Storms on Trajaras

Chapter Two
Truth and Lies

Rona, Leander, Warren, Nicholas and Mavern are returning from the party, when they hear a grav-field hum, followed by a crack and a scream. All run down the corridor, meeting the House O’Garee security. They indicate a door, and as security are about to boot it in it is opened by Eland, holding a knife and a gun. There is a broken hunter-seeker behind him. He accuses Atreides but Sean arrives and persuades him to back down. They spend the rest of the night on their vessel.

Sisyphus reviews the security tape. It happened exactly as they described. Simone screamed when she saw the hunter-seeker, Eland burst in and threw a knife at it, cutting it cleanly in half.

Meanwhile, Taran examines the 2 halves. It was one of his and he has no way of telling who was controlling it! As Leander and Saskia return to their quarters, there is a flash of laser fire. Luckily neither of them is hit, but this gives Security something else to think about. Sisyphus sends men to check where it came from, but there is nobody there anymore. He orders them to search the surroundings. They are not allowed onto a couple of ships (Lithian‘s and Mahanun’s ?), but do find a cave with a lasgun scorch. Sisyphus and Nicholas take a squad down there to explore, and nearly get lost in the tunnels. They eventually stumble back into Porthaven, where they happen onto a scuffle between the security guards and occupants of The Sign of the One-Eyed Sailor. Sisyphus also finds that Claudius Scaevola was originally in House Manndrach Special Forces, then later employed by Callisius as a security advisor before moving to spares allocation.

Meanwhile the others attend the trade delegation with Lady Aurora and the House O’Garee representatives, plus the Reverend Mother. Sean O’Garee first asks for an update on the hunter-seeker episode. Leander gives him a fairly concise version.

They then move to the Dragonfly sabotage. Sean says that Simone has concluded that they are not of House O’Garee manufacture. She explains (with presentation) that they are made differently. You could not booby-trap those made by the standard House O’Garee method, since they are made with one solid bar pulled to relevant size. However, there are more than 12 Houses with this lathe capability.

Sean has a list of what House O’Garee shipped, and it does not match Lady Aurora’s records of what arrived on the planet. The crate weights are all different. They therefore ask for total exoneration. Leander agrees, with careful wording, and Sean then releases 500 new drive shafts.

The second point is the about the upgrades. Sean complains that some of the mining machines have been fitted with non-standard parts, contrary to the contract. Mavern then briefs them on what we know so far. The resulting discussion ends in a stalemate over whose fault it is, and Lady Aurora arbitrates.

Simone then puts forward the specs for the new mining machines, with a new jointing system which is a bit close to illegality (but not across the line) under the Butlerian scriptures. They expect a 5% increased profitability, especially since they use 3 people instead of the former 6. The upgrades will be gradual.

Sisyphus receives a report from Osiron, informing him that Scaevola is in Porthaven. So is someone else who worries him. Meanwhile, Nicholas is operating on an anonymous tip-off (from Taran!) that there are Sardaukar on the planet! They are headed by Colonel Magnus Schiavonna, Leander’s sworn enemy, and are guarding Callistus’ house!

Nicholas negotiates with him. Luckily he is here unofficially, and offers some of his troops to guard the planet. He will not leave the residence, therefore it remains Imperial territory and is consequently unsearchable.

At this point, Major Heinz arrives. He was aware of the Sardaukar presence, but it was supposed to be a secret training mission, organised about two weeks ago, while we were in Calypso.

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Chapter Two
Truth and Lies

…and looks even more unhappy as she eyes up Eland. Sisyphus joins the group, but then gets grilled by the Reverend Mother and compared to the House O’Garee mentat. Sisyphus backs away gratefully, leaving the other mentat standing there. He appears to be calculating. She appears to be reading him carefully.

The female O’Garee engineer is very uncomplimentary about Taran’s engineering abilities – unfortunately he is not there to defend himself so Leander does his best to defend him. Rona thinks that she actually does believe that she is right.

Mavern notices that a boat has arrived. Is this Osiron? He continues to talk to Renata. She already knows that Leander will take charge of the battle fleet. She asks for his assistance; she wants an escort to survey a certain area. Just then Sisyphus is approached by a servant: “Six are waiting for entry to the party – some women and three Captains: Keel, Raina (Masta?) and Sta”. He goes down to meet them, and they are somewhat rowdy. A kilted man is dancing, while the others watch and grope the girls. The last man is Osiron who promises that the others will behave. One of the others is looking forward to meeting the Truthsayer.

Sisyphus goes to check with Aurora. She approves it, so he lets them loose. The O’Garee delegation ask Leander who they are, and Sean drags Simone over to talk to Keel. Aliantus Masta (droopy moustache) heads straight for Thordis. He kisses her, and she playfully pushes him away. He turns, and heads straight for the Reverend Mother. He hands her a glass of wine, which she takes and then includes him in the conversation. This leaves Osiron to lurk, unnoticed at the back with Sisyphus. He offers him a transcript of Warren’s meeting with Turina Principio. Sisyphus offers him his spying job back, and he is happy. Rona notices that two people are paying attention: Major Heinz and Renata Evangelos. Rona goes over to distract Renata. She says her jewellery is very old. Modern Trajarans believe that this particular volcanic stone is the outpourings of Mazaranus, and hence unlucky. She, of course, pays no heed to this.

Osiron reveals that Manius Sta is a spy and a smuggler. The girl accompanying him, Sophie, is a spy for House Principio! The girl with Masta, Lucia, is a spy for House Evangelos. Darius Keel is a pirate, whereas Masta is just an opportunist. Osiron has engineered it so that Turina Principio thinks this is her idea. She owns The Sign of the One-Eyed Sailor bar in Porthaven. Aurora goes there once a month, to meet with three other ladies, who fly into Porthaven for the day (24 hours). He has no idea what they do…

Just then, Nicholas and Sisyphus’ alarms go off – Paramina is missing! Two of the security officers from the dock are also missing. Nicholas goes to see Jasmine. She is worried. Paramina went to her room to get some clothes, accompanied by one of the guards, about 1.5 hours ago. Jasmine raised the alarm. Meanwhile, at the dock, five security guards have arrived when the two that should have been there didn’t report in. Five minutes ago – they were there (50 minutes?). They came down to investigate. Sisyphus notices that Osiron’s boat is missing, so orders a boat out to search. Nicholas searches the girls’ room: there is a lot of jewellery. There is also a broken jar on the floor, a spot which might be blood, and a deep scuff mark by the door. He contacts Sisyphus and they compare stories, then recheck the room. Sisyphus finds a faint stain in the far wall. Somebody fired a stunner from the door, at the person at the desk. The target knocked over the jar, and was then dragged off (suggests assault?). Nicholas calls Taran to analyse the stain. It is Paramina’s blood. Sisyphus checks the security tapes. One of the guards falls off the dock, then the other (stunned) then a hooded figure drags a body onto the boat. The boat belongs to Captain Keel. Nicholas recommends recovering Callistus, Callisius’ brother, who has received a tax demand for 125 million, but Leander isn’t keen without evidence.

Could it have been the security guard? Osiron knows that the guards all visited The Sign of the One-Eyed Sailor every week and this one had a preference for Lucia. Sisyphus tries a mentat projection; he doesn’t believe that the guard kidnapped her, so we are still looking for a body. Mavern agrees: If Callistus was involved, then he would be in league with House Evangelos. This is unlikely. More likely, this is associated with Claudius Schaevola (the clerk responsible for the destruction of the Dragonflies, and coordinating the smuggling). Of course, this is all presuming that Paramina is not a Moritani-trained assassin!

Masta finally leaves the Reverend Mother and heads straight for Simone O’Garee. She immediately summons Rona. She wants to know more about Masta as he is human (he must be re-incorporated into the breeding program).

Sisyphus explains to Osiron that they are sure that Paramina is being held in Porthaven (as no boats have left the harbour according to harbour masters). He bets she is being kept in one of the old mine tunnels.

The party ends. The ‘’Garee return to their chambers, the captains leave together. Sisyphus contacts Captain Shaw, to tell her that her ship’s boat s missing. She is more surprised that Keel stole it! She suspects Captain Lithian, as he has the keys to the back door of the palace!

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Chapter Two
Truth and Lies

Sisyphus checks on the accountants’ findings. They have transferred 7 million into Leander’s account, and billed Callisius for 25 million (they have probably taken 4.5 million for themselves).

Taran has inspected about 500 dragonflies, roughly 50% of which are faulty.

Next morning, notification is received of a heighliner in orbit. Shortly after, a House O’Garee spaceship is launched. Afterwards, Sisyphus is summoned by Aurora. She needs to know whether O’Garee really did supply the parts and collude with the plot. She also wants to know who is behind the killings. In this, Thordis will assist him. She reminds him of the cocktail party that evening.

Sisyphus heads first to Barallas. He tells him of the City Commanders, who should still be in place. He recommends promoting Osiron, in Porthaven, and Casimir of Blackrock Harbour.

Nicholas finds out that the O’Garee delegation will be staying in the same wing as us. There is no need to bug the rooms. They are built into the palace!

By the time we reach the cocktail party, most of the others are there. General Erasmus is chatting to Major Heinz. Renata Evangelos has some very nice ‘ethnic’ volcanic rock jewellery. One of the O’Garee representatives is most odd – he is Eland Vandrach, a natural killer. There is a man in black we don’t recognise – Rona realises he is a mentat. Tarath (one of the O’Garee delegation). She then goes to pay her respects to the Reverend Mother, followed by Saskia. The Reverend Mother wants to know of Sabrina Manndrach, and Rona confesses they haven’t got anywhere. She says that Amelia Helena (Sabrina’s mother) is alive. She must be found, as she is part of a Plan, which may come to fruition soon. Aurora must be kept alive at any cost!

Aurora appears, and heads straight for Leander! This does not please Thordis, but she is distracted sizing up Eland Vandrach. Aurora takes Leander to Heinz, who gives him some background. The Dawn Rose pirates have been going for over 100 years, led by The Dawn Rose. The governor of the archipelago, Sir Lucius Manndrach-Cole, has had the 4th fleet for some time, but doesn’t seem to do much with it. Aurora listens, feigning interest very expertly. Leander quietly informs her that Saskia has told him that it was Lady Jessica’s idea that he come to Trajaras. Aurora gives him a knowing look, while Thordis looks on unhappily…

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Chapter Two
Truth and Lies

That evening, Aurora summons Leander. It is still the Hour of Assassins, but he goes to her. She wants to know why we came to Trajaras. When he tells her what he knows, she says that if the Emperor found out what had happened here so far, House Atreides would be forfeit. She invites him to the governor’s council tomorrow.

Warren, standing outside, receives a note: “meet me at midnight at The Sign of the One-Eyed Sailor”, signed: the white-haired woman (Turina Principio). They all return to their quarters; except Nicholas, who goes to visit the accountants. He wants to know more about Mazaranus. Jasmine says that if he wants to know more, he should consult the fire priests (only those who worship and believe in him can control him).

Mavern prepares reports: the full version for Aurora, a concise one to send to Duke Leto and a false one for the spies. Warren goes to meet Turina. She claims that the accountants are not what they seem. She suggests that they might be Moritani-trained assassins! Warren returns, and tells Mavern of this.

The next day, all attend the council. Aurora and Thordis are there, plus two other men: one large and middle aged, one small and over ninety. Saskia scans them. The old guy is completely unreadable! Aurora formally claims governorship, then calls for privacy. She has started to research events at the family retreat. Over their last weekend there, they were visited by a number of vital people, although there appear to be no records of what was discussed. Also House Manndrach are down many intelligence officers. She then introduces Barallas, retired Chief Spymaster (old man) and Brigade Commander Hakkir, now senior Manndrach military officer.

Barallas tells that the former governor, and his father, were aware of a lot of illegal immigrants professionally smuggled here by House Wayku – because they were House Wayku (even though they’re not allowed off planet). But why? The Emperor never said why they were banished, and there is no record of where they came from originally. Aurora had cabled Duke Leto to ask for reinforcements. She has a reply: Sisyphus Bond is to be her new Spymaster! She then orders Hakkir to mobilise all troops to stop pirate activity. Within a few days, House O’Garee representatives arrive with new mining machines, and proof that they are not responsible for the sabotage of the Dragonflies, including Reverend Mother Constantina, imperial Truthsayer.

After reading Mavern’s report she has arrested Callisius, and asks Leander to lead operations against The Dawn Rose. Meanwhile Sisyphus will be her new Spymaster, since he can’t refuse the role.

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Chapter One

…arrive successfully, and commandeer 3 ground cars to lead up to the mine. Arrive at the office. The supervisor’s assistant, Olivia, summons him. He is only mildly put out, and shows Mavern the last 10 years’ output records. They produce significantly more than successfully arrives for processing – about 25% of shipments are going missing? The fact that the mine’s records show this suggests that they are not the primary dishonest operators. On questioning the supervisor, he reveals that he did not request improved mining spares. They just started appearing ~5 years ago. These machines looked larger, so he reduced the maintenance periods. Mavern then reviews the spares records; they are all properly House Manndrach authorised, by Sevastini at Ilemun. So where are the dodgy spares being supplied or substituted? Olivia also shows us her recent research on the burial chambers; they appear to be ~320 million years old, and exactly cubic to the nearest millimetre! Almost all contain a glass statuette, which they sell to the shipping manager and use the money for bonuses.

Head back down the track, then off to the port; a small town, 5-6 ships moored at the quay. Park and persuade the guards to let us in. Mavern examines the records, and soon notices that they match the arrivals and NOT what left the mine! Leander questions them; he is aware of the incongruity. The Dawn Rose pirates have 25%, he has 50% and Callisius the shipper has 25% (remember our combat accountants?). Callisius supplies the spare parts. Leander accuses him of assassinating the previous governor when he discovered the truth. He is genuinely surprised at this! As Taran goes for his gun, one of the 6 guards shoots him! We go for our shields, as Rona smacks one in the throat. Nicholas gets hit, as Saskia dashes at the guard at the back, and punches him out. Mavern dives for cover, and Warren kills one with a single shot from his lasgun! Unfortunately the 3 remaining guards shoot at him, hitting twice but inflicting no damage. The 6th guard swings at Rona, but misses. Leander lunges at the manager, wounding him. The poisons start to take effect…

Leander takes the manager down. Rona kills her guard with a driving kick and Saskia charges another , taking him out. Leander impales another right through the heart. The one remaining guard explains that we have ~15 seconds before the place explodes! Then he and the techies dive out of the window! Nicholas grabs the manager as Saskia, Rona and Mavern go for the fire escape. Nicholas goes for the lift and the rest go for the windows. Leander sees Nicholas leave the lift then collapse, so runs back and picks him up, aided by Rona. He is in a bad way, but they cannot help him without an antidote. As they reach cover, the top of the tower explodes. Warren searches the manager’s body and finds one anti-toxin capsule. He dashes over to Nicholas with it, and it seems to work.

Soon, the emergency services arrive and start to deal with the chaos. Leander notices a man in a boat observing the proceedings. Warren summons him and Rona questions him: he is Adolphus (tastes similar to Max Lund, the architect of the palace). He has travelled this world (not his own) for many years. He has no direct interest I this incident.

There is enough evidence remaining to back up Sevastini’s confession. He was receiving normal replacement parts and selling them on. He also received the improved parts from someone offworld, and supplied them to the mine. Callisius and the Dawn Rose are heavily implicated. Return to the landing pad. Taran checks over the Dragonflies; some are also sabotaged.

Return to the capital, just as the next Heighliner arrives. It carries a message; Ryan Manndrach was murdered 9 days ago!

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Chapter One

Wait for the replacement security and medics to arrive, then head off to Porthaven to seek aid for Aurora. The trip passes uneventfully. All get healed and checked over during the voyage, except the 3 poisoned or burned – Thordis, Aurora and Saskia. Meanwhile, Mavern checks up on Sisyphus and the accountants. They are doing well, and have shifted several billion credits already. He then researches Caesar’s Drift: it’s the other side of the planet. Next evening, Thordis comes around. She is not pleased when Leander tells her what happened.

Fly by ornithopter to the Twilight Archipelago. As we land, we can see the Sinistratus Tower – the governor’s palace. Meet Sir Lucius Manndrach-Cole. Rona has a nap – she recognises the Porthaven lagoon. The city is in flames. Aircraft fly overhead. Towards her, a man made of fire approaches. An explosion shakes the palace. Mazaranus has woken up!

Mavern checks the records again. Most of the piracy seems to be down to a group called the Dawn Rose. The local governor has asked for an increased military presence, but it has been refused on pure economics.

During the Hour of Assassins that evening, Leander spots a hunter-seeker heading towards him. He puts on his shield, and waits. It lunges at him, but he dodges, twice. He attacks, as the others arrive, and it shatters. The others spread out to find its controller. Mavern (Taran?) arrives at the correct room, just as he leaves via the window! No sign of a splat, so he must have had a suspensor field. Mavern (Taran?) then analyses the hunter-seeker: it is a standard Harkonnen-made device, containing a type 1 poison. Rush down to meet the governor in the penthouse. He is ancient. His son, Julius, assists him.

He shows us a shigawire reel of the figures from Caesar’s Drift. They are identical to those we have seen before. Mavern realises the flaw in the standard procedure: no-one ever back checks, just adds up how many shipments arrive at the processing plant, not the number and quantity of ships sent! Julius honestly believes the truth of the figures, but his father suspects something more.

Fly out the next morning to Caesar’s Drift…

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Chapter One

Thordis steps forward, followed by the others, as they lunge in. Strangely, none close with Thordis! Rona kicks one, hard, and he is out cold. Aurora and Thordis turn on their shields. Thordis chops the arm off of one – Rona finishes him off. She then dodges the incoming bullets, as do Nicholas and Thordis, but Saskia gets hit. Taran fires back, hitting one. Thordis, lacking an opponent, charges into the next row and cuts the first one down. Leander follows suit, and spears one neatly. The others rush the second line, but one of the pirates grabs Saskia. Rona kicks him after Leander takes out her opponent, then Saskia downs him. Unfortunately she is already poisoned. With only 3 of the 12 left, one turns tail and runs. Leander charges in to the last man standing, taking him down. Thordis hares after the man, but he is gone. Taran finds the stunners and uses the poison snooper – Saskia has only been stunned, and quickly collapses. Leave her in a safe room and worry – where are the security? Then Thordis goes down – she was also hit. Decide that we should try to make it to the security HQ, after Mavern noticing that there is a second ship in dock!

Taran attaches his suspensor belt to Thordis. Mavern and Rona carry Saskia, and start to progress to the lofts. After an hour, finally make it to the top of the house. The security room is still manned, but unfortunately by disguised pirates – only realise when Aurora doesn’t recognise them. The leader, Kam (?), draws a lasgun. Nicholas fires, but it only hits his armour, so Leander charges in, skewering him. He fires back, missing Leander but hitting Aurora. Rona charges in, kicking him roundly, and he goes down as Aurora wheels back, landing on Thordis. Mavern tries to help her, and manages to stabilise her, as the thugs charge in. Leander dodges 2, but Rona takes a hit. Nicholas kills his 2 and moves on to Rona’s. He takes one down, as she thumps the other. Leander’s drops and rolls, bouncing off down the stairs. Mavern fails to shoot him, twice; so Leander chases him, dashing him off the bottom stairs.

Quickly find the security bodies, as Taran starts checking the system; there is one more group of pirates wandering around, plus more on their ship. Discuss what to do, and watch what is happening. The bands meet up on the dock – there are bodies moving on the decks of both ships, but action seems to be concentrating on the pirate vessel. It sets sail, then starts to leave harbour. Taran lets it get to 2 miles, then fires the missiles. It is destroyed. Taran then goes to turn off the House Shields – Rona is paranoid about the lasgun dream. As he depowers it, and arc of light zaps out from ‘our’ ship, and destroys a large portion of level (?). Nicholas and Rona creep down to check it out. A lasgun was mounted on the dock, and operated by a timer. It has run out of charge. Dismantle it, then check out the ship. The crew are locked in a cabin! Release them, then check the building – also find the servants. All are accounted for, except for the one ‘insider’ who poisoned the security staff.

Check out the shigawire reel: it shows a quartz mine. A sheet of quartz is being removed to reveal a cave entrance. Entering, there is a cubic room, with ~12 glass statuettes around a pit. The room is stripped, then the mining machine moves in.

The second portion is lots of close-ups of a mining machine. The third section is lots of production graphs for a mining camp known as Caesar’s Drift.

Taran has noticed that the mining machines are non-standard, especially around the articulation. Also, the mining information shows that Caesar’s Drift has much less repair and downtime than any other mines, but still produces an average amount of jasmium quartz.

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Chapter One

We are running before a storm: it is choppy. Leander is summoned by Aurora. She asks him to help her to remain governor regardless of what they find at the caves. When he agrees, she shows him a message from House O’Garee: they will bring the new M3 mining machine on the next heighliner (in 5 days). The second piece of paper is a picture of her late father’s concubine, whose daughter (who is allegedly still alive) would have a prior claim to the governorship.

Suddenly the ship lurches horribly and doesn’t right properly. It appears that one of the masts has broken. They head up to the bridge, where the captain explains that they need to cut free the booms, but he can’t spare anyone. Leander, Thordis, Warren and Nicholas head out. They succeed, and the ship catapults back into position. But why did it happen? Was it sabotaged? Anyway, we have no choice but to continue.

Wake to a calm, sunny morning as we arrive at Calypso: >12 islands – tall columns. A building juts from the side of one. Moor the ship and walk off to the jetty. Get taken to our rooms to rest, before continuing. Rona takes the opportunity for some prescience; she sees a lasgun pointing at a house shield – it fires! She wakes up.

Don our suits and head down. There is a servant waiting for us. Saskia goes over – he looks way too calm. His name is Maxnun (?), the House engineer. He has grandiose plans.

Aurora arrives and we head through a disguised doorway and down a narrow, dark corridor, through a tunnel and into a chamber lit by phosphorescent green gloop. Then through a crack in the rock and along a precipice, then over a very narrow bridge. Creep across some pools and into a chamber lit by a blue/green light. Aurora removes a box from a wall ledge. Inside is a reel of shigawire, and a statue of a robed figure in volcanic glass. Aurora recognises it as old Trajaran funeral art – but why? Saskia looks into the pool – the water seems to condense and thicken, similar to her prescient vision. As Aurora wanders over it settles again. Taran realises that the cavern is man-made, but well done.

Saskia hangs back to look into the pool again – she almost loses her balance! She recovers, and makes her way out – just as Mavern loses his balance. This disturbs the baby dragon, which leaps from a pool at Mavern, narrowly missing him with a claw. As the others manoeuvre, it lashes out at Nicholas, but slides off his shield. He slices it in return. Suddenly, Aurora sprints towards the exit, closely followed by Thordis. The others follow, as the dragon turns on Warren and another one arrives, going for Leander and cutting him. The others make it to the exit as Nicholas takes a slice, but hits back. Warren takes a massive hit, but one goes down, so he runs out. Nicholas finishes the other one, then leaves, before anyone else arrives. Leander heals Warren before continuing. Thordis stops Mavern to remind him not to do it again. All scramble back up, but it takes Mavern an awfully long time and he takes some acid burns. Open the door onto 12 heavily armed men. They lunge for Aurora…

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Chapter One

Escorted to the Governor’s box. We are early – hang around until Lady Aurora arrives with Thordis and Turina Principio! The programme starts with executions – Saskia almost volunteers Leander to take part! Turina is trying to ? something, but seems to expect us not to take her up on it.

The executions start – first one quickly, second one executes Callisius, a Trajaran port controller. The bodyguard (Turina’s), Hector, dies in this combat, killed by two women. Turina is most unhappy and leaves quickly. Aurora offers the two winning gladiators to Leander, who accepts. Thordis fights 3 pirates in the third execution. Her only weapons are Trajaran dragon claws – she is incredibly quick, and slowly cut them to pieces.

The animal fights follow – but they only catch the tigers and bears. This is followed by dragon fighting; then lunch. The afternoon consists of gladiatorial fights. Halfway through, there is a commotion – a Manndrach bondsman wants to see Aurora – Namar, sent by her brother! Aurora’s security let her know while Rona and Saskia talk to him. His story seems to check out, so they escort him to her. As she greets him he goes into a trance and repeats a message – from ?. He knows what is wrong in the mines – the answer is in the old grotto – it will buy you all you require. “Look after Leander; do not judge him on what I wished you both to be. Annis mosere seeamon” (Blessing of the sea goddess – Says Aurora, but she’s lying!). Aurora considers this, then orders her ship made ready – the Old Grotto is in Calypso.

Leander meets his 2 gladiators: Jasmine (27) and Paramina (25) – they and a third woman defrauded a merchant – the third woman was later knifed, and they were arrested. They would not explain what happened. They are not impressed. They had not expected to live. Leander explains the position. They will not tell us what happened, so Saskia commands her. Mazaranus, she replies (The Trajaran fire god!). Jasmine also informs us that everyone on Trajaras has at least 2 sets of accounts and the real set, the ones they show to House Manndrach. Extra sets include those for the Guild and those in case Manndrach catch them.

Each shipment of metaglass has a code number – however, the Manndrach accounting system cannot cope with the 8-digit numbers and they get lost in the system. Everyone on Trajaras is skimming somewhere along the line. Jasmine believes that she cannot only balance the books with what CHOAM expects, but also increase profitability by ~25% over 5 years. In the meantime Leander will move them to better accommodation, and arrange weapons training.

Nick finds their file – they got jobs in Callisius’ accounts department. The 3rd woman got them access to his real accounts, and they started to skim money. The woman was found dead in a flat rented by Jasmine – they have no alibis and were seen in the vicinity at the time. The only prints on the knife were Jasmine’s. The merchant then found their embezzling.

Rona researches Mazaranus, the ancient religion – worship keeps him dormant (keep a small fire burning, bonfire, etc.). No leaders, priests etc.

Next morning, board the Conquistador after breakfast. Captain Bomia, when he sees Aurora, mutters “Annis mosere seeamon”. She nods.

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Chapter One

The Captains’ Ball is in the very impressive Dancing Chamber, entirely of metaglass. Head in, fashionably late. Lady Aurora is already there, with Thordis, receiving gifts! Start to mingle – Leander meets Luce, the Guild spokesman – who has heard the rumours that Leander will marry the Lady Aurora! Watching this exchange are Goran Atreides, Head of Shipyards and Captain Selsia Shaw, of the Tranquility. Nicholas meets Kostus, head of the arenas. There will be a big gladiatorial event tomorrow. Kostus asks if he would like to book an execution. He and Warren refuse. Saskia tries the BG way on a young man: Captain Darius Keel; he’s cold! – cyber-arm and hearing – they dance well together. Captain Mario Puicalare – a Trajaran local (large, brawny) is present. Warren dances with Tunna (young, pretty, long white hair), but she doesn’t reveal why she is here. Leander dances with Lady Aurora – Thordis looks daggers (she is very protective). Aurora is wearing a strange, chunky antique necklace. She is very happy to be governor – she gets to stay. Mavern spots Renata Evangelos – very regal, skimpily dressed. She says that this planet is unstable, the core is heating. She implies that this is due to whatever caused the planetary change, which is now under the oceans. She has discovered that all the Old Trajarans may not be dead. Huh?

There are audible sighs when Thordis is grabbed by a small tubby man. She brushes him off – Captain Aliantus Masta – with smiles. He goes for a beer – Rona follows. He is a merchant captain, and blusters well. He swears that pirates are as much of a myth as the dragons. Rona asks if she could view his ship; he is at her disposal.

Saskia fails to approach Thordis, who is far too disdainful. Instead, she reminds Mavern that Leander needs to dance with Tunna. Nicholas finds out that Thordis is a convicted criminal (murder? She became a bodyguard after gladiator. In her first fight she killed Ryan Manndrach’s gladiator).

Mavern calls a leave to the ball early, as he has some correlations. He mentions about the planet’s ‘self-destruct’, but not the time period. He reckons that the Old Trajarans live hidden and use gene manipulation to make dragons; keeping themselves going by smuggling. They may be responsible for the planetary warming, and even the death of Ryan. Either the O’Garee put them in after payment from the Old Trajarans, or because they always do, and the Old Trajarans found out. Leander recommends that Mavern prepare a report for Aurora.

However, Nicholas finds that Aurora would normally go back to Calypso with the rest of her family before the Ball. Why did she not this time? Also, how much has Ryan (The CHOAM liaison) apprised her of up until now? How does he feel about her in general?

Taran checks the contracts for the Mantis machines – they were bought 10 years ago, and are due to be upgraded at the end of the year. Time to look for other suppliers?

The security patrol reports back from the maintenance base – the Commander and all the staff are dead (poisoned), except for the specific mechanic supervisor, who has checked out a Dragonfly and disappeared.

Next morning, Saskia tries Prescience – moving shadows in a confined space, dripping water. An older woman stands, waiting, by a pool. Her reflection starts to rise – in water- out of the pool. The pool is still there, but the woman has gone.

Breakfast, then to the arena – by boat.

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