Wedding Vows

The party lands on Stannis Law; Lord Stannis has arranged for a securable garden as a wedding facility. Everyone dresses up and heads there. Jim notes Ryan Morningside among the caterers, with some cameras.

Kith welcomes the guests:

Today Katya Lavalor and Martan of Pierogi will join their lives together. We are here to witness and celebrate this event. On behalf of Martan and Katya, I welcome you all to this ceremony.

Calling forth Katya:

As Katya and Martan invited us to attend their wedding, we now invite Katya to enter and join this ceremony.

Calling forth Martan:

As Martan and Katya invited us to attend their wedding, we now invite Martan to enter and join this ceremony. Calling forth Mirris:

Mirris of Hippocrates, please stand forward.

Mirris explains that, in the traditions of Pierogi, Martan is now called upon to prove his worth. Ruehan provides a mass hallucination (for everyone but Hippocrates) of the Pierogi landscape. Dr. Kye provides a deathtrap, which Martan attempts to pass with TK, but the difficulty knob keeps mysteriously turning from 3 to 4, and Martan seems to be having more difficulty with his own TK than expected. Mirris is sure this is all Dr. Kye's fault, but he claims not to be touching the dial (and, in fact, he isn't). Hippocrates and Katya also both prove capable of moving the dial back down at range, and Martan does get through.

Next, Hippocrates asks Martan a riddle:

Men are fond of me.  I am found everywhere,
brought in from the woods and the beetling cliffs,
from down and from dale.  In the daylight wings
raised me aloft, then into a roof's shade
swung me in sweetly.  Sweltered then
by men in a bath, I am a binder now,
soon a thrasher, a thrower next:
I'll put an old fellow flat on the ground.
A man who tries to take me on,
tests my strength, soon finds out,
if his silly plan dosen't pall on him,
that it is his back that will hit the dust.
Loud in words, he has lost control
of his hands and feet, and his head doesn't work:
his strength has gone.  Guess my name
who have such mastery of men on earth
that I knock them about in broad daylight.
Failing to immediately guess the answer, Martan deftly TK-grabs Hippocrates' notes, floats them over, and correctly guesses "Mead".

Next, Mirris provides a logic puzzle:

Attack of the Shapeshifters

Note: This exercise grants no credit for Xenopsychology. The "Shapeshifters" in this exercise do not correspond to the description of any known species, and are introduced purely for the purposes of Tactical Logic training.

Welcome to your first Skyguard command, cadet! To save the universe today, you'll have to face a new danger--the Attacking Shapeshifters. But don't warm up your guns; you can solve this problem without firing a single shot!

Your first challenge as Captain of the starship Holmes arrives in the form of a distress call from scout ship Conundrum:

"Attention all Skyguard vessels! We are under attack by a Shapeshifter vessel of unknown origin. We have no protection; we believe we have traitors on board who have rendered our defenses inoperative. We are about to be boarded. I must immediately activate the eight-hour self-destruct sequence; unless assistance arrives in time, the ship and everything on it will be vaporized!"

You order the Holmes to proceed immediately to the Conundrum's reported coordinates, and access the XenoDB files to find this entry:

Shapeshifters routinely work with traitors to disable and board vessels. When they capture a vessel, they allow the traitors to remain on board, along with a few honest crew members. Others are replaced with Shapeshifters who assume the identities of the original crew.
The only way to distinguish among them is by sifting their statements. True crew members always speak the truth, traitors always lie, and Shapeshifters -- being accustomed to changing -- lie if the statement made immediately before their statement was true, and tell the truth if the previous statement was false.

When the Holmes arrives at the proper coordinates, scans reveal only seven life forms aboard the drifting Conundrum. Seven and a half hours have elapsed since the distress call was sent; you only have time to get one statement from each of the beings aboard the Conundrum. You order the seven beings to report to their bridge and make one statement each. Here are the statements, in the order in which they are made:

Arkon: "Bakar always tells the truth."
Bakar: "Eljon sometimes lies."
Culla: "Dohab always lies."
Dohab: "Culla is always truthful."
Eljon: "There are no more than two traitors on board."
Falco: "There are more Shapeshifters on board than true crew members or traitors."
Gheel: "Don't worry--the self-destruct sequence has not been activated."

You cannot risk taking traitors or Shapeshifters aboard the Holmes and opening the Linked Worlds to this new threat, so you must quickly determine who belongs to which group. Which are the Shapeshifters, who are the true crew members, and who are the traitors? And has that self-destruct sequence been activated or not? Time is running out--or is it?

Martan flails for a bit, and asks Moment Before Dawn for help. Moment Before Dawn gives him some hints, but he still guesses wrong. Mirris declares that he has shown determination, which is the important thing, and declares him to have passed.

Throughout the services, Ryan Morningside is taking pictures of everyone, and generally wandering around making a minor nuissance off himself (apprently the psi suppressor inhibiting Martan was his). Jim keeps a rabid eye on him, and eventually Ruehan ejects him from the event for his interference.

At this point, Max stands up (to everyone's surprise) and asks if Katya is Martan's one true love. He claims that yes, she is. Max wants to know if he had a true love before, and how long he waited for them. Martan says "Long enough for everyone I knew to die." Max asks Martan "What is my name?", and he guesses "Susan?" but that isn't right. Uh oh. Max says they went to Steadfast training together, and he had to leave, but he thought Martan would wait. Martan guesses "Rowan" just before Mirris announces "Rowan" (from abominating him). He's kinda baffled by this - he went out with Rowan a few times, and then she left... Max snaps out of the bitter recriminations and apologizes. Mirris tries to make sure Martan is okay, and he's having a hard time not being distracted by the reappearance of dead ex-girlfriends, but between Mirris and Katya, he gets back on target.

A Pierogi song, "Sunrise", is sung by those gathered, and then Kith starts the final portion of the ceremony:

It is a Bibbler tradition to begin a marriage with vows to support each other "for better of for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part." Though you may make such vows in our presentce today, I know you made them in your hearts long ago. The vows you take tonight's vows are to promise each other and the friends gathered here to go on as you have begun.
The traditional Stannis Law vows are divided into three portions: shared vows of the past ("how did we get here?") and the present ("where we are, and the committment we make"), and individual future vows. For the former two, Katya projects images while Martan speaks:


<martan takes katya by the hand and leads her to a door, which he opens, revealing a lovely garden>
<martan shows katya a mirror. katya-looking-in-mirror is in ship's scrubs, her posture sort of folded in on herself, face tipped downwards. katya-in-mirror swirls in the red dress, laughing, hands outstretched>
<martan offers katya a heart; she looks at it with a wondering expression. She takes a second heart out of her chest and offers it to him (so that they're both holding both, between them, their hands touching) >

"I showed you the wonder and joy that is hidden beyond the everyday world.
I recognized a beautiful woman in you before you had seen her yourself.
I loved you, and so you came to know that you loved me, and we were whole."

<martan in shadows. katya comes to him and holds up her cupped hands as if offering him water to drink; light shines out of her hands, illuminating both of them>

<martan stands dejectedly under a black cloud, which is raining on him. katya offers him a bouquet of flowers. he takes the flowers, and as he does, he smiles, and you suddenly see how handsome he is>

<katya offers martan a heart; he looks at it disbelievingly. he takes a second heart out of his chest, frowns at it, looks at katya. she makes puppy-dog eyes at him. he offers the heart to her, and she accepts it, so that they are both holding both, hands touching. (the physicality of this is the same as in the earlier version, though the pantomime & expressions are different) >

"You showed me that there was light when I could see only darkness.
You reminded me that there was joy when I remembered only sorrow.
You loved me, and so I came to know that I loved you, and we were whole."

Present ("how we are"):

<martan and katya trade speech bubbles back and forth. Some of the bubbles have word-squiggles in them, others have pictures. Sometimes, as a bubble passes between them, the squiggles change to pictures, or the pictures to squiggles>
<katya and martan stand in wedding clothing in front of the assembled crew, as they are now, holding a single speech bubble between them, which has both word-squiggles and pictures in;

"I hear your thoughts and understand them, beyond and before words.
You hear my words, and see meaning in them I never knew."

<Martan closes his eyes and reaches out his hand; and Katya in the red dress appears, twirling in the air. Her hand touches his and he is buoyed up, as if lifted by the touch of her fingers, and he leads her into a spin>

"When I shut my eyes, you are there, dancing, free and glorious.
I reach out my hand to you, and you lift me up."

<katya standing on a hill under blue sky. her hair ruffles in a sudden breeze. she looks up and to the side as if hearing something; a ghost-image appears where she's looking: martan smiling in the way he only does when he's outside, hair ruffling, one hand gesturing upwards>

"When you are outside, and the breeze passes you by, you can hear my laughter in the wind,
as I stretch out my hand to hold the sunlight and the sky."

Present ("committment")

<katya stands at a crossroads with several roads branching out ahead of her. martan appears on one of the roads, holding out his hand to her. she looks at the other roads, makes a sweeping-aside gesture in their direction, and steps forward to join him. katya and martan holding hands, and holding a map between them with their outside hands, walk towards a distant mountain>

"From all other possibilities, I choose you.
Come with me, where I must journey.
Abide with me, where I must stay."


"No more doubts. No more second thoughts. No more regrets."

<martan stands in a winter-bare garden. katya hands him a rose. he puts the rose in the earth, and it becomes a rosebush. the two of them start digging, planting, cutting, and as they work, the garden comes to life, plants pushing up through the soil, trees putting out leaves, flowers budding and then blossoming.>

<hand in hand, katya and martan approach a doorway-sized picture frame filled with shadows. They step through the frame together, and out into a sunlit meadow, where a small child runs joyfully up to them, and the three of them walk hand-in-hand across the grass>

<cartoon versions of elderly, white-haired katya and martan, sitting in rocking chairs by the shore of an ocean, her head on his shoulder, watching the sun set over the water>

Katya stuff

Katya and Martan go to exchange rings, but discover that they're missing. However, the rings quickly roll up the aisle, and are exchanged. Yay!

Katya and Martan fly off into the sunset, and the rest of the guests start leaving. A mysterious van is still parked in the parking lot; pouncing on it reveals that it's the video editor for Ryan Morningside. With fifty asters and a lot of fast talk, the guy is sent out without his original tapes, but with Morningside's van. The video appears to be specifically cut to make Jim look bad:

There's some stock footage of Jim on his scooter with Katya clinging to him from behind. Then the scene cuts to Martan and Katya on the wedding platform. A pan/cut over to Jim reveals him frowning. Martan then proceeds towards Dr. Kye's deathtrap machine. Cut to Jim, talking to a waiter, who reveals a device under his platter. Jim presses the button. Over on the deathtrap, the difficulty dial suddenly increases from 3 to 4. Cut to Martan getting pummeled. Cut to Jim smiling.

Day Zero day of the Secret Hegemon conference begins, at a highly secure conference center that Lord Stannis has arranged.

The Blue Hegemon arrives with an entourage of about forty people, including various ministers and underministers. The Red Hegemon arrives with his nine Elite. As both parties enter the meeting room, Gerard (in Donella's group), Gareth venDolian (in Shaddam's group), and an otherwise anonymous-looking guard (in Stannis's security) all react suddenly to one of Donella's entourage - the guard shoots him with an unusual-looking gun, while Gerard and Gareth both chop him with plasma brands, meeting halfway through the hapless, now-dead, assassin. (His briefcase later proves to have very clever and unscannable explosives in the liner.)

Lord Stannis shouts "HOLD" to everyone, and it does not (yet) erupt into combat between the two sides. But as omens go, it is not good.