Wolfpack Hippocrates

"Sometimes the best way to find a missing sock is to lose another sock after it. And that way, if you fail, you still have an even number of socks."

-- Julian Meyerdahl, memetic linguistophilologer, AS 2031

Stannis Law -> Riden -> Crux -> Bastion -> Crux

Before leaving Stannis Law, a few loose ends are wrapped up. An IPX employee drops by to mention that there was a Tragic Theft at a Memento Mori warehouse. But sometimes thieves find things that they don't know what they are. Kye tells the guy that he has an amnesty box for just this occasion. A mysterious object is deposited in the box while Kye isn't looking. The IPX employee thanks Kye for the tour of the ship and heads off again.

Meanwhile, Hippocrates, Sophia, Ruehan, Ciernan, and Katya have headed to the biotech firm suspected of working for Cain. Ciernan notes that the head of the firm is a mahjong tile with puce circles. The firm itself generally does organ cloning for transplantation - Hippocrates pretends to be interested in this as an addition to Kafuman tech (which doesn't regrow organs and limbs whole cloth). Ciernan asks about cloning a new hand - yes, they could do that. (Though probably easier to grow an ancephalic body and take the hand).

The group is generally quite friendly to Sophia, and when she asks about the whole-body clone processes, they show her one that has something that looks like a mad electronic widget attached. But don't touch that! Sophia speculates that it was used for Cain to download himself into the cloned body. Katya and Ruehan get that the people there are concerned that their client ran off so fast - they would have liked to keep an eye on his new body for a little longer. The image Katya gets is somewhat reminiscent of the old Dr. Cain, but younger.

Sophia leaves a card for Dr. Cain with a note: "Sorry to have missed you!". One of the techs wonders in astonishment if Sophia is in a clone body ("the muscle memory is older than the muscles") but she says no, it's rejuv. He wants to know if that's been published - yes, but the papers were destroyed. In the plague? "Something like that."

Meanwhile, Kye goes to the dig to investigate the site that Memento Mori scavenged before the New Light auctions. He doesn't find a lot there, though confirms that the house was destroyed by fire. He also gets a mental image of the original occupant. Then, he visits Geoffrey Oxford with the information. Oxford vaguely recognizes the scoutmaster - he met him a few times on Juice. Does Oxford know anything about the rings (the one with the Skyguard sigil and the one with the Scout sigil which have DNA-identifying technology and are a set of "keys" for something)? No. Even in his time, such things would have been very expensive and custom-made technology.

Next, the group heads to Riden, where they promptly split in all directions. Kye establishes a GE local offices, so now there are offices in both Hegemonies and Stannis Law. He encounters Dr. Lissa van Trent at that Archaeological Bureau. She had apparently just recovered from a bout with one of the Sundown plagues, and is now ready to head back there. Dr. Kye wishes her luck.

Sophia and Akito investigate ambulances, and the many ways of reserving them. Specifically on their mind is how to get Ciernan's hand off and back on again. They research trauma surgeons specializing in limb reattachment and when they are on call as well as traffic routes between the ruined Crystal Palace and the hospitals.

Meanwhile, Hippocrates, Katya, Ciernan, and Ruehan get an appointment with the Red Hegemon. Hippocrates explains that they are considering opening jumpgates - the ones that Red gets to consider are Tinara/Sundown and Tinara/Stannis Law. Shaddam is actually more immediately concerned with their plans for the Nonesuch/Crux jump gate. Hippocrates explains that he was going to leave that up to the Crux parliament - Shaddam points out that ignoring the Nonesuch government would be something of an insult to them, but that Klothos does have quite a lot of influence there. Having the decision made by "the Outworlds" and "Red" as parties involved might allow Shaddam to leverage that against Klothos, but Hippocrates doesn't think it should be Red's call at all. Nor should Klothos get any say. Shaddam thinks it's iffy to treat Nurl as its own government for these purposes, but not Nonesuch; Hippocrates clarifies that the Brochoan protectorate is their ally and Klothos isn't. Well, as long as it's a deliberate inconsistency; Shaddam understands those.

For reference, the party long ago found some records on Crux regarding closing the jump gate:

On 2462.093, the resolution was made to break the jumpgate from Crux to Nonesuch. The remnants of the Hegemony appear to no longer be able to fix broken jumpgates, and this would serve as a firebreak between the Outworlds and the increasing chaos of the Inworlds. The resolution was adopted by Omphalos Regnant, and opposed by Linking Humanity. The Council of Envoys weighed in in favor of the resolution; the envoy from Nonesuch dissented. The resolution saw immediate passage, 82 to 18. The Defenders will be sending their flagship, the Valkyrie, to fire upon the jumpgate; one ship each from Bastion, Sparta, Creek, Pierogi, Lendt, Nonesuch, and Rupert's Hole will escort.
The party also goes over their plans for the next Flames. Hippocrates explains the plan for Scouts and Religion and Donella marrying Shaddam or Viktor. Shaddam is a little taken aback at that, as he thought he had been given the impression that there would be a discussion where the various options would be discussed. Perhaps he misunderstood (with a Look at Katya). Are all possible options involving Katya's line and Jayla's line now off the table? The party hedges a bit - they aren't necessarily ruling the other plans out, but they think this one is best. Are they accepting counter-plans? Well, yes, probably. He says he'll come up with some.

Afterwards, Katya arranges to meet Viktor for lunch to see if Shaddam talked to him about their conversation. Viktor notes that Shaddam thinks that the party left him out of the loop of a stage of the planning somewhere, when he thought they had promised to include him - and since he bases a lot of his judgement on whether he thinks he can believe someone, that might have been a mistake. But Viktor really doesn't want to argue.

During lunch, everyone else is at the ruins of the Crystal Palace enacting Sophia's plan. She unveils the monofilament sword she created for the occasion and instructs Deirdre in its use (and dangers). Ruehan hallucinates everyone to make them see the original palace and Deirdre and Ciernan re-enact the fight part of the scene at the palace where Ciernan originally "lost" his hand. As planned, Deirdre chops his hand off. They grab the hand and run to the waiting ambulance while the illusion of the palace collapses all around them. Some skillful surgery and a lot of anti-radiation drugs later, Ciernan is in recovery with a cast.

Sophia decides to celebrate by going out drinking and Akito tags along. She overestimates her stamina a bit though, (it's been a long day), and before too long, she's dancing on a table surrounded by adoring men! Akito decides this is getting out of hand, so grabs her off the table, slings her over his shoulder and starts running back to the Hippocrates. Unfortunately, most of the bar objects, and what amounts to a roving riot starts pursuing. Hippocrates intercepts with many vials of Relaxation, and Akito manages to get away with the inebriated Dr. Symphony-Hayes.

Then, it's off to the outworlds. Gateway looks very busy - there's a lot of traffic through the Nonesuch gate. The Hippocrates gets in line. When the Gateway pilot ship contacts them, and gets their identification, they immediately apologize for the delay and explain that the Hippocrates is cleared for an immediate priority jump at their discretion. No harbor pilot will be necessary. What? Hippocrates calls back and gets a supervisor to confirm. Yes, that's right, no harbor pilot is necessary, and they may proceed to the front of the line at will.

Ciernan notes that that is probably Klothos making it look like the party is her agents, and is a nice move. The Hippocrates heads through the jump gate, sans pilot, quite disconcerted.

"Hippocrates thrashes his hard drives thinking about how annoying it is that we don't have a harbor pilot."
In Nonesuch, the Gateway ship also doesn't try to dock with them once they ID themselves.
"I should just tractor them into the shuttle bay." -Hippocrates
Then, it's on to Crux. Mail arrives for Ruehan, letting him know that a number of the Vertaki await his pleasure at the Pierogi embassy, to speak to him on a matter of the greatest urgency. Also, Ciernan wants to see a healer at the Academy about his hand. He makes an appointment for the next day.

Ruehan meets the other Vertaki at the Pierogi embassy, where Davira and the others tell him that it is time for Pierogi to have a single leader beyond the Game of Houses, and they wish him to be that leader. He will be presented to Parliament shortly. (Plus Davira really wants to know how he managed to get all of that support so quickly without her noticing, but he's not telling her). They would like him to remain on Pierogi, but he cashes his boon to get to keep running around on the Hippocrates.

Ruehan works on explaining his new promotion to the party:

"The Vertaki want a leader, they want me to be that leader, and I have arranged for them to want me as that leader."
There's a formal Parliament meeting. The Hippocrates crew is seated in a VIP section - Akito and Sophia put away their portable video games. Davira (with some additional mesmerizing impressiveness) makes a very impressive speech announcing Ruehan as the new Marquis of Pierogi. Ruehan makes another speech (also enhanced by Davira, and with bonus power projection from Ciernan), talking about cooperation between the Outworlds.

As people clap, Sophia notes that there's a group from the Defender party conferencing in the back. Ciernan eavesdrops - they're talking about some sort of "complete transportation breakdown" with people stranded all over the place.

Parliament is about to adjourn to a reception, but the Defenders say they're sorry to interrupt, but they do have new business: the Bastion government has just declared a planetary emergency. Their Navigation Control has just gone down, and ships are needed to assist with efforts to retrieve stranded people and in other related rescue efforts.

People begin to conference to decide what ships to send. Hippocrates offers to leave his fighter squadron for general defense, so larger ships can be sent.

Ciernan, as always, jumps to some generally correct conclusions.

"The criminal mastermind tried to steal DaVinci two runs ago, if Deep Blue has suddenly gone missing, I got to give at least 50% odds they're responsible." -Ciernan
The Hippocrates priority jumps into the Bastion system. As far as ships go, it's fairly quiet, but the radio traffic is a chaotic mess. Hippocrates calls Navigator Control. It wants to know if he needs rescuing. No, they're here to help. Oh, good - please go pick up a group of people stranded at a mining settlement with a declining air supply.

Hippocrates works on trying to get through to someone higher - eventually he reaches someone in Navigator Control who knows that he knows Deep Blue. All the guy will say over the radio is that "Central is down."

The miners are duly rescued. They normally get resupplied with new air in canisters, but those deliveries hadn't happened for days. Ciernan refreshes the air, but they'd still prefer to be somewhere else for the moment.

Then, with Navigator Control's permission, the Hippocrates proceeds to Third Bastion and the old Skyguard base. The moon has a very thin atmosphere, requiring masks for long-term visits, and the base resembles nothing so much as a defensible bunker. After an interminable amount of checking of identification and palmprinting (Sophia already has an ID in the system, so the guards start deferring to her, a little more than would normally be warranted), the group proceeds down a very deep elevator to the base itself.

The investigating officer says that as near as they can tell, on the last resupply ship, the air canisters were contaminated, causing an atmospheric breach and knocking people out. There was some combat, and the guards were overpowered, though none fatally. When they came to and reinforcements arrived, they found that Central was off-line.

Ciernan shows people the pictures of the Criminal Masterminds - yes, two of the most recent transfers to the guard division were these two guys. Is there a list of what ships have left system since Central went down? Not as well as they'd like - Central stopped tracking when it went down.

The party heads through door after door to the chamber where Deep Blue actually is. There are a number of computer banks, but the one at the back, which looks like Hippocrates, has no blinking lights. The chief engineer says that it's suffered a massive software failure.

Reviewing the security tapes is mildly enlightening. Outside the computer core room, a guard clutches his throat, goes to put on a breather mask, and then the camera goes black. Moments after that, inside the core, there's a guy with a pad of paper taking notes - the lights go off, and then everything goes black.

Talking to the two guards, the one outside thinks he was jumped by three or four people, but he didn't see any blackness. The guy inside didn't know what happened to him.

Kye checks Deep Blue's hardware. The equipment was massively violated, by... nothing at all.

"We hate her." -Ciernan
Ciernan notes that coming all the way to Bastion is actually collecting AIs, not just randomly picking up any AIs laying around because they're good loot. While any recent ship movements would be lost, positions of ships before Deep Blue went down would still be there in auxiliary storage, if his setup is anything like DaVinci's. Yup, it's still there. Two ships would have been in position to swoop in at the time that Deep Blue went off line - are either of them still around?

People ponder which way they are likely to have gone. Either jumped to Crux, or gone straight to Nonesuch through the dust nebula - but either way, they're likely to be in Nonesuch in about a month, so perhaps the Hippocrates can intercept them. Hippocrates thinks that this is part of their Master Plan to steal the Gateway battlestation. Ciernan points out that they're criminals, they probably don't want a battlestation - if they were going to steal something AI-powered, they'd steal Joyous Gard. Or secretly control it, or something.

Ciernan tells the investigation to try and find a mage who can locate things at a distance. Navigator Control informs everyone that they're about to try an experimental navigation system. Shortly thereafter, two navigators (and a psi who can locate things) show up. The navigators look smug.

The party shows the broken download-an-AI-device (thrown away in the dumpster after the DaVinci theft) to the Finder, and tell him to look for a functional one. He thinks that there used to be one around here, but it's gone now, at least, out of his range. Kye tries to scry for others of the type, and thinks maybe there's one somewhere, but some of his psi gets eaten.

"We hate her." -Kye
Navigator Control calls back. Of the two ships pulled out of Deep Blue's last logs, one just finished a rescue mission and is on First Bastion, and the second has... well, they've lost track of it. The most recent flight plan was carrying ore from one moon to another, but it's not anywhere evident right now.

The two navigators put themselves at Sophia's disposal for the investigation. Hmm. Did the other ship (the one that's still around) notice anything that the missing ship did, just when everything was going haywire? The navigators offer to go and ask and check sensor logs. They demonstrate their new auxiliary navigation tools, which look like complex slide rules - they align various little knobs on the slide rule with the other moons, move a slider to where they want to go, and then push in a stub to set the coordinates. They turn the slide rule over, and the numbers are on the back. Off they go.

"That is not reassuring." -Ciernan
Hippocrates is sure that whatever auxiliary navigation system is replacing Deep Blue, a guy with a slide rule shouldn't be able to do it nearly so fast. Ciernan thinks it's one of two things. Maybe they don't really need targetting, as long as they think they know where they're going. If so, then the best thing to do is to Say Nothing At All. The other option is that it's future-guy technology. In which case, it probably won't work near Akito, and the navigators will teleport out into space if they try. That doesn't sound good.

Hippocrates checks Deep Blue's tactical logs, in case any sort of dead drop has been left. As the attack commenced, it looks like Deep Blue started running through the possible tactical plans to take the base, but he hadn't figured out what exact plan was being used before he went down. Hippocrates also notes that in his spare time, Deep Blue seems to have been coming up with strategic plans for any given party in the Linked Worlds to conquer any other, perhaps as a hobby. It would take a long time to regenerate all of them, but to regenerate a particular plan would probabably not take Deep Blue very long at all. This makes his going missing even more scary than it was a moment before.

The two navigators return, after having looked through a bunch of sensor logs. They report that the other ship started to veer, but then the first ship's sensors cut out. But that happens, for not-very-good sensors.

"We hate her." -Hippocrates
Maybe Kye could get a better fix on things if he uses more dice? But if he does, the shadow ninja will probably eat more of his psi. Ruehan hasn't been briefed on the shadow ninja (from Unmasked), so they explain about shadow powers eating your chi.
"Remind me not to do that. But you go ahead and try." -Ruehan
Katya tries to get the navigators to explain the way the slide rule works to her. "It's like an ancient slide rule, but more complicated." They demonstrate, with the sliders and the places to align with the moons, and so on. It still seems a bit suspicious. Ruehan also confirms that the navigators think they're really slide rules.

Kye tries again to scan for the AI downloader. He thinks it's probably in-system, and gets some more of his chi eaten. Sophia modifies the sensor array with some mad science, so that the only thing that the ship can see is the rare earths and particular magnetic configurations of the download widget. The Hippocrates gets a lock on something, somewhere, and starts heading that way - Ciernan puts a tornado up around the ship to protect it from space flotsam, since they're flying blind.

The sensor lock leads them to the capital at Fifth Bastion, where Akito does a remarkable job of landing blind. All the Navigators have moved outside, with their slide rules. Everyone consciously refrains from thinking about the slide rules.

The AI download device is in a nearby hangar, according to the sensors.

Shortly after landing, Akito get a message from the shadow assassin. She tells him that their quarry is already gone, and pursuit is useless.

Akito reports back to the party - she's here, the rest of the thieves are not. Though she says there might be another opportunity to meet / catch them ("When they come for you, Hippocrates!" -Ciernan). So... if Akito has talked to her, what does she want? He probably shouldn't say, but she doesn't like working for them. Why did she stay here? To obscure the trail. The hangar is just a diversion.

However, lacking any other leads, they decide to check the hangar.

Ciernan notes that the security systems on the door have sensors that go in and... well, then they probably go somewhere. So, avoiding the door would be good. The navigators think maybe they could target teleporting into the warehouse with the slide rules, but they'd want to aim for the middle, to avoid any solid objects. After all, Dr. Fusmeyer said that they can target anywhere. Who is Dr. Fusmeyer? He's the one who invented the auxiliary navigation system. He's no doubt been working on it for zed, but he just delivered it this morning. Everyone nods and agrees.

Deciding that the middle might be trapped, Ciernan digs a tunnel into the corner of the warehouse, Katya shields everyone, and in they go. It's very dark, though there are some nearby crates. Farther away is just blackness. Hippocrates starts walking towards the room, and is hit by two chi-bolts, which throw him back several meters and cause Katya's shields to flare up darkly.

Akito leaps up onto a catwalk, and is again thrown backwards by a chi-bolt, but his Katya-shields absorb most of it.

"Found you." -Akito
Sophia heads off towards the other end of the warehouse, to turn the lights on. Shortly after she gets there, all alone in the dark, she falls off of the tactical display. Akito leaps across the room to confront the shadow ninja, while Ciernan and Kye look through the boxes. She leaps back into the shadows.

Akito heads back to the safety of numbers, carrying Sophia, while Hippocrates goes the other direction. He fusses with the light switch, trying to lure the ninja into attacking - she doesn't remember the Killer Robot, and falls for it. Hippocrates grabs her, and after depositing Sophia with Ruehan, Akito leaps back to grab her too. Ruehan wakes Sophia up.

While the ninja is pinned, Hippocrates starts to take her katana out of the sheath (to disarm her, presumably). Akito, startled, lets go of her to push it back in, telling Hippocrates not to touch it.

"That's a level of escalation you don't want to go to." -Akito
"And kidnapping Deep Blue isn't? We'll discuss that later." -Hippocrates
"You're as bad as Jim." -Ruehan to Akito
Given both of her captors' inattention, the ninja leaps back up to the catwalk.
"What am I going to do in combat? Maybe I can coordinate my body with someone!" -Ruehan
Since the ninja hasn't vanished back into the darkness, Ciernan surrounds her in a dome of earth. Nothing happens. Nothing happens some more. (Akito thinks she's probably waiting patiently, like Qui Gon waiting for the blast doors to open). Ruehan notes that he can barely detect her psi or mind in there.

In the meantime, what to do with a ninja in a box? After much discussion, a knockout grenade is teleported into the dome. Then everyone stands around waiting for another ten minutes. When they peek, she is, in fact, unconscious.

Ruehan mind reads her - it's a close thing to get her memories out of her before her Shadow Veil eats all his chi, but he gets a basic briefing:

She is a shadow assassin. Her father is part of the Criminal Mastermind. They have agreed to release him if she helps them with this project: to steal the AIs. Their plan was to steal the three stationary ones first, and then move to the two mobile ones, but then one of the stationary ones turned out to be mobile. She doesn't know why they're doing this - they came up with the plan poking around on Sundown somewhere. She's been shadowing them, generally obstructing the trail, and she was left behind here to make sure that nobody could follow. She was about done when the party showed up - she thinks they've gotten out of reach now. She doesn't have a way to contact them; they will re-contact her back at New Light.
Dr. Kye mentions that Memento Mori has been investigating atomic computing on Sundown, so this may have to do with that.

So... what is the plan? The Hippocrates could camp out at Nonesuch for six weeks, sitting at the jumpgate trying to scan for something... Well, Max could probably spot something, or with Katya doing a gathering. Or they could scan for the nanite transmitters. That might work. But it'd require waiting at Nonesuch for six weeks, and hoping to be paying attention at just the right time.

In the meantime, what should they do with the ninja? Kye suggests putting her on a freighter to Rupert's Hole, but it seems likely she could tell them to turn around and come back, as most freighters don't really want to kidnap people, and she can probably beat them up. The party could take her to New Light, but there's no real reason to help her that way. In the end, she's turned over to the authorities, and Ciernan briefs them on how to hold a shadow ninja (e.g. in an oubliette you can only get to via teleport).

Then, it is time to go talk to Dr. Fusmeyer. He's giving a briefing to a class of navigators, about how to use the slide rule. He's in the middle of a sentence, writing on a chalkboard, and then turns to explain a point, when he sees the party, which has entered the briefing room quietly. Spotting Akito, he turns white, and declares a lunch break (Ruehan and Katya confirm that he is terrified of Akito). Since he is fleeing, the party leaps into action - Ruehan hallucinates everyone that there is no door there, Katya telekinetically grabs Dr. Fusmeyer, and Sophia and Hippocrates start distracting the navigators.

" 'Why did you chase her?' 'Because she ran!'"
With the little telepathic ability that Ruehan has left (having stolen it from the ninja himself), he rummages through Dr. Fusmeyer's thoughts. He's principally terrified that THE GUY IS STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO HIM AND THIS IS GOING TO HURT. Ciernan notes that he's the breakout ball, and this is not a game that distinguishes between player and pawn. And, most everyone in the room has a grey lego.

Ciernan briefs Navigation Control that Dr. Fusmeyer is a known Tarn confederate, who was selling weapons to the Tarn for unknown motives. The slide rules are likely Tarn summoning devices and should be destroyed (except for a few to be kept for emergencies). The Hippocrates will be taking him into custody. With eleven successes of fast talk, Nav Control is buying the story for the moment.

Dr. Kye examines a slide rule. Its future history is that it was built by a factory that built only this, then it was sent to the present and used to take observations, then sent to the future, where the calculations were run. The number was written on the back and it was sent back to the present, where it was used to teleport. The purpose is to allow acausal teleport targetting. Everything else is pretty much as expected.

Everyone heads out - apparently including the two navigators. They seem to be planning to come to Crux with the party. What? Well, what if Sophia needs them? Sophia reverses the polarity on the thing in her pocket, and they swiftly excuse themselves again.

Sophia checks out Dr. Fusmeyer with a potentiality meter - he pegs it. He has a huge number of parallel lives, but they're all one life. Whatever that means. The real Dr. F's potentiality is being flooded and overwritten by this other guy. Sadly, that means Dr. Fusmeyer is really pretty much innocent, but now the Bastion government thinks he's a Tarn spy.

Sophia also notes that the potentiality meter is ticking down, so he's fading out again.

His general plan (as speculated by Sophia and ferreted out by Ruehan) is to poke enough holes in the causality of the space time continuum that you can break it. One does this by using acausal tech (like the acausal jumpgate shields given to Blue in the invasion, the acausal weapons given to the Tarn, the acausal plague cure on Lendt, the acausal cloaking devices given to the Terrans, the acausal Hippocrates-copying device...), and also by doing things Very Differently (like inciting Blue to launch another assault on Red).

Ruehan tries to find out how the Guy fits into the whole thing, but he's too scared of Akito to have any coherent thoughts. Katya lofts him to the rec room, where she and Sophia hide behind a blast shield as Akito touches him, triggering a chi explosion that launches both parties across the room. Sophia has a lot of good data, though.

Dr. Fusmeyer, once he is revived, doesn't really understand how the slide rule worked after all. He's very depressed, though. For a little while he was a hero, but now everyone thinks he works for the Tarn. Sic transit gloria.

The party heads back to Crux, taking Dr. Fusmeyer with them rather than leaving him to be lynched back on Bastion.

Puttering (on Crux)