Time seems to come to a crawl as a tense battle ensues in the secret research facility of the Church of Humanity Ascendant. Xeus dives through the writhing tentacles of the out of control slipknot vortex to rescue Solar in seeming slow motion as Fokker and Dr. Argonine re-wire the quantum receiver at the far end of the room to become a slipknot magnet. The quantum effluence emanating from the slipknot begin folding in on themselves and pouring into the quantum receiver staving off disaster for another action-packed moment that feels like it stretches for hours.
A horde of cyber-enhanced monks pour into the room in a frantic riot. They split into two groups, one which bars the door and one which seem intent on capturing Dr. Argonine. Dr. Argonine finds himself pinned by one monk as another starts firing rapid strikes into his midsection, breaking ribs and nearly rupturing internal organs. Seeing their companion in grave and imminent danger, Fokker heads to the back room to look for potential explosives while Leyland focuses on the one monk not attacking Dr. Argonine. As Dr. Argonine is pummeled to the ground by the monks Xeus is momentarily distracted as one of his hacker exploits goes viral across the Cluster’s social media network. The monks brings out a menacing looking syringe and plugs it into Argonine’s heart, injecting a nano-tracker which will ensure that Svarog always has a means of tracking him down. Dr. Argonine goes unconscious from the pain and a searing sense of abandonment.
Meanwhile, Leyland finds an exit that would allow the team to circumvent the never-ending hordes of incoming cyber-monks but decides that dying is the better part of valor and decides not to use it. Luckily, Fokker and (arguably) his razor monkey find a couple of spare cyber-panther batteries and uses them to blow out the back wall of the research facility. The crew grab Solar and the unconscious Dr. Argonine and drop down into the alley behind the Church and make their way into the black of night.
They learn that through Project Epsilon, the Svarogians have engineered a small number people like Solar who have the ability to manipulate quantum interactions with their mind. This has allowed them to generate exponentially more slip particles from a mass of slipstone, which in turn has allowed them to start opening previously dormant slipknots into uncharted solar systems. The crew realize the importance that someone with this power could have across the entire Cluster, and especially on the conflict brewing between Svarog and Aurix. They use the ships medical bay to put Solar into a medical death state and generate authentic medical documentation of her demise. After reviving her and safely securing her they head back to Folly’s Pucker to report back to Quandos Vorn. They use the death records to show that Solar is gone but otherwise truthfully share what they have learned. Quandos falls for the ruse and returns Xeus’ hacker friend to his custody. The crew sail off from Folly’s Pucker with arguably the most important and powerful person in the Cluster sleeping quietly in their hold. What adventures will the crew of the SS Smell of Success SS find themselves in next? And what will come of the Cluster as the stability that it has known for centuries comes to a crashing and chaotic end? And what role will the great, powerful and stunningly handsome Shah Habi play in the future of the world to come?