Six Hundred Times is Enemy Action

"Society functions more smoothly when the needs of the many are identical to the needs of the few, and the one."

-- Agent Morden


People begin to pack up their puttering and get ready to go, as there may have to be dashing off to Tinara soon to follow. However, Mirris and Kith (and Max, though he's now feeling ill from Kaufman degeneration) are still in Govanchy investigating.

Mirris and Kith ponder what to do about Joshua Farnsworth, the pawnshop guy Max has fingered as having rented the machine in the server farm. They could arrest him with their police powers, though it's not clear for what, or bring him in for questioning. The latter seems more plausible - perhaps they could lean on him to get him to tell them about the guys who hired him. They head into his pawnshop to talk to him, and try to play good cop / bad cop. He claims to not remember anything, shows them his books (they're pretty sparse, and just indicate monies received), and says he'll meet them later this evening with a lawyer present if they want to question him.

Then Mirris intercepts him as a buddy of his, as he leaves; she tries to warn him that the people investigating him are Really Important, and can probably get him a free pass from the police for a year if he helps them. He doesn't really want to go on record as the guy who helps out the feds and gets a free pass from the police, though. Mirris suggests that the investigators might get upset with him if he's not helpful. He could end up in jail or something if he doesn't cave. He decides well, maybe he'll lie low instead of going back with a lawyer. Mirris gets which lawyer he was thinking about using, but then when Kith and Mirris go back in the evening, he doesn't show (having gone for the "lie low" plan). Oops. Well, he seems unlikely to have had a lot of information anyway; he seems to specialize in not remembering or writing down any incriminating details. In the end, they talk to the police about him, who say they'll keep an eye out for him and bring him in for questioning if they spot him.

Meanwhile, back on the ship, while trying to recreate the omnihedron (boy, was that thing useful), Sophia has been working on a Project of a small portable spacetime bubble, in the form of a belt. She claims it does various things, but mostly people notice that she shimmers a little when wearing it.

Akito calls a meeting in the conference room, and gets to use the line "I guess you're wondering why I've called you all together today." He wants to know if there's anyone who doesn't want to cure Talia's father? Ciernan and Mirris (Mirris calls via radio) go on record as not wanting to use the only dose of the "real" cure on him. Akito is unhappy with this; Mirris explains that Talia's father isn't important enough to spend unique resources on. Maybe the cure could be duplicated using Black Goo, and then it would be okay to use on Talia's father, but Ciernan reminds people that it's dangerous to play around with, as it will kill Kaufman-addicted people dead. Another possibility is to (through some mad or perilous experimentation) get the groupmind nanites back into spreading mode, which will cause them to die off if he's isolated. Of course, if that goes wrong, everyone on the ship will be in the group mind, which could be exciting.

As the discussion continues, the conference room suddenly plunges into darkness. "That wasn't me," Talia points out. Apparently, all of the light bulbs in the conference room have blown at the same time due to natural causes.

"That seems unlikely." -Sharra.
Ciernan checks to make sure that Talia's father and Sam are both accounted for and okay. They seem to be.

The discussion about Talia's father winds up as light bulbs get replaced. The decision is that Sharra and Sophia will build a giant mad nanite machine in which they'll place Talia's father. The machine will force all of the nanites back into spreading mode. Then they just have to keep him contained and away from everyone else until the nanites die from lack of spreading. This process will be extremely painful and leave him sore for at least a week or so, but since they need to keep him isolated the whole time, having him sedated for most of it seems OK. The machine building gets delayed by investigations into the light bulbs and other situations, but that's the plan that's settled on.

As Kith and Mirris return to the starport, they note that the lines are very long (and Kith notes that it's a grumpy frustrated line). Kith strikes up a conversation with some of the people in line, and tells them about Jayla. Most of them find this entertaining enough. Mirris decides to jump the line and commandeers a driving luggage cart, but even that is somewhat troublesome and she ends up in a four-way intersection of luggage carts, all snarled up, before she and Kith get back on board.

For the next bit of excitement, the crew notices a data transfer channel opening onto the Hippocrates' computers. Murdoch goes into action, hacking to block the intruder, and he traces the connection back to a Starguard military base. That's somewhat disturbing. Murdoch identifies the hacker as having quite a lot of skill, but not quite enough dice to get in, which is also a little odd.

Sharra wonders if the strange crowding and chaos at the spaceport might be due to Agent Morden. Mirris declares that it had better not be, as they don't have time to deal with him right now.

Ciernan gets Sam to come sit in the communications room so he can break the radio data link if necessary. However, Mirris sets up a "honeypot" machine for the hacker to connect to, which succeeds, leading to some complaining:

"Ack. It's very tight in here. This is not my mainframe. What's going on?"
It sounds like Nero, but what if it's, um, some sort of evil other thing pretending to be Nero? Kith asks First Frost of Autumn to see if he can perceive Nero, but he can only tell that it's an AI. Eventually, Nero plays back the soundtrack from the movie he sent, and is allowed to move into his own mainframe. Nero also asks if there's another machine available - he has a friend visiting.
"Who's your friend.... where did you meet her?" -Mirris
As it turns out, the friend is AI-Phaeton, not a new girlfriend for Nero. Mirris doesn't think it's appropriate to put AI-Phaeton in Hippocrates' mainframe, so Nero gets to move there and AI-Phaeton gets Nero's machine.

Mirris warns AI-Phaeton that he had better not hack beyond the firewall, or she'll shut his machine down. He finishes transfering, and starts to look around.

"AI-Phaeton has never been a starship bef... Hmm. AI-Phaeton is not a starship. Nero!"
Nero assures everyone that he and and AI-Phaeton have come to help, having heard about Hippocrates getting kidnapped. From observing the spaceport, there's all sorts of trouble going on with multiple ships coming in for the same slip, or being given the same takeoff assignment. Kith calls the spaceport and is immediately put on hold by a harried air traffic controller. Murdoch, suspicious, asks if the two AIs came through the spaceport network. Nero says no, they came through the military defense network. People are still a little suspicious that AI-Phaeton might have caused trouble while he was bored, but he says it wasn't him.

Kith finally gets through to the spaceport traffic control, and gets the Hippocrates put in the queue to take off. Nero and AI-Phaeton get briefed on the clues left by Deep Blue, but not the actual data the clues were embedded in. Nero and AI-Phaeton do a quick blitz around the Riden network, and report that the "router constellation" that Deep Blue describes isn't on this planet.

The airlock doorbell rings, and Ciernan heads down to answer it. It appears to be a tiger. Ciernan talks to Padira (hey, someone who speaks tiger!), who warns him "Look out behind you" as Xanthippe happily tackles him.

Xanthippe briefs people:

"Something terrible is happening, and only you can fix it!" -Xanthippe
"Hippocrates is kidnapped?" -Mirris
"Hippocrates is kidnapped?! Oh no!" -Xanthippe
Xanthippe thinks it's possible that Hippocrates being kidnapped might lead to the end of the world, but it doesn't seem like quite the same plot. Wait, this is the end of the world coming? Yup, Xanthippe thinks the end of the world is around here somewhere. Sharra wonders if it has to do with the light bulbs burning out - after juggling a few light bulbs, Xanthippe thinks that seems more likely, though she doesn't know what the problem is. There's something around here somewhere, that's not supposed to be happening, and it'll end the world. Riden, or all the Linked Worlds, someone asks - she's not sure which. People think that this is probably the work of Agent Morden.

Ciernan scans the news, looking for other bad-luck or good-luck areas. One news report mentions a continuing story: "The riot continues at Three Flags over Riden, where the visiting Tinaran Colonials fans are battling the loyal stalwarts of the Riden Red Boots."

Kye examines the future history of the lightbulbs, and notes that they almost have a future history. Just a little bit more and they will! Well, that sounds ominous. Sophia decides to turn on her spacetime bubble, just in case.

Has AI-Phaeton heard of any acausal tech recently? AI-Phaeton thinks that that sort of tech does sound pretty cool, but AI-Phaeton is not in favor of the world being destroyed. And no, AI-Phaeton hasn't seen any odd tech.

Nero does some investigating in the computer records of the spaceport, trying to figure out exactly what's causing the trouble. It seems like a lot of ships that would normally be arriving scattered over the month seem to have coincidentally arrived all at the same time, just as everyone in the spaceport happened to call in sick. Hmm. This is a different sort of effect than usually is seen from Agent Morden - it's probabilistically weird instead of acausal. On the other hand, probability and causality are pretty strongly related...

Ciernan strolls around the slips, asking if other people have been noticing weird failures or coincidences. The answer seems to be yes, and many of the pilots and crew have declared it to be "bad luck day." So is there some way to figure out where the center of the field is?

"We start a floating craps game and wander around until we lose our shirts." -Xanthippe
Kith wonders if it's that someone has a good luck device, and the spaceport is getting stuck with all the leftovers. Right, time to start searching for news reports of good luck, too. Sharra finds mention of the shopping mall that's been giving out scratch tickets as a promotion, that everyone seems to be winning.

Dr. Kye gets a phone call - apparently, a group of IPX employees were gathering at a hotel in a nearby town to prepare for an upcoming dig. To their shock, they discovered that Memento Mori people had quietly taken over the entire floor above them in the night. Memento Mori is making a move! Help us! Dr. Kye tells the crew that he needs to go to the aid of his employees.

Mirris warns Kye that the Hippocrates might take off without Kye; Kye takes that in stride. Mirris grins manically at the idea that they might get to lose Dr. Kye.

Ciernan talks to Ghier about fortune manipulation - if Ghier were to describe some sort of big fortune ritual to do this, what would it look like? Ghier starts drawing circles and plotting the locations of the "weird" spots; the spaceport and the amusement park are directly opposite each other, while the shopping mall is a little ways off from the amusement park, directly opposite - hey, directly opposite wherever it is Dr. Kye is!

People call Dr. Kye and ask what's going on where he is. He's at a hotel, which has IPX on the fourth floor, Memento Mori on the fifth floor, and... the backup Terran base in the inworlds on the third floor.

"What, is it some sort of conference?"
"Yup, we're all here to present papers on how we want to kill each other."
Phone calls start getting made. Ciernan reports to Red Home Office that there are Terrans at Kye's hotel.

Kith calls a bunch of local Jaylaists, and warns them that things are getting weird - if they know people who are having a hard time right now, give them a call!

People wonder what's likely to be happening in the spots perpendicular to the paired "luck spots" - Ghier thinks that the two spots where that line intersects the surface of the planet, both in oceans, are likely to be where the residual energy is getting dumped. The whole thing is focusing on the planet as a whole, getting the planet to do something. Moving the population around might disrupt the psychic focus of the ritual, but it doesn't seem feasible to do in bulk.

AI-Phaeton offers to commandeer a Red defense ship to overfly the ocean spots, but people think that might increase tensions. Mirris ponders which of the choices to go to - the two ocean spots are her least favorite choices. The party decides that Dr. Kye can handle the Terrans, since Red security has been called, and they'll head to the shopping mall.

Dr. Kye starts setting up deathtraps on the fourth floor of the hotel, and planning to take out Memento Mori first. Since he's not getting any backup, he might as well go with his personal priority of taking down Memento Mori, and then seeing to the Terrans.

"But it causes suffering." -Kith
"Not for us." -Ciernan
"Jayla, give me strength."
Murdoch points out that he's under contract to go after Hippocrates, not whatever this is. Ciernan points out he's also under contract to keep Mirris sane. Well, that's true. Ciernan hires him on a side contract for the save-the-world rate of one aster.

Akito pilots as the Hippocrates sets off for the shopping mall. There's nearly a crash as four ships coincidentally try to use his lane, but Akito manages to dodge them with a bit of a bridge lurch. Ruthie wants to know what's going on - did Akito nearly crash them? Doesn't he know to be careful? Ciernan wonders whether that's an appropriate tone for a girl scout? Ruthie agrees, and compliments Akito for managing to not hit anything, and suggests that if he needs more help, he ask some of the grown-ups. For some reason, Akito doesn't seem to find this an improvement, and glowers "Later for you..." vibes at Ruthie as she heads off the bridge again.

People begin to tour the shopping mall; it's very crowded, and Dr. Symphony-Hayes wins a set of gift certificates for being the thousandth customer in the past... hour or so. Murdoch calls in a couple of bets on a horse race, just in case the good luck rubs off on him. Akito notices that there's something a little weird with the chi here, and Ciernan starts setting off fortune-lightning to try to illuminate mysteries - it flashes off of Akito's bald head. The group troops up to the third floor of the mall, except for Kith, who starts talking to people at the information kiosk about the promotions. Nero and AI-Phaeton get detailed to start looking up the financial records for the mall and the little carts therein - is there someone who paid for cart space very recently?

As the group trundles around the third floor, Akito spots Agent Morden sitting in the food court, drinking a soda. He leaps over the balcony and down into the food court, with a dramatic Matrix-like pause in the air.

Ciernan encloses Agent Morden in a small tornado, preventing him from escaping, and everyone else starts heading down the stairs and escalators to the first floor. (Sophia stops time and gets there in her bubble; Murdoch slides down the space between escalators). Meanwhile, Kith starts directing various panicking mall customers to the "tornado shelters", downstairs and away from the food court.

Akito advances through the tornado at Agent Morden, who has been looking a bit less terrified than he usually does. That's not right. Mindful of the pile of people in the food court who might be hurt in a chi explosion, Akito decides to not poke Agent Morden immediately, and instead tries to intimidate him into surrendering. Agent Morden does look a bit intimidated, but he can't flee because he's not strong enough to get through the tornado. Instead, he uses the action Akito gives him to try to touch Akito. Well, that's a surprise. Akito manages to dodge the first attempt, but then Agent Morden gets his own action and connects on the second touch.

There's a huge chi explosion - Akito is flung out of the food court, through a skylight and out of the mall itself, and into a nearby office building. At the same time, Agent Morden vanishes, leaving just an outline of himself, which expands outwards, leaving behind another Agent Morden, and a food court full of Agent Mordens, and then (when the expansion finishes) an entire mall full of Agent Mordens. Everyone except Akito (outside the building) and Sophia (inside her spacetime bubble) is now an Agent Morden, out at the shopping mall to pick up some stuff or get a bite to eat. (The mall in Agent-Morden-World has no women's clothing stores, which is a great change from the regular mall; also no cash registers or locks.)

Meanwhile, back at the hotel, Kye leads his post-doctoral assistants on an assault of the fifth floor. They manage to catch the Memento Mori folks mostly unawares, and overhear a conversation between a couple of them declaring that Dr. Kye was spotted coming in the building and Dr. Crighton must be told! The MM employee goes to a particular hotel room, knocks on the door, waits a minute, and then tells Crighton about Kye. Crighton tells him to get the guys together, and he'll be out in a bit.

Hearing that, Kye kicks in the door to Crighton's hotel room and catches Crighton and a partially-clad grad student getting dressed. Crighton yells, "Sandy, get the artifact!" and the grad student runs into the bathroom. As Kye kicked in his door and has his gun drawn, Crighton grabs his gun and opens fire. Big mistake. Kye vigorously "defends himself" and starts pouring blaster fire into Crighton. Maneuvering around to the bathroom, he sees Sandy pull what looks like an ostrich egg out of the bathtub. She shakes the water off of it and points is at Kye! Before it does anything, the sprinklers come one and the grad student looks annoyed that the thing is wet again.

At this moment, Crighton makes a break for it and gets into the hall. Kye looks at the egg, but decides to follow Crighton. This allows Sandy to escape with the egg. Kye catches Crighton in the hall, but before they can open fire again, there's a large explosion and the floor drops out from under them both. They fall down a couple of floors and land in the fire fight between the Terrans and the Red Military. Kye proclaims Crighton a Terran sympathizer, and opens fire again. The Terrans recognize Kye and open fire on him. This convinces the Reds who help Kye take down Crighton and the remaining Terrans. By this point Crighton has taken over 150 points of damage without seeming to fall over, but suddenly an armband he was wearing overloads and explodes and he goes down beneath Kye's gun.

Kye calls in to report the combat in progress with the Terrans, only to learn that everyone but Sophia and Akito has joined the enemy, Sophia doesn't have time to talk to him, and Akito is unconscious. Sophia observes the mall for a while, and notices that people going in and out seem to turn into Agent Morden when they enter, and turn into different people again when they leave. Hmm. Sophia goes in, under cover of her spacetime bubble, and pulls the fire alarm. Sure enough, Mordens start streaming out of the mall, and turn from Agent Morden into other people as they leave. Including the crew. Yay! Of course, the fire department arriving turns into Agent Morden's fire department once they get inside, and there's no doubt great confusion in Agent-Morden-World, because who would pull a fire alarm when there is no fire?

Ciernan, recovered from his Agent-Mordenification, calls in a security alert to Red. Hegemon Marchant is notified, and the mall is sealed off by Red military.

Dr. Kye checks in again, now that the rest of the party is back: Memento Mori has been arrested as Terran sympathizers, and the Terran base has been taken out, with several low ranking Terrans arrested. Apparently, these were some of Stone's people and they had been planning a large assault on the Hippocrates, before Kye disrupted the proceedings. Mirris looks through Kye's recordings of the aftermath, and notes that the hotel bartender is Agent Morden. Kye puts her on the radio, and she tells the Red security forces that the bartender is part of the larger problem.

Meanwhile, the Red military has dropped tear gas (to chase people out) on the mall, followed eventually by sleepy-gas. Sophia and Xanthippe drag the few remaining unconscious Agent Mordens out of the mall, where they turn into other people. At Murdoch's request, Sophia checks the locker where he left one of his black bags. Sophia notes that one, lockers aren't locked in Agent-Morden-World, and two, the bag of stuff has useful things in it but not guns.

Back at the hotel, Red security has arrested the bartender and started to take him outside. He starts to resist; once he's outside the hotel, there's an automobile accident that knocks over some of the agents, and he makes a break for it. Kye manages to leap on him and makes an attempt at intimidating him:

"So, do you want to meet the Guy?" -Kye
"Yeah, let's go back in and wait for him." -Agent Morden
Kye keeps trying to drag him away from the hotel, with the assistance of Red security, but there's a lot of spontaneous car crashes, and other disasters getting in the way. Eventually, Kye is also hit by a car and Agent Morden makes a break for it again back into the hotel. Kye gives chase, shooting, as do the remaining Red security. Eventually, Agent Morden falls in the hotel lobby and calm returns to the world. He's stabilized and carried away to jail, as the non-Kye rest of the party arrives.

Murdoch pokes around the planetary computer records looking for his backstory - he doesn't seem to have been extraordinarily lucky, nor is he a terrible hard luck case. Akito and Mirris, though, think he's no longer Agent Morden, once he's in the jail. That Red lieutenant, on the other hand, is. With some consultation with higher-ups in Red, the hotel finishes being cleared out, leaving the lieutenant to "hold the fort." Ciernan makes sure the Red Hegemon is okay with their jumping one of his lieutenants. He's grateful for the heads-up on that.

Ciernan chums up to the Red lieutenant, and thanks him for looking after things. They shake hands, giving Ciernan the opportunity to Turquoise him with some sleight of hand, and then leave. After giving him a good long while to fall asleep, Xanthippe and Sophia go in and drag him out again, unconscious. However, now Akito thinks that's not Agent Morden. Hmm. Kith thinks there's no one else alive in the hotel, but Xanthippe thinks it's still a stress point. It's not clear what needs to be done at this point. Sophia and Ghier confer, and speculate that maybe he has to be removed from the hotel as Agent Morden, and then punted by Akito?

Okay. So the plan has to be to send someone else in, in order to get them possessed by Morden, and then drag them out again? Maybe Murdoch can be tied up and thrown in, as someone who is probably a little less dangerous when disarmed and tied up. Akito and Talia, bored with the planning and with the fact that Akito isn't allowed to do anything, get slushies.

Xanthippe paces around and does some cartwheels around the hotel doorway (impressing Red security quite a bit). She decides that under the canopy is "inside the hotel" (and inside the stress zone). Okay. So tie Murdoch up, put him in a laundry cart with ropes, roll it under the hotel canopy, and then roll it out again and Get Him? Sounds good.

Wait - Murdoch realizes that an aster isn't enough to cover being possessed by an evil alternate-dimension guy. That'd be 20,000 asters, which Ciernan declines to pay. Kith volunteers, but people remind her that she's not any less scary tied up than she is running around. Eventually, Sharra gets volunteered. People tie her up and make sure she's comfy in the laundry cart, and then roll it under the canopy. She promptly becomes (to Akito and Mirris's eye) Agent Morden, and nearly escapes from the ropes before Ciernan can roll the laundry cart into Akito.

A tangle ensues, in which Murdoch works on dragging the cart towards Akito, Mirris attempts to extract Agent Morden's background, and then Akito touches him, causing a Big Chi Explosion leaving both Akito and Sharra at one hit point. While Kith has steeled herself against Akito constantly needing healing, the fact that Sharra is getting in on the action causes her to need more dice, and for the first time she resists a Glitter side effect.

Following the chi explosion, Xanthippe confirms that the hotel is no longer a stress point. Yay!

The party dithers briefly about whether to go to the starport or the amusement park next, and decides that the starport is closer, and also a lot less evacuable. The Red military gets asked to try and evacuate the amusement park, while the party proceeds to the starport.

Mirris reports on the brief background she extracted before the explosion: In the beginning was Agent Morden and all was good. Things worked well. Everymorden got along. Then one day a Guy and some Dogs showed up and ruined everything. Now Agent Morden is all that's left to try and save the world, from that abomination.

The idea of disguising someone else as Akito to throw Morden off is broached, but it seems likely that Agent Morden would not be completely fooled. Additionally, Akito is pretty small, so the person closest to his size is Talia. Experimentally, four successes of disguise on Talia makes her look more like a shadow ninja in a white gi, and not so much exactly like Akito.

The party splits up and starts searching the starport (Ciernan puts up his "lucky strike" lightning). Akito grumbles that he doesn't get to go in; Ruthie and Dr. Kye stay with him in case of trouble.

Several fortune checks later, Ciernan's group spots Agent Morden, in the observation deck; Kith is near a refueling station which is promptly struck by Ciernan's lucky lightning, burning a number of people badly. Kith devotes herself to fixing the suffering, while the rest of the party heads for Agent Morden and Red security dashes to deal with the explosion.

Ciernan heads over to arrest Agent Morden, and a combat ensues. Sharra manages to break the window for Ciernan to fly out with Morden. Morden escapes briefly and starts to plummet towards the tarmac. Padira decides she can't handle flying and grabbing Morden with the same set of dice, so settles for saying "Raowr" in everyone's head, which inexplicably indicates that they should get outside to the tarmac. Quicksand appears when Ciernan tries to hold down his Fortune dice in an attempt to keep Morden from stealing them every phase, slowing people's attempts to run to underneath the aerial struggle.

Everyone else starts trying to hold down fortune abilities to keep the dice away from Morden. Kith starts healing people with fortune, which works, but Ciernan takes the same amount of damage as was healed. Hmm. Perhaps that's not quite as useful.

Ciernan finally gets Agent Morden flown out of the starport and towards Akito, where Ruthie is about to be hit by a passing bus. Akito chi-yanks her out from in front of the bus, and then leaps into the air to tag Agent Morden. Unfortunately, plummeting from a great height at one hit point is (Akito realizes) not the best of plans, but Dr. Kye gets under Akito to provide a soft landing spot, and Ciernan snags the guy Agent Morden was possessing before he splats.

Then, finally, it's off to the amusement park. Red security warns them that this is a no-fly zone, and they land the ship nearby. Security says most of the park has been evacuated, but there are two armed enclaves: fans of the Tinaran Colonials have fortified the bumper car pavilion, and fans of the Riden Red Boots have seized the higher ground of the water park. Hmm. Which one is more centrally located? Well, the center of the park is the Blind Terror Coaster, not either of those two.

Akito is crushed. The Blind Terror Coaster! Everyone's going to get to go on the roller coaster except him! He is consoled with a slushie and two hot dogs, and a cotton candy cart liberated by Sophia.

The group proceeds towards the coaster, past the bumper cars. They chant "Go Colonials!" as they go by, and get invited into the bumper car pavilion. The party says no, they're doing a flanking maneuver. The Colonials fans send them out a bumper car just in case they need it. Sharra asks it to go out and find Akito, which it does, bumping into him and Kith in a friendly fashion. Kith climbs onto a traffic island to keep from getting run over; the bumper car starts heading back towards the park, so Akito picks it up to keep it from going anywhere.

People start towards the Blind Terror Coaster's artificial mountain. Sharra talks to the security camera to try and get it to not report their presence to Morden, who is presumably in the roller coaster control room. Sadly, she's not very convincing, so the camera just lies and says it won't report them, while merrily making its report.

The party kicks in the employees-access door at the bottom of the coaster mountain. Nero (at Murdoch's request) has acquired a full-architecture map of the park, and says that the spiral staircase there goes up to the control room for the coaster.

Padira gets detailed to watch at the bottom of the stairwell (to make sure none of the rabid sports fans get in), while Xanthippe goes with the others.

Kye is first through the door at the top of the stair, and his force field / gun charger belt promptly explodes, as one of his flaws overloads. Well, this combat is likely to be particularly unpleasant. There's one guy in a park uniform (presumably Agent Morden), sitting behind the control panel, a bank of monitors, and a Sparky Cola machine. Nobody is confident that the Sparky Cola machine will be on their side.

As people enter the room or attack Agent Morden, random flaws kick in. Several "Murdoch reputation groupies" arrive, sure that if they can take down Murdoch himself, they'll be famous. Murdoch unleashes a hail of gunfire on them and Morden, as well as the control panels. Sharra cries out "nooooo!" and starts fixing the hapless controls. One of the groupies decide that she's also a Bond-babe interested in Ciernan, and make sad eyes at him - Ciernan has to repay the damage Murdoch has done her before he can do anything else.

Much fighting ensues, though the flaws going off left and right are a problem. Sophia shoots Agent Morden with the deshtickinator, stealing one of his shticks (though she never figures out which one). She ponders shooting Akito with it and giving him Morden's shtick in the name of SCIENCE, but, luckily, he's not around for the experiment.

Mirris gathers the background of the groupies, and decides Ciernan is totally hot. Sharra tries to shoot Agent Morden, but a nearby monitor says in a calm monotone, "I'm sorry, Sharra, I cannot allow you to do that" and swivels a chair to block her shot.

Mirris's flaws trigger again, and she realizes that the groupies are part of the eternal struggle between the Mercenary and the Superspy. If they can take down Murdoch, Ciernan will be hers. Meanwhile, Murdoch's mental defenses have overloaded and the neutrino headsets think he's dead (or at least down). Kith panics about the suffering inside.

There's an ominous rumbling noise as the coaster's Master Control Program starts revving up the roller coaster. Agent Morden gets neural disrupted, and finally collapses, to be quickly picked up by Murdoch. One of the groupies finds one of Murdoch's bags of weapons and pulls out a shoulder-mounted weapon and fires. In addition to a lot of damage to the party, this takes Agent Morden down. Oops. As the closest person to the center of the park (the control chair), Sharra turns into the new Agent Morden.

Outside the park, Akito and Kith also hear an ominous rumbling noise, though this turns out to be a horde of bumper cars approaching and waving flags. As Akito is obviously an enemy of the bumper car group (holding one of the cars captive above his head), they start shouting to Get Him! Akito and Kith hop in their bumper car, and a 10-mile-an-hour car chase starts up around the parking lot, to an imaginary soundtrack of the Benny Hill theme song.

Ciernan zaps Murdoch and Dr. Kye with lightning since they've been damaging his Bond babes. Mirris bats her eyes at Ciernan and clings to his arm to try to get him to stop. The mook-babe glowers at Mirris, who is clearly poaching, though Ciernan can't see why.

"I have two arms..." -Ciernan
Having been accelerated to unreasonable velocities, a roller coaster comes crashing through the wall of the control room, with some squashing involved. Ciernan thunderclaps Sharra/Morden, causing her to be dizzy for several actions, and Murdoch grabs her and starts running down the stairwell.

Meanwhile, outside the park, some sort of colorful projectile arcs through the air towards the bumper car. It turns out to be a water balloon, and it splashes all over Ruthie. There's a wet piece of paper on her head which appears to be a note from the Red Boots: "Good job stealing the bumper car. Lead them around the park into line of the water cannon." There isn't a lot elsewhere that Akito can drive the bumper car to stay away from the Colonials, so he does start circling around past the water park, and the water cannon drenches the Colonials.

Meanwhile, Murdoch has gotten outside the park with Sharra-Morden, but is hit by the second amped-up instance of his lack of long-term memory flaw. He can't quite remember what he's doing, other than that he has to keep a hold of Sharra, and that (because Ruthie's flaws are also kicking in) he has to fight Akito.

Akito stands on the edge of the bumper car, ready to tag Sharra, and utters the fateful phrase "Ruthie, take the wheel!" Ruthie does her best to drive the bumper car as close as possible, but Murdoch has started to dodge Sharra out of the way, and Ruthie doesn't have as much dexterity as Akito. However, a karma point later, Akito succeeds in touching Sharra, and there's another Chi explosion. Sophia's shtickinator also explodes, taking Sophia down to one hit point as well, because of super-powered flaws leaving Sophia with some of Agent Morden's disads.

As various psych lims wear off, Mirris remembers that Ciernan isn't actually her type, and the bond-babe groupie is no longer intent on getting Murdoch (converted, like many Bond villain women). Ciernan ditches both of them, though, to make sure Sharra is okay. She is.

With the other three trouble spots dealt with, there's still the MordenWorld Shopping Mall to fix. Xanthippe and Sophia confer, and throw people in and out of the boundary, making observations. Akito can't cross the boundary, himself.

Kye checks Sharra's future history - in addition to the previously known stuff like going to Rupert's Hole in the future, once upon the time in the future, she was Agent Morden! She tried to save the world but she was thwarted by the Guy and his minions.

Sophia finally comes up with a Mad Plan: have Akito wear her belt of spacetime-bubble, which will let him walk into the mall, which then retreats before him. When she hands him the belt, there's another Chi Explosion knocking them both to 1 hit point, which seems somewhat alarming, and, Akito thinks, terribly unfair, until Sophia reminds him that she has one of Agent Morden's flaws. Murdoch takes the belt, and Xanthippe makes it Gold and Glowing and assures Akito that it won't explode him. It doesn't.

Wearing the belt, Akito circles the mall, making it smaller and smaller, until it's small enough to put the belt around. The whole thing gets put in a container marked "Mordenworld, DO NOT OPEN". Meanwhile, the mall's parking lot is strangely stretched to cover the missing space. Xanthippe is given the Mordenworld Tupperware, as she says she can keep it safe, and nobody wants it on the ship.

Ciernan briefs the Hegemon, and then Mirris demands that the Hippocrates leave for Tinara at once, before more plots intrude. Nero and AI-Phaeton offer to check Tinara and Gateway for the router constellation, which they can probably get done before the Hippocrates actually gets to the jumpgate, to aid in actual destination planning.

Puttering (in Riden space on the way to the jump gates)