"It is a failure of imagination to expect symmetry, or aesthetics,
from the universe."
-- Elladine Huang and Jin Galt,
"When you're about to break into a bank, refresh yourself with Sparky Cola Dark!" -Mirris, testing out new slogans.Starport Security calls the Hippocrates. Katya, on the bridge, answers it, but then isn't able to say anything. Security starts to think that there's a problem, and has started to resort to "Beep twice if you're in trouble" by the time Sophia gets to the bridge. Eventually it is explained that there's a guy here to speak to the crew but he doesn't have any ID. He apparently wants to speak to "that young upstart Ujiie".
Most of the crew (Sharra is still in the tubes, Kye isn't around, and Mirris remains behind to guard the ship) heads out to talk to the visitor; Sophia tells Starport Security that they're doing a good job. The visitor turns out to be Chi Master Igo, who has received Presumptious Mail from Akito. He interrogates Akito about whether he has begun training students. Akito says no. Ruthie starts to say something and Akito puts his hand over her mouth.
Meanwhile, back at the ship, Mirris checks into where Dr. Kye is, but he seems to have fallen off the radio network. That's no good. She asks Sophia to check if Dr. Kye is lying dead or unconscious under the ship. Apparently he isn't. The crew calls IPX to see if he's there; they say that Dr. Kye is very busy and they'll try to get him a message. Then IPX calls the Hippocrates to pass the message along, so apparently he's not there either.
Examining his hotel room, he discovers that he's on an upper floor of a hotel in the New Light capital, but can't quite pin down which hotel. He's being watched through the viewhole in the door, so doesn't do anything rash yet. He begins planning his escape.
Before he can do anything though, he hears footsteps outside his door. He hides in the bathroom, and hears the door open, and a harsh voice say "You stay in here with the other one!", and hears someone being thrown into the room. Venturing out, he discovers that Sharra has also been captured. After a brief conversation, they begin planning their escape.
After discarding many plans involving smashing the window and throwing things out of the highrise to "alert" passersby below, they settle on setting off the sprinkler system. A few moments later, they are standing in the indoor rain, and hear the approaching mooks come to investigate. As the door opens, they take the opportunity to jump the first mook and take his weapon, but he has backup in the hallway, so a firefight begins.
Meanwhile, Katya gets up a weak telepathic contact with Dr. Kye; he's apparently in some sort of fight.
Outside the ship, Akito spots the hidden figure, leaps, and grabs. She collapses, her long black hair swinging free. It's the shadow ninja! Except that she's dressed in white, and much of her head is shaved, leaving only a queue of black hair.
Akito pats her down gingerly, checking for weapons. She doesn't appear to have any. Master Igo disapproves of Akito's tentativeness.
"You are soft on your enemy because she has soft parts." -Master IgoKatya tries to find out from Dr. Kye where he is - he sends her a map with a big circle labelled "New Light" and a small box labelled "Hotel". This isn't so helpful. Kye also sends an imagine of the shadow ninja, standing in a hotel room being rained on.
Kith comes out to see why the prisoner collapsed, and notes that she's suffering from malnutrition. Akito carries her into medlab and Kith hooks her up to an IV and enhances her natural healing. Unfortunately, something doesn't seem to be working properly, and she starts to convulse. Master Igo thinks it's the IV - it's poisoning her. Oops. Several brainstorms later, people decide she must be a shadow ninja from the Mirrorverse! Sophia spends some time making an invert sugar to use in the IV, and this stabilizes her.
Master Igo also declares "This is not a shadow ninja. Her chi is far too healthy.". Sophia makes sure that there's something in her portable science kit to check for inverted people.
With a quick look back at Sharra he decides the best plan is to go for help and makes a break for the emergency fire exit. He gets out, just as the reinforcments surround and subue Sharra. He starts trying to get down the stairs when he realizes it's totally black in this stairwell and notices that familiar tingling sensation as he passes out. "Damn Shadow Ninja!"
He wakes a while later in a different hotel room. Sharra and their captors are nowhere to be seen. Seeing that he's on the first floor this time, he decides the time for subtlety has long passed, throws a chair through the window, and follows it himself. He makes a break for the woods behind the hotel and tries to call for help.
But just to be sure, as Sharra comes out of the tubes, Sophia goes to check that she's the "real" one, while Kith makes sure that the "white ninja" stays asleep. Akito, Igo, Mirris, and Sophia go to rescue Dr. Kye, leaving Kith, Sharra, and Katya to hold down the ship. (Before leaving, Mirris activates all of the deathtraps near the computer core.) Sharra moves the antininja down to the brig (with her IV), and leaves a note with her explaining that she's in the brig for her own protection, and that people will want to talk to her later. While alone in sickbay for a moment, Kith gets a call from Sharra over the intercom asking her to head down to the airlock. When she gets there, she finds Sharra, but apparently it's the wrong one, as this Sharra takes her hostage and forces her into a van.
Kith sends a psychic cry for help to Katya and the real Sharra still on the ship, but fearing all the duplicity, they decide to stay on the bridge until more reinforcements return. Without aid, Kith decides to take matters into her own hands and uses her power to put her Sharra to sleep. Sharra was apparently not expecting this, as most people have more sense than to knock out the driver as such high speeds. Caught off guard, she promptly falls asleep, and the van promptly crashes and begins to burn.
Kith manages to get Sharra out of the burning van before it explodes, and starts dragging her back to the Hippocrates. Police assitance arrives however, and insists that she and Sharra be taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital instead.
Still en route to rescue Dr. Kye, Master Igo interrogates Akito about his woeful Precision of Chi. Mirris interrogates Master Igo about what it means to make Akito a Master.
While the others go and retrieve Kye, Katya interrogates him telepathically to see if he's the correct Dr. Kye...
<Mirris, Kye, Martan, and Katya flying home in the mirror-verse> -KatyaDr. Kye is retrieved, just as the ship reports that Kith has been kidnapped. Katya and Sharra lock the bridge, hesitant to leave lest they be grabbed up by ninjas or mirror people. Kith finally reports that she's being taken to the hospital.
"That was where the horseback riding came from, right?" -Kye
<scene of katya's wedding> -Katya
"Now you're trying to pin something on me! I didn't touch that dial!" -Kye
"I put her to sleep, and the van crashed. Now the police want me to go to the hospital." -Kith
"Kith, that's the other Sharra." -SharraThe Kye-retrieval team heads to the hospital, while Sharra finally decides to leave the bridge to go down and close the airlock, which seems to have mysteriously been opened. Ruthie, on the sensor console, worries that she can't see First Frost of Autumn with the sensors. Sharra calls him to the bridge and tells him to search for intruders.
"I thought so." -Kith
Meanwhile, at the hospital, Kith is taken into a checkup room and Sharra is taken to the emergency room. Kith convinces the doctors that she should be allowed to check out, and Sophia convinces more doctors that they should be permitted to check Sharra out. They allow as they might be able to release her (with a lot of legal waivers) after her MRI is finished (since she's still mysteriously unconscious).
Back at the ship, Akito calls the bridge from the airlock, saying that they're back with the prisoner, and can they get some help getting her into the brig? Nobody falls for it this time. But the outer airlock door is again suspiciously open. When Katya tries to scan the outside for presences, she doesn't notice anyone, but one of her dice is eaten by someone's Cloak of Shadow.
The anti-ninja in the brig wakes up, and starts calling out "Hello? Hello? Is anyone there?" Sharra, over the intercom, tells her that now is not a good time to talk.
In the hospital, Sophia tests Mirris (as a control) and the Sharra who's there, and discovers that neither of them seems to be mirror-inverted. Hmm. The MRI that Sharra was undergoing seems to have gotten a little wonky towards the end, but Mirris decides that enough is enough and starts abominating everyone in sight. She gets the MRI shut down and Sharra "released" to her care. On the way back to the ship, more tests are done. Regardless of whether this Sharra is mirror-verted, she's definitely on Black. Maybe the inversion test doesn't work? Should they try to make both Sharras eat something?
Everyone converges back at the ship. The anti-ninja in the brig continues to try to find out if now is a good time to talk, and when she is assured that it still isn't, begins to toss her IV bag up in the air and catch it on the stand. Meanwhile, the "real" shadow ninja seems to still be outside, as something continues to absorb the psi dice of people who try to scan it.
The anti-ninja is let out of the brig, but people still don't have time to talk to her, because there's a new prisoner. The mirror-Sharra is searched and her gadgets removed to a lead-lined box. However, there's one gadget that starts beeping as it gets farther and farther away from her. It's quickly put back near her again. Kye examines it and says that it's a "dimensional inverter".
When someone refers to the anti-ninja as a "shadow ninja" she bristles, and says she's not a ninja, she is Talia, the last disciple of Tiger Crane since her master was killed. Ooh! Akito invites her off to the rec room to spar, and Master Igo follows.
Sophia notices that there's an intercom light which seems to be following her around. That is, as she passes different intercoms, they come on. That's sort of strange. Investigation reveals that the intercoms are connected to the intercom down near the airlock, but no one wants to head down there to investigate, as the last several people who went near that airlock got kidnapped.
Talia explains that as of the end of last season, 96% of the population of the Linked Worlds is ruled by the crew of the Hector. There's a few left in the resistance which Talia is a part of, being led by the Terrans. Talia has been chasing the Shadow Sorcerer Akito since he killed her master, and she found that he had come here; with the assistance of Dmitri (whose people are enslaved by the Tarn), she did a Chi Ritual to follow her enemy here.
"Do you guys rule the world here?" -TaliaSharra interrogates the dimensional inverter. It's quite terrified of being turned off or otherwise disciplined, and it assures her that it is functioning properly. It's apparently responsible for keeping mirror-Sharra dimensionally inverted so she can eat food and things, as well as holding her in this dimension.
"No. But we try to help the people who do." -Kith.
Mirris extracts the background from the Mirror-Sharra. What she knows:
Janzur, Jayla, Jim, Hector, and Bishop (the "big guns") are off on some sort of scary important mission. Sharra, Ciernan, and Akito are here on the B plot. One of the big problems that the crew of the Hector has is Dr. Kye. Or, as the resistance calls him, Saint Kye. They'd just kill him, but Jayla says Kye is necessary to Rule All People. However, Jayla isn't specific on the matter of which Kye is necessary to Rule All People, so they figured that the Kye in this universe might be less annoyingly Nice than their Kye, and they could swap them. So they came to try and sound him out on the matter. And, in fact, their observations indicate that he's impulsive and prone to violence, so he seems pretty good.
Ciernan also has some sort of personal plan that he's working on, but Sharra doesn't know what it is. Since the B team was going to possibly be interacting with the Hippocrates crew, Jessica extracted all knowledge of the A plot as a security precaution. It turns out that Jessica tried to betray them at the Flames ritual, which is one reason the few percent are still free. But then Xanthippe killed the Great Omphalos Dust Wyrm and they used its dying essence to re-brainwash her to be loyal to the Hector.
The mission is also a test of the dimensional inverters. Sharra is pleased that they're working. She's just that good. Well, okay, Sophia helped too.
"Aren't you going to ask me any questions?" -Mirror SharraMeanwhile, something else has come up:
"No, no, I already already did that." -Mirris
"I hate Jessica." -Mirror Sharra
"We have another problem. I just tried to contact Jayla, and I got the wrong one. So I just reported everything we've been up to in the past couple of days." -KithFinally, people realize that Mirror Akito and the Shadow Ninja who are prowling around outside are actually likely to be the same person, and not actually two different people. Talia and Akito and Master Igo prowl around outside (they leave by way of the landing gear, since the airlocks are locked down), but can't find any sign of Shadow Ninjas or Sorcerors. Talia tries to find her way to her enemy, and slowly starts heading towards the city. Everyone else follows.
Oops, wait, what about mirror Sharra? Leaving her in the brig while everyone else leaves seems unwise, as she seems to be able to intimidate technology. Sophia shoots her with a shrink ray, and puts her in a rat cage with her hands wired outside the cage so she can't get to her inverter.
"When will she unshrink? I'm worrying about the bloody and horrible consequences." -SharraMirris takes a picture of the tiny mirror-Sharra in a cage. Non-mirror-Sharra objects:
"So, don't watch." -Mirris
"Wait. You're not keeping those pictures. If you ever want to have tech on you that works again, don't do that." -SharraMirris tries to explain that her plan actually involves photoshopping in Dr. Kye over Sharra, but Sharra is still dubious enough that she convinces Mirris not to do it.
Talia (with Akito and Igo) finally reaches a luxury hotel downtown. Everyone else hurries to catch up.
"Do you have any dark ninjas staying here?" -AkitoAkito is quoted a price of 122 asters for a room for the night. He wants to know if there is a discount for ridding their establishment of dark ninjas. The desk worker suggests that perhaps he would be more comfortable at the Hotel 16 a few blocks away.
"No." -Hotel desk worker
"They're upstairs." -Master Igo
Dr. Kye, who is more plausibly able to afford the room, asks about penthouses with views. The north side has a good view of the city, he is told. He asks about Disturbances. He wouldn't want to stay anywhere that was loud, or prone to any sort of trouble. Like sprinklers going off. The desk clerk assures him that nothing of the sort ever happens here.
The party heads up to the top floor, except that it's really the 28th floor and not the 30th floor. Master Igo says that there are tendrils of dark chi above this floor.
Off to the service stairwell! It appears to just go down, not up. Kye checks the history of the stairwell door - nobody has used it in weeks. Hmm. There doesn't seem to be any way to get up from this floor. Katya tries to close her eyes and float up the stairwell; she bumps her head and loses a point of psi. Kye shoots up the stairwell ceiling, and also shoots Akito a bit, by accident.
Between Sharra talking to the elevator panel and Master Igo shielding himself from dark chi, the group manages to get the button for the 30th floor pressed. Yup, that's the floor Kye was held prisoner on. Master Igo says that the dark chi is now emanating from below them, so they play their tricks on the elevator once more, and head down to the 29th floor.
The elevator door opens into the garden penthouse, and the guys who were waiting take their ambush action and launch a rocket launcher into the elevator. Blaster fire, however, bounces of Katya's shields. From a back room, Ciernan calls out "Idiots! Use the gas grenades!"
The combat starts in earnest. Sophia shrinks someone's blaster, the gas grenades hit the elevator as people charge out of it, Ciernan orders the mooks to switch to chemical mace (which penetrates both physical and energy shields). Mirris extracts the mission from the mooks, but it's basically just "get the invaders, protect The Boss, who hired you."
Eventually, Mirror Akito's hat falls off, and Talia loses the next phase to rage: "You! You killed my master!"
Mirror-Ciernan continues to coordinate the mooks, getting them to all shoot Igo and Akito at once. Master Igo goes down, though Kith heals him quickly. Ciernan is confused by Igo - their team doesn't have an old guy!
"You don't have any particular loyalty to them - join me and you will be well rewarded." -Mirror CiernanSophia shrinks Kith for her own protection (she's now hard to hit, and her psychic healing range is the same). Katya tries to grab some mooks with her fortune dice, and ends up grabbing the tiny Kith and putting her in her pocket. Mirris gets to the room where Mirror Ciernan is (in a wheelchair with a white cat in his lap), and extracts his background. His part of the B plot:
"All right, but you have to destroy the Shadow Sorceror first, because I will not work with one who has Shadow Chi." -Master Igo
Everyone keeps talking about the "mirror" universe, as if there's two. That's bunk. Ciernan understands that these things always come in threes. There's the Jayla who wants to save the world, and the Jayla who wants to rule the world, and the Jayla who wants to destroy the world. So, surely there's a third dimension in which 96% of All People were killed by the Flames ritual, and that dimension is full of unclaimed LOOT! So he's here taking measurements to try and deduce where the third dimension is.The party boggles. They'd help with that plot!
Ciernan suggests that Master Igo sit down so they can negotiate. Igo agrees, but adds "And as surety, I will take your cat!". Sophia is disappointed - she was going to go shrink his cat!
Akito and Talia continue to pound on Shadow Akito. Sophia shoots Ciernan's chair with the shrink-ray, dumping Ciernan out of it. Master Igo holds the cat menacingly: "Kill the shadow ninja or the cat gets it!">. Ciernan tells the mooks to "Execute plan 15B" - they promptly shoot Shadow Akito in the belt, and he screams and explodes in a puff of flame. Having given Igo one, Ciernan demands one and wants his cat back. Igo gives it back, and heads back out into the living room to look for gobbets of flesh to confirm that Shadow Akito is dead.
Sophia shrinks herself - but she's carrying the shrunken mirror-Sharra in the rat cage. The cage shrinks, but Sharra doesn't. Now there's a small Sharra wearing a cage, which bursts (happily not with so much blood). Sharra punches the button on her inverter to go home.
"If someone can verify that the shadow assassin is dead, we can stop the fight." -Master IgoCiernan gives everyone an action to stop fighting with. Akito has begun to be suspicious of Master Igo's willingness to work for Ciernan.
"Oh, totally. I could explain the physics..." -Sharra
"If we're done fighting, it doesn't matter what side we're on." -?
"Yes, stop fighting!" -Ciernan (nothing personal, just business.)
"I doubt that your motives are clear any more." -AkitoCiernan crawls back into the bathroom and locks the door, getting away from Akito. Akito knocks the door down, but not before Ciernan has gotten further away, causing the inverter on his (half-size) wheelchair to start beeping, and also to cause another device to start counting down: "Five. Four."
"Do not confuse being a master with being good or evil." -Master Igo
"This is a clearly some sort of test." -Talia
"Then we can continue our discussion after we pound the bad guys." -Akito
People start running away, out to the balcony. Kith gives the bad guy mooks a phase to run away in, which helps them a lot. The next round, the device says "Three. Two." which is somehow considered even more ominous. Finally, there's a huge explosion. Ciernan's two bodyguards and a couple of mooks are killed, but most are healable.
The party flees the scene - Dr. Kye stops to complain about the Disturbance and gets his room deposit back. Mirris manages to get some of the mooks arrested. Sharra really wants to stay and try to explain things, but in the end, thinks that the explanation will be too unlikely to believe, and also retreats.
The party invites Talia to stay ("A lifetime supply of doof!"), but she says that her Enemy has escaped her again and she must pursue him in order to avenge her master. (People pause briefly to wonder: in Talia's universe, Pierogi is enslaved by the Tarn. So in the destroy-the-world universe, is Pierogi the only happy surviving planet?)
Mirris gives Talia a note to give to Jessica should she ever meet her, though Talia really hopes to avoid Jessica if she can.