Storms on Trajaras

Chapter Two
Truth and Lies

Archbishop Manilus and Bishop Ridalus Polio of Trajaras, Captains Masta and Mahannun, and Morgan Evangelos complete our dozen for dinner, to match the 12-strong House Cadiz delegation. When we reach the ballroom, Captain Masta and Morgan Evangelos are chatting, and embracing scantily-clad girls. Captain Mahannun is also there, very smartly turned out (but he is hiding his true self). Just then, the Bishops arrive. The Archbishop is very old and senile.

Captain Mahannun questions Nicholas about why his men wanted to search his ship. Nicholas mentions the Moon Mountain incident. He expects it is Trajaran separatists. Just then, the House Cadiz delegation arrives, dressed all in black and orange. A powerful couple (Don Thomas and Cornelia Cadiz) head the party, followed by a Suk Physician (Dr. Sancho Sanchez), another man (Juan de Corleone – Swordmaster) and a young lady (Floriana. The daughter?) who seems impressed by Leander. Cornelia, however, is not impressed by Saskia and suggests that she should be burned as a witch. Don Thomas apologises for his wife’s outspokenness. The dinner proceeds, and luckily Taran’s stories go over extremely well with the House Cadiz members. Leander finds out that they are here to preach The Word (Orange Catholicism) with the blessing of the Emperor. Leander explains that these are dangerous times.

Mavern receives a message from Colonel Magnus Schiavonna, outraged at House Manndrach and Atreides guards shooting his troops. He holds Atreides to blame, and calls it an ambush. He demands an outright apology. Mavern drafts a reply to make his apologies. As the Cadiz leave, they mention that two thousand missionaries will soon be joining them. After they have gone, everyone relaxes with a drink. Saskia tells Rona what she learned earlier from Sisyphus.

Nicholas receives a communication from Captain Moore. A second heighliner has appeared in orbit! Its cargo doors open and a House Wayku battleship flies out! It manoeuvres to the original heighliner and flies inside. The second heighliner immediately vanishes.

Later that evening, Leander receives a summons from Oleg Constantine, aide to Colonel Schiavonna. He is here to deliver a message from the Emperor, and must stay to wait for a reply immediately. It is to declare formal Vendetta against House Atreides by House Richese in response to the bill for unpaid taxes! He acknowledges it (there are some House Richese personnel constructing the undersea tunnels).

Meanwhile, Sisyphus and Nicholas go to interrogate Callisius and threaten him with House Cadiz. He seems unfazed and doesn’t offer any additional information.

The following morning, security reports arrive: House O’Garee all left in the heighliner (without Simone, it appears). Something weird near Moon Mountain; the Caesar Augustus (searching for the Lepidoptera) has not seen the ship, but it has lost 3 search craft in the area. Nicholas investigates Ichabod Richese. He is an engineer, but his mentat disappeared from the records after first arriving on planet 5 years ago. Taran reminds Leander that Simone O’Garee was originally trained and conditioned by House Richese.

Sisyphus then goes to see Lady Aurora. He tells her of the House Cadiz meeting. She has a memo from Cyan about the Moon Mountain explosions blaming Trajaran separatists, and suspects further attacks may be forthcoming. Sisyphus starts to ask about hiring more people to assist his job, and Lady Aurora then seduces him. They retire for further questioning…

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Chapter Two
Truth and Lies

All retire for the night. Sisyphus is woken from his slumbers by his communicator. Security control has a an alert from Moon Mountain (a processing city far away). An explosion has occurred (sabotage) at one of the refineries. He coordinates their actions, then goes back to sleep. When he wakes again, he checks the security reports: At 6:00am, Major Heinz took 2,000 Special Forces troops into the tunnels under Porthaven. At 6:15am 30 Sardaukar also went in. There is also a report of a missing ship, the Lepidoptera, 2.5 days overdue at Moon Mountain.

Sisyphus calls Osiron to find out who is the de facto leader of the smugglers since Dawn Rose may be fictitious. He flirts with the idea of questioning Callisius, or plea bargaining with him, until he gets a summons from Saskia. She has decided to prophecy on him. Unfortunately it seems to work. She sees him being stabbed through the chest by Thordis! She manages to disguise her horror, just as an orbital craft swoops down to the lawns. It is a shuttle from the Atreides frigate. Nicholas says he invited them down here. He then gets a communication from the frigate, saying that a Guild heighliner has arrived and a House Cadiz frigate has disembarked along with a large House Richese craft. Also, lots of smaller vessels have launched from the planet (most of those should be scheduled). As the Atreides frigate watches, some of them dock with the (now joined) House Richese ships! Nicholas realises that he can send up a shuttle, but not take any offensive action.

Rona gets a very bad feeling about things. Leander receives a note from Lady Aurora; she has obligations tonight and asks him to meet the Cadiz delegation on her behalf. Nicholas orders medical checkups on all the Atreides staff, starting with Jasmine.

A ship hovers above the mansion. A shuttle leaves it, to land on the roof. Sisyphus quietly gathers an honour guard to greet them in the ballroom. Lady Aurora asks him why he thinks the Guild Navigator wants to see her. He thinks: A Guild Navigator is prescient, greater even than the Bene Gesserit. The previous Bene Gesserit resident (Amelia Helena) is apparently dead. Rona’s prescience about Aurora meeting a great number of minds; therefore, the Navigator wants to talk to her about this. When Sisyphus says he suspects it’s something to do with the alleged disappearance of he stepmother, a “How did he know about that?!” look passes over Lady Aurora’s face.

The Navigator’s tank is wheeled in, and a voice speaks: “The time is soon. The old ones are rising. Soon you will call the power of the Ancients. Make sure you are ready, and that no-one shall stop you. To succeed, the Ancients will die. The Ancients are the only ones to stop this (something?)”.

Lady Aurora responds: “But the Ancients are a myth. They don’t exist. All that is left is the ch- (?) minds of those gone before me.”.

Navigator replies: “The Ancients have always existed. Trajaras is founded on their power. When they return they will come here. Only the power of the ancient Trajarans can stop them.”

The tank is wheeled out. Sisyphus and Thordis look at Lady Aurora; she smiles back. She walks to the window with Sisyphus and clarifies: “Some of the religions on Trajaras are real, not myths. Seeaman always protected Trajaras before the Chaos. It has taken thousands of generations to regain that control. In that time, each High Priestess contributed her knowledge, wisdom and memories. Each new Priestess can hear.

Sisyphus: “What do you hear?”.

Aurora: “Most of the time, Chaos. The last statement was `Don’t go to Calypso.`”

Enquiring further, she knows nothing of the Ancients, but says: “According to Amelia, the Bene Gesserit are capable of a group mind. This may be similar, or predate their methods. I would like you to find out. Amelia had no idea I would be next in line, and by then she was gone.”. It seems Amelia went to these memories, and not to the Bene Gesserit mind, which would explain why the Reverend Mother still thinks she is alive.

Sisyphus asks about Thordis, and her ability to protect Lady Aurora. She has killed 47 people; those who upset her, their families and everyone who knew them. Thordis is an off-worlder, but Lady Aurora recruited her here. She killed Aurora’s brother’s (Ryan) gladiator! (Thordis is vaguely oriental, and looks similar to those of House Wayku). Sisyphus asks which other religions Lady Aurora knows are true. She says the Cult of Melack, the Trajaran god of Death.

Rona checks out the religions of Trajaras, by reading Mavern’s report. Sailors worship Seeaman, land-dwellers worship Mazeranus.

Nicholas receives reports; 17 loads of jasmium quartz were delivered to the House Richese ships. All had proper paperwork, and left from House Manndrach spaceports. The larger Richese vessel is now docking with the heighliner. The other is still in orbit. The Sardaukar ship had two imperial couriers bring information. The House O’Garee, House Richese and Sardaukar ships are holding orbit, while the House Cadiz ship is coming in to land.

Warren goes to see Jasmine, and challenges her about her very good aim. Her body language changes completely (A ‘Shit! He noticed!’ reaction) and she walks away in a manner that suggests she could be an assassin!

Mavern is assembling a dinner list for tonight, to match the 12 strong Cadiz delegation. Sisyphus and Saskia go for a walk (with Sisyphus intending to ask Saskia’s help in questioning people and hopefully find out more about the Bene Gesserit group mind). He refuses to tell her what happened in his meeting with Lady Aurora earlier, so she tries using the Voice. It fails, and in desperation she seduces him and he tells everything.

Warren is a little concerned. He can’t find Sisyphus, and the House Manndrach security say he’s on an undercover operation. So instead he finds Rona and tells her of his suspicions. They go to confront Jasmine together and ascertain that she has been trained, but not in that way. She has also received a note, threatening to kill her sister if she testifies. Warren offers her some extra training. She makes a deal. If Paramina is returned, she will testify.

4pm – Nicholas receives a report of the day’s activities. Some House Manndrach personnel are dead after 3 separate engagements (Oops! 1 is against the Sardaukar). They killed some rebels and discovered a hideout. The 3rd fight was on the surface; House Atreides guards killed and one rebel dead. Major Heinz is still supervising the cleanup operation. It is now the Hour of Assassins, so everyone retires to their respective quarters to prepare for the dinner with the House Cadiz delegation.

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Chapter Two
Truth and Lies

Both Sisyphus and Nicholas retire for a couple of hours of rest. Saskia tries for a prescient vision: She sees a throne room with a large man issuing orders that pass out in webs. One part is cut. A silhouetted man ties one end, then passes the end to another man, who will be betrayed by his wife. She recognises the first figure to be Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, but 20 years ago. Rona prophecies about the Lady Aurora: She sees a time in the future, and feels a mind or minds more powerful than any she has seen. She reaches out to them, and they respond because of what she is.

Warren goes to see Jasmine. She is still justifiably upset. He deflects her missiles (thrown books, etc.) with a tea tray, and plays dodge around the swimming pool, until she runs back to her room. He muses, as he waits outside, that she seemed to be a very good shot for someone with very bad distance vision.

Sisyphus goes to Lady Aurora and waits in her private reception room. When she appears he explains the Sardaukar incident to her (as he does, he notices that her eyes are completely blue. Not the normal spice-effect). As she smiles at him, her eyes become brown again, and agrees that it would be a good idea to invite both Schiavonna and Callistus to dinner. She has also invited Captain Lithian (the one with the key to the palace).

Sisyphus returns to his room, to receive an irate call from Sean O’Garee. Some House Manndrach guards have just arrested Simone O’Garee! Sisyphus contacts Osiron, but the only guards around there are in no fit state to be on duty. He then calls Captain Ludicus, head of the Porthaven Guard, but it wasn’t his men. So who is impersonating House Manndrach guards?

Sisyphus finds out more details. Simone had been shopping in the commercial centre 45 minutes ago. He closes the port, then talks to Taran to ask about the eyes. Taran suggests Tleilaxu gene-engineering. He also asks Nicholas about the situation, who chooses not to pass it on to Leander.

All turn up for dinner. The two Sardaukar (Schiavonna and Captain Constantine) are talking with Captain Lithian. Sisyphus calls Major Heinz to get the Special Forces troops to check the Porthaven tunnels. Just then, the House O’Garee group arrives. Sean is not happy and Eland looks alert. The conversation is stilted. During dessert, Nicholas gets a communication from Captain Moore on a frigate in orbit above the palace, apart from the House O’Garee and Sardaukar transports, telling him that there is a House Richese ship present. What are they doing here? Sisyphus checks in with Captain Ludicus, who backs up Sean O’Garee’s story. They were definitely not House Manndrach guards, but impersonators. Mavern remembers that the accountants had billed House Richese for 350 million solaris. Perhaps they have come to deliver?

Captain Lithian is pleased to meet Leander, the prophesied saviour of Trajaras (Thordis is smirking at this point). He also tells us more about Seeaman (sp?); the ocean religion and the sailors’ god. This is an exclusive religion, separate from the Fire Cult of Mazaranus. The followers are few but dedicated, co-ordinated by a High Priestess (Lady Aurora reacts to this. Remember the Seeaman greeting?) selected by the Sea. Rona asks him about the Seeaman greeting. He says that it is just a general blessing used amongst worshippers, but he is lying! He knows that the last High Priestess passed on, because she was his wife. Her name was Amelia Helena. She married him after Pieter died. They had 14 daughters, but he is not aware of Sabrina! He is now re-married.

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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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