Day of the Dead

" Every man carries ghosts within him - the word left unsaid, the question unanswered, the choice that cannot be unmade. He who thinks himself unhaunted is not perfect, only ignorant. "

-- Beineta Charlemand, Keeper of Regretted Truths, AS 825


People finish up their puttering. Ace and Jim are off visiting the Elite listening post. Katya and Deirdre are off visiting a scholar at the Rosicrucian academy. Max and Sophia are in a lab, cackling madly over Max's hyperspace data, Sharra is playing with acid in another lab, Mirris is in the computer core, and Hippocrates is on the bridge.

Max shows Sophia all his interesting sensor logs from hyperspace, from the time he took the fighter to the Well and nearly climbed out. She thinks that the interesting things are not the pseudo-wakes that Max noted -- those are just reflections. The interesting question is what the reflections are reflecting off of. The Hippocrates sensor suite would really be much better than a fighter, but nobody will let them look when in Hyperspace. They plot for what to look for, next time they're in jump space and no one is around to stop them.

Down in the computer core, Hippocrates walks in and sees Mirris working at a console. He shakes his head, sighs, and remarks, "In all my career, I've never served aboard a ship so plagued with stowaways as this one seems to be." Then he activates the intercom and ask Security Chief Tukhanov to join him in the computer core, with his sidearm.

Mirris, of course, takes this as a bad sign and thinking that Hippocrates has flipped out, starts talking very slowly and calmly to try and get Hippocrates away from the alarm so she can call for assistance. Her confusion becomes even greater though, when a minute later Security Chief Tukhanov actually arrives to take her into custody. Clearly, something odd is going on here.

Meanwhile, out at the ancient Elite listening post now owned by the underworld, Ace and Jim first notice something is amiss when they hear the word "INTRUDERS!" from behind them and Jim drops in a flash of their accuser's plasma brand. Ace thinks the Corinthian has betrayed them, at first, until he gets a good look at the "Elite" in armor as polished as Janzur's. Clearly, something odd is going on here.

Finally, there's Michael Firebrand, rushing to the Parliament building where the Spartan ambassador has just summoned him. Things there are in chaos, as at the afternoon role call, apparently over 310 Senators showed up rather than the expected 100. Clearly, something odd is going on here.

Back in the computer core, Mirris hits the intercom button to call an emergency red alert. The others on the ship start dashing to their emergency stations, either the bridge or Engineering. Over the intercom comes "Hippocrates. This is the captain. Report." Hippocrates ignores this for the moment, as it seems unlikely to be true and directs his scanners down to the computer core to see what's going on.

He recognizes the guy holding the gun on Mirris, and announces back over the intercom "Whoever that is impersonating Security Chief Tukhanov, put your gun down." The guy with the gun looks confused, and tabs the intercom, asking "Could you say that again, Captain? I didn't quite get you there." Mirris extracts his background, and discovers that he used to be in the Guard until he was injured, and Captain Bellarion got him into Skyguard and onto a medical ship. Hmm. Clearly, something odd is going on here.

Max, Sharra, and Sophia head to Engineering, Max continuing on to the bridge. According to the scanners, there seem to be something like thirty intruders, all over the place, as Sophia encounters a guy in engineering who calls on Sophia to help him catch the other intruder (Max), while another guy points a blaster at Sharra, telling her not to move.

Meanwhile, at the Elite listening post, the assailant identifies himself as Elite Feron Bas. He starts interrogating Ace, while Ace is first-aiding Jim and Ghengis Jones (who was also a victim of his plasma brand just outside the door).

Back on the Hippocrates, Hippocrates tells everyone not to fire any weapons or go anywhere until this gets sorted out. Mirris and Sharra, attempting to make a point, say "Yes sir!" enthusiastically. For some reason, no one ever says "Yes sir!" when there are no enemies around.

Someone who looks to Hippocrates like Maria Romero runs onto the bridge, and snaps to attention. She reports: "Sir, I think the computer core has been compromised!" Hippocrates asks her for her command code authorization - she gives it and it seems to check out.

(Those confused by all these names may wish to re-read the first funeral interlude
The intercom on the bridge announces: "Bridge, this is the captain. I don't know what the hell Hippocates is doing, but get him off the main line!" Romero is a bit taken aback by that, as she had thought that the captain was already on the bridge.

Meanwhile, in Parliament, there do indeed seem to be about three times as many senators as there should be. Most of the extras are famous senators from the past several hundred years. Firebrand tries to call Hippocrates, but nobody answers. He leaves voice mail saying that the dead are coming back, and can someone please call him.

Hippocrates links visual down to auxiliary control where "the captain" is, and two people who look like Bellarion stare at each other. The one that isn't Hippocrates calls the one that is Hippocrates an imposter. (Actually, that may be technically true.)

Mirris manages to talk Chief Tukhanov into everyone going out of the computer core and into the hallway, just so the computers don't get shot if there's a fight.

After a hurried conference between Hippocrates and Captain Bellarion, an announcement is made: "All members of the crew, escort all our guests to the conference room." Everyone seems willing to think about this without questioning exactly who the crew is and who the guests are, though Max would really like to use the ship sensors to see if he can figure out what's going on.

"Tukhanov, we are installing a brig someday." -Captain Bellarion
Meanwhile, at the airlock, the doorbell starts buzzing incessantly. Martan is outside, carrying the unconscious Katya. He demands to be let in - the door won't open for him - as Katya could be dying! Katya's transponder is, in fact, just outside, while Deirdre's is back at the Rosicrucian Academy. Sophia heads down, declaring this a medical emergency.

Firebrand calls back again, but again has to leave voice mail, as people are still too busy to answer the phone.

Sophia and Martan head to sickbay with Katya - there are a bunch of doctors there, facing off against the Smeerps, who are not letting them near the incubator. The doctors actually seem to think that the incubator is less out of place than the troop of boy scouts is. Sophia brings Katya around, and tries to shoo Martan out so she can ask Katya what happened. Katya, stunned, reaches out for Martan, and is extra-stunned to discover that he seems to be solid. Martan thinks Katya outranks Sophia in whether or not he has to leave, and declares that he's staying. Katya sends images to Sophia to explain that she was talking to a guy at the Rosicrucian Academy about ghosts before she passed out; Martan is a lot more fuzzy on what he last remembers. He thinks it's Flames minus 2, though, while the crew ghosts seem to think it's 2435.

Meanwhile, back at the listening post, Ace and the scrutineer argue some more. Ace warns him:

"We're going to listen for a round to see if other places have dead Elite showing up from 300 years ago, and then you're going to be sad."
Elite Bas, confused, wants to know if Ace is one of the dead guys who's come back, and blames him for the state of the listening post. Ace claims Bas's access is obsolete, being three hundred years old. Bas claims his access is bigger, as it comes with a plasma brand. Eventaully Bas admits he thinks the date is 2449.

Having given up on getting everyone to fit in the conference room, Hippocrates and Bellarion try to shepherd everyone to the shuttle bay instead. Since Katya and Martan aren't officially "intruders", they're a medical emergency, they might not have to report, but the doctors don't think they just get to wander the halls. Martan seems to think that they should probably be heading to the shuttle bay, but Katya makes puppy dog eyes at Sophia to try and get her to help them escape from the meeting.

Max talks to Lieutenant Wentworth (the chief engineer) and gets permission to scan him with his tricorder. Scanning ghosts is apparently for 11s, which Wentworth takes as a sign that Max really isn't very good at this scanning business. Wentworth, on the other hand, can scan both ghosts and non-ghosts with his scanner for 7s. Hmm.

Hippocrates and Bellarion finish their discussion, declare a truce, and announce that nobody is to attack anyone else, and that "if he looks like me, he's in charge."

Firebrand calls back again. Some of the 300-year-old senators would like the Hippocrates to check into the rumors that "the fleet coming to crush the outworld rebellion is on its way". Most of the less-old ghosts think that the old ghosts are just remembering things that already happened, but it would be good to be sure. Well, the Hippocrates was about to hop over to the Rosicrucian Academy to pick up Deirdre, so they can try and scan when they're up above the atmosphere. Romero and Ace fly the ship to the other side of the planet.

"Ship dice, how quaint." -Pilot Romero
Once everyone isn't confined to the shuttle bay, Katya gets Martan back to their stateroom. She projects pictures of child-Evgenia for him, which confuses him a bit - has she had visions of what the child will be like? They talk a bit about what both of them would want to do, raising their child, and Katya gets Martan to read some of his favorite poems to her.

Ace manages to get permission from Elite Bas to bring Jim back to the Hegemonic Medical Frigate for treatment. He also drops a message to Belle letting her know that while people from the past are popping up, she should look for the Eyes of Ozymandias.

Jim talks to Dr. Andrews about the Kaufman project. Dr. Andrews is a little saddened to see that Jim is a ghost too. Jim explains that no, he survived in the Kaufman tubes. Dr. Andrews says the Kaufman tubes don't work that way, they won't keep you alive for hundreds of years. Jim says that they got cryogenically frozen, too. Ah, and Dr. Andrews supposed they simultaneously flushed out the atmosphere, too. Well, yes, actually. Dr. Andrews finds this fascinating and starts thinking about new experiments.

Max scans as best he can as the Hippocrates reaches the apex of its flight to the Rosicrucian Academy - it looks like yes, there is some sort of fleet headed in from the jump gate. It's too far away to see what it really is without better long-range scanners, though. Ace talks to Sophia about whether it's possible to upload ghosts into computers. Dr. Cain did something like that, right?

"We have to be ready for dead people to stay dead, and not talk about uploading them into computers." -Mirris
"Well, why not?" -Ace
"Because we don't have the tech to actually do that." -Mirris
Max, Sophia, and Sharra head in to the Rosicrucian Academy to look for Deirdre. There is a bit of an uproar there - in the central conference room, there are a bunch of Archmages gathered around the conference table, while everyone of lesser rank has been relegated to the back rows. Ghosts seem to have come back here, as well, but the Academy's foremost ghost expert, Simon Anferatu, has gone missing. With the help of an illusionist, a picture of Simon is displayed for the trio - Sophia recognizes him as the guy that Katya was visiting. And, as it turns out, Deirdre was found unconscious in his room. Deirdre is revived, while Max contemplates where Simon is. Max thinks he's not in any direction at all, except through the mystery.

Meanwhile, Firebrand calls back again with more information from Parliament. Apparently, back in 2439, when the war started, the great fleet belonging to Ambros Nomarche crushed the rebellion at Bastion, then fought at Sparta and crushed the outworlds fleet there, and then was summoned back by the Hegemon to report. The Strategos detoured, intending to crush Crux as well, but was delayed for long enough by one lone ship, the Inopportune Moment, that he had to turn back to make his deadline with the Hegemon, and Crux was spared.

So... Parliament has a favor to ask the Hippocrates: can it go find the Inopportune Moment? They say that it's not available (and, in fact, Max confirms that it's not back yet), and they'll have to do.

Now, as then, the Fleet of the Strategos is far too large to actually fight, so the only possibility is a delaying action. Jim, Hippocrates, and Captain Bellarion put together an intitial tactical survey which will buy a small amount of time, while the engineering departments of both crews start working on mad plans to delay the fleet involving asteroids, synthesized dust, mind control helmets, and the like. Max (burning 5 karma) mentions that he had the foresight to pack Dr. Kye's final plasma bomb prototype back onto the ship last time they passed through Vircus. Perhaps it'll get some use.

Meanwhile, Ace tries to convince Katya that she should talk to Sophia about doing some sort of mad science to make a copy of Martan somehow. Isn't that what she wants? Then he passes out from the strain of fighting with Feron Bas and has to be carried to sick bay to be put in the Kaufman tubes.

Katya's power seems to be the source of the effect, so one question is whether or not putting her in the psi-jammer field in the brig will have any effect. Katya does her best to keep everyone from talking about this sort of thing in front of Martan, but then finally decides that it's not fair to keep it from him. He proves strangely resistant to understanding that he died months ago, but eventually Katya gets the point across. He's a little disturbed to hear this, but decides that if this is a bonus extra day after the ones he had, that's a gift, and meanwhile, he should help with whatever is going on.

Katya, Sophia, Max, and Martan proceed to the brig to play with the psi jammer, and Martan and Katya step into the brig itself. Martan notes that this is much like the mirror universe - should someone chain him to the wall? Some buttons get undone, and the others try and pretend they're not looking. Martan shrugs as if to say "Who am I to argue with her?". Sophia burst into tears, flees, and locks herself in her stateroom. Everyone else is somewhat taken aback at this - does this mean the experiment is off? Katya sniffles a little too, and the door to the brig gets shut while she snuggles with Martan. Max talks to Sophia, who is now fixated on the idea that someone she loves might still exist, and is considering whether it would be possible to get a Vircan pilot to fly her and Katya to Riden (where Zach Staughton died) before the effect fades.

Firebrand finally manages to come aboard and confer with Bahna Athelezi (physicist/philosopher), Max, and Sharra. She explains that the the reanimated ka of many people being sustained by and therefore draining Katya, will eventually end in her death. They could delay the inevitable by reinforcing Katya's own Ka, but Athelezi knows of no way to do that beyond swearing fealty to Katya and pledging to support her life with one's own.

Jim finds Maurice Owens (the retired Consul from Mainwell) in dismay having read a copy of Jim's service project report on the Well, which was in Hippocrates' quarters. (Previously Maurice's quarters.) Jim and Maurice ask Veronique Corbet (a famed economic analyst) to read his service report and Owens and Corbet begin work on a plan for Mainwell.

The psi-jammer experiment finally gets run: when the jammer is on Katya, Max finds Martan a little bit harder to scan. The psi effect is slightly decreased, but not nearly as much as it should be for taking off eight successes. It's as if the power being tapped is a much larger power store - such as the Nomarche Hegemonic Line.

However, the group figures out what's necessary to fix things. The ghosts will fade out when Katya's power runs out, but to keep her from dying, and to make sure Simon (who is in fact being possessed by Martan, as the root of the problem) eventually recovers, the psychic impressions of both Martan and Simon need to be recovered. Mechanically, these are little bits of picture that people have been getting when they interact with the ghosts - and Mirris can take them by using "extract background" and aiming specifically for background about Martan.

"Now I'm mourning the loss of my marriage to myself." -Mirris
Mirris warns Hippocrates to have the "MRA modules on line" in case anything goes awry, and then runs about, gathering psychic impressions of Martan from the crew. She gets far more explicit and intimate details than she really wants to know, as well as some interesting memories of conversations.
"And if there's anything about Martan you don't want me to find out this way, you should tell me beforehand." -Mirris
People in mental contact with Mirris can help her put the pieces together - Katya would be able to do this, with her mind links, but she and Martan have retired to their stateroom and nobody dares bother them. Left to her own abilities, all Mirris can do is abominate people and make them help her; Sharra volunteers for this. This involves Mirris being the Commanding Officer for the task, but she tells Sharra to sit farther away, as Mirris is still attracted to her because of the memories of Sharra and Martan sleeping together. Firebrand is not permitted to help, as Mirris says he's too tempting and should stay five feet away from her at all times. Hippocrates is somewhat perturbed by this declaration, though Firebrand reclassifies Mirris from creepy to fascinating in his personal book.

The first of the delaying maneuvers is launched: a miniature temporary black hole, which should serve as both a navigation hazard and a sensor distorter. Also, a set of demassified asteroids is prepared, and Max stashes the plasma bomb prototype in one of them. Firebrand, who takes burnout damage, stations himself in sickbay, and discovers that with a full (ghostly) medical staff, he can roll as many dice as he wants as often as he wants.

Hippocrates takes some of the preparation time to talk to Captain Bellarion about the crew's Grand Plan and all that they've been through these last few years. Bellarion gives him some advice.

Mirris, Sharra, and Max finish the psychic-impression puzzle, and they and Hippocrates fret about whether to interrupt Katya and Martan in privacy mode to let them know that Katya and Simon will be okay but Martan will disappear. Katya probably already knows that that's what the result will be, but Mirris eventually decides that she's having enough trouble with personal boundaries that she's willing to override privacy mode.

"Three minutes to space battle! Things that can be resolved have been resolved. Bing!" -Mirris
Two more distractions are launched - a mad-engineering solar sail constructed of earthmage-created obsidian, and a set of artificial turbs sent to ambush the fleet from behind.

Then, it's time for the Hippocrates to launch. With all the delaying actions they've managed so far, they only need to delay the Strategos' fleet for slightly less than a turn. Martan and Katya head up to the bridge at this point, stunning Jim, who's been busy with tactics until now. Katya's psi has been drained enough that she can't provide useful ship-shields, but Martan does so. Firebrand, noticing that he also takes damage, tries to get him down to sickbay too, but he's not leaving Katya.

"Then we need to get his girlfriend down here too!" -Firebrand "We don't need that sort of distraction during a battle." -Medics
Hippocrates offers Captain Bellarion command during the battle, while Hippocrates takes command of his fighter squadron. Bellarion calls everyone to battle stations, which gives everyone a free phase in 1. The gravitics officer asks if the captain wants momentum counters during the battle, but Captain Bellarion says no, not until we need them.

The central shuttle of the approaching fleet broadcasts:

"Attention approaching vessels. This is Strategos Ambros Gabriel Nomarche. By the authority of the Palatium Tamarch, you are ordered to turn off your engines and surrender."
He gives them all an action usable only for surrendering, but they decline to take it. Jim replies:
"Strategos Nomarche - this is James Powell, of the HMF Hippocrates and Scout Troop 17 of Tiras Nova, now of the HMF Hippocrates and Scout Troop One. The date is now 2780-- you are three hundred years in the future. We are defending the Crux Parliament, and you will not pass."
The Hippocrates engages part of the Strategos' vanguard. Firebrand summons a line of rocks for defensive use. The demassified asteroids are flung towards the ships, and Dr. Kye's last plasma bomb is detonated (Hippocrates and Max take lots of readings so Kye won't kill them later). Unfortunately, since ghosts are 11s to hit, the bomb only blows up the other asteroids and the very closest ghost ship. Nevertheless, Strategos Nomarche seems to find the existence of plasma bombs among his enemies a little worrisome.

The Vircan fighters shoot some of the ghost ships, which Fall Down Dramatically, pinning the Vircans. Of course, they weren't planning to flee anyway. Jim notices that the attacking fleet is drawing on strategies from "On Tactics" and therefore have -1 difficulty to everything. With the enemy rolling for 6s and the defenders rolling for 11s, things are grim indeed. Several Vircan fighters fall in the counterattack, though none badly enough to explode, thanks to Firebrand's shields. As the last of Katya's psi is drained, she kisses Martan and collapses.

Martan frets over Katya - Mirris tries to reassure him that it's okay, look, she's still breathing, she still has a heartbeat, covering basic first aid.

"Oh, for goodness' sake, I have a veterinary degree, it's mostly the same." -Martan
"I *know* you have a veterinary degree and it's mostly the same..." -Mirris
Jim plays the Death Blossom / Backup Engine game with the Dancer; Sophia and the Smeerps, also on board, are unable to keep up with the damage, as the attacking ships are coordinated, but they do manage to keep the backup engine running for an extra phase. Max provides targetting information for communications on the Strategos' shuttle, and Jim takes it out, and then manages to bat-out-of-hell away again before the Dancer falls down for good.

At the end of the turn, the Hippocrates has stalled the Strategos for long enough. He gives a soliloquy, but nobody hears it, since Jim has shot out his communications, turns his ship, and goes. The other half of the vanguard, (held in reserve for a full turn for potentially Devastating Effect), goes with him. The engaging ships figure out that they're probably supposed to go as well, and do so, while the Hippocrates fleet hides behind their line of rocks.

Hippocrates starts scooping up the downed ships, and the Dancer. Jim broadcasts:

"Please inform Strategos Nomarche that it was a pleasure to finally meet him on the field of battle."
Captain Bellarion finally gives Petty Officer Scanlan permission to begin repairs, and she promptly takes the Dancer apart. This is apparently why she never gets permission to fix things during the battle.

The Hippocrates and its crew(s) are declared heroes by Parliament, except for the two-thirds of them who think that it was actually the Inopportune Moment who did it.

The ghosts begin to fade away again, but stay long enough to make their goodbyes and grant people their benedictions.