"If you want to catch the eye, smile and wave. But remember to wave with your left hand, so you can keep your knife in your right."
-- Contessa Alison von Dietwald, AS 2448
New Light -> Gateway
Katya, Ciernan, and Jim note that Gabriel mentioned that Viktor has left to discuss "affairs of State" on Gateway. This ties in to the rumors that Ciernan has heard about Klothos angling for a marriage to Viktor, but as a plan, everyone agrees that it is Just No Good.
Just as the Hippocrates is about to lift off, a guy in a suit shows up at the door. Ciernan answers, while other people fuss about the possibility that he might be something dangerous - he has a briefcase opaque to scanning! The guy introduces himself as Wilfred Manson, currently representing Transmedical Sciences. He's shown into the conference room, where he produces a check for 4000 asters made out to Eva Thorssen. The crew explains that Eva isn't around to accept the check, and they need it made out to someone else. He asks for documentation indicating that she's been terminated from employ by the Hippocrates. The crew refuses to provide any. Max and others ponder the law of the matter, and decide that while it is not necessary for him to ask for this proof, neither is it unreasonable: it allows himself to legally cover himself if there are later questions, and it allows the company to not pay up immediately. He offers a new check in several weeks. The crew says they're leaaving now, and they want the money now. They ponder pretending to be Eva, but eventually Max out-laws Mr. Manson, and they get their money.
IPX calls. The party called last run to try to locate Dr. Kye - they report that he'll be leaving the planet soon, so if they want to set up an appointment, they should do so soon. Most of the crew decides that no, that's okay, they don't need an appointment. Well, should IPX give Dr. Kye any message? "Why, yes - tell him liftoff is in six hours." Twenty minutes later, IPX calls Dr. Kye to pass the message along.
Just as the Hippocrates is about to lift off, there's another commotion - Security is keeping someone off of the slip. It turns out to be Andrej, who says he's been invited. Katya comes down to talk to him, but they're staring awkwardly at each other when Mirris heads over to try to take his stuff and show him to a stateroom. He panicks - he's not getting kidnapped again! - and backs out the airlock again. Katya follows him, shooing Mirris away.
"You two should talk." -Jim to Katya and AndrejKatya and Andrej talk - apparently Katya has thought Andrej didn't want to see her, and Andrej thought Katya didn't want to see him, so they've been avoiding each other. Jim tried to reconcile them, but didn't get his messages off until a few hours ago, so Andrej nearly missed the takeoff.
"But she *can't* talk." -Kith
Meanwhile, at the crew's behest, Kith talks to Jayla, to ask if the Vircans have blueprints for the Star of Judgement. They have tactical blueprints; engineering ones will take a little while longer. Okay, the Hippocrates will swing by the Vircus system to pick those up.
The Hippocrates preps to leave again (the spaceport has begun to doubt that they mean it), leaving the Aberdevine behind for the moment on New Light. (Ace and Twig are still negotiating some money making scheme involving the Aberdevine and GloryWeb.) Starport security calls to report that the slip is secure. There's some shushing in the background ("Don't say anything about that! It's all secure!"). The crew decides that it's better to say nothing, and the Hippocrates takes off.
Kye turns on CNN, hoping for exciting news. Due to a stunningly bad fortune check, he hears that there has been a break in the New Light Strangler case - the most recent victim survived! There's a picture of Tom Corum, Kye's grad student, listed in critical condition.
Kith realizes that whenever she passes the weapons locker on the bridge, Mirris watches her very carefully.
"Oh, the weapons locker - is that where the glitter is?" -KithPeople consider how to get a good scan of Gateway without being noticed. Max finally concludes that it's not really possible to do a deep scan without emitting something, so in general, the more they notice, the more likely they'll be noticed.
Ciernan, Katya, and Kith run some power projection experiments using tomato seedlings.
The Hippocrates passes through Vircus, and gets a radio message with the tactical blueprints for the Star of Judgement. It's a set of maps of the battle station with tactical notes based on lots of simulated assaults. There's a notation for an assault through the reactor core - that's the only time they actually lost people. Yup, the Vircans are still pretty hardcore.
Kith thinks there should be little space drones to ferry physical items back and forth at Vircus. Maybe one of the engineers can think about that? Max and Mirris program the sensors to do a deep scan if someone hits a particular button, just in case there's a good distraction some time.
The Hippocrates arrives at Gateway. There's a whole 0.3 fleet effectiveness units there, more than usual, which startles the tacticians. Ciernan thinks there's three big Red pieces present: a General, a Miner, and a Spy. Tranponders identify them as DeGaulle's flagship and taskforce, a Tinara battle squadron, and Klothos's home guard. The news seems to indicate that everything is happy and great and Klothos is happy to welcome the Hegemonic Heir to Gateway.
Max ponders the locations of various enemies. He'd start looking for the Criminal Masterminds in the outworlds. He'd start looking for Cain on Gateway. He'd start looking for Crichton at the battlestation. He'd start looking for Noah at Tyrell's Folly. Katya puts all the Smeerps on full time incubator duty.
Hippocrates hails DeGaulle's flagship.
"My compliments to Commodore DeGaulle." -HippocratesAdmiral DeGaulle calls back. He hadn't heard they were on the guest list for the festivities. Oh, they're not? Well, he's sure they could get an invitation. Hippocrates wonders what the occasion is - it's a reception and honors for the arrival of His Highness. DeGaulle says, with a wink, that he hopes to see them there - it's always good to have allies in these sorts of situations.
"We'll convey your compliments to the Admiral." -The Andrax
"No, they say Admiral." -Mike
"My congratulations to the admiral as well." -Hippocrates
The Hippocrates eventually dock with Gateway Station. Ciernan decides to wander around to try and find out things. There is much outcry that he should take someone with him. He says he'll be fine. People point out that Kye thought he'd be fine, and Hippocrates thought he'd be fine, the times they got jumped. (Though to be accurate, both of those were with other people, or at least thought they were, at the time). He's still sure he'll be fine, and manages to avoid being assigned a chaperone.
Kith checks in with the Outworlds embassy down on the the planet. Some invitations to the party arrive, for Jim as the Sparky Cola rep, for Cassandra and a guest, for Ciernan and a guest, and for Max.
Ciernan returns to report that some of the others invited are Dr. Crichton, and Dr. Noel Jaspan (who, people finally remember, is the guy who built the Hegemonator chair). Also, Haigan is very popular right now, while Gloryweb is on the outs. Ciernan emails Estelle to tell her he's on Gateway and going to a party without her.
Kith writes a note volunteering to be the Jaylaist representative to the occasion, but isn't successfully diplomatic enough to get an invitation. While people continue to canvas for invitations, Ciernan briefs everyone on the party mechanic.
"Propose to Klothos, and I'll blow up the battlestation." -Hippocrates to KyeSo: the overall goal of the party is to prevent Klothos from getting enough urbanity to propose to Viktor? Hey, what if Viktor gets enough to propose to Katya? Should he be thwarted too, just in case?
Ciernan gets mail back from Estelle - she's on Haven. "Hmf, going to devastatingly good parties without me, you cad. All sorts of things are going on here. Have fun and I'll brief you later." Ciernan is impressed by the email turnaround, and sends back that he is waiting breathlessly for her report. Apparently, OmniWeb is up and running in Red, though the fast-email prices are steep. (FedEx as compared to a postage stamp).
Jim calls Viktor. Like Admiral DeGaulle, he says it's good to have allies in a situation like this. He'll send a pair of tickets over for Jim, Hippocrates and a guest. Jim tries to find out if there are any goals they can help with, but Viktor doesn't have time to chat right now.
Kye yoinks Jim's Sparky Cola invitation, Ciernan gets Kith an outworlds embassy invitation, and people try to sort out who is left over to go as a guest. Deirdre is assigned as Cassandra's guest.
"Hmf. I'm always picked last." -MirrisMax power projects himself full of fortune making him more like Jasper (the acrobat/dancer he's remembering), just in case. And Kye brings along a couple of vials of Affection, just in case. Max, Katya, Kye, Mirris, and Jim all go shopping for Devastatingly Good-Looking clothing and haircuts, and then it's time for the party.
"Would you do me the honor of accompanying me?" -Ciernan to Mirris
<stamps foot, glares at Hippocrates> -Mirris
"Er..." <holds out hand> -Hippocrates
<to Ciernan> "No! I'm going with Hippocrates!" -Mirris
The party opens with a dance between Viktor and Klothos, which gains them both some urbanity. The crew spreads out, starting witty conversations and gathering their own urbanity. Then Jim launches himself onto the dance floor, snubbing Klothos to talk to Viktor (costing both himself and her some points). The battle is on! Max and Cassandra dance, as do Katya and Ciernan.
Jim spends some more urbanity to ask Viktor what his plan is - the answer is apparently "avoid all marriage proposals, and get more favors from Klothos than she does from him." Crichton spends some of his urbanity to arrange a meeting later with Dr. Kye.
"Having arranged a meeting with Dr. Kye, Crichton doesn't feel the need to stand next to him any longer."At round ten of the party, it's Ladies' Choice! All ladies are permitted to immediately whisk the men of their choice to the dance floor. Klothos whisks Ciernan - but that causes him to leave his drink behind. Having wasted food, he loses some urbanity and is no longer a gain for her to dance with. Then, to add insult to injury, he refrains from gaining any urbanity by dancing with her, so she still can't get any from him. She gives up eventually, only to be snatched up by Max.
After several more rounds of dancing and conversation, Max and Mirris swing by Viktor to spend a lot of their urbanity on him, putting him substantially ahead of Klothos.
At round fifteen, there is Mood Lighting - all men may whisk the women of their choice to the dark and secluded corners of the room. After a very long pause of tactical consideration, Jim whisks Katya.
"We can have scintillating conversations about... JUMPSPACE" -Max, whisking the Gloryweb representative.Viktor whisks Klothos, and asks her for a favor. She asks him for a favor, cancelling out. However, he has a lot more urbanity than she does, so it's a losing game for her. Mirris flirts a bit with Dr. Crichton in the hopes of annoying Kye. Jim has something of a moral conundrum, himself, realizing that flirting is tactically efficient.
Ciernan spends some urbanity on trying to find out what Anastasia Klothallad's plan is (to marry Armand DeGaulle, apparently), while more people flirt with each other. Klothos, having run out of urbanity, tries to avoid people who will ask her for favors, but Max manages to keep her in the center of the dance floor.
Kith peeks behind the curtain at the side of the room. A number of well-armed people in combat armor reassure her that everything is fine. She reports that there are "Strike teams - but they're nice strike teams."
Dr. Crichton dashes out onto the dance floor to ask for a favor from Klothos. Between the favor and the gaucherie of crossing the dance floor without dancing, that's about all his urbanity, but he's accomplished his goals.
"I accidentally flirt with the Red Heir." -MirrisHippocrates calls Twig for an update - apparently there is some sort of fuss back on the ship, but it's mostly under control. Jim asks Jeanette Tyrell what her plan is - it's mostly "thwart Anastasia's plans, and grab a favor from either Viktor or the Admiral".
The midnight hour strikes, at round 25, and everyone loses 10 urbanity from party fatigue. This puts a stop to Kye's hopes of getting Klothos to marry him so that he can get Hippocrates to blow up the station. The party continues on for a few more rounds, but for the most part everyone unloads their last urbanity on favors and information. Dr. Noel Jaspan's plan, for example, was to try and get the favor of a pardon for Dr. Cain. Alas, he never got high enough in urbanity to pull it off.
Jim finally bows to tactical efficiency, and flirts with Katya as surreptitiously as possible. Kye spends a favor with Klothos on cancelling Crichton's favor from Klothos. Ciernan finds out from Dr. Jaspan an email address for talking to Dr. Cain.
Max tries to find the past of the cargo hold, and sees the other cargo hold, where people come in and look around for the bad guy. Ciernan finds the box that seems to have been looted - the skeleton from Crux has had its hand chopped off. Kye reminds people that the rings each require a DNA match - so someone has the DNA matching the Skyguard ring now. But they don't have the actual ring, as both it and the Scout ring are still in the safe.
Ciernan checks the morgue and sickbay for grey legos, but the only one there is the incubator. Max finds past in the morgue, and watches a guy all in grey, who opens up the body trays only to discover no bodies. He mutters to himself about people who don't keep their bodies in the morgue, and heads off to check sickbay. The description matches the "Ghost" who stole the piece of the footstool in A Fistful of Nummies.
Max wonders where the missing hand is. Well, he'd start looking with Dr. Crichton. Hey, Kye has a meeting with Dr. Crichton! He brings Max and Kith too, and Kith brings cookies. Crichton comments that it wasn't necessary to bring muscle; Kye thinks Crichton is a goof for calling Kith "muscle".
Crichton proposes an arrangement. If Kye lets Crichton commune with the corpse they have, he'll let Kye commune with the ring that Crichton has. Kye says privacy will be necessary. Crichton thinks Kye switching the rings is more likely than Crichton switching corpses. Kye thinks if he can't verify that the ring is the same one, he's not worthy of being an archaeologist. Well, good point. They agree.
Kye thinks he might be able to duplicate Crichton's ring (with an icon that Ciernan and Kith identify as being from the Rosicrucian Academy), but will need the DNA as well. Max quietly reality-tunnels the hand back to his pocket after discovering it in Crichton's room.
"Good doing business with you. Perhaps we'll be forced to do business again some day." -Dr. CrichtonKye's scry indicates that the ring is nominally owned by Dr. Crichton - but really owned by a long-ago powerful mage. Getting the three rings together, he tries to figure out if the other two rings still exist? He decides one definitely exists, but the other is somewhat fuzzy. Ciernan guesses that it's on Janina Megaera, and Katya confirms the guess.
Kye also deduces that the thing the rings/keys unlock is down on the surface of Gateway. Between Kye and Max, they can pinpoint its location, and the ship heads down.
In a wooded corner of what is apparently a natural preserve of some sort, a long tunnel is discovered, full of deathtraps. It has been there for a very long time, and only one other person has been by recently. At the end of the tunnel is a vertical stone slab and five white stones to stand on - Kye says that the slab will slide aside if five people stand on the stones.
After some conferring, people do so. The slab slides aside to reveal a carved metal surface (scalable pdf here):
Kye recognizes the circle-with-arcs as a very old symbol for Gateway, and the Hegemonics recognize the spiderwebby symbol as belonging to the Polymath Institute. Kye thinks the door is something like 700 zed old. Max thinks the place to start looking for that ring is on Sundown.
Ciernan reports that behind the metal door is a shaft which goes to something very large. The door and the shaft and the large thing are all psi-proof, and while Ciernan thinks he might be able to dig down to the large place, he probably can't get in.
Kye uses his favor with Klothos to register the site for IPX. The group pokes around a bit more, and notes that while the deathtraps are old, they're recently cared for. Max and Kye confirm that Janina Megaera is the person who recently maintained them. Max ponders trying to reality tunnel into the vault, but decides today is not the day for it.
Later, Ciernan gets an email back from Estelle: the vice-governor of Tinara resigned amidst a scandal. The new vice-governor is now being sworn in with the Hegemon. Estelle doesn't have conclusive proof that it's a Blue operation, but spies and scandal in the same place is suggestive.