"So hoist up the John B's sails, see how the main sail sets,
As they have just left the Terran base, Hippocrates is disguised as Gabriel, and Jim is wearing a guard's uniform over his black-ops clothes. They hit the water, and Jim struggles to the surface. Hippocrates is much heavier, and manages to wave one hand above the water before he begins to sink. Jim splashes towards him, but sees no sign of Hippocrates by the time he reaches that spot in the ocean.
Off in the distance, engine noise is heard. Jim pulls his life raft out of his backpack, and sets it inflating. A boat pulls up, and a young man shouts something about there being people in the water - "First team, go!" Two people from the boat jump overboard towards Jim. Jim dives towards Hippocrates, but someone grabs his arm and pulls him up. He says there's someone else - the rescuer shouts "Jeff, there's another guy!" Jeff shouts "Second team, go!" and a pair in scuba gear also dive overboard.
The scuba divers head down after Hippocrates - they have lights, so they're more clear than Jim was. Hippocrates tries to shoot his blaster to try and make some sort of flash, but it doesn't even spark. One of the divers does spot him, and keeps his light shining on him. To Hippocrates's distress, the other shoots at him with a harpoon gun! He misses, though, and the rope goes by his head a short distance away. Hippocrates grabs the rope, trying to pretend that he's been shot.
On the surface, the swimmers try to reassure Jim not to worry (though they're clearly a little worried themselves), and (unsuccessfully) try to get him not to dive. The divers start hauling Hippocrates up by the rope; when it gets high enough, the swimmers and Jim help too. The divers get to the surface, and one shouts for a medic: "I think I hit him!" Hippocrates is finally pulled up, though his Gabriel disguise has begun to go askew, and everyone is pulled into the boat.
The team of boys start to do first aid, which Jim recognizes as right out of the manual - these are people with the first aid merit badge. Hippocrates isn't really drowned or injured, so doesn't need much help (which is good, because first aid doesn't so much fix robots). Jim, however, is all shot up from blaster fire; they patch him up some.
The boys want to know what happened; Jim distracts them by asking where they are. They're 8 klicks north of Aquaria, comes the reply. Jim thinks a bit, and doesn't recognize the name, but the miles of water is a little familiar looking. "Are we on Cerulean? Cool!" he exclaims, which sends the boys into a fuss - clearly he's going into shock, if he's forgotten what planet he's on.
Jim begins to recognize the mannerisms going on, and asks if the others are scouts. They introduce themselves as Otter Patrol. Jim says he's from Troop 17, from Tinara. From where? Er, from Tiras Nova. What year is this, Jim asks. It's still 2441, Jeff replies, but this provokes both another round of worry from the scouts over amnesia, and a round of whispering between Jim and Hippocrates as to what things of significance happened in 2441. (As far as they can recall, nothing cataclysmic; it's after the war in the outworlds has started, but before the rebellion).
Otter Patrol was out practicing for the Aquatics derby; the finals are tomorrow. The scouts are introduced - Brendan and Mitch, Second Class; Max and Dan, First Class; Millenium Scout Jeff, the patrol leader. Jim and Hippocrates are asked again what they were doing in the water, and so... um... shot up. They don't really remember how they got here, but there was a fight. Jim muses "Maybe it's what Sophia was talking about with the space-time continuum." The scouts look at him funny yet again.
The scouts explain the Aquatic Derby a bit more. A lot of patrols from all over come to it, and there's been a week of events testing various skills; the last round will be tomorrow, and the three teams still in the running are Otter Patrol, plus Vulture and Bobcat (Troop 1 from Ridena).
Meanwhile, the boat has been heading back to Aquaria at top speed - they dock, and are met by a dolphin named Student, who is introduced as an honorary assistant scoutmaster who works with Professor Morgan, their scoutmaster. Professor Morgan arrives; Jim introduces himself again, but Professor Morgan seems a little troubled and distracted. He's received a message, and needs to speak to Mitch; the two walk off along the dock. Professor Morgan has a message on his datapad that he shows to Mitch, who starts to cry; Professor Morgan comforts him and the two walk back to the boat, where Mitch starts to pack up his stuff. His parents were in an accident; he has to go back with his uncle for the funeral. Everyone is very sad and sorry, though Max starts to ask what about the derby, and is shushed by Jeff with a very precise elbow to the side.
Jeff tells Mitch not to worry about the derby, and to let them know if there's anything they can do. Mitch leaves. Jeff is disappointed that they'll have to withdraw, though; Professor Morgan is apologetic but they are one man short now. Jeff also takes the opportunity to whisper a report to Professor Morgan, which Hippocrates overhears much of - he thinks Hippocrates is a robot, and that he was in disguise, and that Jim was wounded by blaster fire.
Jim asks if the teams for the derby have to all be from the same patrol. No, they don't, but all the other scouts here have already been in other events... the other scouts start looking at Jim. Is he a scout in good standing? Yes, he says. Professor Morgan asks for his handbook, to sync them and check Jim's merit badges - he starts to do this, and looks a bit surprised. Why doesn't everyone go back to the hotel? Professor Morgan keeps looking at the handbook as he goes, clearly fascinated. Jim asks Jeff if there have been bitey fish yet - no, not yet - and they swap anecdotes about icerazors and other Cerulean fauna.
Professor Morgan interrogates Jim a bit about the contents of his manual. He appears to have had a provisional review for his elevation to First Class. Interesting. "It doesn't seem you skipped very far," he comments. Would Jim mind attending a meeting of the scoutmasters this evening? Er, of course not. Jim asks what "skipped" means, and Professor Morgan says he's sorry, he shouldn't have said anything.
So how did Jim get injured? Well, there was this big fight. They were rescuing a woman who had been kidnapped, who was being held in a fairly secure location. Professor Morgan recommends backup. Well, there was backup. Jim's group did manage to get the woman to the extraction team - Professor Morgan approves. But then he was taken? Well, um, Dr. Symphony-Hayes said that something could go wrong with the space-time continuum... Oh. Jim will definitely have to talk to the scoutmasters.
Meanwhile, Hippocrates does some web searches. In current events, the war against the outworlds is progressing. The standard slant seems to be that the outworlds were warmongery and attacked the Skyguard fleet, so it's a fairly righteous war - there are left-wing political opinions that are questioning the war, but they aren't the majority yet. There aren't any relevant-sounding mentions of Hippocrates, but then, the Cerulean web mostly has Cerulean stuff plus recent offworld stuff, unless you want to do a search somewhere with a fee that collects and archives news from all over the Linked Worlds. Hippocrates checks the several-days-old Mainwell news, but there isn't any mention of... well, anything catastrophic sounding. Searching for Simeon Bellarion, he turns up a membership on the board of the Cerulean Aquatic Preservation Society, and an email address.
Then he ponders battery life. He doesn't have a ship (or a convenient techie) to charge - the battery should last a couple of days. But who knows how long they'll be here? Once Jim is done talking to Professor Morgan, Hippocrates suggests going for a walk (the other scouts are ordering pizza). The ostensible reason is to get something to eat, but neither of them has any Hegemonic pocket change. Wait! Jim has one of Dr. Kye's memorial 10 aster pieces in his backpack! That's a lot of money! But they don't cash it in for food, they just wander around. The edges of the vegetable mats are much crisper than they were on later Juice. Both Hippocrates and Jim sigh wistfully. Will they only be here a short time, or is this permanent, in which case they'll need to cache supplies for those to follow, to finish their mission. And Hippocrates will need to recharge.
The fact that the Scouts know Hippocrates is a robot and Jim is from the future could be difficult. Hippocrates thinks it could be destructive to reveal exactly where they came from, but Jim is uncomfortable with the idea of refusing to answer the scoutmasters. The question of whether Jim is ethically required to explain everything comes up and is not entirely answered; Jim mostly thinks it'll be okay, these are scoutmasters!.
The walk finally meanders back to the hotel, and it's time for the meeting. Should Hippocrates come? Yes, yes, that would be best. Professor Morgan leads them to a conference hall with a lovely ocean view - Hippocrates tries to figure out if it's a good site for an ambush. Well, inside is probably a better site than outside, at least. They proceed down the hall, when Hippocrates is startled to think that Captain Bellarion is behind him. When he turns to look, there is no one there, but there is a room in which some sort of argument is taking place, and one of the voices is his. Well, it's probably really Simeon's. Hippocrates convinces Professor Morgan to let him send email immediately; they go to a network access room, and Hippocrates logs in as "email@example.com" and sends mail to Dr. Bellarion:
Dr. Bellarion:Then they head to the meeting - it looks to Jim's eye like a board of review! There's the row of scoutmasters, and a chair in front of them for Jim - Professor Morgan brings up another chair for Hippocrates, which is less canonical for a board of review. Both Hippocrates and Jim are preternaturally tidy, so they make a good initial impression. Jim introduces himself yet again, and indicates Hippocrates. "And this is my friend, Hippocrates." "And he is..." one of the scoutmasters leads, and Jim answers "... an artificially intelligent life form in an android body." They seem to accept that, and move on.
I am in Aquaria about to attend a meeting at the Aquaria Breakers convention center. I had been hoping to speak with you at your convenience. I am staying with Scout Troop 34.
They don't usually get this opportunity... could Jim fill them in on his recent adventures? Er, like what? Well, he was recently in the future? Yes. Marvellous! Could Jim tell them about the next fifty years? He gets a terrible time-space squoogy feeling, and declines to answer, quoting Dr. Symphony-Hayes as having advised him to not change the present, that would cause them to pop out of the space-time continuum. Well, that's interesting. Has he had many adventures involving temporal mechanics? No, really, just the one.
An older scoutmaster (Dr. Wilson) says that they were hoping for specifics to aid in their modeling. Hippocrates says that he thinks it could be very dangerous, and that that danger could outweigh any benefit in the near future. Dr. Wilson mutters something about the cycle being premature, and hoping for more stabilizing input. Jim does explain that they were going to Ganfrey when they crashed, and then he spent time in stasis. They ask where he crashed, but that's very clearly a bad question to answer, and they don't.
The unprecedented thing about Jim's situation is that he came back. Was his great mission successful? Er, no, not yet. Hmm. What prompted them to return, then? It wasn't really intentional. Jim explains that there was this kidnapped woman, who the fate of all humanity depends on (they think that part doesn't sound likely), so Dr. Symphony-Hayes tried to rescue her... anyway, the many time loops get explained, and then the final explosion into space-time. The scoutmasters declare that their first priority, then, is to send him back. But they're not temporal physicists - Troops 37 has one, but they're not at the Derby.
The important thing, they tell him, is to stay confident and prepare for the struggles to come, knowing that he will succeed. Hippocrates asks Dr. Wilson what he meant about the cycle - ah, he was speaking metaphorically, about the ebb and flow of history. Hippocrates thinks he's telling the precise truth, but leaving a lot out there. In any event, they'll hope to have a more directed conversation when they've heard from their experts.
Jim, still hoping for an answer to this one point, asks if he can ask what skipped means. He is instructed to not spread this to other scouts, and he'll be briefed more as appropriate, but basically, it is just to jump forward. Skipped scouts are honored as if dead because those who are left behind cannot know if it worked. Hippocrates is appalled that Jim was sent, suspecting now that the Scouts may have been behind his crash. Professor Morgan says that Jim was something of a special case, and was thus not as well prepared, but his training will get him through and he should not be disheartened.
In the meantime, Jim and Hippocrates should stay with Professor Morgan; do either of them need anything? Hippocrates will probably need a charger for his power supply. They're given a note for Engineering, and off they head back towards the front of the conference center. Simeon Bellarion no longer sounds like he's in the other room; it just has scoutmasters talking to each other. An engineer is summoned and given the specs for the power charger Hippocrates needs, and then everyone heads back to the hotel.
Back in the scouts' suite, Jeff is working on a cloud chamber with a miniature tornado in it. Jim asks if he's working on weather forecasting, then? It wasn't one of the merit badges Jim was so interested in. Jeff fills Jim in on a secret: "weather forecasting is the fast track to scoutmaster." All of the scoutmasters had weather forecasting as one of their merit badges when they were scouts - he's been looking into it.
The doorbell rings, and Professor Morgan answers it. There's some confusion at the door, as the visitor isn't very clear about who he's looking for, but it's quickly determined to be Simeon, and Hippocrates and Jim come meet him. Simeon is quickly furious: "How dare you? What kind of a hoax is this?" and Hippocrates apologetic: "I realize my appearance is improper, but I assure you there is an explanation."
Jim cobbles together an introduction, and the three head to the back porch to talk. Simeon is a little nonplussed - Hippocrates used to be a ship, but then they put a backup in a robot duplicate. Hippocrates admits that a full explanation is impossible. Simeon mutters darkly about military secrets. Hippocrates gives him a condensed version of the story of the crash. Simeon says "she said he talked about you" - Captain Margot Bellarion? That's Commodore. Apparently Adrian was "more than adequately pleased with his performance", so Simeon supposes that Hippocrates deserved what he got. This seems stunningly hostile for the tone in which it is delivered, so everyone is somewhat confused, until Simeon clarifies - Hippocrates's sentience commissioning thing. Margot said Adrian was fighting for it for years, lighting fires up and down the chain of command. Hippocrates didn't know that? Actually, Hippocrates hasn't been in touch with the Skyguard since his ship went down. What? The Skyguard didn't find him? No, it's... complicated.
Leaving aside the question of rogue military robots, Simeon wants to know why Hippocrates is here. He's contacting family members of the crew. Simeon thinks Hippocrates might have a better use of his time concentrating on the ones who were on better terms. Hippocrates says that Captain Bellarion often thought of him - if it would not be inappropriate, he can relay the text of a number of letters which were written but not sent. Jim becomes one with the night to vanish away inconspicuously as Hippocrates recites back the letters; he goes to talk to Professor Morgan about the fact that he's suffering from Kaufman degeneration. Professor Morgan says that they can probably arrange to transfer him to a troop on Ridena, where there are Kaufman tubes.
As reconciliation has been reached between Simeon and Hippocrates, Simeon mentions that he has something that needs doing, to keep some native fauna (isinglasses) away from an environmental input drone tomorrow. He's spoken to the scoutmasters about helping, but they aren't convinced - would Hippocrates and Jim be able to sway them, or, possibly to help him themselves? They agree to see what they can do, and Simeon heads off.
Going to talk to Professor Morgan about the "native fauna" produces a terrible squoogy feeling - apparently it would change things for those two plots to join up at this point. Jim says never mind. The pair then try to hack into the EPA's computers to try and get the path of the environmental input drone; that will make it a lot easier to herd the isinglasses out of the drone's path. After a particularly stressful hacking session, they do retrieve the drone's path.
In the morning, it's time for the final round of the Aquatic Derby. There are three events remaining: Isla Hegomia, Dolphin Express, and Lost in the Deep. Otter Patrol wins the choice of first event, and they choose Isla Hegomia. Hippocrates and Professor Morgan and some other observers are in a boat of their own, and a set of judges, including a Phoenix scout, are in a second boat (this is a derby for younger scouts, so there aren't any Phoenixes competing).
Otter Patrol boats to the desert+jungle island of "Isla Hegomia", and are directed to set up a base camp, and to report on what they find on the island. Jeff assigns Dan and Jim to set up the base camp; they decide to try for a moderately ambitious camp high in some of the trees, for visibility and defensiveness. Meanwhile, Jeff, Max, and Brendan go scout around, and find basically one place which seems interesting. Everyone comes to check it out, and some moderate tracking reveals that there were people here before who set up a camp with a tent, and then at some point they ran to the waterline. It's a bit confusing.
The second event is "Lost in the Deep." The patrol is hooded, and their boat is driven somewhere. Then they're told "Go!" They take their hoods off and look around. Jim finds a compass, and then thinks to look down into the water. The scouts can just make out something glittering way below them. They dive down and find a chest on a neutral-buoyancy platform. Jim manages to disarm the squid-ink "bomb" on it, and Dan gets the lock open. There's a map, albeit a sort of cryptic one! The chest-looters surface and Jeff tries to read the map; he has no luck but Jim manages to decipher it and then the team boats to the marker buoy as indicated on the map.
The last event is Dolphin Express, a relay of sailing, speedboating, and swimming. Jeff is an expert speedboat pilot; Jim takes the lead on sailing, though this leaves two swimmers who aren't blindingly fast. Overall, they do quite well.
Later in the afternoon, they meet Simeon for isinglass herding. While trying to keep the isinglasses out of the way of the drone would be nigh impossible without its path, with its path it is moderately easy. The drone passes through the isinglass area without encountering either the isinglasses or the three isinglass-herders, and goes on its way.
Simeon is quite grateful for the help; Jim takes advantage of his momentary softness to ask him about whales. He says that they're ancient sea creatures, like dolphins but bigger. Are they intelligent? Well, they were never uplifted, so most would say no, but the dolphins say yes. Are the isinglasses intelligent? Simeon says that they're just jellyfish, but he's not completely convincing. Has he tried to communicate with them? He's conducting some research in that area. Is there anything that Jim or Hippocrates can do to help the isinglass out? Simeon thinks that whatever development may occur will take a long period of time, so that both he and Jim will be long gone by then.
Later, in the hotel suite, Professor Morgan comes in, and is immediately leapt upon by Otter Patrol asking if he knows anything about the results. No, no, he doesn't. He mentions to Jim that the temporal physics expert will be arriving tomorrow. Jim brushes that aside and wants to know if he knows anything about the results, exasperating Professor Morgan further. That night, Hippocrates looks up Skyguard rules and regulations, and finds that in fact AIs (though they're defined with a bit more obfuscation than that) have a special class of commission after two years reliable service, to the equivalent of ensign.
There is much late-night chatting about merit badges (Jeff has the Propaganda badge) and Nebula projects, and finally the next morning the awards ceremony comes. First there are a number of awards to various scouts and patrols from earlier in the derby, from "best tactical command" to "most improved." The third place winner (Bobcat patrol) is announced just as Professor Morgan finds Jim and says he has the expert to speak with. They chat quickly at the back of the room. Second place is announced (Vulture patrol). The specialist says that she's determined the best way to send Jim back to where he needs to be, and hits him with a mind probe: "Tell me about the future." Before he can divulge any secrets, he begins to fall back into the mists of space time, but before he vanishes completely, he can hear the first place announced (Otter patrol), as represented by their patrol leader Geoffrey Oxford...