A Fistful of Nummies

"In a repressive society, the government is plagued by political dissidents.
In an open society, the government is controlled by political dissidents."

--Professor Lila Rubiyan, Sabbati Doneval: "On Protest", AS 1621


2779.161 - 2779.180 AS
Juice -> Tinara -> Riden

As the visit to Juice comes to an end, people start packing up their swimsuits and return the James Bond scuba gear. Jayla thinks there's something that she missed, somewhere. It has to do with the North Pole. There's some consideration about this, and Jayla wonders what Katya's vision was. Maury points out that Katya said yes to the questions that Jayla said no to. Oh, dear, says Jayla.

So, um, what does Jayla think that did? Well, wherever the star is, and wherever the bowl is, they're probably turned on. Maybe they're glowing and thumping, maybe it's not so noticable, but it does increase the chance that someone else will notice them. When Jayla went through, she considered turning things on versus not, and it had seemed to be better if she didn't turn them on before she knew where they were, but it wasn't Vast Doom for All People or anything. Well, as the crew travels around the linked worlds, they'll have to keep scanning for a resonating silver bowl... whatever that is.

A couple of pieces of email arrive. Sook says that OmniNet is offering 800 asters for a high-energy jump with some sort of prototype probe. Kye says he has an appointment on Riden in about two weeks. Since there is some time to kill, the Hippocrates proceeds to Tinara first. Once in system, Maury gets email, and mentions that he'll need to take a side trip to Haven. Maury also thinks there should be some good way to do a redliner test at the biggest shipbuilding facility in the Linked Worlds, but most of the ideas involve shooting at other people's ships, and nothing is ever arranged. Oh, and Wilson has a present for Sook - it's a backpack with a little satelitte uplink, like Phaeton has. Sook is pleased.

The Hippocrates lands on Tinara, and the group proceeds to the OmniNet building. It's got quite good security; everyone but Sook gets a visitor pass (Sook gets an employee badge, which has been waiting for her for a while), and the passes seem to track them as they pass through major junctions. Maury teleports past a couple; nothing apparent happens.

At the OmniNet floor, a secretary comes out to intercept the group.

Secretary: "Can I help you?"
Sook: "No."
Secretary: "Um. Do you have an appointment?"
Sook: "I have an office."
The secretary retreats, and a murmur starts to run around the office. Scooter is the first to notice, and runs out to say hello. The little electronic nameplate on his office door flips from "Scooter Norfolk" to "Doctor Chicken" as he exits. Scooter explains that Phaeton isn't actually here; Dr. Gallagher let him take a vacation, and he's not around. Scooter suggests getting them off to lunch before Dr. Gallagher finds out Sook is here - he'll be upset that she's here when Phaeton isn't, because he really did have something he wanted to do with both of them. Sook resists being chased away, and Scooter heads back to his office - it seems to take him about five minutes to put the sign back to "Scooter Norfolk". The party notices that there's a framed poster-sized version of the "Hippocrates Triumphant Heroes" picture:

Sook wields the sword Eva gave her for Winterfair. Her blouse is rolled up to expose her navel, and extra buttons are unbuttoned. She's holding the sword out and looking fierce. Ace, in traditional black leather jacket, has his blaster up and looks dangerous. Kith has her hair piled up on top of her head and her hands are out in odd gestures. Katya is up above them, as if caught midway through a leaping flying kick.
Dr. Gallagher comes around the corner, and pretends to be pleased to see Sook. Well, he is pleased to see Sook, he's just trying to cover up his exasperation that he let Phaeton escape just when she showed up. He and Dr. Klein explain the proof-of-concept test they want to try: they have a probe which they think will drop down one energy level once it's released from a ship in jump. They sent one in via a normal energy jump, and it hasn't come back yet; they don't know if it's just really really slow (well, that is sort of what they expect), or destroyed. If they drop one from high energy to normal energy, they're hoping it'll come out in the twelve-hour period. This shouldn't be too dangerous to the ship, though it could be pretty dangerous to the probe.

Jayla agrees on the offered 800 asters (generous but not exorbitant) - she thinks she could haggle up some, but that that might cause OmniNet to not automatically think "Oh, we could just get the Hippocrates to do that" for everything, and tacks on some extra contingency fees for if anything goes awry. The probe will be ready in about two days; time for Maury's visit home (Sook remains back on Tinara with the Elite shuttle).

Sook goes to lunch with Scooter. He says that Phaeton is on Riden looking into the weird network glitches, and he explains the origin of "Dr. Chicken" - the short form is that he spent a long time getting chicken sandwiches and trying to find cryptographic content in some of the chicken DNA, but didn't find any. Sook clears out the little Dr. Chicken daemons Phaeton left running (there are hundreds, but she thinks she's found them all), and advises Scooter that the l33t thing to do is not to sit back and take it, but to take revenge. Scooter is a little worried because Phaeton is a lot better at this sort of thing than he is, but Sook bolsters his courage, and then advises over his shoulder as he starts working on a little virus to infect Phaeton's cyberoptic mohawk with (to display a little smiley face).

Meanwhile the rest of the party has landed on Grimblemaury's homeworld of Haven, or as Dr. Kye and some of the other inworlders know it, Hazard. They see a number of uplifted/gene-modified inhabitants, many of the cat/dog varieties, wandering around generally living their lives. Grimblemaury decides to ensure his arrival doesn't cause any undue consternation by calling ahead, and he speaks to his mother, Tantocaprice. She's ever so overjoyed to know that he'll be visiting. He informs her that he'll also be bringing his crewmates along.

Maury's mom: "You've brought more friends, how lovely."
Taking the van down into the neighborhood where Maury's family lives, the party turns the corner to find that there is a large group gathered around outside his house. As they get closer, it becomes clear that these are many of the re-located chimaera from Dr. Cain's island. Not wanting to cause a scene (he's so considerate!), Maury teleports directly from the van to his bedroom, leaving the party to brave the group alone.

When they arrive, the group finds the StepChildren, as they are now called, very well behaved and generally just sitting around waiting for Maury. Mirris talks to several of them about how they've been doing. Apparently, they are living as a small community here on Haven. Many of them have jobs and they've been pooling their income to provide food and shelter for the entire group. The majority of their income, however, is used for the ongoing experimental treatments intended to remove their paingivers. They say that these treatments have been more effective on some than others, as they are still experimental, but seem to be improving. They manage to scrape together enough money for about one treatment a week, so they will have all had their first round in about a year at the current rate. They're currently organized by three of them who they've elected or otherwise chosen to speak for them and deal with what needs doing on their behalf. Though of the three, Ariel, the older bird-chimaera, is still the spokesman for the group.

They are somewhat dissappointed that Grimblemaury has not come to "finish what he had begun" but are willing to wait for him further. Meanwhile, Dr. Kye has tired of standing around outside and goes to knock on the door. From inside, everyone hears Grimblemaury's mother (apparently a formidable woman) shout to someone else, "As long as you are going to be hanging around in here, make yourself useful and answer the door!" Not knowing to whom she was speaking, or perhaps knowing all too well, Grimblemaury calls down from upstairs, "I'll get it!" He arrives downstairs for find Garif (a sabretooth-wolverine chimaera) answering the door.

The party and several of the StepChildren come in. The StepChildren are pleased to see Grimblemaury and all head into the house. Maury's mom shoos many of them back outside; Mirris somehow gets shooed back outside with them, and hangs out on the porch too. Introductions are made all around. Tantocaprice indicates that since he's decided to come home, he can go figure out what to do with all of these "StepChildren" he's apparently saddled her with.

Resigned to his task, he finds that the leading three of the StepChildren in particular wish to consult with him: Ariel, Garif, and Cavirt (a feathered-serpent "coatl" chimaera). Now that they are no longer under the dominion of Dr. Cain, and his Law no longer binds them, they need a new Law. Thus, they ask Maury, "What is the Law?" Maury thinks about it for a little while, and then stuns everyone by saying "The Law is contained in the Book of the Hegemon." They consider this amongst themselves, and then ask "Where can this book be found?" "In most bookstores." Most of the StepChildren head off to find Books of the Law. (Maury will later think that he should also have told them "TANSTAAFL" as the Law, but they do seem to have picked this up).

The three mentioned above remain behind - they also wish to offer three Devotions, to Grimblemaury now that he has completed the saving and relocation of their community.

Ariel: ``If there is a question you wish answered, it will be answered.''
Cavirt: ``If there is an object you wish to possess, it will be yours.''
Gariff: ``If there is a head you wish taken, it will be done.''
Grimblemaury indicates that he'll consider the matters, and they head off to begin their new life as Juridicists.

Pleased that the StepChildren have been dealt with, Maury's mother invites the party to stay for dinner. The guest list seems to expand as more Jellicals show up. Several younger ones, for whom Maury has thoughtfully remembered to bring presents, are psyched to see him, and leap on him in kittenish ways. The larger ones say hello, and are quite polite, though they are clearly cooler to Grimblemaury than his younger relatives. Dinner proceeds nicely and all enjoy the hospitality and food. Conversation proceeds along the expected lines as the crew is asked how Maury's doing, what's going on out in space, and if he's soon going to be ready to come home and do something useful, which of course gets shushed away and it all begins again.

After a nice dinner, it becomes clear that the guests should be leaving as it is family time. The crew head off to the ship while Maury's family descends upon him in a replay of arguments everyone is sure have happened many times before.

As they are leaving, the crew notices that there are a pair of StepChildren on the porch. They say that a couple of them will of course be left with Grimblemaury's family in case they have some need the StepChildren might fulfill but Maury's arrival has mostly ended the large gatherings here in their neighborhood. One of them is sporting a new Book of the Hegemon, but hasn't had a chance to read it yet.

Jayla checks to make sure the local Book of the Hegemon checksums appropriately. It seems to have the missing chapter the same way that the Blue version does, but is otherwise OK (and doesn't seem to be a particularly Red-ized Book of the Hegemon). The StepChildren say that the new Law is long and complicated and it will take them a long time to fully comprehend it. Maury eventually rejoins the party and another day is spent seeing the sights of Haven and dealing with any immediate needs the StepChildren might have. Some food and clothing and medical stuffs are given to the StepChildren community but mostly they say that they are generally treated well, and have been able to provide for each other. It's clear, though, that even here on Haven they are sort of a mildly lower class due to not being able to reproduce. The Tinoori get asked to make a lot of cookie-treats and the party heads off back to Tinara to pick up Sook and run the experiment.

Then, it's back to Tinara proper, and back to OmniNet. Jayla corners Dr. Klein and gets him to think yet again about the fact that his blue spy girlfriend probably isn't interested in him, being a spy and all. Poor guy, the only girlfriend he's had in years, and nobody will let him alone about her.

Eva takes the helm for the high-energy jump. The OmniNet ship Packet Collision goes through first, and the Hippocrates waits about ten hours; that way the OmniNet ship will be able to catch the probe when it comes out. If it comes out. Maury turns the device on, and pushes it out the rear airlock, while Max scans it six ways from Sunday. It's very strange, from Max's point of view; he seems to push it out multiple times, like a strange strobing music video. Then, the probe extends its etheric fins and seems to zoosh away in all directions at once. As it's vanishing in the distance, nearly too small too see any longer, Max seems to think that just for a moment, he sees... something. Something else, not the probe, which replaces the probe for a very brief instant, and then it's gone too. There is a brief description of "jumpspace demons", which eat the ships that go into jumpgates and never come out, or that mangle the ships that come out mangled. Most jump engineers say that that's a problem with having a different entrance and exit configuration that causes the mangling; there are legends that say that it's the difference in configuration that attract jumpspace demons, but most people consider these to be about as plausible as Santa Claus and the Great Omphalos Dust Wyrm.

Due to the minor loss in mass, re-entry is a little rough. Ten hours later, the probe comes through, though it's badly mangled. The OmniNet people argue as to whether or not this was expected.

On to Riden! On the trip, Eva locks herself in her room and works on mapping visions to things.

Wilson heads off to the tubes, complaining again of a headache, but Jayla remembers this from last time, and thinks he's faking. She talks him out of using up valuable Kaufman resources if he doesn't need to; he can still stay on the ship.

Dr. Kye explains his engagement - he's been nominated for the MacSullivan Grant, which is given out every three years for archaeological prowess. There will be an awards ceremony, and then a formal reception at which the various works are displayed. Someone remembers that there is a cache of microplasma lenses here somewhere - Max and Kye should start looking for it. The vast and terrible power that the two together is shuddered over by the group. (Why can't Dr. Kye find the star or the bowl, then? Well, he doesn't have three on hand to start with...) Tuxedoes and evening clothes are rented; Janzur sticks to dress uniform.

Sook starts tracking down Phaeton. He's been making a splash on the various hacker boards, telling people in painful detail how wrong they are about things and what they should be doing instead. Sook notes that when it's a matter of fact, he's usually right, but that he doesn't seem to be distinguishing between matters of fact and matters of opinion. Most loudly, he's been in a flame war with BlackBits, a hacker who's been putting forth the notion that the net outages are due to an obscure protocol error; Phaeton is sure that it's being deliberately caused. Sook posts something - Phaeton is happy to see her. "Phaeton is overjoyed at the arrival of his faithful sidekick!"

Max spends the day prowling around the city looking for microplasma lenses. He ends up narrowing it down to the Hegemonic quarter of the capital, where the Crystal Palace is.

Meanwhile, Sook meets up with Phaeton. He is on a Quest! Sook mocks him - isn't Questing more Scooter's thing? But this is important. He's trying to find out why the Golden Age ended! Sook says Scooter said he was looking into the network fluctuations. Yes, yes, it's all related. Maybe Sook's archaeologist friend Dr. Kye can help? A secret meeting... er, a meeting in the Hippocrates conference room is arranged.

"I suppose you are all wondering why Phaeton has called you here. Once there was a golden age in our society."
< Everyone looks at Janzur>
"When no captain of industry, or head of state, would dare step upon the street without one of the L33t by his side. The time of our people. I refer to the time known as the InfoWars."
<Everyone looks at Janzur again>
Phaeton keeps explaining; Janzur, glowering, gets up and leaves. Given the vast power of those involved in the time of the InfoWars, how, then, Phaeton asks, could the InfoWars have ended? He has two possibilities:
  1. People came to their senses and realized that information was too valuable to be tampered with any more.
  2. A large group of elite hackers took control once and for all.
Phaeton discounts possibility number 1 as implausible. However, if possibility number 2 is true, then where are they now? Does Dr. Kye have any alternative explanation? Dr. Kye offers the standard party line about the increasing fragmentation of the network, greater security, greater off-line procedures and backups. Phaeton scoffs: "That's what they want you to think!"

He's been looking into the network glitches that Riden has been seeing, and thinks that what's going on is: there is a conspiracy of darkside hackers trying to disrupt the information economy of the planet, and failing. The interesting question is why they're failing, but to figure that out, it would be useful to know what exactly they were doing. Phaeton himself was never darkside, so he's not been able to learn the identities of these hackers, but he knows that Sook was once, using the handle of Bit0. Maybe she can make contact with these hackers, and then she and Phaeton can infiltrate them. Sook points out that Phaeton has already flamed BlackBits (presumably one of the bad guys), which makes him ostensibly a good guy, so they won't want him.

Max and Kye try to pin Phaeton down on why the fact that there are small network glitches suggests that it is the case that there is a massive conspiracy to destroy the network, and that this conspiracy is failing for even more mysterious reasons. Phaeton doesn't seem to see why this seems implausible.

Maury and Max head off to take a tour of the Crystal Palace. Max notes that the way to the microplasma lenses is to go through that door that the Hegemonic Elite Guards are guarding, the one to the Hegemon's private wing. Max and Janzur dither over whether it's a good idea to try and steal the microplasma lenses.

Mirris comes and reports to Eva that she has been invited to meet Elspeth, Dominick, and Shoshana von Torsten, at their hotel room for dinner tomorrow night. What the heck?

While Jayla is out shopping for a dress for the reception (she thinks it both unfair and perplexing that "black tie" doesn't mean she wears a black tie), someone comes up with a pamphlet for a Juridicist prayer service, and furtively invites her to attend. The furtiveness is a little odd; it's not like it's an illegal religion...

Phaeton brings Sook up to speed on his investigation. How would they go about infiltrating the darkside? Maybe Sook could arrange to take Phaeton (the public good guy) down. Phaeton thinks that isn't plausible. Well, that's a challenge. Sook suggests that Phaeton set up the anti-BlackBits server, and try and keep it up.

Jayla, Janzur, and Eva go to the Juridicist service. Just before the services begin, when people are starting to take their seats, one of the parishioners makes a ham-handed attempt to lure Jayla outside. ("Have you seen the back of the temple?") Deciding they may as well play along, Jayla follows him out, but Janzur makes it clear that all three of them are going instead of just Jayla. He doesn't protest once Janzur gives him a good stare. Once in back, Janzur notices lots of people hiding behind various objects like trashcans and the like in the alley across the way. Sensing the ambush the party tenses. Before being struck down as evil, the parishoner calls for calm and invites one of the hooded figures in the alley to come forth and explain things.

He is part of a Juridicist faction which has a dispute with the other Juridicists, so they are not actually welcome in the church. They've been trying to contact Jayla because they've heard from the Brotherhood of the Hand in the Blue Hegemony that Jayla is both faithful and trustworthy. Deciding that they are telling the truth, the three party members accompany the small group back to their headquarters.

There they meet a member of the order, Brother Bheed, who has the ability to psionically verify Hegemons. He has had contact with Shaddam, and verified that he is not in fact the true Hegemon. Thus, they wished Jayla's assistance (and that of her comrades) to send Bheed to the Blue Hegemony, where he could verify that the Blue Hegemon was in fact true. If that turned out to be the case, they might then turn their energies to a more appropriate task ("What would that be?" "Elimination of the false Hegemon."). Bheed needs only touch Doraine's hand, by the grace that has been granted to him, and he will know. The party agrees to take him off planet, if he can get to the spaceport at a given time. While preparing to leave, Bheed shakes everyone's hand; he freezes and then drops to his knees before Jayla. It takes everyone else a few moments to figure it out, and then they drop to their knees too.

Sook: Ask them if they know anything about mining.
There's about thirty of the little splinter cult (thirty more are in prison). They're persecuted by the normal Juridicists as heretics, and persecuted by Red as political dissidents. Everyone makes sure Brother Beede is positive, and then they all pledge fealty to Jayla who uses Troth, so it's all air-tight and accepted. Brother Beede is sure it's a miracle. They take a blood sample from him and go. (When Maury analyzes it later, he gets that the guy seems likely to have psi, and some of the drift indicators indicate that he has an outworlder or two in his ancestry, but no super-Hegemon markers). The three spend the evening talking to the new converts, and then they claim they must disperse as they are still trying to remain covert. Jayla vows to come back and talk to them more in the days to come.

Max turns up some information about the general layout of the Crystal Palace, including where a lot of the rooms were in the Hegemonic Wing back when it was first constructed. It could well be different now, though. He notes that it'd probably be difficult to have secret wall compartments in the crystal, though it might be possible to have actual secret rooms.

A few days later, Phaeton has finished putting up his anti-BlackBits site, and Sook, using the Bit0 identity, goes to crash it. It's a long and epic battle, but in the end, Phaeton's site crashes, and he is humiliated. On the other hand, it would take a great hacker to even be able to tell. (Sook has recorded this and dubbed in sound effect and flashing lights, for Scooter's blackmail use).

Eva goes and meets with her spies, and goes shopping and changes for dinner with Cassandra and Elspeth and Dominick. Janzur brings Mirris, so he's there as well, and is introduced to everyone, including Shoshana. Dinner conversation is very dull; Elspeth and Dominick (and then Shoshana) leap upon anything remotely resembling a secret and stomp it out of existence. After dinner, everyone adjourns into the study, where Dominick confirms that there are no bugs (as there was a tragic spill of the brandy into the radiator earlier).

Elspeth explains that there is a group containing members of both Red and Blue intelligence, which believes in the existence of a conspiracy dedicated to setting Red against Blue. Thus, they are setting up some back channels which can be set in place to try and ameliorate deliberate misunderstandings, and so on. Anyhow, they think that Shoshana might do well as such a thing, and thus, if she's interested, they can arrange for either Eva or Shoshana (or some other identity to be created later) to have a Red security clearance, with access to Shaddam Marchant II. However, most of Blue Heg.Int doesn't know about this (Gabriel does), and the Blue Hegemon doesn't know about this, and it's quite possible it could be considered treasonous, regardless of how good an idea it is.

Apropos of nothing much, Dr. Kye wonders about the subway tunnels in his vision. He thinks maybe it's old jumpgates.

Then, it's time for the MacSullivan reception. It's being held at the MacSullivan Complex, in a large auditorium. There are little round tables, and waiters bring drinks and pass hors d'oeuvres; Dr. Kye and the other nominees are up on a raised dais. The head trustee of the Foundation, Nathan MacSullivan, introduces the nominees and their work:

  • Dr. Voriig Kye. The excavation of the HMS Hippocrates
  • Dr. Asimov Smith. Nurlian native culture and artifacts.
  • Dr. Midian Kandemeer. The dissolution of the Tarn Alliance, and the existence of a mysterious third alliance partner.
  • Dr. Lissa Van Trent. Atomic computation devices, a research project on Sundown.
Sook's ears perk up at the mention of atomic computation devices. To present the award is Dr. Alber Crighton, the winner of the previous Grant. He gives a little speech, during which he joshes Dr. Van Trent as being a fellow employee of Memento Mori. Then he opens the envelope, and his face visibly sinks. It's Dr. Voriig Kye! Everyone claps. He says something to Dr. Kye, still smiling, that nobody else can understand, and then asks the audience: "Let's all give our colleague a hand for his stunning good fortune!"

Dr. Kye gives a speech. He'd like to thank the foundation, and all the old fossils who presented the award to him. He couldn't have done it if all those people hadn't died first.

Then, it's off to the Grand Ballroom. There are displays for all four nominees; Kye's has photos and 3d holograms of the Hippocrates. Smith's has a bunch of artifacts, including a hammer with a non-standard grip, a large wooden bowl in a place setting, and so on. Kandemeer's display is all very complicated graphs and diagrams and data analyses that only Dr. Kye and Eva can make any sense out of. Van Trent's display has a clear biohazard case with clear spheres inside, which are magnifying experiments and prototypes, that she has recovered from Sundown.

The party begins; the other nominees do offer their congratulations, though Van Trent waits until Crighton is out of the room to do so. Dr. Kye asks her when she plans to publish. She looks a little chagrined and says that Memento Mori doesn't... oh, she sees why Dr. Crighton doesn't like him.

Several junior archaeologists ask Dr. Kye about the armor Janzur is wearing. They're not sure it's exactly authentic. Dr. Kye pontificates about all his efforts to ensure its authenticity, causing Janzur to flee (for the second time this run). Sook introduces herself to Dr. Van Trent, and offers her card as an archaeological computer expert. She's grateful, but doesn't really think she can get clearance to hire outside consultants who are associated with Dr. Kye at this time. Mirris wanders the room, looking for something that's bugging her, but doesn't turn up anything.

An argument between Crighton and MacSullivan erupts; most people angle that way, trying to hear it. It seems to involve no actual allegations of bias, but of wanting to ensure that there is more actual oversight in the future. Sook and Eva stay near the atomic computation exhibit, and Max scans the room looking for whoever is trying to steal something. Janzur watches for someone getting killed. Max doesn't actually see any stealing, but does note that a couple of people are leaving by a side door. He heads out after them, being Not Their Problem. Watching them carefully, he notes that one is wearing a brown greatcoat, and is carrying something underneath it. Eva and Janzur head out after Max.

Maury hands a note to Crichton reading "Your guys have left - you can stop the distraction." He stops mid-rant to read it, and looks baffled.

Back outside, the guy in the greatcoat that Max is following bumps into a mob of other guys in greatcoats. There's a bit of confusion, and then the guys head off in different directions. Max tries to sense where the thing is that the guy was carrying. As he doesn't know what it is, that's pretty hard.

Back in the reception area, Mirris thinks there's something different about something, but still can't put her finger on what. People suggest that everyone check the exhibits to see if anything is missing. Dr. Asimov Smith, over near his collection, shouts "This isn't my bowl!" Apparently, his bowl had a little mark on the left side. Sook calls Max and relays that the Missing Object is the wooden bowl. Dr. Crighton has begun to understand what Maury's note is about, and blows up. He refuses to be implicated in this theft! He storms about, looking for the annoying catman who gave him the note. Jayla talks to Dr. Smith about the bowl, and what he knows about it. She gets the feeling that there's things he's holding back, and pushes on them. He admits that his theory about the Nurlians is that they're vegetable rather than animal, and that the bowl is made of their wood. If you look at it closely, the things that look like depositional rings aren't actually depositional, they're pressure-caused. So, in some sense, he thinks that the shape of the rings in the wood might contain the "last words" of the being that the wood comes from.

Max reaches a point where he thinks that the bowl is going one way, and the guy and the bowl are going the other way. That's rather puzzling, and he's really not sure what to make of it. He decides to follow the bowl, and calls Eva and Janzur, who have been following some of the other people who left the party. Eva peels off to follow the "guy with the bowl", and Janzur joins Max. The bowl Max is following heads into a mall, and then the trail peters out. Meanwhile, Eva catches up to the guy she's chasing, and he's about forty feet up a wall. She tries to take him out with her stunner, but he gets away.

Back at the party, the police have shown up and taken information from everyone; the party breaks up pretty quickly after that. The group converges back at the Hippocrates, and the footstool is dragged out. Maury examines it; he's not really an expert on wood, but he thinks it's pretty similar. And there are a couple of things that would look like rings, but aren't strictly concentric. Jayla thinks this is all appalling and creepy.

Max thinks the bowl is likely to be going to the starport. Janzur and Max go hang out near the security area entrances, but Max thinks the bowl is not actually going to be passing through any specific security entrance. He heads into the cargo areas, not anyone's problem, and looks around.

Eva goes to talk to some of her doobies about master thieves - they say it sounds like the work of the Ghost, he specializes in leaving false trails. Maury goes to ask at the starport about ships scheduled to leave for Nurl in the next three days. There's a regular run to Nurl, every other day, including tonight, and three non-regular ones leaving today, tomorrow, and the day after. The regular flight and the middle flight of the irregular ones are both merchant ships registered to the Gloryweb Merchant Fleet; of the other two, one is Nurl registered and the other is based on Riden, taking refined metals to Nurl. Max determines that the bowl is in the crates being assembled for shipping tomorrow. What to do? Jayla ponders the choices of "let it go" and "steal it ourselves". It's pretty low energy, either way, so they might as well steal it. Maury retrieves it, and it's definitely the same wood as the footstool. Max heads into the tubes with a headache.

Bit0 gets email from BlackBits, who is impressed with the hack against Phaeton and asking if Bit0 would be interested in working on something. Sook ponders whether the real BlackBits would have been leet enough to even tell that it was Bit0. Well, BlackBits is best known as a renowned infosleuth, which means that he's very good at figuring things out, but not that fast. She writes back, proposing a chat-room time and place. He replies, that he has a special gig in mind and wants to meet in person at a cafe. That's really non-standard for hackers.

The group ponders what to do, and in the end, settle on sending Eva, dressed as a more corporate identity, to act as the "voice of Bit0", to the meeting. She'll wear the earbug-radio, and Sook will be coaching her.

Jayla, Mirris, and Voriig go into the cafe, disguised, and order a meal; Janzur and Maury wait outside in the van, since they're a little less disguisable (at least, if Janzur wants to keep his armor). Phaeton is elsewhere in the cafe, playing a video game. Kye notices that there are all sorts of suspicious people all over the cafe, including a guy at a reserved table, facing the corner and sitting very still. Jayla notices that some of the suspicious people are doing the same thing they are, and looking for other suspicious people. Mirris notices that some of the other suspicious people have noticed each other. Janzur notices that there's another van nearby, which looks about as suspicious as theirs does.

Eva heads in, and sits at the table with the silent guy. In front of him are three things: closest to him is a Well account passbook. In the center is a glass of water. Towards Eva is a blue/green pill. He is dressed all in a black leather greatcoat, black wide-brimmed hat, and dark shades.

"Ah. BitZero. Excellent."

The man pontificates at length, about Epicness and You are Chosen and an Adventure You Cannot Even Imagine. Bit0 is just the sort of talent his organization is looking for. What sort of organization is that, exactly? He explains, again in high pontificatory mode, about his association, which supports the ascendancy of hackers above all else, and dedicated to changing the world as you know it. He's really quite good at his spiel, but it's designed for someone who just isn't Eva. She thinks if she were an hacker, he'd have her in the palm of his hand by now.

The passbook, which he pushes to her to examine, has 50,000 asters in the account. In order to get the passbook, she need only take the pill.

What happens if you take the pill, she asks. Vistas shall be opened to you, he answers. He clarifies that for their security, it will cause her to not remember the path to the headquarters. He probably shouldn't have told her that.

Jayla, over at her table, ponders take the pill v. not take the pill. She thinks it'd go about as Eva would expect - taking the pill is higher energy. Refusing the pill isn't low energy, though, as it might still cause trouble. Jayla casts about for a way to convey that inobviously - Dr. Kye asks "So how about them Red Sox?" but Jayla can't think of a way to answer that particular question in a way Eva can interpret.

Getting no answer, Eva takes the pill, and gets to take the passbook. Everything suddenly seems like a very good idea, as her will drops to zero. The man says to come with him. That's such a good idea! Sook, stalling for time, tells her to use the ladies' room over the radio. That's such a good idea! Eva tells the man that she has to go to the bathroom. He tells her to hold it. That's such a good idea too! She gets in the van with him.

Maury notes with relief that the tracker device in Eva's shoe is still working. Jayla, Mirris, and Kye settle their bill.

Eva, all psyched about changing the world now after the guy's pep talk, wants to know how that's going to work. He'll show her the setup once they get there. The party's van, following by tracker, comes across a traffic accident that seems to have occurred just after the evil van passed. Oooh. Happily, they do have a tracker. When Eva goes into the building, though, the transmitter goes down. Sook is instructed to call the police two minutes after the Janzur-Jayla-Mirris-Kye-Maury group goes into the building.

Meanwhile, Eva's been put in the brainwashing chair; they apologize for the straps, but she understands that it's a good idea. He does find the tracking device, though. He asks her what areas she's most skilled in; since she's recovered a bit of her will by now, Eva makes up some things that sound like Sook buzzwords. She must be convincing, because they say they'll put her in the counterintrusion area.

Janzur takes down the front door with his plasma brand, and the assault starts up. Sook and Phaeton work on hacking in, at the same time.

There's a somewhat complicated fight ranging up and down the three floors of the building. Janzur chops thugs and thug weapons. Eva gets hit by a syringe of brainwash, and starts obeying everyone's orders. When the hackers start fleeing and Dr. Kye shoots out their monitors, Sook and Phaeton finish their breakin and shut down the rm -rf processes and download as much as they can.

Janzur and Jayla call in the Elite Guards rather than the police, quoting this as part of the yin-yang conspiracy. Most of the bad guys are taken away by the Elite, though the party manages to abscond with the big spooky guy from the cafe. He's taken back to the Hippocrates, dosed with Emerald, and then interrogated briefly - Eva says she knows they're Terrans, and then his brain melts. Oops.

When giving his report of what he knows to the Elite Guards, Janzur decides to simply ask them about micro-plasma lenses. It turns out the MPL's are in the possession of the leader of the Red Elite. Hmmm.



  • Dr. Kye starts figuring out how to found IPX as a competitor to Memento Mori.
  • Eva learns that Dr. Cain has been released from the asylum, as he's been deemed sane, and that Caliban was paroled shortly thereafter.
  • Martan gives Katya dancing lessons in the rec room.
  • Max prowls around the capital area talking to the Red archivists and wondering about where old documents are.
  • Sharra gets put into the experimental Kaufmen tube.
  • Eva gets a new identity: Isra Alexander. She's a computer programmer on the Hipopocrates crew (Sook and Eva shop for her stuff). She gets Stateroom number 9.
  • Isra Alexander has a chat with the Red Hegemon.
  • Isra studies computer programming with Wilson.
  • Eva talks to Drs. Van Trent, Smith, and Kandemeer.
  • Sook and Hippocrates fish for other AI in the Riden chat boards, similar to the way they fished for Xanadu.
  • Heal patch technology is licensed to BioSyn Amalgamated, for distribution in the Red Hegemony, for 500 asters up front and 20% of eventual returns.
  • Kith examines Gaudel Ausington but is unable to do anything for him.
  • Jim goes hiking with Victor.
  • Gaudel Ausington's comatose body is turned over to the Elite. They are a little displeased, and have a private conversation with Janzur over it.
  • Eva tells everyone that Memento Mori has pulled all their employees back to Stannis Law.


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