Leg Post 53 returns to the Marvellous Adventures of Xerxes Rumplekirk and Aellah the Æon Knight. The Mu Cephei star system, commonly known as the Garnet's Ring due to the colouring of the red giant and the ring around it, is home to the planet Gahd where The Sciorum, a colossal library, can be found. The library is managed by Sciorum Chroniclers, who study the tomes and databanks of the library relentlessly. Chroniclers Stenae and Ja-Ya discuss the recent grant from the G8 as Stenae believes that the grant comes with strings attached to help The Imperium and the High Empire with their propaganda. Their work is interrupted by a seeming earthquake, which Ja-Ya investigates to discover that the planet has come under attack from the Greyarchy. He tries to reason with Stenae to evacuate but the old chronicler refuses to leave and Ja-Ya flees without her. Sometime later Aellah, the Æon Knight, arrives, followed by his companion Xerxes Rumplekirk. Aellah uses his pheromones on Stenae to get her to leave, which Xerxes finds surprising because Stenae was old and ugly and Aellah's powers only work on people he's attracted to. They fret that the planet is lost to the Greyarchy as they have no means of stopping the interdimensional empire but then the TARDIS arrives. However, it is not The Doctor but Tsou de Ming who arrives with a device she claims will save the planet by trapping it in a bubble of time. Xerxes is convinced that she has mended her ways, finally, thanks to his charm but he soon realises that she is actually only interested in stealing a precious treasure map that once belonged to Kaptin Kwanza and she uses a smoke bomb to make good her escape.
Mu Cephei is a colorful star, a red giant whose attractive hue is apparent from many parts of the Milky Way galaxy, which has lent its system the name of the Garnet's Ring. Given that the hypergiant star has its own stellar ring around it, this is a doubly fitting name, though there are only a few planets in orbit around it. The star is nearing the end of its life, and in a few eons will go nova; tickets to spectate the event are already on sale, and going fast, so get yours today!
Random Audience Member #1: Did... did the Narrator just sneak in a commercial?
Random Audience Member #2: He has absolutely no shame, he'll do anything for money. Did you know he's still spreading propaganda about Highemp?
If I may be allowed to continue without rude interruptions from snotty audience members... Ahem. One such planet orbiting Mu Cephei is the dry world of Gahd, which consists primarily of white sand, which appears rddish-orange in the Garnet Star's light. Gahd is as far as a planet can be from Mu Cephei and still support life, and as such is a cold world, but also very dry - this latter fact making it ideal as a repository for fragile valuable texts of ancient origin.
While hardy caravans of alien gypsies roam the desert, and bustling cities form around oases, Gahd is most famous for the Sciorum. A complex of towering ziggurats built around an oasis that ran dry centuries ago, the Sciorum endures as one of the foremost centers of historical research in the galaxy. Its libraries are stacked high with books and tomes and scrolls from all over the universe (though the majority are from the Milky Way galaxy, as obviously those are easier for the Sciorum to obtain), and even a few purportedly from other universes. While scholars are welcome to visit and research, and anyone who seeks knowledge may come to learn it, the only constant inhabitants are the dedicated Chroniclers, who spend their lives organizing their knowledge and seeking more, attempting to delve ever more in the secrets of history.
The Sciorum's location on-planet is said to be the origin of the phrase, "Gahd only knows," which has been mistranslated throughout the ages as "God only knows."
Chronicler Stenae: Ugh, phookin' G8 grant, messing everything up.
Chronicler Ja-Ya: What do you mean? We've got access to more firsthand sources than ever, thanks to both the Imperium and the High Empire sharing their data with us now.
Stenae: Money always comes with strings. Empires don't want truth, they want propaganda that favors their view of things.
Ja-Ya: There was nothing like that indicated in the grant paperwork...
Stenae: It's implied, understood, expected. You're still new here, you don't quite understand how things work.
Ja-Ya: New? I've been here nearly a century!
Stenae: Yes, and? I'm going on 400 years myself.
Ja-Ya: Well, I will grant you that some of these new data sources seem...contradictory.
Stenae: What the High Empire laughably calls their "history" is merely a sanitized monument to its own self-awarded glory. A saga of civilizing worlds and saving entire peoples, led by a divine hero-king who only wants the best for everyone!
Ja-Ya: Such propagandized histories are nothing new to us. Reading between the lines is what we do. Everyone knows the High Empire treats its citizens well for the most part, but everyone also knows that they don't give people a choice about being citizens either.
Stenae: And then the Imperium, don't even get me started. Do they even have a unified account of their history? Their histories are as much a mishmash as their member worlds are, contradictory in a hundred different ways.
Ja-Ya: If it bothers you, you could just quit.
Stenae: What? Don't be daft. History is my love, my life, my calling. I just wish people didn't make it so difficult to sort out.
Ja-Ya: Then stop complaining and get to work.
Stenae narrows her eyes. Yes, HER eyes. What, this whole time you thought she was a guy?
Stenae: You've got a lot of cheek.
Ja-Ya meets her gaze but says nothing.
Stenae: Ha! I think I like you after all.
Ja-Ya: Wait, you mean you've disliked me for the past century?
Stenae: Wait, you mean you thought I did like you all this time?
Ja-Ya: Let's just get to work on correlating these Imperium histories with the High Imperial data.
They do so, for the next several hours, when a sudden shuddering reverberates through the building.
Ja-Ya: What's that?
Stenae: Minor quake, I suppose. Who cares? Let's get back to this.
Ja-Ya frowns, but acquiesces - until there's another violent shuddering a minute later.
Ja-Ya: Okay, I'm going to go see what that is.
Stenae only grunts as Ja-Ya exits the dusty archive - which is a large room made cramped by the stacks of microfilm, scrolls, and electronic databanks - to go find out what's happening. Two more shudders occur before Ja-Ya rushes back in.
Ja-Ya: Stenae! We're under attack!
Stenae: Don't be daft. No one attacks the Sciorum. The only ones interested in this history are boring scholars like you and me.
Ja-Ya: It's invaders! They're gunning for everyone on the planet! They're-- Wait, did you just call me boring?
Stenae: Priorities, Ja-Ya.
Ja-Ya: Right. We have to evacuate!
Stenae: No, I meant, focus on the research.
Ja-Ya: Are you listening to me? It's a bunch of Greys apparently, but they've got a whole fleet! Dropships raining out of the sky, orbital bombardments.
Stenae: Why are they bombing empty desert? You know what, it doesn't matter. I'm not leaving. I can't. This is my purpose, my duty, I can't possibly leave history behind.
Ja-Ya opens his mouth, then closes it.
Ja-Ya: Good luck, Stenae.
Stenae's only reply is a grunt, and Ja-Ya runs back out. The shudders intensify in frequency and violence, but Stenae keeps working.
Half an hour later, a Falleen peeks in. His eyes widen as he sees Stenae hunched over working, ignoring the sounds and quakes of battle.
Aellah: Xerxes, I found another one!
A dapper gentleman peeks in after Aellah.
Xerxes Rumplekirk: By heaven, how many of these stubborn fools are there? I feel like I've used up all my charm already convincing everyone else to evacuate.
Stenae: Save whatever charm you have left. No one has any interest in these books. And I care not for my own life. I only care that, should I die, I die among these books.
Aellah: That death will be today if you don't evacuate! The Greys are obliterating everything. They're some sort of fanatic otherdimensional empire that despises anything non-Grey.
Stenae: I am not leaving this knowledge, this history, this wealth of lore, to burn at the hands of lunatics!
Xerxes Rumplekirk: You can't stop them.
Stenae: Then you stop them.
Aellah: Would if I could!
He flashes them a disturbingly happy smile. Not that the smile is in and of itself just disturbing, just given the context of a deadly invasion, you know.
Xerxes Rumplekirk: I will never get used to that.
Stenae: And everyone wonders why I prefer books over people.
Aellah waves his hand.
Aellah: You will evacuate to safety.
Stenae: I will evacuate to safety.
She walks out, grabbing a big stackful of files to take with her.
Xerxes Rumplekirk: An Aeon mind trick? Really?
Aellah: It was actually pheromones, but I figured it'd seem less skeevy to you and our readers if I made it look like an Aeon mind trick.
Xerxes Rumplekirk: Readers? Wait a second - don't your pheromones only work on women you find attractive? She was an old hag! I didn't know you liked that, old fellow!
Aellah: Nah, I don't really, but if I squinted and tilted my head...
Xerxes Rumplekirk: Bah. Still an alien hag with wrinkles, warts, and three noses. Are you crazy?
Aellah: I'm traveling on insane adventures with a steampunk gentleman who is arrogant and reckless. Do you really have to ask?
Xerxes Rumplekirk: Good point.
Aellah: We really should try to save this knowledge though.
Xerxes Rumplekirk: Bah, it's highly inferior to Discharding's archives. I could provide them with a copy when the Imperium of Greykind is driven back.
Aellah: That would be great, but I think the Sciorum Chroniclers are pretty attached to what they already have too.
Xerxes Rumplekirk: I will never understand you. You swing from questionably ethical mind control in order to save someone's life, to empathizing with that same person's other needs?
Aellah: I'm happy no matter what, and that mindset leads me to value both life and the feelings of others, even if they have no impact on me one way or the other.
Xerxes Rumplekirk: You always say that. It never makes sense.
Xerxes Rumplekirk: We don't have any way to save the place though. They've already blown the top off one of the Sciorum's ziggurats, and half the sand around the place has been turned to glass.
A familiar whooshing sound heralds the arrival of the TARDIS. Xerxes and Aellah turn in astonishment as the door of it opens, revealing a striking silhouette.
Aellah: The Doctor comes to help?!
Xerxes Rumplekirk: That's not the Doctor...
The dramatic light vanishes, revealing none other than the tall, voluptuous, three-eyed pirate captain Tsou de Ming, whose skin changes color based on her emotional state.
Tsou de Ming: Don't be so sure, I'm pretty certain I've stolen a few Ph.D.s here and there over my career.
Aellah: What are you doing here?
Tsou de Ming: What does it look like? Saving the history.
Xerxes Rumplekirk: She's finally come around! My roguish charm has sunk in!
Aellah: That's what you said last time she teamed up with us, right before she backstabbed us. And the time before that. And the time before that.
Xerxes Rumplekirk: Ah, but my gut tells me that this time it's for real!
Aellah: Said that last time too. So, Ming, how exactly are you planning to do this? There's just three of us, and a giant library of stuff, with Greys surrounding us.
Tsou de Ming: Oh, right. I guess a dramatic entrance doesn't suffice for a rescue, does it? I'm sure the Doctor kept one of those little time-freeze thingamajigs around here...
She steps back into the TARDIS and shuffles around through some stuff, before coming out with a weird device that can only be aptly described as, indeed, a thingamajig.
Tsou de Ming: I'm pretty sure this will surround the Sciorum in a bubble of frozen time, securing it against invaders once we activate it.
Xerxes Rumplekirk: Let's set it and get out of here, then!
Tsou de Ming: Not just yet. There's one particularly...vital piece of history we should, uh, rescue. In order to keep safe.
Xerxes Rumplekirk: So noble! I always knew that you possessed such a heart!
Tsou de Ming: Uh, right. Yes. That.
Aellah regards the pirate captain with wariness.
Aellah: What exactly is this we're... keeping safe?
Tsou de Ming: The treasure map of Kaptin Kwanzaa! It was lost long ago, and I finally traced it here.
Aellah: Hmm. Sounds... valuable.
He is definitely suspicious now.
Tsou de Ming: I see there's no fooling you. Ta-ta!
She throws down a smoke bomb and starts running for the treasure map.
Xerxes Rumplekirk: Alas, my broken heart! She toys with me cruelly!
Aellah: After her!
And the chase is on...