Summer Rerun: Stannis Law

"Life is just *that* much better... with a Starline Scooter."

Some time around 2778.255 AS
Stannis Law

The Hippocrates makes a stop by Stannis Law, with the understanding that it will return for Jim and Katya in about a week. What possible harm could befall two such youngsters in such a nice place? On the way to the planet, Jim gets several email in short succession, telling him that he's won the Sparky Cola Challenge, and to please contact Ryan Morningside to arrange for the presentation.

Once disembarked, there is a bit of brief initial consternation - where exactly are they staying? The party usually just stays in the Hippocrates, but it's already left. With family? Er, probably not. In a hotel? Hmm, will they be allowed to rent rooms in a hotel on their own? In Jim's scout tent? That could get cold... In the end, two hotel rooms are taken in a neither plush nor seedy hotel; the clerk is a little dubious at Jim renting rooms, but checks their ID (and checks to see that they're not listed with the police as runaways) and lets them have two adjoining rooms.

Jim goes to an internet cafe to check the status of his network spiders, which were left to map the Stannis Law network last time he was here. The programs seem to have completed about 80% of the map, and then halted. The data is all still there, and all the spiders seem to have halted at about the same time. That's somewhat mysterious. He expects that it'll take him about another day to finish the rest, and gets a start on it for several hours. Katya, bored, sets up a psychic link and wanders off. She gets some hassling when she wanders into some of the less ideal neighborhoods; she doesn't find what she's after, and wanders back without really mentioning her adventures to Jim. While Katya has been gone, Jim has also emailed Ryan Morningside and is a little disconcerted that the award presentation involves a live studio audience. He'll have to stop by the studio to sign some forms and pick up the guest tickets (of which he gets two. Who else should he bring? Lord Stannis?)

The pair eat dinner, and then decide to see one of the local tourist sights - a garden of ice sculptures, where one is sculpted every night and then gradually melt. They also have an area where you can try to make your own; Jim attempts to sculpt the Hippocrates, but it's only recognizable as something vaguely pyramidal. Katya's attempt to sculpt the Omphalos Dust Worm are at least recognizable as a coiled snakey sort of thing.

Heading back to the hotel, Katya finds an invitation from Lord Stannis for her and her companions, to dinner the next night.

No watches are set, but the night is uneventful. In the morning, Jim heads to a new internet cafe to finish up his mapping, while Katya prowls around Centre City looking for fortune tellers (none prove to live up to her screening) and other disreputable types. She doesn't end up actually talking to any of them, though. When she returns to meet Jim at the cafe, he's finished his map. Before starting his computer field test, though, he should probably check in at the studio.

The film studio holds a bunch of different smaller companies, including ShockRite Advertising, which has the Sparky Cola advertising campaign. Ryan Morningside sweeps in and introduces himself to Jim and Katya; their first impression is of 'a male Xanthippe.' He shakes hands all round and then sweeps them into his office for the paperwork. Katya reads him and is a little surprised to note that he actually seems somewhat annoyed by Jim, though she's not entirely sure why. Also introduced is another older teenager, Caroline McCracken, who is the first runner-up - she is apparently Sparky Cola's biggest fan - and if for any reason Jim isn't able to make it to the awards ceremony, Caroline will take his place as the Grand Prize Winner. Hmm. Katya checks out Caroline too - she seems maybe a little jealous of Jim as the Grand Prize Winner, but is way way psyched to get Sparky Cola for life, and doesn't seem to have any nefarious plans.

Forms get handed out; Ryan goes over what each of them is (permission to use image in ad campaigns, etc), but discards one of Jim's as irrelevant. Caroline gets one of those, though. Hmm. More suspicion. The form appears to be the one that gives legal waivery permission to be in the studio. Doesn't Jim need that one too? All right, it can't hurt. Jim signs that one too. There's also a brief "confusion" as to whether he should be there at 4 or 5, which is nailed down to 4, after Ryan's secretary is consulted.

On the way out, Jim checks with the secretary - is there anything else he needs to bring? or wear? or fill out? The forms seem to all be set - he should show up at 3:30 for makeup, though. And he has a driver's license, right? Er. Does a Blue Hegemony goverment ID count? Not really, if it's not a vehicle permit. Okay, that's another thing to go on the list to do.

Off to the Registry of Motor Vehicles; Jim manages to confuse them into thinking that the Blue ID is for a vehicle, so he can fill out the conversion form, as opposed to the license-form-for-minors, which requires a parent or guardian's signature. A road test on flying vehicles is scheduled for the next morning.

Katya & Jim ponder ways to make money, but don't come up with anything likely to make a lot of money quickly.

The pair heads to yet a third internet cafe, this one specifically chosen for its defensibility. Jim chooses a corner booth, and plugs in his manual, and requests the computer field test. The bandwidth monitor spikes, and it says "Selecting appropriate test environment. Test will commence in 15:00." Jim tries a bit to figure out what it's doing, but all he can get is that it's doing a search of various civil sites.

Fifteen tense minutes later, the manual starts up a web page - it's the Pague's Landing Chamber of Commerce site (Katya recognizes this as a small community near the capital). Population, 6500. Pictures of happy families and a cheerful winter town. Then, the web page for the Pague's Landing Power Reactor is brought up. Then, both minimize and a temperature gauge for the reactor appears, along with an address for the router. Jim sets about breaking into the reactor, trying to keep it from blowing and destroying all of Pague's Landing - there are additional disasters when the reactor's web server starts eating all the bandwidth, and when emergency personnel get trapped in the containment room and the doors have to be released manually. After a close battle, in which the temperature gets about two-thirds of the way towards meltdown and Pague's Landing is sent into rolling blackouts, Jim finally finds and engages temperature stabilizers and manual core control. With one action left, the reactor is finally brought down to a safe temperature level.

After imminent disaster has been averted, Katya storms off, appalled by the whole thing. Jim attempts to chase after her - he didn't know it was going to do that! - but he is intercepted by the person at the register, who wants him to pay for his net usage. The billing does include the initial fifteen-minute bandwidth spike, but after that, bandwidth usage is zero. "It was just pretending!" Jim realizes. He runs after Katya, trying to tell her that it wasn't actually going to blow up. She isn't interested in excuses, and continues stomping away. Jim goes back to the hotel, dispirited.

When he gets there, there's a message for him - the filming has been postponed until Friday. He calls the studio, and talks to Ryan Morningside's secretary. No, filming hasn't been postponed. Jim asks to talk to Ryan himself, and asks why he's getting the feeling that Ryan doesn't want him to be at the award ceremony. Ryan doesn't know what he's talking about. Right. Hmm.

Katya finally gets back to the hotel, and stomps into the shower. Jim waits. When that stops, he taps tentatively at the adjoining door. There's thumping noises. He's sorry. More thumping. Um. Does this mean that he shouldn't come to dinner? Katya sends him an image of an unhappy-looking Lord Stannis. Oh. Well, okay. He'll see her later, then. Off Katya goes, leaving Jim to sew his computer merit badge onto his sash, and contemplate the mercurial nature and general confusingness of girls.

Katya's brother Andrej is also at dinner; there are places set for about five others. Lord Stannis is somewhat taken aback that Katya is alone; has she returned, then? No. Ah. Was she left here on her own? He had hoped that her companions would take somewhat better care of her than that... No. Ah. Did they decline the invitation, then? Katya doodles a stick figure in bed with an icepack on his head. Ah, he's sick. Yes. He doesn't quite believe her, and lets her see a little bit of disappointment, but doesn't press the issue.

Lord Stannis proves better at interrogating Katya than last time; he seems interested in what she's been up to, but doesn't learn anything utterly secret. Andrej is clearly slightly unhappy about something, and it's a conversation that he and Lord Stannis have Not Had in the past, as well. He manages to indicate via odd looks to Katya that something is up, so she reads his mind, and he wants to talk to her later. As dinner comes to an end, Lord Stannis excuses Andrej first. Then, he gives Katya a little brushed-metal box with a button in it.

He realizes that it is her choice to travel, and that her travels do take her into more danger than he would prefer. Even if she is no longer directly under his eye, he would not have her think she is forgotten. If she ever has need, press this, and he will do what he can. It will not work in the wild places, or the depths of space, but anywhere civilized - there will be aid.

Before leaving, Katya again points to her eyes, questioning. He relents briefly, and says "In all my days, I have never seen other such."

Andrej has been loitering slowly out; he asks if they were all really sick? No, [picture of bad dog having chewed up silverware]. And it's clarified that it's just Jim here, too. Well, he was sort of hoping that there would be more, when he heard the Hippocrates had showed up, but maybe Katya and Jim can help. If Jim is out of the doghouse tomorrow, do they want to come by for dinner? After the Sparky Cola thing. He explains briefly - he's been poking around Cabriolet (the biggest Stannis Law resort area) and thinks there's some sort of protection racket going on. But nobody will talk to him.

Katya agrees to bring Jim over tomorrow to discuss the problem, and heads back to the hotel. There's a note that's been slipped under her door - Jim is very contrite about Katya having thought that he would intentionally put people at risk. Katya knocks on the door, and sends him pictures of dinner with Andrej tomorrow, and then waves goodnight. Is he forgiven? Hard to tell. Jim goes to bed, thinking more about the perplexing nature of girls.

The next morning, Jim and Katya head off to the RMV; Jim passes the air-bike driver's test with no problem, and is now the proud possessor of an all-vehicles driving permit.

Then, it's off to the studio. At 3, just in case there are more "accidental" diversions. Katya is sent to Studio C, into the front row of the audience, while Ryan Morningside brings Jim to makeup and tells him to wait here when he's done, that someone will come for him. A bunch of Sparky Cola VIPs come into the studio with Ryan; Katya spots Geoffrey Oxford among the bunch. Jim's makeup is finished, and the makeup woman wanders off; Jim starts to wait, and then hears a click from the lock. He radios Katya, who draws a picture and gives it to Geoffrey: a stick figure behind a door with a star on it, holding bars on the door as if in prison. Geoffrey doesn't immediately know what to make of being handed a doodle, and Ryan is trying to shoo Katya off the stage again when Jim arrives, having picked the lock.

The filming starts; Jim is introduced and applauded, as are the runners-up. Cases of the brand new flavor of Sparky Cola are brought in and unveiled dramatically by the Sparky Cola VIPs - the new flavor is Snow Lime! Then, the president of Starline Scooters comes in and shakes Jim's hand to present the scooter itself. He asks, jokingly, "You have a valid driver's license, right?" Jim gets to answer "Just got it this morning!" Ryan looks (very briefly) mildly disappointed.

The four scooters are unveiled, in four different colors: "Lambent Flame" (red with orange flame-markings), "Diluvian" (deep blue with faint green mottling), "Fuligin" (black with steel highlights), or "Garde-Royale" (camo). Each has an associated sequined-dress babe to point to the matching scooter. Jim chooses Diluvian. The camera pans to Katya for comment, but instead of saying anything she blows Jim a kiss. He blushes bright red for the next several minutes.

Finally, it's back to the office for more paperwork. There are two choices - he can take one of the scooters for delivery in four to six weeks (he does have to be back on planet for this). Or, he can drive away with the Diluvian scooter in the studio right now - but in that case he also gets Slim, the cameraman, who gets to record Jim for the next 48 hours for use in the ad campaign (No, not in the bathroom. "Nothing tasteless.") The Hippocrates is supposed to be back in about that 48 hours, so there probably won't be a lot of opportunity to do stuff after Slim goes away again. Oh, all right. He signs the form and gets the scooter, plus Slim.

The three head to the hotel again, Jim and Katya on one scooter, Slim filming from another (Slim's scooter isn't as new, but he's very good at flying it). Then, Jim goes (with Slim) to dinner, while Katya goes to Andrej's to explain the addition of a cameraman to the plan. Eventually, Jim pretends bedtime, Slim sets a time to meet in the morning, and Katya and Andrej come over to the hotel, where Andrej explains again about the mysterious protection racket in Cabriolet. Nobody is bringing it to Lord Stannis, so nothing will be done officially; he's been trying to find out what's going on, but nobody will tell him anything.

He doesn't really mind the idea of a cameraman hanging around, though clearly not to film talking with people who have already proven uncomfortable and unwilling to talk. Everyone (including Slim) meets for breakfast in the morning, to head off to Cabriolet on the monorail. Slim thinks this is a great idea - scooters in the agrav blizzard dome!

Jim (trailed by Slim) does some circles overhead, while Andrej and Katya go and talk to a restaurant owner. He still doesn't have anything to say, but Katya gets the name "Scorpii" from his thoughts, which she passes to Andrej as "Scorpion flag". Next, they talk to a casino manager, and Andrej drops the name "Scorpions" - this spooks him a little, though he also doesn't have anything to say; Katya gets the name "Townsend" from him before he excuses himself to take care of something (in fact, to call the Scorpii).

Katya tries to warn Andrej to be wary; he's willing to try to, but is also somewhat hopeful that this will shake something loose.

While the group ponders what to do next, Slim talks Jim into taking the scooter into the agrav blizzard dome to get a few shots. Jim shows off with a couple of 360-loops; in the first, as they come around, they see Andrej watching and waving; in the second, they see Andrej being grabbed and bundled into a van.

The chase begins: the van, followed by Jim and Katya, followed by Slim. The van tries to lose them around some corners, but being able to go over buildings is a big help in being the follower. The van heads out of Cabriolet; the scooter zooshes along to look in the side window, whereupon the guy riding shotgun starts shooting. Jim drops back, and takes out a tire, and then takes some fire from a guy in the back of the van. Katya puts up a telekinetic shield around Jim as he takes out the other back tire, bringing the van to a stop.

A larger-scale firefight ensues (combined with the thugs beating up Andrej and Slim calling the police), where Jim quickly realizes that he has the skill advantage, and retreats to very long range. They still get a few lucky shots in, and he's pretty badly hurt, but after he takes out one of the thugs, the other two retreat back into the van, dragging Andrej with them. One gas grenade later (it seems that Jim has packed the last of the gas grenades, just in case), the last thug is back out of the van, and Jim takes him out as well.

The police arrive in short order, and first aid is applied all round. The kidnappers try to claim that they were attacked by scooter bandits, but are quite unhappy to discover that Slim was filming everything. As the bad guys are taken away, Jim spots (out of the corner of his eye) something hurtling at his head - he catches it, a can of Sparky Cola. Slim grins. Jim gives in and drinks it; no doubt this shot will be spliced into the combat sequence to replace the part where Jim slaps himself with heal patches. Slim declares himself to have gotten as much exciting footage as he could possibly use, and takes off, thanking everyone.

Later, Andrej (plus Katya and Jim) are summoned to Lord Stannis. Andrej is chewed out a bit - being a lordschild does not actually make him invulnerable. A careful distinction is drawn between Jim, who is gratefully thanked for his assistance, and Katya, with whom Lord Stannis is most pleased for having helped rescue Andrej. On the way out, Geoffrey Oxford is also there, to thank Jim (and Katya too, though he did seem to be paying more attention to Jim) on behalf of the staff.

Finally, Jim does his best to patch himself up before the Hippocrates returns for them, though he does still have enough energy damage to make him a subject for Kith's experiments.