Treasonous Choices

"The details of history are pencilled in by chance, but the great picture is painted with the choices of individual men."

- Chancel Rowland, Strategos of the Hegemony, AS 1200

the Well -> Riden

The run begins with some final puttering on the Well. Grimblemaury tells people that he plans to go work on the Santa Maria on Vircus for a while, and adds that Janzur and Jayla might also appreciate having a portable tube there. The party starts to offer the portable tube they have, but Twig vetoes that, since it's his. So Ace makes some black market contacts and buys some stolen medical components which Maury can use to make himself a new portable tube for the Vircus system (at a cost of about 5000 per tube, less 500 each for many of the parts being stolen). Maury also picks up about 5000 asters in parts for the Santa Maria to speed the repairs.

Before leaving the system, Ace ponders giving Juliana the Genetic Diversity, but eventually decides it's not yet time for such gestures:

"You're giving the Dancer away? The ship Maury and I rescued? The ship that could technically be called ours now?" -Ruehan
"The ownership of that ship has been subject to debate for many many years. Why should now be any different?" - Drew
On the way to Vircus, Ruehan throws a nice cocktail party for Maury. Fun is had by all.

Arriving in the Vircus system, the Hippocrates is immediately hailed by one of the Blades, piloting Space Engine No. 9. He assures the party that his heart is bound by the chains of command, and proceeds to tell them that he was instructed to wait here for them, as they were known to be arriving soon.

Finding this vaguely mysterious, the party hails the Star of Judgement, which pages Janzur down on the planet, who gets out of bed and goes to talk to them. Yes, he reassures them that everything is fine and they don't need to fly two days in to the planet. Jayla sent the Blade up there to pick up Maury since she knew the Hippocrates would be flying through the area. He comments that they can in fact fly down to the planet for a bit if they like, as it's good for Jayla to be wrong now and again. The party finds this a very un-Janzur like thing to say, but he seems fine otherwise, so they let it pass. Maury transfers himself and all of his stuff to Space Engine No. 9, except for the big pirate flag he leaves on the stateroom wall, and heads down to the planet. The crew leaves for the Gateway jumpgate.

Before transiting to Gateway, the crew remembers to remove the gun mounts. Twig indicates that the forward and starboard guns need to be disassembled the hard way, while the port gun mount now has this handy button. Wait? Are the gun mounts really "uninstalled" if there's a little button that pops them back into place? Hippocrates considers the question carefully.

"That gun satisfies the legal requirements of every applicable regulation, while violating the spirit of most of them." -Hippocrates
The crew decides that this solution is good enough for them, but Twig needs several days to convert a gun, so it's the regular unmounting routine for this trip - but some day, buttons for all!

Once the ship reaches Gateway, they encounter a Red patrol ship waiting outside the Gateway/Vircus jump gate. It hails them and asks their business. Eva says they're headed to Riden to pick up crew. The ship volunteers to escort them into the other jump gate. There is much scanning both ways; the other ship appears to be using more power than its specs call for. The suggestion is floated to play a recording of applicable Red law at the patrol ship, but both sides have been equally scanny so far, and tweaking Klothos might prove more of a liability than necessary. Hippocrates thinks they're listening for the medical passport code, but the jump doesn't require a code on this end, and the jump to Riden doesn't require one. Off they go to Riden.

The Riden system is substantially more high-traffic, and there are immediate broadcast warnings that this is a combat zone, and all civilian ships are required to defer to military orders. A copy of Classified Data Packet Zero is sent; ships which are cleared for other classified data packets should request them. Nobody thinks they're cleared to ask for any classified data packets without causing trouble.

Eva works on decrypting the data packet; it'll take the entire trip down to the planet to chew through it. Ace tries to nap, but finds it difficult with someone else flying the ship.

Most of the forces in system appear to be somewhere in the vicinity of the Nurl jump gate; the tactical setup is deemed by the people with military knowledge to be flexible and defensive.

The Hippocrates lands at a civilian spaceport outside the capital (as before). Kith and Akito return, and Kith explains Sook's plan involving putting everyone (well, some people) in a slow jump ship in order to survive the Flames. Well, it's good to have a backup plan.

Hippocrates, Eva, and Ruehan receive email from a representative of Fairchild Pharmaceuticals (the company that has licensed medpatches). They'd like to have a meeting. Eva sends a covert message to the Red Hegemon asking for a meeting as well; he has a public appearance tomorrow afternoon, but can squeeze her in after that. The Fairchild meeting is scheduled for the morning before the public speech.

Meanwhile, Ciernan McPherson, an outworld born psi working for Red, has been on the trail of a mysterious group. His original bit of evidence is that something or someone psychically burned out a munitions-grade telepath named Vanguaris, who collapsed dramatically on his doorstep, saying "They're drugging people to think..." Ciernan has brought in Grandfather Cass, a Creekian psi/drugs expert, and the two have turned up a mysterious group which has been vaguely recruiting. The group has just gone to ground, ready to do something - exactly what, he's not sure. He sets up an appointment with Garan Hans first thing in the morning to report.

Garan (plus Shamus, Artemus, and Remus) listen to Ciernan's story, and are diverted by Cass's introductory speech: "I am Grandfather Cass. In my youth, I tried to infiltrate the Grandmothers' school. I was disovered, and my subterfuge came to an end- as all such foolishness must. I stand before you a wiser man." Garan is a little envious - most people don't get to use mind control on their citizens quite so indiscriminately. The three uplifted mice chew over what the conspiracy could have been waiting for - the biggest upcoming event is the Hegemon's speech at Kerris Park. Possible triggers that they might be reacting to include about twenty possibilities, one of which is the Hippocrates arriving on planet. Cass perks up at that - he knows Kith! Ciernan thinks they should head to Kerris Park for the speech. Cass gets in line.

Trying out his new law-abiding persona, Ace applies for a concealed weapons permit, due to bounty hunters after him. There's a seven-day waiting perod. He asks the clerk what to do if he's attacked in the meantime; the clerk suggests calling the police or having an unconcealed blaster.

The next morning, Hippocrates gets in touch with some of his military contacts, and gets an invitation to the speech in the StarGuard section of the audience, if he wears a uniform. Sophia has a uniform too, and gets included in the invitation.

Meanwhile, Eva, Hippocrates, and Ruehan meet with the representative of Fairchild Pharmaceuticals. He's quite happy to see them, as the crew hasn't been around Red much to see how their business arrangement with the company has been progressing. He tells them how the company is producing medpatches about as fast as they can and supplying lots of Red troops with them as well as some civilian hospital facilities.

He also gives them their accumulated royalties to date, but is forced to pay them with War Bonds given the current situation. The bonds have a face value of 12,000 asters, which will someday be real, assuming the war goes well. They could, of course, be sold for less than their face value in various markets that have sprung up for such things, but that would be unpatriotic.

Feeling a bit guilty about paying the crew off with war bonds, he also manages to slip folks a couple of ration books which should get them priority if they need to buy any high-tech equipment for their research while in Red. (War-useful commodities are harder to come by these days.) Eva also asks if he could possibly spare a few tickets to the VIP section of the Hegemon's speech that afternoon, and the representative agrees that there are probably a couple of lower ranking VPs he can bump from the guest list. He give the party two VIP tickets, and everyone says their good byes.

Grandfather Cass gets in touch with Kith. What a coincidence - they're both going to the speech! He's tired of standing in line, so he gets in as Kith's guest to the ambassadorial section (though she has to leave her hammer and duct tape with the guards checking weapons). Ruehan is there too. In the StarGuard section are Hippocrates, Sophia, and Ciernan. Ace and Eva use the VIP tickets to sit in the center section; Ace stashes a gun outside the security perimeter. The front of the park has a plexi-wall for the Hegemon; there are Elite on the inside and other guards on the outside.

Eva spots Grandfather Cass with Kith.

"He was at Fernwash." -Eva
"Was he a boy then?" -Ace
The Hegemon comes on stage and starts speaking. Cass keeps sniffing the air for drugs (someone's drugging someone to think something, somewhere!) but doesn't notice any. Ciernan looks around for guys he's made, and spots one of them behind Ace and Eva. Ace looks around for guys who are armed, and spots several who could be packing (nobody has weapons directly visible, but several have cuts that are cut right to conceal a gun, or extra-large purses). He puts those up on the party heads-up display. Ruehan checks the thoughts of the security guards - they seem to be thinking about looking for trouble. Nothing too dangerous. Ruehan tries to find some lucky thoughts to read, and gets a woman nearby who's very fluffy and tasty. She gets a headache. Ciernan goes and pokes security, warning them about the guy sitting behind Ace and Eva.

Ace thinks someone picked his pocket! No, on second thought, something got put in it. It goes "beeeeeep", and he pulls it out and throws it away from him, across the crowd. At the same time, there is an explosion up at the plexiwall, and one side falls down. The elites put themselves between the missing wall and the Hegemon, while several people in the crowd (the ones that Ace spotted as being armed) start charging towards the missing section.

Eva turns and says "what the hell are you doing?" to the guy behind them. He looks distraught, and says "I'm sorry, boss, I thought I was supposed to give you the detonator." Ace picks his pocket and pulls out a pair of ceramic knives. From the diplomatic section, Ruehan reads his mind - he thinks he's screwed, he doesn't understand why the boss is turning on him. Eva tries again: "Don't even think about trying to bluff me - who are your confederates?" He's pretty squished, but maintains that he doesn't know what he did wrong. His confederates are her and Ace and Hippocrates over there, and the guys charging the stage.

At this point, Jim Powell makes a dramatic entrance, standing on top of a gazebo some distance away, with a grenade launcher. He shouts "Now, captain!" and fires at the plexi-wall on the other side, taking out one of the security forces as well. Sophia considers making another Jim Powell with her projective holodisplay, to add confusion to the mix, but refrains for the moment. Ciernan puts up a wall of earth where the first plexi-wall went down.

Eva yells to the Sentinel of the Elites that the bad guys aren't with them, "but get the Hegemon out of here!" Grandfather Cass tries to dose Jim with tea at range, and is hit by Jim's bitey shields. Ace runs over to where he threw the detonator, grabs it, and continues on to outside the security perimeter, where he picks up the gun he stashed. Sophia holoprojects a Janzur, charging towards Jim shouting "Imposter!"

The Elite, still on "get the Hegemon out of here", try and get him off the back of the stage. This takes them past the arc of fire of the second fallen plexi-wall, and Jim breaks hold and launches another grenade. The Elite in question takes the damage, though (hooray for bodyguard shticks!). Ciernan puts up a ridiculously big earthwall that covers both fallen plexi-walls (though he starts burning hit points to do so). Ruehan gets one of the attacking goofs to sit down and surrender.

Jim calls out "It's over! Break and meet back at the Hippocrates!" and takes off on his Starline Scooter. Cass remote-doses him with hallucinogenic tea, again taking bitey-shield thwackback. The crew tries to decide whether any of them should also try and sneak out - Ace is the most likely to get away, as he's outside the security perimeter, and Sophia could probably do something clever with her holoprojector. However, Ace sneaking off after being very visible might cause a manhunt.

Eva surrenders to the police security, and tries to convince them to turn on ground radar to confirm that "Jim" isn't going to the Hippocrates. Ruehan keeps mind-reading up on the bad guys; the guy who had the detonator is unhappy because Eva screwed him over, and he doesn't know why.

Ciernan grabs a local bird to try and follow Jim, but the scooter easily outdistances it. Hippocrates calls the ship, and tells Twig and the Tinoori to lock it down, and watch for imposters. The Tinoori disapprove of imposters.

In the end, everyone is arrested. Kith is somewhat overloaded by the emotions of the crowd, and feels really bad about trying to kill the Hegemon. She says she didn't mean to. One of the security guards also turns himself in - he smuggled the detonator in. Jim Powell told him it was for balloons. Ace argues with the cops arresting him enough to get roughed up a bit (the cops are familiar with his repuation) and says some things that can be quoted out of context by zealous prosecutors.

There's about twenty minutes of media panic before there's an announcement that the Hegemon is alive and well and will be making another speech from a secure location. Citizens are warned to go to their homes and not interfere with any police who may be investigating.

Ciernan is the least-arrested of the lot, and is released quickly. He puts in a good word for Cass, and points out that one of the goofs was one of the people he was looking into - they were probably drugged. The Tinoori and the others on the Hippocrates also surrender, after it becomes clear that the ship will be taken by force otherwise. They say that someone who was visibly similar to Jim Powell but was obviously not Jim Powell showed up on a scooter, but was intercepted by a big guy in armor who called him an idiot and then the two went away again.

On Day Two, Hippocrates, Sophia, Kith, Ruehan, and Cass are interrogated. They stick to their story about imposters and having just come to see the speech. The police insist that they know Ace and Eva were snuck in with VIP tickets, so they could bring in the detonator. There is some argument as to whether Eva could have been on planet recruiting people a week ago, if she was also in Gateway a week ago, but the police are not convinced that being heard via radio is a good alibi compared with being somewhere in person.

Ciernan hears that the goofs have tested positive for ego-suppression drugs. They were recruited over the past month as "muscle who hate the government" by Jim and Eva, though once the drugs are neutralized, they're a little less clear exactly why they hate the government. (Cass helps with the drug neutralizing after being released.) The security guard who smuggled in the detonator also proves to have been somewhat ego-drained, which no doubt explains why he believed the story about the balloons. But he's already resigned. Ciernan thinks he saw someone who looked somewhat like Eva in the bar as part of the recruiting effort. Ruehan and Kith are releaed to be under house arrest in the Outworlds embassy.

On Day Three, Eva and Ace are extra-handcuffed and locked down, and there's a commotion outside. Guards are arguing and being ordered to stand aside, and then insisting that someone take their sidearm. Shaddam Marchant comes in, and has a somewhat pointed conversation with Eva.

"Why did somebody try to make it look like we assassinated you?"
"Start there."
"It's the same people as the ones trying to bring down the planetary network, the ones who assassinated Doraine..."
"Why you?"
"Because we've thwarted them in the past. If they can make us fight with each other, then we're weaker. It's a classic case of 'let's you and him fight'."
"Why do they want to kill me, in particular?"
"To destabilize things. Perhaps Viktor is more controllable? Maybe there's someone in place influencing him? They thought Donella was under their control. Remember the original tactic was to get you to marry someone of their choice."
The Hegemon checks - Viktor is still fine, not kidnapped. He explains their current situation:
"There are Pieces of our government which are out for blood. As a matter of strict interpretation of the law, there is a great deal of circumstantial evidence against you, but very little direct evidence. Yes, you have an alibi on the Well, but that is worth what you can pay for it. It will be difficult to let you all walk, without some ability to bring the actual assailants to justice. Do you have anything for me?"
Eva explains a report that her spies sent her, revealing that some Terran funding possibly led to people who were seen to frequent a certain bar, but that Red Security was also seen at that bar, so it's unclear who was being paid by whom. The Hegemon thinks that report meshes nicely with some things he's been told (via Ciernan's investigation into a bar) but wonders where Eva got that information. Eva explains that sometimes people tell her things... The source isn't important, but perhaps it's another lead to help track down the Terrans. The Hegemon says he'll put people on it.

Eva asks for an hour of his time time in private. The Elite Guard behind him snorts. She says it's very urgent. More urgent than her current predicament? She says if she can have an hour, and her current predicament doesn't get resolved, she'd be content with that. He'll see what he can do.

The Sparky Cola publicity team shows up with an extremely overdocumented itinerary of Jim Powell, up until the point that he left the Well. Clearly he couldn't have been recruiting evildoers here on Riden at the same time. Nevertheless, all the Jim Powell Sparky Cola ads have mysteriously and immediately vanished from circulation.

Reports are that two Tinoori were taken off the Hippocrates for interrogation; First Frost of Autumn is nowhere to be seen. There are a lot of questions as to why (a) Jim Powell is in one of these tube things (are they cloning Jim Powells?). Lots of techs look suspiciously at the tubes. They also search Jim's weapons locker. Look! A grenade launcher!

Hippocrates manages to acquire a friendly military interrogator, and suggests to them that the frame wasn't due to last very long - they must be up to some sort of other plan!

Prison security asks Ciernan if he can arrange to have the military telepaths, and Cass, make sure Eva has no active psi running for the meeting with the Hegemon. He agrees. Cass asks if he should stop at psi powers, or suppress her other abilities. Security complains that the Hegemon hasn't let them use the mind probes - what is Cass going to use? Tea, he says. They're not impressed, but it's certainly not forbidden.

Ciernan talks to the adult Tinoori about anything weird they noticed in the big guy's armor. They spotted some details, but not the exact composition of the suit. They say that there is a better source of perception aboard the ship; they would need unfettered access to the ship to get those details (they find it 85% likely that it would have the details he needs).

Cass introduces himself to Eva, and steals the effects of any drugs she's on. As it turns out, she's on Chartreuse, and Cass is a little disconcerted to have a new addictive drug in his system. He asks about it, and is directed to talk to Kith. Off he goes to the outworlds embassy - why has Kith addicted her captain to a drug? She explains Chartreuse.

Kith exchanges letters with Lady SanCostille:

Dear Lady SanCostille:

I hope that you are well, and untouched by the misfortune that has befallen my friends. If your generosity might extend to providing a character reference for me, I would deeply appreciate your assistance.

Your servant,

Kith of Creek

To whom it may concern:

The amateur physician styling herself Kith of Creek, while naive and unfamiliar with the niceties of society, is certainly no assassin or conspirator. In fact, I very much doubt she has the talent at dissimulation necessary to carry out any plot of great seriousness. I would stake my reputation that she has nothing to do with the unfortunate incident at Kerris Plaza.

Lady SanCostille.

Cass doses Eva with anti-psi tea, a telepath with danger sense is stationed outside the door, and the Hegemon goes in to talk to her. He orders the recording devices to be turned off too.

She explains that she came here to commit treason against her government, and tell him why. Blue has developed the technology to let them fire next to a jumpgate. He wants to know how they found out - they were spying on the area of space in Nurl where Blue was up to stuff "because we're perpetually nosy and spy on everyone."

He wants to know whatever would possess her to come and tell them that? She says she doesn't want to see the Red Hegemony destroyed, as surprising as that might be, especially for something that was the Terran's fault. Conquest on false grounds rubs her the wrong way. She suggests that Blue will probably not push beyond one more attack.

She goes over the Flames again, in more detail - the Tamorai and the bloodlines are explained this time, and the approaching deadline. She says that Donella is from one of the bloodlines, and that there are two others, but he isn't one.

She asks if it would be possible to force a Blue surrender, to minimize casualties. He doesn't think the current Red fleet is sufficient and sarcastically suggests that it might work if she could magically open the jumpgates and get a fleet from the outworlds to pitch in?

Eva says she'd prefer it if there was no evidence pointing to the rest of the Hippocrates if this gets out. (He's willing to not say anything, but changing policy after a secret conversation with Eva may cause people to speculate, and may cause them to speculate about the Hippocrates crew in general).

The crew is released, and converges back on the Hippocrates. The ship has been well-searched, but not looted except in a few cases, like the research White, which has been confiscated, and the sedated Dr. Cain, who has been removed from the medlab, and taken to a criminal detention hospital. The party points out to Red security that this is the guy who convinced the Star researchers to be loyal to him. They'll be real careful with him.

They take half an hour in the conference room (chasing Ciernan away, though he wants to drive around looking for the armor and has to be coaxed to wait half an hour), to discuss the question of opening the Crux/Nonesuch jumpgate, and dragging the outworlds fleet to Red. It would probably spend all the Red karma with the outworlds, as well as all the party karma, if it was possible at all. The idea is discarded as somewhat impractical.

Ciernan thinks that the frame was set up for when the Hippocrates showed up, rather than to be triggered on the speech. Ace asks the Tinoori what the fake Jim looked like under his mask - they don't think he was wearing a mask, though they would be able to identify him again.

Ciernan borrows a security van, and the party (without the real Eva, who is in conference with Red security) drives around the city as he homes in on the particular mix of minerals in the armor. Once a particular building area is pinned down, Ciernan sends in a rat to surveil. It sees Jim Powell and someone who looks vaguely like Eva, and then another guy inside pulls a beeping device out of his pocket, focusing on the rat. Well, the surprise is blown, it's time for "get 'im!"

Ace drives the van through the front window of the building, and calls for their surrender:

"By the order of the Red Hegemon, surrender, or... we'll keep firing!" -Ace
There's a lot of shooting, between the party, the four Terran agents, and the mooks. The big guy in armor bashes the van, preventing people from getting out. His armor is proof against a neural disruptor, but the fake Eva is an easy target; she hardly gets to shoot anyone with her dart gun. The Terran captain sets off a bunch of smoke grenades - Ruehan puts up a mental illusion of fire generating the smoke, and mind controls one of the mooks to lead the flight away from the fire. Ciernan clears away the smoke with "purify air."

Sarge (the big guy) starts punching Hippocrates. Cass interferes with some of his ability to control his armor, but is hit by his bitey shields. Sophia steals Sarge's movement, and keeps Jim busy dodging. Hippocrates dumps some painful sensory overload into the air, but Ciernan is holding down Purify Air. Alas.

"Eva" is neural disrupted into immobility, and then grabbed by Hippocrates, who notes that she's covered with contact poison but isn't impressed. Ruehan convinces himself of the fire, and flees. Ciernan sends a micro-tornado after the Captain. Ace and Ruehan take Jim Powell down.

"Do you know how long I've been waiting to do that?" - Ace
Another car drives through the front of the building, hitting a few of the party - it's a getaway car for the captain. Cass uses a heal patch and mass placebo effect to heal most of the damaged people. Cap and a couple of mooks try to escape in the car, but hit some quicksand outside. Cap tells Sarge to get in the car, but between his machine interface going wonky and Sophia having stolen some of his movement, he's having a lot of trouble getting across the quicksand. In the end, Kith takes Sarge down (though with a lot of help from others).

Cap pulls out another device and pushes a button. Sarge's armor and Eva's gun start beeping. The car flees, as Hippocrates throws another painful sensory overload through the window (buffed by Cass, who discovers that it's only half a drug). Ciernan grabs Jim and drags him away from Sarge, while Sophia pulls fake-Eva away from her gun (discovering that she's poisoned). Ace and others shoot the fleeing car, which promptly blows up.

Ciernan puts a wall of earth by Sarge, so when he (and Eva's gun) blow up, nobody else is hurt. The car is investigated, and there are several unconscious mooks, but no Captain. The police are called.

In the end, there are several mook prisoners, one prisoner (fake-Eva), and several bodies (Sarge and Jim). This should be sufficient evidence that it wasn't the crew. Losing aux power, the Hippocrates robot collapses in a shower of sparks; Sophia manages to keep him from losing all integrity before getting him back to the ship.

Initial interrogations find that "Eva" is the team's doctor, in charge of brainwashing and drugging people. Sophia tries to steal her bitey shields, to no avail. Nor does stealing her auto-die ability work.

The news reports that evening clarify that the assassination attempt had nothing to do with the real Hippocrates; the principal culprit appears to have been a mentally disturbed young man with a Jim Powell fetish, who was in the end brought to justice with the help of the real crew.

Finally, the Hegemon gives Eva a final briefing, in which he says that he believes and trusts her about the flames and bloodlines. Unfortunately, they'll have to lay an ambush for the attacking Blue fleet and won't be able to limit casualties overmuch. He offers what assistance he can with dealing with the Flames, but for the moment, with the war situation and the assassination attempt, all he can offer is to send Ciernan, one of his more powerful psis, along with the Hippocrates.

The Hegemon also talks to Ciernan, and asks for his impressions of the crew. Ciernan thinks they have the best of intentions, and are very scary. The Hegemon informs him that this is not for public distribution, but they are doing important work, the nature of which he expects them to share with Ciernan. This work will affect the fates of everyone, not just in the Red Hegemony but all people. He would like Ciernan to accompany and assist them: "Consider yourself not my spy among them, but the only asset I can afford to send to them at the moment."

Grandfather Cass is recruited by those interrogating the Terran agents, both to counter their psi and to provide insight into the ego-draining drugs.

News the next morning has a great deal of coverage of a massive battle in the outer system, in which Red was victorious over Blue. However, news coverage is interrupted by the crash of the planetary network.