"They shall be the last days, and the Hegemony itself shall die and be born from death."
The group begins to put their affairs in order on Sanctuary. Maury puts a wall in the "brig" room, but it has no door yet. Wilson has placed an order for a computer, but has to go into the tubes before it arrives. Cassandra finishes up her painting:
A somewhat surreal cityscape, with buildings tilted haphazardly left and right. In the center is a plaza, flat and stable. Standing in the center is a group of figures. On one side is a tall man, in a business suit and a blue stole. On the other side is a stockier bearded man wearing a gold circlet, who holds out a circular seal to the taller man; to his left is a man in a the uniform of the Elite, kneeling to lay down his plasma brand; to his right is a big green gem.There is some discussion of the painting, including the fact that the Elite looks like Janzur, and that there's a green gem, but the presumed Blue Hegemon isn't a Blue gem. The crew convinces Cassandra to keep the painting on the ship for a while for study before putting it up for sale.
The committal hearing for Dr. Cain is scheduled, which Maury attends. At first Dr. Cain is eerily convincing, but Maury taunts him a little and he segues into warning that Maury will RUE THE DAY, and he would have ruled the universe if it were not for them! He is, in fact, committed. Caliban is in jail for assault, though his legal status is still being sorted out. Jayla visits Caliban, hoping to redeem him, but his ethical compass seems entirely built out of obedience versus disobedience. She tries to convince him to go with obedience to new masters, but it's a hard sell, since with Dr. Cain, obedience leads to reward and disobedience leads to punishment. With the Blue Hegemony, obedience leads to being in jail, and disobedience leads to being in jail. Maybe he needs some new tactics? Hmm. Well, the party was a lot more deceptive, and that seemed to work... No, no, that's not what she meant! In any event, she manages to leave him in a state possibly more receptive to change, but she hasn't convinced him that he wants to be a good guy.
Anya wakes up with a premonition - the Hippocrates rising from the landing pad, and then its engines burn brighter and brighter and it explodes. A frenzy of searching ensues, both inside the ship and out, but no sign of sabotage is found, and Maury's diagnostics don't find anything amiss. A delivery guy shows up, with a big crate and some smaller crates. They get dropped off on the gangplank, where he starts opening the boxes to have Sook sign for the things that are expected. They seem to be the computer, as described (Max scans them in case they're secretly explosives, which they are not).
The crates are still blocking the gangplank when an older man rushes up. He has to see Elite Janzur Therive immediately! It's a matter of the greatest urgency! Sook and Max are still trying to figure out what he wants when he suddenly collapses and starts to convulse. Everyone rushes in; Dr. Kye and Jim do some preliminary first aid on him, and remove a needle from his neck. He's quickly dosed with Yellow, and taken to the sick bay. Wherever the shot came from (it could have been on top of any number of starport buildings or behind one of several ships), there's no sign of a shooter from a quick look around. Dr. Kye is able to tell approximately what drug he was dosed with; it's a class of neurological agents. Searching him turns up: a Book of the Hegemon with some numerological markup, a set of house keys, a card key, and an explosive grenade. These are all are carefully put aside.
Dr. Kye wakes him up. He doesn't seem to know who he is. Well, what's the last thing he remembers? Waking up here. Okay, strike that, what's the *first* thing he remembers? Um. Waking up here? What did he want to talk to Janzur about? Talk to who? Clearly, interrogating him isn't really going to get anywhere. Is he from Sanctuary? Well, he seems to know something about the area. Does he recognize the card key? No, but the number on it is prime. They test him with a couple of other numbers, and he does seem to be pretty fast at that sort of thing. From his clothes (tweed with leather elbows), he does seem kinda professorial. Does he recognize the Book of the Hegemon? Not specifically, but he's familiar with the Book. He finds the numerology in that copy fascinating, and starts thumbing through it. Anya shows him the first several pages of the Vircus book - he thinks it's an interesting heresy, and one he isn't familiar with. He seems a little surprised at the existence of a heresy that he isn't familiar with.
People try to guess his name - he doesn't think it's John, Joe, Bill, or Vissarion. He agrees to answer to Gabriel, which he says is a good name. "The father of the last Hegemon. Er, the last of the Old Hegemons." Everyone assures him that they're all heretics here. Does he know who the people who verified the first Blue Hegemon were? He knows that there were three - the King of Highguard, the "last of the Elite", and someone else who did not speak (or perhaps only spoke to Artemis). Anya quizzes him a bit about the Elite - he seems moderately well informed, if only in a theoretical sense. He spends a while continuing to mark up his copy of the Book of the Hegemon, and after several hours, finishes Chapter One, with lots of numbers and calculations.
Time to investigate! Max heads off with the card key, trying to locate what it unlocks, leaving Martan back on the ship to keep up a telekinetic shield just in case someone tries to blow it up. The group ends up at a bank in the financial quadrant. "Gabriel", Jayla, Katya, and Anya head in, with Gabriel as the front man. The key is verified and Gabriel's hand scanned, and he's permitted access to the contents of his safety deposit box. It has a hardbound Book of the Hegemon (with extra-wide margins), and a small pile of notes. The book appears to be particularly marked up, in the same manner as the smaller book; what he's done to Chapter One of his smaller book, all of the chapters have been done. The notes appear to be for the places where the margins weren't large enough.
On the way out, the bank manager addresses Gabriel as "Mr. Thorade" - a clue! Sook has previously acquired lists of all the math faculty at local universities, and there's a Modesto Thorade listed as an assistant professor at Caladere University. So he's not named Gabriel after all. The group swings back by the ship, where Maury sets up Modesto's book in the Hegemonicon scanner; since this is actually completely legible, it scans pretty fast.
While it scans, though, off the group goes to his apartment. It looks tidy but lived in; the living room and study have seen use, while the kitchen is a little less so, but it's by no means a fake apartment. There's yet another Book of the Hegemon, this one leather bound and decorative, on a stand, and a Hegemon icon with a votive candle. There are bookshelves with the appropriate sort of books for a math professor with a side hobby in religious numerology. The desk, however, has fewer things than expected, and the computer's hard drive seems to have been magnetically zapped. And the lock to the front door has been picked recently. In the recently arrived mail is a church newsletter for the Church of the Judgment of the Hegemon, which has an address label for Modesto.
None of these places have caused Modesto to slap hand to forehead and declaim "Ahah! I remember everything now!" Perhaps actual professional medical attention would be useful? Modesto's doctor's name is acquired from his address book, and Jayla persuades the receptionist to call an emergency appointment. The doctor is somewhat dubious about the whole thing, especially when it comes out that the police haven't been called in, and is a little wary of releasing Modesto back into the custody of this somewhat suspicious group. A bunch of appointments in the neurology ward of a nearby hospital are arranged, and the party does go by the police station and report the incident. The police are appropriately stern about not taking five hours to get around to this sort of thing. Anya plays ignorant outworlder.
While Modesto waits in the hospital for his appointments, the group checks out the Church of the Judgement of the Hegemon. They don't mention knowing Modesto, so it comes across as Jayla being interested and having dragged her friends, who are all terribly bored or casing the place or something. Since Modesto doesn't come up in conversation, nothing of great import is learned. There doesn't seem to be any evidence of numerology in the church.
Next, off to his office. Maury teleports through the closed door, but while he's letting everyone else in, another professor on the hall notices the group trooping in, and chases them out again (no, it doesn't matter that the door was open, he is clearly Not In His Office.) Max isn't her problem, though, and isn't actually shooed out. However, searching the office doesn't turn up anything terribly incriminating. He seems to be an assistant math professor, and hasn't brought his numerology to work. Max connects up Sook's wireless net card to the computer - he does have a calendar, which marks out Wednesday and Saturday church services, and an unidentified personal engagement every Thursday. Looking at his web cache, he seems to have noticed an entry in the local CNN news for the Hippocrates arriving, and then went to the star port webpage to get more exact details.
A full day of investigating over, the group picks up Modesto from the hospital, and heads back to the Hippocrates. Remembering that he did have a grenade, they make sure his door is locked for the night. He doesn't seem to be trying to escape, though, he's looking through his book from the safety deposit box.
At about two in the morning, Jayla notes Martan returning to the ship, and tries to find out what he was doing (no trooping around on your own when people are shooting nearby NPCs!). He was... just out. This is something of an insufficient explanation, and she pressures him into admitting that he had taken some of Kith's White to give to a fortune-teller that he had been talking to; she needed some to see more clearly. Great. He's chastised and sent to bed.
In the morning, everyone turns up for breakfast except Modesto (who seems to have fallen asleep in his book), Martan (who was also up late), and Anya (who has had a premonition about Martan and has parked herself outside his door). Kye checks the grenade, and determines that it and the dart are owned by the same person, a sort of big buff guy. That's sort of strange - he was shot by the same people who gave him the grenade? Or did they plant the grenade on him? All somewhat inexplicable.
Sook has done some recovery of the trashed hard drive, and has an address book and calendar, and a lot of text files with numbers in them. The calendar lists the Thursday night meetings as "Brotherhood of the Word." Well, it's a name, but that doesn't really help. The Brotherhood doesn't appear to have a web site.
Martan eventually wakes up, and notes Anya at his doorstep. He steps over her and heads to breakfast, looking somewhat cranky. Anya trails after him. At some point it becomes clear that he thinks Jayla has told Anya to follow him to make sure he doesn't sneak off again, and he's a bit offended. Anya explains that she's had a dream about four guys beating him up. This is probably scheduled to happen when he goes back to the fortune-tellers. Ahah! It could be a lead on the Modesto thing! Getting jumped by the bad guys is always informative. On the other hand, Jayla thinks, maybe they just think Martan is a new White dealer in town.
Martan has, he admits, been visiting fortune tellers around the area. Most, he deems to have been junk, but one told him:
You come from death, you carry death within you, and your path ends in death. I see for you great sadness, but also one shining joy. And I see... soon, soon, you are devoured by a monster out of nightmare... I can see no more.The bits about death suggested that she actually knew what she was talking about, but when he wanted to know more about the monster, she needed White. Her ability to "pierce the veil" apparently awoke when she took some Glitter once, and she doesn't have any of that any more, but White is a poor substitute.
Modesto finally wakes up, and explains what he found in his book and notes. Apparently, if you use this complex cabalistic formula on the chapters of the Book of the Hegemon, taking into account the number of times the Hegemon appears, and the numbers in his advisors chorus, and the numbers of... well, it's a complicated formula. Anyhow, if you run this on Chapter One, you get 1. If you run it on Chapter Two, you get 2. And so on, up to Chapter Twenty-Two, which gives you 22, and Chapter Twenty-Three, which gives you 24. And everything after that is off by one. So -- there's a Lost Chapter! He finds this very exciting. However, this still doesn't explain what was so important that he had to see Janzur about (especially as Dr. Kye dates the notes in the book as several years old). Or why someone had to shoot him to prevent it from coming out. (They run the check on the Vircus book - it doesn't seem to have the same checksum formula).
Failing to figure out a lead from this, the group heads off to the fortune teller's, hoping to be jumped by the appropriate sort of bad guy. Sook, Jim, Voriig, and Modesto stay in the van, engine running, while Martan, Anya, Jayla, Katya, and Maury go to talk to Madame Strellisma, and Max lurks around unnoticably. The seer is able (with her new pharmacological help) to describe the monster more clearly - the outworlders and Maury think it sounds something like the Great Omphalos Dust Worm. Anya asks for a reading as well, and Madame Strellisma begins - she is somewhat surprised when she begins and much is similar to Martan (coming from death, carrying death within her). And is that a monster...? Before any further details can emerge, gunfire erupts from outside.
Four men in a car are attempting a drive-by shooting. Their automatic spray-blasters damage the people in the van, and Sook slams it into reverse (taking a third of the party with her), away from the onslaught, while the drug dealers attempts to shoot the fortune-teller's tent and Martan as well. The party returns fire, and manages to take out several of the shooters before Max sets off a gas grenade in the car, putting the driver to sleep. The drug dealers crash into a fire hydrant and the combat is over. People do first aid all around. The fortune teller decides that her powers are done for the day as she's too shaken up. After her wounds are healed, the police arrive and statements are collected all around. (Maury: I liked "Are you folks enjoying yourselves?" better.)
The police confiscate all of the weapons that were fired, and instruct the party not to leave town. However, since there was a pile of White in the dealers' car, and they are well known to the local police, the cops decide they probably believe the story and send our heroes on their way (though they're a bit dubious about the twelve-year-old with the blaster rifle license, and will be looking into that). Modesto seems to be taking it much more in stride than expected - since the only things he can remember seem to involve a lot of being shot at, he seems to have decided that the life of a mathematics professor is more dangerous than he might otherwise have imagined. The fortune teller heads to her apartment and retires from the story.
Having nothing else to do, it seems time to take the entire party to the the Church of the Judgment of the Hegemon for the Wednesday night service. Everyone heads back to change clothes while the rental van is replaced with one that has not experienced semi-automatic blaster fire (the car rental company is nonplussed, despite the insurance coverage) , and then they're off. The Vocari is surprised to see them all back. His congregation is fewer than twenty, so the addition of the party fills up his little church. The Vocari does seem surprised to see Modesto there, but also a little pleased. However, no questions are asked as the party has carefully timed their arrival to be moments before the scheduled start time.
The service proceeds. Much homage is paid to the Hegemon, and it's quite uplifting (for those at all interested). Jim and Jayla seem to actually be enjoying themselves, or at least paying close attention, while Sook plays solitaire in her head, and others goof off in their usual ways. Kayta, of course, spends the entire time mind reaming everyone in the room. Her interest is caught by one woman in particular who knows without being told that Modesto has been mind wiped and is quite surprised to see him at service in the company of the party. Taking this as her cue, she details Max and Jim to follow the woman home. Meanwhile, Maury asks Vocari Desimas what color the Light of the Hegemon is. The vocari seems unsurprised by this impertinent question, given that Maury is apparently Modesto's friend, but simply says, "It is the blinding light of truth.".
The suspicious woman takes the subway to a nice residential city area, where she makes a phone call, and then goes for a walk. The name on her mailbox is Callano - a quick database search narrows her down to a stripper (there is a brief digression as Dr. Kye attempts to explain to Jayla what a stripper is without including any hint of innuendo) or the employee of an antique bookstore. Jim follows her on the walk, joined by Max (the rest of the party has been summoned by Max). Despite much suspicion that she's arranged a meet or a drop or something, she seems to have just been going for a walk. However, it allows Maury time to search her apartment, and confirm her identity as the bookstore employee, Valene Callano. She also has Thursday night meetings on her calendar. A comparison of her address book to Modesto's turns up two other names - Tiercel Rensuli and Marlin Ordoyne. A calendar entry on a Thursday several weeks ago says "Construction - meet at Tiercel's." Katya, watching her from the van as she heads home, hears her thinking that she's surprised that Modesto has hooked up with the crew of the Hippocrates, but perhaps it will all work out for the best, and now he can't be a danger any longer.
It's gotten late again, so further poking about waits until the next morning (though the group does lurk in the van outside Valene's house all night). Marlin doesn't appear to leave his house, and the blinds are closed, but whoever is inside seems to move somewhat slowly. Tiercel leaves in the morning to go to his dojo, where he teaches martial arts. Anya heads in to watch a class, and speak to Tiercel afterwards. He doesn't do one-off lessons, he prefers to have students who sign up for a period of lessons, but they do have an interesting conversation between Tiercel, who believes that mastery of weapons can only come after you have mastered yourself and unarmed combat, and Anya, who tends to be a bit more pro-weapon. Oh, and Jim goes and talks to a computer science professor at a local university.
Max checks out Tiercel's apartment. It's very spartan, in a sort of zen oriental fashion, but does have things like weapons above the mantelpiece and a locked gun cabinet in the bedroom. It also has a Hegemon icon and Book of the Hegemon.
A blitz of steal-and-replace ensues. Kye scries on the needle dart, the grenade, and Tiercel's katana, and learns that Tiercel is both a master of all weapons and a master of no weapons, and that it is a point of personal honor and family pride. Scrying on their Books of the Hegemon, he only learns that they're a very small religious group.
Much discussion ensues as to what should be done. Jayla considers various possibilities, which often result in the answer "Doing the immediate thing would be faster." Consequently, much stalling takes place. Valene's apartment gets bugged, and then Max manages to bug her purse, at the bookstore, in preparation for the Thursday night meeting. The group listens in on the meeting via the bug. Valene says that Modesto has hooked up with the crew of the Hippocrates - about half of them came to services. They seem to have adopted him. Well, perhaps they'll take him with them. That would solve things. In any event, he's no longer a danger. Then, they have a prayer service, (Modesto, for whom the service, but not the discussion, is later played for, will say that it covers pretty much all the passages in the Book of the Hegemon about sacrifice.) Then the service concludes and the conspirators go home again.
Having run out of ways to procrastinate, it is deemed Time for Confrontation. Jayla, Anya, Katya, and Jim go to talk to Valene (who is considered possibly easier to break than Marlin, and far less dangerous than Tiercel). Everyone else (though not Modesto, who seems to have acquired a new project, that of running numerological analysis on the Vircus book, and can barely be pried from it) waits in the van nearby. She seems unsurprised to see them, invites them in and offers them coffee. When there is some dubiousness and exchanging of glances as to whether it's safe to drink the coffee, she raises an eyebrow and drinks from Jayla's cup. Jayla wants an explanation. She says ah, then you want to talk to Marlin. No, Jayla wants an explanation from her. No, it's really Marlin's story to tell. This circles a few times, and the Valene calls Marlin, as nobody actually jumps on her. She tells him that the crew of the Hippocrates is there, and looking for explanations. Ah, he will come over.
However, before he gets there, Jayla unleashes the full force of her Hegemonic Glare on Valene, who cracks and says that it was to keep him from killing Janzur! What? Why? Because he thought it would stop the end of the world!
Everyone is a bit taken aback at this, as it wasn't at all the sort of conspiratorial confession expected, and Marlin and Tiercel manage to arrive before much else is determined. Marlin is an elderly man who walks with a cane, so if there's going to be a fight, it'll be everyone on Tiercel. Marlin explains - Modesto had decided that, for reasons involving sensitive information, that it was necessary to kill Elite Therive. He was jumping to conclusions, and he had also become somewhat unbalanced. Marlin does have a suicide note, left after he stole the grenade from Tiercel.
I know you do not approve. But I have considered it, and there is no other option. The Hand and Eyes must never strike the Stone, and the only way to ensure this is to destroy him. The Hegemony asks my life, and I offer it freely.
Well, this is all interesting, but there is all this mention of sensitive information. In the end, agreement is reached, that the sensitive information (i.e. Chapter 23) will be given to Jayla, and that it will be spread no further than the crew of the Hippocrates. Jayla cannot speak for the entire crew's ability to keep secrets but will endeavor to see that the secret is kept. Additionally, she will lay the whole story at the feet of Elite Therive. They have Jayla's troth on this. In return, the Brotherhood is given an info dump about Farseers and prophecies and lost hegemonics and such. Jayla is described at some point as having been the Hegemon of her tribe, which had strangely relevant Hegemonic customs; Katya is not mentioned. Jayla uses the gesture on Marlin of accepting respect due a Hegemon. Marlin is a little surprised, and raises an eyebrow as if to say "So you think you're all that?" Jayla raises both eyebrows back as if to say "Yeah..."
Chapter 23 is the Lost Book of Telemon. "Horus Telemon, in his wisdom, wrote a book when he went mad. When Constantin Nomarche in his wisdom wrote the New Reformed Book of the Hegemon, he included this book as a chapter. When his son became Hegemon, in his wisdom he took out the book again, for it was difficult to understand for the untrained. For Horus Telemon was wise and served the Light, but was also mad."
So why did they have to mind-wipe Modesto again? Because he had decided from his interpretation of the book, that Janzur is the Hand and Eyes, (the other members of the Brotherhood do not necessarily believe this assured), and that he must be stopped at all costs from destroying the Stone. Well, why didn't they just warn Janzur? Modesto was obsessed. He would have kept on, at any cost. Killing him would have been simpler, but he was their friend. This, at least, lets him have some ability to pursue his life and ambitions. And they will see that he is looked after until he is enough recovered to do so on his own. Jayla is somewhat unhappy with this solution, but does feel that they were striving for a right thing rather than a wrong thing.
Somewhat thoughful, the group takes their leave of the Brotherhood and heads back to the Hippocrates, where the ship has still not exploded.