"If you put a chain around the neck of a slave,
the other end fastens itself around your own."
| 2779.279 - 2780.019
They go over the logs and find out what went on just before people left. Sadly, people don't seem to have come back out of the base. Two frigates land, and one hovers overhead with weapons locked on; a smaller shuttle lands nearby as well. Infantry promptly pours out of the frigates and into the base, as well as surrounding the Hippocrates. Kith locks all of the doors and hails the infantry. They are from Daggers 1, 2, and 3. They demand that the Hippocrates open its doors and prepare for boarding. Kith broadcasts messages looking for lawyers. The infantry outside is somewhat confused as to who she's trying to call. The infantry gives them an ultimatum - if they don't open the doors by the count of three, they'll blow them open. Cassandra goes down to attempt to stall the boarders, First Frost of Autumn scurries off to hide, while Kith locks herself in the bridge and opens the airlocks.
Kith starts reformatting data drives, hoping that the Vircus backup was fairly recent. Bridge sabotage commences. Lots of boards are pulled and other controls disabled. (Communications are left alone so the emergency call for a lawyer can keep repeating.) The strike teams proceed carefully through the ship, securing state rooms and burning open locked doors. Kith makes an announcement asking that no one damage anything, as she'll be happy to unlock the doors. She considers venting various compartments to vacuum, but sadly, there's no vacuum outside. Meanwhile Cassandra is pretty much done stalling and is captured instead. Kith searches around the bridge for a "Dave Henry actuator" (something you can hold in your hand and threaten to blow up with). Finding a small puzzle belonging to First Frost of Autumn, she takes it and hopes for the best.
Finally, they get to the bridge. "Greetings, I'm Kith, Ambassador from Creek, your hostess." Unfortunately, the ship is now confiscated property, and persons aboard without official ID will be confiscated as well. Kith attempts to make the squad captain take her ambassadorial papers as official ID. She persuades him to let her get some clothing and personal stuff before leaving. He won't let her go to the labs, however, or do too much rummaging. She does get permission to get clothes for Cassandra as well, plus her paint kit. Kith admonishes the captain to take care of all of the plants in her absence and then allows them to escort her away.
While being processed, Kith notices the official observers in black leather and mirrored helmets, who the infantry don't take orders from but seem scared of. The three big ships which are disgorging troops have the same marking as the small fighters that crashlanded on either side of the Hippocrates; the black troops have come from a smaller heavily armed shuttle with Matrix markings. Given Kith's ambassador papers, the infantry stop taking Cassandra to the Brig, and instead give the two of them empty (but secure) rooms on one of the ships. It takes off a few hours later and flies away...
They are processed at another complex, supervised by a hard-faced security guy. They notice that numerous people were captured back at the site, but none of them are recognizable. The other prisoners get taken off elsewhere, while Kith and Cassandra are taken to a smaller out-building of the complex they're in. Kith threatens the guards with "I'll be discussing this with your superiors!" when they take Cassandra's radar array. She then grabs the puzzle from her bag and and says it's a very delicate instrument and she absolutely can't hand it to her captors. "Shoot me if you want, but don't damage this device!" Mystified, they do so. Kith falls. The guards are completely puzzled as to the importance of the device, but lock her and Cassandra up. Cassandra is a bit puzzled as to why Kith is trying to get shot, but doesn't want to be shot herself so submits.
Several hours later, they are awake and talking to each other. Apparently Cassandra was interrogated while Kith "slept". Cassandra apologizes, but says she mostly told what little she knew about why the Hippocrates was here. Kith then gets interrogated by a more friendly-seeming gentleman, watched over by the security guy.
"We were looking for something odd on Citizen Archibald's property."They argue a bit about whether or not Kith is an official ambassador, but since she didn't report to the palace this time, (like she did last time the ship was here), her protections seem weak. Given that, it appears that Kith is now the property of Citizen Cremont, since she was taken by him during his fulfillment of his obligations to defend Well airspace. The friendly interrogator would really prefer to do this in the talking way, rather than the drugs or torture way (the security guy looks like he'd be just as happy to skip to torture). Kith decides it'd be best to explain a bit further: "Citizen Cremont was holding, against her will, the Heir to the Blue Hegemony." "That is a very serious allegation." "Yup." (Wait, no, Citizen Archibald, not Citizen Cremont. She's not in the same place she was before. That confusion is cleared up before anyone gets too offended.)
"What was that?"
"I'd prefer not to say."
"Perhaps you don't understand the nature of this conversation."
"Your ship is an agent of the Blue Hegemony?"The interrogator is vaguely miffed that they didn't bring this to the attention of the Matrix. But, really, even Citizens shouldn't be kidnapping the Blue Heir, so it seems there are no executions to be scheduled here. Kith manages to get Cassandra her radar array back and gets to sign her confession/interrogation transcript. Given the diplomatic incident, the Matrix currently declines to accept the ambassadorial status of Kith. "Perhaps my new owner can provide me with a lawyer?" Everyone goes back to the cells for a bit for some sleep.
"No, we have our own motives."
The next morning, Kith and Cassandra are informed that their story seems to have panned out. However, even though their action was not an act of war or aggression against the Matrix, their methods were still illegal and they have been granted to Citizen Cremont for his efforts in resolving this situation. So, now that he owns you, what are you good for? "What are we good for? I'm a wisewoman and my companion is a famous artist. We are very valuable." Ah, the Citizen's doobies are now convinced that they are probably good loot, not to be disposed of lightly.
Kith and Cassandra are told that they aren't to leave the estate, and are given bracelets to wear. "What do they do?" "They explode if you try to leave." "Oh."
The Citizen himself calls for Cassandra to discuss her new position. "Klothos has a new Cassandra Lyrae painting and the Matrix doesn't." Time to paint!
Kith spends about a day making friends with the cooks and gardeners on the estate and then is brought to discuss her status with the Citizen. Kith explains the history of the wisewomen. The Citizen thinks that having a wisewoman sounds useful. A fine addition to his collection. He offers her a position as his wisewoman, if her advice proves good. She warns him that while she'll give him good advice, she will be trying to escape if the situation arrives. "If the opportunity to leave through stealth or deception appears, I will take it." The Citizen is fascinated - people are rarely quite that honest. She also has this serious medical problem. Oh dear. The Matrix himself has confiscated the ship, so there's going to be difficulties getting Kith her treatment. The Citizen muses that it may be possible to arrange something.
Here's his offer: "You give me good advice. Do not attempt to escape in general and I will see you are treated for your illness. Once a month, for 24 hours, I will remove your bracelet. If you can escape then, so be it, but if you can not, I will replace it." There's some discussion that this seems quite sporting of him.
He starts by testing the quality of her advice. "These are the captains of the ships who failed to stop the Hippocrates from reaching the planet. They failed in their duty. What do you advise I do with them?" She advises perhaps reassigning them to more dangerous duties where they could prove their worth through deeds. She suggests she can do better if she meets them. He arranges to have them brought to her.
While waiting, Kith has the stuff from her stateroom brought to her quarters and volunteers to take care of the rat, cat, and parakeet as well. She finds out that the rest of the belongings are being stored in one of the Citizen's warehouses until he can decide what to do with them, though he has taken Cassandra's paintings for his own use. The Matrix himself has confiscated the ship itself, the smaller ships inside (except for the Dancer, which has apparently been returned to its owner), and the bomb from Dr. Kye's research.
Kith then interviews the captains of the ships the Hippocrates evaded on the way in. She manages to calm them down and lays various attitude adjustments on them to make them better servants to her new master. The Citizen seems pleased.
Kith is promoted from loot to Garrisald and is told that he'll make it clear that she reports directly to him, and will probably receive higher level defensive protection. He then gets Cassandra to paint the estate rather than him. (After looking at her "portraits" he's not entirely certain he wants one.)
A landscape, with a central high mountain. A grand white set of buildings is perched atop the mountain, like Olympus or the Parthenon; below that there are smaller buildings, both in grandeur and in perspective, scattered about a green sward. Below, in the foothills of the mountain, are thousands of tiny buildings which lend a brownish tint to the the meadowy green. It is signed with a peculiar pattern of five stars.Kith spends a lot of time in the coming days trying to make her story as dramatic and repeatable as possible and spreads it to all of the servants hoping they'll spread it through the marketplaces and to other servants that they gossip with.
About a week later, Cassandra starts getting headachy. Oh dear. Kith reports to the Citizen that their sickness has begun. He asks about what the sickness is and how long before it's doomful. Kith says there's probably a week's grace, but that's it. Kith will be permitted to continue her Chartreuse experiments under supervision of a Matrix stormtrooper (which even the Citizen is not so happy with), while the Citizen arranges to have Cassandra "treated". It seems to be somewhat difficult for him to arrange...
While Cassandra is off being treated, Kith tries to suborn the Matrix agent who is watching her experiments. He's pretty stand-offish though. She finds that he's at least minimally psi-shielded. (Perhaps that black helmet?) Kith attempts to obscure the research while writing up her notes in as pedantic and unhelpful a manner as possible.
Cassandra and the rat (smuggled in her sleeve) were treated, but didn't get to see the process, as she went to a little med facility and then was tranqued and then woke up fine. (The rat was caged when she woke up.)
Kith finishes the first of the Chartreuse experiments. Hooray! Sadly it's time for Kith to start feeling headachy. She tries to press on by conducting the second experiment on herself. The estate medic thinks she's crazy, but oh well. Kith requests a drudge from the acid mines to use as a control and is given one. Lots of injections for both. Kith does more attitude adjustment on her guard while experimenting; she thinks she's gotten him to the point where he'd regret having to shoot her if it came up.
At the end of the second (successful) experiment, it's definitely time for Kith to get to the Kaufman tubes. Also, her test subject is now addicted to Chartreuse. Kith is then taken to the small medical facility, where a doctor injects her with something that knocks her out. She wakes up later all fixed up.
Sadly, she's passed her one month opportunity "in treatment", so no day without a bracelet this month. So, she continues her duties and spends time working on the Chartreuse prototype. Sadly, about a week into this, she is informed that she's been sold. The Citizen was apparently made an offer he cannot refuse. She can take her personal stuff, but none of her Chartreuse research. Kith has a bad feeling about this.
A driver of Citizen Cremont's takes her away - yup, she's being taken to Joyous Gard, confirming Kith's suspicion that she's been bought by the Matrix. She's taken down dark corridors and then up bright ones and wanders all around in Joyous Gard until taken to her final destination: the outworlds embassy! She's been saved! Woo! They can't get her made an ambassador, but she does have legal caste now, such that they could buy her an exit visa if she wants. She decides to stay at least a little while to figure out if there's anything she can do for Cassandra and the rest of the crew, since she thinks it would sound ungrateful to mention Kaufman degeneration after they went to such an effort to rescue her.
They tell her Citizen Archibald's estate has been confiscated in its entirety and sold off in pieces. It's been a big fuss. Lots of purging, apparently. Some other Citizens are apparently upset. "He may have been both stupid and evil, but he was a Citizen."
A brief update on current events: the Hippocrates has been transferred to the Matrix's private spacedock. The Red and Blue Hegemonies are at war. The actual battles are being fought over Nurl.
The next day, Kith gets a message offering her lunch at the Green Canary. She goes there and meets with a woman who talks to her in one of the privacy booths. Tensions are high, and with the general war in the inworlds, the Resistance feels the time for an active uprising is approaching. With the smashing of Citizen Archibald, it seems there's a chance to drive a real wedge between the Citizens and the Matrix. Without violence (as the Keymaster's philosophy forbids it), the Resistance has a somewhat complicated plan involving simultaneous strikes and unrest in places which will specifically hurt the Matrix rather than the Citizens (people working as support in Joyous Gard, people producing Matrix-specific luxury items). These uprisings will probably be quashed, but the quashing will have a ripple effect to hit Citizen profits as well. Additionally, having the Matrix discipline a Citizen's underlings will rankle with them, and if the discipline is harsh, it will also hit them in their consciences, if they have any.
This requires that the Resistance get some influence with some portion of the Citizens, and lead them into valuing or otherwise feeling sympathy for the underclass. Citizen Cremont is on their list of "possibles", but they haven't managed to plant anyone who he actually takes advice from. So they propose that Kith return to Citizen Cremont as an employee. She'd be asked to attempt to help the man to develop a conscience and prepare him for jumping in against the Matrix when the time comes. Kith agrees, so they give her a way to contact the underground, and send her off.
The Outworlds Embassy get Kith an actual lawyer who will negotiate for her a proper employment contract. Kith is presented as a Sentarist offering employment. The counter-offer is Indigene, and negotiations begin. She's given an Indigene caste and agreement to not have any explosives, and be allowed to travel all of his lands, and resume her research.
Kith goes back to work on Chartreuse and is given an assignment to go out and examine the greenoat farms and figure out why production is falling off so much. She does well, and the Citizen is pleased, so her re-employment is confirmed.
Kith keeps working on her Citizen (he's certainly showing promising signs) and people sit back to wait for something to change. Cassandra does a painting of Citizen Cremont, in which she says she's trying something different. Instead of her usual symbolism, she paints him in his study, much as he looks sitting in his study, and he looks wise, and benevolent, and well-liked. The Citizen seems to much appreciate the painting.