"To make an enemy of everyone is the mark of a tyrant, or a madman. To make an enemy of no one is the mark of a fool."
-- Etter MacDougal, Skald of Sparta, AS 2623
Crux -> the Well -> Sundown
Ruehan and Kith hold a celebratory jumpgate-opening party in the rec room as a distraction. There is some concern - with a lot of psis on board, what if one of them can perceive the bridge? And see the Secret Strategos Key? Ruehan notes that some of them are using active psi, and First Frost of Autumn thinks that some of them can perceive the bridge. There is some discussion of bringing out the brig psi damper, but this is deemed to be rude, as it would start causing damage to any envoys currently using psi. Ruehan politely asks everyone not to look, which seems to convince most people, though there are a few who seem to take that as a reminder that there is something interesting that could be spied upon. A second ceremonial distraction is staged on the bridge for any clairvoyants to watch, while Dr. Kye clandestinely opens the jumpgate (into Normal mode) with the Strategos Key down in engineering.
Dropping off the envoys and messengers on Nonesuch and Riden proceeds entirely without incident (and Dr. Fusmeyer is dropped at Riden as well). So does passing through Vircus to pick up the Aberdevine, and drop off Xanadu, the Strategos Key, and Dr. Kye's plasma bomb prototype. Dr. Kye attempts to make puppy dog eyes to keep his bomb, but Hippocrates is very clear that he doesn't want it falling into the hands of the criminal mastermind when they come to loot the ship.
"We could set up a deadman's switch..." -KyeIn checking around for things to leave off the ship, it is noticed that the group never had a slide rule from Bastion.
"No!" -Everyone else
As the group leaves Vircus, Dr. Kye gets email from Tom Corum, the grad student from Combat, by the Vineyard. Tom thinks that Sundown has started to be the new hot archaeology destination - it's been getting more traffic recently. Is IPX going to be having a dig there? Dr. Kye tells him yes, and to meet him on Sundown. Tom contemplates how to get to Sundown on 25 asters or less, and starts looking for other ships heading there to hitchhike with. Unfortunately, the only option he finds is the new security team, inbound to Memento Mori. He makes up a different archaeologist that he's working for, rounds up a patched biohazard suit, and manages to convince them to bring him along...
Meanwhile, the party has stopped to pick up Max, on the Well, and generally visit. Max arranges for tourist visas.
"Anyone want to help me break into a bank?" - JimPandemonium ensues.
Kith talks to the Architect - he's concerned about all the pro-drudge changes being likely to cause the Well to lose its economic power (since a lot of it is built on cheap labor). She suggests trying to retune towards being a high-tech center, which can support smarter and better paid labor. He'll think about that. Kith also notes that the Architect seems to have books around his office, on which he tends to rest his hand, much like in Cassandra's painting.
Max and Hippocrates talk about using Calcutronix (Max's chip-manufacturing company) as a potential partner in AI training libraries.
Meanwhile, the Memento Mori security team have started to suspect Tom of being up to something. Who goes to Sundown all by themselves? With just a patched suit? Seth (the head of the security team) interrogates him a bit, and comes to the conclusion that he's not a saboteur, but he is lying about something. Seth is going to have to report to Dr. Van Trent about this - Dr. Van Trent leaps to the conclusion (not entirely without reason) that this is a plot of Dr. Kye's to plant a spy in her camp - and after his previous perfidy! The nerve! Tom is locked in a temporary storage building in the Memento Mori camp until they can figure out what to do with him.
Back on the Well, Mirris has a traditional fight with Quinn Butler over exposing Linnet to dangerous circumstances. He really thinks it's inappropriate for her to be running around with some sort of armed mercenary company getting shot at and eaten by space monsters. Mirris doesn't think going back to Quinn and running away again is any better. The argument is mostly unresolved.
Jim spends 200 asters to upcaste to break into a bank. There is some confusion at the office - he's not upcasting to try and steal anything? No. Does he realize that if he just upcastes for the breaking and entering, and then steals something, that's still illegal? Yes, he knows that. He's not going to steal anything. Right. He knows that the guards can still shoot at him, and it's not legal for him to shoot at the guards without covering that too? Yes, he knows. The clerks finally put him down for "performance art", baffled by the strange tourist.
Kith meets some friends of hers in a coffeehouse and spreads the word about Jaylaism.
Mirris helps Jim with the bank's security systems, holding them off for long enough that he can deposit two huge styrofoam balls in the bank's teller area and lobby. He makes his escape while the guards shoot up the ball in the lobby, but is not caught.
Max talks to Gavin (his new majordomo) about trying to advertise chips in partnership with computer companies, to the lower classes (e.g. "Intel Inside!" ads for computers). Gavin is very dubious about the idea. Max says the plan is for Drudges to have a lot more disposable income in the future - Gavin is still dubious. Computers? Well, maybe video game consoles. It's a possibility.
Kye makes some money in a poker game.
Citizen Sinclair formally invites Citizen Claria to brunch to meet Jim. She isn't herself interested in being a Scoutmaster, but can recommend some people in the entertainment industry who might be approachable. Citizen Viktor, on the other hand, is a little less interested - he seems to think Scouting sounds like a hobby for upper-class children with a lot of leisure time and disposable income.
Back on Sundown, Tom has been studying up on diseases - Seth and Dr. Van Trent quiz him about a set of symptoms, and conclude that he wasn't actually part of the Nefarious Plan to give Dr. Van Trent the plague. They start letting him out of the supply room, since where would he run on Sundown? Finally, the party heads off to Sundown itself. The only obvious and active dig on planet appears to be Dr. Van Trent's site. Kye thinks they should just land nearby and head on over - other people think that they should call first. However, since nobody has a plan for what to say to Memento Mori, it turns into a prank call.
"Hello?"They try again:
"Hello, is someone there?"
"Damn it. <click>"
"This is the Hippocrates. This is a courtesy call letting you know that we'd like to come over and visit." -MaxNevertheless, the party proceeds over. The camp seems to have been fortified, with what Jim recognizes as hexes of cover, with armed defenders. Undeterred, the party continues, until Dr. Van Trent calls down fire on Kye, and he falls. Kith and Jim leap upon him to heal him, and he staggers back to his feet, only to be shot again. Ruehan tries to mind control Dr. Trent to cease fire and invite the group in, but it's far enough from what she wants to be doing that she resists. Max drops some smoke grenades in front of the defensive positions, and Hippocrates shouts that they come in peace.
"No thank you. We're all set here. <click>" -Dr. Van Trent
Jim calls out that they have done nothing but walk up trying to talk, and have been opened fire upon. Seth shouts that they should just turn around and walk away again and gives Jim a phase. He uses it to find weakness on Dr. Trent. Seth notices this, pushes Dr. Trent down, and tells the guys on the less-smokey side to open fire on "the sniper" (that is, Jim).
Hippocrates keeps shouting that they haven't broken Lord Stannis's truce, and that they don't want a fight. Seth shouts that they can pull back their sniper and their grenardier and their damned mind-controller, and then maybe they can talk.
Finally, everyone but Hippocrates pulls back, and Hippocrates and Dr. Van Trent shout back and forth. Dr. Van Trent seems convinced that Dr. Kye was behind her getting sick ("and he smirked at me about it!") and then looting the dig site while she was gone. And sending a spy! Well, the spy was sort of an accident. Hippocrates works on persuading her that the people who kidnapped Deep Blue (who she seems to have heard of) are probably the people who looted the site. She's almost willing to believe that ("The Starwayist religious nuts?") but still isn't interested in actually helping Dr. Kye with anything.
She's willing to trade an apology for the invasion from Hippocrates and Kye for access to the site. Hippocrates apologizes, and puts it to Dr. Kye.
"I'm s.... I'm s.... FUCK YOU!" -Dr. KyeWell, it seems like negotiations are at a standstill, until Mirris offers a tape of Dr. Kye getting hit in the back of the head. Dr. Van Trent is willing to accept that as a trade (in part because she feels a little bad at having shot at the party, since it wasn't really them who looted her), to show them the data that they did pull out of what was left.
Before that, though, everyone has to sign an agreement of confidentiality. Anything that she shows them, they don't get to publish. Unless they already knew it, Kye points out. If they already knew it, they have to send her a copy of the primaries when they publish, Van Trent counters. Kye tries to put in a time limit so that anything Memento Mori doesn't publish within a specified time, Kye gets to publish, but Dr. Van Trent will have none of it. As far as she's concerned, Kye doesn't get to publish her findings, period, end of story. Even if she decides to set them on fire and destroy them.
Since this looks like a deal-breaker, and the crew principally is on the track of the Criminal Mastermind rather than archaeology papers, the party grudgingly concedes, and signs the confidentiality agreement. Dr. Van Trent (finally) gives Kye his spy back.
The first security team sticks close to Dr. Kye; the second stays on perimeter, and Seth sticks close to Jim. Dr. Van Trent shows them the area they had cleared out, which was looted when they came back, and also a storage bank which Memento Mori dug out subsequently. While all their original artefacts were stolen, they have a number of documents from the deep storage machine.
Max prowls around trying to find the past on various areas, and thinks that someone dressed in grey snuck up behind Dr. Van Trent and squirted her with DEATH! He's somewhat rattled by this and starts getting symptomatic of the previous plague. Kith firmly stamps that out again. (It didn't look like the shadow ninja, though).
Looking around the immediate surroundings outside the dig, Max finds some sites where a ship landed nearby, but determines that they all seem to have been Memento Mori - the intial landing site, then the landing site when they returned, and most recently the landing site when the backup security team arrived.
However, he does find a small metal box with what seems to be flypaper inside - Max thinks it was dropped by a guy on a flying scooter, and Kye thinks it's a plague-catcher, belonging to... well, a guy with bitey shields, as it turns out. But it doesn't have a future history.
Dr. Van Trent messes with the box for a little while, too, but is pretty sure it's not ancient tech. She's not going to let Kye have it, though, because it was on her dig site, darn it!
Hippocrates explains to Dr. Van Trent that it's Terran technology. She's puzzled - it doesn't look pre-Alliance. No, he means modern Terrans. She doesn't seem to have heard of them. He says they're the ones who blew up the Blue Hegemon and the Crystal Palace and so on. Oh. Definitely bad guys. He suggests that when she's done looking at the box, she take it to the Blue Ministry of Defense or to someone at Stannis Law or something.
Max and Kith fly off to look for more boxes, and find one of their very own. Kye thinks that there's tens of thousands scattered around Sundown, so it's probably not feasible to pick up them all.
The party finally takes their leave from the Memento Mori site. Following a potential lead from the documents, the Hippocrates flies over to the location where the Academy used to be (according to Jim's manual). Kye recollects a paper from several decades ago that mentioned it as having been bombed to rubble, but the party figures that that just means that there are hidden underground rooms. Max scans the entire area down to angstrom level, and determines that any possible plot was bombed to pot shards three hundred zed ago. However, Jim's manual hasn't gotten the update, and keeps suggesting that he take a tour. He relents and wanders around the site in a radiation suit. Ruehan joins him, to show off, but comes back mildly radioactive.
Luckily, Dr. Kye has a couple of other places that he's been hoping to go next time he's on Sundown. The first is a chip manufacturing plant - Max perks up his ears. The Hippocates flies over the island in the Northmountain Sea where the Komongrund gel chip facility used to be. It appears to be a completely bare island; Max thinks that underneath, it's pretty much just metal. This probably means that the complex has good anti-scan jamming up, but he isn't able to break through with ECCM. There doesn't seem to be an obvious entrance, so the ship lands to let a scouting party (Dr. Kye and Tom) look around.
The island still seems to be completely bare stone, except that the
stone is pock marked with
small table-sized holes.
Hippocrates starts noticing that something is damaging his landing
gear, and calls Kye and Tom back. Tom sees that there are
little table-sized metal robots on his foot, and runs for the
gangplank, trying to kick them off. He gets them off, but they've
taken some pieces of his foot (including his little toe). The ship
lifts off, but the nose landing gear still seems to be taking damage.
A lot of blaster fire at the cargo bay eliminates any stray tumblebots
there, but the landing gear will be a problem.
Jim tries flying the ship low enough to drag the landing gear through water - this seems to get rid of some of the infestation and slow the damage down, but Max confirms that there's still some there. As the ship flies around, Hippocrates lowers Jim on a tether to try to flamethrower the landing gear free of tumblebots. However, the wind (starships go pretty fast) is sufficient to batter Jim back against the hull, which is not so useful.
Ruehan tips the Hippocrates up on end to hover, for a second pass. Hippocrates walks out, magnetically anchored to the hull, while Jim dangles again more sedately. Flamethrowing does appear to be able to clear an area free of tumblebots, but the gear is badly damaged underneath. Eventually, Twig is prevailed upon to help detach the landing gear, and it is dropped back on the island.
The second site proves a little less terribly dangerous: "the Pherris distilling plant at Chalcedon Bay, which uses microtemperature and gravitics to hyperfractionate volatile organic slurries into separate molecules." Much of the structure has lost most of its mass, and there is a slurry of goo that proves dangerous to those who touch it.
After the complex is explored, the group has gained several decrepit (but very very light) scooters, and 105 "history/business" points and 105 "science" points. In general, N^2 points can be traded in for N of goodness (where goodness scales from 1 to 10) as follows:
History/Business Science History paper (6) Science paper (1) Clever Business Model (6) Distillation tricks for concentrating things (5) One-shot political spin for something to do with money (5) Free Gravitics skill for people in the run (2) Clever business tips worth N,000 asters (2) Demassification techniques (8) N yes/no history questions relevant to this time period (2) A sample of a possible acidic munition (3)