"Angst out the ears!"
Eva wakes on the cold hard steel of the deck. Slowly coming to her senses, she finds herself in what appears to be a small storage closet with a steel door. Beyond she hears the sound of an engire firing. Or at least trying to fire.
Leaving her little closet and exploring a bit, she finds herself on a small ship. down the hall are sounds of a man shouting to someone named "Twig" about how unfair it is that the engines are still down. Approaching the voice, Eva, still dressed in the blue gown of Donella, finds the apparent captain of this small vessel.
"Whoa now, I can't be taking any refugees off-planet without a valid evac card."After a few minutes of mutual interrogation, Eva finds out that she has met Luke, captain and half-owner of the Burning Eagle, a cargo ship with a few "special cargo areas" that she might be able to sneak off-planet in. Unfortunately, the Eagle has a cracked plasma lens mounting bracket, and won't be taking off until it's replaced. Luke has found out... well, Luke doesn't actually find out anything.
"Planet? What planet are we on? And what year is this?"
Trying to decide what to do, Eva gets Luke to show her the local news feed from which she determines that she's on Ridena, the day before it should be renamed to Craterrock. Clutching to any remaining hope, Eva tries her party radio...
As he arrives, he finds 1) a mob about to overpower the four Ridenan Legionnaires guarding the gates, and 2) a signal on his party radio from Eva. Discovering that Eva is in the spaceport, he leaps up to a rooftop in an attempt to get around the mob and drops right into the misdt of the Legionnaires. They are grateful for any support.
Igniting his plasma brand, he turns to address the crowd. Now that there are four legionnaires and an Elite, they seem less certain, and quickly disperse, though there are several overheard comments along the lines of, "We won't wait forever."
Janzur goes to the Burning Eagle and introduces himself. Luke is quick to inform the Elite that he had no intention of taking anyone off-planet without an evac card, and his ship is broken so he couldn't have done that even if he were thinking of it, which he wasn't.
Eva is grateful to see her friend Janzur join them at the front, along with the Eagle's Brochoan Engineer, Twig. Janzur is momentairly confused by Donella's arrival, but Eva removes her wig. Luke is horrified that she was probably a fugitive and now his ship will be confiscated, but Janzur assures him it's all OK. Eva instructs Luke to get his ship ready, as she'll try to find him his part and return. She and Janzur commandeer a starport maintainence van and head off towards the palace.
Eventually, she decides to press the handy call button next to the bed and see what happens. A few minutes later, a guy in a white lab coat arrives to check her over. He seems quite stunned that she can't speak even after coming out of the Kaufman tube and has a second doctor, Dr. Caseman, come in to consult. Caseman reminds his superior that a Dr. Anderson reported a similar case of a blind woman who still couldn't see after emerging. "Fascinating," the chief doctor muses... "Perhaps we need to find someone deaf..." Dr. Caseman steers things back on track by asking who Katya is.
Apparently, she showed up unconscious in the lobby with a progressing case of Kaufman degeneration, but no ID or patient history. Well, unable to speak, she's also unable to talk. Dr. Caseman decides to just take a blood sample and compare it to the databanks to identify her. After some initial resistance, Katya gives him some blood. The chief doctor finds this all fascinating and wanders off to make some notes. Caseman has the guard bring Katya some food.
While Caseman is running his blood test, Katya starts casting around looking for the mind of someone she knows. She thinks she gets a brief message off to Martan, but he's at the extreme edge of her range so she's not sure.
After a couple hours Dr. Caseman returns, looking a lot more flustered than he did before. First, he says he ran her blood tests against he data banks and came up blank, so then he ran a relations test looking for a relative of hers in the data banks. The Elite are on their way. Also, there's some guy out front claiming to be her brother. Guessing, Katya sends Caseman a mental picture of Martan. "Yup, that's him. OK, we'll bring him up, but no one is leaving here until the Elite arrive."
After a few tense minutes with Martan, Katya, and Caseman standing around watching each other, Elite Samson shows up. He's been having a bad day. "As you know doctor, this is not the time to be spreading false rumors about the Hegemon. If this is a hoax...." The implication is clear, but Caseman presses on. He shows the Elite his test results: "This means nothing to me." He show the Elite Katya: "I don't see it." He talks to the Elite about genetic markers: "I have no idea what you are talking about." Katya gives up and takes out her contacts: "OK, you are all coming with me." The Elite gathers up Dr. Caseman, Martan, Katya, and the two Ridena Legionnaires who met her and takes them all to the palace.
However, the palace security scanners are not so forgiving as Elite Samson, and when Janzur swipes his ID card, numerous alarms go off and four more Elite appear out of nowhere.
The Legionnaires and Caseman are taken away for debriefing, while Janzur and his guests are taken to the Descrion. They find an older woman in an Elite uniform, but no armor, sitting in a chair, surrounded by computer screens. As she turns her chair towards them, it becomes clear that she's mostly paralyzed and her chair provides her mobility. However, Janzur seems properly intimidated. She starts asking him about what's been happening. Hedging a bit, he gives a full report on his investigation into the nano-lab where he discovered Dr. Sophia Symphony-Hayes, and the SkyGuard and Legion dissidents he encountered there. She nods knowingly, making it clear that that report would have been quite useful years ago when she requested it, but of only mild interest now. Having completed his last assigned duty, Janzur then proceeds to the interrogation part of the conversation.
"Right, you died years ago, so of course you're from the future."Seeing how things are, the Descrion jumps straight to the crucial question: "Did we win?" After a long pause... "No."
Eva counters with several questions of her own, asking about the current political situation and the approaching fleet. Janzur seems scandalized and pokes her, but the Descrion seems mostly tired, answering Eva's questions where she can. "Well, you'd all best go up and see him. He's with Mohammed." The Descrion has her computer re-activate Janzur's ID, and he leads the party back into the secure wing of the palace.
In a nice sitting room near the rear of the palace overlooking the sea, they find Mohammed, Lord Sentinel of the Elite, along with his Soverign Lord, Vissarion Nomarche, Hegemon of the Linked Worlds. Janzur takes a moment to just bask in the scene. The Sentinel seems startled to see that it really is Janzur, but Vissarion mildly rebukes him, "Did I not tell you he would return before the end?"
Introductions are made, though several of the names are confusing. Katya Lavalor of Stannis Law, er.. Godia. Shoshana Alexandra von Torsten of Highguard (Heildelmere), Martan, a steadfast of Pierogi. At least the name of Pierogi hasn't changed. Vissarion is a bit startled by Katya, when she reveals her eyes, but considers that as he knows that he and his brother will not surive much longer, he must have done the right thing in sending his sister to Heidelmere. The party fails to correct his misconceptions.
Therein begins a fascinating conversation in which people tell the Hegemon about the future, and Eva mostly contains herself from interrogating him. The Hegemon and Katya share some moments over a mind link as well, when she discovers that she can talk to him "normally" over said link instead of sending pictures. Go Hegemon powers! For his part, Vissarion doesn't wish to discuss in detail his failing with his brother, but does say that at the heart of the situation, the war is caused by a "Jealousy as can only exist between those who love each other."
Unfortunately, Vissarion doesn't have complete details about how to stop the Flames; the golden book is somewhat cryptic on this point. He wasn't entirely clear that all three lines were needed, but he was clear that you needed the star and the domed spire of the palace. Normally, you'd send the star to the extreme of the Hegemony (Gateway), and his descendant, ("That would be you." pointing at Katya), would use the spire to "forge a link to the star". If, as they say, the palace is soon to be destroyed, you'd have to reverse it, and have the star here, while his descendant travelled to Gateway. Gateway and Ridena being at the extreme ends of the innerworlds, a link between the two ought to cover all the intervening planets. He's also not sure about how this works for the Deep Expansion Worlds; he thinks we weren't meant to settle them, or at least weren't expected to discover them by now, or something. As for the actual details, he had hoped they would become more clear as the proper time approached. Katya asks for a star chart showing the positions of all the planets in space. Vissarion says he'll have one delivered.
Eva asks what the thing on Juice is. "Juice?" "Er, Cerulean." Vissarion believes it to be a monitoring station, which should keep things on track, or at least see if they go off track. In fact, one way to gather information, which he thinks will work is to take the star to the monitoring station. It should be able to sense the humans in the DEWs and hopefully will be able to provide guidance on modifying the ritual to include everyone. If they are unable to find enough information after that, they could try tracking down one of the Old Ones, but as far as he knows, they are all gone, which was the point of the exercise in the first place. "It's supposed to be that we can finish the Work ourselves." The party indicates that they have indeed encountered one of these beings, but he and Ambros drove each other mad. "My brother was always strong minded."
Vissarion takes them to his meditation chamber where they encounter "the magic doorbell" on the door. He places his palm upon it, and the green gem glows and in they walk. Eva asks him why that's still here if he sent it with Arista to Heidelmere. Vissarion asks how she knew he sent Arista to Heidelmere. She says her uncle is the king; she has access to his library. Vissarion denies sending the lock. As far as he's aware, there is only one, and it is here. Eva frowns. He places his hands upon a pedestal and the platform slides aside and a large empty book holder slides up. The party is incredibly disappointed that the original "Hegemonicon" is missing. Vissarion clarifies, "The book, I did send with Arista." Eva frowns again and starts to contemplate desecrating graves when she gets back.
Vissarion reaches in and pulls out the book's holder. From underneath, he removes a large four pointed crystal with red, blue, green, and white tines. Janzur and Mohammed goggle - "Who knew that was in there?" He presents it to Janzur, "It is for you to ensure that the star survives what is to befall us. Take it, and place it where it can be found when needed."
It seems finally time for the impassioned plea to take the Hegemon to safety as well. Mahammed gives folks a "good luck" shrug as if he's had this conversation before. "I can not go with you. My brother will follow where I go; we can not hide from one another. Take the star and keep it safe." Janzur makes one last attempt, but Vissarion places his hand upon Janzur's shoulder, "Some things must be done."
Reminded of his duty, Janzur concedes the point. The Hegemon then says that he has some things to prepare, and needs to retire for an hour of so. Before he leaves, Eva asks if she can take the doorlock, she's fairly certain its needed elsewhere. Vissarion looks at the empty meditation chamber and agrees, "There is nothing further for it to guard."
The party should return to the solarium and make what preparations they need. Janzur orders a super tough hermetically sealed container for the star and a mounting bracket for a plasma lens. Meanwhile, Katya plays with the star, concentrating... she receives a vision of two people, along with their distances (vast in both cases) and directions. One is an older gentleman with very pale skin, sitting in a shadowed chair reading a book. The other is a younger man, though still older than Katya, with ice blue hair, spearing a fish in a stream. Interesting.
Finally, the Hegemon returns and includes a silver case in the hermetically sealed box. "For the future." Katya asks for a memory of his family as she never knew her Nomarche ancestors until today and Vissarion obliges.
Janzur takes a moment to talk with the Sentinel. "In the future, I am the last of our order." Instead of giving Janzur the advice he seemed to be looking for, the Sentinel nods gravely and exchanges a look with Vissarion. "In that case, these are yours." Mohammed removes his rank insignia, and hands it to Vissarion, who pins it to Janzur's blouse.
Katya and Janzur taken care of, he then asks Eva and Martan what boons they would like. Frowning a bunch, Martan gets an idea and says that their ship might be happier if the Hegemon gave Eva his blessing. A brief discussion of the Hippocrates ensues and the Hegemon says he'll take care of it. Eva says all problems are in the future, but asks if something could be added to the box for Sophia, Jim, Cassandra, and Hippocrates, the others of the crew who were from this time originally.
Finally, the party is led to the Great Hall of the Consuls as they wish to get a letter from Prince Bertran the Scholar of Heidelmere to insure their doorbell package is delivered to Arista. He is somewhat annoyed that they won't tell him who they are, but obliges when told what they want.
While leaving the palace a messenger intercepts them, and presents them with a collection of starmaps, which Eva starts memorizing in case they lose them, and an illuminated certificate:
By order of Vissarion Gabriel Nomarche, Hegemon of the Linked Worlds, be it known that the Lady Shoshana Alexandra von Torsten, of the Loyal Hegemonic Kingdom of Heidelmere, is hereby granted commission in the SkyGuard of the Hegemony at the rank of Captain, with all of the rights, duties, and obligations pursuant thereto. Sealed by his hand, this day, 2453.154 AS.Finally, the party rushes back to Starport 3. Unfortunately, it is under siege by a rampaging mob once more. As they arrive the Legionnaires protecting the gates begin to go down. Eva spreads some quick rumors that half-full ships are taking off from Starport 2, and a bunch of the rioters head off. Then she suggests that the thing to do is hide in the preserve. A few more rioters flee. Martan sees to peoples' protection with his shields, while Katya sees to their mobility with flight. Eva identifies the leaders and Janzur wades in to take them out. Their leaders identify Eva and several open fire on her. Open combat ensues, but in the end, the rioters are dispersed, and the party heads to the Burning Eagle.
"Right now we get off planet"Luke is a bit confused why they aren't leaving the planet right away, but is happy to have Twig install the lens bracket. The Eagle takes off and brings everyone to Far Ways, where they encounter the expected magelocked door. Rather than mess with the door, they go around the far side behind and dig a deep hole, and bury the hermetically sealed box within. Twig wants to know why there're burying this box here. Eva says it's to fulfill a contract between the Brochoah and the Hegemony. "Really?" "Yes, now don't tell anyone." Twig is a little dubious, but Luke convinces him to go along.
"No, that's step two. Maybe three."
They then instruct Luke to run the blockade, and if anything happens to them, take this box (with the doorbell) and these notes to the King of Heidelmere. Twig wants to know what they will be paid for this service, but Janzur claims the plasma mounting bracket was sufficient payment. Twig mutters about the acceptability of retroactive payment before terms are discussed, but Luke jumps in and smoothes everything over. Eva asks what appropriate payment for the journey would be. Luke says 20-30 asters. Eva has Janzur write a little note, and he includes in the package a note to the King to effect of it wasn't possible to pay these good citizens for their efforts and hinting that it might be good to pay them upon delivery, signed Elite Janzur Therive. Eva gives them some free advice, "Stay away from Ganfrey and Eremov Secundus." The Eagle takes off, and Luke proves he is a great pilot as he dodges the screen set up by the Clarion fleet. Just as they make for the jumpgates, the party looks back and the last thing they see before getting torn back into the swirling mists of space-time is the Clarion herself diving for the atmosphere...