Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 76b

Infinity of Forces: The Beanstalk

Yes it's "On Fire"! It's a STAR you idiot!

With the Yeveetha assault crippled for the moment, the military working on it’s own Ratsoogomoz, most of the Sith factions either in retreat or acting as allies of convenience against the Yeveetha, the group was free to make a side trip…

With all my gear packed away, I sent out a message for a courier to pick me up on the Mrs Beasley for a trip to Alderaan. I wasn’t about to go out into what was likely the biggest trap in the Galaxy aboard the same ship as everyone else. I made it clear that I was willing to pay hazard pay to the courier for the transport and that I didn’t want her broadcasting my route to the Galaxy either. She seemed a little insulted by that, but she had to admit that I was the first person she had transported worth ten’s of billions. With the bike and other equipment loaded up, I then boarded the courier’s ship and we departed.

The others took various ships of their own – especially Ben, who’d built his own laboratory-ship (with a wide variety of drives) and a final empire telepresence setup.

We did end up pausing once we were back on the grid so that I could send an encrypted message to the JLA and the military informing them of my decision to return to Alderaan with the intent to spring the RDF trap. I knew they were not likely to be happy with the pronouncement, but I figured it was better than simply showing up unannounced. Besides, it gave the military and JLA time to try and get resources in place for the inevitable confrontation. With any luck, we might be able to spring the trap on the trapper.

We arrived in the Alderaan system a few days later. It was easy to see that the local Republic fleet had been drawn down significantly in size compared to the last time I was here. Almost as soon as we were detected though, the fleet hailed us and demanded that I come aboard the ship for questioning and the usual Yeveetha-search… The courier looked to me for guidance and I simply directed her to comply with the order. Docking with the largest ship in the fleet, I was met by a number of officers who did not look particularly happy to see me.

They wanted confirmation of the “plan” for me to provoke a RDF capture/kill attempt on myself. This was apparently not what they wanted to hear, and I really couldn’t disagree with them. When one of the officers became a bit snotty and made the suggestion that I leave and make their lives easier, I bit back the comment that I wouldn’t even be having to go through this mess if the JLA had kept custody of my family – not that the military rank-and-file really knew a lot about the JLA anyway. Finally I had to ask if they were going to prevent me from heading to the surface or not. With that the one in charge announced that since I had done nothing wrong in the eyes of the Republic and Alderaan legal system, I was free to go to Alderaan – although he made it very clear that he would rather see me leave and not come back. Since I wasn’t planning on leaving, the military advised me that a police escort was being provided.

With landing clearance given, I boarded the courier ship again and directed her to follow the instructions to land on the surface. That brought the ship to the surface in the port city of Aldera not that far away from Crevasse City. Landing at the directed docking pad, I saw the police escort already ready and waiting for me. I began unloading my bags and bike from the ship when I recognized a familiar face at the head of the police team.

(Larson) I thought I was past the point where I had to respond to calls involving you.

(Kira) Man, what did you do to get stuck with this job?

(Larson) Apparently having “Kira Experience” was a major prerequisite for getting this assignment.

(Kira) Oh now it gets a separate line on a resume these days?

(Larson) Oh yes, I am the only person in the Galaxy that can prove that I caught Kira Keldav not just once, but dozens of times in my career.

(Kira) I do suppose you have a point.

(Larson) Now, care to explain why you are here causing me more paperwork?

(Kira) Visiting my hometown isn’t an excuse?

(Larson) I know you better than that. If you aren’t lazing under a tree somewhere, you’re stirring up trouble.

(Kira) Alright fine. I am here as bait for a trap. There is a collection of nuts almost assuredly laying in wait for me and I want to capture and interrogate them.

For the first time in my life I thought I was about to hear Officer Larson swear. There was a time in my life where making Officer Larson swear out loud had been a goal of mine, but now I was feeling sympathetic. This plan was ill-conceived on a number of levels and my luck wasn’t going to hold out indefinitely. The idea that this was going to be a simple bait and switch routine was missing the fact that this was a heavily populated world full of people I knew.

(Larson) Alright, any idea who these people out to get you are? A little bit of information on what to expect would help us immensely.

(Kira) Ok, but don’t expect to remember any of this once I am done explaining.

(Larson) Don’t try any of that Jedi Mind Trick stuff on me.

(Kira) I’m not going to. But the nature of the information is such that one tends to forget it very quickly.

(Larson) Oh geez, it involves THEM doesn’t it? What have you gotten yourself mixed up in?

(Kira) Them? Wait a minute, you mean you can remember….

(Larson) Yep, encountered them during my time with the Navy doing border patrol. At first they thought it was because I was like them, but then they determined it was because I wasn’t willing to let things go. That’s another reason I suspect they requested me to be here.

(Kira) Alright, this is a long story, but I shall try to explain.

I explained what I knew of the RDF and JLA conflict and how this had gotten my family and friends caught up in the middle of it. I then went on to explain some of the details of the investigation thus far and the deadends I kept running into. Quickly enough I could tell I had lost the rest of the police assigned to escort me, but Officer Larson kept staring at me with that vaguely disapproving look I had gotten all too used to. More than once I felt like I was back to trying to explain how I had gotten possession of alcohol despite not being of age to drink. This was not a pleasant experience.

(Larson) Ok, I don’t like this plan at all, but I still have a job to do. By the way, the lawyers want to see you.

(Kira) Lawyers? Why would lawyers want to see me?

At which point a rather weasely looking man dressed up in business attire appeared before me. I don’t know what it was, but something made me instantly dislike the man.

(Lawyer) Excuse me, but are you Kira Keldav.

(Kira) I am.

(Lawyer) Ah good, in your absence I have been appointed your attorney by the court. I will need your account information for handling the royalty payments.

(Kira) Royalty? Wait a moment, why am I being charged royalty fees?

(Lawyer) Goodness no, the courts have decided that you are entitled to royalties from the sales.

(Kira) Sales? What the hell are people selling that I am entitled to royalty fees?

(Larson) Oh, this is going to be good.

(Lawyer) Your likeness has been quite popular this year with the upcoming Festival of Masks. So everyone who makes a mask of you for sale has to pay a royalty fee.

My jaw just about hit the tarmac with that. I just could not fathom the idea of my face being popular enough for use in the Festival of Masks to warrant royalty payments. Then I saw just how much was transferred to my accounts. It wasn’t an immense amount of money, but I had a good idea how much the typical mask sold for and how much of that went to royalties. Doing the math came up with a number significantly higher than I would ever have imagined. My astonishment became even worse as we arrived in Crevasse City and I saw the preparations for the festival that night starting. A significant fraction of the costumes and such were of me and my companions.

This was disturbing on a number of levels. Last time I was anywhere near this world, I was being reviled as a Sith Lord come to conquer then destroy the planet. Why in the Galaxy my face was the popular one to wear this year was hard to fathom. I found myself staring at a pair play dueling with a faux lightsabers in disbelief. Officer Larson must have seen the look on my face. He and the others in the police escort had switched into costumes to better fit into the crowds while still wearing the police armbands signifying their real status.

(Larson) I take it something about this is eating at you?

(Kira) Last time around, my name was enough to send people running in a panic and started a massive shootout. Why am I this popular?

(Larson) Well, not everyone thinks this is proper. Beasley’s fans all think this is incredibly distasteful and have been protesting the whole event. Those that believe everything the Jedi say all think Beasley is a loon. A lot of rest simply go with what they are seeing in the news all the time.

(Kira) What I see in the news all the time is Death Asteroids, Sith Assassins, destroying planets, and commanding armies of Yeveetha.

(Larson) And none of that has ever been verified except for the wild rantings of a crazy old lady. What has been seen on the news here has been the immense bounty on your head and the remarkable lack of bodies you’ve left in your wake. The recordings of you protecting children from that monster Leucross and how you helped overthrow a major Sith Lord have also had a hand in making the more rebellious youth see Kira Keldav as a role model and a hero.

(Kira) A role model?

(Larson) I find you to be a pain in the neck at times, as I imagine most of the authorities in the Galaxy do. But I have to admit you’ve done some good things.

Alys, Ben, and the others thought it was quite amusing – especially the “Jacob” masks and the wooden lightsabers for those who wanted to be risque. Ben, Alys, and Lazlo got some masks of themselves, while Vi went for a Kira mask – and Handell got a beer keg mask.

With that, we began to wander around the quickly starting festivities. My initial plan had been to visit the house to see what traps were waiting there. While that would likely result in the destruction of the house, the thought that Mrs Beasley’s house would get caught in the ensuing destruction was a tempting one. Visiting the parents of my friends might also trigger traps, but then that would be including them in the line of fire. And it wasn’t like I could pose dramatically, make a tongue-in-cheek monologue and expect everyone to flee. All that would do is draw attention and a crowd. There really was no good way to find the trappers without springing the trap it seemed. If there were any trappers here. I could sense the other party members arriving in the city, and I could feel the various other people in the city too. But I didn’t sense any blank spots like Codex users save for the party members.

Speaking of which, had I not become “used” to seeing clones of most of them, this would have been a really weird day. My ability with the Force made it easy to tell who was wearing costumes and who was not so there was no awkward moments there. What was weird was seeing myself as a costume for others to wear. A part of me had been wondering when the pretenders would start showing up, I just hadn’t expected it to occur all at once like this. Some of those costumes were pretty elaborate and ostentatious too.

Soon enough Ben and Alys met up with me. Vi and Lazlo went off to play the various games, while Shipwreck and Handell had apparently disappeared to go get drunk or something. I still wasn’t picking up anything with my senses other than a vague sense of unease that was hard to place. Ben and Alys I think were having too much fun impersonating themselves to really put much thought into what to do next as I ended up getting dragged to a play. That was a piece in what I figured the locals would consider incredibly bad taste as the play told the story of how the Sith were the ones to rise up against the Infinite Empire and liberate the Galaxy. The Sith mostly died heroically vanquishing the threat and the Jedi then stepped in to seal away the remnants of the Infinite Empire so that it would never trouble the galaxy again take credit and bring peace.

To me this seemed like ancient Sith propaganda, but I also suspected that it had a kernel of truth to it as well. After all, the Jedi weren’t much for rising up, seizing military command, and striking down their enemies… Personally, I doubt there was nearly as much of a distinction between the Jedi and the Sith at the fall of the Infinite Empire as there was now. Indeed, I figure it was probable that many of those that fought the Rakata would be classified as Sith today. Hell, depending on a person’s definition, I was a Sith. I never have learned about the origin of the split between the Jedi and the Sith except that it seemed to follow some time after the fall of the Infinite Empire. Part of me wondered if it was simply that the Rakata blew up Sith with those massive weapons of theirs.

Apparently the audience thought the play wasn’t so good, even as a work of fiction, as they quickly dispersed after the play and didn’t mill around to discuss it much. As I got up to leave, I noticed that Ben seemed to have gone catatonic. A quick snap of the fingers in front of his eyes and poking him in the shoulder provoked no response. Reaching out with the Force, I could tell he was alive, but something was….. off about him. Ah, now I recognized the problem, Ben was using that damned reploid technology of his to run around Alderaan. Given the lack of a consciousness, I would say that something had cut off the link to the real Ben somehow.

Could someone be jamming him? I suppose that was a possibility, but I found it hard to imagine that anyone even knew to look for this sort of technology. And if someone was jamming unidentified signals on general principle, then they were either incredibly stupid or paranoid. So someone probably wasn’t jamming him then. Probably unintentional interference or a technical malfunction then. Officer Larson, Alys, and the other police officers noticed Ben’s condition and started their own diagnostics while I sat back and considered the options. Trying to scan for any interference was going to be awkward without Shipwreck since we didn’t quite know what to look for. I wasn’t quite sure what ship Ben had arrived in to begin looking for him either. Besides, that was going to be very difficult to explain to the police that I was wanting to find Ben’s ship so that I could find where his mind went.

Ben, meanwhile, had seen everything go dark and quiet… It took him a moment to realize that it wasn’t the lights and such in the theater; it was that sensory input from his replica had been cut off.

That turned out to be because his ship had been boarded by a Holosith who was trying MUCH too hard to be impressive – and was wearing a powered exoskeleton to mount his armor on – and some minions. They were now in hyperspace heading for wherever-it-was that the Holosith considered his base.. The Holosith wanted him to build a hand-held superweapon capable of destroying Alderaan.

Ben went to quite a lot of trouble to persuade the youngster that there were superweapons already on Alderaan, and that he could look for them safely by trying out the Reploid technology. They could return to Alderaan and descend and start using the databanks to begin the search!

The reploid-clone turned out to be… a teenage boy. So much for the big impressive armor. And so much for notions of just disposing of the inconvenience; he’d just have to get the kid into their experimental treatment program.

Besides… He wasn’t sure that a hand-held planet destroyer was even possible, much less something that he could whip up on the spur of the moment even if he WANTED to come up with something like that! (Was the Sith kid just deluded, or did his reputation really imply that he could?)

Meanwhile, back on Alderaan…

At that point I became aware of a number of ushers beginning to circle our position around Ben. It looked like their clothing was a lot bulkier than it had any right to be and there were a lot more of them than would be needed to clean this theater. Perhaps it was a deliberate jamming after all?

(Kira) Can I help you?

(Usher) Is there perhaps a problem?

(Kira) It looks like one of my friends has had a seizure after that light display.

(Usher) Unfortunate, would you like us to call for medical assistance?

(Kira) Shouldn’t be necessary, although thank you.

(Usher) In the meantime, we have an urgent call for the young lady. If you would follow us please, we can take you to a private booth to receive the call.

That was a blatant attempt to lure Alys away from the rest of us if I ever saw one. The police were still busy poking at Ben’s reploid, but Alys had caught on to what was happening with the ushers. I was about to call out the ushers on their weak excuse for a lure when Alys suddenly announced that she would gladly go along with them. Catching her eye, I realized she intended to get caught and reveal the identity of whoever it was that was directing these people. Perhaps that would give us the lead we were looking for. But why were they going after Alys? Were they trying to remove all of my allies before engaging me directly? In ways that helped me more than it would help the attackers since I could then fully cut loose with the less discreet techniques.

A few minutes later it looked like Alys had reappeared around the corner chatting excitedly on a commlink, except that her personal Force presence (as weak as it is) was clearly moving away from here at significant speed. I proceeded to head out of the theatre as Officer Larson followed protesting.

Alys had been handed an old-style sensory immersion helmet to take her message on. That was so obvious that it was hard to take seriously! It looked like it had… knockout gas in the scent-generating mechanism.

She faked semiconsciousness, and her kidnappers cheerily carried her off – to a very palatial ship indeed. With quite a few guards, and big ramps…

Oh dear. A Hutt. This wasn’t an attack, it was a very insistent offer of employment!

The Hutts wanted her too… hack into the republics central financial network on Coruscant and help them with a few projects – some immense money-laundering schemes, transferring some funds, and other financial shenanigans. They were willing to offer her rather a lot to help them – and she wasn’t in a good position to escape either.

Wait a moment… The RDF finances – or at least a portion of them – came from the Senate. With the Hutts information to help her, maybe she COULD crack the network and trace it!

The knew something about the RDF already? How could…

Hutts were highly resistant to force-based mind control. They couldn’t protect gear or others from the Censor, but they could remember… And had trouble with skills, which was why they needed so many servants and translator-droids – and relied so much on crime and bribery rather than the usual droid-based economy.

That had made them the Infinite Empires secondary administrative species – and, when the Infinite Empire had come apart, they’d just… taken over in their own right.

Hm. The Hutts were also willing to search for Kira’s family and help out her brother’s military career. She think discreet protection would be better – and she should be able to get out of this just fine without any assistance or violence, albeit with some loss of moral decency…

She came to an agreement, parted amicably, and talked with a few other festival-goers (including a kid who liked her Alys mask; he’d collected his masks every year!) Before she told the police that she’d been kidnaped, but that the kidnapers had run off when they thought that Kira was hot on their trail – and headed back towards the others.

Back at the theater…

(Larson) Hey, your friend is back there is a coma or something and you’re leaving?

(Kira) First off, that is just a remotely operated body he is using to pretend to be here. Second, someone has grabbed Alys and looks to be making their way to the spaceport.

(Larson) Alys? She’s over there talking on the commlink.

(Kira) That’s a droid made to look like her.

(Larson) What? Oh for the love of the Force.

He promptly went off to get the other police chasing down Alys while getting Ben medical assistance. In the meantime, I suddenly received a message from Alys indicating she was alright and in the presence of a Hutt wanting to bargain with her. That wasn’t what I was expecting, but since she was indicating that she was alright for the time being, I wasn’t going to make an issue of it yet.

Vi and Lazlo had gone to see some competitions – and had started an argument with the Mrs Beasley supporters. This had become a brawl (which they were both enjoying very much) but it went more than a bit overboard as Vi went into hypertime, Lazlo spread the word that Vi was one of “Kira’s Death Clones!”, and the fire-extinguisher systems went off…

There was a mighty brawl – from which Vi managed to escape unharmed (thanks to armor and defenses) unidentified thanks to the fire-extinguishing foam and Lazlo claimed self-defense on…

The Flash Lynch Mob had been a surprise though – as had been the attempt to crash a vehicle into Lazlo, the illegal cyro-needler, and the news-scenes of “Kira” disarming the valiant people of Alderaan one after another.

The news media, of course, reported what they’d seen – “Kira” defeating dozens, being near-invulnerable, and then (apparently) teleporting away. After all, Kira HAD recently captured a bunch of cloner-specialists. The “Death Clones” weren’t TOTALLY implausible.

It was about that time that I started hearing screams that Kira Keldav was attacking in the plaza. That quickly brought Officer Larson back out of the theatre ready to yell at me but he caught himself when he saw me standing there as dumbfounded as he was. Then one of the big screens on one of the nearby buildings lit up with news footage of a “battle” being fought by Lazlo and someone in Hypertime against what looked to be Mrs Beasley enthusiasts. It didn’t look like anyone was getting injured yet and the area was quickly getting saturated with fire suppression foam. Reaching out with the Force, I could feel the presence of a hole that I was beginning to recognize was Vi. Comparing my Force sense against the video display confirmed that it indeed looked like the “Kira” was indeed Vi in disguise. Vi then dove into one of the piles of foam and slipped away without the mask.

That started prompting cries that Kira Keldav was now teleporting to escape the area. Lazlo responding to news and police questioning with some nonsense of “Death Clones”. That then provoked more hysteria that I now had teleporting death clones out to do my dirty work for me now that I had recently knocked over a major cloning facility not too long ago.

Oh for the love of…..

It seems like no matter what I do, someone finds a way to make it look bad for me. Vi I could tell was insufferably pleased with himself about this. Officer Larson was watching the screens next to me and looked like he was torn between laughing and sighing in exasperation.

(Larson) Is it always like this around you?

(Kira) My reputation these days has very little to do with anything I’ve actually done. It’s been incredibly frustrating to be accused of all sorts of nonsense I had no part of and yet have it all stick to me.

(Larson) I hate to be the one to tell you this, but a person’s reputation often has little to do with what they actually do.

(Kira) Forgive me if I don’t find that reassuring.

(Larson) Well consider it karma for all the headaches you put me through.

Alys then got me on the private comm channel and announced that she had made a deal with the Hutts. The Hutts would help us track down the RDF’s funding in exchange for assistance in releasing some of their funds that had been frozen by Republic authorities for some time now. She didn’t go into much more detail than the fact that the Hutts apparently were immune to the influences of the Censor and could help track the RDF.

Vi and Lazlo showed up not too much later. Vi particularly had an insufferable grin on his face. I was about to punch him on the nose in retaliation when the lights all across the city flickered, came back on, flickered again, came on, went out a third time and didn’t come back. I held off on giving Vi my gratitude as I looked at Officer Larson. He was on his commlink trying to get a report on the situation. Soon he reported that it looked like there had been a malfunction of the main power generator, the secondary feed that was fed under the river exploded, and the tertiary feed at the top of the cliff also suffered from a malfunction of some sort. Now everything in the city was on backup power or batteries.

I don’t think anyone there thought this was a coincidence.

The police suddenly found their hands full trying to get a handle on the situation as a call went out across the city for everyone to return home and await restoration of power. Alys started using that datapad of hers to try and get a handle on the situation while the police were complaining that Ben’s comatose body was declaring to have been kidnapped by the Sith and was now plunging down the cliff wall with him in tow.

Unfortunately that sense of unease was growing in my mind. Reaching out with the Force, I tried to feel out for incoming dangers and trouble. Focusing hard, I suddenly was able to discern a number of blank spots in my perception moving this direction. Whatever those were, they felt vaguely hungry and were completely blank to my senses otherwise. That felt like the vampiric space moss shielding at a guess. Why that stuff would be in the air moving towards the city had ominous implications though. Officer Larson must have seen my unease.

(Larson) Repair crews and service vehicles are already on their way. Is something wrong?

(Kira) There are a number of blank spots in my perception moving this way quickly. At a guess, I would say it’s vehicles equipped with Force shielding.

(Larson) Force shielding? Then how can you see it?

(Kira) It’s like seeing still water in a swiftly moving stream. It stands out if you know what to look for. I can’t tell anything about what is inside, but I can guess who they are after.

(Larson) So we’ve got stories of Kira Death Clones attacking party-goers, Ben Therus running around with a Sith trying to blow up Alderaan, massive power outages across the city, and an attack group of Force hunters and who knows what else coming to kill you?

(Kira) That sounds about right.

(Larson) Yet I’ve watched you the entire time and you sat quietly in a theater being perfectly well behaved.

(Kira) I know right? Who would have thought that a juvenile delinquint like me would be this undeserving of such hostility?

(Larson) It’s like responding to those old calls from Mrs Beasley all over again. Except she wasn’t carrying heavy weaponry and taking matters into her own hands.

I looked back at the horizon towards the incoming ships laden with Force shielding and had to agree. And again I had to think to myself that this whole plan was a bad idea from the get-go. Pulling this off without heavy casualties was not going to be easy.

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Immunity to Aging and other Peasant Powers

Elders from Turkey

Second Hand Heroes?

“But ability (x) is so cheap and useful; why doesn’t everyone take it?” is a fairly common, and deceptively, simple question in Eclipse. It may be applied to “Immunity to Aging”, or to Luck (specialized in Skills), or to many, MANY, other powers – and it is a good question.

In fact, here’s a version of it from Alzrius:

Immunity/aging seems to be a relatively cheap ability to purchase, costing from 2 to 4 CP (that I’ve seen here – it seems to vary depending on if you want to live for a long time, or a very long time, or indefinitely unless killed).

My question is, does purchasing this immunity affect the ability score modifiers that go with aging in d20? Will this make you immune to the penalties to your physical ability scores? Will it still let you earn the bonuses to your mental ability scores? If the answer to the latter two questions is yes, then what’s to stop someone from taking this immunity at character creation and declaring that their character is starting their adventuring career at venerable age, and earning a free +3 bonus to their Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma?

Also, given that you can presumably purchase this anytime, what’s the in-game rationale for why most characters don’t make the relatively small investment required to become virtually immortal? Fear of death seems universal, so only 4 CP to live forever seems like it’d be worthwhile; given that, why don’t we see societies where deathlessness is common?

The answer comes in a couple of levels.

Perhaps most importantly for why everyone doesn’t buy it, it’s because character points are an abstraction – which is one reason why new purchases need to be approved by the game master and need an in-game explanation if they’re outre’.

After all, pretty much anyone can learn to operate an artillery piece. Few people actually do though; it takes time, and effort, and most people have limited amounts of both – and so invest them where they think it will do them the most good. It takes a LOT more time and effort, if it’s possible at all, without a teacher and an artillery weapon to practice with – and most game masters will have serious doubts about how a character who has never heard of artillery learned to operate it no matter what the player wants to spend points on.

Thus most non-player characters won’t be acquiring luck, or immunity to aging, or regeneration, or similar powers unless they have some rare inner spark, or obtain some magical gift, or spend years working on it. Sure, they may be afraid of dying – but so are people in the real world, and they still go right on slowly killing themselves with bacon-double-cheeseburgers rather than working out and getting healthy to extend their lifespans.

Adventurers have easy reasons to develop weird powers, and often do – but rarely worry much about old age. That’s not a very common cause of death amongst them.

Still, we could easily throw together a low-cost “handy peasant benefits” package…

  • Privilege/Generally overlooked by monsters and armies and evil overlords. Specialized/only works as long as they behave themselves and pay their taxes (1 CP). Isn’t it a little odd that most evil overlords in d20 institute harsh systems of “justice”, raise the taxes, and ravage a few attractive young women, but rarely actually fulfill their supposed alignment goals of causing mass suffering save as a side effect? Are we quite sure that d20 peasants don’t already have this?
  • Universal (also affects energy damage) Damage Reduction 2/-, Specialized/only works against accidental injuries, not intentional attacks or actions (1 CP). Here, again, this may be in play for the peasantry already; they don’t have many hit points – but they don’t seem to die from trivial (but infected) injuries, or accidents, or have twisted limbs from poorly-healed broken bones, or terrible scars from falling into a fire as a child, or have any similar problems very often at all. They also don’t usually seem to die from tripping on a step, being gored by bulls, or similar causes very often.
  • Immunity/Disease (Common, Major, Trivial), Specialized/only works against more-or-less mundane diseases, not supernatural plagues and such (1 CP). This will provide a fair degree of protection against most ordinary diseases – which fits. In standard d20 powerful healing magic is rare – but you rarely encounter massive disease-based child mortality, half-cripplied polio cases, people with brain damage, or the rest of the human wreckage the plagues we now vaccinate against used to leave behind.
  • Privilege/Aided by the local spirits. Specialized/only applies to mundane accidents (1 CP). In a world of open cookfires, candles, and torches, fire was a regular occurance. Farmers lived in terror of insects, blights, and droughts. Storms washed out bridges, winds flattened crops, and hunger was never far away. People had many, MANY, children, in hopes that a few of them might live. Thus a village might have a population of fifty or sixty percent children – most of whom would soon die. With this handy knack, such minor disasters will be greatly mitigated – resulting in those cheerful little hamlets with a reasonably modern population distribution which you find in most d20 backgrounds. Welcome to the Shire gentlemen!
  • Immunity/Age. That can actually be taken in many ways – a few of which are discussed below – but the most common version acts to extend the user’s maximum lifespan – effectively slowing the aging process more and more as you upgrade your resistance. This results in more-or-less normal aging effects, they’re simply spread out over more time (and often pushed a bit towards the “quick at the beginning and the end” model, thus avoiding decade-long infancies and decades of extreme old age). This is pretty common for sci-fi and naturalistic conceptions, where drugs, or genetic engineering, or whatever can slow, but usually not truly stop, the aging process until things start to REALLY go wrong. That’s Uncommon, Major – and extends the user’s lifespan according to the degree of immunity purchased, reducing both the good and bad effects of aging. Trivial will probably give you +50% or more though. For a mere (2 CP) you can fill your villages with wizened-but-hearty elders to provide wise advice, old folktales, and other vital (if non-physical) adventuring supplies. Oddly enough, of course, such characters are quite common in d20 games – as opposed to real life, where serious elders were generally valued because of their rarity.

There. At a cost of 6 CP, that turns the usual medieval peasant into the usual d20 peasant. They DO tend to be a great deal healthier, happier, and longer-lived than genuine medieval peasants really were.

Alternative notions of Immunity/Age may include:

Preventing attribute loss due to old age. This version doesn’t actually extend the user’s maximum lifespan – but it will result in hale-and-hearty elders and prevent problems that may be interpreted as attribute loss, such as arthritis (Dex loss), senility (Int loss), sensory limitations (Wis loss), and so on. Given the basic d20 aging rules – where aging improves your mind – it’s possible that most people have this already. That’s Uncommon (aging checks are pretty rare after all), Severe (attribute losses are fairly nasty), and Trivial (since we only need a couple of points of resistance), for a net cost of 3 CP.

Cosmetic immunity to aging. This version simply makes the user look young – an effect so trivial that it costs virtually nothing. At best this is Uncommon, Minor, and Trivial, for a net cost of 1 CP.

Complete immunity to aging. This is the classic version, wherein the user remains young and vital (or at whatever age he or she invested in it). In practice, this is a lot less useful than you think. Unless they’re living a safe, secure, lifestyle, most people don’t die of old age. They die in accidents or by violence, from diseases and toxins, in disasters, and in many other ways. In most settings, those will be bigger problems than they are in daily life (at least for those of us living in countries with the leisure to worry about role-playing games). Immunity to aging doesn’t mean that you won’t die – it just means that your average lifespan goes up a bit and something else will get you.

Can you take something like the “immunity to attribute losses due to aging”, start off as a wise elder, and get (under the standard rules) +3 mental attribute bonuses?

Sure you can. Of course, that means that you’ll be dead fairly soon anyway – and the game master is likely to want a lot of backstory, a really good reason why you’re taking up adventuring in your old age, and a substantial investment in less-than-optimal (for an adventurer anyway) skills and abilities (“Parenting”, “Farming”, “Specific Knowledges / Names and Birthdays of Relatives, Local Village Layout, and fifty or sixty years worth of similar stuff – which pretty much comes down to the “Aged” disadvantage on page 18 of Eclipse. You can do it, and you can get some benefits out of it – but the cost is competitive: Spend 3 CP on that immunity, another 24-48 CP on all the useless stuff the GM is likely to demand (for a total of up to 51 points worth of unhelpful items) – and get a total of +9 on your mental attributes, Specialized/puts you close to death from old age (leaving you EXTREMELY vulnerable to aging effects) – a net value of (12 x 9 x .5/Specialized) = 54 CP.

In purely mechanical terms, this comes down to writing a long backstory, coming up with a lot of plot hooks, and getting a +3 CP bonus and some skills you’re probably never going to actually use adventuring in exchange. Overall, more or less a wash.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Part XXII – The Logic of Lions

玉山 / Yushan - 回程沿路風景

Yes, they ARE watching.

After dropping off Catherine and Ms Tengu, Charles headed over to the restaurant where Gustav would be waiting.

Lets see…. that would be the fivefold harmonic adapter, one of his new armor-sash designs, that Adamant Reaper Daiklave Raugdring (“Demon-Crusher” in Tolkien’s “Elvish”), a selection of wrapping papers, and some bows and invisible tape and such.

The restaurant was quite nice for where it was – and was certainly quite secure. He could feel a ward going up in one of the upstairs private rooms right now…

When he asked for Mr Gustav the restauranteur shook his head and pointed upstairs – so Charles wandered on up.

There were certainly a lot of wards in that room… Against intrusion from all five senses, against Essence-based detection, against… well, it would be easier to determine what was NOT being warded against.

Hm. It looked like Gustav had just warded against Lunar Exalts and was starting in putting up a ward against Solar Exalts.

(Charles, interrupting) “Uhm… Lots of wards… Do you people really spy on each other THAT much?”

(Gustav) “Certain… circumstances.. . warrant this for now. Were you followed?”

(Charles) “I don’t think so. Why? You didn’t order anything all that much.”

(Gustav, giving him a pained look.) “It’s not about the order, young man. It’s other matters. But I sense you were not, in fact, followed. Please, come in.”

Charles did… There was already a platter and a selection of drinks here. None of it was ambrosial- and Gustav did not have a single ambrosial item on him, or – for that matter – any artifacts!

Well, Charles didn’t use much ambrosia on food and such either – but no artifacts?!? The man was virtually NAKED!

Gustav offered Charles a seat and took a drink of his celestial coffee. He looked like he lived off the stuff.

(Charles) “Anyway, I found the stuff you needed, although I had to substitute on the armor a bit… What I got is better than the specs on the old “discreet essence armor” though!”

(Gustav) “How? Please, show me the items. Did you remember the wrapping paper?”

(Charles) “I’ve got a couple of different styles of wrapping paper!”

He got out the items.

Gustav started scanning them – but with thaumaturgy, carefully avoiding touching the items and the use of charms.

The Sash took some time… Those WERE pretty complicated gadgets.

Gustav remained impassive until he was done scanning though.

(Gustav) “I must confess, I was going to ask for commando armor at first. But I thought it would attract too much attention.”

(Charles) “Oh! Well, this model is fairly discreet!”

(Gustav, shaking his head.) “This is not for me. This is an anniversary present. I wasn’t going to tell you until I saw the items.”

(Charles) “I think I’ve got some good wrapping paper for that!”

(Gustav’s facial expression did not change, although he leaned forward.) “Please, show me.”

Charles did – roses and other flowers (among various other patterns as needed).

Gustav run detections on that too – but it really was just ordinary wrapping supplies.

(Gustav) “I apologize, but I have to be cautious right now. Especially where my wife is concerned.”

Charles made another intuitive jump – although the Canal HAD been close to Gustav’s territory.

(Charles) “Oh! Would that be Astrid by any chance? We met a while back… It would be a very large coincidence, but life in Yu-Shan seems to be full of them these days.”

(Gustav) “So that WAS you… first Arnmalassaris, and now this. Jupiter works in mysterious ways. Yes, Astrid Jorgensen is my wife.”

Ah! So Astrid was the daughter of Kristoff Jorgensen, the head of the Bronze Faction! That might get some more orders!

(Charles) “Well, she was a nice lady! I hope she likes your presents!

(Gustav) “She needs them more than ever before. And I might as well mention it while you are here. Have you seen this Solar Exalted?”

Hm… Gustav was projecting an image of… Rachel Cartier, Mitchell’s sister. Had they left Yu-Shan again or something? Maybe back to visit their father if things had cooled off on Earth? There had been that ninja school to go to…

Well, as a Sidereal, he would probably have gotten the info on a sidereal exaltation being subverted by the Cauldron – so he’d be aware that Charles was acquainted with her. He might be testing!

(Charles) “Hm. I think so! Unless that’s somebody using her form, or she was using someone else’s, she was involved in all that mess with the dark temple… almost a year back now wasn’t it?”

(Gustav) “Ah, good, honest young man. She… attacked Astrid. (That was the first bit of emotion that Gustav had shown.) Fortunately, her sudden Exaltation frightened the Solar away. Unfortunately for us, we were outside the Manse when she did so, so you know how that goes. I suspect she was in the madness state that occasionally strikes Solars. She fought like a madwoman. All of our guards were nothing against her.”

Well, that hadn’t been very nice of Rachel – unless something was up of course.

(Gustav) “If you see her, I need to know. I don’t want to kill her, but my father-in-law is infuriated. He wants her… restrained.”

Well, that was understandable.

(Charles, still quite honestly) “I don’t think I’m likely to at the moment, but I’ll keep an eye out for her!”

(Gustav was wary, but he did seem to accept it.) “Thank you, and thank you for following through with these orders. If she comes back, she will be facing a much tougher opponent. I will try to repay you for upgrading the order.”

(Charles) “Oh not a worry! Things tend to vary according to what I can come up with!”

(Gustav) “Please, I insist. I don’t forget these things.”

(Charles) “Uhm… Well, OK. It’s really not a big deal though! Are there things that need fixing in your areas? I like to fix things!”

Gustav looked suspicious, but less so than when Charles had come in.

(Gustav) “I will let you know. There is always something.”

These Sidereals were definitely into Fate! The armor and blade were ordered BEFORE the primordial exaltations put in an appearance!

(Gustav poured himself another cup of Celestial coffee.) “Well, I suppose our business is done. I will be returning to my work. Is there anyone who needs to pick you up, young man?”

(Charles) “Oh I usually just take the canals!”

(Gustav) “Hmm. Well, if you think you are safe, I will leave you be. Please be careful out there.”

(Charles) “I will! And you have a safe trip too!”

The Bronze Faction really was down on it’s luck there! And Poor Mr Gustav was very unhappy! He really needed to do something to improve their territories! And build those stargates! And Manses!

There should be some time! It was unlikely that anyone had expected him to clear that much of the que within the next decade.

Meanwhile, a pair of Celestial Lions were considering things… The boy might be making noises about “finding” various items, but nobody “found” the right items to fill THAT many orders – especially if you counted the stuff he’d delivered by messenger – without the backing and resources of some really major power, direct access to the Wyld and the ability to pull things out of it, or the ability to craft items at incredible speed – and the boy HAD offered to supply armor for a pretty fair number of them.

“Finding” stuff in your pack where you’d put it wasn’t much of a feat, even if you COULD still truthfully claim that you’d “found it” on a technicality.

The backing might still be there – the kids current job told them that – but pulling stuff out of the Wyld rarely produced standardized designs. So the kid could make at least mid-range items at high speed – and could use the Factory-Cathedral to mass-produce them.

A pretty fair number of creatures had found ways to do that over the ages – but the number of them who might reasonably put in an appearance as an obliging child in Yu-Shan, and who were likely to have a friendly relationship with Lytek, was far more limited.

That pretty much left an Exalt of some type, a godblooded byblow of a truly major god, or a representative of a power that Lytek seriously respected or owed favors to.

Still, at least at the moment, the kid didn’t seem to represent a threat to Yu-Shan. If anything, he seemed to be out to help everyone equally, starting with the unemployed deities – arguably the most down-and-out group in Yu-Shan in many ways.

Besides, given that – as an underage citizen of Yu-Shan – they were pretty much obliged to protect the kid anyway, it was nice to have a worthwhile recipient of that protection for once!

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Part XXI – The Maiden in Durance Vile

Panoramic view over the ancient city of Babylo...

Alas Babylon!

Gustav was a bit harder to find than the others… He’d asked for his official order (a Fivefold Harmonic Adapter) to be delivered to his office in the Forbidding Manse of Ivy. In practice, of course, that meant usually “deliver it to the front desk unless you’ve passed the lowest tier exams to get in.” He was quite flexible on where to send it though – which was probably a hint about his unofficial orders.

He didn’t have a phone either.

Charles checked the records first; all the reclaimed territories were tracked – even if not in a lot of detail.

Interestingly, the territory Gustav ran was actually entirely in a Manse – the Occluded Observatory. The location, however, was actually a good distance from there. Still, it was in the same quadrant of the Celestial City – not that that was really saying much.

Botheration! He sent a message that Gustav’s (unspecified) stuff was ready to the Forbidding Manse.

Gustav got the message fairly promptly – but didn’t respond immediately. It was just too hard to believe… his orders were actually on time? No wait – they were AHEAD of time? That hadn’t happened since he joined the Bronze Faction!

Charles sent messengers to the rest of the list – mostly assorted deities who had ordered things. Deities tended to be a lot more protocol-bound than the various Exalts.

It had been quite a whirlwind tour really!

He would have to look into his unidentified trackers though… He was fairly sure that the one near the Babylon gate was Terapishim (although, to be fair, the fact that a conclusion was sensible in no way implied that it was accurate)- but the third one was pretty much a mystery. Perhaps the Bronze Faction? Or someone Gri Fel had brought in?

His schedule for the next few days was busy enough that he hadn’t yet gotten to doing more than asking a few of his contacts to bring him anything they heard when Mr. Montague turned up. He was already known for his love of artifice – which wasn’t bad for someone who’d been Exalted for less than two years – and a chance to have a look at a functioning factory-cathedral that was evidently being run efficiently was just too good to pass up!

He wasn’t the greatest authority on Manses by a long shot – but you didn’t have to be an expert on manses to feel the currents of essence flowing through the halls! They were so strong that he could feel them augmenting his own power somewhat – and HE was a Celestial Exalt! What would it do to a god, god-blooded, or mortal? How had the gods and mortals working here missed it? Had it simply built up gradually enough for them to get used to it or had the place been out of action so long that they were assuming that it was normally like this when it was in full operation? Or were they just security-conscious enough not to say anything?

Still… what in the Thousand Unspeakable Names of the Primordial Ones had the boy done?

He went to some trouble to remain impassive and look nonchalant – but he was unable to fully conceal the fact that he was impressed – and more than a but curious.

He made something of a show of checking the records on the place – as if he wouldn’t have done that before coming as a matter of course – before raising an eyebrow.

(Mr. Montague) “Hey, Charles, I’ve got a few questions for you. Can I talk to you upstairs in the office?”

(Charles) “OK! What’s up?”

(Mr. Montague) “Okay, first, this place’s Hearthstone is listed as no-rank. But I’m registering a powerful, high- ranking Hearthstone… Any idea what’s going on?”

In fact his instrumentality said the place was – somehow – generating a Hearthstone of ABOVE the fifth rank! Up in the ”legendary” levels!

(Charles) “It’s working much closer to it’s full potential now!”

Full potential? CLOSER? It seemed to be… drawing power from elsewhere or generating it internally, a lot like… an Exaltation. It no longer seemed to need anything EXCEPT Charles – and it was amplifying the power of everyone who came near it!

(Mr. Montague) “Okay, but the place should look at least a little different. I mean, that normally takes a redesign. And I’m registering some unusual powers here. I mean, it’s a factory-cathedral. It should need maintenance… but I’m not feeling any of that. “It’s nothing BAD. Just… not listed on the register.”

(Charles) “Well, it is a primordial design, by a soul of Autochthon. It just needed more power supplied! It’s mostly been in low-power mode since the end of the Primordial War!”

(Mr. Montague) “Oh, yeah, that’s definitely on the register. But a lot of artificers, and all of them much better than me, tried to get it out and failed.”

(Charles) “Oh! Well you need to feed the power into the dragon-lines of Yu-Shan indirectly, then lock it in an interactive hysterisis loop to stabilize it; once the augmented functions and receptors are online, you can feed it power directly! It’s a lot of help!”

Montague mulled that over for a bit.

(Mr. Montague) “Ah, that would be… if we only had the Charms for it. That’s some powerful geomancy you’re talking about there.”

He couldn’t help but look impressed. That called for… direct attunement to to geomantic energies. That was an unheard-of gift!

(Charles) “Oh you don’t need charms really! You just need to design artifacts that produce the effects you need!”

Oh dear! Was it time to fall back on a secondary smokescreen?

(Mr. Montague) “Well, where are these artifacts? If we could get every factory-cathedral in the city like this…”

It was definitely time. Still, at least he’d gone for the implication that – because such artifacts were possible – Charles had used some.

(Charles) “Artifacts like that tend to integrate into the essence flows of the manse… I might be able to make some of them of course… Some might be problems though; I’m not allowed to use the big forge yet!”

(Mr. Montague) “What, you mean like an Integrated Utility Artifact suite? Wow.” (He looked thoughtful again.) “I mean, stuff of that power is not unheard of, but…”

(Charles) “I did have lots of help, and some of it very special!”

It was getting a bit delicate there… It was very hard to actively lie to a Sidereal – but you could let them fool themselves if the truthful pieces you provided seemed to fit together into something they thought was more plausible than the truth.

Oh well! If it didn’t work, it didn’t work! Someone was bound to figure out the truth sooner or later – but hopefully, by then, he’d be friends with everybody!

Ah, it looked like Mr Montague had definitely picked up on “not allowed to use the big forge yet” bit… That was absolutely true of course – the place was sealed and no one was allowed to use it – but that wasn’t how he was taking it. He looked quite interested now!

“The big forge”? What did he… The child was regretting that he wasn’t yet allowed to use the PRIMAL FORGE?

YET?!?

Still… Dudael was directly resonating with the boys energies – and it was a primordial design by an emanation of Autochthon. Did the child actually have some reason to believe that he might someday get to use the Primal Forge?

God-blooded. And born outside of Fate. An unprecedented master of geomancy and artifice. Of the powers… of Gaia and Autochthon.

And he hadn’t been able to find out ANYTHING about the child’s parentage or early childhood.

(Mr. Montague) “Who helped? I mean, I’m fairly sure it wasn’t anybody who’d get past the defenses. Maybe you could get me in with them.”

(Charles) “Uhm… I don’t think I’m supposed to tell you that! Is that OK?”

(Mr. Montague, looking somewhat suspicious.) “Sigh… I guess so. But if you or they feel otherwise, let me know, all right? I just want to build stuff faster.”

(Charles) “I like building stuff!”

(Mr. Montague) “I wish I had more time for it. You’re lucky, you know that?”

(Charles) “Very lucky I think! I get to build lots of things!”

(Mr. Montague, smiling – but not quite as much as he had been) “Well, I gotta go. I think I have a mission. Let’s keep in touch, okay?”

(Charles) “OK!”

Oh well. Mr Montague had obviously wanted to know HOW – and only gotten confirmation that there was something there. Whether or not the misdirection towards primordial involvement worked was something else – but hopefully he at least found it possible.

Mr. Montague departed, although he seemed sad to leave.

Well, hopefully smokescreen #2 would delay things for a while

The interview with Catherine Wingates was up next… It was easy enough; after all, she was there every day and anyone who worked in the Factory-Cathedral could have private interviews if they wanted!

She didn’t ask what Mr. Montague had wanted. Most people in Yu Shan who weren’t Sidereals themselves know better than that.

(Catherine) “Boss, you went with that other Chosen of Serenity when everybody Exalted, right?”

(Charles) “Yep!”

(Catherine) “Does the name Maella Tengu mean anything to you?”

(Charles, blinking) “Uhm… She was working at YesterYears; she Exalted as one of what they’re calling the Aurora Caste! Is something wrong?”

(Catherine) “Okay, good. Thing is, she was an old friend of mine from school, and I haven’t heard a thing from her since. Could you tell me what happened when you met her?”

Well that was easy enough!

He ran a tracing-spell while he was at it. Once he had the link, he could send a message!

(Catherine) “Wait, you mean the Sidereal looked at her funny, then went real quiet? Something similar happened when I met Jose.”

Hm… his trace was running into a high-end thaumaturgical ward!

Charles promptly upped the power he was putting into his spell – up to the Terrestrial Circle Sorcery level – and backed it with the energies of Dudael and his own enhanced skills.

That easily blew through the ward. Ms. Tengu was in Yu Shan – but she was somewhere deep in the abandoned territories near the Atlanta gate. It wasn’t in one of the reclaimed territories either… Her quarters were nice and she was in good condition, but she was either unwilling or unable to leave – and seemed badly frustrated. There were other wards… Against detection through Essence, against detection through technology, against the Nocturnal Exalted, a keyed ward against Sidereal Exalted except those carrying a specific token, and, lastly, a ward against detection through sight.

That REALLY looked like someone was keeping her there! That couldn’t be allowed! Ms. Tengu had made him lots of lunches!

(Charles) “Hmph! One minute!”

He used a bit of shifting magic to look larger, part-animal, and part-metallic with some alchemical-looking features (and to disguise his teleporting-signature), popped over, grabbed Ms. Tengu by feel, and popped back before dropping the disguises. That should be almost impossible to trace from inside the Veilward! Even if someone managed it, they’d know that you couldn’t just teleport into a Factory-Cathedral without purifying yourself first or it would have to shut down for weeks – and Dudael wouldn’t be closing down…

Ms. Tengu was quite surprised – and Catherine gave him a VERY funny look.

(Charles, looking slightly embarrassed) “Well, I made lots of toys for myself too…”

(Catherine) “Maella! Are you all right.”

(Maella) “Oh, nothing hurt but my pride. Where am I now?”

(Charles) “Uhm… The Hierarchical Forge… Oh, don’t tell people OK? I don’t think I’m supposed to be meddling this way…”

(Maella) “Don’t worry about that.”

(Catherine) “Where was she, anyway? I’ll throttle whoever had her!”

(Charles) “Well… way off over HERE. But if you go there, you might lead whoever it was back… Ms Tengu? Do you know who snatched you?”

(Maella) “Well, I was heading home from work a couple of nights after I Exalted when somebody hit me from behind. I tried to fight back, but… well, I’m no Chosen of Battles. All I saw was this blur. When I woke up, I was in that room. I tried to leave. That horrible ward was like stone, though! And the worst part was the mental intrusions.”

(Charles) “Trying to control you, or trying to probe you? Or aren’t you sure?”

(Maella) “I’m no occultist, but it felt like they were probing for . . . something. Heck if I know what though.”

(Charles) “Well, they were certainly being very rude! “

(Ms. Tengu, taking a deep breath) “Yes. But you got me out of there. Ugh. I’m going to have to ward my apartment now. Think you can help with that, Catherine?”

(Catherine) “What, you had to ask? Of course!”

(Charles) “Hm. There was a fair amount of power there. Would you prefer to get out of Yu-Shan for a while?”

(Ms. Tengu, looking a little nervous) “Leave… here? Um… where would I go? I don’t even speak Earthly languages. And then there’s Rosa. I think she’s been looking for me too.”

Rosa? Oh yes! Ms. Rosa Cress, the Chosen of Serenity from the investigating team!

(Charles) “Well, we could go to her; I’m not sure I want to get too involved with the Sidereals quite yet. I could fix the language – a talisman that lets you speak a language or two is pretty easy – and there are lots of places you could stay on earth or elsewhere.”

At that point Dudael passed on a message from Gustav, giving a location where he’d like to meet Charles – a restaurant in a neighborhood that hovered between slum and middle class. He would like to see the items he’d ordered. He wanted to know when that would be convenient for them both, since it couldn’t conflict with a mission.

Well, that would be easy! He’d have to get back to it a bit later though…

(Charles, to Ms. Tengu) “If you like, I could just put you up for a bit while you think about it. If you’d like to be dropped off at Rosa’s, that works too.”

(Maella, considering her options.) “I will take the charm. But first… I would like to see Rosa. I think she is distraught over my disappearance.”

(Charles) “Hm… Well, I could take you by there! I don’t know if she’s in though… Have you any way of checking?”

(Maella concentrated for a moment.) “Yes, she is in Yu Shan.”

Charles looked interested… “Locate Acquaintances”? Very handy!

Catherine was looking a bit uncomfortable at Maella’s last two statements. Were those abilities something that the new Exalts didn’t want revealed yet?

(Charles) “Well, I can drop you off there easily enough! And here (fishing in his pack again) is a language charm!”

(Maella) “Thank you.”

(Charles) “Would you like me to hang a tracing-spell on you for the moment?”

(Maella) “Yes, please. It would take a lot off my back.”

(Charles) “That’s easy enough!”

Catherine wanted to go along, but there was no reason why not! Charles did ask them not to tell Rosa about his involvement. He had to go see Gustav…

Catherine had a request before they went though.

(Catherine) “Boss, please don’t mention anything about her tracking that Sidereal. There’s a lot we can’t talk about right now.”

(Charlies) “Well, those are your secrets! (with slight distaste) Most people have some in Yu-Shan!”

(Catherine) “Yeah… what can you do about it? Anyway, I’ll keep her safe.”

(Charles) “OK! I’ll drop you off!

He made another – different – disguise and did so before setting up his meeting with Gustav…

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Part XX – Incidents of Artifice

Oh dear, no photoshop. I'll just have to suffi...

Interesting demense you have here!

Mr. Montague DID have a Celestial Manse (****). It was positioned on the border of a slum and a middle class neighborhood on the other side of the Celestial City – and was one that Charles recognized from the studies he’d done of Yu Shan’s Manses. It was the Workshop of Yien Du, a notable artificing Manse. It was no factory-cathedral, but it was still impressive by most crafters standards, and definitely more habitable.

It was a neat place to get a look at! Dudael – even without boosts – was a lot more powerful of course, but it was still pretty good and it was currently operating, too! The place was set up for metalworking, and that seemed to be what was going on right now. Fortunately for the neighbors, the manses’s noise and pollution cloaking wards were quite impressive. Only the Essence signature gives it away.

Charles simply knocked.

There was a sentinel at the door . . . a rather familiar sentinel, actually. It was Vaal Resfan, the Comet Caste Nocturnal Charles had fed fudge when he was helping Ms. Cress investigate them.

(Vaal) “Hey, it’s you! Uh… I never got your name.”

(Charles) “Lost the card didn’t you? Well, It’s Charles Dexter Ward, and here’s another!”

(Vaal) “Thanks! Sorry about that, that day was HECTIC.”

(Charles) “Not a worry! How’s it been going?”

(Vaal) “Real good! This Chosen of Serenity hired me on for some reason. You here to see him?”

(Charles) “Yep! And it’s a starting position there, but you are a Primordial Exalt now! Even if we don’t really know what that means yet!”

(Vaal) “Well, Monty’s pretty busy right now. He’s been working on this project. Even took a sabbatical and everything. I think he’s finishing up though. You want me to tell him you’re here?”

(Charles) “Sure!”

Vaal called in some other guardians to watch the door while he told his boss. He came back a few minutes later.

(Vaal) “His wife will see you. She says he’s almost done and will meet you soon.”

Vaal let him in… The manse’s living space was VERY nicely appointed; Vaal proudly pointed to his living quarters upstairs. Not bad for a kid from the slums!

And there was a nicely-dressed mortal woman there to see him.

(Charles) “Hello Mrs Montague!”

(Mrs. Montague) “Hello, Charles!” (She looked twice. Apparently she was a bit surprised to find that a child was a factory cathedral manager.) “I apologize for Salvatore not being here right away, but he has been eager to work on this project for months.”

(Charles) “Oh, is it a bad time?”

(Mrs. Montague) “Oh no. He told me he would be done-“

There was a triumphant shout from the back.

(Mrs. Montague) “Never mind, I believe he is done!”

(Charles) “He does sound excited! Was it something secret?”

(Mrs. Montague) “He was keeping it a secret from Vaal and me.” (There is shouting in Italian for Micaela. Mrs. Montague smiles.) “And I do believe he wants to show me now.”

She shouted back in Italian. Fortunately, language-spells were very easy.

(Mrs. Montague) “Sal! That boy from the factory cathedral is here with whatever you ordered!”

(Mr. Montague) “Already? That was fast! I need a minute to clean up. Sifu says I shouldn’t talk to people when I’m fresh from working!”

(Mrs. Montague, in shaky Old Realm) “I do apologize. He’s just so happy when he does get to craft.”

Vaal just smiled.

(Charles) “Not a worry! Crafting is fun!”

Mr. Montague was out in a few minutes. He was definitely more a crafter Chosen of Serenity than a socialite, and rather strong-looking. He was also carrying what appeared to be a starmetal crescent hammer in his right hand. He did a bit of a double-take when he saw that Charles was, indeed, a child.

(Mr. Montague) “Charles Dexter Ward?”

(Charles) “Hello Sir! I’ve located your items!”

(Mr. Montague) “I wasn’t expecting these for another few months or so. You’ve really come through for me. I’ll have to do something in return . . . need any small items? Work keeps me too busy for anything bigger.”

(Charles) “Uhm… Well, I’ll let you know if something comes up!”

(Charles) “Anyway… (Charles rummaged in his pack), Here’s your Swift Rider! (The model he pulled out looked like a collapsible bicycle, comeplete with thumb-gearshift). You might want to try the overdrive gear while in the air and with plenty of room though! It’s kind of tricky until you get used to it!”

The Windslave Disk was quite normal – but Mr. Montague looked over the swift rider and smiled

Mr. Montague) “That’s different from the catalog standard. If you don’t mind me asking, where did you get it from?”

(Charles) “I’ve got a lot of secondary aides to work on individual projects – and tweaking the design with some modern materials and things left room for a couple of minor additions!”

(Mr. Montague) “They do real good work! And fast, too.” (He looked a bit thoughtful) “Are any of them contractors?”

(Charles) “Well, most of them work for me… Is there something else you need?”

(Mr. Montague) “Not right now, but let’s trade cards. I definitely want to see more of what your aides can do if you’re open to it – and thanks for the stuff.”

(Charles, cheerily trading cards) “You’re welcome!”

Well, Mr Montague did seem to recognize the accelerator- and windscreen-effects. That was good! There was less risk of accidents when he first tried things out! Hm… nobody seemed too suspicious; they seemed to just think he’d put THEIR artifacts first. They’d know better if they compared notes – but considering how paranoid everyone in Yu-Shan seemed to be, that didn’t really seem all that likely!

He had poked at both of his artifacts with his hammer though… Rather cheerily. What was up with… Ah! It probably analyzed things!

He took a closer look… It looked like an artifact of the third rank, in a smaller-than-normal form at the moment. At full size, it functioned as a goremaul. It did indeed analyze artifacts and store the plans – but you needed a companion artifact to get at them though. Still, he seemed to be very proud of it.

That was very handy! Still, there was nothing too abnormal about the items he’d wanted!

Mrs. Montague insisted that he stay long enough for a few treats.

Charles was not adverse to treats.

(Mrs. Montague) “How did you get this position? In Naples, they never hired children for such things!”

(Charles) “Uhm… Well, I’ve got some really strong talents for artificing, and I think that nobody was willing to let one of the major contenders – who all have ties to particular factions – have the job, so they gave it to me after I got top-end grades in all my artificing classes in school!”

(Mrs. Montague, somewhat flummoxed) “This city… I will never understand it.”

(Vaal) “Don’t feel too bad! A lot of Sidereal spouses say that. Heck, I feel the same way sometimes.”

(Charles) “Anyway, I have lots of aides now, and that helps a lot too!”

(Mrs. Montague) “I suppose so. Well, you must be a busy boy. Why don’t you take some candy with you?”

Charles was happy enough to do that – although he had gotten enough lessons from Gramps to check the treats carefully (if unobtrusively) before he ate any, even if he was impervious to drugs and poisons.

It WAS highly ambrosial – and Vaal was happily munching on it.

Charles had a would have had a hard time outpacing Vaal’s consumption even if he’d been trying… Apparently Mrs. Montague was concerned about his skinniness. Still, he had several treats!

Mrs Montague let him go after she was sure that he’d had enough to fill him up! She thought that he was too skinny too! And obviously hadn’t been getting enough sleep!

Eventually though they waved him out…

Charles checked his privacy wards, just to see if anyone was tracking him today.

Ah, by several parties no less! Hmm… Hiparkes was possible (if unlikely), Cisneros was busy, but might have set a tracking effect (the Montague Manse was pretty throughly privacy-shielded anyway though – although there were keys, just in case someone was getting investigated), so that left at least a couple of outsiders. Probably at least one or two from the Celestial Lions!

He tried to trace the links back…

One went back to a Celestial lion watch station. The second traced back to an apartment squarely in a middle class district. The third was squarely in the middle of an abandoned territory.

The Celestial lion watch station was the one that those two Celestial Lions that he’d spoken to about the Sands worked out of. It was in northeastern Yu Shan… The apartment was in a district known for its proximity to the Celestial gate leading to the ruins of Babylon. It was in northwestern Yu Shan – possibly Terapishim. The abandoned territory was quite close to where he’d met Astrid in southeastern Yu Shan. Perhaps associated with Gustav?

Oh well! He was simply doing deliveries!

He headed off to visit Mr Malakai Run-and-Gun.

HE was one of the Lunars with a Celestial position – Junior Subminister of Extraterrestrial Herd Ungulates under Ahlat, working in the Bureau of Nature. That meant getting an appointment… Fortunately, Charles had his own staff to do the paperwork and wasn’t a god, so he was able to get one reasonably promptly.

Malakai was a big, strong, hairy fellow, although he was dressed in fine robes.

(Charles) “Mr Malakai?”

(Malakai) “You must be Mr. Ward! I understand my orders are ready?”

(Charles) “Yep! I had good luck finding some things!”

(Malakai) “Huh. Interesting. Let’s have a look!”

(Charles, rummaging in his pack) “I couldn’t find a Soulsteel Windblade – and Soulsteel is nasty anyway – but all it does is make fold-out artifact blades, so I installed some and a harmonic adapter on this Orichalcum Windblade… It will cost a couple of extra motes to attune thanks to the subsidiary artifacts, but hopefully the performance improvement will make up for it!

(Malakai) “Orichalcum, you say? Well that’s fine!… (he looked at the Windblade closely) And you said YOU did this?”

(Charles) “I installed the blades and adapter!”

Funny! Malakai seemed oddly… relieved by the substitution, although he’d hidden it pretty well there. Was he suspecting abyssal nastiness or something?

(Malakai) “You’re pretty good at this for your age. Thanks a lot. I’ll take good care of this.”

(Charles) “You’re welcome! Is there anything else you need me to look for?”

(Malakai) “Oh yeah… think you could make a moonsilver one? I’ll put that through the official channels. Probably shouldn’t even need the cathedral for it. I’ll pay you for it again!”

(Charles) “Uhm… I might be able to find one! Or maybe make some with the aides!”

(Malakai) “Well, I’d appreciate it.”

Charles checked for another trace being added after he departed – or possibly a watcher-creature – but there didn’t seem to be anything as of yet.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Part XIX – The Shattered Mirror

Apartments facing Central Park in midtown Manh...

Could you get a more specific address?

With most of his orders completed, a stockpile built up for his classmates, and quite a lot of his next set of projects calling for either assistance from other exalts (the Lion Ring, the Stargates, the Heaven Orb, and the Dragon Mappers at the moment), required waiting on objections and/or approval (Gri Fel and Terapshim’s appointments), or required places to put them (his manse designs), Charles actually had some spare time.

After a nice long nap that meant it was time to deliver a few things! That way he might be able to get help with his new projects!

Charles decided to see Hiparkes, the Horse Lord, first. They’d met already – and the items for him were pretty minor.

It looked like he was currently at Three Toes’ stable-sanctum… Charles had been meaning to drop by there anyway! He threw in an extra amulet of Dawn’s Cleansing Light for Three-Toes, called ahead to make sure it was all right (given that it was on business, there wasn’t much of any trouble making arrangements), and headed over! It was fairly nearby after all.

There was an equine member of Hiparkes’ entourage on guard who wanted to know what business he had with Lord Hiparkes before letting him in.

Hm. Did celestial lions and such make Hiparkes nervous? That might sort of come with the horse-god package…

(Charles, showing his packages) “A small delivery sir!”

(Ramsthenes) “Ah, I see.”

Ramsthenes ran some detection Charms over the packages; even in the modern day, Hiparkes was a fairly powerful deity. Once he was satisfied that there was nothing harmful in them, he notified Hiparkes – and, a few minutes later, Ramsthenes escorted Charles into the stable proper.

(Charles) “Hello Mr Hiparkes Sir!” (telepathically) “And Hello Mr Three Toes Sir!”

Three Toes looked happy to see him; his eyes were a bit brighter now, and he no longer seemed to be eating his furnishings. Hiparkes is next to him; he was in horse form right now, and he was the very model of a stallion – although his eyes were warm and kind.

Charles put up a small privacy ward, although he didn’t really think it was likely that anyone would be spying on this kind of errand.

(Hiparkes) “Hello, young man! Ramsthenes said you had a delivery for me. I trust you had little trouble getting here?

(Charles) “None at all sir! But I managed to get a hold of the items you asked for, so I thought I’d bring them over!”

(Hiparkes) “Ah, good. Few even know that Three Toes is here, and I want it to remain that way until his domain is healthy again.”

(Charles) “Oh good! I like Mr Three Toes and it’s nice to see him doing better!”

(Three Toes) “Hi, Charles! I feel much more aware these days!”

(Charles, presenting their boxes) “That’s great!”

(Hiparkes) “Need help opening that, Three Toes?”

Three Toes whinnied.

(Hiparkes) “Very well. I’m going to return to human form.”

Hiparkes did. His human form was dark-haired, bare-chested, burly, and wearing riding leathers. He opened the packages and checked everything.

(Hiparkes) “Ah, Three Toes. The young man made you a nice… hmm… Amulet of the Dawns’ Cleansing Light, yes?”

Hiparkes helped Three Toes put that on.

(Charles, after waiting for Hiparkes to look over his own requests) “Is there anything else you’re going to need?”

(Hiparkes) “Not for the time being, young man. I will certainly let you know if I do. Your staff should be commended for their efficiency.”

(Charles) “I’ll let them know you said so!”

Hiparkes smiled, displaying a set of teeth that were definitely more horselike than human.

(Hiparkes) “Now, Three Toes, do you need anything?”

(Three Toes, over the link with Charles) “Do you have any celestial apples? Hiparkes told me they are wonderful.”

Hm… Oh! Those were just ambrosial apples! They sold for a high price among Creation’s occultists, but they were commonly available, and easily within reach for his Salary. They were quite delicious, but not addictive.

(Charles) “I think I can find some for you! It may take a day or two though…”

(Three Toes) “Thank you! I would get them myself, but Hiparkes says I shouldn’t leave my sanctum until I can take humanoid form. That’s what you are, right?”

(Charles) “Yep!”

Charles, of course, was assuming that “days” for gods were like his busy days, and a long time – whereas most gods found a year or two to be a pretty short time.

(Hiparkes) “Any more business with either of us, young man? I’d like to spend more time with Three Toes here, but I have a meeting in a few hours.”

He seemed a bit unhappy about that.

Sadly, even Charles had yet to come up with an artifact that completed your meetings for you.

(Charles) “I have lots of other errands, so if you don’t mind me leaving abruptly Sir?”

(Hiparkes) “Not at all! We all have work to do, and he needs his rest.”

Hiparkes patted Three Toes on his back.

Charles headed off… Next up, Mr Jose Cisneros of the Silver Faction!

Mr. Cisneros would have been a bit difficult to track down. He (like many other Sidereals these days) did not have a Celestial Manse. Fortunately, he did have a cell phone….

(Charles) “This is Charles Dexter Ward, calling for Mr Cisneros!”

(Mr. Cisneros) “Hey there! What do you need?”

(Charles) “Oh, I managed to locate the things you needed!”

(Mr. Cisneros) “That’s great, son!” (Charles heard a female voice off in the distance, asking him something.) “Oh, just business, honey.”

(Charles) “Should I bring them by, or would you prefer to pick them up?”

(Mr. Cisneros) “Hey, whichever works for you. I’m not too picky.”

(Charles) “Uhm… Well then, where are you at the moment?”

(Mr. Cisneros) “Here, let me give you the address. Neighborhood’s not too bad, so you should be safe.”

(Charles) “OK!”

The address was an apartment in a middle-class neighborhood populated by mortals who had managed to break out of menial work. It was fairly close to Dudael too. Easy to get there then!

Charles headed over with his items – the Transforming Vajra-Guitar, the Hearthstone Compass, and the Tent of Perfect Camouflage.

It was a fairly nice apartment building for mortals. There was even a god-blooded door attendant here, surrounded by a current of air – although he seemed a bit on edge.

(Doorkeeper) “May I help you, young man?”

(Charles) “Oh, I just have a delivery… Is something up?”

(Doorkeeper) “Oh, things have been a bit tense since the lady in 40B . . . well, Exalted. At least that’s the rumor. She’s got a visitor right now. Is this urgent?”

(Charles) “Uhrm… (checking the address) I think it’s for him.”

40B was… Catherine Wingate’s apartment. Oh! So this was where she was living now!

(Doorkeeper) “Ah! Well, I shouldn’t get in his way then! He’s got a little friend with him. I think it’s outside the door. Why don’t you take the elevator up and tell it you’re here?”

Charles did so.

The elevator ride to floor forty is not as bad as it would have been in a building in Creation; the Celestial City had had plenty of time to make high-speed elevators. When it opened up there was a most unusual creature waiting though… It was humanoid, but combined organic and inorganic components. Its eyes resembled headlights, and its legs hovered an inch off the ground. It bowed politely to Charles – whether due to it’s own special perceptions or out of general politeness.

(Charles) “Hello! I’ve got a delivery for Mr Cisneros in 40B with Ms Wingates.”

(Familiar, in a voice that reminded Charles of the pattern spiders) “Very well, l shall analyze it.”

It held it’s arms out for the package – and Charles let him have a look. It’s eyes whirred and blinked faintly as it – presumably – analyzed the package. After a few seconds, it stopped.

(Familiar) “Would you like to see Mr. Cisneros? He is available.”

(Charles) “OK! That way I can be quite sure of who gets it!”

(Familiar) “I shall notify him.”

The familiar opened the door, and did not so much walk as float into the apartment. It notified the occupants that Charles Dexter Ward was coming in – and held the door open for him.

Catherine’s apartment was fairly nice. Most of Yu Shan’s mortals dream of a place with more than five rooms, and it did have some nice furnishings. Catherine herself was sitting on a couch, with Jose sitting in an armchair nearby.

Charles had met Jose briefly before, on his first visit to the Celestial City. He was a relaxed looking fellow, dressed more for travel than for Celestial business right now. There is more than a casual resemblance to Raymond Cisneros, from the Beech Street Manse in Atlanta. Catherine looked very energetic, as she always had since her Exaltation into the Nocturnal Empyrean Caste.

Hm… There had seemed to be some tension with Raymond Cisneros at the water manse about the Sidereals / Insidious… Oh yeah! That was the line that the Alchemicals were spreading among the Terrestrials – something like the old “Anathema” routine.

Catherine smiled and waved. She, of course, actually worked at Dudael… Fortunately, and in part thanks to Charles’s efforts, the tension over her Exaltation had subsided there.

(Charles) “Hello Catherine! I found something that Mr Cisneros wanted, and he said I could come over here to deliver it!”

(Mr. Cisneros) “Is it… THAT? Sailor (he nodded towards the door) was keeping quiet about what it was, but he says it’s safe.”

Hm… It looked like Mr Cisneros suspected it was the Vajra – but he wanted to be on the couch next to Catherine. But for whatever reason, he was choosing to stay back for now. If she felt the same way about him, she was hiding it a bit better. What was… Oh THAT stuff. Ew!

(Charles, looking at Jose with mild puzzlement – what was all the circumlocution about?) “I guess it’s “that””.

(Mr. Cisneros) “Wow, son. I knew you had some good workers over there, but that was fast! May I take a look?”

Catherine looked interested and excited. She hadn’t worked on the Vajra herself. In fact… she hadn’t been aware that the project was already underway. The boss had them working on different stuff entirely. Had he done it in a personal facility?

(Charles) “Well, it was a more singular project, so I had some other assistants work on it too! And certainly, it is for you after all! You ordered it!”

Other assistants? Huh… The boss was running another artificing facility on the side? No wonder he’d been considered qualified.

Jose opened the package to have a look at Angasul, the Iron Wind – currently in guitar form.

Jose was quite pleased, and spent a few moments tuning and strumming.

(Mr. Cisneros) “Well, the tone’s perfect! That’s the most important thing. Now to test the secondary stuff.”

He went to the living room – the most open area in the apartment – and transformed the Angasul into its weapon form, testing the balance and heft. Judging from the positions he took doing so, it looked like he intended to use Angasul in both melee and ranged combat.

While he was doing that, Catherine slipped Charles a note; she wanted to talk with him at work sometime. There was something bothering her, and she would rather not mention it around the Sidereals.

Well that was easy! He ran an open-door policy anyway!

(Charles) “I trust it’s satisfactory?”

(Mr. Cisneros) “Yes, this will work just fine. I’ll need to test it when I’m piloting Sailor, but so far, so good.”

(Charles) “Well, is there anything else I can do for you at the moment? It might have to wait in the que if I can’t find it though…”

(Mr. Cisneros) “Hey, no problem there. Can’t think of anything right now, but I might have some requests for you later.”

Hm. Judging by the subtext there, those might not be for artifacts. Still, at the moment, Jose seemed to be intent on getting to know Catherine better.

(Charles) “Ok then!”

Charles left – but he did stop to say goodbye to the Cohort on the way out. Cohorts were usually based on whatever had killed the most Sidereals in that generation of incarnations.

(Familiar) “Goodbye. Your facility’s work is most impressive.”

(Charles) “Thank you!”

Charles headed off to visit Sal Montague of the Gold Faction.

Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 76

Galactic Senate's coat of arms.

Now Who?

Again I found myself looking at a map of the Galaxy and found myself getting frustrated. For a bunch of fanatical nutjobs taking hostages, the RDF weren’t behaving in a very sensible fashion. The value in having hostages was in using them to make demands with the threat of violence if those demands are not met. Typically one would make the demands known quite early on in the process and then do everything possible to hide the hostages from then on. Except, we have yet to hear of any hostage demands whatsoever. About the only thing that made much of any sense was that they were holding the hostages for some critical juncture.

That still didn’t tell me where to start looking though. Given this group, much of the Galaxy was an effective hiding place since the Censor was actively shielding them from detection. For all I knew, there might be several billion of them hiding in a massive Infinite Empire base underneath the surface of Alderaan. I thought that unlikely, but the fact that it was even a remote possibility was illustration of the fact of how little we had to go on. On the plus side of things, we didn’t lack for targets if we were intent on just assaulting the RDF. Indeed, such a war would probably take years even with overwhelming force just given the fact that what little information we had suggested there were bases scattered all over the friggin Galaxy.

Which brought up another point: where the hell is the RDF getting the money to build and maintain all of this? As massive as the Republic’s budget was, this kind of operation would be consuming a significant fraction of the budget. Even with the Censor, that sort of thing would be difficult to overlook during wartime. There had to be outside income independent of the Senate’s funding, but what that might be was difficult to see. Nor did I have any real good ideas of where to start looking.

The lack of leads on most anything involving the RDF was vexing on a lot of levels. For an organization that hid in plain sight relying purely on the Censor to conceal themselves, they left few if any real traces to follow. About the only options I could see was to meet with the relevant Senate Sub-committee and see if they had any clues, start making ourselves a nuisance by knocking over RDF facilities, start making our own Starbreakers while destroying RDF Starbreakers, get caught, go after RDF superiors, track their funding, or go to Alderaan and spring the trap that was surely waiting for me there.

None of those ideas were particularly appealing on any level. I had a sneaking suspicion that most of the Senate was clueless while any that weren’t were liable to be RDF supporters. Making ourselves a nuisance would surely attract the RDF’s attention, but we risked starting a civil war or a Force user purge if we provoked them too much. Getting caught was likely to result in my death and accomplishing little else, since it was all too likely that these guys would be ready for any attempts to fake unconsciousness or death. We had no real leads on where to even look for their funding besides the Senate. Going after RDF officers higher and higher up the chain of command also had problems with escalation of violence too. I really didn’t want to get caught in what was likely to become a serious firefight in my hometown should I go there and simply leaving the Galaxy never to return had dire implications to what would be done with the then useless hostages.

That said nothing of the other objectives we kept accumulating: helping the military against the Yeveetha, talk to the Furipedes about the Yeveetha, reforming the Sith and Faded we had caught, seeking out and recovering what we could from other Infinite Empire bases, taking care of Jacob and Jarik, whatever other plans the others had in mind. I know Ben wanted to experiment with crystals among other esoteric things.

Ben was still wanting to experiment with that Stygium Crystal he’d obtained – but he could do that along the way to most missions. They could try the lightspeed-delay trick to get a better look at the republic naval base, or make some antimatter crystals. There had to be SOME sort of defense against Starbreaker Beams besides trying to “parry” with another one! If that would even work!

Could he bleed the field off through a hyperportal?

The proposal to come up with a ridiculously elaborate and complicated plot to overthrow the Republic, announce it and see who came to thwart it got laughed down.

The others weren’t real sure on how to proceed either. Alys agreed that we had too many places to look and not enough leads to narrow things down any – although she thought that trying to trace the money might be a good bet after meeting with the subcommittees. Finally after debating in circles for a time, we decided to drop the matter in favor of something we could affect: the Yeveetha war. The basic proposal there was to take the Ratsoogomoz and send it into Yeveetha space to a black hole, or take one with it. Once it got into the appropriate position, it would then use the black hole to project an interdiction field across Yeveetha space. That would bring the Yeveetha’s ability to supply their war effort to a crawl and leave their forces not in the interdiction field to be overwhelmed by locally superior Republic military forces. As the Republic pushed the Yeveetha back into their interior, the interdiction field could then be directed to contract enough to bring the edges into the reach of the Republic navy.

Trouble got to be finding a black hole near where we wanted it and knowing what section of the Galaxy to interdict. Unfortunately, our knowledge of that section of the Galaxy was sadly lacking. I was about to propose building automated subspace probes to scout out the area, when Lazlo announced he had a Yeveetha navigational computer. When I asked where he had gotten one of those, he announced that it was during a mission he had been on for the JLA. We were quickly able to confirm that he had a genuine Yeveetha navigational computer. We also found that the computer was heavily tamper resistent against people wanting to pry inside it for information. We debated for a short period of time how to crack it, but finally settled on letting the Republic military handle it since they had much better resources and experience with this sort of thing.

The military (as separate from the JLA) was pleased to learn we had a Yeveetha navigational computer and that we were willing to give it to them. They weren’t quite as happy with the proposal to interdict Yeveetha space using the Ratsoogomoz, but had to acknowledge that there were few pragmatic alternatives to the idea. Our pronouncement that we were going ahead with the plan regardless of their approval was even less well received, although they took our offer to send representatives along with the Ratsoogomoz.

Soon enough the Republic was able to crack the Yeveetha protections on the navigational computer and give us a copy of the data stored in it. That in itself was revealing on a number of levels. I was expecting a spider web of criss-crossing hyperspace routes with settlements strung along the filaments like pearls on a necklace. Instead, the Yeveetha territory was more ovoid in shape with most every visible system inside the volume settled whether there was a practical way to get there or not. It actually looked like the Yeveetha were willing to sacrifice large quantities of resources and manpower to go after those tantalizing star clusters regardless of the losses that might be incurred. Looking at the map and thinking back to the war effort, part of me was really being to wonder if the Yeveetha really were sapient in the classical sense of the word. I mean seriously, rangkors do not routinely drown themselves trying to swim to remote islands they can see on the horizon just because it looks tasty over there. Even that damned Force predator I fought gave up eventually once I proved to be too big of a nuisance to bother with any further.

Droid armies aren’t this stubbornly stupid.

It was also becoming increasingly obvious that the concept of fear just simply did not exist in the Yeveetha mindset. Maybe that was a side effect of the fact that the entire species was largely made of clones. Even Kreedath could be made to stop and consider the potential pain and suffering that excessive violence is likely to bring forth. In many ways it is like the Yeveetha have more in common with fungus than with anything more complicated. Would the threat of extinction even mean anything to them? Probably not since the last attempt to exterminate them seems to have done nothing to alter their outlook on the rest of the Galaxy.

At least it seemed that there was a black hole near the center of Yeveetha space that would suit our purpose nicely. Getting to it was going to be a pain though. Well, the Republic was sending ships and we could probably do the same on our end. The military wasn’t going to be happy about Rakata crews, but we could probably get away with calling them Kreedath for some time.

Soon enough the expedition was assembled and ready to depart into Yeveetha space. I tried to think of something else we could do to improve the odds of success, but without dedicated the bulk of the fleet to the job, there wasn’t a lot we could do. Besides the fleet would of better use outside the interdiction field where it can engage the Yeveetha that will still be loose and tackling the RDF should that issue escalate. With nothing more we could do, I waved goodbye to the task force as it departed into Yeveetha space.

I turned my attention to training Virstris and Darius while the others debated our next move. Darius I trained in the use of the Force and Codex, Virstris I trained in using the Codex, and Virstris returned the favor by teaching me the combat lessons she had taught her sister. Valerie was continuing her lessons with Ilia while I had stopped attending those. It just didn’t seem like I was getting anything more out of that training except pointers on specific techniques, which I can get anytime as opposed to some daily training regimen. Ilia’s lamenting my lack of further development I ignored as one of her snide barbs. At least the time with Darius and Virstris was productive.

One of my training sessions where Virstris was teaching me various grapple counters was interrupted when Valerie arrived. She gestured to Virstris to give us some privacy as she pulled out a datapad.

(Valerie) Kira, we need to talk.

(Kira) About?

(Valerie) The sorry state of your financials.

(Kira) I don’t recall having issues with having sufficient lunch money.

(Valerie) And that is the problem! About all I can dig up that you’ve been investing in is that Trust Fund for your friends and family.

(Kira) And how did you learn about that?

(Valerie) Your password was easy enough for me to figure out.

(Kira) Wait, you broke into my accounts?!

(Valerie) Don’t even think of trying to make this a privacy issue!

(Kira) You could have asked.

(Valerie) You were on Tatooine at the time. And I am glad I did take a look because your financials are a mess. What money isn’t going into that trust fund is sitting in a bank account doing nothing. Not to mention that ridiculously huge amount of cash you spent buying down that bounty on your head.

(Kira) Hey that was just directing the Mrs Beasley to build some items for sale. I’ve got plenty of queue space left in my authority.

(Valerie) And you may not have the Mrs Beasley forever. You need to maximize that potential for wealth generation to the fullest as long as you can. Use it to build more stuff to sell, upgrade all of your equipment, make non-perishable luxuries, and stash away reserves of supplies everywhere you go. Then take the money you make from that and the cartoon franchise to invest elsewhere.

(Kira) Invest?

(Valerie) Yes! Real estate, corporate shares, commodity futures, artwork, training, servants, and a professional team of experts to help manage things for you.

(Kira) I never really had much skill for that sort of thing.

(Valerie) You are a Hybrid with precognition and probability assessment! You can readily outperform most trained professionals in such matters with a little practice!

It dawned on me that she had a point. Then I realized what I had been sitting on top of for months and even years now and never really exploited in any fashion. Jarik had illustrated the dangers of using the Force for personal gain, but then again he was using it to help him run enforced death races. About the only danger I could see in using my talents to help pick stock and real estate investments was the potential for obsessing about it too much and becoming like some of the Corporate Sith types. Then a thought occurred to me.

(Kira) And how are you doing this? A Varen Sith can’t readily invest in markets across a large portion of the Galaxy. The Corporate types have enough issues.

(Valerie) I have an ID holding the vast majority of my non-Varen accounts and properties. I keep that ID very thoroughly protected because of that. And since Smoche granted me production queue time, I’ve been busily working the books among other things.

(Kira) Alright, I take it you already have some ideas in mind?

With that came out the datapad again as we sat down and started going through the list. First off we reviewed all the holdings in my name, which was more considerable than I had realized. Next was her evaluation of the best uses for my production queue time aboard the Mrs Beasley when I wasn’t using it for anything immediate. Then Valerie started listing a number of various investments she recommended I get involved in as she walked me through the techniques relating to evaluating prospects. Finally she loaded a high quality droid business program onto the datapad and walked me through how to use it to help me manage my holdings. By this point the Bond was resonating strongly between us. I started pretending to be dense while she was play mocking my ability. The mutual teasing was starting to escalate further when my commlinked chirped.

Sigh

(Kira) Go ahead.

(Alys) We’ve reached a decision about our next move. We’re going to Alderaan and need you to spring whatever trap is laying in wait.

On a number of levels I really didn’t think this was wise.

(Kira) Just great. Any idea what we anticipate to be laying in wait?

(Alys) Nope, just that it’s obvious the RDF would have something set up for when you showed up.

If it turned out to be a Starbreaker, I was going to be very cross.

(Kira) Alright, when do we leave?

(Alys) Everyone’s getting equipment and supplies ready. I suspect a few days. We should hear from the Ratsoogomoz by then too.

(Kira) Understood.

With that I turned off the commlink. I wasn’t in a mood to continue the teasing anymore and Valerie picked up on that.

(Valerie) You’re worried.

(Kira) I am not keen to be getting into what is likely to be a massive firefight in the middle of my hometown. Once was quite enough.

(Valerie) My intention was not to cause a firefight. That was Gregory letting the bounty hunters getting out of hand. You were supposed to trace your friend back to me and get caught.

(Kira) Have you ever known me to do what others expect of me?

(Valerie) No, and you have an impressive knack for turning the tables on seemingly impossible situations. That’s why I am not worried about you going to Alderaan.

(Kira) You aren’t coming I take it?

(Valerie) No, I have some business I need to take care of. That alter ego of mine needs to make an appearance for a little transaction.

We got confirmation some time later that the Ratsoogomoz and it’s escort fleet had arrived in the target area and had begun the interdiction effort. The Ratsoogomoz and the associated fleet had taken modest damage in the push to reach the black hole. Although given the Ratsoogomoz’s ability to manufacture parts and such, that damage could probably be repaired in time. And it was looking like they would have plenty of time since all indications were that it would be months before the Yeveetha were able to respond effectively. Plus there was the fact that the Ratsoogomoz could use the black hole as a means of defense against attackers.

That pretty much got the Yeveetha threat contained for the time being. It definitely was looking like everyone in the Galaxy that has had any contact with the Yeveetha was now sending ships to assist with the war effort and preventing the Yeveetha from establishing a foothold in the rest of the Galaxy. As a side effect of this though we saw that the camp advocating containment and reformation of the Yeveetha was now getting increased traction in the public forum. Whether this was a good or bad thing was difficult to decide. The Yeveetha were clearly completely hostile towards everything else, and I questioned whether or not the things were even really sapient. But advocating the extermination of an entire species wasn’t something the Galaxy needed to be regularly engaging in.

Still, I didn’t have any easy answers for this and I suspect there probably aren’t any.

Ban Hughes in the meantime returned all my stuff he had been busily cleaning and repairing since my visit to Tatooine. He made grumbling noises about how I took care of my stuff, but then he produced a baton about the size of a lightsaber hilt and handed it to me.

(Ban) That is the item you requested. Collapsible hilt extends out to a little over two meters with reinforced handle able to take impacts you would expect most people to generate. Against some of the forces you are able to generate I am not so confident. Now, the round knob at the end is the subspace field emitter and it is a bit fragile comparitively. I have also embedded a power cell in the hilt, but don’t expect it to hold out as long as that fusion pack.

(Kira) I don’t expect it to. This is more a niche utility item as opposed to a primary weapon.

(Ban) Right, now, I have incorporated the droid program on the datapad that Lady Soung gave you into the PDA computer on your bracer and belt. I’ve also included droid modules for piloting and shield operation onto the bike. How well those programs will operate if you try anything fancy with your powers is an open question.

(Kira) Anything else?

(Ban) Been looking at that reactive shield suit Ben and Vi brought back. Looks promising, especially given our resources, but attempts to integrate the stuff with your equipment is resulting in a number of mutual interference issues. The system isn’t integrating well and I am not sure how long that will take to fix.

(Kira) Fair enough, I had concerns about using that technology while phasing anyway. Keep me posted and thanks.