"Questions expand the universe. Answers constrain it."
-- Dr. Xydopochnat Nehta, AS 2776
Highguard -> New Light -> Stannis Law
Kith wonders why there's a possessed bumper car on board; everyone assures her that it's not possessed, just stolen. Well, that clears that up. Katya finishes her "Build a Better Chocolate Chip Cookie" baking project.
Akito, wandering around the ship, hears Dr. Cain knocking. He pokes his head in the outside of the brig - Dr. Cain wants to know if Akito can have Kith bring "another cup of that delightful tea? Preferably anise-flavored this time." Kith makes some tea and Akito gets sent down with it.
People discuss what should be done with Cain.
"I would have pushed him out the airlock, but Hippocrates is on this moral kick these days." -KyeJim thinks the best idea is to take him to Red and turn him over. He's not actually the same guy (he's a clone) as the one who broke out of jail, and he'll probably be able to prove that, but it might keep him out of the way for a little while.
"These days?" -Jim
As Maury had been pestering people to go through the prototype clear tubes, Max goes through a clear cycle and comes out no longer suffering from Kaufman Degeneration, but suffering from hemophilia instead.
Cain bangs on the brig door again, this time asking for cinnamon-flavored tea. Akito is dubious at all this tea for prisoners. Kith explains that she's trying to make the brig comfortable to reduce the suffering of the occupants.
"There are comfy pillows in the brig?" -AkitoSpeaking of comfy pillows, Kith picks up a bunch of extra bedrolls, just in case the Hippocrates has to transport thirty extra passengers again.
Ruehan cycles through the Clear tube and comes out with myasthenia gravis; any sort of exertion tires him out a lot. Since Ruehan's body is only 1, he has to take frequent naps, which is a bit disconcerting, as he normally doesn't sleep at all. Diagnosis has a harder time figuring out what's up with him, though, as he just seems more dead than usual.
Viktor says he'd appreciate a ride back to Red, and it sounds like that's where Cain is going to go to. Akito has grown quite impatient with the continued dithering, not to mention his sister complaining about the lack of good television, so he declares it Time To Go and calls for a launch window.
"HMS Hippocrates requesting clearance. Please. Please?"
"Akito?" -KithAs the Hippocrates heads towards the jumpgate, Akito notices Ruthie stomping around the mess hall grumbling. When he asks her what the problem is, she complains that she's been listening to the radio traffic from other systems, and the season finale for the Laddie show is cancelled. That is, it was supposed to have a cool season finale where Laddie would use all his skills to save the world and it would have been exciting and great, but now it's this stupid clip show with just reminiscing about stuff he's done in the past.
"Yes, ma'am?" -Akito
"Next time, can you give us half an hour notice?"
Sophia hops in the Clear tubes and comes out with a bad case of schizophrenia, various voices in her head telling her to do things. Physically, she's fine, though, so none of the doctors are sure what's wrong with her.
Dr. Cain calls for yet another pot of tea. Jim heads down to see what's going on - he seems to have a tea collection.
"This is going to be bad." - Jim.
"Don't give him the chewing gum wrapper. String is okay, but dear God, not the chewing gum." -Sophia
"We just need to get Dr. Cain to tell Viktor that we need to go to New Light...." -TomJim demands all the teacups back from Dr. Cain. He grudgingly drinks all the rest of the tea and then stands on his head, letting Jim take the teacups.
Ruehan is reminded that Indiana, Hippocrates' dog, is a "mind control dog", and goes down to visit. Indiana isn't in Hippocrates' quarters, though. Ruehan asks First Frost of Autumn to look for him, and determines that he's down in the mess hall being fed dog treats by Dr. Kye. Wait, that's Indiana? Dr. Kye thought that was Dog?. Ruehan confirms that this dog has a lot of active psi.
Max puts together some collars in Fabrication to tell the dogs apart, but they seem to be evidencing an ability to teleport around.
Katya asks Ghier if he wants to be on the Official Team to Remember the Flames Plan, but Ghier admits that most people think he's not very good at remembering things. Katya says that he could write it down in a book; Ghier says he'd be happy to write it down in a book for Katya if she needs that. But it sounds like Ghier is more interested in trying to visit the Tarn worlds again; he recommends Sam, Binder of Lightnings as a good sensible chap who can remember things.
Kye cycles through the Clear tube, and comes out with a bad case of chorea (twitching).
Jim explains to Viktor that they have to go to New Light to rescue a dog, although really it has to do with stopping Agent Morden from taking over the universe. Viktor allows as how saving the universe trumps his personal travel plans.
Sophia starts brainstorming about dogs; between Indiana reassuring her that she's great and the voices in her head, she starts to slip into a Kingdom of the Dogs sort of mode, but nobody really notices.
"Jim, this is the bridge." -AkitoAkito cycles through the Clear tubes and comes out with a horrible case of warts. He promptly changes into a ninja suit, though Max downloads a copy of the video logs for future taunting purposes.
"I'm on the bridge." -Jim
Jim sends a message off to Geoffrey Oxford with the blueprints for the Boy Scout Manual. Ruehan remembers - wasn't there something about Jim becoming a Phoenix? Yes, he's a Phoenix now. Well, did he think about things with psychohistory? Yes, but it's complicated. Jim promises to issue a report to a crew on the Psychohistorical Aspects of the Plan soon, rather than try to summarize now.
The crew briefly contemplates going to Stannis Law first to get Mendel, and then going to New Light to get Laddie. Sophia clarifies that they don't have to end up on New Light, just get the five dogs together. And the voices in her head say that Laddie is more important, though she doesn't mention it's the voices. Well, off to New Light for real, then.
Ruehan also talks to Viktor about the fact that they're going to New Light.
"Apparently, there's a dog in peril." -ViktorDr. Cain bangs on the door again. He's spilled his tea - can he get some cloth and some PineSol? Dr. Kye heads down, and lets him out of the cell, so as to escort him to "the supply closet". Jim, on the bridge, notes the cell door opening, and calls Dr. Kye. Kye says they're going to the supply closet. Jim calls a red alert, and most of the rest of the party converges on them before Kye can get to an airlock.
"I escort him to the bridge. The brig. The brig." -Jim.Akito cleans up the careful mess Cain has made with his tea. Cain professes gratitude, but quietly sulks. Kith wonders whether Kye's misbehavior is anomalous or just standard-issue Kye, and then notes that he's begun to think he's king of the world, due to Indiana's influence.
All three dogs (Paddy, Indiana, and Dog?) all get rounded up and put in Hippocrates' stateroom with Sophia, while she contemplates them. She starts building a dog track for them to play on.
Not a moment too soon, the Hippocrates lands on New Light. Ruehan tells Viktor that they'll likely be there for a day or two, so he puts on his disguise, and heads off to do some reconnaissance (with his two Elite). Everyone else (except for Sophia, who is busy upgrading the racetrack to a dog habitrail with hanging balls to jump for) heads off to look for Laddie.
Wait, no, they don't head off - there is still dithering to be done. Are they going to Get Laddie, or just get him? (Ruehan wants to know if they're really suppose to Get 'Em on the dog). Max determines that some people have been hiring detectives, and it's probably been the show's production company, not anyone more nefarious.
The Dog Habitrail starts filling the room; people decide maybe this is a little much, and Akito is sent to extract Sophia from the stateroom. Kith scrubs Indiana's influence off of Sophia, leaving her a little less obsessed with dogs. Now the Iron Chef music starts playing in her head, and she decides that it's time to prove that she's the Supreme Mad Scientist, not Dr. Cain. She starts wandering around the lab, preparing two bags of ingredients, though nothing seriously explosive.
Everyone but Sophia heads off to look for Laddie, leaving the Smeerps to guard the door to Hippocrates' quarters, and telling the Tinoori to accept no input from the brig. That leaves Sophia free to head to the brig and challenge Dr. Cain to an Iron Mad Science competition. She locks herself in, so now they're both in the brig. Since she's seen the ingredients already, she gives him two minutes to look. They divide up the bed and the desk and chair with a marker, in case they need to be cannibalized. Cain thinks he should get a neutrino radio too, but Sophia won't let him have one, and promises not to use one herself. Cain picks the theme: largest gun.
Meanwhile, the dog hunters have followed Max's lead to a dank alley, where it turns out at the end of the alley is a dog investigating a cage filled with dog treats. There's a guy with a string tied to the door, saying, "Just a little more. Go in and get the yummy treats!" The party arrives, and Ruehan gives the cry: "Get 'em!"
Dr. Kye charges, followed by everyone else. The man curses, and flees, and the dog teleports away. Max follows it. A merry chase ensues, around a couple of blocks, but they eventually manage to catch the dog and turquoise him so he stops bopping around. (Mostly.) They drag him back to the ship.
Of course, back on the ship, Drs. Cain and Symphony-Hayes have just finished their Iron Mad Science competition. But how to test it? They agree to shoot one shot each at the wall of the brig and see who gets a better hole. (The Smeerps, meanwhile, have been chasing the dogs around the ship, as they keep teleporting out of the dog habitrail.)
The rest of the party returns with Laddie, just in time to hear some zapping noises from the brig, and charge down there at top speed. Sophia explains. Dr. Cain explains. There is some pointing of guns about the area in general confusion, until Cain gets TK-grabbed, disarmed, and mind-controlled to sit down and shut up. He glares from the corner at this new unfairness, but Kith takes pictures of the holes in the wall for later judgement.
As this is a little eccentric even for Sophia, people start making psych rolls on her. Schizophrenia seems likely. A Protocol is developed, where Kith will try and reduce Sophia's own influence on herself every forty-five minutes, to try and keep her crazy ideas to a minimum (as opposed to her Mad ideas, which are still necessary).
Ruehan calls Viktor, to say that they're going to be leaving shortly. Wait, what happened to a couple of days? It's only been an hour! He's in the middle of something! The party dithers about whether to stay for a couple of days to let Viktor finish his whatever he's doing, but Sophia still thinks it's important to get this dog thing finished sooner rather than later. Viktor says okay, go deal with your dog emergency, he can take care of himself. Ruehan offers what aid he can, including starting to offer the Pierogi embassy if Viktor runs into trouble, but then realizes Viktor has an embassy of his own he can probably run to in a pinch. Viktor thinks he'll be fine, though. The party ponders whether to tell the Law Minister that Viktor is here - she was going to be all over setting up a party, and it'd be good to throw Viktor and Donella together - but Ruehan holds out pretty strongly that they shouldn't undermine Viktor personally. So they tell him that he should talk to the Minister of Law, but don't tell her. And then, it's off to Stannis Law!
Jim finishes redeeming Dylanna and convinces her that she doesn't deserve to die (just in time to take her to the planet that wants to kill her), and talks to her about going to Gateway after to take out Klothos. He figures she won't be caught - it was only because they knew her that they caught her on Cabry - but she reminds him that it was pretty obvious who was responsible on Stannis Law, and her fingerprints would have been on Cabry after it was all over. Well, they'll deal with that later.
Arriving in system in Stannis Law, and then heading down to orbit the planet, the Hippocrates hails Mendel Station. Nobody responds. Well, that's no good. Max notices, up on the scanners, a robot dog floating in space near the station (apparently having trouble with teleport as well). Jim heads out in a spacesuit and picks up the robot dog.
Now that all five dogs are together, they're less like five individual dogs and more like an electron cloud of dogs, with a general area where there are definitely dogs. Sophia has been thinking about how to combine them, and explains that you have to use a more complex version of a Schrödinger box. You put each dog in a box, and subject it to a complex probabilistic field in which it might get killed or might not, until the probabilities are such that all of them but one have been killed. That will collapse the five partial-dog potentialities down to one dog again. As long as no one looks in any of the boxes until it's done. Everyone else just nods.
Sophia notes that doing this on an unpopulated section of the planet is probably best, just in case something goes wrong. It would be unfortunate to have to put a Morden-universe Hippocrates in a dimensional tupperware forever.
Mendel asks if it's absolutely necessary that he be synched into his body for the experiment. Sophia tells him that it is, and assures him that he'll get to be part of Dog? again. Somehow, he doesn't find this very comforting, but does concede that saving the Linked Worlds is probably more important.
Akito lays some big brother mojo on Ruthie. There will be no peeking, or trying to save Dog?, okay? She agrees, theoretically... Akito gets Kith to help with some actual psi compulsion, because Ruthie's disobedient tendencies could be Really Really Bad in this case.
Sophia also explains that the Mordenverse will probably start to assert itself as the dogs come back together. To start with, the party will be transparently orthogonal to the Mordenverse (except Akito, who's immune), but the more that people interact with it, the harder it will be to not turn into Agent Morden.
The ritual begins. (For those wondering, the Schrödinger box mechanic involves throwing velcro cows at a velcro pie plate with four quadrants: Yes, No, Maybe, and Huh. The ideal configuration is two cows in Yes (thus collapsing one of them), and one cow each in everything else.)
The frozen tundra of Stannis Law fades out, and a courtyard in the middle of a city, with a moat around a gazebo area, fades in. Agent Mordens start appearing from around corners - first one, then two, then three, and so on. They charge the party, though any of the Agent Mordens near Akito go for him in particular.
People discover that the dice they roll having any effect on the Mordenverse accumulate in a running total - they don't kick in until whatever it is affects an Agent Morden, though (e.g. Katya's shields don't count as "affecting" the Mordenverse until Agent Morden hits someone who has them). Every time someone (except Akito) affects the Mordenverse, they have to make a Str of Mind roll with any KS: homeworld or KS: Hippocrates / Hippocrates crew that they have. Sophia promptly notes that she took a class in KS: Ganfrey at the Academy.
As the Schrödinger-cow-throwing continues, Ruehan accidentally gets a second Maybe, and is given the choice between letting the universe get somewhat more uncertain, and deciding something that he had previously left undecided. He decides something.
Akito keeps taking out Agent Mordens, while Katya TK-shields about half of the perimeter of the gazebo. Max fetches a box from the ship with potentiality from the Well.
Ruehan gets the first double-Yes, proving himself a Master of Cow-Throwing. For the next turn, Sophia manages to adjust the device so that it's a little easier.
Akito discovers that he can "pull aggro" by running around the outside perimeter, while Jim does some machine-gun sweeps. Jim pushes the cumulative total high enough that he and Sophia are the only ones likely to not turn into Agent Morden.
Max open his box from the Well, and gets an inflatable life raft, which can be used to block a number of hexes. About this time, though, Katya fails a roll and turns into an Agent Morden, dropping all her shields and walls, so the life raft isn't so helpful.
Both Max and Sophia get double-Maybes, and have to make decisions. Kith gets the second double-Yes, followed by Ruehan.
Max summons his box of potentiality from Rupert's Hole, and pulls out an articulated practice dummy dressed like a ninja. (It would prove a good distraction for Agent Mordens, except Akito and Jim do a pretty good job keeping them suppressed).
Ruehan gets another double-Yes, leaving just one dog to go! Everyone defers to Ruehan's cow throwing skills, and sure enough, he gets the last one on target. All the Agent Mordens left standing rush towards Akito all at once, and there's a huge Chi explosion in which the Mordens vanish and Akito collapses. The Mordenverse fades out, hopefully for the last time.
Sophia explains that the boxes are safe to open, but the last box is likely to be the one that has a dog in it. Much argument ensues about what the last box should be - Dog? or Mendel. Sophia thinks Akito should choose. Akito thinks that Dog? should be the last one, because he was the one in the beginning. Katya and Jim think that Mendel should be last, because he's sentient. Much argument ensues.
Well, there are some easy possibilities to start with. Indiana's box and Laddie's box are opened, and there are no dogs inside. Then Paddy's box is opened, and Paddy is inside. Well, that's very confusing. On the other hand, Paddy never looked the same as the others.
Ruehan, all tuckered out, takes a nap.
Akito calls Ruthie, who shows up and says "save Dog?!" People try to convince her that she should choose "save Mendel" but she points to Paddy as evidence that Mendel won't necessarily be in trouble. Akito says okay, stop trying to convince Ruthie, convince him. Akito notes that Paddy no longer acts like Dog?, for what that's worth. And only he remembers the Laddie show at all, at this point. Okay, so... Mendel pre-dated Dog? splitting. And so did Paddy. But Laddie and Indiana might not have. Or they might have. It's hard to know now. So, maybe... if being a dog had guaranteed Mendel's survival some time in the past, he'd be dead now? Nobody can think of any stories Mendel has told that say "and it was a good thing I had this dog avatar" so maybe not.
More argument ensues. Kye supports Akito's gut feeling, which is to go back to Dog? the way it was to start with. Jim says Mendel is a person and Dog? isn't, so you have to save the person. Max points out that it's not as cut and dried as "save the person" because it's not at all clear how much risk there actually is to Mendel. Sophia thinks maybe they should ask Dr. Cain, but nobody else likes that idea.
Finally, Akito says "well, and, Sophia, you should tell me what this means", and dramatically takes off his mask. He still has warts. Everyone says yes, he still has warts. Akito is dumbfounded. What about the part where he looks like Agent Morden now? Don't be silly, everyone says. Agent Morden was a creepy bald kid, and you look nothing like him. Akito's always had the same color hair as Talia. Akito continues to insist that his body is all wrong. Jim reassures Akito that everyone has phases they go through when they're growing, where their bodies feel wrong to them, but it passes. Oh, that's too much. Akito sulks back into silence.
After a final spate of argument, Akito opens the Mendel box, and then the Dog? box - the Mendel box is empty, and the Dog? box has Dog? in it. The party radios back to the ship - Mendel is on his space station and has never had a dog avatar. He thinks that would be goofy and a lack of opposable thumbs and inability to talk would be rather unfortunate for a botanical researcher.
Then, it's back to the Hippocrates, which moves from the tundra to a real spaceport. Ruehan is tucked into a Green tube to sleep.
A group of Stannis Law police and customs officials show up. They would like: