"Attack with anything to hand. Your gun, your blade, your foot. If need be, spit on them and hope they catch cold. Just keep fighting."
-Ozymandias, Advice from my Enemy, private printing, 2765.023
Riden -> Lendt
People start wrapping up their business on Riden. Then, Akito rushes into the conference room from the hallway - he says Jayla appeared to him and said he should go to the outworlds. That is, she said "Gooooooo to the Ouuuuuuutworlds" and waved her hands mysteriously, because he didn't believe her the first time. She seemed to think he'd put more faith in it if she hammed it up.
Ruehan asks Max and First Frost of Autumn to check for bugs after the massive Red presence on the ship from the rescue. First Frost announces that there are three bugs on the ship and where they are. Max points out to him that there is also the possibility of someone bringing on a disassembled bug. First Frost becomes concerned, because detecting anything that could be turned into a bug is quite difficult. Max tries to explain that that wasn't the lesson he was trying to give (he was more interested in realizing that there's always new things to learn and look for), but it seems to be the lesson First Frost has taken.
All the prisoners and patients and tubed-nigh-dead people are unloaded, along with a supply of Chartreuse and plans for a portable tube, after a number of legal meetings. It seems that for the first time since the Hippocrates unfroze, the ship has been run out of medical supplies. Max goes out and buys more, from the licensed Hippocrates-company, as well as some more standard first aid kits.
For the record (and with a reasonably large amount of publicity), they are officially cleared of all charges of attempted assassination of the One True Hegemon.
In a fit of paranoia, the crew checks the Sparky Cola machine. It's still off the network. Ruehan spends a little while interrogating Ciernan about his loyalties. The engines are patched together well enough to be stable unless they're crazily stressed. On the other hand, it's not that unlikely that they'll get crazily stressed some time in the future. The crew decides to spend an extra day (and 300 asters of parts) for a more thorough fixing, and one that generates a certified fixit form to be shown to Klothos's pilots.
"But Jayla contacted us across planets. That can't be easy. We should hurry." -MaxMax and Sharra think about how to keep one of Klothos's scanner ships from reading their jump signal. A directional jump-signal antenna would be a start; there's no reason that the signal can't be directional, but the current broadcast isn't. They think about making one.
"No, for her it's quite easy."
Entering Gateway, there's a picket of thirty Red ships by the jumpgate. The ships hail them and ask them to state their business. The crew says they're the Hippocrates, and they want to go to the outworlds.
"What's your purpose in the outworlds?"Max confirms that the ship doing the talking is a (fairly well-disguised) sensor ship too. Kith senses frustration and curiosity from them.
The sensor ship escorts them to Gateway, where they get the traditional two armed guards and a harbor pilot, who checks the repair certificate and removes the yellow flag from the Hippocrates' record. Contrary to many previous jumps, everything is uneventful. The harbor pilot disembarks again.
Is there any interesting outworld news? This being Nonesuch, the news isn't really different than has reached the inworlds. Ruehan enquires about the Vertaki - apparently some more ships have shown up, most of which have headed to Pierogi. No, the Name has not shown up. Ace checks around for special mail, but in the end, the ship makes a regular mail run and makes 25 asters.
Ruthie comes out of the tubes and wants to know where the ship is going. She's told that Jayla said to go to the outworlds - Ruthie is not impressed by Jayla's "special powers". Kith shows her how to work the basic computer functions to see things like "where are we?" Ruthie seems to be a natural at Systems Operations.
The Hippocrates proceeds on to the secure jump gate to Crux, looking around for spies. Ruthie is psyched to hear that the ship is going to Lendt - the Inopportune Moment is from Lendt! Kith asks Ruthie if she knows that the Inopportune Moment got stuck and Maury rescued them? Yup, she knows all about that, and that it's because Maury is a secret spy for the Inopportune Moment.
There don't seeem to be any spy ships hanging around near the jump gate, and Kith doesn't sense any people. On the other hand, the gate itself could be bugged. Max asks First Frost of Autumn about it - he says "Yes, there's a bug that way," and points. There is, in fact, a box floating very close to the jump gate, tethered by a cable. Ace, Akito, and Sharra EVA to investigate the box; Sharra cuts the cable and Ace grabs the box. Nothing explodes. The crew now has a space bug.
Off, through the jumpgate to Crux! More recent news is acquired, which mentions a serious outbreak of plague on Lendt. Well, that must be what Jayla meant. Ruehan pings the Vertaki embassy on Crux - the Dalari House has, in fact, gotten a pretty big political win back home, as has their allied house. The Name, being immortal, is unlikely to ever leave Vertak now, but is in (slow) communication with the representatives here.
The Hippocrates jumps to Lendt, and heads in. The ship is contacted by Thomas, a Registered Ombuds. They say they're a medical frigate, coming to help with the plague.
"I am on the bridge and am more than happy to take over communications from you." -Ruehan to Ace.Orbiting the planet, Max scans the quarantine area, and does note that there's fewer life signs (animal) in that area. Thomas arranges a radio uplink to Dr. Kendleman, the doctor who's taken charge. (As a reminder, Lendt government is all on the city and town level - Dr. Kendleman would just be the guy who decided to make this his plot, rather than any sort of planetary official). The pathology of the plague is very odd - there are lots of different symptoms. You'll get a really bad cold, and die of it. Or die of chicken pox. There's only one survivor so far, "patient zero", and she hasn't woken up. While spacesuits are protective against the plague, they don't have a lot of biosuits. Dr. Kendleman agrees to have someone meet them at the nearest starport with blood samples from some victims and from Patient Zero.
Once the ship lands, Sharra and Max start work on the directional antenna while they wait for the medic to arrive. Sharra's robots are enthusiastic about helping - looks like they're strangely sentient again.
Kith checks in with the Creek embassy. They're glad that she's here to look into the plagues and tells her to watch out for the "interfering locals." They also tell her that a Grandmother Adine from their embassy is on the case as well, though they've not heard from her in some time.
The medics with blood samples call from outside of the starport, because of the quarantine. Since the point is to use the Hippocrates' labs, Ruehan tells Thomas to get them here and deal with it. Off Thomas goes, and a short time later, two guys in space suits come clomping through the spaceport with a sealed cooler. It seems the guy who decided it was his job to enforce the quarantine didn't see eye to eye with the guy whose job it was to bring blood samples to the Hippocrates, but Thomas sorted it out.
Sophia gets to work analyzing the blood samples. After a lot of filtering, she discovers:
"Where is my weapon?" -MarinaMarina (as it turns out her name is) tells them that there were Tarn in the woods; she fought one, but then blacked out. She seems to be confusing things with fighting Tarn in a boarding action during a space battle, as well. Ruehan and Kith manage to clear away some of her post-traumatic stress - the Tarn in the woods seems to have been real. Marina is a little startled to find that she's the only survivor. She really hates the Tarn.
"What kind of weapon do you want?" -Ace
"What do you have?"
While waiting for Ruthie to get an ice cream in the starport, Akito accidentally manages to offend a "Master of the Shattered Visage" who challenges him to a duel in the Stone Arena at noon tomorrow.
Finally, Ruthie is ready and Sophia, Akito, and Ruthie start heading over to the hospital. En route, they encounter a senior martial arts student who is pleased that Akito has decided to return to the planet rather than cowardly fleeing his challenge. Akito tries to explain the situation, but he is challenged to meet the man in the Stone Arena at 12:30 tomorrow.
Finally, at the hospital, Sophia talks to Marina.
"Do you know we found traces of white in your bloodstream?" -SophiaWhile heading back to the Hippocrates Ruthie, who's been quite excited by all of the challenging, gets another mark against her with her brother.
"Yeah, sure." -Marina
"Do you have any more?"
"How much are you wanting to buy?"
"What number is your sash, Akito?"Ruehan apologizes - they're in a hurry. Perhaps this can be resolved later? The man decrees that "if you have any honor at all, we shall meet tomorrow, at the Stone Arena, at one."
"What number is blue?"
<Ruthie runs off and tugs on the sleeve of a man in a blue sash>
"My brother can beat you up."
People try to buy some of Marina's white. She says it's 10 asters a dose - that's the current going price on Lendt. Max tries to haggle her down, but Ruehan gives her the money from his personal funds.
There is some mad speculation about blanketing the plague area with aerosolized white! Marina thinks she can lead the group to where the Tarn ship was; the heavy forest canopy will prevent a ship from landing immediately nearby. She gets given her stuff back, including her weapon - which turns out to be a neural disruptor. Marina was most recently a Goldrunner, but she lost her ship in the Battle of the Deep Dust.
A smaller group takes the Genetic Diversity to the quarantined area to try and get more samples for Sophia. Air samples are taken, and a rabbit dying of rabies.
"We bring you a rabbit in an airtight box!"Sophia does some tests with White and Chartreuse and the rabbit, with Kith providing Heal Disease. Healing the rabbit cures it temporarily, but the super-rabies comes back. However, the nano proves susceptible to being soaked up by White, so repeated doses of White plus Heal Disease does cure it. Chartreuse proves to be a less efficient soaker than White is, but it does work somewhat.
"Um, there's a problem with that... -Sophia
The group suits up in envirosuits (except for Ruehan, who's dead), making them all a bit less dextrous, or rebreathers, making them rather vulnerable, and heads into the woods in the direction Marina indicates. A somewhat unhappy eagle is encountered - it's half-starved due to not having anything alive and healthy to eat. Ciernan makes it eat something, and the group continues. A swarm of fire ants manages to bite Ace (now he has the plague too). The idea that White will keep him from getting it is somewhat distressing to him - he suggests that they wait to dose him until he's closer to dying. Or with Chartreuse, which could help too.
Finally, the center area is reached. There's a clearing, with a big distorted area like the shimmering over a campfire, and some areas of rock and brush with Tarn hiding behind them. Max, Marina, and Ace stop being the party's problem; Ciernan makes a fog cloud. There is much sneaking, and then much shooting. Unfortunately for the Tarn, the party is better at shooting. Then the distortion field uncloaks - it's a Tarn Greenliner, and it's shooting at Akito with its main gun. He manages to dodge the actual hit, but everyone in the area (Marina, Akito, and Ace) all lose five body and go straight to advanced plague.
People start scattering and heading for the ship. Kith, sure she's about to die, calls Twig. He can't fly the Hippocrates, though, and there's the canopy in the way, and he doesn't have a spacesuit, so he's not really sure what to do. He can start bringing the portable tube in the direction of the forest, though.
Sophia gets to the ship; Ciernan tunnels to it and blasts in the ship door with a lightning bolt. Akito leaps to the turret bubble, and attacks the pilot but discovers that chi powers don't work on Tarn. The greenliner pilot aims at Ace and Marina - Ace dives away as it shoots Marina. That's the last that the pilot gets, though, as Ciernan and Ruehan take him down (Ruehan is wearing Kith's amulet).
Kith manages to keep Marina from immediately dying (Marina's White addiction also helps a lot). White plus Kith cures Akito, while no White plus Kith helps Ace some. Ace mocks Akito for having taken White.
"This is totally the ultimate crutch."Sophia manages to get the greenliner to stop spewing plague into the air, though it's not really deactivated. Kith works on curing Akito's new White addiction.
Of the Tarn, one has just been neural-disrupted, and is a prisoner; the rest are dead.
Ciernan takes several hours to call a huge rainstorm, which should get most of the currently active airborne virus out of the air; the party discusses what to tell the Lendtians. Can they show them White as a cure without telling them it's White? That would seem to be leaving the doctors rather in the dark, which most people aren't happy with. Ruehan informs Dr. Kendleman, but he also agrees it should be kept quiet, as he doesn't want the public leaping on the White train.
The party trundles back through the woods to look for the whiterunner Marina has mentioned; there's a hidden landing strip, and a small ship, a number of crates half-unloaded, and a dead, plague-ridden pilot. There's also a grandmother, looking critically at the crates - Grandmother Adine.
Max prompts Marina to claim to be the copilot, and explains that these are emergency supplies for the plague. She looks dubious. "You're telling me this is an emergency supply ship?" No, no, okay, they're not. But it's still lucky that it's here.
The party says they need someone trustable to deal with the crates of White. Grandmother Adine points out that there is already someone trustable dealing with the crates, and tsks at them, while counting crates. She makes sure Marina knows that they're going to have to have a Long Talk later.
Everyone heads back to Dr. Kendleman's clinic, and the locals are told about the greenliner as "disarmed but still dangerous". In the time they've been out, a very pleasant gentleman named Dr. Alameda has come around with a cure for the plague - a dose with an inhaler, and two pills. Marina takes the cure, and Kith confirms that she doesn't have the plague anymore. Ace avoids it via some clever sleight-of-hand, sure that it's White. The party offers to take some of the new cure back to Crux; Dr. Alameda says he can deal with it.
Since it's no longer needed, the crates of White are destroyed (except for some which Marina pockets, and some which Ace pockets on Sophia's request, and perhaps some which is pocketed by others.) Ruehan battles the local mayor over who gets the greenliner - the party gets it (complete with disease generator and cloaking device). Marina gets the whiterunner ship, as well as Grandmother Adine to look after and reform her.
Ruehan mind-reams the captive Decider. His mind is very focused, but Ruehan gets:
By now, Akito is nearly running late for his engagements at the Stone Arena! This is a medium sized ampitheater, with a number of spectators already present. Also present are three gentlemen arguing over who is supposed to be fighting Akito.
Ace works the crowd, trying to find out the odds. This isn't really a gambling crowd - they're here to observe - but he can get a guy to bet five asters with him that Akito can sweep all three.
Two of the challengers (Johann Kris, student of the Iron Claw, and Hayama Morishimoto, student of the Serpent Tongue), defer to the third: Sumato Torago, the Master of the Shattered Visage. Akito is introduced as Ujiie Akito, initiate of the sixth degree of the Tiger Crane - and he still doesn't think Torago's sash is black, so refuses to address him as "master". This enrages Torago once again, and Akito and Torago enter the center of the arena, and bow to each other.
Then, Torago fixes Akito with a stare, and splits into six people (the spectators can see which are not real, but not Akito). Akito gives him a phase, and he attacks. Whomp whomp whomp whomp whomp whomp! Akito strikes one of the illusions, robbing it of a phase, but that doesn't do much else. The six hit him again. Then Akito hits each of them, splitting his dice six ways, and five of them pop. Ahah.
However, at this point, the crowd is shocked when Ace draws his neural disruptor and shoots across the arena at someone else, shouting "No interfering with the match!" A number of the other spectators think that interfering with the match is a bad idea, and Ace is doing it, so a good size brawl erupts, with Marina defending Ace against the pile of martial artists. However, Max manages to record the original spectator with his micro-blowgun, so in the end there's some evidence on Ace's side, and Ciernan walls the blowgun-firer away from the center of the arena.
"Cough on him..." -Ciernan to the still plague-ridden AceRuehan mind-reads the blowgun wielder: he's a member of the Serpent Tongue school, trying to embarass the Master of the Shattered Visage by causing Akito to win. Ruehan passes this along to Akito (who has started to notice the brawl).
At this point, Akito has taken a severe pummelling and Torago is pretty fresh, but Akito has him grabbed. Akito releases him, steps back, bows, and calls out to the imbroglio: "This arena is not a place to air petty grievances! If you don't know how to behave, leave now!" To Tomago, he suggests "perhaps we should try this again another time." Tomago finally notices the combat going on outside the ring.
Kith puts on a performance: she calls on a random nearby spectator to witness, and then geases one of the Serpent Tongue people to confess: "What! We didn't do anything! We weren't going to interfere unless he was going to lose." There is an outcry of horror from the other spectators - interfere?!
Akito offers Tomago his assistance in rounding the culprits up. Quicksand starts appearing, courtesy of Ciernan. Kith tells one running guy "Stop right there, young man!" and he stops. The students of the Serpent Tongue make a perfunctory attempt to attack their captors with sickly green chi blasts, but finally surrender. Akito's other two challengers declare that they have no further quarrel with him; Tomago says "We can continue this at another time. I am at your disposal." Then, he leaves, with his school in tow.
Akito finally permits Kith to heal him. Kith visits Dr. Alameda to talk to him about curing Ace; he won't give her the cure to take away, but suggests Ace come in to the impromtu clinic. She asks if it's White - he says it isn't. Ace finally submits and gets cured of plague.