makes sure to shake everyone's hand - he doesn't think the yin/yang symbol is on any of them.

Jim introduces everyone, who he invited here to continue their negotiations. Dominique points out that this is continuing their negotiations. A bit more discussion continues, in which it becomes clear that the two advisors are steering Jorby pretty strongly. Maury gets the Tinoori to send First Frost of Autumn in with drinks, so he can perceive if there's anything weird about any of them. As he's passing out the drinks, Eva signals him to spill a drink on one of the two overseers, which he does.

"I am... I am sorry. I don't know why I did that." -First Frost of Autumn
The negotiations are put on hold while Mirris takes them to get cleaned up, and everyone stretches their legs. Eva and Jim take Jorby aside and tell him that his advisors are probably working for Citizen Lamarr. First Frost of Autumn doesn't think anyone is very perceptibly influenced, though he's not really experienced in looking for that, but Rosenkrane and Guilderstone are very similar in non-visual ways.

Kye retires to the workshop to try and design a sun god robe. He comes up with something not very impressive, but looks up some costumeries on the Well to order a better robe from.

If Jorby isn't strangely influenced, then why exactly is he so mush-minded? Eva speculates that he was probably chosen as the most pliable drudge in the saffron harvesters.

Max wanders into the wing of the ship with staterooms for Jim, Mirris, the Tinoori, Cassandra, and Martan, and starts tossing people's rooms looking for a yin/yang amulet.

Jim suggests to Dominique that she talk just to Jorby, without his two advisors. Being no fool herself, she thinks that's a fine plan. Jim and Eva start swapping off between Jorby and Dominique, while Kye, Mirris, and Katya give Rosenkrane and Guilderstone a tour of the ship "looking for Jorby". It seems to cover a lot of the extra-boring parts, like the sludge reprocessing center. Rosenkrane and Guilderstone talk to Kye about his oppressive captain - is he in favor of a ship union? He might be. Mirris takes this opportunity to abominate herself onto the Rosenkrane, Guilderstone team, so the three of them spend a fair bit of time trying to get the crew to unionize.

"Only two or three of us have been mind controlled so far."
In the traditional custom of everything being the last place you look, Max searches Cassandra's stateroom after finding nothing in Jim's, Mirris's, Martan's, or the Tinoori's. He finds a sculpture that he thinks has an amulet hidden inside. He decides that this isn't immediately pressing, and returns to help with the tour, to promptly be convinced to start an officers union (for which he figures Eva will be the union leader, so it's okay).

Max takes Dominique and Jorby to the dining room, just as Rosenkrane and Guilderstone show up in the conference room, hunting for Jorby and beginning to suspect a runaround. However, it's too late, as an agreement has been reached between Dominique and Jorby, to revisit the union's requests in six months, and to grant them if productivity has demonstrably increased based on the current set of demands.

Meanwhile, Eva asks Rosenkrane and Guilderstone about Citizen Lamarr. They say they're paid by the Saffron Workers Union. Eva says yes, but they work for Lamarr. One says, "That as it may be, it can't be proven." The other elbows him. After a bit more taunting in which Rosenkrane and Guilderstone basically say that the Hippocrates can't always be around to badger union agreements through, plan "Get 'em" is invoked. The combat is pretty quick, though the pair proves to have somewhat confusing combat abilities, as they're difficult to target singly. Unfortunately for them, Eva simply orders everyone to split their dice and target both, and down they go.

Back in the dining room, Max babysits Dominique and Jorby, who are somewhat alarmed at the sounds of gunfire breaking out in the other room. Does the Hippocrates crew always shoot their union organizers? Max tries to reassure them. Dominique is a little more reassured when Max gives her his blaster. Dominique and Jorby have a bit of a bonding moment through peril, surrounded by Dangerous Hippocrates Crew, but are permitted to escape when the combat is over. (Dominique gets a copy of Rosenkrane and Guilderstone's confession on tape).

The party brings the captive Rosenkrane and Guilderstone to the Architect's palace. It doesn't appear that anyone has any problem with people dragging unconscious bodies around, as long as they're prepared to take any blame that accrues from it. The Architect is briefed, and Rosenkrane and Guilderstone are dragged away, protesting their innocence. The Architect says he will take care of their other matter (Watts), and to give his best to Miss Wade.

What exactly to do about the union (headed up by the hapless Jorby) is discussed. Jim suggests that they talk to Victor, and Eva puts some guys on finding a better union rep to act as an actual advisor, to presumably take over at some point in the future. Victor is pretty good at building up unions, as it turns out; it's somewhat like forming resistance cells, but less secret.

Meanwhile, Mirris asks Sophia to do an off-the-record medical examination of her.

"I don't want it in the Hippocrates records, but I want to know if I've ever given birth."
Unfortunately, due to some previous uterine surgery, Sophia can't tell. Hormonally, Mirris has either been pregnant or taken birth control pills at some point in the past (or both). Hmm. That's less help than Mirris was looking for.

The union taken care of, Cassandra is interrogated. She says she was given the sculpture by an admirer on Gateway during the art-patron party. Max says that there's a yin/yang amulet hidden in it. She looks suprised - though Eva thinks she knew it was there but was still genuinely surprised.

Kye analyses the tactile sculpture. It was crafted by a Tinoori artist, moved around through several private collections, and then sat in Cassandra's collection for a long time. The hole was drilled about the same time as it showed up on the ship. The amulet has a little bit of a connection to Cassandra, and a little bit of a connection to someone else, but nobody has really ever cared strongly about it. The purpose of the sculpture is to be cool and to hide the amulet. The purpose of the amulet is to rekindle memories of glories long past.

(Eva tells Kye not to take the amulet out, and don't let Cassndra see it. Not like she could see it, Max points out. Well, don't let her touch it. The suspicion is that this is some sort of trigger to wake a sleeper agent.)

Comparing the composition in this amulet (without chain) to the amulet that Eva has in the safe - this one is new, the other is much older, and the ceramic composition is somewhat different. Max finds the past of the statue, and senses being the guy who gave it to Cassandra shortly after putting the amulet in it, in fear and awe of her.

Eva decides she was surprised because she didn't know it was a yin/yang, and so perhaps she's not a bad guy after all. Jim asks if she ever opened the compartment: She noticed it and took the amulet out the day she got the sculpture, but not since then. Eva decides the Terrans thought Cassandra was significant, and were trying to awaken knowledge she might have known, but it doesn't seem to have reminded her of anything. The self-portrait Cassandra painted is analyzed again, with the sigil of her stars over a faded yin/yang symbol. Cassandra says that the crest was her father's, above his fireplace, but it could have had a colored yin/yang under the stars and she wouldn't have known.

Personal jars of pickles and "golden pickle awards" mysteriously appear for Mirris, Katya, and Sophia.