Scattered Seeds

They Speak for the Truffula XVIII - XIX

The team sends a message on to New Greenland informing them of what they've found out, and also back to their leadership.  Then they decide to proceed with their R&R, so they contact Phoenix's family.  They dock at the high port above the system's main garden world and transfer down to the interface city via commercial shuttle.

The interface city is in fact the only real "city" on the planet, and the only one that contains high technology and that really welcomes outsiders.  They spend a few days preparing.  Phoenix's parents (Linda Ladybug and Bradford Bear) live in the town of Blue Lake, about 3600 miles away across the planet's main continent, about three weeks of travel by ATV over dirt roads.  They rent and stock a 6-wheeled ATV with room to sleep six, and Cal buys a large quantity of trade goods and trinkets to take with them.  They are allowed to take a single personal weapon each, but not their high-tech armor.

The most common religion on the planet is Truffula worship, where large Truffula Trees are planted in the centers of villages, and are used in some ways like may poles for various festivals and celebrations.

The planet has some high-tech communications; each sizable village has a communal satellite uplink, and probably also a communally owned ATV for long-distance travel, though livestock are the most common means of medium-distance transport.

They travel slowly, stopping to visit local villages whenever they can, but eventually reach the town of Red Wall (situated in a narrow gap through a wall of red rock that separates a wide area of foothills from a long high-altitude valley filled with alpine forests and farming communities), which is about 3 days travel from Blue Lake.  There they look up Phoenix's uncle Silas Mariner, her mother's second cousin, and they're directed out to the Cliff Homestead where he lives with his logging team and family.

 

At the Cliff Homestead they meet Silas Mariner, his sister Rochelle Mariner (who isn't a lumber-worker, and lives with Silas, and has a leg injury, and who "used to live down in the green terrace lands", by which she seems to mean the foothills, where some terrace farming takes place), and his (current?) wife Jennie Walker.  Apparently there's a previous (or other?) wife named Sara Risel who lives down in one of the valley towns with her and Silas's kids.

They hear a lot of family news.  Her folks seem ok, but Linda is continuing to have problems related to aging.  Phoenix's younger brother Samson Ladybug (this is a matrilineal society) seems to be doing well.  Phoenix apparently once had a fight in which she attached her cousin Eric Reid Bear with a stick.

Cal persistently maintains a persona that might lead someone to believe he was a Humming Fish sympathizer.  Eventually they tease out some clues or contacts, like Tara Walker, who is Jennie's sister and who apparently has been off world, and who knows things like there are people living out there in the stars with computers in their heads.  Rochelle definitely seems suspicious of technology, while Silas seems to disapprove of the attitude and Jennie is quiet or ambivalent.  They also hear about the Jemson Boys, who apparently are "techsters," whatever that means.

 

The next day they track down the Jemsons, where they find a family farmstead (they are ranchers) where the father has built a homemade long distance radio tower and local WIFI-type setup.  Apparently the Jemsons believe some sorts of technology are ok, and they got plans and materials for the tower and built it themselves.  It is a member of a wide-spread but thin data network that spreads across the planet.  The father's name is Frank.  He tells them that maybe Sally Merson, off the road at Pine Cliffs, owns one of the towers and might have a lot more information for them.  He will send an introduction over the data net.  They stay with the Jemsons long enough for Cal to learn to interpret, send, and receive data related to the data net.

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They Speak for the Truffula XVII

Cal calls Sasha to say good-bye and wish her well, tell her they're leaving.

The crew departs High Fjord, releasing the docking clamps and starting off on slow maneuvering thrusters, falling away from the spinning station.

They begin a slow intercept course, and intend to be just behind their target at the south slip-knot in about 8 days.  They proceed under full stealth.  During the trip Cal is making detailed reports.  They are able to track the target ship through their own experimental biologically-based sensor systems.

The Snake Eye's stealth systems include radar-transparent composites, visual camouflage, thruster masking, and most importantly a biological heat sink.  The heat sink should (probably) be dumped before a jump, so it's not really easy to maintain full stealth when exiting a system.

During one of her rounds, Phoenix discovers Tennan is interfacing somehow with the biotech environment systems. Eventually they have a discussion about this, and Tennan says she's trying to learn about the Hive's technology by interfacing with and improving it.  She wants to know some things about the ship's history, so they do some digging, but don't come up with much more than that the ship's previous owner was Bill Baxter, and that he was originally from Reich V.

Some days after her tinkering, the environmental system is preforming much less erratically, up to about 15% above its nominal specifications.

They follow the target ship through the slip-knot to Crystal 9, and after 1 day of reorientation they seem to be turning around and heading for Lorax.

But unfortunately the Snake eyes is noticed by station security at Crystal 9's slip-knot station, and they are identified on a broadcast channel.  They explain via tight-beam that they are LG, but they feel like they're stealthy approach has been blow.

As it nears the slip-knot, the enemy ship accelerates quickly, and station security communicates with snake eyes.  After some negotiation, the Crystal 9 military on the station make a show of force by firing a pair of missiles set up to just barely miss as the target ship exits the system.  The team transitions to Lorax.

In the Lorax system they enter stealthily and eventually determine that the target ship is headed to the moon of the innermost habitable planet; one of the ones that remains only barely habitable.

Tennan is very concerned, and tells the team that 6000+ years ago when the Roanoke civilization was building the ring, they plundered all the other systems for resources.  But the high-technology inhabitants of Lorax held them off for a while, and used their technology to develop some kind of weapon that could destroy slip-knot connections and other things.  They used it to destroy the south slip-knot from Lorax to Hive, and then some sort of mishap destroyed the ruin system entirely.  But Tennan is pretty sure that the weapon made it back to the Lorax system and still exists on that moon.

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They Speak for the Truffula XVI

Sev Derstein isn't answering calls from the team.  Cal tries to work the bureaucratic angle, and talks with the office managing secretary, Corporal Patrick McClaren, but McClaren stonewalls.  Cal lodges a formal protest, but expects it to mostly result in future repercussions, not current help.

The team does some digging, and comes up with the fact that Sev has been repeatedly seeing a professional Dom named Mirabell Stagg.  They spoof her number and call his personal phone, and finally get him on the line.  They put Sev and the manager from the local harbor control office on the line together, and eventually are able to convince the harbor official to release the hold on the ship, and they are free to get underway, though they've maybe made a permanent enemy of Sev.

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They Speak for the Truffula XV

Someone on the outside of the ship's airlock identifies herself as Agent Narwa of the BSI naval patrol ship the Emerging Majority.  The team opens the airlock, and the BSI agents check over the submarine and administer emergency medical care.  They are given cabins, food, and clean clothing.  About 12 hours later they arrive at Upermavik, where they are taken to a large BSI office.  On the way there, there is some kind of commotion.  The team can't hear what is said, but it sounds like Sev Derstine's voice talking with the BSI agents.

There is an extended period of debriefing, after which the Maral (the BSI agent who originally met with the team) takes them aside and shows them information indicating that the message that Dominé sent out was tight-beamed to an unknown ship at a specific location in the system.  The ship appears to be fairly stealthy, and has begun moving very slowly towards the slip know.  Maral asks the team to take the Snake Eyes and pursue, primarily to gather intelligence on where they're going and why.

So early the next morning, the team packs up and heads to the surface on a BSI special submarine equipped with a shuttle craft, which takes them up to High Fjord.  They hire a gunner for the crew (skill 5; a Haraal woman named Shaya Quasim who is a retired gunnery sergeant in the (small) New Greenland navy, and who's job was training militia members in ship's gunnery.  They meet her in a bar in High Fjord, and eventually everyone meets up at the Snake Eyes.

But while checking everything for departure, Phoenix finds a "security hold" has been placed on their departure.  She calls into station control, and eventually gets a supervisor on the line who explains that the Upermavik LG local office has filed paperwork disputing the ownership of the Snake Eyes, and that the ship won't be able to leave without clearing that throught the courts, which will take a few weeks.

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They Speak for the Truffula XIV

The team clambers through the hatch into the main portion of the Consequence, and hangs a left, following signs for the emergency escape vessel.  Phoenix notes a couple of people disappearing around a corner ahead of them, and they proceed with some caution.  Where the corridor crosses the opening of the ship's galley, the Consequence's crew engages them in a crossfire, firing from behind makeshift barricades in the galley and from the far corner of the corridor.  Fos and Phoenix and (especially) Mary take damage, in the fight, but the the opposition is quickly eliminated.  The team begins cycling through the heavy airlock doors into the escape vessel, and as they do, Mary uses the internal cameras to see Terry working on the controls, and a dead body with a severed leg (severed by the airlock door?) on the floor in the crew compartment.

They cycle into the interior and Eden begins to advance towards the cockpit, using the dead body as a "meat shield."  But Terry has set up an auto-turret at the stern of the submarine, and it begins to fill the entire length of the submarine with ricocheting high-caliber slugs.

Mary distracts the turret and Eden finishes it off, while Phoenix advances on Terry in the cockpit, who's firing at them from the cockpit hatch.  In a hurry to finish him off, she twice uses her S.Cr.E.W, which . . . does the job but leaves the controls of the submarine, minimal though they are, a smoking ruin.

So Tennan manages to launch the submarine, but it has no power or steering, and it's clear from Terry's handcomp that he's triggered the Consequence to detonate.  So Mary hot-wires the thing, but electrocutes herself into unconsciousness to do so, and the submarine accelerates off, only to be caught and tossed end over end by the blast of the Consequence.  Phoenix revives Mary, and they are eventually caught and secured by the armed BSI craft the Emerging Majority.

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They Speak for the Truffula XIII

The team continues their adventure aboard The Consequence, which is carrying fateful liquid hydrogen shipment C7.

Mary reads the "captain" the riot act about a "last minute crate", and after listening for a while, he hangs up.  She then checks her information about the ship and its crew, and although Azat Toros is supposed to be the captain, the ID photograph on the crew roster isn't the same as the man she just talked to.  The dossier shows Azat as a middle-aged Rast, but the man she just talked too is an unmodified, light-skinned human.  She also finds that the ship carries about 15 crew, but that 5 of the crew were replaced by last-minute substitutes at Upermavik and another 3 were replaced by last-minute substitutes at Reef City.

After a discussion, the team decides their best option is to find their way to the (required by regulations) emergency lifeboat submarine, exit, and then have BSI destroy the Consequence.  With this in mind, they exit the container.

Cal is concerned that the "captain" may send crew to investigate, so they decide to try and lure someone to the empty container by rigging up a strobe on its outside.  Then they make their way down out into the hold.

The submarine is like an elongated mushroom, with a large tapered bow-shroud covering the bridge and crew quarters and shielding a number of large liquid hydrogen tanks arranged around the center stalk.  Then an elongated (150') shaft mostly filled with mechanical space but with a cramped and not-very-straight central corridor for people, and a wider base which makes up the cargo hold and is surrounded by the six driving impellers and fuel containers, etc.

The cargo hold itself is basically a 400'-long cylinder at the base of the mushroom, with a huge hatch at the base end and a personnel hatch at the top end leading to the "stalk".  The hold is filled floor to ceiling with racks or shelving designed to hold 12' x 12' x 48' containers  The shelving is basically a 15' x 15' x 50' grid of girders with the long axis aligned with the long axis of the ship, and with the bottom girders basically a set of rails with rollers and breaking mechanisms so that containers can be slid in from the end.  There are ladders on each of the racks at both ends and at the center.  Visibility is very limited, and because of all the vertical drops caution is necessary.

They work their way along the girders towards the bow of the ship with Phoenix leading.  Just as they pass the center, they see lights up at the bow end of the hold.  They hide and wait as four people with head lamps move up the girders in the very middle of the hold and then climb up and over to the row the team is using, clearly heading for the strobe.  The team decides to let them by and heads for the end, but by the time they get to the personnel airlock the 4 lights have turned around and are heading back, and are only 150' away.

So Mary, using her knowledge of ships and racking systems, hot-wires the breaking systems on all the racks to release, and as the ship changes direction and speed and hits turbulence, the containers begin moving back and forth, crashing into one another and breaking free.  They see several crash together like runaway railway cars, sending shrapnel and frozen seafood through the hold and sending one of the people with head lamps down to the bottom of the hold.

Then the ship abruptly slows and accelerates, and all the containers crash against the rear hatch, smashing it open, with the team shutting the personnel hatch just in time to escape the deluge.  The hatch holds, but is leaking slowly.  The ship immediately begins to list, and shortly loses power and stops moving forward, and they press forward in the dark.

They enter the crew area, levering open the hatch manually, and they see signs pointing to the left-hand corridor to the lifeboat.  But Phoenix, heading up the party, also sees a couple of human shapes disappearing ahead of them down that corridor.

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They Speak for the Truffula XII

Eden recognizes Mary, and goes to check on her.

Mary begins to wake up.  It takes her time to focus, but she eventually recognizes Eden leaning over her, and when she's finally up she recognizes Phoenix on the gurney.  Too late to change course, though:  the container is loaded onto the ship and the ship departs.

They check on Phoenix, who seems to be in pretty good shape, and is kept asleep by a regular drip of Ceftatecan Finastone.

Mary doesn't say anything, but the last time she saw armor like Tennan is wearing was during the rebellion on her station (Station 7; she's known as Mary Riley 7).

Dominé wakes up and struggles some.  Cal fishes through the medical supplies on the gurney and comes up with an injection of a sedative named Invanazole, which he things can be used to keep someone unconscious.  He doses Dominé with enough of it to keep him asleep for about 3 days, but not before Dominé somehow manages to trigger his hand comp to send a transmission.  Cal can't stop the transmission, and he can't decrypt it, but he is able to use the eavesdropping tech he's acquired to check routing codes and so forth, and deduces that the message was being relayed to some location in orbit.  Eventually he gets enough information from the handcomp to find that "Operation Vengeful Dance is underway" and that "Vengeful Dance" seems to be an operation to divert a shipment of liquid hydrogen leaving Reef City to the genetic research station at Narsaq and blow it up.  Shipments C5 through C9 were potential targets.

I believe Phoenix also is awake by this time.

They contact BSI, who says they will vector ships to destroy any shipment that veers off-course, but can't do anything at this time to board a shipment.

The team calls the bridge and speaks with a man who identifies himself as captain Azat Toros, but who's wearing Third Officer's insignia.  Terry Madsen, who's face is familiar from the resort in Reef City, is standing behind him.

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They Speak for the Truffula XI

Mary has been working the high ports in the New Greenland system for some time.  Because of her efficiency, she's been transferred to Reef Island to manage the port there, since she is effective, and the port ships out large quantities of liquid hydrogen as energy stores for other cities, and needs good management and security.

She is readying large shipment S7 to go out in the next thirty minutes, and is talking to one of her shift supervisors when she sees a group of medical personnel rushing away from container rack A in the warehouse.  She stops them by the elevator, and they tell her they took a woman named Phoenix at the behest of an armored woman with BSI colors to a container on row A level 3.

She goes to investigate, but just as she's reaching row A she sees the automated gantry systems lift a container from that row and place it in row C, and return another container to the A3 location.  So she goes instead to row C.  She sees someone has added a scheduled move to her calendar without her authorization, and she can't access the move order:  Access Denied / Security Override.  The container is supposed to go out on S7, rush-rush.  So she climbs up and opens the container (a fully pressurized, heated one), and inside recognizes Phoenix lying unconscious on her gurney, and Eden standing over her.  But she just barely sees Tennan unlimbering her weapon and then Fos bringing his huge hammer-like fist down on her head, and that's the last thing she remembers. 

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They Speak for the Truffula X

Phoenix is taken to the local hospital, and she's there in a medically induced coma.  The police have kept her under guard and basically have only let Dominé see her.  Strangely, though it was thought destroyed during the attack, her implanted bug begins broadcasting again, at least until her hand-comp runs out of power.

Cal and Eden send word to Sara about the situation, and they hear back that they should investigate, but that they should avoid talking to Sev Derstine, and they won't be "on the clock": though they'll be paid as part of a "black op," the whole thing will be entirely deniable and won't be officially a mission.

Cal also spends some time figuring out how to use the communication equipment they found in Nellie and Terry's room.  He doesn't find much data, but he finds lots of hacking and eavesdropping tools and oblique evidence that the pair has been gathering a lot of data about New Greenland in general, and also things like shipping routes in the Hive system.

Tennan arrives with Fos, the large warrior-type from BSI.  She tells them that BSI has gotten wind of Dominé's involvement in things relating to the Humming Fish, and they want the team's assistance in taking care of the problem:  they are to capture Dominé and get him to Upermavik, and they should bring Phoenix back with them.  Tennan takes care of getting Phoenix out of the hospital while Cal and Eden watch Dominé's movements and break into his apartment while he's out.  There is a brief encounter with a Rast named Ben Kidd who accuses Dominé of having sexually assaulted a housekeeping worker, but Cal and Eden convince him to leave them alone.  When Dominé comes back there is a brief scuffle, and then they put him unconscious in a box and take him to an arranged location where a shipping container is waiting.  Shortly thereafter, Tennan arrives with a frightened medical team who are pushing Phoenix along on a gurney.  They all get in the container, have it moved to a new location, and wait to be taken away as "cargo"…

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They speak for the Truffula IX

While Phoenix and Dominé attend the party, Cal breaks into the nearby bank and convinces the guard manning the security systems that he's from the security company himself, and gets the guard to scan through recent security footage to see if anyone has broken into the building.  He doesn't find any information about a break-in (other than his own), but he notices gaps in the building's security that would allow someone to get to the roof without being noticed, so he heads to the roof himself.

A police drone begins patrolling the neighborhood from above, so Eden gets off the roof and mingles with street traffic outside of the apartment, where he sees the drone come crashing down, either hit by an EMP attack or hacked.  He decides to get to the apartment roof, and talks his way past security and onto the elevators.  From the floor below the penthouse, he finds a stairwell to the penthouse roof, and fries the electronic lock to get out onto the roof itself.

At the party, Phoenix is introduced to Sev Derstine, and later to a man named Terry, who happens to be the "husband" of Nellie Razen, the sniper who Cal and Eden think is still in the area.

On the bank rooftop, Cal doesn't find anyone, and so waits on the rooftop looking for trouble at the party.  He sees Eden emerge on the rooftop, but is almost surprised by Nellie as she crosses the roof to attack him.  She fires at him a couple of times, but he gets to the safety of the stair tower and contacts the police and then Eden.  She blocks the doors somehow so that he can't get out easily.

Terry tries to stab Phoenix with some kind of hypodermic needle, but she manages to notice and moves away through the crowd, just as Nellie starts firing at her from across the street, hitting someone else in the crowd accidentally.  Phoenix dashes through the crowd towards the interior of the penthouse while Eden fires back at Nellie, trying to keep her pinned down.  Although partly successful, Nellie manages to fire into the (mostly glass) penthouse and Phoenix takes a couple of injuries, one minor and one very dangerous.  She manages to make it into the foyer where many people are trying to crowd the elevator, so she finds the stairs instead, but as she is just entering the stair tower, Terry surprises her and kicks her down the stairs, where she passes out to the sound of police feet running past her into the penthouse above.

On the bank roof, Cal burns through the door hinges with his pistol, and engages Nellie with his taser.  He exchanges a couple of shots with her and gets her out into the open where Eden can hit her from across the street.  She's pretty badly injured but still alive when police pour out of the bank stair tower and open fire at her.

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