The crew of the Blind Jump has arrived in the Tlaina system, the only known wormhole exit node in their mysterious list of coordinates. The Tlainax are an ancient spacefaring species; they are very unusual among sentients in that they are both aquatic and herbivorous. Two million years ago, they reprocessed the materials of their solar system into a vast ringworld, leaving only their home planet intact. The Tlainax themselves have a fractal body structure and appear a bit like branching coral to humans.
Max’s initial attempt to discover what might be the meaning of the coordinates involves busting some heads (not that the Tlainax have heads), but doesn’t get very far. Miaulong hits on the idea that there might be a Founder installation on the Tlaina homeworld, and sets about getting permits to visit. This proves to be a somewhat byzantine and bureaucratic process.
During the application, the crew hears of a retired prospector, Mirna Marterio, from the Terra system, who might be able to help. They also hear of a crisis in the system; interstellar asteroids that must be intercepted and destroyed before they strike the ringworld. Miaulong does some additional research and discovers that there are two major political groups among the Tlainax. The Mystics are highly protective of access to the homeworld, while the Materialists are fairly uninterested in the homeworld but resent the Mystic’s perspectives.
Max and Miaulong pay a visit to Mirna. “I was wondering if you would stop by,” she says.
“Have you heard of us?” asks Max.
“I’m still a member of the Relics and Rayguns fandom, and I keep an eye on the feeds,” she answers. “You’ve made a bit of noise there recently.”
Max probes Mirna for information about the homeworld, but Mirna doesn’t know anything of use. However, she has a friend among the Mystics faction who might be able to help the crew. She places a comms call to Otlana Adanaya and connects Max and Miaulong into the conversation. Otlana offers a deal. In addition to the debris headed for the ring, another asteroid is headed for the Tlaina homeworld. “If you can find a way to arm your ship, or if your ship is already armed, and can destroy this asteroid, we will permit you access to planet.”
Mirna puts in, “I might know somebody that can help, but you’re going to have to talk her into it.”
Otlana also reveals that there is a Founder installation on Tlaina, and that it is sacred to the Mystics. “It is the source of the waters,” she says.
A day later, Mirna calls for the crew to meet with two Materialist Tlainax, Alna Inlayit and her business associate Olayntal Xaltax. Alna is willing to discuss providing an anti-matter missile, but Olayntal is completely opposed, believing the homeworld has no value. After a spirited debate, the crew convinces Alna to provide them with a missile, and begins planning their asteroid intercept.