Snipe Hunt

"Only your closest friends can truly betray you. Watch them carefully - or betray them first."

-- Ozymandias, "Advice from my Enemy",
private printing, 2765.023

Nurl -> New Light (-> Highguard -> Stannis Law)

Wrapping up the loose ends on Nurl: Hippocrates tells Commander Branch that the party's overall plan is "Reunite Red and Blue, and open the closed jumpgates if both sides agree." Commander Branch thinks this is very ambitious, and will think about it. They say they'll tell Donella about the contract, but will urge her not to use it very soon.

Jim asks Mirris to take a look at the blueprints for the Girl Scout manual, to make a guess at how hard it is to hack. She's a little worried that it will try to kill her if she tries to hack it, but no, this is just looking at the blueprints.

"I'm not Deathtrap Girl, nor am I going to be Mrs. Deathtrap..." -Mirris
Then, it's off to New Light. Jim goes to visit Dylanna a few times more, and finishes convincing himself that the Boy Scouts did not, in fact, abandon the Hegemony after all.

Max teaches Ruthie to scan hyperspace, much to Akito's distress. Ruthie tries to get them to fight over the disagreement, but they won't fall for it. Akito and Max do verbally wrangle a bit - Akito wants Max to not undercut his authority over Ruthie, and Max thinks that it's better to have Ruthie playing with the sensors supervised rather than unsupervised.

"Wait, we can't put Dylanna and Donella on the same planet, or everyone will confuse them."
As the Hippocrates heads down towards New Light, they get a call from Sparky Cola, looking for Dr. Kye, or, failing that, the captain and Jim Powell. The gentleman introduces himself as Slatifant Beeges, a Market Penetration Specialist. He's calling with a friendly warning: someone on New Light is sponsoring a "Find Eva" contest.
"I've been looking into it for an hour and a half and I can't figure out who's sponsoring the contest." -Slatifant Beeges
"I bet it rhymes with Doctor Shmain." -Mirris
Slatifant says there may be people on the scavenger hunt trying to sneak onto the ship, but "if there's one guy in particular I wish you wouldn't kill, it's Major Sanders, Retired." Sanders was almost ready to sign on the dotted line to join the Sparky Cola team, but now he's distracted by this "Find Eva" contest.

The crew wonders what the prize is. Slatifant says that no one knows, but they're sure it's darned good. Which is even more mysterious. The contest seems to have started today.

Mirris sends email to the address that Katya got from Sharra to set up a contact with Gabriel. Max scans through the news, and doesn't see anything about the contest, but does realize that the best way to find the person running the contest is to find Eva and win the prize. He also realizes that this is a stupid idea, but it's remarkably persistent.

Akito makes sure to warn Ruthie not to watch TV. Aaah! What will she do? She gets permission to use the holosuite in the Dancer instead - little does she know that the Dancer is still back on Nurl.

Max ponders where Stone and Dr. Cain are. Stone is in the traditional psi damper, but Cain is probably here, except that he's on Stannis law and in space. Well, that's not good.

"Sook didn't make him a backup, did she?" -Jim
"Er, she did mention something about running into Cain..." -Hippocrates
Jim goes to ask Dylanna if she has any ideas about this - she agrees that it sounds like subliminals, with post-hypnotic tags to make the subject interpolate.

Email arrives from Gabriel for Sharra - Hippocrates intercepts it. It's a little vid of Gabriel in his floppy hat, in full Fop mode, asking her to come by. Mirris calls him back, telling him in the same style that she and Katya will go and visit intead.

Hippocrates tells everyone that the party line for people who have no Need to Know is that "Eva died in the plague." Jim points out that he's not actually going to lie to people, but he's willing to tell them "no comment."

The Hippocrates continues to orbit New Light, unwilling to land.

Slatifant calls back, and tells them that he's been looking into it more. There's a web site for the contest, but you can only find it if you have some information to report. Using the information that Eva nearly married Dr. Kye, Sanders found the site.

Hippocrates tries to call General Hornberg, and gets his assistant. They try to work out transferring Dylanna and Vance. The assistant suggests bringing them to a military base. Hippocrates says he'll get back to them when he knows their itinerary.

Slatifant calls again - he can arrange with Major Sanders to bring him on board as an aide, if he promises to not try to break in. Else, he's likely to try and break in. Which would the Hippocrates crew prefer? They aren't very impressed, until Slatifant points out that "retired major" is retired from Special Forces, which means that "Major" is really pretty good at it.

"Get them on the ship, get in their brains, shut them down." -Mirris
Jim suggests doing something to hide the nova bombs and Kaufman tubes before people break on board. Mirris suggests the secret panel she installed in the morgue. Oh, and there's the Black Goo Nanites and the Strategos Key, too. Don't mix them! First Frost of Autumn says there's a good storage area under one of the fuel tanks.

Mirris gets around to cutting the TV feed onto the ship, which causes the Smeerps to call in from the rec room: "Our TV went out, should we talk to Eva or what?" Uh oh.

Mirris locks the four Smeerps who were in the rec room, in. (Two are in med bay guarding the replicator - they weren't watching TV). The Smeerps in the rec room start making plans - organize the field trip to a television studio, finish the dossier on Eva... Mirris cuts their net connection too.

After some discussions between Jim and the Smeerps, they're still a bit confused, but they're on board with not compromising security. They just need to figure out a way to claim the prize without compromising security. They are given two big rules:

"Contest to find Eva? Who'd fall for that?" -the two Smeerps in Medbay
The Smeerps are swapped around a bit - two of the brainwashed guys are moved into Medbay, and the other two are split up and paired with the two unbrainwashed ones.

"Don't let them see your fear."
"It's not fear, it's that the glitter is locked up." -Mirris
Slatifant calls again. Apparently Major Sanders is getting a little antsy. Finally, the Hippocrates lands at a military starport.

As Dylanna is escorted out of the brig, Deidre tells her that Jayla says that her terms for buying her ship are accepted. Dylanna tells Deidre where the Bird of Prey is, and what the codes are to get on board. Deidre doesn't seem pleased about the whole thing.

A squad of Blue marines arrives to offload Dylanna. The people meeting the marines notice that one of the guards looks somewhat disappointed. Mirris abominates him - he was hoping for contest points, but the prisoner isn't Eva. Of course, now Mirris is kinda interested in points too.

Jim tells Dylanna that he'll be back to look in on her, but she doesn't look convinced. Hippocrates sends off a message to General Hornberg in accompaniment.

Next, Vance is turned over to a new set of Blue marines, with a data crystal on his brainwashing treatment. One of the marines remains behind to lurk around near the landing gear hoping to get on board and grab some Eva points, but Akito keeps him pretty well bottled up.

"You cannot vacuum flush things while you are on the planet" -reminder to Katya.
Katya checks around for familiar minds, and notes that Andrej is on planet. She sends him a ping but doesn't set up a thought-read to see if he answers.

Slatifant and Major Sanders finally come on board. Everyone is impressed by Slatifant's suit and handshake. Mirris quickly ambominates him, and announces that he's clean, with a giggle. No one is sure what to make of the giggle.

Katya reads Sander's mind - he's considering asking to use the bathroom, and then sneaking off to look for Eva's stuff.

"We have not a single hex of bathroom. The best you can do is Sludge Reprocessing." -Tom
Slatifant and Sanders are escorted to the conference room for a meeting. Slatifant explains how the market penetration in Blue isn't as good in the teenage girl bracket, because Donella never drinks Sparky Cola in public. Jim suggests some ads with a tie-in to Scouting. Sanders asks for some water - Mirris accompanies him to the mess, joining his team to hunt for Eva-stuff.

Everyone else notices that Sanders has vanished off the tactical map at this point, though Mirris still sees him. First Frost of Autumn confirms that he's by Mirris. Is he particularly well hidden? Yes, First Frost says. Mirris steers him into noticing the plaque for Eva by the bridge. Hmm. She's dead? That's points!

Eventually, the meeting concludes, and Slatifant and Sanders head out again. Katya tries to implant the thought "Maybe I should hold off on reporting this until I have more points," but she isn't very compelling.

Max ponders how to find Dr. Cain - he thinks that wandering around publically with a box of Eva's stuff would do the trick.

Slatifant and Sanders turn in the report of Eva's death from the memorial plaque, and receive the information that providing her corpse will net them 10,000 points. (Or just 1500 points for her hairbrush). Slatifant calls the Hippocrates back to report this - he can easily send Sanders on a wild goose chase off to Riden if that's what they want.

Hippocrates makes up a data crystal with actual information about Eva, for Katya and Mirris to take to the meeting with Gabriel. They decide maybe this would be too good a piece of bait for the Eva Hunt people, so Max says he'll reality-tunnel it to them if they need it.

Katya, Mirris, and Deidre head to Gabriel's house. There's a note that says "Katya dear - I had to run out for a brief errand. Make yourself at home. -Gabby" They let themselves in to make tea.

The Hippocrates finally moves to the civilian spaceport, where there starts to be a lot of interest in it. One of the spaceport security guards offers Hippocrates a new security protocol, with extra guards around the ship as a "test" for their new security. Hippocrates, suspicious, asks to talk to his supervisor, who, sure enough, has no idea about this "test" security protocol. An argument ensues between the security guy and his boss; in the end, Hippocrates is asked if he wants security, and he claims only if the supervisor arranges it personally. The supervisor is nonplussed, but puts some guys on it.

The first thing the new security does is intercept Slatifant Beejes on his way to meet the crew - he claims to have an appointment with Jim Powell. Yeah, right.

"Do you want me to drag him in, or take him out?" -Security guard
Slatifant explains that the web site will give a location to bring things to, if they have an object. So the plan is that the crew will scatter around a bunch of Eva-ish artifacts, in the morgue and Sludge Reprocessing, a saucer and teacup by the captain's chair on the bridge, that sort of thing. Then Sanders can be lured into picking some of them up, and they'll know where to take them.

A car pulls up at Gabriel's house, and parks at the end of the drive. Katya senses thoughts on the driver, and finds that he was hoping no one would be home, so takes off. A second car arrives - this one is Gabriel, who arranges to spill the requisite tea on the bug in the kitchen.

He tells them that three guys got arrested for breaking into the NOC file to get people's secret IDs, looking for Eva's real ID. This whole "Eva hunt" is very unfortunate. They also talk to him about Eva's death, that she turned the tables on the Terrans to save the Pretender, who was necessary to save All People. Gabriel knew of her death via a message from Red, but it was short on the details. He thinks that it would probably be best to not tell Eva's parents the details, as they could think it a betrayal, but Nikolas would understand. Katya offers to deliver a box with a black border to Eva's parents.

Gabriel also begins to think that there's something that they're not telling him about it, but happily, the radio summons them to the combat before he can figure it out. Gabriel definitely wants in on taking down whoever is running the Eva Hunt, so they arrange to get him at a tea shop where he'll be replacing his teapot.

The rest of the crew heads off to the rendezvous - Hippocrates uses his new Technology Control abilities to crash the cars following them (containing more Eva Hunt Scavengers?) into trees and other cars. Hopefully, not too many of them die in the wreckage, but Kith isn't there to check.

The first group gets to the storefront that's being used for prize redemption. Slatifant and Sanders go in - the desk is staffed by an Electronic Bureaucrat, which tells them to go to Processing Center G to turn in the hairbrush. Slatifant tries to haggle and gets them to go from 2500 points to 4500 points.

The building's windows are boarded up, so there's no good way in the back. Jim floats around on his scooter, while the rest of the group tries to bluff their way in. Max, Hippocrates, and Akito are nobody's problem, except that they are, actually, the Electronic Bureaucrat's problem. Oops.

In Processing Center G, the hairbrush is verified on a holographic imager, and a hair is extracted for analysis.

Max thinks Cain is sort of all around, but mostly in the back. Hippocrates tries to claim that he's here to redeem an item for prize points, and gives the same code as Slatifant. He's told to proceed to Processing Area D. Max mentions that there are blasters hidden in the walls, though nobody else spots them. Jim thinks the robots aren't a threat yet, but they could be.

(While the plan is supposed to be "bluff until the other side starts shooting at us", the shooting seems to be slow to come.)

Slatifant tries to sell some further information, that he knows where Eva's body is buried.

"In the Riden crypt, under the name "Elaine Kye"." -Slatifant
"She wouldn't do that." -Electronic Bureaucrat
"She was dead. She had no choice in the matter."
"Good point."
The Electronic Bureaucrat offers Slatifant 50,000 bonus points for the location of Voriig Kye. Slatifant counter-offers: how about 200,000? Yes, yes, he can have have all the bonus points. Where is Kye? Slatifant wants to haggle - he's not falling for the prize campaign. He wants something real. Well, that could be harder, the Electronic Bureaucrat admits.

"You don't want the details, you'd be happier without them." -Electronic Bureaucrat
It takes a moment more to warn the guards: "By the way, sentry, those people are your problem." Hippocrates starts suppressing blasters near him.

Slatifant and the Electronic Bureaucrat (who is really beginning to sound a lot like Dr. Cain) haggle further over the price for Dr. Kye. Slatifant likes the sound of eternal life, but Cain admits that it's mostly the fraudlent sort, or else the kind that Slatifant really wouldn't enjoy, with an awful lot of tubes in unpleasant places. How about the trick with the subliminals? No, he's already done that. He can't do the same thing twice.

"Oh, are you one of those scientist things that can't do the same thing twice?"
"No, I'm better than them. But I still can't do the same thing twice."
People continue to sort of sneak about while Slatifant distracts the most Cain-like Electronic Bureaucrat. There is still a distinct lack of shooting.
"What can you give me for Dr. Kye's information at all times?"
"Could you provide cruise missle targetting information"
Mirris joins the guards' team, hoping to see the Big Boss.
"I used to date the guy who Eva almost married." -Mirris
"You can get points for that!" -Guard
Hippocrates finally opens the door between the processing center and the far back area. This causes all the Electronic Bureaucrats in the front to start shutting down. Jim notes that they're all about to go into battle mode. The party flees for the back area, as do most of the guards.

Slatifant tells his Sparky Cola guys to attack the node NOW! His team of elite sys-admins/IT professionals back at a cybercafe near Sparky Cola headquarters, start hacking the building.

In the back of the building, there are a lot of lab workers doing various sorts of analyses, and a large black curtain. Jim pulls the curtain back to reveal a large computer screen, behind a plexi-steel wall.

The screen starts attempting to convince people to serve it, in order to get the prize, but most of the party is pretty strong-willed.

"If your robot minion idiots kill me, then you'll never figure out how to get Dr. Kye! I can give him to you on a platter!" -Slatifant
There is some skirmishing with the guards, though much of the ensuing carnage is caused by Slatifant convincing the workers to head into the killer robot area to get mowed down, according to Jim's plan. Slatifant begins to feel vaguely guilty about all the people he's sending to die:

"I'm going to feel bad about this in my report." -Slatifant
"You need one of these!" -Rose, showing Drew a psych lim
"Mother/daughter bond?"
"Oops, no, no." (switches psych lim)
"Willing to sacrifice others"
Akito leaps into the air, and hangs, ominously. The screen finally gets Katya to believe it, and she promptly shoots Jim.

"Attention killer robots. Enough of this teams nonsense. Everyone everywhere must die." -CAIN screen
After several rounds of shaped charges and general damage, the CAIN screen finally goes down. Akito lands in its wreckage, a moment later, making a small crater.

Cassandra calls Hippocrates on the radio. Twig asked her to pass the message along that they are leaving the planet, as the situation has gotten completely out of hand with all the treasure hunters swarming the ship.

"Katya Lavalor, the screen is down, there is no freaking prize. Your father would not be impressed." -Slatifant
Max leaps (surprisingly acrobatically) to grab Katya's foot (she's flying), and calls out to her "Katya - Resist! You have the strength!" (Sadly, people laugh.)

"One should not swing on the Hegemon as if she were a rope!"
Once the CAIN screen is destroyed, the killer robots finally go back to being bureaucrats. Slatifant's call to 911 is finally answered, but since the combat is done, he says there's a sleepy driver on the highway and they should check on it. Outside, Jim's scooter is no longer there - apparently stolen by the few guards who were locked out and then fled.

Hippocrates and Slatifant's hackers consider the self-destruct. It apparently "destroys the killer robots and releases the counter-programming." The counter-programming looks like another subliminal ad campaign, which should enable Cain to "fade away into the wind and not tip my hand". Mirris guesses that running the program is better than not.

They run the self-destruct, which gives a thirty second countdown. A lot of people look like they're going to wait to make sure everyone else leaves, but Mirris manages to extend the countdown for another thirty seconds, which causes everyone to run. A few of the unconscious lab techs are dragged to safety, and then the building explodes.

Twig calls back.

"Invaders: incapacitated.
Hallways: lined.
Goop: everywhere.
Tinoori: incapacitations, multiple.
Linnet and Ruthie: leaping, multiple.
Ruthie: gunfire, commendable."

Slatifant hires Sanders onto the Sparky Cola team. The hackers report that in the final moments of the CAIN box, a bunch of data appears to have been mailed to an address belonging to a biotech firm on Stannis Law.

Jim, Max and Akito go to track down Jim's scooter. They raid a chop shop, with much leaping about and chopping.

The party resolves to proceed to Stannis Law, as soon as they've talked to Donella, and with a stop on Highguard to talk to Eva's parents.

NOTE: To try and get some of these resolved in a more timely fashion, puttering will take place on New Light, Highguard, and Stannis Law.