Dine Another Day
The story starts with a zoom-out from the beady bloodshot eye of Kokotl, who is watching the doors of the banquet hall swing open. The banquet hall opens with George Luo sitting at the head of the table. Ibast is on his right side, Reyna on his left. Chaz seated next to them. There's four corporate types wearing dark suits and sunglasses standing behind them. Everything is totally fine and not nefarious.
The One: 6
The security cameras in the room are covered; there's no feed going into this room. Ibast is packing heat. Chaz does not look as bad as he did, he's "maintaining" on some chump tier shit but he's coasting a'ight. "Space drugs, these things happen." There's a lot of activity behind the door in the far room, which Koko thinks smells amazing.
Altunnius rolls a Psionics check of 11 to check mood of George, who is decidedly not happy, despite his stone-faced appearance.
Koko cavalierly enters and sits at the far end of the table, directly across from George, as the rest of the crew filters in behind him. Faj sits down next to Koko. The crew sits down around the table. The doors close behind them.
George Luo extends his warm regards to The One, and promises to transfer the money owed as promised. DICC and Luo have a brief dialogue in which Luo becomes interested but Chaz expresses his displeasure for DICC.
George asks <Captain> Sharna and Koko why things got botched. Koko rolls an Administration roll of 10 to provide a perfect bureaucratic spiel — a half-hour production — to completely baffle George and Chaz to dissuade their respective rages.
"When you can't beat them, bore them." – The New Adam Smith Bible, Krugman 5.11
Aster the guard claps for Koko. Sharna is able to tell Luo that two of Chaz's bodyguards – Vekna and Amaranth – won't be a problem. Reyna whispers into Luo's ear, enough for Sharna to hear, that Vekna's got a contract on his head and that he won't be a problem. Sharna rats out Chaz's relationship to Crabfingers to Luo. Luo is surprised to see that Shimi is somehow still alive and indifferent to Viridian's absence-by-sacrifice.
"Oh yeah, he's definitely dead." -George Luo on noble sacrifice
Swiitner rolls a Notice to get a precognitive flash on how this could pan out: a flash of guns or dinner comes out. George asks Swiitner if his relationship with Crabfingers will be a problem. Swiitner answers no. Dinner comes out. Kokotl immediately starts devouring food. Regional delicacies are placed in front of everyone. The One has their regional delicacy – grey gruel – placed in front of them, a dish that displays a remarkable texture that is sensually pleasing to consume. Swiitner gets a series of tubed vegetables, his personal favorite, but this brings back bitter flashbacks to the Meeting That Went Awry. DICC gets a platter of undifferentiated meat product, which Monster likes but prefers that it had been alive. Faj loves his spinach puffs. Koko has some living food on his platter, which Monster tries to steal…
Koko rolls a 5 for Fighting and DICC rolls an 8, allowing them to steal some of Koko's food. Before Koko can eat DICC, more food is placed before him to pacify him. George Luo and Chaz Zabrick make their exist, not without Chaz cussing out DICC and Sharna flirting with him to distract him.
No drugs in the meal…this time. Dinner goes off without a hitch. The use of the entire banquet hall for the evening has been left to them.
✓ QUEST COMPLETE – OBTAIN CHAZ ZABRICK
"Ctarl-Ctarl do not eat spinach puffs." -Sharna Marsh-Marsh, continuing to hurt Faj Smash-Smash's feelings.
Melfina Khan works for PRIME, a Terran peacekeeping exploratory group that boldly goes, with a defining characteristic of deadpan sarcasm. As the reader knows, should the One find Melfina Khan for Crabfingers, The One's debt to Crabfingers will be absolved and The One will fully own their ship.
All feline paws in this universe smell faintly of Frito's. Swiitner smells faintly of sandalwood and cinnamon.
After reading the headlines of a newspaper, Kokotl passes it along to distract the DICC while pulling The One aside to make a "generous" offer to work together to reach common goals. The One later reports this to her coworkers, to the consternation of Swiitner and DICC. Meanwhile, Kokotl tells Sharna that he was able to convince The One's crew to help her on her noodle quest, and actually thanks her for her help, which obviously makes Sharna very suspicious.
Altuunius excuses themselves to take another personal call. Notice checks.
Only The One notices Altunnius leaving, and informs the DICC to see what that discussion is all about. Monster is left to wander around the table, nibbling scraps. DICC rolls a Repair of 4 to get up into the vents and head in the right direction to just in time to not overhear Altuunius's short conversation, and notice her leave, which DICC reports to everyone.
"I'm not saying I don't want us to go, I just want us to be terribly anxious and have a bad time."
Altunnius mentions wanting to go to an ice cream place and wants the rest of the crew to come with. Koko says that they should all accompany Altunnius to this place, saying that it would serve as an excellent team-building exercise, even as Altunnius desperately tries to distance itself from her. Faj helps convince everyone to help, and off they go. The Silgrian running the ice cream shoppe is being very generous, setting out ice cream, which Koko conspicuously does not eat. Altuunius melts Koko's ice cream for him with a brûlée torch, while Faj just eats tons of ice cream.
Notice rolls were made. Sharna notices that the Silgrian - Benny – is quietly getting other customers to leave. The shutters are going down on the storefront and Benny is getting very nervous. Altuunius eats some ice cream and it makes her head sex organs palpate with delight. Benny attempts to force-feed Koko some ice cream which ends up with Kokotl being drugged while still being aware and Benny getting his hand mangled. Faj is catatonic. Turns out the ice cream is dosed with something.
Benny explains the Bloat
"The Bloat is not a disease, it is a design." Benny explains that Altunnius works for the Shiltolvian Liberation Front, as he binds Koko's limbs and mouth. Altunnius is one of their best agents. There has been a recent schism within the Shiltolvian Liberation Front: The Fourth Archaeopteran Shill’s Front (FASF) and the Shiltovian Front of Archaeopterix IV (SAFA4). The SAFA4 is headed by an albino shiltolvian named Johnny White, a zealot who leads an elite force known as the White Shallots [ha ha get it]. Under his leadership, the SAFA4 has taken on a decidedly shiltovian supremacist bent.
“I fight for equality, not surpremacy.” – Altunnius
“That’s cute.” - DICC
Benny explains that the Bloat is a special bioweapon commissioned by the SAF4 designed to kill non-Shiltolvians. However, the scientist who engineered the plague accidentally made it affect everyone, but particularly Saurians, Silgrians, and shiltolvians. Since then it has quickly spread out of control and threatens to doom the entire station, and perhaps ultimately the entire shiltolvian race. Would our intrepid adventurers lend their aid?
“That depends, meow. Are you going to pay us?” –DICC
“The cat’s a mercenary!” –Benny
“They’re ALL mercenaries.” –Altunnius
It seemed like they weren’t going to help. “As the station goes, so goes Wong’s!”
With a mental blast of 8, Altunnius tries to convince the crew to go along with it.
“I know it’s annoying, but we have to stop this genocide! Jesus, we’re Prometheus.” – Swiitner
Sharna, embarrassed at being made to feel pity, tries to escape before DICC challenges Sharna to stay. Faj frees Kokotl, who very reluctantly agrees to assist the cause and stop the Bloat. Benny is surprised that a khalef would assist, and Altunnius mentions that he works for “public George”. Public George vs. Private George is apparently a thing.
Benny talks the squad though two tactical options to infiltrate the hidden lab to destroy all Bloat bio-data and cultivars before the SAFA4 can get their hands on them. The two options are:
1) go through the relatively unsecured main access to the quarantine zone, encountering few Shallots and mostly quietly avoiding hidden tunnels, avoiding those infected with the Bloat
2) go through the network of hidden tunnels and access ports known by the SLF, likely encountering the White Shallots who will be using those same tunnels to reach the laboratory themselves
Naturally, the squad chooses the latter route. In an uncharacteristic display, Kokotl volunteers to serve as bait for the White Shallots, believing that the zealots will not be able to resist the opportunity to dispatch a khalef. The shiltolvian rebels are split between admiration and contempt for the bureaucrat, and the chapter comes to a close as a sea of hissing space raptors raise their voices in a chorus of screeches and hisses, zooming in on the wide and bloodshot eye of a shiltovian revolutionary…
SKREE RAH RAHH
HISS AAKRAH AANAGH
SKREE SHREE SHILL AAAAH
-Shiltovian love sonnet
“Love Wong’s and prosper!”
“Two Wongs don’t make it right.”