Happily Ever After?

"Hey hey I saved the world today
Everybody's happy now
The bad things gone away
And everybody's happy now
The good thing's here to stay
Please let it stay..."

A year after the Flames ritual, and then thereafter

The ritual to stop the Flames went nigh-perfectly: casualties were very sparse, and though Martan burnt out his psi keeping the Terrans from shattering the bowl, he didn't die, as so many had worried he might. In the subsequent year, the Hippocrates' efforts brought the marriage of Viktor Marchant and Donella Melcamot, the building of Laetific Churches all over the Linked World, the rebirth and widespread adoption of Hegemonic Scouting, and the birth of Katya and Martan's daughter, Evgenia (a traditional Pierogi name, but one frequently shortened to ``Eva''). Nearly everything seemed to be going perfectly. Even Dylanna turned herself in (and due to Jim cashing in his boon, was not executed by Blue.)

Soon after Evgenia's birth, though, Martan became unwell. Sophia and Hippocrates eventually diagnosed the problem: he was subject to the same malady as Eva's mother, and was susceptible to the artificial gravity required for space travel. (Additional speculation was that his Steadfast talents had allowed him to unconsciously stabilize himself, before now). The travelling involved in the Hippocrates crew's adventures now seemed to leave him in the tubes much of the time, and dizzy and headachey the rest of the time. Bowing to inevitability, the small family retired from active adventuring. After some negotiation, they settled on Cabry; Jim had been spending much of his time there overseeing First Frost of Autumn's integration of Human and Tinoori culture, and the Scouting Spire and Beacon were built on Cabry.

They see the others on occasion, though many of them have settled from adventuring as well. Mirris, now piloting her own skiff, the Stormcrow, is an occasional visitor, as she has apparently made it her mission to keep the bonds of fellowship alive with her old comrades.

Mirris visits, and is astonished how big Evgenia (age six months) is getting. Evgenia isn't very mobile yet, but she loves being bounced around and flown. Martan shows off the rose arbor he's been coaxing to grow, and lets Mirris read the draft of his book: There and Back Again: A Veterinarian's Journey.

Mirris has news of the rest of the crew, and gifts from several - tea from Kith, and a complicated trowel from Sharra. Though Mirris doesn't think that Sophia helped with the trowel, it does seem to be mad engineering. It has three dials, and when Martan starts it going in the garden, it digs a shallow trench under its own power - suitable for marigolds, for example. Mirris also has the book from Ciernan that Martan asked for, about ecological pest control on Sparta. Flipping through it, Martan thinks it's vaguely cheating to mind control the pests to march out to where they can be killed, but he does admit it's likely to be effective.

Jim drops by, having noticed the Stormcrow. Mirris says she has some "contraband" from Ace, that he can't have until he's twenty-one. There are various appalled looks until it becomes clear that the contraband is something like the Hot-Wirer's Magazine. The other contraband, Mirris tossed, because she's sure it's not legal on Cabry no matter what age Jim is.

Linnet and Ruthie are off on a camping trip for their Conservation patch - Mirris explains that it's not "can we survive in the wilderness" so much as "can the wilderness survive us?" where they camp somewhere for a while and then examine the effects they've had on the area they were. Ruthie has apparently completed her "I'm So Sorry" patch - well, okay, that's not a Girl Scout patch, but one of Akito's methods of channeling mischief into productivity.

Jim shows off his advance shipment of the new Sparky Cola flavor: Tangerine. Evgenia wants some, but can't manage either the can holder or the pop-top.

Mirris mentions that she and Linnet just got back from visiting Butler on the Well - they're still not very comfortable, but things are doing better with Butler and Linnet. Martan speculates that's because there's Mirris there to blame for the old Mirris stuff, rather than having to use Linnet as the stand-in. Mirris says Butler still doesn't know what she really did to him, but she can't have that conversation with him because then she'd have to have the conversation with Linnet.

Everyone's very pleased at how Gateway is doing now, though.

Martan notes that Dr. Kye dropped by a few months ago, and asked after Mirris - are the two of them still not speaking? Mirris says maybe it's his turn not to speak to her, she can't remember. There was this THING on Vircus, when he was there, and she was there, and Ace... well, it was all very unpleasant for everyone.

Speaking of Ace, he tried to get Mirris to run some other contraband a while back; she ended up selling it to Twig for a fix on the Stormcrow. He asked for "minimal compensation", and she said the contraband was pretty minimal - would that count, and Twig made that weird rustly noise - she thinks he was amused.

Then, there's Max - he's driving Mirris crazy, because she never knows where he is. Then, she doesn't know if she doesn't know because he's fallen out of the universe, or because she doesn't happen to know. Martan finds this a little worrisome - the idea of having everyone in the universe just forget you exist bothers him. Though so far Max does keep reappearing.

More catching up: the Institute is doing well, though Sophia is really only there about half the time, and the rest of the time she travels. Akito finally succesfully competed in that tournament, and only five people tried to kill him afterwards - that's a lot better than last year. Mirris thinks Sook is still out there on Tinara, but keeping a very low profile now, and especially keeping away from Mirris. But there was a mysterious code fragment that showed up last time Mirris was on Tinara, so that might have been a sign from Sook.

On the galactic politics front, the fiercest argument between Blue and Red is apparently where the summer home and winter home for the Hegemons should be. Parliamentary integration is working better than that, though there is speculation that the former argument is basically just a diversion for excess ire. Oh, and they're growing a new veggie mat on Ceru-, er, Juice. Mirris wonders if the veggie mat substance is edible, but this is deemed to be a bad idea.

"Homeless. Potholes." -Martan
Ruehan's the Governor of Pierogi now - Martan's been in some correspondence with him. And Mirris has been working with Elmer Triconian doing costume design - she thinks she should start her own knockoff line.
"I have seen the orphanage, and it is mighty." -Mirris
Mirris thinks the Floating Orphanarium was one of the best things they ever did. Though had she known that Elmer would go so overboard on the "Scout Training Area" she might not have suggested it. Though really, when does Elmer go not overboard about anything?

Martan asks Mirris to ask Max about putting There and Back Again in with Memories of Pierogi, though Martan is still a little jealous of Max and the whole memory thing, though he knows he shouldn't be.

Katya and the others say that Max is spreading the memories of the Pierogi people (like dandelion seeds). Mirris asks if Martan wishes he were the memory carrier, though she thinks it would be icky; Martan realizes it was meant as a punishment by the loa, and says no, it's not that exactly, and yes, Max is doing the right things for the right reasons, but...

Time passses. Jim finally gets to Phoenix Scout. The Smeerps continue to act as an honor guard for Evgenia, though they are adamant in claiming that it's Not Babysitting. Katya starts arranging for "Controlled Cootie situations" between Boy and Girl scouts, as well as revamping the curriculum a bit to add things like Psi Theory as a badge/patch. Ruthie and Linnet visit for a week, and there are some indications of Ruthie having a crush on one of the Smeerps. (Probably Ryan, Jim thinks, though Ryan is luckily oblivious).

As Evgenia approaches her third birthday, she's trying very very hard to convince Uncle Jim to give her a flying scooter. He explains to her that there are legal age requirements for flying scooters, so she'll have to wait until she's older. However, after a round of puppy dog eyes, she gets a scooter ride. Evgenia thumps on Jim's back to go faster, and he does, until he realizes now she's thumping on his shoulders - she seems to have gotten out of the seat buckles, and is standing up in her seat. The scooter stops going fast and she is taken right back down again, young lady.

Mirris arrives four days before the birthday party, but unfortunately, won't be able to stay:
Ace says he can really use a moll, for a plan of his on the Well (which has been having some open conflict between various factions). While Mirris had offered to help, Ace told her to help, she should get Katya. Hmf! He wasn't completely forthcoming with the details, but in essence, he seems to be planning a sting against Giambrone, and Citizen Julius, and Citizen Trask, all at the same time, so each of them is going to think the other stiffed them. There's a bit more, involving turning the scam over to the Architect when Ace leaves planet. Anyway, Ace says he just needs a really big distraction, in Joyous Gard, at midnight in about six days.

While Martan, Katya, and Jim discuss it, Mirris distracts Evgenia with a claim that there's something in her hair. The best way to get sticky things out of your hair is with olive oil, apparently. This digresses into a discussion of the Ancient Gleeks, who did sporting events naked but covered in olive oil and dust. This leads to a brief appearance in the discussion by a small naked three-year-old covered in olive oil and flour, shouting that she is an Ancient Gleek.

Martan is, admittedly, not very pleased with the idea of Katya going off to moll for Ace. Katya protests that Ace's heart is good, and Martan concedes that, but does think that in his heart, Ace also thinks that Martan took Katya away from Ace. Martan does admit that Katya didn't really want to be settled down, and this will be an adventure for her - but he warns Jim that if Ace loses Katya in a poker game, he will be most put out. Jim agrees that there will be no wagering of Katya.

Evgenia is easily convinced that Mirris brought her her birthday early. However, she is crestfallen to not get a scooter. Mirris's present, the latest in the Adventures of Prince Grimblemaury, does some to make up for this.

Off go Mirris, Katya, and Jim to the Well, trying to come up with an appropriate distraction. It's not clear yet what sort of distraction, other than molls. Mirris suggests that Jim should consider cross-dressing, so there will be three molls.

"I miss you, Jim. I miss you more than I thought I would. I bet you miss me less." -Mirris
On the way in, the Stormcrow gets a pre-recorded message from Ace, which reiterates the need for a Distraction, but doesn't provide much more useful information. If Jim won't go for cross-dressing, Mirris suggests some sort of official Jim Powell appearance: "he tweener chickies would totally turn out." Some sort of big theatric show? The group finds themselves playing WWETD - Mirris suggests a catfight between scantily clad Ancient Eglyptians.

Jim fumes: he cannot work under these conditions! Who is he trying to distract, and from what?

Katya tries to mentally contact Ace - he's behind some amount of psi shielding, but he's thinking about the plan. In Ace metaphor, there's three big cats watching a pile of mice, and he's waiting for the distraction to make all the cats look so he can move the mice around. But he quickly switches to thinking "oh, shit, the psi alarm just went off". Katya sends him a quick "Katya, thumbs-up" and breaks contact.

How about having some sort of Sparky Cola Prize winner? They could distribute leaflets, and redirect traffic. Or, for a bigger disaster, they could hack into the environmental controls and make everyone in Joyous Gard evacuate.

In the end, the plan as settled upon is to have Jim compete against the current gladiatorial champion, with Sparky Cola doing PR and Katya being the iconic person to give him a Favor to Fight Under.

"Would it help if I bet against you?" -Mirris
"You're confusing me with Ace again." -Jim
Mirris insists that Jim add a cape to his Scout uniform for the battle, for extra grandeur. (Then, she can add the look to her Elmer Triconian fashion knockoff series: ETcetera.) Katya puts on her Official Green Sash (with Mirris designing her costume as well, to make her look Extra Hegemonic).

The battle (starting at midnight) is sold out, televised everywhere, and a great success - Jim wins, and the footage will be used in Scouting commercials for years to come. But now, it's time to get off planet, and back home to Cabry again.

More time passes, and Mirris continues to bring reports of the rest of the crew as she visits them. Sharra and a gentleman friend have opened a shipyard in New Light; her parents aren't sure whether to be pleased that she's settling down or displeased that she's still an engineer. Vance apparently brought a very nice girl to dinner.

Rumor has it that Dr. Kye proposed to an 18-year-old grad student, on the rebound from another argument with Mirris. The engagement lasts three weeks. Mirris is appalled, but it's hard to get Katya and Martan seriously on board for disapproval of age differences.

"Tsk. Cradle robbing. The man should be horsewhipped." -Martan
The first new generation of Phoenix and Eternal scouts graduate; this includes most of Smeerp Patrol, as well as Eon and Ella Minarian. Martan talks to Katya about buying some property that horses could be raised on; she thinks that's his plot, but is amenable. After about five years, yearling fillies are beginning to fetch a high price at auction on Highguard.

Jim gets to Year Three of his play-by-email campaign against Deep Blue. It's going faster now than it used to, as Omninet finally has their Fast Network up and running. Evgenia tends to be one of the ringleaders in school in her first several grades - not of the bad kids, but of the somewhat reckless kids. She tends to climb higher than she should (for a kid with no TK flight) in trees, and rides the roan stallion without permission. Martan's hair goes nearly all grey (though he thanks Jayla for small favors that he hasn't gone bald.)

Evgenia does eventually start showing a little evidence of TK, in that Ace can't beat her in any dice-rolling games. Ace is sure she's cheating - Jim also notes that the dice don't really tumble right, they just flip right to what Evgenia wants them to. Ace thinks she should try to get better at cheating before she plays for real stakes.

Evgenia is cast as Dorothy in the third-grade production of The Wizard of Oz (an ancient Alliance story), and is beyond enthusiasm over it.

Mirris arrives a few days before the weekend of the play, but she brings bad news: Dylanna is currently en route to Stannis Law, under guard. This is a preliminary overture to bringing Stannis Law into the United Hegemonies, though Mirris thinks Geoffrey Oxford was most likely to be behind it, rather than Lord Stannis himself. In essence, the remainder of her sentence (community service to repay her debt to society, being served on and around New Light) has been commuted into extradition to Stannis Law. If she is to be saved, they'll have to leave soon, and it'll probably have to be Katya asking for it (since Katya's the only one to still have her boon left from saving the world).

Martan isn't so inclined to forgive Dylanna, but he realizes it isn't really his choice. He takes Mirris off to show her the stables and take her riding, while Jim and Katya talk - but as it turns out, they don't need to talk it over much. Katya gave Jim all her chips about Dylanna a long time ago, and doesn't have to dither about whether to do it again.

Evgenia is distraught, however, about Mommy and Uncle Jim and Aunt Mirris missing her play. Katya and Jim go on a walk with her to the big rock, to sit on and talk about why Mommy has to go - it has to do with a promise she and Jim made a long time ago, to rescue someone who needs rescuing. Evgenia doesn't think it's fair that the someone had to wait until JUST AT THE PLAY to want to be rescued. Eventually it slips that it's Dylanna - Evgenia has heard about Dylanna, from the Smeerps. More explanation follows: Dylanna did bad things on Stannis Law and will be executed for them. She did bad things including killing people; Evgenia asks Jim if he has killed people - Yes, he has, but when he fights, he tries not to, and he only fights when he really has to. One reason Jim wants to protect Dylanna is that she's from the same place as Jim; the Hegemony? Yes. Hmm. Does Jim protect all the Hegemony people? Actually, yes.

"I guess so - there's only five of them, and four are good..." -Jim
"Jim Powell, explaining the evils of Dylanna to 8-year-olds through the ages." -Rose
Katya walks alone with Evgenia on the way back, and attempts to explain why she has to go: Eva and Martan hold her heart, but the heart has golden chains attaching it to promises made in the past, and breaking those chains is bad. Eva wonders what happens if you make too many promises, like what if Katya promised to see the play? Katya explains that you have to use your judgement (a compass) to decide what to do, and that that's something Eva will get as she gets older. (Evgenia briefly misinterprets this as "You'll get a compass when you get older, and it'll tell you", but the idea of "building a compass out of the things you learn" will eventually become a paradigm).

The little group convinces Evgenia to play out some of her scenes for them before they have to go - she does the "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" song, and then (somewhat sadly) the "There's no place like home" waking-up scene. Before he goes, Jim explains the tradition of "Break a Leg", which Evgenia finds morbidly exciting; he also gives her a little box to open after the play, with a charm bracelet with a theater-face happy/sad masks pair.

Jim and Katya meet with Lord Stannis - the boon is accepted, as expected. Lord Stannis does have one final question, though. He shows them pictures of some of the families who lost loved ones to Dylanna, who have waited for ten years for justice. Now that they will never get the justice they have awaited, what would Jim have him say to the families? Jim thinks about it.

"Killing her can never bring them back - nothing can. I know that those wounds may never heal. As I'm sure you know, Dylanna has been helpful in the Hegemony in various ways, for these ten years. I do not think it will help the families of the victims, but she is not the same person she was then.
I know it is hard to see her live, but redemption is also hard - and know that it is hard for her to live with what she has done."
"As it should be." -Lord Stannis
Since she's not being punished on Stannis Law, and her sentence has been commuted on New Light, Dylanna is now officially Jim and Katya's problem. They head back towards Cabry, Mirris regarding Dylanna with cold disdain.

Mirris tells Jim and Katya that she's worried about letting Dylanna run around unsupervised. Jim isn't so sure: "The truest choices are made when no one is looking."

Dylanna comments that she seems to see an archaelogist on Mirris' shoulder, saying "Space her!" Mirris wonders why she thinks that. Dylanna thinks Mirris's ethics are very personalized - archaelogist on one shoulder, Elite on the other. Jim notes that both are likely saying "Space her!".

Katya wants to know why Dylanna thinks Katya gave Jim the ability to free Dylanna. She thinks about that for a while, and thinks that Katya is trying to deliberately make the Right Decision. Sort of for practice. (Katya thinks that that has something to do with why she made the decision the first time, but less so this time).

Katya clarifies: Lord Stannis holding balance. Katya holding balance; Jim holds out his hand; Katya puts down the balance and takes Jim's hand. Dylanna nods in understanding, but that isn't a conversation she's going to have.

There is some discussion of where Dylanna wants to go - that's not a question she's had to think about in a long time. In the end, she asks "Give me ten years on the Well."

"Why? For you? For me? For them?" -Jim
"For you, for them." -Dylanna
Mirris takes Dylanna to the Well, and never speaks of the trip.

More time passes. Evgenia officially joins the girl scouts, but doesn't seem to be very enthralled by them. She talks to Mirris about it first (since both Mom and Uncle Jim are very pro-Scout) - she thinks that Girl Scouts are kinda goody goody. Jim eventually figures out that one, she's tempermentally one of the rare girls more suited to Boy Scout training. Though, thinking about it a little more carefully, he thinks that what she really would want to be is a Phoenix Scout who Skips. And that's not happening any time soon.

Katya begins to think that what Evgenia needs is a better non-goody-goody role model. How about trying to have Ace be a role model? Martan is dubious of including the words "Ace" and "role model" in the same sentence, and Jim is even less convinced.

"Are you deranged?" -Jim
<Jim with box, Ace with wings. Evgenia heart wings> -Katya
Katya explains that Ace might do well as training wheels for rebellion - he won't lead her into anything very bad. Martan is willing to go along with the idea, but only as long as it is made clear to Evgenia that "burglar" and "smuggler" are not parentally approved career choices.

Jim also suggests First Frost of Autumn as a potential role model - First Frost is, in fact, starting to putter around with the Philosophical Guidance Council. As he's no longer a child, there's no longer quite the issue of his doing things without his parents' permissions, but he's still a maverick. Just a Maverick with a Mission, now, attempting to bring Tinoori and Human back together. Katya starts working with Martan to write the "How to Be a Hegemon" book - not for publishing, but for Evgenia and later.

Evgenia skips a grade, (despite getting in occasional trouble for being snarky to teachers, especially teachers who are Wrong) and refines her ringleadership to a group of herself and three other students. They call themselves the "Poky Wheel", after a long and involved day of joking about being a close circle, but a wheel doesn't work very well with four corners... nobody but them ever seem to think it's funny. The other three are Joshua Vandermeer, Erica White, and Gaelan Iniswegger. Joshua is the clear second-in-command, who takes Evgenia's grand plans and fills in the logistical details. Erica is the smartest, but a little abrasive, and is the only one lacking good charisma. Gaelan is quiet, but very observant. Of the group, he gets on the best with Martan, and is frequently mucking around in the garden with the family.

First Frost of Autumn is appointed the Tinoori Speaker to the Hegemons, as the Cabry Tinoori have gotten pretty far on Jim's integration plan. Martan starts having to wear reading glasses, much to his chagrin. Katya starts getting her own grey hair. Evgenia develops better fine-control TK, and also fairly strong shields.

Mirris continues to work closely with Elmer Triconian, and to her surprise, the next time she takes the Stormcrow back to Crux, there are a set of satellites which trigger on her ship's entry to light up and flash out "Marry Me, Merry Mirris My Meritorious Mistress of Mirth?" Mirris is a little taken aback - she tells Elmer she had no idea he felt that way - and gives him the "can't we just be friends?" speech. Elmer briefly looks like the Poorest Man in the Outworlds, but he's been there before and he does know he gets better again.

More time passes, and Evgenia and the Poky Wheel are ready to graduate from high school (Erica is the valedictorian, but Evgenia is going to sing "Hymn to the Future"). Mirris shows up a few days beforehand, with a new white streak in her hair - she says that she got that from a run-in with Dr. Cain (stunning the GM, in fact, who had not yet given her the mission briefing).

In short, the Pierogi Loa of Vengeance has possessed Dr. Cain (who has been dabbling in the occult in his efforts to get Captain Thorssen back from the dead). The Outworlds Alliance is now arming up for an invasion of the Tarn homeworlds, and they have something that Dr. Cain is calling "the Little Doctor", based on purpleliner technology "but less inefficient." All Mirris can think to do is set up a Gathering with Katya and Mirris and a bunch of people, to power up Mirris's extraction abilities and send them through Katya's telepathy, to try to extract the Loa from Dr. Cain.

Evgenia is starting to catch on that Mirris has pretty bad timing on her visits, but understands. In fact, she thinks that graduation is just a boring ceremony for the parents. And, with all the talking about being Hegemon of Scouting, Evgenia understands that Katya does have to go. Katya formally puts her hand on Evgenia's head, causing Evgenia to worry a bit - Katya is coming back, right? Yes, yes, she is.

They go (with a contingent of Girl Scouts, who are all over working together on this for a Psi Theory patch). Mirris accidentally accepts a communication from the fleet commander and becomes Eerily Convinced that blowing up all the Tarn is a good idea. Oops. Happily, Jim has the drugs necessary for a field de-brainwashing, and since there's a long time of travel, Mirris is leapt upon while sleeping and de-brainwashed (which is really quite similar to "brainwashed", especially in Mirris's case). Once that's fixed, however, the de-loafication of Dr. Cain goes smoothly, and the Outworlds fleet starts saying "Hey, what were we thinking?" Dr. Cain manages to convince them that they don't want to kill him, but he's not interested in going after the Tarn any longer either. Back everyone goes home again.

More time passes. The Poky Wheel splits up, but not far. Erica talks to Jim about going to school on Chanticly (something that's still pretty rare for humans). The way she figures it, most of the people the Tinoori think are fully sentient are really annoying. Well, not Mr. Powell, she didn't mean it that way. Anyway, a lot of people think she's annoying, but she thinks she can both be sentiently truthful and less annoying than many of the others. Jim approves.

Evgenia, Joshua, and Gaelan all go to Conalia State (basically the top tier below Ivy, locally). Gaelan is studying gene-engineering with a botany specialty, and Joshua is studying economics. Evgenia, however, wants to drop out after two years to become a fireman. She knows she'll have to be the Scouting Hegemon eventually, but she's tired of preparations for what she's going to be - she wants to do something to help people now. And firefighting is exciting, and she's got the TK shields, so it's not like it's that dangerous. Martan is not pleased - it is like it's that dangerous! Most of the firefighters killed are killed by smoke inhalation, not energy damage. And her shields don't make her invulnerable. Katya does her best to placate Martan, who realizes that he's being unreasonable and overprotective - but she's his daughter, he's supposed to be overprotective. But he understands she wants to be a knight on a white horse, just like her mother, and you can't protect would-be heroes forever. Katya thinks becoming a firefighter is an OK idea, as long as Evgenia comes to Katya for Hegemon Seminars on the side.

Evgenia and Joshua start dating pretty seriously, though she dumps him every six months or so after a roaring fight. Joshua doesn't seem very perturbed by the fights - he keeps coming around, helping in the garden and what have you, even when he's theoretically dumped. When asked about it, he shrugs and says he figures that she just wants to prove she's not a prisoner in the relationship, and he knows she'll come back. (It got forgotten in the run, but Dylanna's ten years' work on the Well comes to fruition - it has transformed into an egalitarian democracy, with very little loss of life).

Eventually, Evgenia decides to talk to Mirris (as the best example of someone with a dysfunctional romantic history): she knows she'll always keep wanting to walk out on Joshua, but she thinks maybe she should stop indulging herself, and marry him, so that she won't be allowed to just frivolously dump him. Does Mirris think that's a stupid reason? Mirris doesn't think that's a stupid reason at all, she thinks it's sweet. Well, Evgenia doesn't want to be "sweet", but allows herself to be convinced that it isn't stupid, either.

"Aunt-Mirris-sweet, I guess I can handle that." -Evgenia
The first that Katya / Martan / Jim hear of it is when she announces that she and Joshua are engaged.

More time passes, and it's the night before the wedding when Mirris arrives again, looking particularly unhappy.

Luckily, Evgenia isn't around for Mirris's explanation (which comes to her from Sophia, which apparently comes to Sophia from H.G. Wells): Back, during the Flames ritual, in the Bowl, things didn't go as well as they seemed to. Lots of people died, including Martan. But Katya, as the Hegemon of Strength, as amplified as she was - there was nothing she couldn't do. So she split off a splinter universe, one in which the bad things didn't happen, couldn't happen, and she went there. This universe. It's real, it's just not the one she started in. But the trouble with that is that she's not in the original universe. Which means things haven't been going so well there: the Hegemonies never united, Scouts never really focused on her bloodline, Hippocrates was destroyed, Jayla's back on Vircus under siege, with Jim coordinating the defense - anyway, the details aren't important. What's important is that Katya has to go back. Not just back now, but to unreel time and go back to then, when she made the decision to have the happy ending, and take that choice back. So all of this time, this life - she won't have lived it, so she won't even remember it. Sophia's given Mirris a device, with the omnihedron built into a sort of spinning gyroscope thing, to unreel Katya's timeline back to where she started. The gyroscope has enough spin for another eight hours, but then after that it'll be too late.


Mirris says she knew something was wrong. Things seemed too easy, and also, they never talk about Hippocrates. How could she have left Hippocrates? Martan is aghast; he was always resigned to dying, to having died. But he can't bear the idea of not having any of this remembered.

Katya sends him an image of Cassandra's painting of Katya, and of Martan, of their being opposite sides of the same thing. (Random Katya-speak note: Katya means it as "removing Martan's death from the universe also removed Katya's being Hegemon from the universe, thus sidestepping her duty; Martan hears it as "if being willing to go forward into the Bowl was the hardest thing he ever did, going forward now might be the hardest thing Katya has had to do.")

Katya reminds him of saying their wedding vows. Martan smiles wistfully, and agrees that he meant it then, and would still mean it now. So, he supposes, if he cannot be remembered for now, he will at least be remembered for them, afterwards. It's not all he could hope for, but if it is all there is to be, it will do.

"It's clear that we must make our own justice in this universe, for it will provide none. -Jim to Mirris
Katya goes for a final walk with Evgenia and Martan out to the rock in the meadow - Evgenia notes that "this one is really bad, isn't it?". Katya nods, and again places her hand on Evgenia's head. Evgenia realizes that this time, Katya's not coming back. Katya explains briefly to Evgenia, who is unhappy but, like Martan, realizes that she has to go. Each of them shares a montage of their cherished memories of the small family, and then Katya leaves puts Evgenia's hand in Martan's, and goes back inside, leaving the two of them together in the meadow.

Mirris offers to try to extract Katya's memories and then push them back in, as she's in the middle of vanishing. Then she might remember. And it's possible that Sophia was wrong... because, um, because Sophia's always wrong about things like this...

Jim notes that memories cut both ways. They can be a solace, or a painful reminder of what you do not have. Katya reminds them that Martan would want to be remembered, like he said so many years ago, talking about Max, and Katya would want to remember him.

But what of Mirris and Jim and this universe? Will they keep existing without Katya, or will they just... fade out? Mirris reassures Katya that they'll be fine, in a tone of voice that suggests that this sort of thing happens to her all the time. Katya apologizes to Jim, but Jim can't really imagine not existing at all, so it's hard to have an opinion about that.

Mirris asks, when Katya gets back, please tell Hippocrates that she didn't leave! She didn't know!

Katya goes to Jim and hugs him good bye. Then, she regards him for a long moment, kisses him, and then goes to take the gyroscope.

Katya presses the button, and begins to fade out in a transporter-effect; Mirris tries her best to extract her memories of the past twenty years, and then push them back in, but it is hard to know whether it worked, as Katya vanishes.

Mirris and Jim regard each other, wondering "what next?", and Jim comments: "It's like one of those lessons you learned from Jayla: Being hegemon is a duty, it is not a happy thing, and your personal life is completely subsumed by it." With that, they look at each other, and at the space where Katya was, with the dawning sense that this was what they were trying to remember... and then they wake up.