Return to Sender

"It's easy to become an expert in other people's problems. It makes looking at your own so much less pressing."

— Tomas Glydden, Ridenan Court Epigrath, AS 878

Gateway -> Craterrock

People ponder what else there is to do on Gateway.
"Do we have any Cain DNA? I want Sophia to run it against me." –Mirris
"You want Sophia to rub it against you?" –Akito
"Eww, cootie-boy, no!"
Ruehan ponders going back to the Lost Planet to ascend. He could draft some Vertaki for a one-way trip, and leave them behind on the planet when he ascends, so he doesn't have to arrange for a rescue. Unfortunately, his 1 Coordination of Body may make this plan difficult.

Mirris and Kye, having run into each other near the Sparky Cola machine, wrap up an argument, but neither is willing to leave the room first. They continue to hover there, Mirris insisting that she can walk away any time she wants to, and Kye shrugging and grinning.

One of Smeerp Patrol finds Akito and Sharra — there's something beeping in the Kaufman room. They head over there to discover a high-tech device there, on a table next to Sophia's tube. Akito opens it to discover that it's some sort of PDA. The current entry on the to-do list is "stock up on anti-radiation meds."

Meanwhile, Kith has sensed a great deal of crankiness in the rec room, so she heads there and recruits Mirris into a game of scrabble, with Linnet and Ruthie, finally dragging her out of the conversation with Kye.

Akito calls Kith to ask what the ship's stores of anti-radiation meds are. She determines that they're adequate, but it wouldn't hurt to get more. Curious about why Sophia's PDA wants radiation meds, Sharra looks for leaks in the engines. They're fine. And there's no spare radiation anywhere, though she notes that the plasma bomb lab has had its radiation sensor disabled.

Kith goes to order anti-radiation drugs from a local supplier. Do they carry Glitter, she wonders. Apparently so, though at a steep price (200 asters per dose). The question, though, is whether it's something that ship funds should be spent on.

"They're not going to let me keep it, so I don't want to pay for it..." –Kith
Akito decides that the PDA is too complicated to poke at further for the moment.

A message arrives for Dr. Kye: the Hegemon would like to meet with him at his earliest convenience. (It's a Blue messenger, so which Hegemon is not a complete mystery).

The Vertaki fleet commander reports to Ruehan — he would like permission to start influencing negotiations to get some of the salvage from the wrecked fleets. Apparently this is the biggest source of loot after the Tinara battle, and as the Vertaki ships were somewhat damaged, they'd like in on the salvage contract.

As it turns out, this is also what Donella wants to talk to Kye about. Since GE is a preferred supplier, she'd like his assistance in dealing with some of the trade paperwork here, especially regarding the salvage contracts.

Having no interest in trade negotiations (the GMs don't need to pay homage to the other trilogy), Kith looks for other entertainment.

"Want to spar?" –Kith to Mirris
"Hey, Akito, want to spar? Kith wants to spar, and I knew you were better." –Mirris
"Duh. That's why I asked you and not him." –Kith
Kith, Mirris, Akito, and Linnet all practice martial arts for a little while, some more eptly than others. Akito notices that Linnet has a tendency to try for some less polite strikes (like the back of the knee) when she's losing.

The various trade delegation begin preparing for several multiday negotiation sessions. Donella signs Kye on as a temporary deputy assistant under-minister of trade and dumps all of her commercial related paperwork that Minister Wade has been forwarding on him.

Akito finally plays around with the PDA a bit more. Hey, it has games! He plays Space Invaders for a little while, and then wanders to the Dancer to see about replicating the game on the holodeck. Hey, it plugs in! Akito becomes entranced by the 3-d holographic version of Space Invaders.

Kye tries to foist the trade papers from Donella onto Sharra, despite her claims that she doesn't actually know anything about bureaucracy. It's not genetic! The basic issue is that Blue lost about 0.2 fleet units, and wants some salvage to recoup its losses. Ciernan points out that Red lost 0.3, so they need salvage too. Kye points out that Red is about to be part of Blue anyway. It looks like this could be a long committee plot.

One of the Smeerps joins Akito in the holodeck to play with the games on Sophia's PDA. Unfortunately, it seems to have initialized Akito as the only interim user until Sophia gets out of the tubes, so multi-player games don't work. Searching around for other functions the To-Do list gets accessed. It asks Akito if he wants to see the original timeline or the current timeline. Oooh.

Current TimelineOriginal Timeline
  • 2782.239: Go to Craterrock
  • 2782.238: Trade meeting re salvage
  • 2782.239: Trade meetings
  • 2782.240-244: Break from trade meetings on planet
  • 2782.245: Ruehan and Kye yell at each other. More trade meetings.
  • 2782.246: Emergency meeting with the Hegemons
  • 2782.247: Emergency Science Councils meeting
  • 2782.250: Convince Science Council I'm right
  • Stock up on Anti-radiation meds
  • Figure out what destroyed the jump gates
  • Return Gravimetric books
  • Get Gravimetric books back again
  • Build black hole destabilizer
  • Build destabilized black hole restabilizer
  • Retreat to the outworlds
  • ...
Attempting to access future to-do list or calendar items in the current timeline brings up a warning dialogue: "Are you sure you wish to access this information at this time?" Mirris thinks it's a bad idea. Ruehan thinks it's a good idea. Ciernan votes no. Kye votes yes. Eventually, Akito decides not to access it.

Kith goes shopping some more, to get lightweight nutritious foodstuffs, easy-to-use medicine, and educational materials.

Akito tries to go back to the previous timeline on the PDA. It wants to know if he means the previous timeline, or the original one. Wait, there are more? As it turns out, you can just create new timelines as new tabs. Akito decides maybe this is too scary, and doesn't create any new timelines.

Kye attempts to scry the future history of the device — it keeps track of stuff on Sophia's to-do list and calendar, until such time as it CAME IN CONTACT WITH THE COMMUNION and then — Kye's brain overloads under the surfeit of information, and he faints. Kith brings him around, and gives him a snack and tea.

Ciernan suggests they make their excuses to the boring committee plots before they dash off to Craterrock. Should they warn the Hegemons about the jump gates blowing up? Panicking people would be bad, though.

Ruehan makes the arrangements to see both of the Hegemons, very briefly.

"You can see the Red Hegemon between meetings; you can see the Blue Hegemon after meeting if you promise to bring no paper products." –Mike
The meeting with Shaddam is first. Ruehan begins to explain that they need to depart to handle some pressing business elsewhere. They don't know very much yet, but there might be a problem with the jump gates getting destroyed. But they don't really know the details, but it's pressing and they'll be going to deal with it and see if they can learn more. The information is from a future version of Sophia, and it implies that there's some danger somehow involving black holes.

Ciernan decides this isn't getting to the point quickly enough, and explains that they need to go to Craterrock, and "In the universe in which we fail, the plan is 'retreat to the Outworlds to defend people from the rampaging black holes.'"

"What about the not panicking people?" –Ruehan
"What about the not just making stuff up?" –Akito
"Perhaps you had better leave immediately." –Shaddam
Next, it's time to meet Donella.
"Can we please not use the words 'rampaging black holes'?" –Ruehan
At the meeting with Donella, Ruehan says that a future version of Sophia says there's a threat to the jump gates, and they need to go and investigate. That all seems fine. They manage to give the trade papers back, and Donella tells them to go off and save the jumpgates. Ruehan drops Viktor's name, but Donella avoids reacting.

Admiral DeGaulle calls at about midnight — why are they still here, if there are rampaging black holes? Ciernan explains that their instructions are to leave in the morning. DeGaulle is not clear that makes sense, but Ciernan seems unlikely to concede and leave immediately.

Once the Hippocrates does leave, it's high-energy jumps all the way. It's smooth jumping until the ship enters the Craterrock system - the last step is a doozy. Kye is just starting to explain about the Communion (what little he got from his PDA vision) when there's a Massive Bridge Lurch. Just as Akito gets the ship stabilized, there's a cracking noise and the gravity plating cuts out. Mirris hits the "protect the pets" button. Ruthie floats into the bridge, and mocks Akito: "Dude, you crashed." Akito protests that he didn't crash, but Ruthie is having none of it. She floats around upside down, demonstrating how crashed they are.

The PDA beeps — there's a new to-do item of "Repair gravitic plating." Sharra says that landing would be good to repair the grav plating, and that there's something weird going on with the gravity field in the system. Kye, as the only person with any Sensor Ops (well, except Ruthie, but nobody thinks to ask her) tries to scan. He thinks the planet seems stable, having gravity of its own, but there's a weird gravity source elsewhere in the system which seems to be growing and shrinking.

One of the Memento Mori probes is launched towards the crazy mass, as the Hippocrates heads towards the planet. The probe's returning radio signal gets slower and slower, until it stops entirely. Well, that could be an event horizon...

As the Hippocrates gets closer to the planet, Kye notes that the mountain that the Flames ritual was on is now covered in people. There's no power source there that would be running a black hole, though. Akito lands near the mountain. A group of rabbits starts heading towards the ship. Kye unloads Dumbo, and the group proceeds out to meet them. There is a Right Turn Only sign and a Severe Tire Damage sign being carried proudly by rabbit heralds; others seem to be in sign-less groups.

One of the rabbits approaches, and asks "Who from the Sky Devils comes among us?" Kye says that it is he, Devil Badger. There is much panic among the rabbits. It is Devil Badger! The dread harbinger of the Wind Between the Stars! Most of them flee. One rabbit comes forward, though, and bows before Dumbo. (Kith thinks his motive is "get in good with the bosses"). He says he is Chagga, of the Authorized Personnel Only tribe. He is happy to see Kye:

"The unbelievers gather on the mountain. We have prepared an ambush. You are here to aid me in destroying them?"
Mirris asks Chagga about the unbelievers. They're waiting for their savior, the goofs! Wait, which savior? Chagga says he has no truck with them, and anyway, Wind Between the Stars has come to sweep them away!

Chagga explains that everyone saw the signs in the sky. Er, what signs? After some translation and math, they realize the signs he is referring to were the Flames. The party, with Chagga, proceeds up the mountain to meet the other rabbits, until Chagga cries out:

All you unbelievers! The power of Wind Beteween the Stars and Devil Badger is coming to destroy you! Your foul goddess Kith will not protect you!
The party is nonplussed at the revelation of the Rabbit Savior's identity.

Further explanation ensues — during the Flames, many of the more psychically competent rabbits saw visions of Kith and Ruehan, clearly the good and evil gods, respectively, battling and falling. The "unbelievers" (according to Chagga) are praying for the protection of their savior, who shielded them before. Meanwhile the "believers" (who recognized Ruehan as "Wind Between the Stars") are forever opposed.

Kith tries to get Kye to agree to not have there be a "fight between the gods" as part of rabbit theology, but Kye seems to find the idea intriguing. Ruehan and Kith try to present a unified front to Chagga, who finds this "good god and evil god travel together" a little confusing.

Sharra decides that this is too much rabbit politics, and heads back to the ship to start working on the gravitics.

Chagga takes the Authorized Personnel Tribe off to a safe distance, while Kith and Ruehan announce to all the rabbits that "The time of saving has come and has passed, it's time for them all to go home now." About half of the rabbits shout that they won't listen to Ruehan, and many others shout about Kith being there to save them from Ruehan.

Shadow Falling from the Bridge Out tribe confirms that Kith is really Kith, and then faints. The other rabbits are a little loath to abide by "the time of saving is over" because they're really hoping to be saved from the Shattering. The what? It turns out that the earth has been trembling and rumbling for the last several days. Popular shaman wisdom is that this is a scourge brought upon them by the evil one (Wind Between the Stars) and his harbinger (Devil Badger).

Sophia's PDA beeps at Akito, letting him know there's a new To-Do entry: "Watch out for the rabbit behind the rock." Akito peeks behind the nearby rock, and in fact there's a rabbit taking aim at Kith with a bow. Akito easily thumps him.

Kith tries to explain that she can't always be here to solve their problems. Ahah, the rabbits declare. She will choose someone to solve problems for them! Bring forth the five shamans! Each tribe also has a problem to be solved, as it turns out.

Kith suggests that the shamans draw straws; Ruehan loses his composure. That's not how you make government! Flaming Water of the Right Turn Only tribe is smartest, according to Ruehan — choose him! Though this is the first five-tribe alliance ever seen, so there's clearly something going on with the politics.

Ciernan starts summoning a rainstorm, possibly to drive the rabbits off the mountain, possibly just on general principles. There is much argument as to whether it's worth talking to rabbits at all, or if they can be safely ignored, but Sharra won't have the gravitics fixed for a while yet, so the other options is just hiding from the rabbits inside the ship.

Ciernan circulates around the rabbits, looking for cute girls. He finds two sisters, and takes them flying. The elder of the two is very disappointed to discover that clouds are not solid and poofy, so Ciernan grows her some cotton and explains that it's used for clothing. The two girls start improvising clothes out of lumps of fluffy white cotton.

"Most of them are rabbits. These two are bunnies..."
Kith spends the rest of the afternoon passing out here wisdom to the rabbit tribes. Move away from the radiation source; yup, the chief sure is sterile, etc. After a few hours of working with them, they mostly get their problems settled for the moment, but insist that Kith choose from among their shamen to decide who will solve their problems in the future. Perhaps they could send someone along with her to learn how her wisdom works.

"They'll figure out soon enough that if you kill your enemies, they stop suffering. Everyone gets that eventually." –Kith
Kith refuses to take any of the shamans who belong to a tribe with her; the rabbits come up with Trails of Blood, the only shaman without a tribe they have, as she got her tribe killed. Kith asks Trails of Blood if she wants to come along with Kith to learn. Trails of Blood is a little unclear on this "wants to" thing. Kith tells her to meditate about it, and she'll return at sunset for her answer.

Meanwhile, Ciernan has been growing plants and teaching them better farming methods, firmly entrenching himself as another, orthogonal, god in the pantheon. He manages to squash-felt the cotton, so the two bunnies demonstrate their white miniskirts and tube tops as God Farming Clothes.

Sophia's PDA bings, with to-do entries suggesting gravitic shields, and recalibration-on-the-fly. Sharra has already been working on hardening the gravitics to they won't break again. Twig starts thinking about the gravitic shields, and Sharra starts a mad-engineering difference engine to recalibrate as needed.

Kith returns to talk to Trails of Blood. Trails of Blood thinks that Kith should pick a better shaman than her, but Kith basically thinks it's her or nothing. Trails of Blood packs her things and move onto the ship.

"What's her name?" –Sharra
"—Touches No Buttons" –Ruehan, elsewhere, detailing all the things she shouldn't do.
Finally, the gravitics are repaired and buffed, and it's time to fly towards the black hole! Sure enough, it does appear to resemble a black hole from the outside, except for the fact that the event horizon seems to fluctuate, growing and shrinking. The Hippocrates is shielded from the gravity waves, but it's not clear what to do next. The black hole is moving towards the planet, though, so something will need to be done.

People ponder whether this is a weapon sent from Terra, but nobody has the astronavigation necessary to be sure where it came from. Ruehan notes that it has no psi, but has a mind off the charts. Ciernan tries to figure out what it's up to, and promptly faints. When revived, he says that it's one away from succeeding in its plot. One what? That's not so clear.

Ruehan opens an all-frequencies hail, telling the black hole "This is the HMF Hippocrates. Is there anyone there to talk?" The black hole reacts by growing quickly enough to engulf the ship.

Sharra tries to convince everyone that being INSIDE the EVENT HORIZON is really bad. Nobody else understands physics enough to be nearly so worried. Then Ciernan tries to sense the surrounding space, and realizes that the entire universe is right here near them.

"This is not good." –Ciernan
"THANK YOU" –Sharra.
The only other thing of note in the universe is the asteroid at the center of it. There's a small building on top of the asteroid, making it look a bit like an illustration out of the Little Prince. Kye considers building another plasma bomb to explode the asteroid with — he might be able to get the whole universe this time! Of course, that would definitely include the Hippocrates.

Scanning the asteroid reveals that there's an internal spherical zone of "no scanning for you". Above that is what seems to be normal asteroid crust, and a small building. There's atmosphere in the building, though it seems to have a normal door, and not an airlock.

Akito lands on the asteroid, and the party suits up. Ruthie and Linnet start putting their space suits on, but Mirris tells Linnet she has to stay behind. Since they're already in the black hole, it seems like all the danger is past, but Mirris is resolute. Ruthie seems, however, to have vanished.

In the building, there is a table laid out with cheese and crackers and a nice wine. Kye scries its purpose: "to fortify them for the trials to come." Hmm. The only other feature of note is the elevator going down, which has five buttons. Only the first seems to work, however. (The party insists on pressing the bottom ones first).

Everyone heads into the elevator, and the first button is pressed. There's a vast acceleration, pushing the elevator to very high speed, until the door opens with a "ding", onto a mostly empty room with several small circular holes in the wall.

Behind the holes, small targets can be seen moving around. How odd. Is it for target practice? Kye tries to figure out the purpose of the room — the purpose of the wall is to make the shot harder. Akito pokes his finger through one of the holes, hitting a target. He strikes it dead center, but there's the traditional "you lose" buzzing sound and nothing else happens.

"Someone shoot it!" –Ruehan
"That's your job, Kye." –Ciernan
Shooting the targets through the holes in the walls is for 13's, and after some help from Kith, Dr. Kye gets 11. The wall and targets go away, and the elevator door opens again.

When the second button is pressed, there's a continuing acceleration until it finally cuts out with a coughing noise as the fuel is expended, and the elevator is drifting through the vastness of space, until the door opens with a "ding".

In this room, there's a smiling guy, holding out a bunch of poker chips. He cheerfully explains that "the games are all rigged but you can still win!" In fact, it's a little mini-casino set up in the room, though there are no other players. Sharra asks how much they need to win, and the barker suggests that tripling their chips would be a great success.

Ruehan turns into a smeerp and hops up on one of the tables. Again, the roll seems to be for thirteens, and most the people with a lot of fortune are sad that they have no gambling skill. Kye, again with some assistance from Kith, gets eight thirteens, and is showered with chips, just as the room fades away.

"My money! My money!" –Kye
"The room giveth and the room taketh away." –?
Then, it's back into the elevator, and pressing the third button. The elevator drifts through the blackness of space for a while. It runs a systems check, and everything is good. But then, a micrometeorite strikes! Tragedy! The door opens with a "ding".

This room is much larger, and has a bunch of villains in it: Ryan Waites, one of the battlemechs from Craterrock, Dylanna, Dr. Crichton, Dr. Cain, Caliban, Vance Wade, and Stone. Again, it seems like it's shooting time. (Dr. Kye points out that he has had ten ranks in all the relevant skills so far. Very suspicious.)

"Eight bad guys..." –Mike, counting out tokens
"They're not bad guys, they're differently allied guys" –Kith
The fight starts. Ciernan puts up a wall, making it a little harder for everyone to get at each other. Ruehan mind controls Caliban to go after Dylanna again, but she can just stay out of his melee range. Ciernan and Kye manage to destroy Stone's monofilament whip before he can chop Ciernan's hand off with it. Mirris extracts Dylanna's background before fainting. The mecha opens up with the chaingun before a lot of people (including Ruthie) have gotten out of the elevator.

"Now, know the unwholesome might of the discombobulator!" –Dr. Cain
Vance Wade is taken down early, as he's not quite in the combat league with the rest of them. Sharra, carried by Akito, manages to disable the chaingun on the mecha before it kills everyone. Ruthie runs up to Dylanna and switches her heal patches for turquoise. Dr. Crichton falls — Dr. Kye spends an action to dance on his grave, and the room goes away. This puzzles Ciernan, as most of the villains are still left. What, you only have to take two down?

People wake Mirris up, and she reports that Dylanna was actually part of the big mind, and it has to use them to pass the test so it can accomplish its goal. That's not very clear, but it's intriguing.

Kith starts healing people, and Akito complains that he's not all the way healed. Kith realizes that she needs more dice, and flees into the elevator in shame. Everyone follows her into the elevator, and she flees out again, hiding behind the wall. There is much arguing with Kith.

"Put yourself to sleep. You're coming with us." –Ciernan
"I'm relieved, again, that I am not the worst diplomat on the ship. –Kye
Mirris starts chasing Kith around the wall, and Ciernan destroys the wall. Kith asks if they could please leave her alone for twenty minutes, but Mirris insists the answer is no, they're not leaving her alone. This does not prove actually reassuring to Kith. After much continuing argument, Kye suggests, alluringly, that he won't leave her alone. With eight successes on a seduction roll, versus only four resistance, Kith bursts into tears as Dr. Kye comforts her.

The rest of the party immediately breaks out in severe cootie hives. Akito covers Ruthie's eyes, and Mirris stomps about in a fury. Mirris asks if Ruehan could possibly mind control them to get in the elevator, because she made a vow in front of the Tinoori that she wouldn't use her powers on party members without permission.

Kye and Kith do return to the elevator, but the cootie hives continue to reverberate throughout the small space. The fourth button gets pressed, and the elevator drifts through space, running its system check. It realizes that the micrometeorite damage has caused it to start drifting off course! Oh no! Then the door opens with a "ding".

This room is full of torn shreds of paper, scattered about. The party starts to examine the scraps. Some are talking about Brochoan pottery, others discuss ancient forms of government, and still others seem to reference the development of psionic powers throughout the ages. Kith and Mirris both have points in Tidy, and Ruehan has some Bureaucracy, so they start tidying. Eventually they sort the shreds of paper into three piles.

Post-tidying, the roll is only for 12s instead of 13s, and Kye gets eight using his skill in "Read/Write Archaeology Papers". The first two papers are put together properly, but the psionics one seems to have too many pages. There's another tidying spree, and Kye attempts the third paper again, getting nine 12s, which is sufficient to get the papers together and the room goes blank again.

Back into the elevator, there is only one button left, so they press it. The elevator continues to drift off course, and is considering engaging its emergency self-destruct, lest it fall into enemy hands, when a great shadow blots out the stars near it. The door opens with a "ding", onto an empty room.

The party examines it. Where's the test? Kye's archaeology sense indicates that no one has ever been in the room before, but this is the final test. How does it operate? It doesn't. Um. Hmm.

Ciernan attempts to sense beyond the room, but it's all unsensable. Akito settles down to be still. Kye thinks that the Communion is the entity most connected to the room — he can't encompass the concept, but doesn't quite pass out. Ciernan checks the room for grey legos, and Mirris appears to be the only one there. That does make him pass out.

With no obvious course of action, the party bickers a bit. Ruehan asks Mirris if she can abominate the big sentience, and the conversation digresses into how nobody is supposed to call it "abomination" any more, because it's insulting and what will Linnet think? Ruehan doesn't object to the idea of calling it something else, but points out that nobody had sent him the memo before this.

Kye power projects some Pre of Psi into the wall — apparently this is fun.

"Woah." –Kye
"Shut up." –Mirris "Nothing, nothing." –Kye
There is some ogling, and some glaring, and much squabbling.
"Dudes, the black hole that is in the middle of the system about to blow up is not the place to work out your issues." –Akito (Sadly, he's wrong...)
Kith senses emotion. Temperatures are rising all around the room, except for Kye, who's kinda turned on by the whole thing. Ruehan notes that he doesn't think that Mirris is (psychically) related to the big mind, so that's not what the grey lego-ness is about. Kith checks if Mirris is being influenced. No, but Kye is.
"No, he's not, he's always a jerk." –Mirris
Mirris wants to know what sort of influence it is, but Kith would rather not talk about it, it's private.
"Are you getting something out of this?" –Mirris
"...yeah..." –Kye
"It's letting him yank your chain." –Sharra
Sharra tries to convince Mirris that the point is to not react to Kye, but it's starting to get difficult. Kye power projects some Fortune into the wall, and Kith power projects lots more Pre. Kith promptly notes that while she still isn't getting influenced, the influences on Kye are getting pretty blinding.

"Let me get this, room. The test is he sits there saying ha ha ha, and I have to not look." –Mirris
"No, just not care" –Kith
"I can't not care! I have to care, it's part of my programming! You all put that in me, once someone's in your heart, they'll always be there, nyah nyah nyah!" –Mirris
Kith whispers to Mirris what the influence is. She flings herself about the room, saying "ewww! eww ewww eww!", and finally rounds on Kye.
"That's disgusting! And I'm wearing a space suit!" -–Mirris
"Not in my mind." –Kye
Mirris slaps Kye. On each of the walls, the scene replays: Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! The room speaks in a great voice:
"Final test complete. Dr. Voriig Kye, identity confirmed."
The walls come down, and there's a lit stairway down. At the very bottom of the stairs is the little IPX Terra probe.
"The creator has come!" –The room
"My long lost child!" –Kye
Now that the Creator has been identified, the probe is willing to tell the party what's going on. As depicted in the elevator scenes, the probe was hit by a micrometeorite, and was starting to drift off course. It was considering self-destructing lest it fall into Memento Mori hands, when the Communion found it and repaired it and brought it in as part of the Communion. It finished its mission, but by the time it would have returned, Dr. Kye would have been long dead, so the Communion used Coordination of Time to send it back to now. Apparently the Communion is the Decider machine intelligence (mentioned at the Crystal Forest); they consider themselves a wildly successful experiment.

It gives a briefing on Terra:

On the Terran System

The Terran system is composed of nine planets and countless smaller bodies. The primary planet is the third, Earth, which is coincidentally the original birthplace of humanity.

Other planets of interest include Mars, the fourth planet in the system, site of a massive global thermonuclear war, from which what is left of the ecosytem is only now recovering. Next is Titan, a satellite of the sixth planet, the most populous of the Terran worlds, constantly in shadow from its never-ending cloud/rain cycle. Finally, the asteroid field between Mars and Jupiter is home to numerous mining clans and the source of many raw materials for use by Titan.

Various of the other planets and moons have ancient installations from prior eras being occasionally rediscovered and utilized for a brief time before economic considerations crush them back into abandonment.

On Earth

Third planet of the Terran system, Earth is home to two major life forms. Ganjile Oe, last of the Tamorai race, and a few tens of thousand humans. The humans live an essentially technology-free existence in utter peace and harmony both with each other and their environment, under the guidance and constant supervision of Ganjile Oe.

On Titan

Titan is a technologically rich world, in which the primary thrust of technology is two-fold: encompassing the utter recycling and efficient utilization of available resources, and the control of the capacity of the human mind, through chemical and biophysical means in opposition to the use of psionic ability.

The sixteen Great Houses of the Terra nominally rule from the central dome of Titan. The other domes around the planet house the million or so other planetary inhabitants.

Great Houses:

The long-term goal of the great houses is to once more establish Terran supremacy over the known universe, as the ultimate fulfillment of their manifest destiny.

This is a two-pronged effort aimed at both a) reclamation of their ancient homeworld, Earth, and b) domination and recolonization of the worlds in the habitable zone originally colonized from Terra, known to you as the Linked Worlds.

Their efforts on Earth are hampered by the immense power of Ganjile Oe, which keeps the human population of the planet in perpetual mental contact with each other. Any Terran spy landing on Earth would be immediately detected without the use of extensive anti-psi technology such as bitey shields and the like.

Their efforts on the Linked Worlds are progressing according to plan, as the Astronomy, the great generation ship carrying representatives of several great houses and their servants should be returning from their journey in a few decades.

Additionally, it's pretty much sending out very high-density information about Terra, which can only be interpreted in the context of a particular skill. This mechanics to "People with 10+ skill in something can ask a question about Terra pertaining to that skill".

Tell me something about power projection and Terra? (Ruehan, Power Projection)
The Titanians have no developed power projection; they are generally non-psionic, though exceptions exist, and the Terran system does not need a human defense against the Flames. The Earth Terrans do have power projection, which they direct at Ganjile Oe as part of the psionic milieu which links the humans and Ganjile Oe together.
What forms of gambling are present on Terra? How do they compare and contrast to our forms? (Kye, Gambling)
Many of the forms of gambling present in the Linked Worlds (poker, roulette, blackjack) date back to Terra, and are still played in the Titanian civilization. There are also a large number of games based on human/computer interaction, frequently played in large numbers (imagine WoW Battlegrounds, with both sides wagering, played in VR rig filled theatres). The Earth Terrans don't have money per se, so there's nothing you would really consider gambling. They do have games, but they don't use hidden information known to one player. They play games with information hidden from everyone, and also substantially more intricate cooperative games than you're used to.
What is the state/level of archaeological knowledge of the Terrans? Do they know the history of Terra well or are their gaps like we have due to the Infowars? (Kye, Read/Write Archaeology Papers)
Terran history has many many gaps; during the initial expansion into the Solar System, there was a particularly catastrophic war which hastened the (temporary) uninhabitability of the Earth, and much of their historical record was lost at that time. There are believed to have been crashes before then, and there have been several since. Like the archaeologists of the Linked Worlds, they do occasionally recover "lost tech" from troves left by previous heights of civilization, usually on other planets in their system.
When and by whom were blasters invented? Was there a motivating reason (a particular war, prize money, government sponsorship) or was a just an evolutionary development? (Kye, Blasters)
Blasters, in the general form that the Linked Worlds knows them, were initially developed by Harry Althaus, a military engineer who was hoping to revolutionize warfare. They were about as effective as gunpowder-based projectile weapons, and much more expensive, so they were principally a novelty weapon, for several hundred zed until the conflicts surrounding the Exodus. As a weapon to be used in zero-g, they were vastly preferable to "bullet guns" because they are truly recoilless and have less penetrating power for starship hulls. Since they don't need an ammunition source (bullets) they were preferred by those on strict environmental controls such as long term ships or hostile world colonies.
How did moving to the Linked Worlds affect humanity's psi powers? (Kith)
Psi is one of those things that is enhanced by being around people that believe in psi and use it, and is squelched by being around large numbers of people (with psi themselves) who don't believe in it (and thus use their psi to unconsciously suppress other psi). The proximity of the Omphalos Dust Nebula, as well as continued interaction with the Tamorai, pushed humanity from negative feedback against psi to positive feedback enhancing psi. Even in the Linked Worlds psi-friendly human society, it was generally seen as a novelty or small aid, with technology being vast preferred, resulting in humans generally developing PrePsi, and subtle shticks.
How does power projection link the humans and Ganjile Oe together? Does it have anything to do with their Flames defense? (Kith)
The Terran defense against the Flames has nothing to do with power projection per se; Ganjile Oe alone provides it. The power projection link is more of a positive feedback loop between the humans and Ganjile Oe, where their power projection causes him to be both more important in their scheme of things, and more what they need him to be, which (because it's a feedback loop) causes him to sustain the pastoral nature of Earth as well as reinforce their desire for such a pastoral existence.
Ciernan sneaks in a question about the sixth stat, which the probe says is Connection. And then, once the party is back to the ship, the probe (black hole and all), its report complete, vanishes softly and suddenly to join the rest of the Communion.