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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

We'll Always Have Paris Archives
Starcross, Part III



Character(s): Lady Margolis and the Pack
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: Starcrossed
Title of Post: Friend Of My Ex, Ex Of My Friend

"The Remnant?" Ebreth drew his sword. "Is Ćlwyn in there?"
"I don't know," sighed Rani irritably. "Ćlwyn's not a Rider. I can't track him with my Rider parts."
Vas cast detect undead. "There--is nothing undead in range," he said.
"Unless they're shielded somehow," murmured Khyrisse.
"Shielding an entire undead army from magical detection, milady?" said Vas. "Tremendous magical expenditure, and to what end? Surely everyone here must know which pyramid is which."
"Knock," suggested Ebreth. "If undead things open the door we'll kill them and take their uniforms. If good guys open the door we'll ally with them."
"How will we know which they are?" frowned Mina. "If they're shielded, I mean."
"Rani can shake their hands."
"I saw this coming," sighed the psychometrist.

***


A tall, regal woman with a silver headpiece on her dark hair opened the door. "Welcome," she said. "We have been expecting you."
"Only villains expect people," frowned Khyrisse, then realized she was quoting Ariath and frowned more deeply.
"I'm Rani," said the detective, and shook her hand.
The woman looked very strangely at her. "Lady Margolis," she said.
"She's clean," said Rani.
"She's more than clean," said Flicker, smiling quietly. "She's a friend of Max'."
Margo blinked. "Have we met?"
"I was someone else at the time."
"I--see." She moved aside to usher them in. "Asinus told me you would be coming." That made Khyrisse frown again. She didn't like to be so easily predicted. "It is well that you have. We are being attacked on two fronts, and reinforcements are critical. Let me brief you on our situation. Lord Hunter's forces--the starship fleets you saw on your way in--have been making headway against ours this last month. The asteroid belt around our station does not appear to be a hindrance to them."
"Must be all those Corellian cruisers they've got," said Ebreth sympathetically.
"Y-es, probably. Anyway, now that the Remnant has passed through, their assaults have caused me and my people to lose ground against Lord Hunter." She smirked downward in a small private joke. "Once a Paris, always a Paris, one supposes. The situation is dire, allies, and our forces are spread too thin. Asinus has recommended that we send you after the spelljamming cutter the Fallen, taken by the Hunter's forces."
"Excuse me," said Khyrisse, through her teeth, "but Asinus is being a little presumptuous here. We're not foot soldiers he's signing over to you."
"Not that we wouldn't like to recapture your spelljamming cutter for you," added Ebreth, who really would. "It's just that we're really here to deal with Ćlwyn."
"Yes, so Asinus told me," said Margolis, smoothly, "and such is my hope. If you can oust the Remnant for us, we can handle Lord Hunter. However, Ćlwyn's forces have taken one of the Pyramids of Light, and if I intend to send you there I will need the Fallen back. The ship is bonded to the chakra of Lady Anais. If we can recover it she will be able to reclaim its power and teleport you into the Pyramid. This is our best hope for both the Paris agenda you are pursuing, and that of the Arbiters. Does it suit you?"

Character(s): Khyrisse
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: WAHP: PIKA
Title of Post: Asinus Knows Somebody Entirely Too Well

Khyrisse stiffened angrily in response to this further kick in the pride, her head going up with an odd bridling gesture, for all the world as if someone had tried to slip an invisible leash around her neck. Ebreth put a hand quietly on her back, and she sighed, forcing herself to relax. All right. All right. We need to rescue Jack. Plus they’re friends of Asinus, and they’ve got two sets of evil people attacking them. Tentatively good and outnumbered. Merde. How do I get myself into these things?
Drawing herself up to every last measly inch nature had seen fit to give her, Khyrisse spoke calmly to Lady Margolis. “We’ll have to confer,” she said, stomping on an instinctive urge to speak in Cynystran. “We should be able to let you know what we’ve decided soon.”

Character(s): Jack, the Rat; Asinus, Margolis
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Starcrossed
Title of Post: Little Rat Lies

The Rat squeaked at Jack.
"He says that there's a better way," Jack said. "He suggests that we go recon the Remnant's pyramid."
"That's not what he said earlier," Garal said, suspiciously.
"I guess we should confer on what to do. I was told that we're supposed to follow the Rat," Jack shrugged.

***


"You told them what?" Asinus screamed. "You tried to tell them what to do? Are you flarking insane?"
"You and Dar were busy. I deemed it most efficient to give them their orders and let them get started on it."
"This is why I divorced you," Asinus sighed. "You haven't the slightest idea how to deal with people."
"Neither do you," Margo frowned.
"Yeah, but I'm a hell of a lot more charming about screwing my relationships up."
"Do you want me to find them and give them new orders?"
"I want you to go to the Planetfall Docks and jump off. Where are they now?"
"They went to 'confer'."
"Good. Maybe they won't listen to you."
"It was your plan, Paris!" Margolis cried.
"Yeah, well, I'd rather have the Pack doing things their way with their hearts in it than doing things my way resenting it the whole time."
"Humans," Margolis sighed.
"Yeah, that's why you married a donkey."
"Don't remind me."

***


"He's really adamant," Jack said. "The Rat wants us to go hole up near the Remnant. It's, uh, kind of hard to translate the whys and wherefores, unfortunately."
"I like the plan with the flying ship," Vickie said. "Any of you guys ever airboard?"
"I'm scared of air," Marty offered.
"You breathe air," Mina said.
"Yeah, but I'm afraid of too much of it."
"Shouldn't be a problem for you here in space, Marty," slipped out of Jack Paris without even his knowing quite what he meant.
Val frowned slightly.
"So, do we vote on this or what?" Vickie asked.

Character(s): Ebreth Tor, Rani
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: Starcrossed
Title of Post: First Instincts

"You know," said Ebreth, frowning, "not to say anything against the Rat here or anything, but does anyone think it's suspicious that he's shown up here from out of nowhere and tried two different stories on us to get us to go to this pyramid on the other side of town?"
"Are you wondering if this is a test of our faith, master?" said Marty, eagerly.
"I was more like wondering if there were such things as rat doppelgangers, or something."
"I was wondering why you would do what a rat told you to even if it didn't stink of a trap," said Rani.

Character(s): Orlen
Author: Eric Gasior
Storyline: WAHP: Starcrossed
Title of Post: You're a Psionicist, Psionic!

Orlen had thought the name Rat Pack was metaphorical. Some of the cultures he had been to were places that put faith in totem animals. He hadn't expected an actual rat to be the leader. Despite Rani's skepticism, if this was how the group made decisions at least he could help them.
"Jack, you say that it's hard to translate what the rat is saying." Orlen let slide his question of how Jack understood the critter. "I can contact his mind and see if I can explain it."
He had never tried to contact a rat before. He expected it to be interesting.

Character(s): Orlen, the Rat
Author: Jeff Hersh
Storyline: WAHP: Starcrossed
Title of Post: Ever seen that episode of Amazing Stories where the guy unintentionally downloads an entire library into his brain?

Orlen reached out with his mind to touch the Rat's. Contact was remarkably easy to establish. It felt as if someone else had made contact with the Rat before.
-Rat,- thought Orlen, -please explain how you got here and where you want us to go?-
A image formed. It was blurred like a statue of wax that had melted. Slowly it was starting to come into focus then there was static. Then a flood of numbers, equations and formula all of which Orlen couldn't understand.
-I don't understand. What are you saying?-
More mathematical nonsense. At least he thought is was nonsense. Orlen broke off.
"That was weird. The Rat thinks in pure mathematics. I couldn't understand him." Orlen turned to Jack. "Too bad you don't have the Gift. Then maybe you could understand him."

Character(s): Rani, Master Of Tact
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: Starcrossed
Title of Post: Gifts

"He hasn't even got a brain," Rani pointed out.
Orlen himself had been rather too polite to put it that way.

Character(s): Jack Paris, Vickie Dare
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Starcrossed
Title of Post: That Disparaged Me

Jack frowned. For a group of which he was supposed to have been a founding member, it seemed odd that he was routinely either ignored or disparaged. He wondered if the other Jack had this problem or if people somehow resented him for not being the one the knew.
"I'd be inclined to trust the Rat," he offered. "If it thinks in mathematical terms, it's likely to make decisions that have a greater risk/reward coefficient."
"Meaning?" Khyrisse asked.
"More gain per unit of danger."
"Cool," Vickie said. "Danger. I'm for the dangerous one."
"We don't know which one that is, yet," Garal said.
"Believe me, Garry," Vickie said, "if there's danger out there, I'll find it."

Character(s): Jack Paris
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Starcrossed
Title of Post: Jack Paris, Combat Mathematician

Ten revenants.
One mathematician.
Jack could at least figure the odds. They weren't good.
"Cori!" he cried. "I'm in trouble here... if you don't help me, I'm dead!"
This was the chance that Jack knew he had to take. Previous experience between Parises and the Remnant had never given the slightest bit of evidence that there was any vestige of free will in the undead. Jack knew that. He knew that even if there was a chance, it was so slim as to be nonexistant.
Jack knew all this when he surrendered to Ćlwyn, but he didn't care.
This was a decision made on faith, not on math.
The revenants, Cori included, moved forward.
"This is the time where you suddenly turn around and start defending me, Cori," Jack offered in desperation.
The blade of Oshi (or a shade thereof) did not lower. The Remnant was almost upon Jack now.
"Oh, flark," Jack sighed with resignation. He had gotten too used to dreaming of happy miracles of late. Better to stick to the odds.
The first of the Remnant, a tattered skeleton in the garb of a Dalencian Imperial Captain, lunged forward, just as one of the creatures moving in behind Jack reached for him.
Jack ducked slightly to the left, and a zombified hand collided with the Dalencian's jaw, knocking it loose.
Jack took a moment to note the topology of the room. One exit, with three zombies in front of it. The vent he dropped in from was above him, but about twelve feet so.
Ćlwyn hadn't left Jack with any weapons, and the tools Jack had used to adjust the Passage prototype had been incorporated into the device. All Jack had at this point was his satchel filled with his notes.
Jack ducked under another lunge.
Ten Remnant, he thought, were a lot for a small room like this. Obviously they weren't used to the layout of the Pyramid, and hadn't barracked their people effectively as a result. That could be the only thing that gave Jack a chance.
He began to bob up and down as he dodged the attackers' swings. A few attacks hit, and small bloodless gashes opened up on Jack's skin. Still, the close quarters and the unwieldly number of attackers made it much easier for Jack to keep moving.
Rather than running straight for the door, he started to pace a circle, spiralling through the revenants.
He felt a sharp pain as something sliced along the left side of his face. Reflexively pressing his hand to the wound, he could feel the loose flap of skin. He turned to see the form of Cori Yashida looking at him coldly.
"I am so stupid," he sighed to himself. "I hoped I could get something positive out of this, but it looks like all I've accomplished is death."
If he expected Cori to hear his words and have her heart grow three sizes that day, he would have been disappointed.
The blade of Oshi Yashida plunged at his neck.

Character(s): Khyrisse, Valende, Skitch, Vas
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: WAHP: PIKA
Title of Post: Oh, Like a Merchant Needs the Concept of Risk/Reward Explained...

Khyrisse looked thoughtfully at Jack. “I have to admit that the Rat has never steered us wrong,” she said hesitantly, turning her pensive gaze to the rodent. “And just so our new members know, yes, I know it sounds strange; but the Rat has led us to powerful undead creatures before. ...I just don’t think ‘holing up near the Remnant’ is a good idea.” She looked back at Jack again. “If we’re talking about risk/reward ratios here, going off to hide in the Remnant’s backyard seems to put us in a lot of danger-- and gets absolutely nothing accomplished.”
“Jack is the one who knows the Rat best, though,” Val interjected. “I... know this is a different Jack, but his instincts and his logic should still be the same, if I understand the--” she paused, and sighed a little, “--theory, properly. We never asked the Rat for complicated explanations before, we simply followed.”
Khyrisse looked at the priestess, her mouth twitching in amusement. “Val, you’re telling me to have faith in the Rat.”
Val smiled. “No,” she corrected softly. “I’m recommending that you have faith in Jack.”
The archmage sighed. Not impatiently, as if she disagreed with the sentiment, but more like Val had just immensely complicated her life. “All right, looks like it’s vote time. I’m in favor of going after the ship, irk me though the setup does. I don’t think a direct assault on the Remnant’s pyramid would be very bright, considering that we don’t know the first thing about the layout of the place, nor where Ćlwyn and/or Jack is. If we recover the ship for these friends of Asinus’, however, they can teleport us in, and probably provide us with a map and advice.” Khyrisse grinned at Skitch. “...Plus I dislike people being ganged up on by nasties, just on general principles, and hence have no objection to kicking this space fleet in the teeth.”
Skitch grinned back at her, as if they were sharing a private joke. “That’s got my vote!”
Vas studied the ships flying in the distance. “The odds do seem a trifle unfair for the Arbiters, don’t they? And I must confess, I would dearly love to see one of those up close.”
“Vas,” Valende scolded. “Can we keep our minds on the topic at hand?”
Vas flashed Vickie a conspiratorial grin, then shrugged with mock helplessness at his sister.
“You have far too much Aerdrie in you.”
A passionate gleam flickered in the archer’s blue eyes. “Never enough,” he replied softly.

Character(s): Ebreth Tor
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: Starcrossed
Title of Post: Yes, I Want To Get To The Endgame Too, But The Rat's Attempts At Subterfuge Have Just Sucked Way Too Much Not To Make Ebreth's Radar, Guys

Ebreth sighed. Maybe he was just being paranoid. The Rat had never been a whys-and-wherefores kind of leader before, and they'd always done all right. Maybe Jack had misinterpreted the Rat the first time. Maybe the Rat itself hadn't understood whatever prophetic cues it went by. Hell, maybe the connection between the Rat's two stories was just one too subtle to make sense to a non-mathematical mind.
Then again, maybe Ebreth Tor thought way, way too much.
"The Rat's acting weird," he said, and shrugged helplessly when Khyrisse looked at him for details. "Intuition. I don't know. If anyone else showed up in a place they shouldn't be to feed us a story that turned out to be false, trying to get us to go somewhere, and then gave us a second story trying to get us to the same place, we'd be all over that. Something's not right here. I wasn't born yesterday."
"But--isn't the Rat your party leader?" said Jack, confused. "Why would he do something to mess you up?"
Ebreth gave the mathematician a long, narrow look, tapping his boot on the pavement, and finally cracked a grin. "You keep smiling, Jack Paris."
"I didn't like that woman, though," said Skitch, thoughtfully. "She was pretty rude."
"I don't think it was intentional," said Flicker. "I think she was trying for 'majestic and aloof', and she'd been concentrating on something else for so long she missed her mark."
"Interesting theory," said Rani.
"Anyway," Ebreth said, "personally, I want to get to Ćlwyn as soon as possible, but on our own terms would be better, you know, not as prisoners. I know it worked against the King of Kings and all that, but I don't want to push our luck. I'd be for either getting the Arbiters to teleport us in or just breaking into the Remnant pyramid straight. The former seems a little more likely to succeed, but I've broken into some weird places before." He paused. "I can't tell if I'm having a lapse of faith or an epiphany of common sense here, but I don't trust the Rat. If you all do, I'll go with it. There I am."

Character(s): Garal
Author: Eric Gasior
Storyline: WAHP: Starcrossed
Title of Post: A Nervous Suggestor

Garal was nervous about suggesting something, but he spoke up anyway. "If the decision is to break in, I can do it the same way I got us here."

Character(s): Ebreth Tor
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: Starcrossed
Title of Post: Eric Really Needs To Write A Chardesc For Garal

Ebreth's jaw dropped. "You can teleport us inside a structure you've never been in?"
"Uh," said Garal, "well, it's not really teleporting. More like creating spacial shortcuts."
"I change my vote to that," said Ebreth.
"But Margolis?..." said Flicker.
"Maybe we can help her later," Ebreth said. "Kack Ćlwyn, rescue Jack, then we can worry about things like saving the space station. I thought we were doing all of this to find a way into the Remnant stronghold." He gave the halfling an annoyed look. "Could you have mentioned this earlier?"
"It's hard to get a word in edgewise around here," Garal admitted.
"You need some assertiveness training," grinned Rani.
"Khyrisse?"

Character(s): Vickie n Matsie
Author: Jonah "Too Dorky to Stay Dead" Cohen
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Star-Crossed
Title of Post: People who've learned from Praxis -- now they think too much!

Amatsu crossed his legs, a slight grimace of discomfort crossing his face. "A thousand pardons," he said, "I believe I must... inquire as to the facilities of this citadel."
"Now that you mention it," Vickie said, "I gotta take a leak, too."
As they stood to leave, Vas happily called out, "Don't be gone too long, you crazy kids!" Val whacked him.
Once they were some distance away, in an empty section of corridor, Vickie said: "That was the move for 'follow me,' right? I'm a little rough on the oriental versions of hand signals."
"You are correct. Non-verbal communication is an important skill for the ninja."
"Wiz." She chuckled. "Boy, was Khyrisse ready to explode over Lady Margo's little speech or what?"
"Perhaps."
"By which you mean she looked so pissed you thought her face was going to pop off, but you're too polite to say it?"
"Perhaps." He saw no reason why Lady Starshadow was at all surprised by imperious behavior from a monarch in her own castle, but not was not why he had gestured, in a language imperceptible to the uninitiated, for Victoria Dare to join him. He said: "I require the advice of one with skill in intelligence, one whom I can trust."
"You know how to butter a girl up!"
"I share Mr. Tor's apprehensions over the actions of the Rat."
"What's with the deal with the little fella?"
"As I understand it, the Rat is more intelligent than a normal rodent, but does not think like a man. It apparently posseses skill in abstract mathamatics, but its wisdom is primarily instinct -- and an especial skill in finding the correct path. I think it highly unlikely that it made a simple mistake in its instructions."
"You think the Rat is lying?" she said, a bit incredulous that she had just said that, and understood what she was saying.
"I think there is a traitor in the Rat Pack."
She paused, the said "Be careful, Matsie, once you start to think like that, paranoia will do a dirty number on your head. I'll grant you that getting a turncoat would be a viable tactic for this Ćlwyn, and maybe he could do it -- but don't go down that road unless you have a good, solid reason to suspect something, or someone."
"Wise advice. I do have reason. One alternative is that someone somehow used sorcery or psios to control the Rat."
"Which, if we judge by Means and Opportunity rules out, oh, absolutely no one."
"Correct, but consider the actions of Mr. Crandall." He went on to explain his suspicions about how Crandall had tried to drive a wedge between Jack Paris and his family, how the move seemed especially calculated to be symbiotic with Khyrisse's reactions to Caimen. And how he had overheard Valende's statement that Crandall had been the catalyst for her fledgling romance with Rani, how it had neatly divided the party into factions; Val, Rani and Vastarin on one side, Ebreth, Mina and Marty on another.
"...yeah, that part with the dyke-sex would be a pretty good subversion move, if that's what he was aiming for..." She pondered.
"There is another possible traitor."
"Who?"
"Jack Paris. Consider: it is he who translated for the Rat, we have only his word that the Rodent actually tried to lead us astray. Consider that we really know little about who, or what, he is, only his word that he is not the same man who deserted the Rat Pack and surrendered to Ćlwyn. Perhaps he is the same man, and was corrupted by Ćlwyn then. Consider how... unexpected our discovery of him was." He paused, letting her consider. "I think we should be on guard and observe carefully. I... would appreciate any assistance you might offer."

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